To call YT the biggest disruptor of the mountain bike industry in the last decade is probably not an exaggeration. The biggest success story of the direct-sales model, they’ve put fear in the eyes of big players by offering cheap high-end bikes while building a local presence with good, proven support.
The new Capra comes in both aluminium and carbon versions, both 27.5” and 29”. All are equally burly with massive tubing, wide pivots and the signature brace across the front triangle. I like the brace – the seat tube gets a very hard life when there’s a pivot halfway up it, and the brace is telling me that the Capra is all about strength and less fussed about water bottle compatibility. Something else that alludes to this bike’s intentions is the travel: The 27.5” wheeled bike is 170mm or 180mm, and the 29er either 160mm or 170mm depending on spec. Despite this, weight is competitive with our large 27 CF Pro sitting at 13.4kg without pedals.
Head angle: 65°. Seat tube angle: 76°. Low bottom bracket. Chainstays: 427mm in short and medium, 432mm in L to XXL. Awesome that it’s no longer just Norco scaling chainstays with size. Reach: your choice. And I mean that – YT have kept the seat tube lengths fairly short, and between the five sizes most people will find that they have some degree of choice as to how much length they want in the front triangle. I’m used to having only one viable option – the largest frame I can slam a 150mm dropper into without the seat being too high – so looking at the sizing and finding that a 6’ tall person could easily choose anything from Medium to XL depending on their leg length and ape index was a pleasant surprise. I chose my usual, the Large, but you gorillas out there with long torsos, long arms and short legs may have found your new favourite thing.
This is not the spec you’re used to. One: because at $6999 this carbon build kicks the pants off anything else in the price range, and two: because rather than the disappointingly SRAM-plastered builds I’m tired of seeing this is a well thought out, effective collection of parts.
Fox is on dropper and suspension duty with a Transfer seatpost and 36 fork/X2 shock, both Float Performance Elite – that means air sprung with the good dampers. We get E13 TRS+ wheels, cassette, chainring and tires, XTR shifter and derailleur, SRAM Code RSC 200mm brakes, and a Next R carbon crankset and Turbine R cockpit with 40mm stem and 800mm bar from Race Face. SDG Fly saddle and ODI Elite Motion grips.
The Goat Descends
YT are proud of their hooligan image, and it’s certainly well deserved with their dirt-jumping roots and the huge success of their Tues downhill bike in the freeride scene. You could be forgiven for writing them off as simple, unrefined, or built to huck, had Aaron Gwin not turned his utter domination of the downhill circuit up to eleven aboard a bone-stock Tues during his first year with YT in 2016. The truth is that tattooed hooligans doing backflips need all the refinement and performance a bike can offer, and getting rowdy on the trail is the most fun when you’ve got a bike that’s cool, calm and collected to watch your back.
Freeride bikes of old never had a future. Despite freeride being alive and well, I bet when you think of a “freeride bike” it’s probably an old Kona or a Rocky Mountain being flogged to death on the North Shore. By the time freeride was big enough to have bikes named after it, they were just DH bikes that had been gimped by the manufacturer with a single crown fork, worse geometry, and if you were particularly unlucky a 24” rear wheel. Aside from the odd “park bike” that the industry didn’t want to assign the F-word to, we either gave up and rode DH bikes or clenched our teeth and swore that our trail bikes were “just as good, honest!”, with their tiny wheelbases, steep angles and flexy parts. At least we made it up the hill.
This is where I actually get to my point in what is supposed to be a ride report... Freeride is back! But not as we know it.
There are very few DH trails I’ve ridden where I’d confidently put money on my downhill bike being faster than the Capra, and I’ve never felt that way about a trail bike before. There are certainly no trails that are out of its depth. It’s not that the bike is super-slack or super-long; it’s pretty normal for an aggressive trail bike these days. It’s how the bike is balanced and how “in” the bike I am, how solid and trustworthy the stiff frame feels, and how damn well that suspension works.
The 36 fork up front is a gem, and would be my pick of the bunch thanks to its awesome stiffness, good air spring and exceptional responsiveness and damping. Gone are the days where the 36 only felt good when you’re at race pace.
At the rear the Capra’s V4L suspension design is tuned so that the last few millimetres of travel is hard to get to – there’s nothing but supple grip through the top and mid stroke thanks to the superb Fox X2 shock, but the progressive linkage ramps up substantially to give a very supportive and well controlled end of stroke. It’s a very different feeling than simply packing a shock full of volume spacers – rather than feeling rampy and uncontrolled the Capra feels like it gains an extra 10mm of travel when you really push it in to something rough and nasty, and the bike recovers from big hits so predictably that it’s begging you to find the bottom-out. 170mm doesn’t feel like too much travel – for the most part it’s happy in its mid-travel and feels supportive there.
