YT's latest twist on the Capra is an alloy mullet bike with a boutique spec and a relatively modest price tag. We find out if all that glitters is gold.
The YT Capra has long been one of the best enduro bikes on the market, as well as one of the most affordable. Does YT’s latest Uncaged 9 model live up to that enviable reputation?
Need to know
- Capra Uncaged 9 model marries boutique Ohlins suspension with a workmanlike alloy frame
- MX wheels (29in front, 27.5in rear) brings additional butt clearance and a more dynamic ride
- Five frame sizes cover most rider heights
- Larger frames get longer chainstays for a more balanced weight distribution
- MX frame gets different seatstays, shock yoke and kinematics, with more progression and anti-squat
YT has always exploited its small size and short production runs to respond to market trends and tap into leftfield supplier options – remember the original YT Capra with its BOS suspension? With global supply chains in turmoil, and hardcore consumers increasingly customising their bikes with boutique suspension parts, YT’s evolution of this concept – dubbed Uncaged – is more relevant than ever. It also fits the brand’s punk, anti-establishment image like a studded leather glove.
In the case of this MX Capra Uncaged 9, there’s something irresistible about the Ohlins suspension, Crankbrothers wheels, Maxxis tyres and Renthal bar and stem that appeals to the magpie in all of us. Who doesn’t want other riders rubber-necking your bike in the car park or on the trails? And pairing that yellow spring and gold anodized damper with a deep purple paint job that sparkles and shimmers in the sunlight is a masterstroke. Colour me smitten.
While YT is bold as brass when it comes to an eclectic spec and aggressive price point, the Capra frame is actually quite conservative for a modern enduro bike. Consider the geometry; there’s an averagely slack (by current standards) 63.3º head angle in the low position (the flip chip makes so little difference that it’s barely worth the effort). And the sizing is similarly restrained; the size large runs a claimed 467mm reach, but my test bike only measured up at 460mm. Take account of the tall conical spacer and the effective reach is actually more like 450mm. So you’ll need to source a new top cap if you want to slam your stem and get anywhere near the claimed reach.
Let’s compare those numbers to the recently released Canyon Torque CF8 mullet model. The equivalent size large Torque has a 62.9º head angle, a 489mm reach and 1,275mm wheelbase. To get a Capra with a similar reach you’ll need to move up to an XL frame size, but the seat tube on the YT also grows by 25mm, so you’ll need long legs to make that a viable option. YT also supplies the Capra with a (thankfully removable) rubber seal around the seat tube clamp, which limits seat post insertion by an extra 10mm.
Not that one approach is definitively better than the other. In fact you could argue that Canyon’s three size range also paints you into a tight corner when it comes to finding the right fit – the Capra comes in five sizes. And while longer and slacker definitely generates headlines and creates marketing stories, there are advantages to YT playing it safe with its geo. More on that later.
The alloy Capra frame makes a good approximation of its high end carbon counterpart, with hydroformed tubing creating a big box-section behind the head tube as well as a curvaceous seat mast and the signature Side Wing strut that part wraps the asymmetrically-mounted bottle cage.
YT ensures the frame is bang up-to-date with a mount for a ride strap under the top tube, a SRAM UDH mech hanger, a threaded BB and internal cable routing. I say internal cable routing, but the dropper cable and rear brake hose both exit the down tube just above the BB. The dropper cable then re-enters the frame at the base of the seat tube, which is visually messy and creates a tight curve that adds friction to the dropper post cable. So much that our post didn’t lock into position without a helping hand nudging the lever.
It’s fair to say that the Capra Uncaged 9 gives you more than the sum of its parts. Those Ohlins suspension bits would cost over £2k at aftermarket prices on their own. Factor in other jazzy cuts like the Renthal bar and stem, 3C Maxxis tyres and Crankbrothers Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheels and you’re basically getting the quality frame for free. Yes, the Code brakes are only R level, so lack the bite point adjustment and pivot bearing of the RSC, and the SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain isn’t top of the range, but you could hardly call this a pauper spec. Overall, I’d say YT has endowed the Uncaged 9 with a desirable parts list that lacks any obvious compromises.
