Yamaha PW-System vs. Bosch Performance Line for the road
Trekking bikes are one of the many categories of bicycles and e-bicycles that flourish in Europe that are small to almost nonexistent in North America. Trekking bikes are designed for serious travel and adventure riding and are usually spec’d with front suspension, fenders, lights and a rack.
A prime example of e-bike trekking would be the Australian couple (www.ebikecycletourists.com) who recently completed a 22,000-kilometer world-record e-bike trip on two 2015 Haibike Xduro Trekking bikes—bikes very much like the Xduro Trekking RX being compared to the Sduro Trekking RC in this test. For 18 months they traveled with no support vehicle, camped almost exclusively and cooked their own food, so they carried luggage on each bike, and each towed a trailer weighing up to 80 pounds.
Frankly, few of us will ever use a bicycle for extended self-sufficient travel like those adventurous Aussies, but quality traits add up to a good trekking mount and make for a tough, able, well-equipped, general-purpose road and adventure bike. Haibike’s double line of cycling products gave us an opportunity to compare two equal-spec’d Trekking models while simultaneously contrasting the Bosch Performance Line and Yamaha PW-System powerplants on the road.
CONTROLS AND MODES
While the Bosch is now familiar to us, it still remains impressive with 60 N/m of torque. Bosch’s Intuvia display provides a stunning amount of information at your fingertips. The display is easy to read, and provides the usual bicycle computer functions, in addition to showing battery state of charge and the current assist level. Pushing the info button displays ride time, average speed, max speed, estimated range on this battery charge and trip mileage. Your choices of assist are eco, tour, sport and turbo. There is also a bar display that shows the load you are putting on the assist, and arrows appear at the top of the display to suggest you shift up or down for the best performance and efficiency.
Yamaha has a nice display as well with much of the same information. There are no shift arrows, but there is a screen that shows speed and your pedal rpm, and that is a helpful number to have on hand. The three assist levels are eco+/eco, standard and power. The handlebar control unit has buttons that are smaller and a little harder to hit than the Bosch, but it is compact and appears to be tougher than the Bosch.
To help keep things simple, all Bosch-assisted Haibike models are Xduros and Yamaha-assisted models are the Sduro bikes. While the Xduro Trekking RX uses a Shimano Deore XT 1×10 drivetrain, the Yamaha-assisted Sduro Trekking RC runs with a Shimano Deore XT 2×10 drivetrain.
ABOUT THAT POWER
Bosch rates the assist motor at 350 watts and 60 N/m of torque, while Yamaha rates the PW-System at 250 watts, but the torque is rated at 70 N/m. With any mid-drive there is a range of cadence or pedal rpm where the assist provides the best support. If you pedal too fast, you feel the assist fall off. The Yamaha assist is supposed to stop at 80 rpm, but to us, it felt happier at 65 rpm. The Bosch has a wider and less critical range of pedal rpm. Pedal too fast on either bike and you are wasting energy and not getting much help.
The Yamaha is a zero-cadence motor, and as soon as you hit the pedals, you will feel the assist. Bosch assist begins at just over 20 rpm, but it senses whether the crank speed is fast enough for assist, so in practice the assist has very little hesitation. Yamaha managed to make the response to pedal input instant yet smooth and easy to control. Riding with the Yamaha motor is a very bicycle-like experience: you push harder on the pedals, you get more help.
The Sduro’s 20-speed drivetrain complements the assist, but you are doing serious climbing for the street if you are using the small front sprocket. When the going is very steep, you may not climb as fast on the Yamaha, but it just keeps on climbing as long as your feet are moving. You definitely shift more often than with the Bosch. The small front sprocket works great for climbing, but when the terrain is milder, the Yamaha’s bigger front chainring lets you keep a better pace with less shifting.
WHAT ABOUT BOSCH?
Bosch’s system has a smile-inducing surge to the initial assist that is addictive. Not only does it feel faster than the Yamaha, it is. We would say the highest level of assist for the Yamaha is equivalent to the sport setting on the Bosch, but Bosch has the turbo setting that is a substantial step up from sport. On the Yamaha we rarely used assist levels other than the highest, with only some use of the standard setting. While we didn’t use eco much on either bikes, we used all the other modes quite often. Until the climbing gets truly steep, the Bosch has more response than the Yamaha. However, the Yamaha has a lower first gear, and if you can just keep those legs moving with even minimal pressure on the pedals, it just keeps climbing.
