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Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb always delivers the thrills, but this year an especially amazing bike will join Colorado’s ‘Race To The Clouds.’ It’s a heavily modified factory entry from Zero, with almost 70% more torque than a Ducati Panigale V4R superbike.

The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F aims to set the fastest time in the Open Heavyweight class, and it’ll go head-to-head with the biggest names in the industry. The current record is 9 minutes 49 seconds to the top, and was set in 2017 by Chris Fillmore on a KTM Super Duke 1290 R.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The Race To The Clouds tends to be associated with fire-breathing, custom-built four-wheelers and European rally cars, a reputation cemented by the incredible short film Climb Dance, documenting Finnish rally driver Ari Vatanen breaking the record in a turbocharged Peugeot 405 in 1988.

But it actually has a strong history of electric power.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
EVs starting racing in the early 80s, and last year Romain Dumas broke the 8-minute barrier for the first time in the electric Volkswagen I.D. R.

Next month, it could be Zero’s turn for glory. The Californian company no longer builds bikes for nerds, and the all-new SR/F has serious performance creds. In showroom form it has 110 horsepower and, more importantly, a stonking 140 lb-ft of torque. That compares well to the 83 lb-ft of the Ducati Panigale V4R.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The factory’s ‘Blue Sky’ race program has wound this up a notch, under the tutelage of Eddie Smith, Zero’s Mechanical Design Engineer.

“I’ve literally been going up that mountain all my life,” says Eddie. “Sure, for a long time it was playing hours of Gran Turismo—but I actually got an invite to compete back in 2011, when it was still mostly dirt.”

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
There are a lot of other race helmets on the desks at Zero, and the competitive fires burn hot within those walls. Fueled by a desire to push the SR/F beyond its theoretical limits, Eddie assembled a team to see how far they could go.

There were no dedicated full-time team members, or ‘factory level’ budgets. So Eddie had to pull in a few favors. Some of the flashier components to grace the otherwise stealthy black SR/F are rare Showa Balance Free forks and shocks, as used by the factory Kawasaki WSBK team—plus Dymag forged aluminum wheels. These all provide crucial weight savings, as well as added eye candy.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
Form follows function in the cockpit, where AMA racer Cory West [bottom image] has the advantage of two bar-mounted brake levers. This allows for better rear brake modulation while banking deeply into right hand turns—a design element made possible thanks to the clutchless design of Zero Motorcycles’ direct drive electric motor.

Custom rearsets were developed to accommodate the unique swingarm pivot, which is concentric with the motor output shaft. Harnessing that power and directing it into the rear wheel is a Gates carbon belt drive, which allows lag-free throttle control.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The real action is in the software, though. Zero have uploaded custom race firmware that will push the stock motor and battery beyond the usual conservative thresholds. Top speed is the same 124 mph (200 kph) as the showroom bike, but Pikes Peak is all about acceleration out of corners—and you can bet this machine will test the Pirelli slicks to the limit.

A custom chromoly steel subframe lifts the rider an inch or so, and also adds to the weight reduction. According to Eddie, the bike weighs around 50 pounds less than stock, which puts it in the 435 pound ballpark—around 197 kilos. Removing the charger from the bike has helped too.

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The looks get a fillip too, with custom composite bodywork replacing the stock plastics. This comes from designer Tom Zipprian, with new pieces 3D printed in-house specifically for the event and reinforced with carbon fiber.

The mandatory number plates are neatly integrated, but it’s still recognizably an SR/F—albeit less ‘busy.’

Racing To The Clouds: The Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle
The Pikes Peak SR/F should be a legitimate contender on race day. Eddie is quick to note that there’s one more accessory needed to complete the picture, though—a podium finish.

We’ll be tracking the race results with interest.

Zero Motorcycles | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Kevin Wing

AMA racer Cory West with the 2019 Pikes Peak Zero SR/F electric racing motorcycle

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