From this side, the Yamaha drive unit has a little
of the look of a Yamaha engine case.
Yamaha’s display is clean and simple but offers
good information in an easy-to-read format.
We found the control switch tough-looking, but designed
and manufactured with elegant simplicity.
The architecture of the Yamaha drive unit allows running two front
sprockets, and it does not require the idler gear to control the chain
that Haibike uses with their full-suspension Bosch bikes.
The Sea Otter provided us with our first chance to spend
seat time on a Yamaha-powered bike, and we chose the
Haibike Sduro AllMtn RC with 150mm of wheel travel. As of
now, Yamaha is only producing a 250-watt motor, but there
were strong hints of more power to come. We also took a
Bosch-equipped bike along for comparison on our test ride.
Yamaha engineers specifically mentioned that their bikes
would excel on taking off from a stop on a hill, and we found
that to be true.
It isn’t so much that one brand is superior to the other
as much as they are different. The Yamaha likes a slower
cadence than the Bosch. In fact, it feels much like a Gen 1
Bosch. The combination of the torque available at low pedaling speed and the lower gears made the Sduro a boon for riders with less leg power. The Bosch programming is so refined
that it feels a little more natural, but we do have a great deal
of time riding the Bosch, so we are very used to what it does.
While the Yamaha 250-watt drive units, battery shape
and switch design are all unique, the basic design of a cen-ter-mounted drive unit is shared with the Bosch design. It
differs in a couple of ways. At 400 watt-hours, the 36-volt
battery with 70 Nm of torque is the same size as the Bosch-equipped Haibike models. The Yamaha is capable of using
two front chainrings and a front derailleur, so it can have a
very wide range of gears.
When Yamaha entered the dirt bike motorcycle market
in the early days of motocross racing (1969), the brand was
renowned for electronics that brought a whole new level of
reliability to off-road motorcycling. Today, Yamaha has a huge
share of Japan’s domestic e-bike market. And not only are we
looking forward to seeing Yamaha-equipped bikes hit the U.S.
market, with Austrian motorcycle brand KTM already a player
in both the e-bike and e-moto markets, it will be interesting to
see what impact Yamaha’s e-bike moves might have on their
fellow competitors—Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki. ■