YT Decoy CF Pro Race E-Bike Review
Photos by Andrew Villablanca
Billed as an “E-Enduro” bike, the YT Decoy took the world by storm when it launched several months ago, captivating the market in a way few electric bikes have been able to do. Its impact was so powerful not because of the bike itself, but because it signified a turning of the tide in the MTB industry. YT was one of the first core “cool kid” brands to embrace e-bikes, and by doing so, they cemented their place in the market. At this point, if you don’t like e-bikes, you better learn to live with them because they aren’t going anywhere. Enter the YT Decoy CF Pro Race, a mullet (29” front/ 27.5+ rear) e-bike, with 160/165mm of travel, a Shimano Steps E8000 motor and pricing from five to seven thousand dollars. The stats are impressive on paper, but are they enough for newcomer YT to take on the likes of the Norco Sight VLT and Specialized Levo? Let’s find out.
YT started from the ground up with the Decoy, taking lessons from brands that made the move to pedelec systems before them. YT uses their V4L or Virtual 4 Link suspension design to handle the 165mm of travel. It’s the most compliant and supple YT we’ve ever ridden, but the downside is a lack of pop and somewhat heavy feeling off smaller features that we wanted to air out.
The Decoy boasts adjustable geometry thanks to the easily accessible flip-chip. Adjusting the chip changes the seat tube and head angles 0.5 degrees from 76° to 76.5° for the seat tube angle and 65° to 65.5° at the head tube. The bottom bracket height also changes by 7mm from 340mm to 347mm.
Like most modern bikes, the YT Decoy has a spacious reach, 455mm on our size large test bike. Taking note of the trends in the e-bike world, YT didn’t make the rear end of the Decoy CF Pro Race overly short. In an effort to improve climbing performance, traction and rider weight distribution, designers gave the bike 442mm chainstays across the entire size range. That means smaller riders will have a tough time picking up the front end of this bike for manuals, but it’s one of the ways savings are passed on to the end-user.
YT worked with Shimano to offer a custom 540wh battery. Sometime in 2020 there will be a 700wh battery upgrade that can be purchased after the fact. The battery is bolted to the frame with an elastomer lower cap to eliminate any vibration or noise during riding. Charging is done via a port on the down tube with a weatherproof rubber cover.
Power is delivered via a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and XT cranks. Shimano’s E7000 display and shifter are on the bar and allow for easy toggling between power modes. YT tucked the integrated power button neatly under the top tube, which looks nice but tricked first-timers into wondering where the power button was.
YT has been known for offering top tier builds for the price point and the YT Decoy is no exception. The $7,000 CF Pro Race build we tested packs a Shimano XT derailleur, shifter, and cranks with a Fox Transfer post, Fox Factory 36 fork and a Fox Factory Float X2 shock. Rolling stock comes courtesy of E*Thirteen’s E*Spec Race wheels wrapped in Maxxis rubber. SRAM Code RSC brakes keep this beast’s speed under control. For the price, it’s a very solid build, especially considering bikes with similar builds can retail for $8,500- $10,000.
Now that you’ve had your fill of specs and technical info, let’s get into the real reason you’re here — the ride. We went into this review doing our best to hold back preconceived notions, but it’s hard not to get excited about an e-bike that looks this good. We’re sure the brand’s image and aesthetics play a major factor, along with the price points, in YT’s success in such a competitive market.
The Decoy is the first factory-equipped Mullet we’ve ridden. Out on the trail, there is a measurable benefit to having the 29er upfront for rollover, and the 27.5 outback to improve agility. The YT Decoy’s chainstays and ultra-low bottom bracket make it incredibly stable on the trail. Thanks to those same long stays and short 165mm cranks, it also climbs well. While the bike does climb well, YT ships the Decoy with a conservative, econical tune in Trail and Eco modes. In the stock setting we noticed less assistance while climbing compared to other bikes in Trail and Eco modes. During our test period we logged into Shimano’s e-Tube app and adjusted the settings to offer more assistance in Trail and Eco modes. Something any customer can do. Increasing the power assistance will come at a slight penalty to the bike’s overall range however.
On most of our 1-2.5 hour test rides, range wasn’t a factor for our 165-190lb test riders. We spent many days in the Santa Monica Mountains outside of Los Angeles, putting some serious vert under our belts. We’d usually run out of free time before we ran out of battery. If you’re a free bird with lots of time to explore, weigh more than 190 pounds or live for the Boost, you may be counting down til the upgraded battery comes available.
