Andi visited the South of France, where he ate good food, drank wonderful wine and got a first ride review of the YT Decoy CF Pro Race eMTB.
YT has officially announced a new bike to their range, and the first e-MTB bike to carry the Young Talent badge. Fans of YT have long speculated that the German brand would launch something with a motor, and some commenters even speculated that the bike could be named the JeffsE and be based on the popular YT trail bike.
What YT has launched though is the Decoy, a bike that has more in common with the big travel Capra and named for its stealthy “is it or isn’t it?” looks.
Why is it called the YT Decoy?
YT named their first carbon e-MTB the Decoy because they’ve spent quite a lot of the 2 1/2 year development time creating a bike that doesn’t scream about what it is, or have odd proportions or dimensions.
For example, that chunky carbon top tube is there partially for strength but mostly to ensure the large downtube with integrated battery doesn’t give the side profile a strange silhouette.
The chunky top tube is also where you’ll find the power button for the Decoy, not in plain sight but hidden beneath, again to keep people guessing to what the bike is.
Being German, you might think that YT would have opted for one of the German motor makers, but Japanese giant Shimano was chosen for the compact size of the E8000 motor and for their willingness to accept YT’s own custom battery.
Yup, unlike some brands that were happy to throw a battery on a frame and call it an e-MTB, YT has gone the whole hog, and the extra mile. The custom YT battery is manufactured by SMP and has a slightly higher 540wh compared to the Shimano Steps 500wh unit. In addition to being slightly larger in capacity, it’s slimmer and wider, plus custom designed to slot into the carbon downtube of the Decoy’s mainframe ensuring it looks good too.
In addition to those design choices to ensure the Decoy looks as much like a standard bike as possible, some specification choices also help to hide its battery power. While all three YT Decoy bikes all ship with the same power E8000 motor, each bike comes with the smaller display from the E7000 range. Smaller so less likely to stand out. E7000 components are also used in the shifting department too, which allowed a proper under bar dropper post lever to be fitted out of the box.
Even the sensor for the rear wheel has been integrated into the frame with the magnet mounted to the Shimano disc on the rear wheel. That’s attention to detail.
YT Decoy First Ride Review – The Bike
In addition to giving the Decoy a stealthy, non-e-MTB appearance, YT has been really smart with the design of the Decoy’s frame and the placement and orientation of the battery.
As the Shimano Steps E8000 motor unit is so compact, YT was able to mount their custom battery closer to it, lower down in the frame giving the Decoy a low-centre of gravity. Then, to ensure improved protection against water and grime ingress, the contacts for the battery are at the head tube end of the frame rather than the BB end.
Even the contact blades fitted to the frame for the battery are mounted via shock absorbing elastomers to ensure nothing shakes loose and delicate connections are protected during rough riding.
The SMP manufactured battery is mounted to the carbon frame via two long bolts that push in from the non-drive side of the bike. These allow the battery to easily be replaced, and also allows for easy access of the internally routed gear cables/hoses/dropper cable/Di2 wires, there are even plans to pre-install cables for lights that run off the battery too.
Speaking of Di2, the Pro Race level bike we tested ran Shimano’s wired drivetrain that is powered by the large internal e-MTB battery, YT even designed a special gear hanger for the Di2 equipped bike to ensure the wires are kept clean and out of harm’s way, while the other bikes in the range get a non-Di2 specific dropout. It’s a little detail, but it’s one that hammers home the fact that YT has really carefully designed the Decoy.
The battery itself can be charged when installed in the bike via a fully sealed silicone port, and there are plans for a larger battery to be introduced later in the year for riders wanting to go further and ride even longer.
The Decoy’s geometry is current without being wild. The long, low, slack boxes are all checked and in order, and in fact the frames are so low that riders can very easily up or downsize so they can get on a bike they’re completely happy with. What’s more, YT is offering five frame sizes from S-XXL so in theory there should be a YT Decoy to fit everyone.
For even more fine tuning there’s a flip chip in the frame too so that when set in the slack setting you’ll get a headtube angle of 65.5° whereas in the ‘slacker’ setting that will drop to 65° on the dot. Effective seat tube angles vary from 76°-76.5° deepening on the chip position, and reach numbers range from 415mm – 495mm.
YT is keen to point out that their brand is really aimed at the gravity end of the mountain bike spectrum and that the motor in the Decoy is simply there to assist you to the top of another downhill run, to the start of the single track, or get to the local jumps quicker than a non-motorised bike.
Still, this is a bike that will be used to climb rougher and readier trails than you might be used to, so we were pretty happy to see a 29in front wheel for increased rollover mated to a 27.5 Plus wheel on the back giving better traction on the climbs.
