YT Decoy first ride review: A brilliant ebike with outstanding performance
160MM Gravity focussed EMTB from the direct to consumer brand
£4199 (Base), £4999 (Pro), £5999 (Pro Race)
29" Front, 27.5" Rear
160mm Fork, 165mm Shock
21.9KG (Pro Race)
540Wh YT Custom
Firstly, let me clear this up. The YT Decoy goes straight into the top few ebikes that you can buy right now. Looks? Stunning. Performance? Outstanding. But what makes this bike stand out from the huge amount of ebikes that have recently been released? Read on to find out exactly why I love this bike.
The all new YT Decoy. One of the most ambitious projects that the YT Industries team have released to date. I was invited to the launch of the bike in the south of France and spent a few days learning about the bike and riding it in the beautiful French mountains. So lets take a deeper look into the bike, the technology and design then take a look at how the bike performs.
YT Decoy Development
YT could have released an electric mountain bike a year ago. Easy. Just buy a motor and battery package from Shimano. Make some modifications to an existing frame (Capra / Jeffsy), bolt on the motor, pop the battery on the front triangle and ship it to the consumer. Job done, YT have an ebike.
But that’s not how YT work. As we were presented the new bike via a slideshow presentation before the unveiling, it was clear that YT wanted to get this bike as, well, “YT” as possible. Lets start with the vision. The YT Decoy has been designed to look like a YT. It’s been designed so it doesn’t stick out, with gravity at its core and an integrated design. The YT Decoy represents what YT believe an EMTB should be.
It’s taken almost 3 years to develop. A large chunk of that development time has been the custom battery that YT have commissioned, that is integrated into the downtube and secured into the frame with 2 bolts. Designing your own battery is complex and costly. YT have partnered with Simplo who manufacture the batteries to YT’s specification. Once the battery design and manufacturing process is finalised it need to be certified before it can be actually be mass produced and sold.
The YT Decoy uses 540Wh battery loaded with thirty of the latest generation 21700 cells (same as Tesla in fact). YT are proud that their finalised product passed the rigorous testing procedures with ease, in fact, there was not a single failure, or anything near a failure, so much so that the testers were pretty amazed how well that YT had done, even more so considering that it’s the companies’ first ebike.
Phototography: Jack Tennyson & Johan Hjord
The battery has hard plastic on the underside with the DECOY branding etched into it. At the top, straight in the line of fire for mud and water (especially for UK riders!) is the charging port. I was quite keen to understand how this would cope with the worst weather conditions.
We’ve made 4 versions of the battery cover and improved it every time. We’ve tested it thoroughly, in all conditions, and blasted a pressure washer at it on maximum. It survived everything.
YT Industries engineering
Whilst we’re on the subject of the battery I wanted to talk a bit about the battery life. It’s still a big talking point and whilst mileage varies hugely, I was seriously impressed with the performance. I managed 36 KM on day two of riding (varied terrain, some ascents and shuttles back to the top) and I had used only 2 out of 5 bars. Now, I know this is not hugely accurate; there are so many variables, but I’ve ridden enough of the Shimano equipped bikes to know that this is some impressive range. Even more so as I was using Boost a lot.
I asked Stefan Willared, the CTO for YT, about the battery and mentioned the impressive range. He mentioned that they are using 21700 cells in the battery and the fact that the entire battery is only as good as the worst cell in the complete pack. The 21700 are well regarded as great performers.
YT Decoy Frame, geometry and design details
Full Carbon (Pro / Race)
£4199, Carbon Front, Alu Rear, Rockshox Suspension
£4999, Full Carbon, Fox 36 and DPX2 Shock
PRO RACE Model
£5999, Full Carbon, e-thirteen Carbon Wheelset, Shimano Di2, Fox Factory
Five size options. Yep, right up to XXL with a reach of 495mm. The bike is position somewhere between the Capra and Jeffsy in terms of geometry and travel, with a 65 degree headtube angle, a 76 degree seat angle and short (by ebike standards) chainstay at 442mm. Fork is 160mm and rear travel is 165mm. You could also run with a 170mm on the front.
YT Decoy is rocking moto-style mixed wheels, with a 29er up front with a 2.5″ Maxxis Minion DHF and a 27.5″ at the rear with a DHR2 at 2.8″. I suspect this config helps keep the chainstay shorter instead of full on 29er, and some benefits with the chunkier rubber on the rear for climbing the steep stuff.
