Round the World on an Electric Motorcycle
Is electric travel the way forward? Marc thinks so! He swapped his 33-year-old Honda Dominator for a Zero SR/F, gave up everything and left home to ride round the world on it. Here’s what life is like on the road with an electric motorcycle…
- Bike: 2019 Zero SR/F
- Purchased: July 2022
- Miles covered: 6,500
- Top speed: 124mph
- Price: £13,700
- Range: 120 miles
- Recharge: 1.5hr quick, 4-5hr standard
- Route: Europe to New Zealand
I was heavily inspired by Ewan and Charlie’s Long Way Up journey on electric Harley-Davidsons. I thought to myself, one day I’m going to do that…
I had some incredible bike trips around Europe and even Iceland on my 33-year-old trusty Honda NX650. It was a great motorcycle, but two years after watching the Long Way Up, I was riding back home from the North Cape and had some serious engine troubles with it.
So, I had a decision to make. Do I really want to put even more money and effort into keeping the old Dominator ticking over, or do I want to go all in and make my dream of riding round the world on an electric motorcycle come true?
I found a second-hand Zero SR/F on eBay, borrowed money and bought her the next day. It wasn’t about going green or trying to convince anybody else to. I just liked the idea of plugging in and going on silently with my travels.
My girlfriend, Maree, and I left our home in Berlin for good and are now living on the road full-time and working remotely. I’m on the Zero and Maree is driving a red 2006 Suzuki Jimmy!
The plan is that there is no plan, route or timeframe, but we do want to eventually end up in New Zealand. No idea how we’ll do it or if it’s even possible, so we’re just going to play it by ear as we go.
A big part of this adventure will be seeing what life is like travelling with an electric motorcycle. What is charging going to be like? What distances can I cover? What will happen in remote areas? Will I always find somewhere to plug it in at night? The bike wasn’t built for this kind of travel so will it even last?
But the Zero is such a smooth ride and to be honest I’m not sure I ever want to ride a normal motorcycle again anyway. I believe any bike can be an adventure bike, so I’m sure this little electric machine will get me where I want to go.
I meet a lot of people on the street who have never seen a bike like this before. So far, reactions are always positive. Most people are excited about the concept and how it looks because it’s a proper motorcycle and not just a big battery on wheels.
Then there’s the internet. I can only speak for my YouTube viewers and the people who write comments on my videos. It’s very mixed. Some find it interesting, the electric bike enthusiasts love it, some hate it, a lot miss my old bike and I don’t think many people out there think it’s the right bike for what I’m doing. But most are just curious how it will all pan out – and I’m one of them!
The biggest problem with electric motorcycles is not the technology itself, rather the fact that governments try and shove it down people’s throats as the new big thing that will save the world. That’s why there’s so much resistance towards it.
There are also bikers out there who might not want to be limited by range or have to plug in. They want to smell the petrol and have a raw experience of freedom with nothing to worry about. And that whole badass factor of being a biker is lost for many when it comes to clean electric motorbikes.
I get it. But that wasn’t important for me. I want to travel on two wheels and experience nature and the world around me. And I can do that now even better without the noise because I can blend in and hear the birds. It’s like being on a bicycle with the bonus of being faster than a sports car. Going electric has been a massive improvement for my bike travels, but each to their own.
The price is also a huge factor. They’re way too expensive. New models can easily go for €30,000, which is crazy for what you get. Especially considering they charge you an extra 200 for a reverse button!
The elephant in the room is charging. Will I find somewhere to plug in, will it charge fast enough, will it work, and can I make it to the next one are the big concerns.
This is the biggest hurdle and biggest fear for most people. But, after riding 10,000kms through Europe I can honestly say that range anxiety has not been a problem so far.
There are chargers literally everywhere. Sure, the payment system has to be regulated to contactless and without app use, and of course they have to be better serviced. But it’s improving and soon there won’t be any issues like that anymore.
The other issue is the dealer network. I don’t think I will find many dealers on my routes and Zero didn’t want to get involved, which I understand as the bike isn’t really made for what I want to do with it. So I can’t count on them either, but they did wish me the best of luck for my adventure.
Luckily, I have a friend who is a great mechanic and engineer in Berlin who did all the work on my bike, including swapping out the faulty battery. He gave me a lot of helpful tips and will be the first person I call if I get into trouble.
I used to just use Google Maps and search for “Type 2 chargers along my route” and they’d pop up everywhere. Now I use a TomTom sat nav and it shows a little plug icon the whole way along the route, so I don’t even have to Google it anymore, which is a really cool function.
I’m going to try and ride around the world on this Zero electric bike and will literally just plug in anywhere I can. I have a portable wallbox so to speak and that means I can just plug the bike into any socket and charge the bike anywhere there’s electricity.
I have charged my motorcycle at restaurants and houses and will just keep doing that once I’m in places and countries that don’t have fast changers.
Some people think you can just swap the battery for a charged one, but the bike weighs around 220kg and the battery is probably half the weight, so there’s no option of swapping that out. People also suggest carrying a generator to charge it, but I don’t like that idea. If I can’t make it to civilisation by the end of the riding day, then I need help anyway!