Both displays are plenty visible with ample information available.
Aside from the motor mounts and some changes in specification, these bikes are very similar. All of the components are very nice, so these are quick-rolling, comfortable bikes that stop efficiently with their disc brakes. Shifting is crisp and clean on both models as well. The Sduro has Shimano Deore XT brakes and an SR Suntour fork that uses a lever on top of the right fork leg to stiffen the ride or lock out the fork. The Xduro has an upscale Rockshox Paragon air fork with a remote lockout lever on the handlebar, and it has Tektro Genesis brakes. Both bikes are fitted with Schwalbe puncture-resistant Energizer Tour tires with night-reflective sidewall stripes, which is a very nice tire spec.
Each bike has lights that are powered by the assist battery. The lights turn on with a button on the Bosch display and on the Yamaha handlebar switch. Both front and rear lights are bright enough to let you be seen in the daylight and also see where you are riding at night. A bell on the handlebar is a nice touch as well.
Both bikes handle extremely well. Haibike keeps the assist unit low, so the bike changes direction with minimal effort. Our riders felt the Sduro was a little more confident at speed. We ran approximately 60 psi in the tires and found they gripped well, even on dirty or wet pavement.
One of the big attractions with the Trekking models is their relaxed, upright rider position. We found the bikes comfortable and put in a couple of 20-miler rides. We sent two roadies out on the bikes for two different rides that had extreme amounts of climbing and very steep climbs. The first day was 17 miles with 1600 feet of climbing, and the bikes returned with about 50 percent of the battery charge remaining. Next they headed into the Santa Monica Mountains for a 22-mile ride (also with serious climbs) and battery life was very good.
Both Bosch and Yamaha have bar gauges on the display that show how much assist you are getting. As you approach 18 mph or ride over that speed, you see that you are getting very little assist. These bikes make it easy to get to that 18-mph threshold. For that reason our two strong riders averaged close to 18 mph for the 22 miles and used roughly the same amount of battery as a slower rider averaging 13 mph on a smooth and virtually flat bike path for the same distance. Most riders can count on a worst-case range of 20 miles for both bikes, but we routinely saw 30 miles.
As you might imagine, both of these Trekking models are great choices for recreation, commuting, or, if you are game, camping or touring. While there is little to separate the chassis performance between the two, the real choice comes down to motor preference and price difference. If you are looking for a more traditional bicycle-like riding experience, the less-expensive Yamaha-powered Sduro will be the bike for you. The price difference between the two assist brands is pocketbook significant. The Yamaha also pedals a little better when the battery is dead or off than the Bosch does.
Bosch’s assist package brings more of a smile factor, and it takes less time to feel the abilities of the system and exploit them. One tester rides with his wife, and she is too short to ride either of the Trekking bikes, so for each ride he was forced to stand in the garage and make a decision between the two. The decision was a tough one but tipped to the Xduro. For a choice that close, the $600 difference in retail price looms large.
MSRP: Sduro Trekking RC: $3,499.99; Xduro Trekking RX: $4,199.99
Motor: Yamaha PW-System 36V, 250W; Bosch Performance 350W center drive
Battery: Yamaha 36v/11Ah (400Wh) lithium-ion; Bosch 400Wh (36V/11Ah)
Battery life: 1000 cycles
Charge time: 4–6 hours
Controller: Built in
Top speed: 20 mph (rider weight, rider input and terrain contingent)
Range: 15–35 miles (tested) with normal pedaling; 15–35 miles (tested) with normal pedaling
Drive: Shimano Deore XT 20SP with Shimano Deore XT shifters; Shimano Deore 10 speed 11-36T and shifters with XT derailleur
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT hydraulic disc; Tektro Gemini hydraulic disc
Tires: Schwalbe Energizer Tour 700c; Schwalbe Energizer Tour 700c
Controls: LCD display with battery state of charge, power mode/level selector, bicycle computer functions (distance, time, speed, range), pedal rpm indicator; Bosch Intuvia LCD multi-function display with power adjustment features, battery gauge, load gauge, speedo, odo and time functions, plus range
Fork: SR Suntour NCX-EB LO; RockShox Paragon 65mm
Frame: Hydroformed aluminum alloy; hydroformed aluminum alloy
Weight: 51 lb.; 51 lb.
Sizes: 48, 52, 56 and 60cm; 48, 52, 56 and 60cm