Yamaha probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when thinking ebikes, but they’ve actually been making electric bicycles since 1993. A lot has changed in bicycles and technology since then and their latest line of ebikes takes full advantage of it.
The Wabash gravel bike is the 5th model in Yamaha’s 2018/19 line following a slick road bike, 2 commuters, and a hard-tail mountain bike. The Wabash aims directly at the odd but rapidly growing gravel and cyclocross markets.
Drive and battery
First up: the fun parts. The Yamaha PW Series SE electric motor is the heart of the system with 250-watt nominal output and 500 watts max. A 500-watt-hour battery provides the juice for up to 75 miles assistance in ECO mode. Many factors affect battery life and total distance like your pedaling and how terrible the hills are in your area. Four power modes let you configure your ride from a small amount of assistance in low ECO mode up to effortlessly gliding up the steepest hills in HIGH mode.
A small computer on the handlebars tells you cadence, speed, assist mode and distance. Clicky, physical buttons just below the computer are easy to operate with gloves and give a nice click when you’ve changed mode. A quick glance at the mode light shows green in ECO and ECO+ modes and blue in STANDARD and HIGH modes. It also makes it easier to see whether your buddy beside you is sucking wind as hard as you are.
Three sizes in the frame increase length and height through small, medium and large. Internally routing cables through the frame and one-piece aluminum fork keep them tidy and protected. Randonneur-style drop bars flare out 4 inches at the bottom. The wider bars are comfortable and stable to ride and give more space for handlebar bags. The frame is dropper post compatible with external tabs for cable routing if you need them. Mounts are ready to go for optional fenders and rack.
The SRAM Apex 1×11 chainring and cassette hold the KMC X11e ebike specific chain for smoother shifting and strength under load. Although the mid-drive set up gives you better weight distribution for riding, it does put a little more stress on the chain than rear hub styles.
Thin, knobby tires let you go anywhere you want. Nice for riding on the road but equally capable on dirt, single-track and deep puddles, the 700x33c Maxxis Speed Terrane tires kept us going through everything I’d normally ride on a regular mountain bike and more. SRAM Apex hydraulic brakes did the stopping front and back which is an important consideration on a 45-pound bike.
Yamaha certainly has the specs covered but could they deliver on the riding? Absolutely. Riding the Wabash is a fun and interesting experience. You have to experiment and open your mind a little bit to what that kind of bike can do. Regular gravel riders are probably already pushing the limits.
On our test ride, we wound our way through 20 miles of highway, side roads, dirt roads, flowy singletrack, and rocky trail with deep puddles we could hardly ride. Being able to cruise assisted up to 20mph on the road and then explore down rough dirt roads is ideal for the commuter and adventurer.
The small tires, high PSI and rigid fork up front took some getting used to. You get to feel every drop and rock in rough terrain. One trail we rode that was more fist-sized rock than dirt had me wishing for some suspension up front.
The electric pedal-assist was more help off road than I thought it was going to be. Even in low gears, the extra push through puddles, rocky sections and over logs made everything exponentially easier. The assist kicks in almost immediately after starting to pedal which makes starting on steep hills and getting through tricky patches far easier. Of course, the pedal assist made quickly at lights on the road and tracking massive hills far easier as well.
Overall the Yamaha Wabash is finely tuned, super durable bike for any kind of adventure. It’s perfectly suited for bike touring with a mix of road and dirt as well as commuting with some after-work adventure thrown in. At $3,499 it falls in the middle of ebikes these days with prices ranging from $1000 up to over $7000.
If you’re looking for a bike that can carry, tour, commute, adventure the Yamaha Wabash does just about everything.