The Return of the Goat – We Ride the All-New 2018 YT Capra 43

Boasting more travel and a flexible approach to sizing, the all-new 2018 Capra is longer, lower, and slacker than its predecessor - and there are now two wheel sizes to pick from as well.

The Return of the Goat – We Ride the All-New 2018 YT Capra

When YT launched the Capra in 2014, we called it a game-changer. While it can be hard to put your finger on exactly what makes a bike stand out from its peers enough to warrant such accolades, there was little doubt at the time that this German goat (“capra” in latin) was going to shake things up. Back then, it offered more travel, less weight, and better all-round capabilities than any other bike in that category – and since YT sell direct, the incredible pricing didn’t exactly hurt its chances for success either. Fast forward to 2018, and the game has certainly changed. Four years is an eternity as far as product life cycles go, and although YT has been very successful with the Capra, the competition has not stood by idly during this time. That means that the fun-loving crew from Forchheim had to set about completely redesigning their flagship enduro machine to stay relevant, and it was to enjoy the fruits of their labor that we were invited to Portugal at the tail-end of last year. Read on to discover what awaited us when we got there.

2018 YT Capra Highlights

  • 27.5 or 29 inch options
  • 160-180 mm of travel
  • Carbon or aluminum frame
  • Internal cable routing
  • Metal frame guard inserts on carbon frame
  • Metric shock length (250mm/230mm for 27/29 respectively)
  • ISCG05 tabs
  • ZS44/ZS56 headset
  • Pressfit GXP BB (92mm)
  • Boost 148 rear axle spacing

Initial Impressions

The new Capra has some big shoes to fill, both in terms of performance as well as aesthetics. Well, on the topic of shoes, it’s no secret that YT like ‘em big, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to discover that the new bike was in fact two new bikes – a 27.5-inch version, and a big shoe 29er.

2018 Capra 27 CF Pro
2018 Capra 29 CF Pro Race
YT really wanted to make a DH-bike that can also pedal, and this is what the new Capra is meant to be.

Perhaps slightly more surprising was the amount of travel on offer: 180mm for the 27.5-inch bike, and 170m for the 29er, in the top-of-the-range CF Pro Race spec (the rest of the lineup makes do with 170mm for the 27.5-inch bike, and 160mm for the 29er). Yes, enduro bikes have been getting progressively longer in travel over the last couple of years, but 180mm, that’s borderline DH-bike territory? Well, it turns out that this is exactly what they were aiming for. YT really wanted to make a DH-bike that can also pedal, and this is what the new Capra is meant to be. Looking at the rest of YT’s range, the 27.5-inch Jeffsy now makes a lot more sense, sitting somewhere between the 140mm 29er Jeffsy and the Capra.

Talking to Stefan Willared (CTO and chief mad scientist at YT) about the new Capra he told us that more and more riders seem to want the one-bike solution. Many of these riders need a solid bike for their every day riding, and they don’t want to have to rent or keep a DH bike in the garage just for that one trip per year to the bike park. If you’ve visited said bike parks over the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt noticed more and more people showing up with their enduro bikes already, which further validates YT’s decision to make the new Capra even burlier.

Markus Flossmann (YT's CEO, right), and Stefan Willared (CTO) getting pumped to go ride the new steeds.
The Goat Whisperer.

Of course, the new bike also had to be as light as or even lighter than its predecessor, and there was the small matter of a geo update to keep up with the Joneses, especially in terms of reach. Stefan and his team worked hard to come up with technical solutions that would allow them to reach these goals, and the results are pretty impressive. For example, the distinctly shaped head tube “box” on the carbon frame is not just a visual gimmick. It is in fact fully dual-crown fork certified to the same exact specifications as YT’s TUES DH bike, and because it uses a headset that sits directly in the carbon, it still manages to save quite a bit of weight. 

The chainstays are now carbon, where they were made from aluminum on the previous version. The cable routing is now fully internal (with built-in cable guides to make wrenching easier), and there are no more cables under the down tube. There are a number of protective features on the frame as well, like the metal chainsuck guards on the chainstay or the polymer guards under the downtube. All in all, the new frame is a quality piece of kit, the cumulative result of YT’s experience and lessons learned to date.

Looking at the aluminum version, YT did not cut any corners here either. For example, using a “double-hydroforming” process for the new seatstays allowed them to shave a good chunk of weight in this area alone - the new alloy frame comes in several hundred grams lighter than its predecessor. It also gets updated internal cable routing, while for the rest it shares the general layout and geometry with its carbon brother.