How to charge
I can charge my bike with a type 2 AC up to 9kw, which means 20-80% in around 40 minutes. The battery regulates the input heavily after reaching around 75% to prevent battery damage. So to fully charge the battery from 0-100% I would say takes around 1.5 hours on a quick charger. Using a normal plug with around 3kw, it will take between four to five hours, which is fine if you plug it in overnight.
In my experience, it works out best to drain the battery a little more than you need to so you can charge it up faster rather than stop charging at 80%. This gives me the shortest charging breaks during the day and the best range in a day. I don’t know how this will work in countries without fast chargers yet though.
“What’s the range on that?” is the most common question I had on my test ride through the UK and Ireland in 2022. All I can say is that it depends! Range is dependent on weather, wind, temperature, road conditions, speed, settings… it’s just so different. You can drain the battery in 60 miles, or you can easily stretch it out to 130 miles if you want to, which is 10 miles more than I used to get on my old Honda to a tank!
Clearly, it’s not the range the manufacturer promises and I don’t know what their testing conditions are, but it is good enough for me. But this is very different between models and brands.
But on average, a full tank of electric returns up to 120 miles. And I usually stop to charge it after 80-100 miles.
I ride around 200 miles in a day and with a fast charger that means taking a one hour charging break. I rode 500 miles in a day on my way back from the UK and I charged it four times, but for shorter intervals. It worked out pretty well, especially on the motorways in Germany as there are so many fast chargers available.
And in case you’re wondering what it’ll do on the autobahn, the top speed is 124mph and it gets there in no time. It’s a silent rocket ship!
Electric motorcycle prep
I wanted to keep the Zero as standard as possible because I like the look of it and I also don’t want to add any extra weight. I don’t need a windshield, heated grips, crash bars or anything like that.
The modifications I made were changing the tyres to Continental TKC70s, a centre stand and replacing the original plastic battery and control unit protection on the underside of the bike for a metal one (kind of like adding a proper bashplate). It does have an additional 6kw charge tank, but that was already fitted when I bought it second-hand.
I don’t carry a lot of gear and use a soft luggage roll top bag and backpack. It fits everything I need for travelling and I don’t think it affects my range, but every kilogram counts I guess.
I absolutely love my Zero SR/F and won’t go back to internal combustion engines again. I haven’t missed my old bike once. I love silently riding through the woods, I don’t miss changing gears, I enjoy the immediate torque and handling is easy.
It’s all just effortless. I can stop and film without turning the bike on and off. It’s very low so I don’t have to mount up and down 50 times a day (I film a lot). And it’s rather small, which means I can even park it inside apartments. And the best bit is plugging it at night and having a full tank in the morning.
Obviously having to charge it is a negative because it takes time out of your day and that will always suck. Also, for what I’m doing, it would have been great to have a dual sport electric motorcycle that’d be better off-road in remote areas.
I did have problems with a faulty battery which was replaced under the manufacturer’s five-year warranty. The brake discs were uneven and had to be replaced and so did one of the chargers. Quite a bit of work had to be done after my long-distance journey to the UK and back, so I hope she won’t give me any more headaches anytime soon.
To New Zealand!
I have no regrets. This bike makes travelling and filming so much easier for me. It’s the easiest bike in the world to ride and I genuinely enjoy the exciting part of looking for chargers. Plus, I love plugging it in at night at my campsite or accommodation and waking up to a full tank, it’s such a good feeling.
The batteries need to be improved with new technology and different materials. I don’t really see a future in the batteries that are being used now. They need to be smaller, lighter and charge faster with an increased capacity,
The electric motor and its efficiency is far superior and simpler than an internal combustion engine. The question is whether new ways can be developed to power these bikes.
If you’re a creature of habit and you don’t want to change your ways, then don’t get an electric bike. If you’re open to a different way of refuelling and adapting, you’ll love it. It’s the change that a lot of people can’t deal with, “I can fill my bike up in two minutes.” Yes, that’s true, until one day when you can’t anymore. Some people will only change when they have to – and that day is coming whether we like it or not. One day it will be unusual to see a gas station.
I’m looking forward to seeing what brilliant people and engineers come up with in the future. It’s a great time to be alive. I’m an electric motorcycle convert and I’ll never go back!
About the author
I gave up everything to travel round the world on an electric motorcycle. I started making YouTube videos around two years ago documenting my motorcycle journeys. Filming became a real passion for me, as much as riding the bike itself. I’m currently travelling on a second-hand Zero SR/F called Eve and I’m accompanied by girlfriend, Maree, who’s driving a red 2006 Suzuki Jimmy!
We’ve just made our way from Germany to Italy and want to end up in New Zealand eventually. But we don’t know when, how or if it’s even possible. It’s going to be an exciting adventure trying to find out!
Follow Marc’s adventures on YouTube here: marctravels
And here’s more of Marc’s articles on Mad or Nomad:
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What do you think about electric motorcycles and would you swap your bike for one? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below!