Zero Blackbird: electric retro road racer inspired by Cold War spy plane

Dirt bikes, road racers and Cold War jets combine for the Zero Blackbird from Plan B Motorcycles - a road racer custom derived from an enduro.

Zero Blackbird. - Plan B Motorcycles

Ordinarily, an all-black paint job and a relatively conventional-looking fairing would make for a pretty average attempt at a custom bike. 

As we saw from Honda’s selection of custom-built Rebels that were taken to the Wheels and Waves festival in Biarritz, a splash of colour is a sound approach to creating an attractive custom bike

But, on the other hand, taking a certain theme and inspiration can mean that an absence of colour is preferential. 

The SR-71 Blackbird is perhaps the most famous jet of all-time. It did not pack an especially deadly punch, and it did not turn especially well, but none of that mattered. They did not matter because the SR-71 could outrun anything this side of an orbital rocket, and fly higher than anything- well, anything this side of an orbital rocket. 

It was a spy plane of the early-stealth, Cold War era. Its purpose was to see what the enemy was doing without the enemy knowing that it was being seen. In this it was successful, but it was more successful as a character on a poster. 

That is because the SR-71’s headline figure of Mach 3 put it attractively above any other plane around, and its unique, blacked-out appearance meant it reflected the perceived madness of the pilots who flew it. 

When it comes to motorcycles, Mach 3 is a speed only ever achieved by James Stewart and, although the base of Plan B Motorcycles’ Zero Blackbird is a dirt bike, it is unlikely to change that fact (it is absolutely a fact). 

Specifically, the Zero Blackbird is derived from the Zero FX electric enduro bike, which comes with 34 horsepower and 106Nm from the factory.

The FX also features dirt bike-style plastics, but those have been replaced by an aluminium fairing which has been painted to take a blacked-out look, until contact with sunlight reveals the metal underneath. 

Further modifications have been made to the brakes, which are 340mm discs, and suspension, where the Showa front forks of the FX have been replaced with 50mm Marzocchi forks for the Blackbird. Additionally, the new wheels have been wrapped with supermoto tyres, and the riding triangle has been adjusted for a more ‘racey’, front-facing, and ‘chin-to-tank’ riding position.

Perhaps the most jet-fighter-esque part of the Blackbird is the ‘pre-flight sequence’. Bike EXIF says that when the ignition of the Blackbird is turned, two air intakes on the side of the fairing open and close. These also act as active aero during braking. 

Undoubtedly, this is not the ‘intended’ use of the Zero FX. When the Zero board were meeting to decide how its new entry-level enduro bike should be marketed, “as a road racer based on a Cold War spy plane,” is unlikely to have been one of the top suggestions. But this is why re-purpose customs such as the Zero Blackbird are so great, because they take bikes outside of the confines of the reality that was placed upon them by their original manufacturer.

Zero Blackbird images courtesy of Plan B Motorcycles.

Zero SR/S Review (2020) | Electric Motorcycles

Zero SR/S Review (2020) | Electric Motorcycles |