So what about tires, and more specifically, what about all those new-fangled tire sizes? Well, YT doesn’t feel like Plus tires offer any real advantages at this point, so they’ve not provided room for such meaty rubbers on either of the new frames. A 2.6 will fit however, and of course the bike uses the Boost standard both in the front and the rear. On the topic of standards, YT got rid of one too: there is no way to mount a front derailleur. With e*thirteen’s TRS+ cassette providing a full 511% range of gears on all the new Capra builds, you won’t miss it.

For the rear suspension linkage layout, YT stuck with their “Virtual 4 Link” design (a Horst link variation), which graces all of the bikes in the company's range (except for the hardtail dirt jumper). They’ve gone to metric shock dimensions on the new Capra, and they’ve also opted to run a particularly long shock, especially on the 27.5-inch bike. This gives an overall low leverage ratio, which allows the shock work at lower pressures and makes it easier to tune. The ratio curves have also been revised, and the new bike is slightly less progressive overall compared to the old Capra, with a bit more support at mid-stroke. The previous generation was one of the most progressive bikes available, and it was sometimes criticized for being a bit harsh through fast chop as a result, so this change makes perfect sense. When asked about coil shocks, Stefan Willared confirmed that the new Capra will work well with one, but they like the tunability and the “pop” of an airshock better which is why they are not offering any off-the-shelf, coil-sprung models for sale at this point.

Geometry

“Pick your reach and go ride” is how YT described their approach to sizing on the new Capra. The previous generation of the bike was on the short side, but rather than just decide that everybody now needs a longer bike, YT wanted to take advantage of the proliferation of dropper posts to make sure people could choose the reach they want to ride without worrying about stand over height and clearance for a full-length dropper. So in addition to making the bike longer (the old size Large became a Medium in terms of reach), they also knocked up to 40mm off the seat tube lengths. As a result, YT says that any rider should now be able to choose between at least two or maybe even three sizes, and still have room to run a full dropper. On the topic of sizes, the 27.5-inch bike now comes in 5 sizes, from S to XXL, with the 29er available in 4 sizes, M to XXL. YT did not feel that the big wheels would work well for the shortest riders out there, so they opted out of making a size S 29er. 

In order to make sure that the bikes remain properly balanced across such a wide range of sizes, YT adjusts the chainstay length by frame size, something they first introduced on the Jeffsy. As usual, the stays are compact without being super-short. On the 29er, there’s also a “Flip Chip” that allows you to adjust the BB height and head angle by flipping a chip in the rear shock mount.

Why was the Flip Chip not added to the 27.5-inch bike? Because YT feels like they have so much experience with the 27.5-inch wheel size by now that they really know what works and how people want those bikes to feel. However, because a 29er wheel on a long travel bike is newer territory for these guys, they opted to offer the Flip Chip to make sure the bike would suit a wider range of potential variations in riding style and preferences.

New vs. old - the 2018 YT Capra 29 CF Pro and a 1906 Portuguese drinking fountain.

On The Trail

DH bike on a diet, or enduro bike on steroids? The new Capra could be described as either, but on the trail it still feels like a regular mountain bike when you first sling a leg over it. Yes, this beast packs a big punch, but the suspension still feels lively and the seated position is well suited to spending time in the saddle on your way up the hill, all thanks to a decent amount of anti-squat and a steep enough seat tube angle. At 1m84 this tester took full advantage of the flexible approach to sizing and rode both bikes in XL, which provided lots of room and a relaxed riding position.

Sintra, Portugal was host to this launch, and the area surprised us with an awesome variety of trails – all of the fun-loving kind! Slightly off the radar so far, this new riding destination has a lot going for it, and the crew at WERIDE knows the trails inside and out. They also put in a lot of shovel time to keep the singles in prime condition, and with a mix of everything from techy rock to flowy jumps on the menu the area was perfect for testing a bike like the Capra.

Just in time for one more lap!

Point and shoot quickly became our motto when sat atop the mountain about to discover yet another new (to us) trail. The amount of confidence a bike like the new Capra provides is ridiculous, second only to an actual DH bike. The long travel and the slack head angle take the sting out of almost any trail, while the generous sizing and significant BB drop keep you centered and balanced even as things get hectic. We had the opportunity to ride both the 27.5-inch bike and the 29er, which revealed a lot of similarities in how the two bikes behave. They do not feel significantly different on the trail, which means that you are pretty much free to pick the wheel size you prefer here. Yes, the 29-inch wheel rolls over stuff more easily, but the this tester did feel slightly more comfortable aboard the 27.5-inch bike, most notably (and perhaps surprisingly so) on steep and rough terrain where the smaller-wheeled bike actually felt the most surefooted and stable – no doubt a result of a slightly slacker head angle and more travel. The 29er takes a little bit more input when hitting corners as well, but this probably has more to do with getting used to the timing of the bigger wheels (this tester rides 27.5-inch bikes most of the time). We also rode the different travel options (the top-spec 27 CF Pro Race gets the full 180mm, while the rest of the 27 line makes do with “only” 170mm), without noticing a major difference in handling – certainly not something we’d put down to an extra 10mm of suspension travel. The CF Pro Race is a banger build no doubt, but we enjoyed the CF Pro every bit as much.

