You’d be forgiven for thinking that the differences between the two bikes are trivial. It’s true that there’s not a single element I’ve mentioned above that would set the two bikes apart considerably in isolation. However, adding the differences together, you’re left with two bikes that perform more differently than you might expect. It’s not a case that one bike is more capable than the other, but the way they handle the same terrain sets them apart.
The Capra 29 proved to be very easy to set up, and I obtained a very well balanced and composed setup that left me feeling very comfortable from the get-go. The MX proved to be slightly trickier. Initially it felt as if the bike had been made into a MX version from a 29-inch bike – a sentiment I’ve shared with other mixed wheel bikes in the past. With a shorter rear end and running a touch more rear sag (33% vs the 30% of the 29) to account for the increased progression, it felt as if the rear wheel was “too small”, with a weight balance sitting considerably towards the rear of the bike. After a couple of runs trying to make this setup work with some knob twisting, it became clear that more had to change to get the balance between each of the wheels. I began by dropping the stem down a spacer to lower the front end, which helped matters, but the suspension balance was still not quite right. For the way I ride and the tracks I frequent, going more progressive and softer off-the-top on the fork doesn’t tend to feel good, leading to too much diving in the drop-to-corner scenarios that litter the tracks, so it was the rear end that needed to change. I popped out the stock volume spacers in the shock and got sag to right on 30%, and as soon as I hopped on the bike, I instantly felt more comfortable. It took more effort than the setup on the 29, but I was still able to reach a comfortable setup on the MX without any special tuning or component swaps.
How do both bikes compare when they’re properly set up? The sum of those trivial differences still amounts to a significantly different feel on the trail, with key strengths and weaknesses. If you’re seeking out-and-out speed in straighter and chunkier terrain, there’s no question that the 29 is the tool for the job. The increased composure provided by the larger rear hoop; improved compliance of the package to the terrain below; and the increased front wheel weighting of the longer rear end makes going fast in rough and rowdy terrain more comfortable. The rear end on the MX on the other hand feels more connected and stouter, giving up a little in the ways of terrain ironing but feeling ready for increased punishment. Aimed at a built-up turn, both bikes aren’t easily phased, but the MX tends to prefer a less speed-focused and more playful and oftentimes disrespectful approach, slashing up the inside of the corner instead of carving a smoother wide arc around it. This is a whole lot of fun as you’ll see in the above image, regularly leaving me with a smile on my face and some spade work to do to make up for it. When it came to a flat turn, the 29 required less active front wheel weighting and felt more relaxed, whereas the MX needed a little more attention to keep the grip in check.
My long legs mean I don’t struggle with a 29-inch rear wheel, save for the occasional hard compression on a steeper trail that’s only a concern for the appearance of my legwear. Because of this, I don’t tend to hold the extra clearance a mullet bike provides in high regard, but it’s safe to say that shorter riders will be thankful. That said, the MX was still the more favorable bike in the steeper terrain. With its slightly shorter rear end, the same body position gives slightly less weight on the front wheel and makes the steepness feel slightly less, aiding confidence in the steeper chutes. This easier front wheel unweighting is notable on flow trails or when popping and playing on more natural stuff, which when combined with the more laterally stiff rear end makes for a bike that generally feels a touch more energetic. Both bikes are impressively composed on big jumps and drops, taking hard landings in their stride and retaining enough agility to maneuver through the air without much fuss. Even with the volume spacers removed from the rear shock, the progression of the MX is high and even the deepest landings on jumps or flattest landings off drops were handled without the bottom out bumper in the Fox Float X2 shock being more than tickled.
Going up the hill, the 29 is the more natural climber, with its longer rear end weighting the front wheel more compared to the MX, letting you winch your way up steeper pitches of climb with less effort. Though the overall length is more on the 29, this front wheel weighting makes the tightest switchbacks and tech sections easier also, making it the better tech climber of the two. The MX takes the win for trials style ascending, but I’d wager there’s not many who need to resort to hopping and wheelieing on the way up the hill. On logging roads or less steep and tech climbs there’s little to separate them; both providing a comfortable seated position and enough pedaling support to remove the need to use the climb switch.
If your preference is for a more playful bike then the MX is the winner here, but although I’m an active rider I ended up preferring the 29 as an all-round package. That speed-hungry nature is addictive, and it still packs plenty of bike park and steep terrain crushing abilities to make it my pick of the two. They’re both excellent bikes and absolutely solid choices in the enduro market right now, but both have a slightly different character that potential customers should consider before purchasing.
* Editors note: During the photoshoot for the Capra MX, I veered slightly off track and came to a stop with my feet off of the pedals and some of my weight suspended by my ass on the top tube. I thought nothing of the incident, happy that I’d avoided any significant carnage, however upon inspecting the bike later on it became apparent that I had caused some damage to the top tube. There is a bit of a misguided preconception surrounding carbon fiber that questions its resilience, however like anything it’s a factor of how it’s designed and made. Typically, carbon fiber tubes will be designed so that they are thinner in the mid sections where the mechanical stresses are lower, however this then leads them to being less tolerant to damage, and so the minimum thicknesses are dictated by the impact strength resistance. Following the discovery of this damage, I marked the ends of the crack and continued to ride the bike at my own risk without further problems, however this is not something I would advise or condone as it presents an increased risk of injury. YT was keen to point out that this is not a problem they have encountered often, and so consumers likely don’t need to be concerned for the strength of their Capra. That said, always do your best to avoid direct impact to your carbon fiber (or metal for that matter) mountain bikes, to minimize the chance of damage.
We received an official comment on the matter from YT, which reads:
“Safety and durability are paramount for YT Industries products. We ensure this with extensive tests on our own and independent test benches, as well in field tests. Our standards go far beyond the regulatory tests required to produce mountain bike frames and components.
After analyzing this individual case, it seems small wrinkles were present within the top layer of the top tube construction. By applying excess external pressure to this specific area, which is not the case while riding, the resin and the paint can develop cosmetic cracks as seen in this case. This isn’t to be considered a safety issue as only the top layer is affected, with no further damage to the carbon fibers themselves. In the unlikely scenario of this occurring outside of the test environment, YT would arrange an inspection using the warranty claims process which is available through our website and service centers.”
The Wolf’s Last Word
Two excellent options in the enduro market, that are subtly different in feel and will suit certain camps of riders better, but equally as capable of riding rugged and rowdy terrain. The MX is the tool for more playful riders or those with shorter legs, whereas the 29 is the speed demon that’ll still eat up bike park laps for breakfast.
Price: $5,299 /£5,199 /€5,299
Weight: 33.9 lbs