Riding an Electric Zero FX and Ducati Streetfighter V4S Back to Back Was a Mistake
You don’t miss the chaos and noise until it punches you in the chest.
I enjoy electric vehicles. I’ll sing their praises all day long. And despite what forum posters say, there’s excitement to be found within their lithium-ion batteries that’ll ensure the future of the automotive scene. But recently, on a ride with the 2022 Zero FX electric motorcycle, a Ducati Streetfighter V4S reminded me there are still limits to the giggle-inducing experience an EV can provide. It was a mistake to ride them back to back.
You can read my full breakdown and review of the Zero FX here, but to talk about this day with context, I'll provide the highlights. The Zero FX is a fully electric motorcycle, hence the company’s name. It tips the scales at a featherweight 289 pounds and is situated in the company’s range as a sort of dual-sport/dirt-bike hybrid. Power comes from a 7.2-kWh battery pack and is good for 46 horsepower, 78 pound-feet of torque, and around 80 miles to a charge. It’s driven by a belt drive and features dual-sport on/off-road tires. It’s a fun motorcycle.
The Ducati Streetfighter V4S is the antithesis of the Zero. A fuel-burning superbike sans front fairing with a more upright seating position, it is powered by the company’s highly antisocial, cantankerous, and extremely loud V4 engine. That motor, derived from the company’s MotoGP superbike, is good for 208 hp, 90 lb-ft of torque, and 100-plus miles of range. I didn’t want to give it back after my review.
Most would not compare them, and neither will I. But the opportunity to ride a rock-solid EV and the platonic ideal of a gas-fueled motorcycle doesn’t come along every day. The ride illustrated that despite my love for EVs and the understanding they’ll help push us toward reducing our carbon footprint—even if it takes longer than anticipated—EVs still can’t offer the sort of aural cacophony and heart-racing dopamine rush an internal-combustion engine can.
My apologies for this lapse in judgment, fellow environmentalists.
A Mistake Was Made, a Realization Had
Almost from the get-go, I knew it was an error inviting my friend and his Ducati, as the silence of the FX made it feel as if I was being hunted whenever he was behind me. There’s a certain resonance to the Streetfighter V4S’s Akrapovic exhaust that immediately causes shivers. As it rang off the canyon walls, I found myself saying “woof” into my helmet. Yet, it wasn’t until he asked if I wanted a go on the Streetfighter did I find myself reconsidering my EV affirmations.
It’s been a few years since I’d ridden the Ducati. I had forgotten how lightning quick its reflexes are, how the slight gap in its throttle pickup creates an animalistic surge, or how the Streetfighter’s noise, vibration, and harshness—things usually associated with poor ride quality—are actually part of its spectacle. I’d forgotten how good this bike is.
When you ride this Ducati, there’s a feeling that the engine, a masterpiece of engineering and testament to ICE greatness, wants to break free of its trellis frame. It doesn’t want to be contained nor saddled with a 200-pound meat sack that’s spent most of its life lounging on the couch instead of popping wheelies and causing hell. The Streetfighter V4S barks, bucks, and cooks your legs. It’s raw and ragged, unlike its more serious Panigale sibling. Yet, you’ll hop off with a grin stitched so tightly across your face it hurts.
There are few things that feel better than this motorcycle scything through the mountains. Climbing and dropping through the rev range, you’ll twist the throttle to hear the overrun and feel the engine braking beneath you, and then twist it again, clip redline, upshift, and surge forward, losing your goddamn mind and ability to conjure words to express your emotions. Instead, you become as animalistic as it is, hollering and hooting in your helmet. There’s nothing like it.
That’s not to say I don’t still very much like the Zero FX; again, I sing its praises in its review. But riding the two on the same day and on the same road, there’s a far wider chasm between what’s offered in terms of riding experience. The Zero FX is serene and quiet, and rolling through single-track with the trees whipping by your face makes for an excellent day. But that Ducati, my goodness, there’s just no competition.
And yes, a comparison between the Zero and Ducati is like comparing apples to hand grenades. A far better one would be between the Ducati and Damon’s upcoming Hyperfighter EV. No matter what, though, the Zero and Damon lack what the Ducati offers: experience. You aren’t going to get the V4’s vibration or sonorous yowl. You won’t get the heat from the engine, nor the slight delay in acceleration as the internal combustion engine revs up. You won’t get the experience, despite either EVs' prowess or calibration.
There’s still love in my heart for all things electric, but I made a mistake riding that Ducati. Be on the lookout for my upcoming OnlyFans account to fund the purchase.
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