Yamaha, the Japanese brand known mostly for its pianos and motorcycles, has been selling electric bicycles in the US for a little less than two years. Now, the company is expanding its lineup with the addition of a new, fitness-focused e-bike called the Civante.
The Civante is Yamaha’s first Class 3 e-bike offered in the US. That means it’s pedal-assist only, no throttle, with a maximum speed of 28 mph. While that’s sure to upset throttle enthusiasts out there, Yamaha cites market research that suggests Class 3 e-bikes are expected to grow the fastest, thanks to their higher speeds and likely ability to replace a car for commutes and other daily trips.
Still, that’s a lot of speed for an e-bike, and as such, Yamaha is expecting more experienced riders to gravitate toward the Civante. Think tight-fitting shorts, bike jerseys, and expensive helmets. The drop-bar handlebars and high-step frame design also seem geared toward veteran cyclists. And the $3,399 price tag may place this bike a little out of range for the average shopper.
The Civante is certainly a gorgeous-looking bike — the bolted-on battery notwithstanding — and the specs are impressive. Yamaha’s proprietary PWSeries SE mid-drive motor supplies a maximum 70 Nm (52 pound-feet) of torque and cadence support up to 110 rpm. The 500 W lithium-ion battery can be recharged from zero to 80 percent in up to one hour. And the 10-speed drivetrain, double chainring, Shimano STI shifters, and hydraulic disc brakes should supply plenty of assistance when attacking steep hills.
Best of all, the Civante only weighs 43.4 pounds, which is practically a featherweight when it comes to e-bikes. A heavy e-bike can be a serious obstacle for many people, especially those who live in cities. The idea of lugging a 70–80lb beast up a few flights of stairs is no bueno for most apartment dwellers. Obviously, 43 lbs. is still a lot more than a standard, analog bike. And the Civante is still heavier — and more expensive — than budget e-bike brands like Swagtron.
Yamaha is no Johnny-come-lately to e-bikes. The company has been manufacturing battery-powered bicycles since 1993, but until recently, Yamaha’s Power Assist System (PAS) bikes were only sold in Japan. In 2018, the company launched four different models in the US after establishing its Power Assist Bicycle Group in Cypress, California.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a bike — and especially an electric bike — has quickly become a must-have for anyone living in an urban or suburban community. Public transit is making a comeback but very slowly. Cars are quickly going to become an unsustainable mode of transportation for most places, and many people are understandably wary about squeezing onto a train or bus.
That said, it would nice to see Yamaha try to compete with the more affordable e-bike brands. E-bikes are one of the first vehicles in a long time that can replace cars for a lot of people. The company has the chops to provide a sleek-looking e-bike that can tear up the pavement. I have no doubt it can find a way to do that for under $2,000, too.