The YT Decoy has a progressive tune for its travel, via a virtual 4 bar rear end, designed to give an off-the-top sensitive initial stroke, ample mid stroke support and a more progressive end stroke. Their team had a goal of minimising pedal kickback to reduce any unwanted forces against the motion of the motor whilst riding.
Look closer and you’ll see some very cool details. Frame protection on the chainstay to stop unwanted chain slap on both the chain stay and underside of the seat stay. Single sided, sealed bearings for the swing arm. Neatly integrated cable routing into the frame, so the end customer doesn’t have to mess around later on with routing (it’ll thread straight through without any messing).
It’s evident that YT are thinking about the end consumer, not just for aesthetics but also to minimise the amount of service and warranty issues later down the line.
YT DECOY, THE LITTLE DETAILS
It’s the little things that have been taken into consideration to keep the customer experience as good as possible. Let’s face it, it’s a direct to consumer bike brand, it’s important to get this stuff right.
It’s not just the functional stuff either. The look is exquisitely refined, every detail has been thought about. The Shimano E8000 motor has been paired with some of the more discreet Shimano E7000 components. Instead of using the bigger, more colourful E8000 display, YT chose to place the ‘lower’ model on the bars. Not because of cost. Because it is slightly smaller and is less distracting that the colour display.
The speed controller is the super low profile E7000 switch. It’s way nicer to use than the E8000 clickty-clackety under bar mode controller. And on the Pro Race model, equipped with Di2 shifting, there’s even the E7000 controller used there to shift. This also helps provide one of the cleanest EMTB bars that you’ll ever see. The thin controller wires are still there, just hidden neatly with rubber straps that make it super low profile and clean.
Back to the frame. The lines and aesthetics have a pleasing look. Sharp, bold but not too in your face. More refined and classy than brash. The paint is simple but well done and compliments the carbon lines. Geometry is bang up to date and with 5 sizes with reach up to 495mm in XXL you wont struggle to find a great fit. There’s a flip chip too. The default ‘Super low’ position results in the 65 degree head angle. Change it up to ‘Low’ and you’ll add half a degree to both the head angle (65.5 degree) and the seat angle (76.5 degree). Neat.
YT Decoy Components
Top spec Pro Race is oozing with quality kit. 160mm Fox Factory E-Bike 36 forks, carbon wheels, Code RSC brakes, Shimano Di2 shifting, Fox Transfer dropper, e-Thirteen TRS Plus cassette, 165mm crank arms to name a few of the standouts. The whole range offers excellent value though. The standout perhaps being the full carbon Pro model, at £4999, provides outstanding bang for buck. Click the cards below to see full listing.
If you’re wondering why YT chose a Shimano motor over, perhaps a German brand, such as Brose, Bosch or even Fazua… me too. Until I though a bit more about their model. Being a Direct to Consumer brand means that in the event that something goes wrong with the motor it’s critical that the customer can get it fixed. Quick.
I don’t think that Brose offer any way, other than via a dealer, to get support. So that rules that one out. I doubt any dealer would be willing to support YT in house. Bosch? Well, it’s a bit long in the tooth and due a refresh. The Fazua probably doesnt offer enough torque and ultimate power for the intented gravity use of the Decoy.
So Shimano kind of makes sense. There’s a bunch of Shimano service centres that can help. Not quite as easy as turning up to a dealer to get it sorted there and then, but the next best solution. In the event that the battery needs service, this will be dealt with directly by YT.
The Shimano E8000 is a good motor but its not as refined as the Brose Mag S. Its a bit louder, especially in Boost mode. It also feels a bit too digital in Boost and has a bit too much of an on/off feeling, both at the initial pedal stroke and near the 15.5mph / 25kph limit.
With 70Nm of claimed torque (it actually feels more than that to me) it’s got enough punch to help you up some pretty steep stuff. Or just generally hooning it about if thats what you like.
But as an overall package it works well. I do hope Shimano refine the power delivery a bit more though. That can be done later down the line via firmware updates, which by the way are over the air, so you’re not going to need to visit the dealer to update the bike like you do with the Brose motors and some others.
Riding the YT Decoy
I was riding the £5999 top spec Pro Race model. Firstly, I crashed it. A lot (Sorry YT!). But I bloody loved it. I think I annoyed the photographers a little bit as I couldn’t pull off some of the steezy moves that some of the other skilled journos were able to. I’m not the worlds best rider. Barely average in fact. When I ride the bikes I try to represent real world riders (that’s what I keep telling myself anyway!).
