A Christmas Gift For Everyone: Yamaha's Wabash E-bike
A Christmas Gift For Everyone: Yamaha's Wabash E-bike
You might be asking yourself, “how could this be my ultimate Christmas gift?” Well, if you haven’t experienced a power-assisted bicycle yet, then you don’t know what you’re missing...
You also might be asking yourself… “Why the heck am I seeing a BICYCLE review on ATV ESCAPE’s website?!” Well, everyone, it’s because bicycles are actually an acceptable form of transportation in the world, ya know?! In fact, I can remember being a kid and making motorcycle sounds on my bicycle because I envisioned myself riding my dirt bike all the time. Or, maybe it was just because I didn’t want to pedal, hmmmm… What if there was a way to mold together a motor and a bicycle in one seamless two-wheeled package to satisfy the kid in everyone?
This article is all about you expanding your horizons and learning about something new, because I’m sure that the thousands of subscribers to this magazine don’t swing a leg over a bicycle every day…
The new Yamaha Wabash isn’t just any bicycle… Did you notice the black rectangle mounted to the lower area of the frame? And, what about that almost transmission-looking assembly right where the pedals are located? My friends, these two components make up the power assist system of each Yamaha bicycle. Yes, this bike essentially has a battery and drive unit in it to help you pedal. How rad is that!?
If you’re familiar with the bicycle world, then you are about to scream through the page at me with an exclamation of, ”electric bikes aren’t anything new!!” Well, dear screamer, you are correct. Yamaha, in particular, has been producing electric power assist bicycle powertrains since 1993. In the last handful of years, the bicycling world has seen a massive explosion of power assist bicycles come to market. Every type of bike is getting the powertrain system, too. From mountain bikes to road bikes to gravel bikes, there are all types out there for the newbie or experienced bicyclist, alike. Yamaha’s Bicycle division has recently developed their own bicycle lineup that includes their power assist systems right from the factory. Seamless integration is the name of the game with these bike offerings from the tuning fork brand, and their latest model is this Wabash.
The Wabash is a gravel bike, and if you haven’t heard of a gravel bike then just think of it as a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. A bit of a “do it all” bike, if you will. While this Wabash doesn’t have any suspension on it, it does have a bit more of a stout chassis and tire setup compared to a road bike. The result is a chassis that is still nimble like a road bike. The tire setup is similar to what you would find on a road bike, but tougher – the Maxxis’ are stable on the streets but even more ready to get down with some traction when you need it with a bit wider profile and tougher tread pattern for more dirt traction. The overall rider position is obviously much different than an ATV, in that you lean over the front part of the bike in a racer-style stance. The seat is a bit, well, pointed. You won’t mistake it for a utility quad seat with loads of padding, but it is also something you can get used to the more you ride it. Bring your padded under shorts with you when you ride this bike. Overall, the Wabash chassis can be setup for many different styles of riders. You could even add a dropper seat post if you wanted for quicker descents and more stability. For many reasons, customization is key on these bikes.
So, with an open chassis and versatile rider position, what is it that makes the Wabash so special? The powertrain!
Yamaha’s power assist electric drive unit is a thing of beauty, and we’d have to say that the engineers who developed this equipment knew exactly what they wanted to achieve right from the first pedal. The 500Wh battery pack has 4 adjustable power output modes based on how much assist you want from the drive unit. No, you can’t just let your feet rest and let the battery do all the work – you still have to pedal. But the 4 levels of assistance allow you to dial in your battery power assist. The Yamaha designed and manufactured drive unit seamlessly integrates the power assist into each of your pedal strokes. The ease with which the power comes on when you turn the assist up is truly incredible. Long climbs are made much shorter with an increase in the level of assist. Even on our ~60 mile ride in the hills, we still had well over half of a battery charge left at the end of it – incredible! I could see a 100 mile bike ride turning into an easy jaunt with this system attached.
During our ride, I was able to cycle through the standard 11-speeds offered and see that this bike is very versatile through the hills, offering smooth gear changes and great braking with the standard SRAM components. The handlebar-mounted mechanisms for changing gears were a bit awkward with my long fingers – I had to move some fingers out of the way in order to fully brake, thus giving me less control on the handlebars. The issue was manageable, but this brought up the one change I would make to the Wabash – swap out the handlebars for a different style. Otherwise, the stock components all worked together well.
The coolest part about the battery and drive unit combination is that they combine to allow you to ride this bicycle kind of like a motocross bike on the trails. I could be in a gear too high for an upcoming obstacle, and, instead of switching gears, I could just push the button to dial up the assistance level so that the bike would help me get up and over the rock or ledge in the trail. It was like having an engine with a ton of low end torque always ready to use! By far, this was my favorite feature on the Wabash, and it was extremely fun to play around with as we went from technical single track to rock climbs to wide open fast single track sections. Oh, and yes the Wabash tackles all of these terrains with ease and confidence, even with the skinny Maxxis Speed Terrane tires. Newbies will love this bike just as much as experienced riders.
And that brings up the other “best part” about this bike… With the battery-powered assistance paired with the multi-terrain chassis at your disposal, the Wabash encourages any rider to go farther and have more fun! Bike rides that were just blah are turned into fun, exciting experiences with the Wabash, and the energy your legs save throughout the ride encourages you to go farther than you thought possible.
At the end of the day, we are putting this review together because bicycling can be a great family pastime to enjoy when you’re not out on the trail enjoying an ATV or side-by-side. We all need family-fun activities to do at home, too. Whether you are headed to a soccer game, have a short ride to work that you don’t need an enclosed vehicle for every day, or if you just want to take a Sunday cruise around the park, an electric power assist bicycle like the Yamaha Wabash (MSRP $3499) can amplify your fun while also helping you stay fit in the process. Plus, it’s fun to pass your kids up with some speedy electric fun! It’s like the ultimate sleeper bike...