Yamaha enters the U.S. ebike scene
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).
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.
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.
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 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.