By the way, I didn’t crash because of the bike. The terrain was way more sketchy than I’m used to (I ride more trail centres and well manicured routes in the south of the UK). Our rides were using the bike at what it does best. Riding down a mountain and shuttling back to the top.
We had two full on days on the bike in the South of France and took on some epic mountain routes. Breathtaking scenery with some loose rocky descents, drops, slabs, rooty singletrack. In fact we covered a wide range of terrain to really test the bike.
The bike is extremely stable and balance with a low centre of gravity. Partnered with the 160mm Fox 36 fork and the 65 degree head angle I was able to absolutely blast it downhill. It likes to hit the chunky stuff and soak up the bigger hits, which it does with ease. It filled me with confidence and definitely helped me hit rock gardens and bigger drops at speeds that I wouldn’t have had the balls to hit on a trail oriented bike.
We started to hit some more of the loose fast descents with some very tight, often off camber switch backs. Once I’d sussed out the wide line, late apex, I was able to get the hang of cornering the bike quite well, despite its slacker angles and longer wheelbase. The short chainstay helped lift the front end over speed sapping rocks and roots; the bike is easy to lift and manoeuvre. The 29er on the front rolled very well with the Exo+ based Maxxis Minion DFH providing good levels of grip.
The Di2 shifting was interesting. I love how rapid the shifting is. Lightning quick and precise. I’m fully converted and if I had the choice (and funds) I’d go for electronic shifting in a heart beat. Something I couldn’t quite get used to was the position of the right hand shifter, the E7000 controller. Rather than being in the conventional under the bar position, its placed on the bar. It’s higher than you’re used to. And a bit more awkward to hit quickly. When we grip our bars our thumbs are wrapped under the bar.
It’s something that I did get used to and I’ve no doubt if this is your regular bike that you’d get it dialled quite quickly. But it still not as ergonomic. You can change the button configuration to switch around which button upshifts / downshifts and also program in multiple shift depending how long you press the button for which is super cool.
Grip from the 2.8″ DHR2 was incredible and offered a good feel whilst climbing. I prefer to climb whilst sat, standing when it gets a bit steeper to weight the front of the bike more. The bike climbed well, I used a bit of boost mode to help keep momentum up then dialed it back down to trail on looser stuff.
The bike seems very well built, aside from one point below. No annoying rattles, vibrations or irritations. Just totally solid. The e-Thirteen carbon wheels paired with the carbon frame make for a super stiff chassis. I did have an issue with the rear axle coming loose, I suspect that a rock strike / foot strike hit the lever to help it. One to watch out for though as it wasn’t just me on the ride that had this issue.
On the second day we hit less of the chunky stuff and more singletrack and narrow, rooty trails. I thought that the bike may feel a bit more cumbersome here but I was surprised. It handled quick, steering felt very sharp. I really like the 800mm wide Renthal bars and 40mm stem combo. I was able to move the bike around, through narrow sections fairly well.
In terms of overall handling the YT Decoy offers an impressive wide range of abilities. Whilst it is certainly more gravity focussed than trail, that doesn’t stop it feeling well placed when riding forest sections. It translates to a lot of fun. It can hit steep descents and soak up rock gardens and natural drops with ease. I rode it down long rocky sections, with stepped drops that continued to the bottom of the trail. The suspension recovered well and not once did I feel that the bike lost composure.
The riding position is extremely balanced. It’s not overly cumbersome to handle. I’d have no issue using this as a regular trail bike with the thought that I have enough bike to take to almost anywhere.
The bike offers incredible value for money. It looks stunning too with components that you’d probably pick if you were building your own bike from scratch. I had a fantastic time riding it in the French mountains, it’s a seriously capable bike.
DISCLOSURE: YT paid for travel, food and accommodation for the test. A guide was also provided (Greg from www.1001sentiers.fr – an awesome local guide) so we could explore the best trails in the area. A Massive thank you to YT Industries team for the opportunity to test it! I wish you all the best for the bike launch.
A seriously good electric mountain bike that rides as well as it looks. A fantastic complete package, from the performance that the bike provides to the outstanding value that you get with YT. The company have developed an impressive bike that, as a first ebike in the range, looks like its had years of refinement and is already a few models and years in. This bike is an excellent demonstration of when design, kinematics and technology meet and form an outstanding end product.
Kinematics and balance
Not So Good
Shimano Motor power delivery not as refined as Brose and a bit noisier
Di2 shifting location difficult to adapt quickly to (only an issue on Pro Race model)