Joe has been finding out if the YT Capra still cuts the mustard in the seriously competitive long travel enduro market.
The YT Capra caused quite a stir when it was released in 2014, and over the years has proved a very popular big travel enduro bike. The 29” wheel Pro Race packs a top-drawer build combined with a sleek carbon frame for an incredible price. With a spec that would not look out of place on an EWS podium it is a very capable bike but is it without its flaws?
At the centre of the Capra Race is a sleek-looking carbon frame with an understated paint job.
The frame is nicely-finished, with neat internal cable routing and substantial chain stay protection. All this results in a quiet bike with no rattles from the cables and minimal chain slap. The suspension layout is the tried and tested Horst link 4-bar with the shock being driven by the top of the seat stay. Mounted across to the down tube, the shock position does mean there is no room for a water bottle though, if that bothers you. It’s not a big problem for me if it means the bike works well, but I do like to be able to carry a bottle on the bike if I can for short rides.
The Capra is starting to show its age now though; what was once fairly progressive and aggressive geometry is now a little dated when compared to the latest crop of big travel enduro bikes. The size large test bike had a reach of 460mm which is more like a medium in a lot of bikes in this category. At 5’9 tall, the reach is a touch shorter than what I prefer, and I wouldn’t consider myself tall or a large person, and I think there would be plenty of riders shorter than me who would want a 460mm reach bike. Bikes have been getting longer and yes the Capra is available in an XXL with a 500mm reach, but the large isn’t really that large anymore.
However, the head angle of 65 and bb drop of -25mm are pretty well rounded numbers for a big travel enduro bike.
On to the build spec, as I say it is about as good as it gets. A Fox 36 Factory 170mm fork, Factory X2 shock and Transfer Factory seat post are top of the tree in terms of performance and adjustability. The Fox Factory shocks have plenty of adjustment. Being only 72kg I tend to run the compression pretty open on Fox suspension, but for heavier riders the wide range of adjustment should give plenty of scope to tune the settings for any weight.
SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed group set again is top tier unless you fork out another £1k or so for AXS electric gears, and SRAM Code RSC brakes are in my view one of the best brakes money can buy. Mega powerful, modulated and with plenty of adjustment, and the lever runs on a cartridge ball bearing rather than a bush, which means the lever feel is ultra solid and silky smooth.
Renthal supply the carbon Fatbar and Apex 35mm stem. Both are top quality British products with a worldwide following and proven race pedigree on both downhill world cup and EWS podiums. The wheels and tyres are both E13 LG1 race, which for me are what let the bike down. I can’t fault them in terms of build quality or reliability, but I will explain my reasons later. Having said that, if you like carbon rims and matching tyres then they may be for you.
Contact points (seat and grips) are often a personal thing, but these actually both work for me. I found the SDG seat and the ODI grips comfy and just the right thickness for me. So often, I have to swap out grips on a new bike, so it was nice not to have to even if it is one of the cheapest things to change.
The Capra 29 is a big travel bike so I wasn’t expecting an xc racing whippet on the climbs, but with all that carbon and fairly light weight I was expecting it to climb better than it does. Ok, so perhaps my lockdown ebike belly is slowing me down a little at the moment, but the Capra just seems sluggish on the climbs. A big part of this for me is the seat tube angle. At 75.5deg it puts you too far back over the rear wheel, and I found it stretched me out too far. Hip angle becomes tighter and I just can’t climb efficiently like that. Even with the seat rails rammed as far forward as possible, I just felt too far back over the rear wheel.
The second reason for the sluggish feeling on the climbs I put down to the tyres. The E13 LG1 race tyres are pretty heavy and the compound is very soft. Great for clawing up greasy rocks but hard work to drag up long fire road climbs, which let’s face it, is what a lot of climbing is.
When I first get a test bike I try not to read too much about the spec or geometry. I just set up the suspension and tyre pressure, adjust the bar angle and go ride somewhere I know to get a feel for the bike with minimal preconceived opinions.
On my first outing on the Capra, I just found myself getting knocked off line in places I’ve never had a problem before. As if the suspension wasn’t working properly, but sag etc. was all spot on. At the same time the bike felt a bit ‘dead’ and lacked feel.
To get the suspension feeling better I let some air out, but then it was a little too soft on the big hits and landings. So when I got home I read up on the spec, and only then did I realise it had carbon wheels. In fact, it’s got a lot of carbon which results in an incredibly stiff feeling bike. So I did some back to back testing using my own DT EX471 25mm rims built into some really good quality hand built wheels, versus the E13 carbon hoops. The difference was night and day.
I could put the shock settings back where they were supposed to be and the bike felt much more alive, with more feel and feedback and most importantly compliance in the wheels. On the same trails I could hold the lines again and the bike had more grip. Now some people are completely sold on carbon wheels, but I’m not one of them. Not these ones anyway. They are just too stiff for me and I found they ruined the bike. So for the rest of the test period I mostly used my alloy wheels, occasionally swapping back to the E13 wheels and I honestly didn’t enjoy riding it with the carbon wheels. But with the alloy wheels it was a fantastic descender.
Wheels aside, the suspension really is amazing and offers great support and progression meaning you can really charge through the rough stuff. In the dry, in a straight line, the suspension is up there with the best. Bike park-style trails with big berms, G-outs and jumps are where I found the stock bike (with the carbon wheels) felt most at home. The overall stiffness of the whole package, combined with 160mm of travel and 29” wheels results in a bike that absolutely rails big rough berms. It jumps well too with plenty of pop. The 460mm reach is not massive by modern geometry standards, but it isn’t too far from the 470mm figure I seem to have settled on as my ideal, and combined with the 65 head angle it made for a competent and fun descending bike.
Once up to speed, you always need to slow down at some point, and the SRAM Code RSC brakes did an awesome job there providing huge amounts of stopping power. However, they can only slow you down if the tyres can grip the dirt, and unfortunately the E13 LG1 race tyres never gave me a feeling of confidence. Perhaps the stiffness of the wheels playing a part here too, but in the dry they felt skittish, and in wet mud they lacked any bite and clogged easily.
The Capra was absolutely faultless in terms of reliability so all good there.
What do we think?
The Capra is in interesting one. I was expecting big things, but it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. The Spec is AMAZING for the money, the suspension is impressive, but for me the stiff carbon wheels let it down. With some good quality alloy wheels, and £1000 off the price to reflect this, it would be one hell of a bike.
It is also let down slightly by dated geometry. But if you love carbon, want a stiff bike and can get the sizing to fit you, then the Capra Pro Race may be the bike for you. And just remember the price of £4899. Something of similar build and spec from one of the big brands is going to cost you around £3-4,000 more. So it’s a lot to think about. For pure value for money it takes some beating.
Could Do Better:
Dated geometry when compared to latest competition
Carbon wheels give a harsh ride
You can check out the YT Industries YT Capra Pro Race 29 and the rest of the Capra range here.
Read all our other bike tests on our Bike Reviews page here.