Love them or hate them, eBikes are here to stay. They’re not for everyone, but they serve a purpose and judging by their popularity on the open roads and trails, their numbers are only going to increase.
Yamaha Motor Corporation knows a thing or two about power-assist bicycles, being one of the first companies to bring a power-assist bike to market way back in 1993. A lot of technology has changed since that time, from batteries to the drive unit and more.
To capitalize on the growth of the eBike and gravel bike segments, Yamaha keyed into the market and have released a bike that offers eBike performance and flexibility across a multitude of road surfaces. Enter the Yamaha Wabash.
The Wabash combines traditional road bike elements with nods to off-pavement performance features including:
- SRAM Apex 1x drivetrain with the company’s X-Sync chainring technology.
- Flared handlebars.
- Built-in dropper post compatibility.
- Geometry that lends itself well to paved and non-paved road surfaces.
At the heart of the Wabash is Yamaha’s PW Series SE drive unit with four levels of power assist up to 20mph. This places the Wabash into eBike Class 1, at least in the United States. The lithium-ion battery is rated at 500 watt hours.
The Wabash is available in three sizes, small, medium (the size yours truly rode) and large, with the components on each bike sized accordingly to fit as many riders as well as possible. On the subject of fit, the Wabash’s design is all in-house, meaning their battery and drive unit solution fit and integrate much better into their own hydroformed aluminum frame.
The frame and fork are aluminum, with the latter being especially unusual in this day and age. Yamaha feel the aluminum fork offers a better ride quality versus that offered by carbon fiber.
There are plenty of electronics extending beyond the drive unit and battery. Yamaha’s Triple Sensor Systems measures rider generation (not the power meter type), bike rolling speed and cadence. The Yamaha branded computer is simple by today’s standards, but it is a key component in the system, providing additional feedback such as predicted range, current battery charge, etc.
I had the opportunity to ride the Yamaha Wabash at the company’s exclusive press launch near San Diego, California, recently. Bear in mind the following video is not a review, but does contain a few thoughts about my one and only ride on the bike.
Additional thoughts since the video; Yamaha’s designers won’t necessarily agree with me, but here are a few things I would change:
- Wider tires than the stock 33mm Maxxis Speed Terrane tires. They perform well on pavement, but struggled at times on some of the off-pavement riding during the launch. Granted, the effective gear ratios of the bike would be affected by the altered tire height, which may be a negative.
- Convert to tubeless immediately (not faulting Yamaha here, shipping tubeless with sealant is a hassle).
- Substitute the aluminum fork for carbon. Perhaps it was too much tire pressure during my ride, but I felt the aluminum fork was a harsh ride.
- Better quality wheels.
- A better, more modern computer design. The computer does its intended job well, but it is a throwback to an earlier time with it’s clunky looks.
On the positive, the Wabash was an absolute blast to ride. It certainly has a place in the market and I believe Yamaha has produced a solid contender for a pedal-assist gravel bike in the Wabash. The power-assist is very smooth with next to no jerkiness or sudden lurches forward. Even sans power assist with the bike tipping about 43 pounds / 19 kilograms, it handled well and wasn’t a slug. Bear in mind I have little to no experience with eBikes, but overall the ride experience was very positive.
With all of this said, I expect the comments section to be alive and well not long after this article goes live
The Yamaha Wabash Power-Assist gravel bike is available in a multitude of colors, providing you like “Latte”. Priced at $US 3,499, the Wabash is available in Yamaha dealers nationwide.
Article and video by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.