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Conquering Zero

Cruising to New Hampshire’s hog heaven with quiet confidence on a state-of-the-art electric motorcycle

Author Alyssa Giacobbe

0513roadtripmap

MAP BY JEFF QUINN

The bulk of the 95-mile journey, which begins just north of Boston, is on Interstate 93—certainly not the world’s most picturesque stretch of pavement, but it suits our purpose. Bikers love the open road, and highway riding is one of the best ways to test the Zero’s mettle. Though Bob has decades of experience and is seated astride a formidable Kawasaki Vulcan 750, a twin-engine cruiser-style motorcycle, I can comfortably and confidently keep up. The Zero’s flat torque curve takes me from 30 to 75 mph without any shifting: I simply flip my wrist and there’s instant thrust. This is very much not a scooter—I can feel the power of the motorcycle beneath me—yet it’s quite easy to handle, with an accelerator and front and back brakes like those on a traditional bike.

At Franklin, N.H., 85 miles into the trip, we turn onto winding Route 11. Cornering requires far less lean for me than for Bob, and the throttle is so responsive that I can slow down just by easing up—no braking necessary. The leaves are starting to return to the trees, and the hills overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee that come into view are a mix of green and snow-dusted caps. We stop for early-season fried clams at Shibley’s Drive-in on Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay, where in summer the locals pull up for a quick roadside dip.

While the Zero’s low weight gets me up to speed quickly, it also helps keep me nimble when dodging even the most unpredictable cars and pedestrians, of which there are many. “I didn’t even hear ya!” marvels a guy in the Shibley’s lot who was too busy minding his towering ice cream cone to watch where he was going. Since electric motorcycles don’t afford you the safety benefit of being the loudest thing on two wheels, the no-noise factor does catch some off-guard and there are times when you may need to use your horn. Still, as Bob points out, most motorcycle accidents happen when a driver can’t see the motorcyclist—not when he can’t hear him.

Our trip ends as we arrive at the hulking neon Weirs Beach sign marking the focus of bike week festivities (a.k.a. Party Central), where next month thousands will be lining up their bikes as if this were a giant 7-Eleven parking lot. The patch holders and hang-arounds who gather here every year might not be impressed with the Zero, but Bob is softening, especially after I let him take a spin around town on it. “It’s safer, because you can concentrate on the road and not on shifting gears,” he says. “And it’s fun. In this case, silence really was golden.”

And while it’s true that 300,000 motorcycles whispering into town for Laconia Bike Week wouldn’t be the same as the time-honored entrance-by-near-deafening-roar, that may not be such a bad thing.

ALYSSA GIACOBBE is a writer and editor based in Newburyport, Mass. At 5 foot 3, she thinks leather pants look better on tall people.

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