IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD a good-looking custom bike. The classifieds are littered with abandoned projects—and even the top pro builders sometimes struggle to get it right.
If the donor bike is electric, you can multiply the difficulty level by ten. Without a traditional engine to anchor the visuals, it’s fiendishly hard to create an attractive machine. Which makes this Zero XU street tracker from Colt Wrangler even more remarkable: it’s one of the freshest-looking bikes we’ve seen so far this year.
We don’t see many electric customs, and even fewer that look as good as this Zero. So how did this build come about?
“A customer came to me with the idea for a custom electric motorcycle,” Colt reveals. “My original thought was to build a cafe racer, possibly with full fairings. But after riding the bike in its original form, I really enjoyed the stance it already had. So I decided to go for a street tracker look.”
Colt’s customer tracked down a 2013-year Zero XU at local dealership, but it spent nearly a year gathering dust in Colt’s workshop before the go button was pressed.
“My plans for it changed over time, because of the extra skills and tools I acquired over that year. At first, I planned on gutting a vintage gas tank to set over the top tube,” says Colt. “But once I had the proper shaping tools and a welder—and some instruction from friends—I decided to hand-form everything from aluminum sheet.”
The Zero is actually quite a simple design in factory form. “It comes with some really great, minimal components,” says Colt. “So all I added was a rear wheel, new LED lighting, tires, and the aluminum body work.”
Colt’s kept the original wiring harness, but did move a lot of electrical components around. “The digital gauge is under the false tank, which lifts up with the push of a button.”
With the tank lifted, a button on the tail section is revealed, which allows it to be removed completely. “The Zero has the option of a second battery pack up front,” says Colt. “Since this one didn’t come with the second battery, I used the space for two hard cases—which hold the charging cables and adapters, and extra room to empty your pockets.”
The Zero ships with a 16” rear wheel. To get the tracker stance, Colt sent the hub and a 19” rim to Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim, and they assembled a new wheel.
Hand shaping the aluminum body and TIG welding was a huge learning curve for Colt. “I had never shaped or welded before, and I decided to dive straight in with thin aluminum.”
“It was terrible at first—it took me hours of practice before I could even tack two pieces together. I’ve gotten a lot better since, but I still have so much to learn.” Thankfully Colt has good friends to advise him: Junior at Retro Moto, and Andrew at Free Ride Fab.
“I wanted to keep this bike as simple as possible,” says Colt. “Most of the Zero was already black—apart from the plastic bodywork—so I felt the brushed aluminum finish was the perfect contrast.”
If we had to pick out a signature feature, it’d be the sculptural headlight surround. “Headlight and number plate combos have been done so much over the past few years, I was hesitant to build another one. But I think it turned out to be unique.” That assembly alone took Colt almost three days to finish, and is made up of four pieces. The headlight itself is a flush-mounted truck bumper light.
The tail section, says Colt, was inspired by both superbikes and flat trackers. “It’s a combination I’ve been dreaming up for a while.”
Trackers are all about light, flickable handling, and this Zero delivers. Unlike many custom bikes, there are no dynamic compromises. “It’s as light as a scooter but handles fantastic,” says Colt. “It’s a blast to ride and is the easiest machine I’ve ever operated.”
“When I started, I wasn’t sure if the whole aluminum thing was going to work. But being able to form the lines from scratch was an awesome experience.”
So is the customer happy too? “The customer is happy, but has also made styling suggestions that I just can’t bring myself to do,” Colt admits. “Building a bike for someone is definitely a compromise—but it’s also my duty to guide my customers. I think that this bike is very well balanced visually, and has a look that will stand the test of time, even as trends come and go.”
This article first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.