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.
Helmet: Liv Infinita SX MIPS
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.
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 Specs
Base Price: $3,499
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
Handlebar: Alloy 20mm riser, 31.8 x 730mm
Stem: Yamaha Alloy, 31.8 x 60mm
Saddle: Yamaha Plus Cro-Mo Rails
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
Frame: Yamaha Hydroformed aluminum
Fork: Rock Shox Recon RL, 120mm travel, remote lockout
Hubs: TA front/Shimano rear
Tires: Maxxis Ardent 27.5 x 2.25
Colors: Quicksliver/Team Yamaha Blue, Flat Black
Frame: 3 years
Electrical Equipment: 3 years