The Shimano Steps E8000 is one of the oldest drivetrains on the market, but it still performs well. At this point in the game, we’d love to see changes to the motor’s weight, size, and display to keep up with Bosch and Specialized. We also wouldn’t mind a noise reduction either, although it is still quieter than the Yamaha system.
Out on the trail, the Decoy is actually a departure from the traditional YT feel. The engineers have done a great job making a comfortable and fun bike with the smoothest, most sensitive suspension we’ve ever felt on a YT. Their non-electric bikes, like the Tues, Jeffsy, and Capra have suspension feels on the slightly harsh but lively and poppy side. On the Decoy, the opposite is true. The YT Decoy is incredibly supple and handles square-edged obstacles much easier than their pedal-powered brethren. The downside is that the Decoy rides heavier than we expected. It’s less willing to pop and float around the trail than some of its competitors. Instead, its riding characteristics are more grounded and will reward riders who like to plow things over or stay seated for longer days in the saddle.
The bike instills confidence when plowing over chattery terrain or landing drops. Traction is excellent, and comfort is high. The 27.5 rear wheel had us grinning ear to ear when it came time to brake late and aggressively throw the handlebars over for a snappy corner. The 29-inch front wheel gobbled up the terrain and rolled smoothly over braking bumps and obstacles. However, the bike rode heavier than the best in class, and it was harder to pop off small rocks, roots, and other features that weren’t an issue on a couple other bikes. If you like to air sections of trail rather than plow them down, the tall stack height and soft rear end may cause you the same issues. Furthermore, the smaller battery is something that held us back when comparing this beauty to our category favorites like the Norco Sight VLT, Devinci DC, and Specialized Levo. Surprisingly, even the Mondraker Crafty R, which weighs as much as the YT Decoy, has a livelier feel and more pop to it.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The YT Decoy CF Pro Race is a solid first-year release. It’s a good value, but we have a few pretty significant comments about the ride characteristics that keep it from being our favorite. After a lengthy discussion, we decided that if you’re most concerned with owning a bike with the best parts spec for the price tag, then YT’s Decoy is no false flag. If you’re OK spending money on an eMTB with lower-level components but better on-trail feel, then there are options. Personally, we’d rather own a bike with lower spec but the best on-trail performance possible, and despite our hopes, the YT isn’t there yet.
Overall the Decoy is a very capable e-bike and will undoubtedly make lots of people happy, but we’re comparing the best of the best. It’s definitely in our top 5 overall, but we’re looking for number 1. For those who are value-conscious, like a smooth, cushy feel, want to plow over rough terrain and grow their YT quiver, the Decoy will deliver. If you live for active, light riding and popping any little option you can, bunny hopping obstacles, and then having the gobs of power to speed you back up the hill, it’s not quite the right bike for you.
Weight: 49.16 lbs
Frame: High modular carbonfiber frame | V4L Virtual 4-Link rear suspension with 165mm of travel
Fork: FOX 36 FLOAT FACTORY E, 160mm, 44mm Offset
Shock: FOX FLOAT X2 FACTORY, 230x65mm
Battery: SMP YT CUSTOM
Drive Unit: SHIMANO STEPS E8000
Brakes: SRAM CODE RSC
Handlebar: RENTHAL FATBAR 35
Headset: ACROS AZX-260 BLOCK LOCK
Saddle: SDG RADAR MTN
Seatpost: FOX TRANSFER FACTORY, S 125mm | M-XXL 150mm
Shifter: SHIMANO XT DI2
Stem: RENTHAL APEX 35
Wheelset: E*THIRTEEN E*SPEC RACE, 29″ 110x15mm, 27.5″ 148x12mm
Tires: MAXXIS MINION DHF 29×2.5″ (f), MAXXIS MINION DHR II 27.5×2.8″ (r)
Cassette: E*THIRTEEN TRS PLUS E-Bike | 9-46T | 11-Speed
Cranks: SHIMANO XT; 165mm, 34t
Derailleur: SHIMANO XT DI2, Shadow Plus | 11-Speed
Long Chain Stays
Tall Stack Height
Heavy Riding Feel
Lacks Liveliness and Pop
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