At the Toronto Motorcycle Show this year, I had a chance to get up close and personal with the Zero motorcycle range for the first time. My impressions are certainly mixed. Most of the bikes promise around 180km range at up to 140km/h on the highways but the most impressive thing is a battery life that claims 80% at 475,000km - in other words, you probably won't ever need to replace the batteries. Charge time is about 3.1h, or 2h with the quick charger - whichever way you look at it, it's way longer than pulling into a gas station and thus 180km is your full day's riding and on-street, that's just not enough for me.

There's a number of bikes in the range from the X(trail) and MX (motocross), which are both incredibly light, but very compact. Suspension travel seems generous, yet soft and I had the unerring impression they was just too small for me (i'm 6ft and about 190lbs).

The bikes all seems to share the same frame, which is incredibly light. It seems to be aluminum, but I couldn't confirm as sadly the zero motorcycle guy seemed to want to talk to everyone else there but me, all but ignoring my questions.

From there, the rest of the range winds up from XU (urban crossovers - the cheap "commuter" version) to DS (dual sport) to the S (streetfighter). There seems to be little between them. Prices range from $7,695 for the S to $13,995 for the ZF-9 model.

While electric bikes do seemingly represent the future, I have to say I wasn't overly impressed with Zero. Having been raised on fossil-fuel burner, the build quality isn't there yet. Most of the bike felt like a parts bin special and clearly work needs to be done on the riding position, which is way too small - the dual sport, especially, felt very uncomfortable. Oh, and their sales guys need work, too.

For me, the starting point would be the off-road machines and I could totally see myself owning one though I'm a little dubious about how strong they would be. But the promise of no noise and a 180km range seems like a perfect day's dirt. If only they had downtown MX tracks...

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