Yamaha Goes Electric

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Everyone’s jumping on the electric bandwagon, and while we don’t think e-motorcycles aren’t quite there yet, we’re definitely fans of e-mountain bikes. Pop into your local Yamaha dealership and you’ll notice Yamaha MTBs lining up alongside the dirt bikes. We took the brand’s YDX Moro-07 for a spin to see how it shapes up.

WORDS: Noel Priestley PHOTOS: Geoff Osborne

Having ridden many examples of the tuning fork brand’s motorcycles over the years (and currently owning a couple), I found myself quite excited at the opportunity to try out Yamaha’s new foray into the burgeoning world of e-mountain biking (eMTB). I say new, but actually Yamaha is a trailblazer in the world of e-MTB, having developed the world’s first production e-bike some 30 years ago. In fact, Yamaha has been building e-bikes for the Japanese market for the last three decades, as well as supplying the electric motors for other bike manufacturers. Here in NZ this is most prevalent in the popular Giant e-bike range.

YDX MORO-07
The bike that arrived for a temporary stay in my MTB stable was the new YDX Moro-07,resplendent in Icon Blue. While it’s not sporting the most catchy name, the Moro-07 is a key model in Yamaha’s ‘Switch ON’ strategy, which spearheads the company’s move into the world of ‘electric personal mobility’. It’s currently the only model in Yamaha NZ’s line-up, but watch this space as further models are on the way later this year.

A quick google and I see there’s a large Yamaha e-bike range available in other parts of the world, from road to gravel models and five different MTB options. I’m not surprised Yamaha are going down the e-bike path. Global bike sales, especially e-bikes, are on the up and the bottom end of off-road motorcycle sales are being affected by the explosion in eMTB take-up. Furthermore Yamaha, like any other ICE-powered transportation device manufacturer, has a carbon-neutral future in its sites, so development of e-powered bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs and the like are a given. The Moro-07 sits mid+ in the spec level of its current MTB offerings. Yamaha terms it ‘All Mountain Class-1 Offroad Trail’ in use, which essentially means it’s suitable for most offroad tracks, is a pedal assist-only bike (there’s no throttle) limited to 32km/h assist, and the geometry and components place it in the ‘Trail’ category.

 

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MOTORCYCLE INSPIRED
The first thing I noticed on the Moro-07 was the frame geometry – in this case the ‘Dual Twin Frame’. Yamaha’s marketing material states the aluminium frame has been developed using advanced chassis technology inspired by Yamaha’s race-winning motorcycles. The frame features twin top tubes and twin down tubes which Yamaha claim provide an ‘idealised balance of flex and rigidity for confident handling together with accurate surface feedback’.

Bicycle makers are always looking for a unique approach to traditional frame design and shock linkages, they like something they can patent and market as their own. Yamaha’s approach with the Moro-07 certainly is unique, with the rear shock pivoting within the twin top tubes, while the twin down tubes house the battery, nicely nestled between them.

COMPONENTS
Up front, the forks are quality. Beefy Rockshox Lyrik Select Chargers with 35mm stanchions and 160mm travel, while the rear end has 150mm of travel and Rockshox Super Deluxe Select+ shock. This puts it firmly into the trail, rather than enduro, category. There’s rebound and compression adjustment on both the forks and shock, so it’s easy to set the bike up to suit your riding style and type of terrain you’ll be tackling. 

Brakes come from Magura, the MT5 with radially mounted master cylinders, four-piston calipers and 203mm rotors - a must on a burly e-bike. Gearset is Shimano XT with a 12-speed cassette and there’s a 30.9mm seat dropper post (a must have!) with a very decent 170mm of drop on the L size bike. Wheels are alloy and 27.5in, wrapped in 2.6in Maxxis MaxxTerra tyres.

Battery is a 500Wh unit that’s fully integrated into the down tubes, and the driving heart of the bike is the PW-X3 drive unit. This is Yamaha’s lightest, smallest and most powerful drive unit and produces a very respectable 85Nm of torque. Control for the motor is provided by the small handlebar-mounted Interface X unit, with an up/down switch for assist level nicely placed next to your left thumb. There are five levels of assist as well as an Auto Support Mode and Walk Assist to help you walk the bike up a too-steep incline.