The V4L design provides what I’d describe as an invisible pedalling platform – there’s no bob, there’s no discernable pedal feedback through the suspension that I’ve noticed, and it’s predictable when on the gas in any gear, even over rough stuff. The braking performance is similar – works great, stays neutral, no weird stuff.
The Capra rips corners, the low BB giving big confidence and the low slung frame giving so much room to move on the bike. The bike is quick to lay over so stacked corners are easy, even if they’re tight. Given how hard it can be pushed though, it’s writing cheques that the rear tire can’t cash. The E13 tires have awesome grip but the single ply casing is a bit unstable in my opinion, rolling a little in corners and feeling a little wobbly when loaded up. More pressure helps, but a dual ply tire keeps that compliance while feeling stable. I’d prefer something faster rolling for the rear as well.
The Capra then, is a bike that has my back – aside from its rubber I can’t fault its downhill prowess and over these last two months I’ve come to trust it. I’d ride anything on it from big senders to DH tracks to off-piste scree chutes halfway up a mountain, and unlike the freeride bikes of old I’d be happy riding or carrying the thing back to the top to do it all again.
Wait, isn’t this an enduro bike?
I don’t like that term. The Jeffsy, YT’s shorter travel trail bike is a perfect bike for many enduro races. The Capra is the perfect bike for other, more gnarly ones. They are very different bikes.
I saw someone on Pinkbike refer to these longer travel enduro bikes as “double-black-diamond trail bikes” and thought it was smart – trail bikes that go great up hill, but for gnarly stuff. I liked it until I realised we’re just avoiding the F-word all over again. This is the Freeride bike I’ve always wanted. F*#k yeah.
It also climbs!
This isn’t a Jeremy Clarkson style review where I go on about something’s merits before trashing it in the last part of the piece. The Capra climbs pretty well, and to prove it I gave it to a few people that ride your average 150-160mm bikes and sent them up a hill. I got a “pedals well!”, a “huh, this is better than my bike”, and a “the position is really nice.”
That sums it up – it puts you in a good position on the bike, has a very neutral response to pedal input, and allows you to get on with it. Of course with that much suspension travel technical climbing can suffer a bit, especially when there are holes to grab your tires. The bottom bracket is also quite low meaning that pedal strikes weren’t uncommon. The rear shock does have a lever to firm it up and although I never needed it to combat bob, it did make technical stuff a bit easier. This is all stuff you should expect from any bike over 150mm, so this is definitely a victory for the Goat.
So the spec is unusual... How was it?
Flawless. A welcome contrast. Nothing broke, nothing sucked, and nothing needed maintenance. The e13 wheels were thrown at rocks with no ill effects, and the E13 cassette paired with the XTR drivetrain is excellent – it does super-wide range better than SRAM Eagle because the shifting in the lower gears is a little smoother and you’re less likely to be blowing up a derailleur. The E13 wheels do have a Shimano hub driver available to let you match your cassette to the derailleur if you prefer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the E13.
The Code brakes are stonkingly powerful and consistent with better modulation than the Shimano 4-pots, though if you’ve got small hands the reach to the shifter may be a little far (psst, there’s SRAM-to-Shimano matchmaker adapters online that fix this if needed). The Fox transfer dropper is awesome and their suspension is at the top of the game. Even right down to the ODI grips the spec is unbeatable.
Look, my biggest complaint is that the bike is too good for the rear tire it comes with. If you want a refined bike that you can get stupid on, then go buy it. If you want to get serious and race it then I’d say that’d go pretty well for you too because enduro only seems to be getting gnarlier. Once I manage to sell my trail bike I’m buying one of these myself.
Frame: Capra Carbon 27.5
Front Travel: 170mm
Rear Travel: 170mm
Shock/Fork: Fox Float X2 Performance Elite/Fox 36 Float Performance Elite
Wheels/Tyres:E13 TRS+ Wheelset/E13TRS+ (rear)/E13 TRSR (front)
Drivetrain/Brakes: E13 and XTR/Code RSC
Weight: 13.4kg (w/o pedals)
Distributed by: nz.yt-industries.com
Words & Images: Jhan Vernon & Endeavour Media and Photographics
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