How it rides
As with any coil sprung bike, getting set-up with the correct sag is a crucial but often convoluted process. And in the case of the Capra Uncaged 9, even getting a rough baseline wasn’t exactly straightforward. My test bike came straight from the photoshoot that you’ll see on the YT website, so the bike had been ridden by World Cup shredder Josh Lowe.
As such it had a 457lb spring fitted, which was too firm for me. Ohlins makes a comprehensive range of springs and YT had provided me with a couple of different rates to try out, so I dropped down one spring rate to 434lb, which gave me bang on 30% sag (sitting with all my weight through the rear suspension). Perfect, right? Well yes, but the size large bike actually comes shipped with a 388lb spring – which gave me 35% sag. Which suggests heavier riders may well find they need a firmer spring. We mentioned this to YT and it said that it takes a balanced view on average rider weights for each frame size and has erred on the softer side given the Capra’s remit, but concedes that this may not work for everyone. The bottom line being that you may have to spend some time (and money) trying different springs to get the suspensioon the way you like it.
One of the things I really liked about Canyon’s approach to the Torque, is that it gives you two extra springs free of charge (£50 each aftermarket) to make sure you can get set-up properly. But YT doesn’t do that with the Capra, although to be fair, the Ohlins springs are almost twice the price.
At least you only need a shock pump to get set up on the Ohlins RXF 38 M.2. Not that it’s a simple process either, as there are three air chambers in the fork, two of which can be adjusted, but all of which influence and interact with each other. On the first ride the fork felt harsh off the top with a lack of mid-stroke support. For the second ride I checked Ohlins suspension calculator to get some base pressures. Counter-intuitively, this recommended adding air. I went from 93psi in the positive and 172psi in the ramp-up chamber to 105psi and 185psi respectively. The result was better small bump sensitivity and improved support, but full travel was still achievable. Like the shock, I ended up wide open on compression damping, and only a few clicks of rebound damping. After three rides it felt like I had a reasonable ballpark set-up, but given more time, I’m sure that would only be the start of the tuning journey, rather than the end.
I mentioned earlier that the Capra’s relatively compact dimensions might not be totally on-trend, but they do offer some advantages. To be more specific, it’s a really easy bike to jump on and ride. Yes, tuning the suspension takes time and patience, but the bike itself is as familiar as a favourite pair of jeans. There’s no need to try and develop new techniques or adapt your riding position – you can start shredding from the get go. As such it rides more like a long-legged trail bike (albeit with a nice low BB) than a raked out enduro sled.
Tight, balanced handling
That sprawling Canyon Torque feels like a genuinely big bike, particularly when you’re just cruising up a fireroad or contorting around a series of tight trees, leaning into the trail. You also need to adapt to the long front centre and short back end to make sure your weight is in the right place. Which is why I preferred it with a stiffer spring, in order to stop the front end getting too light in tight, bucket turns. With the Capra, the front end never seemed to get away from me. There’s a nice balance front to rear, and although it doesn’t have the same composure on really steep, chopped-out tracks as the Torque, it’s probably a more versatile option for trails that traverse rather than plummet like a stone.
Smooth but hefty
The suspension is stable enough on gradual climbs, and despite the short chainstays, the steep seat angle means you can punch up naughty pitches with surprising efficacy. At over 16kg, the weight chipped away at my energy with every spurt of pedal input and thrust of body weight, but the Capra Uncaged 9 also rewards that investment by carrying speed smoothly and quietly. Although it’s noticeably progressive, there are no spikes from the suspension or prickles from the alloy frame, Crankbrothers wheels or Renthal cockpit – just a ride that glides and handling that delights.
I don’t feel like I’ve had the saddle time on this Capra, or the twiddle time on the Ohlins suspension, to really be able to issue a cast iron verdict. It’s one that will probably need the best coaxing out of it with time and experimentation. But, from the few rides I have done, it certainly feels familiar, approachable and rewarding – providing you can get that suspension in the zone.