What’s the fastest, best value enduro bike?
We match up two former test winners to find out: Canyon’s Strive against the YT Industries Capra.
If there’s one segment in mountain biking that’s growing faster and getting more attention than any other, it’s enduro racing. Events are popping up all over the country and every brand claims to have a race-ready bike.
But the two models we keep coming back to are the Canyon Strive and YT Industries Capra. Both offer unparalleled value for money, and both have won mbr tests in the past. But this is the first time that we’ve had them go head to head in the same test.
Ultimate enduro prizefight
In many ways it’s the ultimate enduro prizefight. In the red corner we have the YT Industries Capra Al Comp 1 for £2,205.56 (with Euro-GBP conversion rate at time of writing). Over in the blue corner it’s the Canyon Strive Al 6.0 Race at £2,069 (discounted from £2,299).
But before we get into what separates these two heavy hitters, let’s take a closer look at what they have in common. First up, Canyon and YT are both from Germany, the natural homeland of direct-sales bikes.
You simply order your bike online, tap in your card details and your new ride arrives at your door in a box. It’s as easy as buying a new pair of trousers online, but a lot more fun. It’s worth noting that shipping costs also need to be added to the headline prices, with YT and Canyon charging €59.90 and £47.98 respectively.
A certain degree of mechanical proficiency is required to assemble the bikes when they land, but if you’ve ever removed a wheel to fix a puncture, or adjusted your stem height, you won’t have any issues putting the final touches to them.
Direct sales pros and cons
In fact, the only ‘problem’ with the direct-sales approach is that because the prices are so competitive, demand often outstrips supply, and there’s every chance that the model you want, or more specifically the size you need, may not actually be available.
And, if you’re still not convinced about how Canyon and YT can offer Gucci bike builds at H&M prices, there’s a great graphic on Canyon’s website that illustrates the savings afforded by selling direct to consumers.
But just like buying a pair of trousers, it’s really important to get the right fit. Easier said than done, given that both brands introduce confusion over sizing.
YT’s size recommendations are way out, so you’ll definitely need to upsize. To muddy the waters further, the alloy Capra is available in S, M, L, and XL while the carbon bike only comes in S, M, and L. At 5ft 11in tall, the XL bike fits us like a glove, so if you’re much taller you’ll need to look elsewhere.
It’s a very similar story in the Canyon camp. The non-race version of the Strive comes in S, M, L, and XL while the Race geometry bikes come in S, M, and L. The confusing part is that the size L Race frame actually has a longer reach measurement than the XL non-race version.
It’s enough to make your head spin, but it speaks volumes that at 5ft 11in we’re choosing to test the longest bikes that YT and Canyon currently produce.
Direct sales detailing
We used to have a running joke at mbr about boxy German geometry: short, steep, tall frames with triple chainset designed for hammering up and down fireroads. Not any more. The Canyon Strive Al 6.0 Race sports one of the longest reach measurement of any size L bike currently on the market, and the YT Industries Capra Al Comp 1 is easily one of the slackest.
The introduction of more competitively-priced 1×11 drivetrains, like the excellent SRAM GX kit fitted to both bikes, is proving to be the final nail in the coffin for the front derailleur too.
In terms of component parts, there’s very little separating these titans. Both are running SRAM Guide R brakes, and while we prefer the 150mm drop Reverb on the YT, the Canyon gets the grippier 3C Maxxis High Roller II front tyre. Swings and roundabouts, then, but it’s all great kit however you spin it.
Lighter DT Swiss 1700 Spline wheels on the Canyon account for its slight weight advantage over the YT, but we shouldn’t discount the shorter stroke shock and lighter Pike fork on the Strive. Yes, YT has more suspension muscle with a 170mm Lyrik up front and 165mm on the rear, but Canyon isn’t far behind with its 160/163mm combo.
Canyon also has its Shapeshifter, which lets you toggle between two travel and geometry settings by changing the position of the shock relative to the upper suspension link via a handlebar mounted remote.
Could it be the edge that Canyon needs to deliver a knockout blow? Let’s find out…
Canyon Strive AL 6.0 Race (2016) review
Clever as Canyon’s Shapeshifter geometry and travel-adjust feature is, we never felt the need to use it other than to check that it actually worked. That’s because, even in the slack setting, the 67° head angle is already at the steeper end of acceptable for an enduro bike.
It’s absolutely on the money for trail riding though, and with Canyon’s recent price adjustment, to reflect changes in the exchange rate, the Strive AL 6.0 Race is the best long-legged trail bike we’ve tested by a mile. Or 1.6km.
YT Industries Capra Al Comp 1 (2016) review
Price: €2,799 (NB: price is in Euros)
Once again, YT has proved that you don’t need to drop the best part of £4k to get a race-ready enduro bike. In fact, with the Capra AL Comp 1 you’ll have plenty of change left over for race entries and travel expenses.
