Tested: YT Capra 29 Core 4
See what it can do. We dare you.
-165mm rear travel, 170 front
-Carbon only (alloy Capra uses previous-generation frame for now)
-The rougher the trail, the faster it goes
-Allows for precise, creative riding in the rowdy sections
-Relies on the lockout for sustained climbing
-A little boring until things get real
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I’d like to start with a little behind-the-scenes insight about what it’s like to review an established category mainstay like the YT Capra: It’s not easy. Unless a bike marks a risky departure from tradition like the new Devinci Spartan or Santa Cruz Bronson, I always have a hard time saying anything earth-shattering. Did you like what you heard about, say for example, previous versions of the Pivot Firebird? Well, you’ll probably like what you’ll hear about the new one even more. This is not to say that covering some specific details doesn’t make for helpful buying advice. It’s just rarely all that interesting.
Though we haven’t yet ridden the mixed-wheel Capra MX, the Capra 29 is the same story. The most important takeaway is that the new Capra 29 is like the old Capra 29, but better. It’s more comfortable on the climbs, more capable on the descents, and it finally has a water-bottle mount. Again, if you liked what you heard about previous Capras, you’ll like what I have to say about this one even more.
But (another insight into bike-reviewing: there’s always a “but”), the larger enduro landscape surrounding the Capra has changed significantly. It is more diverse than ever. On top of high pivots and mixed wheels, the evolution of geometry has calmed down, and brands are now settling into the new normal, each picking which experience they want to offer. And the experience that YT picked is, in a word, classic.
At 165mm of rear travel and 170 front, YT went with the most commonly occurring numbers in the enduro 29 space. The 64.2- or 64.5-degree head angle is appropriately speed-focused, as is the 1277mm wheelbase and 443mm chainstsay on the size XL I rode. There’s a lot more to that sizing part, but we’ll get to that later. I left the flip chip in the low position which, on this bike, is the right position. I had few issues with pedal strikes, and I can’t imagine who would buy this bike and want a higher bottom bracket and steeper head angle. The stack height is on the tall side, and the Acros headset uses a pretty tall top cap that limits how slammed you can slam it, but I felt it suited the terrain the bike was meant for. Basically, from looking at the numbers alone, there’s no mistaking what the Capra 29 came here for. And once you stop looking at the numbers, the Capra’s ride is equally up-front with its intentions.
My best days on the Capra were on the rowdiest trails. And the best moments of my best days were on the rowdiest sections of those trails. An odd thing occurred when I would enter any one of the next-level rock gardens on my favorite trails.
You know how, when you’re approaching a particularly high-consequence stretch of a familiar trail, you mentally brace yourself for it? It’s not fear, just a shift in strategy. You prepare yourself. You ride a little more defensively until you’re through it. You stay loose, but stay alert. The emotional high shifts from a feeling of playfulness to a feeling of mastery. Those sections force you to make a hundred tiny decisions, and the satisfaction of making most of them right, at least for me, is what makes those sections rewarding.
But on the Capra 29, that shift was not as dramatic. Going into loose chunk, I suddenly felt like I didn’t have to ride defensively. And those tiny decisions didn’t have the consequences they normally would. That emotional roller coaster flattened out, and the response was simple: Go faster. The Capra has a floaty feel that makes it easy to go faster. Not only could I stay comfortably mid-travel despite consistent hard hits, I could also change direction more confidently while it was all happening. There was a calm that would open the door to more excitement, if that makes sense. I could occasionally blip the bike into a quick two-wheel drift if a high-speed rocky straightaway had a slight curve or grade reversal. That happens to be easy on my trails, where you’re often skimming over a layer of golf ball- to softball-sized rocks. The sort of antics that can literally go sideways rather quickly, but they are no big deal on the Capra.
This forced me to make a choice. A choice between what I can do and what I should do. I suddenly had to recalculate what a “safe” speed was. This is similar to what I felt when riding the Forbidden Dreadnought, a high-pivot bike that is anything but classic. Though I would give the also-XL-sized Dreadnought an edge on high-speed stability, I didn’t see the door to high-speed playfulness open in the way I did when riding the Capra. When I was juking through those well-known rock gardens, the bike would still respond to the odd frivolity if the opportunity arose. The problem is, although I fancy myself a pretty skilled rider in those scenarios, I knew this bike was ready to go further than I was. And this is where the Capra again feels very classic. It shines the most when pushed hard on hard trails. That means that, on easy trails, it rarely wants to come to life.
