Fast Bikes: YT Industries Capra - Dirt

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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Fast Bikes: YT Industries Capra

A duo primed for destruction

Words: Mick Kirman
Photos: Kirkman, Hjord, Roos

Launched in 2014, YT’s carbon Capra changed the game. The original, maximum-bang-for-buck enduro machine delivered the best parts for a killer price, backed up with a ride to match the competition, regardless of reputation or cost. At Dirt, we latched on for the ride at the inception and it’s been a mainstay in the 100s since.

An even more affordable aluminium Capra followed and both bikes helped YT grow into a major player; something that’s rattled a few cages in the industry and even shaped the way we buy bikes. Four years on from this original, YT is now releasing a completely new evolution of its mountain goat.

As before, the YT Capra comes in two different materials, but now also in different wheel sizes, thanks to a completely new 29-er version with up to 170mm of travel. The latest 27.5in Capra is even more downhill focussed, with (up to) 180mm, and the duo are a right pair of long-travel weapons ready for enduro racing or just plain-old ripping.

Read an in-depth development interview with YT’s Stefan Willared here

The new Capra is lighter, longer, comes in more sizes (up to XXL) and has much increased standover clearance too. Both carbon and alloy versions use enough different construction methods and details (beyond the expected Boost and Metric shock updates), that even though the overall look is similar, it’s a pretty different machine.

All carbon Capra frames are now full fibre, meaning no more alloy rockers or chainstays, which saves weight and is neater. The slick aluminium models also use unique new air-forming techniques to shave grams and achieve a smoother look.

Retained from the old Capra is the slightly confusing different travel amounts between models (dependant on wheelsize and shock model/stroke). Basically, the more expensive ‘CF Pro Race’ versions use longer-stroke shocks to pump out more travel: 230 x 65mm (rather than 230 x 60mm) on the 29-er bike, and a massive, DH-style, 250 x 75mm shock (rather than 250 x 70mm) on the 27.5in Capra.

More cash buys more front capability too: a new 180mm travel EVOL Fox 36 Float Factory fork has 10mm more on the blinging CF Pro Race 27.5in, and 170, rather than 160mm travel, on the tricked out, bigger-wheeled CF Pro Race.

On paper, this most expensive new 29-er Capra looks a pretty serious prospect with a massive 170mm at both ends, and since the frame is also reinforced and impact-tested for downhill forks and bike park use according to YT, might we even see a modified 29-er Capra race World Cup DH this year?

Here’s a more simplified way of looking at it:

YT Industries Capra 27.5 CF Pro Race – 180/180mm
YT Industries Capra 27.5 (all models except CF Pro Race) – 170/170mm
YT Industries Capra 29 CF PRo Race – 170/170mm
YT Industries Capra 29 (all models except CF Pro Race) – 160/160mm

After years of rider feedback and learning about material durability and toughness, the latest frames have dumped a chunk of weight. The 27.5in carbon chassis starts at 2.4kg in size small, with the aluminium frame 600g heavier.

Lower top tubes and significantly shorter seat tubes help with this, even though reach has grown around 15-20mm in all sizes. An additional XXL model means total reach now goes up to pretty hefty 500mm, combined with a 1,266mm wheelbase with good standover clearance. This extra length will be just what riders who size bikes by length, not seatpost height, wanted.

It almost goes without saying that YT deliver the best parts for whatever cash you spend, but what’s less spoken of is its knack for nailing the exact details too, rather than just choosing the most expensive parts.

One interesting thing with the kit is a distinct lack of SRAM drivetrain; especially considering the Capra is now a 1x only frame. So, while the world’s gone mad for 12-speed Eagle (especially the cheaper GX), YT’s gone in a different direction and reinforced ties with US brand E13, using its wide range, 9-46 tooth 11-speed, cassette with Shimano shifters and mechs throughout the range.

The 11% better gear range than Eagle is something YT make a deal out of and also claim the one-less-gear drivetrain and chain should be more reliable and durable. The jury’s still out on this as SRAM’s set up shifts smoother and has more usable range at the climbing end of the gearing. The US brand also delivers other solid equipment in the form of cranks and rolling stock with carbon and alloy wheels, chain devices and tyres sourced from its TRS+ enduro line up.

In terms of suspension, YT uses the same 4-bar design as the first Tues bike launched in 2010, but there’s a newly tweaked curve to go with the increased travel on the 27.5in Capra. Since the latest top-end Metric shocks ride a little higher in the stroke, YT has increased the starting leverage ratio and reduced end progressivity by around 8% (the original Capra was already one of the most progressive rigs around). This change aims for more plushness and sensitivity off the top, while retaining mid stroke support.

Riders can also tune progression by adding internal volume spacers if desired, but I didn’t need to. The 29-er bike is obviously all-new, but shares the ‘Virtual 4 Link’ suspension lay out and also offers a flip chip geometry-adjust feature at the lower end of the shock to steepen the geometry in a similar way to YT’s Jeffsy.

I rode two new Capras in both different wheelsizes at the launch in Sintra, Portugal late last year. There was a great mix of uplifted DH-style tracks and more natural enduro style tracks to get a really good feel for the bikes, and we spent a full day riding each model. (On this note, the test trails were actually pretty cool and since Portugal is lovely and sunny and cheap, I’d totally recommend checking out the nice folk at www.weride.pt if you’re looking for a different winter riding destination).

