Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of our coverage of the 2018 YT Capra. Part 2 with our ride impressions can be found here.
What is it
The YT Capra is one of the most important bike introductions we have seen in our 20 years in the bike industry. We dub it the perfect storm, a culmination of many evolving bike technologies, standards, and business models that have evolved over the last decade. The Capra (goat in Latin) ties them all together into one package that is so compelling it’s difficult to wrap one’s head around. This post is the first of two. Here we’ll describe the bike and its many permutations. In part two, we’ll reveal how YT’s latest creation rides, as we got a chance to test both wheel sizes for several days on the world-class technical trails near Lisbon, Portugal.
It’s a downhill bike that you can pedal up hills. It is a 29er with trail eating prowess, and a 27.5 with acrobatic abilities. It’s a bike with 180mm of front and rear travel, but also a bike under 30 pounds. It’s a consumer-direct bike, but from a respected brand with some of the best racers in the world. It’s purpose-built bike available in array of sizes and color schemes. It is a dream bike that can be had for half the price of other exotics.
Downhill bike with range
Over the last few years, we’ve benefited from trail bikes and all mountain bikes that can climb. This new Capra pushes that envelope even farther with a bike that delivers a huge sweet spot. The Capra merges true downhill bike performance with the climbing abilities of a trail bike. The geometry with short chainstays, steep seat tube angle, and a slack headtube angle unite the best of two worlds. Indeed, the new Capra delivers a combination of agility and traction that was only found in downhill bikes not too long ago.
The Metric 250/230 (27/29) shock delivers the solid suspension travel of the Capra with a low leverage ratio that yields a performance that’s hardly ever seen away from downhill courses. Also, the Capra has to pass the same tests the Tues downhill bike has to pass during its development and is delivered with full-on bike park approval. That’s why the Capra’s operating range starts exactly where the Jeffsy 27 hands over — aggressive enduro racing.
27 or 29: A difficult choice
We love 29ers. These bikes have the big wheel advantage and in the last couple of years have benefited from the latest geometry to deliver trail dominating performance. But having ridden both wheel sizes of the Capra, we are torn. YT pushed the envelope for 29ers once again, but they did not leave the 27.5 behind. It is right there, trading blows on the roughest terrain and delivering maximum airtime at every opportunity.
Because both Capra models are dialed with a combination of aggressiveness, speed, agility, and handling, there’s no obvious right answer. Riding style, preferred terrain, and personal preference are the deciding factors.
The Capra 29 offers control and stability on fast downhills while also being an efficient climber. Planted low between the axles you become one with the bike that offers uncanny confidence. Thanks to the slack headtube angle, the long wheelbase and those tall, capable wheels, the Capra is the tool to conquer events such as Downieville or Megavalanche while at the same time delivering pedaling efficiency over long distances with plenty of ups and downs. The grip provides unheard of traction on those grueling climbs, and thanks to a FlipChip, geometry can be adapted to your needs.
Our biggest takeaway from the geometry numbers are the 65-degree head angle and 75-degree seat angle. This is very progressive for descending and pedaling and they follow suit even with the 29er version. Reach for a medium frame is 440mm, providing ample cockpit room. And the 435mm chainstay is pretty impressive for a 29er sporting as much as 170mm of travel.
Throughout all Capra bikes sizes, YT offers a low seat post height in combination with seat posts that are specifically matched to each of the bike sizes. Thus, most riders can choose between two and sometimes even three different frame sizes for their given height. Whether the rider prefers a moderate or long reach, they now have true freedom of choice. By opting for the longer reach, experienced riders can adjust the weight distribution more precisely, while the standard reach will give your bike with a little more pop out of corners. Rider style is now truly a factor when selecting a size that fits because the seat tubes are out of the way, allowing choice in reach and wheelbase.
For model year 2018 onwards, YT offers five frame sizes (S-XXL). Thanks to the smaller size increments, all riders will be able to find just the right fit. The 29er will be available from size M and up, and according to their size recommendation will fit riders 5’4″ and taller. For shorter riders the front wheel leverage weighting of a 29er might be too high, thus a 27.5 will likely fit better and deliver more fun. Also, the higher stack of the 27.5 will be more convenient for all riders north of that threshold.
Frame: The heart of the system
For the new generation of the Capra, YT fine-tuned its Virtual 4 Link suspension system. They adopted the downhill principle due to the low leverage ratio and thus created the characteristics of V4L: off-the-top sensitivity, increased mid-stroke support, and a progressive ending stroke. V4L not only gives you the confidence to hit big gaps and rugged terrain at speed, it also makes pedaling more efficient. Additionally, YT optimized the kinematics to further reduce the influence of pedaling forces. The result is outstanding climbing efficiency with optimum climbing position and a neutral riding character.
YT had to sacrifice the water bottle mount to achieve this since it uses that space to host the bar that guides the rear travel on its designated path. It is a compromise for sure, but YT opted to pursue suspension performance at all costs. Get your hip packs and hydration packs ready because this is the cost of an assault in long travel suspension performance.
E*thirteen TRS cassette adoption
This is the spec choice that will garner the most attention not only because the rest of the components are dialed, but also because it is a huge divergence from the popular SRAM Eagle 1×12 so prevalent on bikes these days. With a 511% gear range, the new cassette from the California crew one-ups Eagle’s 500%. That 511% also means that with its 9-46 configuration, it makes the front derailleur truly superfluous without giving up any robustness in chain width and derailleur height.
It is a brave and some will say controversial choice to bet on the cassette of a smaller company. But it is compatible with any of Shimano’s 11-speed cassettes, opening up an array of options on this wear item.