2014 Zero S test ride, part 2

Sunday, April 13, 2014

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Test Ride, Leg 2:  0-30 mph downhill stop, continued

Where I left off, we were talking about the downhill stop sign at the bottom of Blue Ridge Drive.  This was leg 2 of the planned route.

Why this stretch of road bothers me and why I chose to take this path again for this test ride, is to test two things:  find out whether I’ve overcome my fear of downhill stops, and whether I can feel comfortable on the street-bike seating posture of the Zero S under riding conditions like this.  What I hadn’t accounted for was the Zero’s regenerative braking.

My usual approach to a downhill stop is to close the throttle, coast, and use the brakes as necessary.  With the Zero’s default performance profiles (e.g. ECO, SPORT), coasting is impossible without careful control of the throttle; regenerative braking takes over when the bike is moving faster than the motor asked it to.

So, when the throttle is closed, regenerative braking is doing the braking for you, keeping down the speed that would otherwise build up while coasting downhill.  During the shallower part of the descent, the regen was stronger than gravity, so traffic behind me tailed close.  During the steeper part of the descent, the regen was not quite enough to bring me to a stop at the intersection, but light braking was all it took.

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Test Ride, Leg 3:  0-30 mph single-lane twisty traffic

After coming to an uneventful stop, pulling into northbound traffic was smooth and easy in ECO mode.  After the downhill run, this leg climbs gradually back to Highway 99 along a curvy tree-lined road.

Leg 1 was a gentle uphill straight line to practice low-speed stop and go, exercising acceleration, braking.  Leg 2 was an increasingly steep downhill with a sudden stop at the end, exercising friction braking and regenerative braking.  Leg 3 is another gentle climb, but twisty, letting me get used to keeping up with traffic, maintaining speed in turns.

Fortunately, the Zero had no trouble with this.  The trouble lies with me.  Because the Zero S doesn’t have a cruise-control feature, I had to learn how to adjust my grip to maintain speed while covering the brake lever.  This hasn’t been a problem with the Boulevard or the e-scooter, but for a reason that hadn’t occurred to me until now: the forward-leaning street/sport bike riding posture.  Unlike my cruiser and scooter, the Zero forces me to lean forward towards the handlebars, elbows above my wrists instead of level or below.  Covering the brake with three fingers at the same time as controlling the throttle with two while the elbows are up and wrist bent back feels like a recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome.  This is the right-hand cramp I was telling you about.

To address my shortcomings, I will need to learn proper sport bike posture, and if that fails, raise the handlebars.

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Test Ride, Leg 4:  0-45 mph stop-and-go multi-lane traffic

This leg is for trying higher speeds, 45 mph, with city traffic, on the way to the highway.  This doesn’t leave the stop-and-go traffic behind yet, but now the challenges include increased reliance on the rear-view mirrors for lane changes and increased need to cover both brakes to shorten reaction time when dealing with other traffic.

This 3-mile stretch was a little boring, but it was necessary to make the highway return trip long enough to be worthwhile.  Sure, I could’ve planned to go straight to the highway and back, but I didn’t want to be caught by surprise on the highway by some unexpected quirk or feature.

For example, the mirrors.  Even rotating them upward as far as they would go, I couldn’t see more than a couple dozen feet behind without leaning down or back.  Looks like a hex wrench should be able to fix this, though.

Then there’s the foot brake.  I’m used to my cruiser’s large brake pedal, and my scooter’s hand brake.  The Zero’s brake pedal is smaller than a cruiser’s, so I’ll have to train myself to find it reliably, and not catch my toe underneath it when I need to use it.

One more thing I noticed while rolling up route 99 to the highway was that I felt every pot hole and patch in the road.  This was noticed by other riders, but the shocks are adjustable, so I imagine that the ride can be made smoother.

Thank you for reading this far!  In my next post, I’ll describe more of the test ride, including:

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