Once the bikes are live, that throttle surges the bike forward. Twist the wrist and acceleration is immediate, yet modest. Performance is along the lines of a small-displacement ICE and reminded this tester a lot of the Kymco Quannon 150. Nothing to scream and shout about, but still better acceleration than regular four-wheeled traffic off the stop light.
Of the two, the Zero delivers better acceleration, without question. The Agni motor feels noticeably stronger and ramps up the mph figure much quicker. At 278 pounds the Zero weighed in 57 pounds lighter than our Enertia test bike (which featured accessory side luggage). The extra pounds make a huge difference on these bantam weight motors, and our 210-pound frame sure didn’t help with the performance. Even moderate inclines taxed the capabilities, with drastic reductions in top speed.
Speaking of which, Brammo claims a top speed as 60-plus mph and the Zero 67 mph. We saw indicated speeds of 63 on the Enertia and 65 on the Zero, but our data acquisition found the speedos at least 10% generous. The bikes perform best under 45 mph, city commuting. Even if riders can coax these rides up into the 60s, neither can manage constant cruising at that mph for very long – the Brammo particularly ill-suited for top-speed jaunts.
Not only do high-speed runs drain the battery, they heat up the motor as well. In this regard the Zero once again gets the upper hand on the Brammo. The Z-Force induction keeps the more exposed Agni mill running cooler longer. The more tucked away Enertia motor struggles to sustain long durations of heavy use, with the top-mounted cooling fan kicking in quite often. The Brammo also trims power output when temperatures reaching a critical phase sending a “thermal cutback” warning on the dash.
The motors hum away at speed, a noticeable noise to the rider but far from loud. The motor and sound of the chain drive dominate the auditory sensations, but riders will also hear suspension compressions, tires treading over pebbles… everything. The ambient road noise is eerie, but the sound issue is a real concern in real-world riding. Riders should always assume they’re invisible, but doubly so on these stealthy electric rides!
Given the electric/battery fixation, it’s easy to overlook the other huge elements that make a motorcycle. Chassis-wise the Zero features an attention-grabbing 18-pound aluminum perimeter frame and diamond swingarm. This is a dual-sport machine after all, and the DS feels very much of that proclivity when sitting astride the lofty 35-inch seat. Riding position is upright and moved forward on the “tank.” At 6’1” the dimensions felt on the tall side and we reckon overwhelming for the shorter statured
The Brammo and Zero both can hustle around the corners well enough for their commuting applications, with the Enertia getting the overall edge in handling.
The Brammo frame is also aluminum, but blacked out and overshadowed by the green bodywork. Riding position on the Enertia is also upright, but more standard, with the 32-inch seat delivering a lower feel compared to the Zero. Reach to the surprisingly low-placed and wide footpegs makes plenty room for taller riders. We can’t say either bike’s seat is overly comfortable, though the Brammo does beat out the stiff Zero in this regard.
The Enertia makes use of a Marzocchi fork and Elka shock, the back end adjustable for preload and compression. The components deliver an overall smooth ride, more than capable for its urban commuting duties. The Zero uses Fast Ace components with a surprising amount of adjustability, rebound and compression on the fork, preload and rebound on the shock. Fiddling with the settings, particularly on the rear shock, made a difference but the Zero’s components don’t offer as plush a ride as the Brammo’s. The Zero, however, does offer a great deal of suspension travel with nine inches fore and eight inches aft. This fits its dual-sport requirements and our biggest regret during our brief DS testing sojourn was not loading it up for a proper spin out in the hills (good excuse for a welcome follow up test!).
Braking is another area where the Brammo gets the edge on its competitor. Its Brembo units, particularly the two-piston caliper/single rotor front far outperform the Zero. And these bikes need some decent stoppers as the motors deliver nil engine braking. It’s remarkable how far they can coast from a 50 mph cruising speed. Bringing the Zero to a quick halt was at times problematic – the front brake offers little bite and too much lever play. The DS’s Gator brake rotor looks nice enough, but a beefier caliper/master cylinder is required.
The Brammo’s Brembo brakes (left) outclass the Zero’s Gator units (right). The Brammo’s suspension (center) also get the edge.
The DS handles the road well enough and feels comparable to a small dual-sport on the street – capable but not fully comfortable on the pavement. When it comes time to zip around a corner it feels a touch vague, with the DS’s knobbie tires, from Duro, not helping in this regard (nor in the braking department where the rear in particular would break traction with little input).
Capable as an urban commuter, the biggest limitations of rides like the Brammo Enertia are range and top speed.
The Enertia feels more solid and sure in the handling department. This is aided by its narrower feel, plusher suspension and its Avon RoadRider tires, which felt more secure. Not that the Brammo is perfect, as its limited steering lock a nitpicking complaint for a bike that should slice through close quarters.
Low range is our biggest dig on these electric rides, with range anxiety a way of life. Adding to the anxiety are unreliable readings. The fluctuations of speed and impatient throttle hands can drain the battery pack down to zilch pronto, making it very difficult to accurately predict how much range is remaining. This requires the rider to visualize a mental map of the terrain including hills, valleys and potential traffic problems with the planned routes, not adding up mileage but what kind of mileage. Miscalculating a route can ruin a day quick, as you can’t push these bikes to the gas station and top things off.
The Zero goes further thanks to its 4 kWh capacity. Instrumentation sourced from a conventional dash, DS riders are presented with a fuel bar than can swing wildly depending on the riding conditions. At a stop light we’d see a half tank remaining, then twist the grip and watch the fuel gauge plummet down to almost nothing only to coast to a stop and watch it bump back up to half tank. The Zero’s ideal 50-mile range sounds like crazy talk to us, but it nets more than the Enertia without question.