Despite their worldwide renown as a motorcycle and piano manufacturer, Yamaha has actually been making bicycles for a long time. America was first introduced to their pedal bikes in the early ’70s when they introduced a full-suspension BMX to mimic their popular line of motorized dirt bikes. Yamaha Japan has been making some form of electric bikes since 1993, but they were only available in Japan.
It was at last year’s Interbike trade show in Las Vegas that they showed off prototypes of their new line of electric bicycles. The bikes are exclusive to Japan and the U.S. market for now. Interestingly, most brands these days launch in Europe, then, if they’re successful, they bring them to the U.S. Yamaha is doing this in reverse by launching in the U.S., and if they do well, Yamaha Europe can decide if they want to sell them there.
Yamaha talked to their dealer network and researched the market to figure out what types of bikes to make. They came up with four categories; performance road, fitness, recreational/urban and a mountain bike. They decided to build the bikes from the ground up as e-bikes instead of taking an existing platform and adding a motor to it.
At first we wondered if they were going to sell the bikes at their powersports dealerships. They only plan to incorporate those e-bikes into powersports dealers that already have a bike shop component, and those are few and far between. There’s a big difference between knowing how to work on a motorcycle and knowing how to work on an electric bicycle.
Three of the four bikes use an updated version of the Yamaha PW motor, which has already been found powering competitor brands. The reworked motor is called the PWseries SE. The original had a few issues, including a cutoff at 90 rpm regardless of wheel speed. That was obnoxious, and we’re so glad it’s fixed. Better power curves and the same case are also part of the PWseries SE motor. Bikes we rode with the old PW motor and 400-watt-hour battery had significant range, and the new ones with 500-watt-hour motors look to extend that even more. Range anxiety shouldn’t be a concern on these bikes.
Yamaha’s new compact, multi-function meter display is the same on all bikes. It’s in a rugged case that mounts safely next to the stem, behind the bars, to reduce the chance that it will be hit in a crash or when setting down one of the bikes. It’s easy to read, and a colored LED array shows what mode you’re in at a glance or just in your peripheral vision. The system has Bluetooth capability, so it can be paired with third-party hardware and apps for fitness tracking, etc., and there may be an app to enhance functionality in the future.
All of the bikes feature PWseries motors, most with the PWseries SE, and the mountain bike using the PW-X. Frames are all hydroformed aluminum, with internal routing for cables and a speed sensor inside the rear dropout with a magnet on the brake rotor. This new setup provides a cleaner look and lessens the chance you’ll lose a spoke-mounted magnet. That’s rare, but when it happens, your motor may stop working until you replace it.
The Cross Core is aimed at the fitness rider. It’s the simplest of the lineup with no suspension and with a PWseries SE motor. It has mounts for a water bottle cage, fenders and a rear rack, but all of those are optional accessories. There are plenty of Shimano components, sure, but specs like the mechanical brakes help keep the price down. It rides well and promises serious range and power. The Cross Core will retail for $2399.
Connect: This bike is very similar to the Cross Core, but with a longer wheelbase and aimed at commuters. It comes with a rack, fenders, a Suntour NCX air-sleeve suspension fork with adjustable compression and thru-axles for increased stiffness. It has hydraulic disc brake but the same lower-end Shimano Sora drivetrain. MSRP is $2999.
Rush: Yamaha’s drop-bar entry is the Urban Rush, and it rides as well as almost any road bike we’ve ridden. Interestingly, Yamaha chose to make it a Class 1 model, so it cuts off electric assist at 20 mph instead of 28. The transition from powered to just rider-powered is so subtle that you don’t notice it. We were impressed by this. Shifting is accomplished by a Shimano Tiagra 2×10-speed drivetrain with braking by their Tiagra hydraulic disc brakes. The shifters are integrated into the brake levers.
The 700x35c CST Xpedium Ampero tires offer low-rolling resistance and give the bike a very planted feel when cornering even at higher speeds. There are lights and fender mounts included, and it’s pre-wired for Yamaha’s rear rack with the integrated taillight. The price is $3299.
Torc: Yamaha’s first entry into the pedal-assist market is the hardtail YDX Torc, which is aimed at riders who might only see the dirt once or twice a week. It features the PW-X motor, Yamaha’s latest and greatest and one we really like. The PW-X has a smaller case, narrower Q-factor than its predecessor, and the clutch and gearing have smaller pawls to allow faster engagement when pedaling. The power kicks in instantly on this motor. It has 70 N/m of torque, but bumps to 80 N/m in the top power setting, called EXPW. We found that EXPW was enough to power up the steepest hills, but may be too powerful to use for most trails.
The wheels roll on 27.5×2.5-inch tires, which are regular-sized, not plus. We asked Yamaha why they started with a hardtail, and they said that they wanted to start off simpler with an entry-level bike aimed at a more casual rider, one who rides fire roads and trails once a week or so. The wheels are not tubeless-ready, as they consider that an option for a more advanced-level rider. With no rear suspension and no tubeless option (short of swapping out the wheels), this bike is for riders who don’t spend a lot of time on tuning and maintenance. Price is $3499.
We rode all of the bikes at the Yamaha media launch. They’re impressive for what they are, and the motors are some of the best on the market. Still, we were hoping to see more inspired and original bikes from Yamaha given their resources and history in the market. How about a speed pedelec motor for the drop-bar bike? Given the excellent PW-X motor, which already powers many other top-notch mountain bikes from other brands, we’d love to see a more serious, full-suspension bike. They need an aspirational product in this line, and hopefully that will come in time.
Right now Yamaha is playing their cards close to their chest regarding new models. By the time you read this, all these bikes should be available at your retailer and also available to order online and have shipped to an authorized dealer. All bikes come with a three-year warranty on the frame, motor and battery. www.yamahabicycles.com
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