Tech

Yamaha en­ters the U.S. ebike scene

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Adam Waheed

THINK OF YAMAHA and there’s likely one thing that pops in your head: mo­tor­cy­cles. That’s fair, but the Tun­ing Fork brand is a man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­house, crank­ing out ev­ery­thing from mu­si­cal in­stru­ments to out­boards. Its lat­est en­deavor state­side is a col­lec­tion of four power-as­sist pedal bikes that strike a sweet spot be­tween the sweaty, quiet sat­is­fac­tion of bi­cy­cling and the ebul­lient deca­dence of mo­tor­cy­cling.

These e-bi­cy­cles were de­signed to cater to a wider au­di­ence, but they de­liver a fun and af­ford­able trans­porta­tion al­ter­na­tive that’s im­me­di­ately fa­mil­iar to mo­tor­cy­clists. Whether you’re a sea­soned cy­clist, some­one who’s look­ing to get into rid­ing shape, or you’re try­ing to im­prove your com­mute, the com­pany’s new e-bikes of­fer an­other ap­peal­ing way to spend time on two wheels.

Al­though new to the U.S., Yamaha has sold over 2 mil­lion units in Japan since pro­duc­tion be­gan in 1993. For ref­er­ence, Yamaha sold 5.4 mil­lion mo­tor­cy­cles glob­ally last year. The new ebikes start at $2,399, and all four get a pro­pri­etary PW se­ries cen­ter­mounted mo­tor. It com­ple­ments the ped­al­ing force gen­er­ated by the rider’s legs. A trio of sen­sors mon­i­tor hu­man torque in­put, ve­hi­cle speed, and rpm (ca­dence, for cy­cling folks).

PEDAL POWER

The mo­tor is good for 250 watts (nom­i­nal) and 500 watts of max­i­mum power. What’s more im­pres­sive is the nearly 52-pound-foot torque rating—com­pa­ra­ble to a KTM 690 Duke. The moun­tain-bike ver­sion has a slim­mer, lighter PW-X mo­tor ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing an ex­tra 7.37 pound-feet for tough climbs. The ma­chines of­fer four lev­els of push-but­ton, ad­justable as­sist: ECO+, ECO, Stan­dard, and High, plus a fifth EXPW (Ex­tra Power) mode with the PW-X unit. Mo­tor aside, you must in­put your own ef­fort for the sys­tem to per­form—but as­sist is avail­able as soon as you press the ped­als. Once you reach 110 rpm (120 on the YDX-TORC) or 20 mph, you’re on your own.

POWERBAND

There’s a sweet spot, with the mo­tor pro­vid­ing op­ti­mum ac­cel­er­a­tion when your legs spin in the 70 to 80 rpm range. Pedal at this ca­dence and let the Shi­mano gear shifters do the work, car­ry­ing you to speed with ease. On flat roads, it’s easy to cruise around 20 mph with only light ex­er­tion. Down­shift­ing up hills en­sures the mo­tor is in its happy place, keep­ing you mov­ing when the go­ing gets tough.

USER INTERFACE

A back­lit LCD func­tions like a mod­ern cy­cling com­puter, keep­ing tabs on trip, speed, and bat­tery vi­tals. It also in­cludes a handy mi­crousb charg­ing port to charge gad­gets and per­sonal elec­tron­ics, like a smart­phone. A re­mov­able 500 Wh lithium-ion bat­tery pack pro­vides juice and can be charged on or off the bike in four hours us­ing a stan­dard U.S. 120-volt power out­let.

RANGE

Range varies based on fac­tors that in­clude rider weight, ter­rain, air tem­per­a­ture, and wind re­sis­tance, not to men­tion the se­lected power set­ting. You also have to con­sider trip du­ra­tion. Dur­ing an hour­long off-road loop in the rain­moist­ened hills of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, we had over two-thirds bat­tery ca­pac­ity re­main­ing. This was while run­ning the most ag­gres­sive EXPW power set­ting on the YDX-TORC. We ex­pe­ri­enced less power con­sump­tion aboard the road-based Cross­con­nect, Cross­core, and Ur­ban­rush—al­beit over less stren­u­ous and mostly paved bike paths.

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