Bike Review: Yamaha Cross Core
Yamaha Cross Core
Yamaha shocked the bike world last year with the announcement that they were coming out with a line of electric bicycles. Although they’ve been making e-bike motors for years (featured most recently on bikes from Haibike), no one saw their own production line coming to compete with their motor customers. The Yamaha name is well-known in the motorcycle world on both the street and moto side, as well as pianos, hence the tuning fork logo!
It took them nearly a year to get everything fully spec’d out and ordered and delivered, but the production units are here now and ready to rock. They’ve added one more bike to the lineup, this time a gravel bike, called the Wabash. But like a year ago, it’s merely a concept bike with uncertain delivery times.
We had a chance to ride the pre-production version of these bikes last spring, and they were impressive. Getting our hands on a production version means we can see if the bikes live up to their initial impression.
Yamaha started with a hydro-formed aluminum frame and fork. They’ve worked out a pretty good geometry, and the lack of a suspension fork keeps the price point lower, as well as the weight. Though the Cross Core and the Cross Connect both look similar, they’re two separate platforms, with the latter having a suspension fork.
The Cross Core has bosses for water bottle cages, a rear rack and a kickstand (an option that isn’t standard).
The bike itself has great fit and finish. The narrow, 700x35c wheels help with this, and with lower rolling resistance. The 12mm thru-axles front and rear keep the wheels confidently on.
“We never had range anxiety. Not even once.”
All the Yamaha bikes have the magnet for the speed sensor built into the rear brake rotor, and the speed sensor itself is integrated into the frame near the rear dropout. This makes for more accurate speed calculations, and you never have to worry about losing a wheel magnet. If you’ve ever lost one or had one shift away from the sensor, you know that you’ll no longer have much, if any, power from the motor. It’s interesting, because we’ve seen more companies start to do this. It’s great to see in a relatively inexpensive bike.
The seatpost clamp requires a hex key to raise and lower it. Considering you’ll likely not be adjusting it much unless you switch riders often, this is helpful as a security feature. When you lock your bike up, thieves who would want to steal your seat would have to have tools for it, and it’s a two-bolt system, so it would take a little effort.
Shimano mechanical disc brakes actuate over 160mm rotors. This helps again with cost and some weight. We weren’t sure how these were going to be when actually riding.
Yamaha has been selling e-bike motors for 25 years—a ton of them. They claim they’ve sold over
4 million units worldwide, and that’s just motors.
We love the PWSeries SE motor. Like its predecessor, it has very smooth power delivery with a really natural feel. When you approach 20 mph and above, the power tapers off all but unnoticeably. Unlike its predecessor, if you prefer high cadence, it can go above 90 all the way up to 110 rpm. It’s also smaller and lighter. It offers 70 N/m of torque, plenty enough for the steepest of hills.
Torque sensors work in conjunction with the speed sensor to calculate how much power assist you’ll get. In eco+, you’ll get the longest range and 50 percent of your leg power back in electric support. Eco offers 100 percent, standard gives 190 percent and high mode gives you 280 percent extra beyond what you’re putting in.
Bikes like the Yamaha YDX TORC (their e-MTB) come with a step-higher motor, using the PW-X, which offers 80 N/m in the top mode.
The 500 Wh offers plenty of range, depending on terrain, rider weight, etc. We don’t often ride in Eco mode, because the higher modes are just plain more fun! We had no range anxiety riding this bike. Modern 500Wh batteries have quashed that. You’d only worry if you wanted to use this for long-range touring, but that’s not the target market.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Cross Core is made for entry-level fitness riders who want a bike that’s versatile enough to be a daily commuter. It’s a solid platform that you can customize with standard parts.
Climbing aboard, the bike feels really good. It has a low-enough top tube to make entry very easy. Controls are laid out nicely, with a simple switch controller for the motor’s modes, trigger shifters to control front and rear derailleurs, a small bell (that comes in handy when riding among other riders or on shared paths), and an included headlight. We took off with the motor turned off just to get a sense of how it rides with no assist as a regular bicycle. It feels slightly heavy but rolls really well. There’s virtually no drag from the motor.
Turning it on to eco+ (the lowest setting) made the bike feel lighter in a way, and it made up for the weight. Bumping up to eco was even better, but we were in standard most of the time, mostly because we could. High was excellent for steep hills, but standard was still plenty for most hills we rode up. There’s plenty of power for anything, and with a 500 Wh battery, we never had range anxiety—not even once.
There’s some motor noise, but the PWSeries SE is one of the quieter mid-drives on the market. It doesn’t interfere with the riding experience and makes about as much noise as the tires on pavement.
Because it’s an aluminum frame and fork, plus higher-pressure/lower-volume tires, the ride can be pretty harsh, especially over imperfectly maintained roads. The saving grace is the Ergon grips. They were soft and comfortable on longer rides. If we owned the Yamaha, we’d likely fit it with a suspension post to help alleviate some of the shock and bumps from the road.
Our fears about the brakes were unfounded. The 160mm rotors held up, even going fast and braking hard. Mechanical-pull disc brakes are cost-savers, so don’t expect the same kind of performance as their hydraulic brethren.
Power delivery is instantaneous. It isn’t a kick, but you feel the power coming in, making you feel superhuman. It gets you to its maximum speed—20 mph—swiftly and easily. Once over 20 mph, you don’t notice that the assist level drops. It’s so subtle, and they’ve programmed it to be so gradual, it just feels natural. Some systems feel like the power drops off a cliff, but not this one. If you’re going somewhere in a hurry, it works well to help you get going quicker. We found this really helpful on urban bike lanes when riding with traffic. I think we surprised a few people
who didn’t realize we were on an electric bike.
The Cross Core is a lot of bike for the price. You can add a bike rack, fenders and a kickstand to it, depending on your preference. It was delivered to us via a local bike shop, and the manager talked about how easy Yamaha bikes are to work on because of the way everything fits together so well.
It feels like a more expensive bike than it is, with good looks and versatility and plenty of power to get you to work or wherever you want to go without breaking a sweat. If you live in a congested city, this will get you to work faster than your car. As a trainer, it’s very versatile to help you shape your training program.
YAMAHA CROSS CORE
Motor: Yamaha PW Series SE
Battery: Yamaha 36V, 500 Wh lithium-ion
Charge time: 4-5 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 30–50 miles
Drive: Shimano Sora, 2×9
Brakes: Shimano Sora BL-R3000 mechanical disc, 160mm f/r
Fork: Yamaha hydroformed and butted aluminum
Frame: Aerodynamic alloy, 12mm thru-axle, fender compatible. Internal cable routing.
Tires: CST Sensamo Sumo, 700x35c.
Weight: 43.5 lb.
Color choices: White Opal/Blue, Slate Grey
Sizes: 53cm, 55cm, 58cm
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