Sending the 27 CF Pro Race.

When does it all become too much bike? Later than we imagined, actually. Even on tight and twisty trails the Capra remained easy to ride, thanks in part to the progressive nature of its rear suspension layout which provides a solid platform to push off against at all times. It should be noted that most of the trails we rode were at some point purpose-built for mountain biking, so they lacked the super-tight and awkward switchbacks found on old Alpine hiking trails for example. That’s not to say that there was a shortage of gnar, just that most of the lines were of the high-speed variety which suits the new Capra down to a T.

It is easy to be impressed by headline numbers like “180mm of travel” or “65 degrees”, but the real game-changer for YT here is the geo and the sizing.

Making our way back up the hill proved to be pretty easy going. The new Capra is a good climber, certainly a far cry from the heavy, wallowing freeride bikes of times past. Sit and spin, and you’ll see the top of the hill sooner than you perhaps expected. Most of the builds on offer feature some kind of lockout switch on the rear shock, but this bike also makes do just fine without one. If your regular riding features some more mellow trails as well, you’d find more use for a middle (“trail”) setting perhaps, although once again we should point out that thanks to the progressive rear linkage, the Capra retains a fair bit of liveliness despite its ample travel.

On the topic of progressiveness, the original Capra was sometimes criticized for being too progressive which left it feeling a bit harsh over high-speed chop for example. YT has addressed this point by flattening out the leverage ratio curve on the new bike by a bit. While it’s still among the more progressive bikes out there, this change did appear to take the sting out of small- to mid-sized chunk, while still retaining that bottomless feeling when landing bigger moves.

Lubrication and hydration are key. YT knows!
The Ginja Ninja lurks.

So, has the game changed again? The new Capra has a lot more competition than perhaps the original did when it launched, and it arrives at a time when the single-bike quiver is becoming increasingly popular. It is easy to be impressed by headline numbers like “180mm of travel” or “65 degrees”, but the real game-changer for YT here is the geo and the sizing. With shorter seat tubes and a whopping 5 sizes to pick from, you are now free to pick the size of bike that really fits you, your terrain, and your riding style. Yes, this is a lot of bike, but it remains surprisingly fun and agile on mellower trails too. A good bike as a whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, and at that little game the new Capra is right up there among the front runners. 

Build Kits and Pricing

YT has never been afraid to take the road less traveled, and for 2018 they have decided to move away from the near-ubiquitous SRAM Eagle drivetrain in favor of a Shimano-e*thirteen combo on the entire Capra (and Jeffsy) range. YT says that they feel like this 11-speed drivetrain is more robust than the 12-speed groups, and since the e*thirteen cassette actually offers more range than the 12-speed Eagle cassette, the feel like this change is all beneficial.

How much more? 11% more!

For the rest of the components, it’s FOX suspension on the higher end models and RockShox on the lower end, with an assortment of e*thirteen and Race Face parts rounding out the builds. SRAM’s Code got the nod in the brake department, in different versions depending on the model.

A few observations on some of the parts:

  • The new drivetrain is smooth to operate and worked well for us throughout testing. The e*thirteen cassette can get a bit creaky, especially in dry and dusty conditions, at which point it requires a bit of grease between the two main cog assemblies to go back to being quiet again.
  • We’re big fans of the e*thirteen tires, which provide great grip in nearly all conditions. They are a little bit on the slow-rolling side, but overall they are a great match for a bike of this caliber.
  • SRAM’s new Code brake is a winner, especially in the Ultimate or RSC versions. Ample power, great modulation, and a very solid feeling at the lever.
  • We rode several FOX builds as well as a brief run on the RockShox version of the bike, and we enjoyed them all. In general, the RockShox Lyrik offers a smoother feel on small bumps, while the FOX suspension really comes alive when you’re charging hard. If we were buying the new Capra, we’d let budget and other preferences dictate which bike to go for, rather than the headline suspension components, as the bike is going to be up for any kind of riding with either of these squishy bits.

2018 YT Capra 27 CF Build Kits

2018 YT Capra 27 AL Build Kits

2018 YT Capra 29 CF Build Kits

2018 YT Capra 29 AL Build Kits

2018 YT Capra Pricing and Weights

More information at: www.yt-industries.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 44 // Years Riding MTB: 12 // Weight: 200-pounds (90.7kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Daniel Roos and Johan Hjord

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