“We’d like you to come to this e-mountain bike launch.”
“You’ve got the wrong number.”
“Borrie, it’s Geez.”
“Hey, mate. What are you talking about? What’s an e-mountain bike?”
“It’s an electric mountain bike.”
“What a time to be alive. Why are you asking me to this launch?”
“You’re the perfect demographic.”
“What? Old, overweight, and last rode a pushbike when he was a teenager?”
“Yep. That’s the demographic.”
“OK – so I come to this launch, I ride this e-mountain bike, I die somewhere on the trail, and you all make kebabs out of me and dance around my corpse? Has someone paid you to off me? I thought we were friends.”
“Trust me. You’ll be amazed. The trails are easy, and the bike assists you to pedal.”
“Is that so? OK. I’m there.”
I then told my wife I was going to ride a mountain bike the following week. She laughed. A lot. Made some hurtful comments as well. Then she told me our marriage would end if spousal bum-wiping would become a thing post mountain-bike ride.
I considered my options. Call Geez and tell him no, and be viewed as weak and scared. Go, crash, break things, wife finds a younger and stronger man to live with. Go, do not crash, return home covered in glory with a battered perineum due to lack of not riding a pushbike since 1978.
I chose the third variant. I was always going to choose the third variant.
And on the appointed day, I arrived at Yamaha HQ clad in a T-shirt and shorts – which is the sum-total of my mountain bike-riding attire.
Following a brief and somewhat terrifying presentation in the conference room, where I saw videos of powerful youths leaping into the air on the YDX Moro 07, I learned the following technical things about this brave new world I was soon to ride…
Yamaha invented the Power Assist System (PAS) 30 years ago, and now it has built its own chassis where the PAS motor (dubbed PW-X3 – which is 10 percent lighter than its predecessor PW-X2) can live, produces 85Nm of torque, and thus assists grizzly bears like myself in their pedalling efforts.
My hopes there was a button I could press that would propel me forward without any input from me were lying dead on the rocks I was soon meant to ride.
Still, I was promised a quicker and more direct pedalling response, offering instant support the second pressure is applied to the pedal, rather than after the crank turn. The Moro also boasted the best e-bike Q-factor (an ergonomic cycling thing concerning how wide one’s knees are splayed when riding) thanks to a 28mm bottom bracket axle.
It had five riding modes – Eco, Standard, High, MTB and EXPW (or select Auto for it to automatically choose between Eco, Standard and High) – which dictated how much assistance was given to the pedals, and Yamaha had programmed all of this with its own custom maps. All of this genius resides in a small control cluster on the left handlebar, and is activated by a button which allows you to choose your level of pedalling assistance. Or if you just wanna push it somewhere, select Walk mode and it helps you with that as well.
Prospective buyers will also be pleased to know Yamaha has an entire legion of Yamaha dealers devoted to providing a complete and comprehensive after-sales service to buyers of the Moro – something I understand is not readily offered in the mountain-bike world until now.
Then I was told technical things and brand names which poked at ancient memories from my youth. Shimano gears (12 of them), Magura four-piston brakes, 35mm Rockshox forks (160mm of travel at the front and 150mm at the rear with 15 clicks of rebound adjustment), a lever-operated dropper seat, faster-accelerating 27.5-inch by 2.6-inch wheels, a bilateral alloy beam frame (straight outta its motorcycle division), and a 500Wh lithium ion battery that weighed three kilos, had a range of 136km (depending on how much you relied on it), charged to 100 per cent in four hours, and 80 per cent in one hour, with a charging port located at the top of the battery rather than down the bottom where all the dirt comes to live.
None of this meant much of anything to me. But I was intrigued to learn that Munemitsu Eguchi, who worked inside the Yamaha MotoGP team from 2007 to 2010, was the engineer who designed the Moro.
As intriguing as this revelation was, I was becoming increasingly concerned with how fragile human collarbones are. If I was designing humans, that twig-like bastard would be as thick as humerus and attached by tendons as fat as ship hawsers. You’d need to fall from space to break it, rather than pitch yourself off a pushbike.
You’d think a bone as important to a man as a collarbone would be more robust. After all, you will not be wiping your bum if you do both of them at once, will you? I know this because I have broken them in the past. The dim, distant pass, but the memories remain.
Not long after the presentation I found myself at Wylde Mountain Bike Park in western Sydney, in the company of ASBK racers Mad Mike Jones and Cru Halliday, and a whole bunch of pushbike and dirt-bike press members – all of who where much younger, slimmer, and more pushbikier than me.
