OK, I’ve got to just start out by saying this is a lot prettier book. So sue me, I was a commercial advertising photographer for a few, uh, decades, this stuff is important to me. Nice photo on the cover, looks like they threw the copy at a junior designer, looks very slick and well thought out.
That out of the way, the Zero manual is certainly more aimed at the motorcycle enthusiast. The product itself is less of a consumer electronics feel and more of a motorsports flavor, and the manual presumes the user is going to have a little more basic understanding of owning, riding and maintaining a bike than what we saw in the Brammo book.
Here’s the Table of Contents-
…it’s not to say that we’re seeing no language pointed at the first-time rider, but we’re seeing a little more in the way of service details… torque specifications, for example. There’s some detailed information about riding, range, and charging, points that the experienced rider still needs to learn.
Here’s some really interesting stuff in the nooks and crannies of the first pages- the serial number codes. There, you see indicators for four different motor configurations. Now, the question is, are they just using a universal designation of all the bikes and motor types they’ve used, and plan to use, or does this indicate that they may be building the bikes with motor options? Motor options that the user can request, perhaps? Enquiring minds want to know…
Here’s where you’re going to see your error codes, and they use a system of blinking lights. The next page, explaining the codes:
On a bike that’s a little less complex, electronically (and I will go into that in more detail in the hands-on segment) this seems serviceable, and blinking lights do attract attention, however, I’d prefer a simple numeric error code rather than having to count dots and dashes of a blinky light.
More keys to the blinks, here:
OK, my favorite part of the Zero manual- the “Sanity Check”. Yeah, yeah, if you’re an electronics nerd maybe this is standard terminology, but from where I live, I think everything that’s smarter than I am, and that’s most of the electronics I carry around in my pocket and drive around, should have a “Sanity Check”.
I, for that matter, should have a “Sanity Check”.
OK, I digress…
Here’s kind of an illustration of what I mean about the bike being less “general consumer” and more enthusiast- oriented. The last time I saw an “uncrating your bike” section was in the ’70s. Or maybe it was the ’60s. But it was a long, long time ago… and it was something British.
Finally, on to the final issue, getting service and support. Here are those pages:
I like the Customer Service tone of this, I like the dedicated support email address and the toll-free number.
I’ve got to make a suggestion to both Zero and Brammo though. Take a page from the Digital Imaging market. Set up a “Support” page on your site. On that page, set up a “FAQ” section, and establish a user group. Moderate that group aggressively.
Also, offer downloads of upgrades for firmware and programming. User installable… don’t tell me you can’t, because every major professional DSLR lets you download a firmware update and load it onto your camera via the memory card. Phones do it, even printers do it. I assure you, the users will figure out how to hack it themselves, it’s only a matter of time- jump in there, make it accessible and it becomes a sellable feature. Not only from the perspective that you can tout “user upgradeable”, but you also inspire buckets of warm, comfy feelings when a prospective buyer can get online and see a help forum- before they even need it. (Update: Brammo User Forum is here. Never mind.)
All in all, though, a very serviceable book- a little less for me to get out of it, since most of the motorcycle-maintenance stuff I already know, but seemingly a book more useful for the rider who’s been around bikes a bit.
Other than tipping their hand to a few things that the advertising and marketing doesn’t talk about, it feels like these manuals are well suited to their target clients- in fact, maybe the most interesting part of the comparison is seeing how defined the targeting is. You know exactly who they think they’re going to sell to by a look at these books. In that respect, and especially if you fall within the group the book is written for, they’re both very helpful to look at. They both inspire a good degree of comfort and confidence that the products are consumer-ready and the support is there.
Now. When can we see the shop manuals?