We’re equally happy to see a 160mm travel e-MTB specific Fox 36 Factory up front and Fox Float X2 Factory shock on the back controlling the 165mm of rear wheel travel through YT’s own Virtual 4 Link Suspension system. The linkage is similar in design to the Capra’s but features reduced anti-squat and is tuned to perform better when seated because you’ll likely be seated for longer while riding an e-MTB.
The kinematics of the suspension follows the usual three stages, so supple off the top, supportive in the mid-stroke and plenty of ramp up to ensure a playful and poppy ride. Each version of the Decoy ships with an air shock, but there were a couple of test bikes doing the rounds with coil shocks too which would certainly be interesting to try.
For those times you are seated you’ll be perched upon an SDG Radar MNT saddle with custom YT logo and yellow trim to match the Titan Silver/Fallout Yellow of the Decoy’s frame. Fox’s cable operated Transfer Factory post with slick Kashima coating offers 150mm of drop (125mm on smaller frames). Interestingly, YT doesn’t spec the Fox branded 1x lever with the Transfer but instead chose a RaceFace model which the YT guys say they much prefer.
Because I was riding a Pro Race level bike, I was treated to a set of black 30mm rise Renthal Fatbars, mounted to a 40mm Renthal Apex 35 stem. Apparently, the team played around with fitting carbon Renthal bars and mainly opted for the alloy ones as the black finish on them was more appealing.
Attached to the bars are a pair of ODI Elite lock on grips, a monochrome Shimano E7000 display, Shimano SWE7000L on-bar motor switch, SRAM Code RSC brakes and an 11-speed on bar Shimano XT Di2 rear mech shifter.
The XT Di2 switch is mated to a matching XT Di2 Shadow Plus rear mech, and they electronically push the chain over the brand new e*thirteeen TRS Plus e*spec cassette. YT says that the Decoy is the first to use this all steel, e-Bike specific cassette and that e*thirteen will be releasing the 9-46t cassette later in the year.
E*thirteen firsts don’t end with the cassette though, there’s also a specially developed Shimano E8000 chain guide fitted, and the mismatched carbon wheels are the first time we’ve seen the brand’s e*spec wheelset featuring Boost hub spacing a 29in x 31mm front wheel and 27.5 x 36mm rear shod with Maxxis DHF and DHR tyres.
YT Decoy First Ride Review – The Ride
I’d chosen a size large YT Decoy which actually has similar numbers to the medium Intense Tazer I recently reviewed. At 178cm I find that 450-460mm reach is my sweet spot and the large Decoy sits slap bang in the middle at 455mm. My bike also had a 445mm seat tube with 150mm dropper post, which gave me more than enough standover for descending, hitting drops, and getting a little air time.
Before heading to the hills of Southern France, we spent an evening setting up our bikes ready for the next two days of riding. Pretty much everyone settled on around 15% of sag up front and 25% on the rear. The YT guys also insisted on some hefty air pressures too as the terrain we would be hitting had already claimed a few tyres. For UK riding I would probably run a little more sag up front and drop the handlebar height a little to make it easier to get over the front. The large stack of the Arcos headset meant I wasn’t able to lower my bars at the launch.
As with all of these press events, the launch ride is never enough to thoroughly test a bike as we’re riding blind, there’s a lot of faffing, and we all want photos that make us look good. Still, we did get in around 30km per day, with battery left to spare!
If you have read any of my previous e-bike reviews, you may have picked up on the fact that I really like the E8000 motor from Shimano, but I’ve always felt less than impressed with the battery life. Well, I think YT have fixed that. 30km of riding around my local trails would see me close to empty on a standard battery, whereas with the slightly larger YT custom battery most of us still had 2-3 bars left at the end of each day.
It’s not a fair comparison as the trails we rode in France aren’t the same as those I ride in the UK. Yes, there were huge climbs, but they were followed by even longer descents. Still, I’m fairly confident that the YT battery could give you more range.
I’m also interested to see how YT had ‘tuned’ their bikes too as Eco and Trail modes felt much more powerful than they normally do. STEPS does allow you to fine-tune how much assist the E8000 system will give you in its three modes, and I feel YT have gone for the more powerful settings. If this is the case, then the battery life is even more impressive.
After finally relearning how to find grip in the muddy conditions of the UK this past winter, it was strange to be back on dry, loose rock trails, but the YT Decoy made a pretty good job of taming the harsh rocky environment and keeping me up to speed. The 1222mm long wheelbase on my large bike made for predictable and stable fast descending while the shorter 442mm chainstays make lifting your front wheel up and over logs and rocks a breeze.
YT had promised that the Decoy had a playful, gravity orientated character and that’s exactly what it has in bucket loads. The Decoy’s progressive suspension make for a lively ride that often turns airborne, while the ample suspension and chunky rubber build confidence to go bigger, higher and faster.
