Love it or hate it, the new Yamaha PW-X2 is a motor with a unique character. The update doesn’t just comprise new software and sensors, the motor now also features a smart progressive mode. How does it compare to the other models in our test?

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Last year, Yamaha updated its eMTB motor. The 3.06 kg Yamaha PW-X2 looks much like its predecessor on the outside, but is packed full of smart features to improve its ride. The motor, freewheel, housing and gearbox are the same as the original PW-X. However the PW-X2 has a newly developed sensor array and brand new firmware. That expands the usable range of cadences for the Japanese motor and unlike its predecessor or the Shimano unit, it can now deliver its power at higher cadences too. For the first time, Yamaha offer a smart progressive mode that modulates support between the three middle levels of the five total levels of assistance. The Automatic Support mode is also capable of recognising the gradient of the terrain you are on, allowing it to deliver enough support from the first pedal stroke on steep slopes. While it achieves this successfully, the motor also reacts so sensitively in all modes that the bike has a tendency to shoot forward as soon as you so much as touch the pedals. That may be particularly problematic for inexperienced riders, not just on the trails but also on the road where this is more of a safety concern.

Cruising
The Yamaha motor delivers a lot of power even at low cadences Just like a big diesel motor, you can just cruise up steep ramps.

In Extra Power mode, the strongest setting, with its 80 Nm torque and 360 % support, the Yamaha motor pushes you forward with a lot of gusto. In the lower settings, the maximum torque is reduced to 70 Nm but all of this is delivered from relatively low cadences. That means the PW-X2 propels you enthusiastically even without too much input, encouraging uphill cruising by taking over most of the effort from the rider. During short bursts of high cadence efforts, for example clearing a step, the new model has enough reserves and doesn’t run out of breath. The Automatic Support mode reacts quickly and modulates the power effectively. Different to the Shimano Trail or Bosch eMTB modes, the motor ramps down the support relatively slowly in response to your effort, which results in a slightly less natural feeling ride. Similarly, the delay in support ramping down when you stop pedalling in High and Extra Power modes means that tight switchbacks often require you to grab the brakes to stay in control. The large steps in the freewheel also feel a little unnatural and above all create a lot of noise if you get back on the pedals after a short break. Conversely, at the 25 km/h assistance limit the Yamaha PW-X2 reduces its output gently and has minimal pedalling resistance when riding unsupported.

Where’s the manual?
With the PW-X2, Yamaha have introduced the new progressive Automatic Support mode. To activate it, you’ll need to read a manual first though. Even with the remote on Giant’s bikes, it’s anything but intuitive to use.
Hunchback
Unlike other models like the Bosch, the PW-X2 requires a lot of space on all sides around the crank axle. That poses some kinematic challenges for the designers of full-suspension mountain bikes.

Bike manufacturers have access to a complete system from Yamaha. Amongst the options are two displays with an additional remote, or the combination display with integrated buttons, similar to the Bosch Purion. The latter is probably best suited to eMTBs. However, the haptics and ergonomics are worse than the comparable model from Bosch. Using the Automatic Support mode is also relatively unintuitive, with a long press of the button required to activate and deactivate it. If for example, just before a steep ramp, you then want to switch into Extra Power mode, it takes far too long to do so. For the battery, Yamaha offer 400, 500 and 600 Wh options. Just like Brose, bike manufacturers can use third-party batteries if they want. Giant are one of the biggest users of the new motor and use their own internal 500 Wh batteries and optional 250 Wh range extenders, as well as the minimalistic RideControl One remote with LEDs to display assistance mode and battery level. They have also given the motor their own name, the PW-X2 is dubbed the SyncDrive Pro, and developed an app to go with it, that, similar to Shimano, lets you customise the individual assistance modes to your needs.

Our conclusion

The Yamaha PW-X is strong as an ox even at low cadences! Relaxed cruising and steep ramps are easy to master with this motor. However, you’ll have to give up on hopes of a natural ride feel and not even the new progressive mode can change anything about that. The high sensitivity of the motor to input at the pedals can be a problem for inexperienced riders. The standard motor components (such as the displays) are mediocre, though manufacturers are free to develop their own or use third-party solutions.

Tops

  • powerful at low cadences
  • no sudden loss in power at high cadences
  • open choice of components for system integration

Flops

  • motor reacts to very light pressure on the pedals
  • large engagement angle of the freewheel
  • activation of the Automatic Support mode

For more information head to yamaha-motor.com

All motors in this comparison: Brose Drive S Mag | Bosch Performance Line CX | FAZUA Evation Firmware 2.0 | Yamaha PW-X2 | Shimano STEPS E8000 | TQ HPR 120S | Specialized SL 1.1


It's finally here: The E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition 2020 is our third annual edition and ultimate test bible, with which we aim to help you choose the perfect eMTB. More than 250 pages of extensive buyers advice, tons of eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the 35 most exciting eMTBs and the 7 best motors. You’ll also find many helpful tips and a guide to the most exciting eMTB trends – all of this is wrapped in a high quality print format. Click here for more information or order it directly in our shop!

Words: Felix Stix Photos: E-MOUNTAINBIKE team

About the author

Felix Stix

Felix is chief of testing and undoubtedly one of the best test riders in the world. With a degree in sports engineering, excellent mountain bike skills, his love of technology and as a certified bike guide, Felix has everything it takes to make comprehensive and fair assessments of bikes. His legendary group tests are internationally known and feared, though they tend to be a bit longer due to his love of detail and technical deep dives. Every year, he reviews around 100 bikes, specialising in the subject of tires, motors and suspension, before putting on his skis come winter! His know-how is incorporated into each of our reviews, ensuring the quality of our work stays high!