 

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ON THE TRAIL
So, very reasonable components, but how does it all translate into offroad performance? I took the Moro-07 to Auckland’s MTB playground of Woodhill Forest to put it through its paces on terrain it’s designed for. I was keen to compare the ride experience to my own Specialized e-bike which is the same weight as the Moro-07 at just under 24kg and rides on the same size 27.5in hoops.

I kicked off in the lowest assist ‘ECO’ level, but found it didn’t suit for the pace I wanted to ride at as I was, in effect, driving the motor with my effort. Switching to level 2 ‘Standard’ assist and now we were cooking, although it was probably a tad too much assist for me and how I ride – despite riding an e-bike, I’m still after a workout while I’m out there.

I tried the ‘Auto Support Mode’ and found that to be the best fit for me – it effectively adjusts the assist level to the effort being applied and uses a combination of Eco, Standard, and High. It’s even tuned to reduce assist on level roads and increases for inclines – clever stuff. Although the Interface X allows smartphone and bike computer connectivity, I’m not sure you can fine-tune the drive unit’s assist levels, like you can on some other brand e-bikes. I couldn’t find an App to download either, so it might be something to check with your Yamaha dealer if you want to get some individual settings in place. While we’re on that, the Yamaha YDX Moro-07 and future models will be available via Yamaha motorcycle dealers across the country, as opposed to traditional cycle shops, so you get to check out e-power and petrol-power options at the same visit.

Being a regular at Woodhill on my own assist and analog bikes, I had the Moro-07 long enough to take it out on three occasions and got to put it through most of the tracks out there. The Moro-07 ergo’s feel good with a comfortable rider triangle between bars, seat and pedals and the Yamaha seat offered good grip. The steering is very responsive and there’s great grip from the Maxxis 2.6in tyres whether climbing steep tracks or on fast downhill berms.

Yamaha has spec’d them well for the bike, with a burly Minion DHF at the front for great cornering and descending grip, while the Maxxis Rekon at the back is faster rolling. The Rockshox suspension also works well for typical trail riding and easily soaked up the hard and fast rooty downhills I threw it at. The four-piston Magura brakes are also very good and the levers are shaped for easy single-finger control.

 

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BATTERY RANGE
Hill climbing is a breeze with that 85Nm motor and it’s easy to pop wheelies over obstacles. The standard plastic pedals are grippier than I’d expected and I found my shoes holding firm, even over jumps. As expected, battery range came down to how much assist was dialled in or how much steep climbing was in the ride.

For a pretty hard ride with plenty of climbs in Auto Support, I found I’d use over 50% charge on a 20km ride. Ride more XC style tracks in Standard assist and I think there’s far more range to be had per charge.

WEIGHTY MATTER
While there are lighter e-bikes out there these days, I have no problem with the weight of the YDX Moro-07 (as with my own bike). It provides a very planted and smooth feel over undulating and quite harsh ground vs a more twitchy experience on a lightweight analog bike. And how did the Moro-07 compare to my own e-bike? It’s not really fair to compare suspension as, being more enduro focused, my own ride has a bit more travel so is even more plush on harsh downhill single-track, but I had no issue with the Moro-07’s suspension and handling – it’s smooth and the bike is nice and responsive. I’m a fan of the very linear assist of the motor on my bike, which I’ve tuned to suit me via the Specialized App.

Although not quite as natural feeling in its delivery, I liked the Yamaha’s Auto Support Mode – it’s set and forget and I can see most folk liking this feature. The PW-X3 power unit is apparently quieter than its predecessor, but I can still hear it working. At least analog riders ahead can hear you coming up on them as you’re about to overtake on a gnarly ascent.

 

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TRAIL PERFORMER
Overall, I thought the YDX Moro-07 a capable trail performer. It seems a well-built bike with good fit and finish and decent componentry. At $9099 it’s roughly in the ballpark for the spec level and compares with other similarly equipped bikes on the market. If you’re after something different and like a few features that differentiate your ride from the rest, then grab a test ride on one. And if you’re a Yamaha motorcycle fan looking to build up a bit of fitness, then adding another blue Yammie to the garage line-up is a no-brainer.

 

Article kindly provided by kiwirider

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