The trails we rode were mostly loose rock or dust covered, flat out descents with the odd steeper, even rockier, section thrown in and the Decoy took it all in its stride. It was in these faster, steeper, much rocker sections that the Decoy really impressed and the added weight of the bike helped to maintain momentum and hold your line.
Excellent mid stroke support helped when pumping through the few flowy singletrack sections we hit, plus the small jump track we rode at the end of the second day of riding. It’s a capable bike with a lot of travel, but it hasn’t lost its playful streak.
Getting to the tops of these fun sections was plain, fast sailing. As already stated above, I believe that YT has opted for a more powerful Eco and Trail mode on the Decoy, so I found myself dipping into Eco for climbs more often than I would normally. I hit Boost just for fun, but even here in the South of France, Trail mode was enough for most climbs.
One issue I did have while climbing was the saddle. It’s not compatible with my cheeks and I would swap it out for something from Fabric, which I get along with a lot better.
During my first day of testing, I did experience issues with the drive system switching off occasionally. During that first day, simply removing and reinstalling the battery reset the system and got it running again.
Before the second day of riding, the YT chaps stripped my bike down and discovered there was a fault with the power switch fitted to the top tube. This was replaced and the Decoy was faultless for the rest of the launch. I was also the only person with the issue during our time in Nice so hopefully it’s not going to be something that customers are going to be faced with.
There were a few punctures thanks to the extremely fast and rocky terrain. Is it time that e-MTBs came fitted with tyre inserts as standard?
3 Things I loved
- I love the larger, YT developed battery and am excited to test it further on UK trails to see if the range of the E8000 has really been increased.
- The design, level of integration and specification of the YT Decoy is next level. Everything has been chosen for a smart reason, it’s super impressive.
- The geometry again is spot on, and with five sizes available there’s going to be a Decoy to fit everyone.
3 Things I’d change
- This is my first time using Di2 and while I enjoyed the speedy shifting I would much prefer a cabled rear mech as found on the more affordable bikes.
- I’m not a huge fan of Renthal bars. I prefer something with a little more sweep. I’d also like a lower rise bar to get the front end height down.
- The saddle on the Decoy is not Andi butt compatible. I would change that for something else for long days in the saddle.
YT Decoy First Ride Review – Overall
I’m really happy that we’re finally past the point that brands aren’t just rushing e-MTBs to the market just so they have one in their range. We’re at a point now that e-MTB development has come along in leaps and bounds and the past few bikes I’ve ridden have been spectacular.
The YT Decoy is a really special bike, the amount of thought and energy that has gone into building this stealth bike is enough for even e-bike haters to appreciate. For YT to go ahead and develop their own battery is impressive, but for them to have possibly made a battery that works better than Shimano’s own is really something else.
In my opinion, the YT Decoy has raised the bar of e-MTB design. The design and integration are unparalleled and it’s all so much more impressive as YT’s typical value for money pricing has been retained.
Is it the best e-MTB I’ve ever ridden? Well, I would need a long-term test bike to decide that, but it’s certainly one of the best.
YT Decoy CF Pro Race Specification
- Frame // YT Decoy Carbon frame with intergrated battery 29in Front and 275+ rear
- Front Suspension // FOX FACTORY E-BIKE 36 FLOAT, Kashima, 160 mm, FIT GRIP2, 15QRx110 BOOST, 44mm Offset
- Rear Suspension // FOX FACTORY FLOAT DPX2, 2-Position Lever 230x65mm
- Wheels // Front: 29in e*thirteeen e*spec 31mm internal widtch 110x15mm Rear: 27.5in e*thirteeen e*spec 36mm Inner width, 148x12MM
- Tyres // Front: 29X2.50, MINION DHF II EXO Rear: 27.5X2.8, MINION DHR II EXO
- Shifter // Shimano XT Di2 on-bar SWE7000R
- Rear Derailleur // Shimano XT Di2 Shadow Plus 11-speed
- Crank // Shimano XT 165mm
- Cassette // e*thirteeen e*spec 11-speed all steel 9-46t.
- Saddle // SDG RADAR MNT YT Custom Yellow
- Seatpost // Fox Factory Series Transfer, 31.6mm, 150mm travel w/Raceface Lever (125mm Travel for size Small)
- Handlebar // Renthal Fatbar 35 black, 30mm rise, 800mm width
- Stem // Renthal Apex 35, 40mm
- Headset // Acros AZX-260 high cap
- Brakeset // SRAM Code RSC 4pot, 200mm rotors front and rear
- Grips // ODI Elite Motion Lock-on
- Motor System // Shimano Steps E8000 25KM/H 250W
- Battery // YT Custom battery 540wh
- Mode Switch // SW-E7000 On-bar
- Display // Shimano E7000 monochrome
- Sizes// S,M,L,XL,XXL
- Size Tested// L
- Price // £5,999
Andi’s travel and accommodation were provided by YT.