Be warned though, this bike has a lot of firepower, so if you’re not hunting down abandoned DH tracks or tearing up every descent, you’d probably be better off on the more efficient Canyon Strive. With that caveat out of the way, we can’t recommend the Capra AL Comp 1 highly enough. What a bike!
A note about how we tested these bikes
To make the testing process as fair as possible, we fitted folding bead 2.4in 3C Maxxis High Roller II front tyres and 2.3in Minion SS rears to both bikes. This is the stock tyre specification on the Canyon. From £36.99, extrauk.co.uk
Given that both bikes in this head-to-head test have upwards of 160mm travel, and both are targeted squarely at enduro racing, we dispensed with our usual test format. So instead of doing multiple shakedown laps of the Surrey Hills just to get comfortable on the bikes, we slung them in the back of the van and headed straight to South Wales.
Jumping in at the deep end on longer, more demanding trails — short sections of which are every bit as steep and scary as anything we’ve ridden in the Alps — was a real test of these bikes’ mettle.
The increased level of concentration and skill required to ride flat-out in more challenging terrain, and the subsequent build-up of fatigue that goes with it, really helped highlight the difference in attitude and handling of each bike.
With multiple days of back-to-back riding, it also better represented the demands of enduro racing, as you never feel fresh when the clock starts ticking due to the cumulative fatigue of practice.
For consistency, we rode many of the same trails that we used for the £4k Race Ready Enduro bike test, that featured in the April issue. We even brought the winner of that test, the Giant Reign, along for the ride just to see how it stacked up against two bikes that cost half the price.
Notes on these numbers: if you compare the geometry chart below with the vital stats listed on YT’s and Canyon’s websites, you’ll notice that there are numerous discrepancies, the main one being that the head angle on the Canyon is one full degree steeper than claimed.
No, it’s not a misprint, it’s simply because bike manufacturers list ideal geometry taken from CAD drawings, which doesn’t account for subtle differences in the length of forks and shocks, or the natural deformation of aluminium when it’s welded and heat treated.
Instead of relying on those figures then, we painstakingly measure all of the test bikes in the mbr workshop so we can guarantee that the numbers we list in our geometry charts are 100 per cent accurate.
Due to variations in manufacturing tolerances however, that doesn’t mean that every Canyon Strive or YT Capra will have the same geometry as our two test bikes. So there’s every chance that you could get a Canyon Strive with a slacker head angle. Basically it just comes down to the luck of the draw.
Before we go any further, we want to make one thing crystal clear. Both of the bikes in this test are simply standout, albeit for very different reasons.
The ratings alone indicate that they are every bit as good, or better than, all of the £4,000 enduro bikes we tested back in April, which goes to show just how far Canyon and YT have come in a relatively short space of time. These aren’t simply good bikes with great bits however… they are great bikes, period.
If you look at the build kits in isolation, the Canyon Strive and YT Capra represent unbelievably good value for money, and you could be forgiven for questioning how they do it. There’s no creative accountancy though, and it’s certainly not due to a lack of product development or second-tier frame construction.
Rest assured, it’s the direct sales business model that guarantees that these bikes are first-rate in every sense.
And without wanting to bang on about the pricing, the regular bricks and mortar brands like Giant, Scott, Specialized and Trek don’t seem to have an answer to the direct sales approach. No doubt that will change, but for now it’s fair to say that we’ve never had it so good.
Over the course of the test little niggles cropped up, like the Race Face Respond bar on the Canyon having a goofy profile, or the Maxxis High Roller II front tyre on the YT being the harder 60a compound, not our preferred 3C rubber. Talk about first world problems!
In fact, we had to pinch ourselves on several occasions because we were riding so hard and having such a blast that we still found it hard to believe that these bikes cost just over £2K. Simply incredible.
But which bike should you buy? Like so many things in life, the answer isn’t as black and white as the ratings suggest.
If you like the idea of owning an enduro bike, but don’t intend to race it in anger, the Canyon Strive AL 6.0 is definitely the bike for you. It’s blisteringly fast on singletrack, and because it climbs like a demon, you won’t be penalised for having 160mm of travel on more sedate trails.
And if you’re lucky enough to get a Strive with Canyon’s intended geometry, the Shapeshifter will come in handy for sure. On our test bike, however, it was something of a non-feature, as we never felt the need to steepen the angles further. There were plenty of occasions where we would have preferred the bike to be slacker though. And if Canyon was to switch its manufacturing tolerance from +1.5 to -1.5 degrees, the ratings in this test could quite easily be reversed.
So the YT Industries Capra AL Comp 1 wins on points. It’s basically a mini downhill bike that can be pedalled to the top under your own steam — no shuttle or chairlift required. Given that most enduro races comprise rowdy timed descents and long climbs that simply need to be survived, YT has nailed the focus of the Capra perfectly.
And even if you have no intention of donning a number board and getting your race face on, if you actively seek out rough, rowdy trails and love boosting jumps and smashing turns, the YT Industries Capra Al Comp 1 takes on all comers.