Bike One: YT INdustries Capra 27.5 CF Pro Race

Lets keep this simple: there’s no reason not to buy the latest 27.5in Capra based on either performance or price. That was a constant thought whether jumping, landing hard or chinking in and out of ruts, and riding either hand-cut DH track or natural enduro-style trails.

In pimped-out 180mm travel guise, the latest Capra simply rips. It isn’t too much bike for everyday riding if you’re downhill focussed, and is also really easy to adapt to. The geometry and chassis balance hits the sweet spot, and the whole package works like a perfectly refined evolution of an already good product.

In a way, just how well the latest Capra rides kind of surprised me. Prior to the launch, I’ve had a couple of spins on the original Capra and, even though it’s bigger travel and longer, with the increased standover the new version feels more chuckable. There’s a sense of real calmness from the solid carbon chassis and suspension.

Fox’s 36 fork and the stock X2 shock deliver out of box and are really easy to dial in, so there’s no inclination or need to fiddle with knobs or mess about with air pressure.

“the latest Capra simply rips”

The Capra hammers with smoothness and pace, but isn’t too floaty or vague, and you can feel plenty support and feedback to pump and sense the ground for speed and grip. In terms of agility it’s no lifeless straight-line ‘meathead’ either, carving nice tight turns, reacting to fast positional shifts and even climbing way better than you’d expect a 180mm bike to as well.

£4,699 is a lot of money for the CF Pro Race version, but the YT looks classier than ever, the spec list is truly ‘money no object’ and you’ll struggle to find a much better ride quality elsewhere, at any price. When you don’t ever have to second-guess exactly how a bike’s going to respond, or feel the urge to swap out a single component, you’ve got to say that YT nailed it. I’m confident the geometry and suspension is dialled to the point where it will translate all the way down the price range too.

BIKE TWO: YT INDUSTRIES CAPRA 29 CF PRO

Since YT has never done a long travel 29in bike before, this bigger wheeled Capra is based around a completely fresh chassis. But if building a new ground-up model is a complicated design and fabrication jigsaw puzzle, the smooth 29-er chassis doesn’t betray it. There’s a well-refined, poised look in all colours, as well as a clear family resemblance to the new 27.5in version.

YT has opted for a sportier suspension tune on its new 29-ers to try and balance the ‘runaway truck’ sensation and maximise efficiency and control. So, as well as the smash-ability of YT’s 27.5 version (described as having the ‘gravity genes of a downhiller’), the 29-er also aims for pedalling efficiency over long distances with both up and downhills.

The addition of a flip chip that steepens the head angle and raises the BB also points to this versatility. This desire to keep the suspension a little tighter and sprightlier isn’t something you’d automatically expect from a 29-er that pumps out up to 170mm and has a 1,223mm wheelbase, especially when it’s targeted at enduro racing and hanging on for up to half an hour down some of the roughest tracks.

Straight off the bat, on the same trail as the 27.5 bike, there’s a sense of a tighter ride and less eagerness to swallow bumps and holes from the 29-er back end. This nod to efficiency is subtle though, and isn’t to say the 29-er can’t truck on over all manner of terrain, lock into tight lines on cambers and turns and propel you downhill in a proper hurry.

With the Fox DPX2 performance level shock, the CF Pro model here is a lower spec model than the 27.5 bike I rode and has E13 wheels that aren’t carbon, but, with a shallower attack angle and reduced air pressures in the bigger volume tyres, I still expected rollover to be slightly less edgy and for the bike to feel similarly smooth. It also stands up a little more in the corners than the 27.5 bike. Whether this is entirely down to shock tune, or a combination of factors like frame and wheel stiffness is pretty hard to say.

The subtly reduced tracking and plushness made the 29-er Capra a bit harder to balance and less intuitive slamming berms, feeling for grip on flat corners and hitting jumps – three things that felt totally instinctive on the 27.5 bike.

This CF Race doesn’t pump out as much travel as the 180mm smaller wheeled Capra, and less than the 170mm on the most expensive 29in Pro Race model, which could be also be a factor, but the ride character appears different in more ways than just outright travel.

While at the launch, I also had a chance to try the 29-er bike with the longer stroke more expensive Fox X2 shock for comparison, and while marginally more refined, the 29-er suspension still didn’t feel as balanced and fluid as the 27.5 version.

Before riding either of these Capras, I’d have sworn the long travel 29-er would be first choice for uplifted terrain with the extra potential for security, rolling speed and stability. The new 29-er is a no slouch, but the 27.5 bike is so perfectly refined it overcomes any wheel size or BB-to-axle drop advantages for me. The bigger wheeled Capra might just be a subtle shock tune tweak away from greatness too, but out of the box, it’s harder to adapt to and felt less balanced.

I’ve not done timed runs on either version, but on gut instinct and confidence levels, whether racing or just messing about in the woods, the new 27.5 Capra is the one and a match for any other enduro bike out there. YT has ticked every box and delivered a perfectly evolved machine that’s a great representation of how far Young Talent has now taken this German direct sales brand in just a decade.

yt-industries.com

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