YAMAHA YDX-MORO PRO TRAIL BIKE
Like many fans of their motorcycling exploits through the years, we were excited when Yamaha first entered the e-bike market 27 years ago. Just knowing that the same brand that had developed so many high-performance, race-winning bikes in both off- and on-road circuits was coming into the e-bike fold was enough to make us giddy with anticipation of some moto-inspired design and technology.
Admittedly though, over the last two seasons, we were a bit disappointed in what Yamaha was delivering. While their bikes were sound and reliable, in terms of style and performance, they were just underwhelming. Having witnessed the pizazz of Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP road racer and the tech trickery found on the factory-backed motocross bikes, we wondered why the e-bikes were so dull.
Over the course of every calendar year, there is never any shortage of new bikes that we are excited about riding. For the last two years, no Yamaha bike has made that list—until now.
Going into the summer of last year, we saw our first spy shots of an all-new e-MTB from Yamaha and knew instantly that this was a bike we couldn’t wait to ride. If anything, the anticipation was built as much on what we saw in the new bike as what we had previously not seen coming from Yamaha. This was what a Yamaha e-bike should look like!
“It’s a set-it-and-forget-it mode, so you can concentrate on the ride.”
The two models that got our blood flowing were the $4499 YDX-Moro and the $5499 YDX-Moro Pro, both of which stood out immediately with their radical split top tube frames and integrated Yamaha powerplants.
Of course, as excited as we were to see the bikes, all we really cared about was when we could get the opportunity to ride one. That chance finally came late last year when Yamaha invited us for two days of test riding in two distinct different environments—the rocky, technical and steep trails found in the southern SoCal outback of San Diego followed by day riding among the ramps, jumps and pine trees that make up the SkyPark mountain bike park high up in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The YDX-Moro Pro features a dual-twin frame that splits the top tube for mounting the rear shock and the downtube for mounting the battery, with both allowing for a lower center of gravity, lower stand-over height and better traction throughout.
Yamaha’s latest Class 1 PW-X2 motor is mounted in-line with the downtube to offer a stiffer frame and shorter rear center measurement. The motor itself has several improvements over the original PWX, including a new MTB mode that joins the previous Eco, Standard, High and EXPW (full power), and an Automatic mode, which gives you assist (between Eco and High) based on your leg-torque input.
All modes get you to 20 mph and provide assist up to 120 rpm, except EXPW, which has been tweaked to allow assistance at up to 170 rpm. Yamaha said they did this to provide better support at middle-to-high rpm (90-120) to help with really steep, technical climbs. The motor also has a new helical gear design to reduce internal motor noise.
“Over the course of every calendar year, there is never any shortage of new bikes that we are excited about riding. For the last two years, no Yamaha bike has made that list—until now.”
The PW-X2 system, which already had sensors for torque, cadence and wheel speed, now also has an angle sensor to provide more accurate output for specific conditions. That angle sensor knows when you are cornering, for example, to give you smoother power out of the corner so you aren’t thrown outside. The new Automatic mode will seamlessly switch assist levels from Eco to High to let riders concentrate on riding, which may have the side benefit of providing longer range.
THE FIRST DAY
After we met up with Yamaha’s Drew Engelmann and brand ambassador (multi-time mountain bike champion) Brian Lopes near San Diego, we started off with a ride to a coffee shop before it was off to hit the trails. These were the same trails where Yamaha did some of their earlier prototype testing. They were tough but fun trails, and the suspension was spot-on to keep us on the ground and rolling through some difficult, rocky, rutted trails.
We rode through all of the different power modes and found that the Automatic mode seemed best for most of the trails. The MTB mode is predictive if you’re a smooth pedaler who rides clipped in, but for anyone who rides with flat pedals, the Automatic mode was better.
Yamaha has done an amazing job with battery management, and the proof of that was evident by day’s end. We put in over four hours of ride time that included thousands of feet of climbing, covering 22 miles, and still we brought the bike back with 31 percent of the battery remaining. And given that we were using a lot of Automatic and High, with the occasional punch into EXPW, that was definitely impressive. We also liked the software tweaks they’ve made to make the power-curve delivery smoother.
UP AT ELEVATION
SkyPark at Santa’s Village is located in the San Bernardino Mountains near the famous Big Bear ski resort. It has flowy trails running through an alpine forest, with natural jumps, wall rides, ladder bridges and other obstacles. Best of all, e-bikes are welcomed here, and after a five-to-six-minute ride to the top, there’s at least a half-dozen choices of different trails to descend on. Especially on an e-bike, you can get in a copious number of runs in a day this way, but there is also chairlift access to the top.
There are some intimidating features—really big stuff that becomes far less scary and way more fun after a couple of times down that trail. One of our test riders came from our sister zine at Mountain Bike Action, and he opined that of all the e-bikes he’d ridden, the Yamaha felt the most planted and least top-heavy due to the low points at which the motor and battery are mounted. He added that the suspension could use some adjustment because it was a little too springy for his preference over some of the features, which launched him further than anticipated.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Having ridden other brands that use the same motor, we came away impressed with how Yamaha mapped the power modes for their own bikes. In fact, when Drew told us that the Moro’s power curves would be unique to the bike, we didn’t believe him. They are unique but also really efficient.
All the test riders thought the power delivery was very natural; two liked the MTB mode and one preferred Automatic. That’s really the only two modes we used. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it mode, so you can concentrate on the ride. The one feature we were not fans of was the automatic power-down function that is engaged when the battery reaches 30 percent of power left, where it cuts to 90 percent power. While we appreciate the concept (a version also found on Bosch motors), we would prefer to be in charge of our own destiny. Having the power-saving mode as an option would be better.
Owing to the 47.44-inch wheelbase, the bike does feel a bit long in tight corners. It has a 66.3-degree head tube angle, so it’s fairly forgiving in the front end with the 160mm-travel RockShox Yari fork (mated to a 210mm-travel RockShox Super Deluxe shock). The suspension proved capable enough to handle some hard, flat landings when our enthusiasm got the better of us, and we over-jumped a succession of tabletop jumps. Overall, the Yamaha’s handling was lively and predictable.
The Moro’s 53.1-pound (claimed) weight is competitive, and we came away impressed with the bike’s detailed finish work. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on a long-term test bike so we could play with adjustments on the suspension to make it handle more the way we want it to. Still, out of the box the new Yamaha is the bike we’ve both been expecting and waiting for.
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