Common Sounds

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This is an index of discussions of sounds a Zero makes.

As a new rider, getting accustomed to the sounds can be tricky, to know what to expect and what not to expect.

Overview

Zero makes electric motorcycles which have a far quieter powertrain than other vehicles. This means you will hear more of the sounds from the chassis, brakes, suspension, etc. that you wouldn't normally hear on other bikes.

Drivetrain

Motor

The 2013+ motor is brushless so has no source of mechanical noise other than its bearings and the countersprocket action against the transmission belt or chain.

For details, see Motor Sounds from the service manual page.

White Noise
The motor will make a noise when the controller is on and the motor is rotated (by the wheels or shaft).
This is called "cogging" and is normal as long as it sounds like white noise.
The noise results from the controller applying a white noise field to the motor to detect motor position changes precisely so that it can apply torque correctly without jerking the bike.
Motor Whine
The motor typically makes a very clean-sounding tone while under power.
This sound's frequency varies with RPM / speed and sounds the strongest at around 20-30mph (30-50kph).

Belt

Most models have a belt drive, which will make a very quiet "rubbery" sound when moving.

In the wet, the belt will groan, which has its own symptom page discussing it.

Mainly, this is normal, although it does mean the belt is a little dirty.

Belts do make more troubling noises when they are misaligned, so check belt alignment.

Chain

Whether via factory install or custom-done, a chain will be louder than a belt, and will be the loudest single part of a Zero when installed.

Generally, keep a chain oiled, cleaned, and tensioned properly to keep the noise down.

Sprocket alignment is important, but chains are more resilient than belts.
Plenty of motorcycle articles, forums, books, etc. exist with tips on chain care, so just research widely.

Wheels

Misaligned wheels may make a lot of noise.

Brakes

Brake Squeal
Brake pads squeal for various owners.
This was more common on earlier model years.
Brake Grinding Sound
Brakes may also make a mild grinding sound as well.
It may even be audible while rolling when the brakes are not applied at all, but will increase in volume with brake pressure.
This is normal and is just the brake pads dragging on the rotors.
Organic brake pads will generally be quieter than sintered or semi-sintered pads.

Spokes

Spoked wheels might creak.

Bearings

Wheel or swingarm bearings can squeak or grind when they near their age limits.

Steering head bearings may produce a click or pop sound if they become loose, indicating movement of the forks relative to the frame. This may also cause an uneasy feeling in the handling of the bike. The bearings may need to be tightened (castle nut beneath the upper triple clamp).

Tires

Tires make noise when their pressure is low or when wearing thin.

Potential Causes
  • Low tire pressure.
  • Low tire tread.
Potential Solutions
  • Check and restore tire pressure.
  • Check that the tire is properly seated on the rim and re-seat as necessary.
  • Replace the tire if the tread is worn out.


Other

Turn Signals

Prior to 2016, the turn signal relay on a Zero would click relatively loudly as it toggled; later years have a newer relay that makes a subdued sound.

It is often notable that when stopped and using a turn signal, it will be the loudest sound on the vehicle.

Click Sound

When the bike turns on, the dash display will enter a self-check mode, and there will be an audible "click sound" just as the bike becomes ready to ride.