Consumers love them, the traditional bike industry hates them but, whichever camp you fall into, direct-sales brands are here to stay. For the last couple of years Canyon has been steadily making inroads into the UK market, winning tests and finding new owners thanks to its aggressive pricing strategy and the quality of its product. The latest name being whispered around riding circles is Young Talent Industries (YT Industries); yet another German upstart utilising the direct sales model to offer specifications that mainstream manufacturers can only dream about.
The theory is simple: bypass the traditional supply chain and sell online, direct to the public. By eliminating both distributor and retailer, YT can get shed two sales margins from its retail price, and significantly undercut the competition. All it needs is a website, a warehouse and a factory in Asia. YT even goes one step further by ditching the traditional hierarchy of models within each platform, instead covering each category with a single spec level. No more entry-level SLX versions or high-end X0 equipped bikes; if you want a 150mm travel full-suspension bike, you buy the Wicked 150. There is only one model.
In an age of austerity when everyone has to cut back on luxury spending, while simultaneous price rises mean that you now get far less for your money – in terms of spec – than you did a few years ago, direct sales brands are proving an incredibly attractive prospect. But, as traditional brands and local bike shops are keen to point out, cutting out the middleman has some significant drawbacks. No retailer means no way of actually seeing the bike in the flesh before you click <Buy>. And that means no test rides and no chance of trying out different sizes. You might be lucky and meet someone on the trails with the bike you’re interested in, but being new to the market means that Canyons and YTs are still a rare sight on UK trails. All the 360° viewers and complex size calculators in the world won’t take replace actually getting your hands on a bike pre-purchase. While YT Industries does offer customers the opportunity to test-ride its bikes before purchasing, you have to travel to eastern Germany for the privilege.
Then there’s the perennial question mark over what happens should something go wrong. Canyon actually has a (small) UK outpost now, but in the case of YT this means packing the bike up in a box and sending it back to Germany. You have to supply the box, you have to supply the labour and you have to cover the shipping costs. And, as is the case with any other manufacturer, warranty claims don’t always go your way. Should you be particularly unlucky, batting your bike back and forward across the Channel could soon negate all of the original savings.
Of course, there is no reason why the direct-sales brands should be any more prone to warranty problems than traditional marques. After all, they’re made in the same factories as many more household names. But it’s important not to be blinkered by the window sticker, and make yourself fully aware of what you’re sacrificing in return for such a competitive price. Along with finding out how the YT Wicked’s performance stacks up against its mainstream opposition, that’s definitely one thing that we’ll be trying to inform you about when it joins our 2012 longtermer fleet.
Something Wicked this way comes
So what of the bike itself? Well, there’s certainly no missing it. If we were being cruel we might say that it was designed in the dark, by a blind man. Young Talent would probably counter that it’s just because we’re getting old that we find it a little garish. Build quality, however is very good. The welding is aesthetically pleasing and, if we squint to the point where the graphics disappear, the frame design looks well proportioned and contemporary.
Every pivot, including the Horst Link, gets a bearing, so when we unbolted the shock stiction was non-existent. The replaceable dropouts are Maxle bolt-through items, and the Wicked also gets further ‘trail-bike essentials’ such as ISCG mounts, a tapered head tube and hose guides for a dropper post remote. Getting the tape measure out also reveals a decent set of numbers for our medium Wicked. It’s got good length in the down tube, and the slack head angle generates a slightly longer than average wheelbase.
But the star of the show is the spec. At current exchange rates, a Wicked 150 would set you back £1,370. Considering the RockShox Revelation RLT fork with QR15, Monarch RT3 shock, Avid Elixir R brakes and SRAM X9 drivetrain, it’s a Billy bargain if ever we saw one. It even comes with Truvativ Stylo T30 705mm bar, Truvativ AKA 70mm stem, Maxxis Ignitor tyres and clipless pedals.
We’ll be keeping you posted about how it’s getting on, in the magazine and online, throughout the next 12-months. It’s certainly going to be an interesting journey.
Geometry (as measured):
Size tested: Medium
Head angle: 66.6°
Seat angle: 69.5°
BB height: 335mm
Front centre: 710mm
Down tube: 665mm
Weight: 29.47lb without pedals