2020 Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB | Review

Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
Yamaha’s YDX Torc e-mountain bike has a quick, nimble XC feel and a powerful battery/motor combo that will leave you feeling like a hero. Photos by Mark Tuttle.

As motorcyclists, we probably know Yamaha best as a manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles powered by the good old ICE (internal combustion engine), but the tuning fork company was also a pioneer in the development of another form of two-wheeled transportation: electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes. It created its first prototype e-bike in 1989, and has sold more than 2.5 million electric bicycles since then. As one of the few manufacturers of the electric drive motors themselves, Yamaha also supplies other bicycle makers with powertrains (including Giant, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer – read our review of its Liv Thrive e-bike here), with 4.5 million and counting Yamaha-built drive units sold worldwide so far.

While the rest of the world (mainly Asia and Europe) have been riding the e-bike wave for a while now, Americans are only just recently figuring out how much fun they are, and in 2018 Yamaha began selling e-bikes in the States. Today it offers five e-bike models, one of which is the hardtail mountain bike dubbed the YDX Torc.

Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
The Torc has five power assist settings, ranging from the barely-there ECO+ to “holy cow, I’m a superhero” EXPW.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Liv Infinita SX MIPS
Jersey: Marmot
Gloves: Fly Racing
Shorts: Troy Lee Designs
Shoes: Five Ten
Knee Armor: G-Force

As e-MTBs go, the Torc bears more resemblance to a standard mountain bike than some other competitors. It has a Yamaha designed and built aluminum frame with a low stand-over height, the 500Wh battery clipped onto the bottom tube rather than fully integrated, and it rolls on 27.5-inch wheels with rather standard 2.25-inch-wide tires (as opposed to the fat 2.6-inchers found on many competitors’ e-MTBs). In fact, as a 20-plus-year mountain biker my first impression upon hitting the trails on the Torc was how much it felt like a regular bicycle. With its 120mm Rock Shox Recon RL fork and XC-style geometry it felt quick and nimble, especially on smooth, tight single-track, where I could flick it through transitions before powering out with as much electronic assist as I wanted.

The Torc is equipped with Yamaha’s new PW-X motor, which is rated at 250W of nominal power (500W max) and 80Nm (59 lb-ft) of torque, assisting up to a cadence of 120 rpm. As a Class 1 e-bike, the motor provides assist up to a maximum of 20 mph. Yamaha says the battery and motor together account for 13.4 pounds of the Torc’s 46.7-pound total, which supports my seat-of-the-pants assessment; subtracting the battery/motor weight puts the Torc solidly in regular MTB territory weight-wise. There are five levels of assist (plus off): ECO+, ECO, STD, HIGH and EXPW, controlled by two large buttons on the left grip that are easy to use even with full-fingered MTB gloves on. A small LCD indicates the selected mode, battery life remaining, real-time motor assist and switchable info like speed, tripmeter and cadence. Components are quality Shimano SLX, including the 180mm front and rear hydraulic disc brakes. 

Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
LCD is on the small side and can be tough to read in direct sunlight, but you’ll probably be too focused on the trail ahead to worry about it.
Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
Power assist settings are controlled with two large buttons that are easy to use with gloves on. Remote fork lockout switch sits just below.

The Torc uses a proprietary speed sensor that’s integrated into the rear hub, rather than the conventional magnet system used by competitors, for instantaneous response and a seamless feel from the motor. I spent most of my time in ECO or STD modes, as I ride for the workout as much as for the fun, and while it’s very clear the motor is helping I never experienced any annoying surging that might interfere with a technical climb. That said, as a hardtail the Torc is prone to bouncing around a bit over rocky terrain, and I derived the most enjoyment out of it when flying along smooth, flowing single-track and whipping through transitions, the edges of the fairly aggressive Maxxis Ardent tires biting confidently into the dirt. The fork has a remote lockout at the left grip to increase efficiency on pavement, for example when cruising around town or, if you’re lucky enough to live close to some trails, when pedaling to the trailhead.

After spending more than a month with the Torc, my impression is that it will appeal to those new to mountain biking, but also to those who have experience on regular MTBs, especially hardtails, and who are ready to dip a toe into the wonderful world of e-bikes. And with the Yamaha name backing it up – along with a 3-year warranty on the frame, motor and battery – buyers can rest assured they’ve got a ride that will go the distance.

Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
Hammering smooth, flowy single-track is where the Torc shines.

Yamaha YDX Torc Specs

Base Price: $3,499
Website: yamahabicycles.com
Motor: Yamaha PW-X
Battery: Yamaha 500Wh, 36V lithium-ion
Sensors: Triple Sensor System with integrated speed sensor in rear hub
Display: LCD with LED power assist level indicator, remote control
Charger: 4-hour charger

Components


Handlebar: Alloy 20mm riser, 31.8 x 730mm
Stem: Yamaha Alloy, 31.8 x 60mm
Seatpost: Alloy
Saddle: Yamaha Plus Cro-Mo Rails

Drivetrain


Shifters: Shimano SLX, 11-speed
Front Derailleur: NA
Rear Derailleur: Shimano SLX GS Shadow+
Brakes: Shimano SLX, hydraulic disc, 180mm front & rear
Brake Levers: Shimano SLX
Cassette: Shimano SLX, 11-42T, 11-speed
Chain: KMC X11e
Crankarm: FSA ISIS, 170mm

Chassis


Frame: Yamaha Hydroformed aluminum
Fork: Rock Shox Recon RL, 120mm travel, remote lockout
Wheels: Yamaha
Hubs: TA front/Shimano rear
Tires: Maxxis Ardent 27.5 x 2.25
Colors: Quicksliver/Team Yamaha Blue, Flat Black

Warranty


Frame: 3 years
Electrical Equipment: 3 years 

Yamaha YDX Torc e-MTB e-bike
Unlike most competitors, Yamaha engineers its e-bikes as a complete package (rather than competitors which must purchase a motor and battery, then design the frame around them).

5 COMMENTS

  1. As someone looking at e-bikes for urban transportation, where even motorcycles are sometimes difficult to navigate, there are a lot of unanswered questions in your “review”.
    After more than a month, what’s the real-world range and real-world charge times for this e-bike?
    Can the battery be removed from the e-bike for charging and how difficult is this?
    How much does a new/spare battery cost?
    How is this e-bike rated as far as inclement weather/water-resistance?
    How smooth is the shifting, especially when pedaling? Or do you have to stop pedaling to shift with the electric assist?

  2. Hi, Richard! Great question.
    Real-world range has a lot of variables, but I can attest that the YDX-TORC gets about 65-80 miles of range while using a variety of power assist levels during my rides. I usually charge it after each ride (which are about 18-25 miles) and it take a little less than an hour to get back to 100%
    Spare batteries are about $900 depending on your retailer.
    While lacking an IP rating for water resistance, I’ve ridden in rain, through creeks where the drive unit was submerged for a second or two and I use a hose (not pressurized) when I clean it with ZERO issues.
    The drive train is very smooth to shift, but just like a conventional bike, I have to make sure that I’m not in too big of a gear to avoid “klunk” noises. It uses standard components, which I like. I haven’t broken anything yet, but I like knowing that I don’t have to order a special chainring if something goes bad or if I feel like changing the gearing.

  3. I plan to use this as a commuter bike year round. I live in Rhode Island so I will be riding it on beautiful days, rainy days, and in ice & snow. My commute is a little less then 4 miles one way on mostly level paved terrain. Most of the trip will be on a bike path next to the ocean.

    How well will the brakes work in inclement weather?
    How well will the tires handle this kind of commute?
    Is this the E-Bike for me?

    • Hi John,

      The YDX Torc e-MTB could definitely handle everything you’re describing, however, unless you’re going to the hitting the trail frequently and will need the suspension travel, you may want to look at something like a Gravel Bike.

      One could easily commute on the YDX Torc, but options like Yamaha Wabash would be better suited for flat commuter rides. It has slightly knobby tires geometry to deal with groomed trails, rain and snow. Basically, it’s a road bike designed to deal with everything that a standard road bike would struggle with. Most importantly, it will outperform an MTB when doing those commuter slogs.

      However, if you know you’re going to be hitting the trail in a more meaningful way, then I’d stick with the MTB platform.

      Take care!
      – Nic

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