“Halliday! If I die, do not despoil my corpse. My car keys are in that bucket over there. See my wife gets the car back. Cool sunnies, by the way. Very Espargaro.”
“Thanks. But you’ll be right, Borrie. You’ll be surprised.”
And he was right. Actually, I left surprise behind after the first kilometre – much like all the other riders left me – and moved right on into utterly blown away. I had initially planned to pedal 500-odd metres, turn around, pedal back, thank Yamaha for its hospitality, and go home. After all, I ain’t no pushbike rider and I certainly ain’t no mountain bike anything. As if pedalling these bastards on smooth roads is not taxing enough without adding rocky dirt trails, vertiginous ascents, and heart-stopping descents to the mix.
But that’s not what happened. I kept pedalling and the Moro just kept on helping me to do that. It was not entirely effortless, but pretty much. Going uphill was incredibly easy. I used to smoke 30 a day. My lung capacity is somewhat compromised. I’m strong and I train daily, but benching and squatting 100-plus kilos does not equate to pedalling a bike. At all.
But I pedalled nonetheless and I was amazed at how easy that was. Be assured there were no mad descents, no sick air, and no hard engagement with tight banked turns so beloved of the mountain bike brigade. The Moro (which is by any measure a high-end example of the mountain bike) could certainly do all of this, because I saw others doing such things, but I was there not to break collarbones, tear my flesh open, and be a burden to the Yamaha team who would have to winch me out of canyons, and order helicopters and ambulances.
For the most part, I rode alone. The feckless youths with thick thighs and thin arms had all rocketed off to leap, soar, and hammer supertight turns – essentially the whole point of mountain-biking – and I was suddenly lost.
I hauled out the map Geezer had insisted we all take and peered at it. He told me to stay on the red trail. I was not on that trail. Features like Roly Poly Valley, Frog Hollow, Smiles For Miles, and the appallingly-named Exile were written on it. None of these corresponded to the black diamond symbol I saw nailed on a post at the side of the track. Black diamond? Is that not some ski-run grading intended to send spears of terror through the bravest hearts of downhill lunatics? I’d read that somewhere. What was that symbol even doing here?
Oh good, I thought. I cannot go back. One bloke had already yelled at me for riding the wrong way. If he yelled at me again, I would be forced to settle the issue with a trial by combat. Could the fool not see I was new at this? My survival and return to the barbecue area was way more important than his arbitrary notions about what way was the right way to ride these trails. I would certainly have this discussion with him if I found him in the carpark later, but I had to get back to that carpark first.
Logic dictated that since I was very much on a high-point, the carpark and barbecue area was downhill from here. Failing that, I could certainly walk the few hundred metres to the expressway I could hear to the left, heave the bike over the fence, cycle to Penrith, then make the appropriate phone call to Geezer and discuss reparations and compensation.
Or I could ride down the hill doing everything humanly possible not to crash, and trusting Yamaha knew more about building bikes than I knew about riding them.
So that’s what I did. The fat knobby tyres had far more traction than I had imagined and I found I was actually quite enjoying myself. Sure, I did overcook some corners and went off-piste, so to speak, and there were a few savage-looking jumps I chose to ride around, but it was not long before I cycled my way back to the barbecue area.
I was smiling. Like, genuinely. Sure, I knew my perineum would be throbbing like a cracked tooth by that evening, but that was nothing time would not heal. And several more such excursions on the Moro would toughen the bastard up good and proper.
“How’d you go?” Yamaha’s Matt Ferry wanted to know.
“Great. Has there been an angry man here yelling about one-way issues?”
Matt looked non-plussed.
“Never mind,” I said. “I had a ball. That’s a pretty special bit of kit. Would you consider loaning me one for a few weeks so I can teach my perineum some manners?”
“I think we could manage that,” Matt grinned.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I am actually very much looking forward to that. The way I see it, there’s nothing very wrong with getting fitter than I am now, and if this can be facilitated by a high-quality vehicle which operates via the same laws of physics as a motorcycle and which so captivated me as a child, I devoted my entire life to exploring them, that’s a good thing.
The Moro easily and readily gave me access to areas I would never have imagined. It’s wondrous technology eagerly assisted me in my physical efforts, and it allowed me to pay attention to riding, rather than puffing, panting, and wanting the whole thing to be over as soon as possible. So an experience that many would consider impossible due to age, fitness, or inclination, was suddenly very doable, and indeed, hugely enjoyable.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.