Interview and photos: Kirkman
Engineer and YT co owner, Stefan “Willi" Willared is the Chief Technical Officer at the German brand. He started the company with Markus Flossmann and heads up the engineering team responsible for bringing the brand’s bikes to life, including the new Capra.
Dirt: What were the keys things you wanted to change or do differently with the new Capra range?
Stefan Willared: The key things were that is was clear we wanted to do a long travel 29-er version, and also implement all the feedback we’ve got over the last few years into the new 27.5 version. We now have different five sizes to allow the consumer to choose within a smaller range, and because we now have 150 and even 170mm dropper post we wanted to make the seat tubes shorter.
It’s not necessary anymore to keep the seat tube long and it means a rider can choose to go on the medium, large or XL frame size, and from a point of view of leg length he will not be limited. So with the new Capra, if you want to go super new-school geometry, go for it, and if you want the normal longer geometry you can do that too.
Dirt: And what was the thinking behind the increase in overall travel on the new bikes?
SW: This part showed up when we started working with the new shocks. The latest generation X2, DPX2 and Super Deluxe shocks showed us it’s absolutely possible to have the same nimble, quick feeling like with the old 160mm Capra, but with the 180mm travel. So you have the extra travel and capability, but there’s nearly no compromise regarding the agility of the bike.
Dirt: And how does the extra travel impact on the frame design? Does the carbon need more reinforcement for the extra forces and does this add weight?
SW: Well it’s actually gone lighter. Two reasons for this are the carbon rocker link and the chainstay changing, but we also learned a lot over the years about optimisation and there have been lots of new developments in carbon fibre lay up along the way that we now use to make the frame stronger.
Dirt: What about any geometry changes – the reach has grown in all sizes too right?
SW: We now have five sizes as I said and from the large size on, we also adjust (grow) the chainstay length, like we already did on the Jeffsy, so depending on the reach we also change the back end to control the weight distribution on the bike. We do this on both bikes so the rider can be balanced between the axles.
Dirt: On the 27.5 bike the suspension curve is now less progressive than previously. Is this something related to the travel increase, or did you want a different feel from the way the bike reached the end of its travel?
SW: It’s part of the new shocks like I told before, meaning it’s possible to modify this. It’s clear we wanted to go for more travel, to get even more downhill DNA into the bikes. So we wanted a bit more sensitivity at the beginning, but on the other hand like then everybody likes to have a super and nice mid stroke support, so we increased it a little bit the beginning stroke ratio and then we reduced it in the mid section to get the whole bike in the active zone while riding, the BB drop, to sit 2-3mm higher, so you have more mid stroke support.
Then the end progressivity is reduced to around 8% and with the new shocks you have a wide range with spacers so you can go even plusher or take it back to how the older Capra felt, as you want.
Dirt: In terms of frame construction of the lower price alloy Capra bikes there have been some changes too?
SW: Yes it’s interesting – in the original Capra alloy we had a carbon seatstay to save weight and get the ride feel we wanted. The new bike gets rid of this and the new part replacing it is a kind of aluminium forming masterpiece – it similar construction to the Jeffsy, but the whole seatstay in the new Capra is now completely air forged, rather than hydroformed together with a forged part like on the Jeffsy.
We’ve basically got rid of a forged component, so it’s lighter and looks really clean and made by a double air hardening and a special plastic stamp process – it’s something that uses a special density plastic and air pressure to make the shape and it’s pretty special in the industry.
Dirt: Obviously the longer travel 29-er bike is completely new to you at YT, did you have to think about things differently for this bike.
SW: Well yes definitely, like I said, the Capra was already a brilliant bike and all we were doing for the 27.5 bike was listening and refining, but the long travel 29-er was a completely new project 29-er that really took us out of the comfort zone. You can do the 29-er with the same slack head angle as the 27.5 and you get a great feeling, but if you want to use the bike in a more all-mountain/trail kind of way, which is possible in the 160mm versions, it could be a bit too slack, so we added this geometry adjust function like the Jeffsy that changes the head angle by close to 1-degree and the BB drop changes too. We think in the low position the bottom bracket height is right on the borderline for ground clearance, so with 170mm of travel even on a taller 29-er this is something to think about too.
Dirt: There’s a big theme of e13 gear on the new bikes. We’re assuming that’s partly a by-product of the YT Mob brand connection?
SW: Absolutely, we work so closely with these guys together and we’ve developed the alloy wheelsets and the carbon wheels with the DH racers. The cassette with the 511% range is a brilliant thing – it’s got more range than any other 1x system at the minute, and because we know the Capra is a hard riding bike we also know it’s not that sensitive regarding adjustment and its very secure and super strong with the Shimano gears so we’re very happy with this 11-speed system as we’ve trusted it for the last few years.