Yamaha’s newest hybrid creation is the 2019 Wabash electric gravel bike. Although a cycling newcomer to the US, Yamaha brings over 25 years of e-bike engineering experience to the hottest and fastest growing segments in cycling – adventure gravel bikes and e-bikes.
Blurring the lines between all-out road and mountain bikes, adventure gravel bikes offer a wider range of versatility, making them perfect for just about anybody. Add a little battery assistance to help riders have fun and enjoy an active lifestyle makes sense, especially when you’re like me and can’t quite pedal like you used to.
Although I’m a die-hard roadie, I do enjoy getting a little dirt on my cleats. So when Yamaha invited BICYCLIST to preview the Wabash on the legendary SoCal Belgian Waffle Ride course, I put my snow shovel away, packed sun tan lotion and headed west for an e-adventure. I only had one question. Is this an e-bike to rule them all?
The Wabash certainly has potential based on bike specs. It’s offered in three sizes with hydroformed aluminum frame, painted a Latte-ish color, durable 700c box rim wheels sporting 33mm semi-knobby tubed tires, Yamaha randonneur cockpit, KMC chain, and SRAM Apex 1x shifters, derailleur, hydraulic disc brakes and 50-11-42 gearing.
THE STUDIO SHOTS
Photos courtesy of Yamaha Bike
Yamaha’s PWSeries power assist drive is equally impressive with a 500Wh 36V lithium-ion battery delivering assistance up to 20mph via four power levels: Eco+, Eco, Standard or High (what I call Ludicrous Assist). Rated at 250W nominal and 500W max it delivers 70Nm of torque. The battery and drive unit come with an impressive 3-year warranty. A full function rugged cycle computer also lets riders adjust power levels on-the-fly, charge a phone and view battery level.
It is only available at Yamaha Bicycle dealers, which currently number 60. That’s a good thing, since priced at $3495 and weighing 42lbs this unit isn’t something you want to mail order and trust UPS to deliver unscathed.
“I only had one question. Is this an e-bike to rule them all?”
After a 2-hour Yamaha curated ride on a production edition Wabash through asphalt streets, sandy hills, mud puddles and rocky single track here’s what I learned:
On Cyborg Tech
Seamless integration of electric motor power with human pedal power is key to making a great e-bike. It should feel natural, like the technology is part of the rider and vice versa, like you’re a cyborg. The Wabash nails this with a very smooth power mix, providing the right amount no matter gearing, terrain or rider input. Put pressure on the pedals and it provides assistance, but only up to 20mph. Above that and it’s all up to you. The system responds so quickly to forward pedal movement it makes track stands at stop lights challenging – trust me.
Sailing down through Cal State San Marcos the Wabash runs straight as an arrow without drama, even at 45mph. Compared to a road bike though, this thing cruises like a newspaper bike loaded with the Sunday Edition. Don’t expect it to turn on a dime, it rides best from an upright seated position with smooth gentle steering. Add a handlebar cappuccino holder and it’s a perfect commuting machine.
On rocky steep single track High Ludicrous Assist helps me avoid putting a foot down, numerous times. Having extra power and torque with a quick flick of a switch is awesome, it keeps me from looking like an off-road rookie – mostly. Through deep mud, sand and water the 33mm tires are sure footed, but feel a little stiff over rock. Like any roadie, I let a little air out. Other journalists joke I’ll get a pinch flat. Sure enough, 1-minute later I curse out a mumbled “Damn” as everyone rides by laughing. /Note to self: mechanics know more about air pressure than you, trust them./ Nonetheless, some front suspension would do wonders for the Wabash.
At first the flared randonneur bars feel very wide, but on fast gravel sections I appreciate how easy it is to confidently move from tops to drops. Yamaha’s motor is stealthily silent, so the included handlebar bell is nice to warn people and critters on the road ahead. Two hours riding in Eco and Standard assist left my battery with 58% power remaining. Most riders should get 4 hours from a full battery, but they’ll run out of water long before that with only 1 water bottle mount. A 135-mile gravel Belgian Waffle Ride is clearly beyond the reach of this machine, but the shorter 65-mile Belgian Wafer Ride might be doable with some velo-hypermiling – that would be an e-adventure.
Overall, I had a wonderful time on the Wabash. It smartly delivers big smiles on whatever terrain it rolls over. Is it One e-Bike to Rule Them All? Commuting, adventure road, gravel or dirt – most definitely. Maybe more importantly, it enables riders of different abilities to ride together and just have fun. That alone is a great reason to own one – or two.
Yamaha Wabash – Gravel eBike
John Woodson test rides the Wabash model in San Marcos – Photos courtesy of Yamaha Bike
YAMAHA WABASH SPECS
|Sizes:||Small, Medium, Large|
|Frame:||Yamaha Hydroformed Aluminum|
|Fork:||One-Piece Aluminum. 12x100mm Thru-Axle. Fender compatible.|
|Battery:||Yamaha 500Wh 36V Lithium Ion|
|Drive Unit:||Yamaha PWSeries SE 3-bolt Mount|
|Crankarm:||Square Taper Spindle. S=165mm, M,L=170mm|
|Chainring:||SRAM APEX 1 50t|
|Shifter:||SRAM APEX 1 HRD|
|Rear Derailleur:||SRAM APEX 1|
|Brakes/Rotors:||SRAM APEX Hydraulic. 160mm Center Lock Rotors|
|Cassette:||SRAM PG-1130. 11-42t. 11-Speed|
|Hubs:||12x100mm TA Rear: 12x142mm TA with integrated speed sensor|
|Rims:||32-Hole Dual Channel Welded Pin w/ Eyeleted Spoke|
|Holes:||24.5mm External Width, 19mm Internal Width|
|Spokes:||SUS304 w/ brass nipple|
|Tires/Tubes:||Maxxis Speed Terraine 700 x 33c TR EXO|
|Headset:||Integrated bearing with 30mm of spacers|
|Stem:||4-bolt, 31.8 clamp dia. S=50mm, M,L=70mm|
|Handlebar:||Flare Drop. 31.8 dia. S=40cm c-c “width at hood”, 51cm c-c “width at drop” M,L =44cm c-c “width at hood”, 51cm c-c “width at drop”|
|Grips/Tape:||Padded Cork Tape|
|Seatpost Alloy:||Alloy 30.9, 2-Bolt Tilt Adjustable. S=260mm, M=315mm, L=350mm|
|Seatpost Collar:||Alloy 2-bolt 35.0mm diameter|
|Saddle:||Yamaha Off-Road Cro-Mo Rail|