Here’s where things get interesting. Enduro 29ers like the Evil Wreckoning and Pivot Firebird have a surprisingly light and light-hearted feel to them. They can handle the hard sections, but will play along if you just want to bounce around in between them. On the other hand, whenever I tried to pop off a slightly angled rock into a bank, the Capra 29 seemed to roll its eyes at me like April on Parks & Rec. I added two volume spacers, thereby filling up the Float X2 shock (which comes with one stock) and it helped, but it’s not the same riding a bike whose linkage is designed for popping off slightly angled rocks into banks. And anyway, it cost me some of the magic that I felt in the places where the Capra 29 worked the best. I settled on two volume spacers and we got along just fine. Harder-hitting riders will find exactly what they want with the shock fully reduced, and those who want to casually float will probably opt for the stock single spacer. Either way, it’s meant for plowing.
The shock also played a role in how the Capra 29 climbed. Specifically, the shock’s Firm switch. The Capra 29 is the sort of enduro bike that climbs best with a lockout. No judgment, by the way. If you can’t tell, I like that the Capra rides the way it does. If it were super supportive and could hammer uphill without a lockout, we wouldn’t have had those special moments together in the rocks. And the new Float X2 Firm mode is a bit firmer than the previous generation’s, so for spinning out laps with decent climb trails or fire roads, I can confidently say it climbs as well as a shorter-travel bike. That said, on undulating terrain or technical climbs, I wasn’t suffering without a lockout. The claimed 77.6-degree effective seat tube angle kept it from being a slug. I was not thinking about having a better-climbing bike until I put on my bike-reviewer pants and looked for flaws. But as with smooth-versus-rough descents, the Capra is not trying to please everyone.
Unless, that is, you’re talking about sizing. The Capra 29 comes in five sizes, small to XXL. The naming conventions are a little murky, because the 505mm XXL is on par with a lot of other brand’s XL, and the 427mm reach on the small is a bit shorter than what many brands would call a small. But size names are just names. What matters is that the Capra 29 has a wider spread in size options than most bikes in its category. Too many don’t even bother offering a small, let alone one with a 427mm reach. And the gaps between sizes is a consistent 20mm, where other brands jump by 25mm or more. This is true to YT’s mission to leave size up to you. I could have maybe gone for an XXL, and I could have been happy with it. But I don’t think I would have felt that perfect mix of playfulness and capability. Not every rider and every height will have this experience, but it was cool to feel like I had two viable options for size.
My only complaint related to size was that my XL absolutely could have fit a 200mm post. I had about 90mm of exposed post, and being used to a 200mm post, I had to drop the seat a bit at the top of every long descent. What’s worse, the XXL also tops out at 170, and the large stops at 150 and the medium at 125. And YT’s house-brand Postman dropper is frustratingly slow, both down and up. Come on, YT. IT’s 2022.
But being YT, that is the only complaint I have on how they spend your money speccing the bike. I rode the $6,000 Core 4, which gets a full X01 drivetrain (including the cassette), Code RSC brakes, as well as full Fox Factory suspension. The heart of the bike is built around parts that you would have literally no reason to spend a penny more on without going boutique like Push or Trickstuf. Given the rest of the spec, there’d be no reason to expect carbon wheels, and YT chose the next best thing. It was cool to see Crank Brothers Synthesis Alloy wheels specced OEM on such a major brand. As a proud owner of a set of Synthesis Alloys myself, can confirm; they’re rad. Top it off with a Renthal cockpit, and this is a build that (except for the seatpost) could easily fetch an extra $1,000 without any complaints.
So, here we are, over 1,600 words after I said there wasn’t anything interesting to say about the Capra. Maybe the approach it took actually is kinda remarkable. YT didn’t try to make it into a jack-of-all trades. The Jeffsy happens to do a pretty decent job at that. And they didn’t go overboard and make it into a high-pivot DH bike with a dropper post. They went middle-of-the road and ended up with a bike that’s anything but.
This Entry Point is sort of a tough one. The alloy Capra 29, for now, is still on the previous-generation’s frame configuration. Although that was still a great bike, we’re going to consider it a different bike, making the entry point to this particular Capra experience the Capra 29 Core 3 for $4,500. Now, this is the sort of crazy value that the consumer-direct revolution promised. Same full-carbon frame as the $6,000 Core 4, and the same Crank Brothers Enduro Alloy rims, though without the Industry Nine 1/1 hubs. Most importantly, the suspension spec is pretty impressive. In my experience, the new Float X shock seems to bridge the gap between the DPX2 and the Float X2, and may even offer the extra ramp and support I think some riders might want out of the new Capra. Then, up front, you get a Performance Elite Fox 38 with a Grip2 damper. The GX drivetrain has proven itself, especially after its relatively recent update. The Code R brakes lack the extra power of SRAM’s Swinglink, but that is truly the only thing slightly lacking on the Core 3 build … except for the dropper, of course.