There are a common few reactions electric bike riders get when they're taking a ride: disdain and outright anger from the traditional cyclists who are struggling their way up hills as you breeze past; quizzical looks from car passengers who see you keeping pace with them in traffic; and joy from fellow e-bike riders, who will stop to wax eloquent about their chosen model, ask questions about yours, and commiserate in the benefits of slapping a motor on a bicycle.
It seems everyone's got a strong opinion on electric bikes, whether or not they've taken one for a spin. But if you have decided to try one out, there's an undeniable fact that can't be ignored: electric bikes are fun. They open up the sport to more participants, and provide access to longer rides for those that haven't built up their endurance, but want to see the world on two wheels.
In the spirit of innovating and perfecting their e-bikes, Yamaha has released two new models this spring: the Wabash RT and the CrossCore RC, both of which are updates to previous models. Yamaha invented the electric-assist bike way back in 1993, and has used its 29-years of experience to refine their models.
The Wabash RT and CrossCore RC address two of the fastest growing sectors in bicycling: gravel and commuter. “Built on Yamaha’s heritage as a pioneering leader in e-Bikes, the Wabash RT is made for paved and unpaved exploration and adventure, while the CrossCore RC redefines ‘commuting by bicycle’ and serves the growing fitness and transit e-Bike market, which grew by approximately 50-percent in the last year,” Drew Engelmann, Yamaha’s power assist bicycle group sales and marketing manager, says of the releases,
Updates to the bikes included adding a fourth sensor to the PWSeries ST drive unit on both bikes, which now measure torque, speed, number of rotations through pedaling and an all-new angle sensor that can tell through incline if the bike is going up or down hills. In an effort to maintain weight, the 500-watt-hour lithium-ion batteries stayed the same size, but they did get integrated into the downtubes, part of the new frame design of the bikes which optimizes geometry, frame rigidity and weight balance for each bike's intended use.
I've been a fan of gravel bikes for the last couple years — I started riding them at the beginning of the pandemic, and haven't looked back. The mix of utility and fun keeps me coming back every time, and the Wabash RT is no exception. The handling is smooth, and Yamaha redesigned the handlebars for a wider fit; in previous models, the Small size of the bike had narrower handlebars, which didn't do me a lot of favors on trails. The new flared handlebars gave me the support and versatility I was looking for in the previous model.
The Wabash RT and the CrossCore RC both come with four pedal assist modes: Eco+, Eco, Standard, and High. In the new bikes, Yamaha also added Automatic mode, which seamlessly adjusts the assist levels for you. I ended up using Automatic on the roads far more than the dirt; if the bike sensed that I was on an incline and should be on High, the chances of me spinning out in the loose dirt and rocks was a lot higher.
The Wabash comes with dual compound Maxxis tires, a built-in dropper seat post with 40-60mm of travel, Shimano GRX drivetrain and hydraulic brakes and is compatible with front and rear racks. I found it performed just as well on the trails as it did on the roads, and after a day's worth of riding on Eco and Standard mode, I had more than 75 percent of my battery left for my next adventure.
The CrossCore RC is about as comfortable as a road bike can get, and is nimble for its 52 pounds. This is the bike where Automatic mode shines: I toggled it on in the beginning of each of our rides, and was able to focus on cross traffic, fellow riders and vehicles without having to manually adjust my pedal assist mode. The addition of the fourth engine sensor, which measures incline, made for a seamless riding experience. The puncture-resistant layering on the CST Brooklyn Pro tires came in handy when I came across broken glass and small obstacles on my road ride, and the LCD display was easy to read at a glance.
Most performance bikes worth their salt are going to come with a higher price tag, and Yamaha's new e-bikes are no different. The Wabash RT is a cool $4,099, while the CrossCore RC is $3,099. In this writer's opinion, the initial investment is worth the miles of fun you'll get out of both models.
The Wabash RT and CrossCore RC are both available now, in a variety of sizes and colorways.