YT Decoy 29 Core 4 Review
Cons: Only 540Wh battery option, shorter distance range, some minor motor rattle
Manufacturer: YT Industries
Compare to Similar Products
YT Decoy 29 Core 4
|Price||$7,499 List||$7,500 List||$7,500 List||$5,299 List||$7,000 List|
|Pros||Very competitive price, awesome build, 3 build options, versatile and well-rounded, high fun factor||Outstanding battery life, whisper quiet motor, just right geometry, intuitive operation||Powerful motor, good distance range, well-rounded performance||Reasonable price (relatively speaking), fun on a wide range of terrain, confident descender, solid distance range||Lightweight for an e-bike, normal trail bike feel, range extender battery, quiet motor|
|Cons||Only 540Wh battery option, shorter distance range, some minor motor rattle||Readout display not standard feature, SRAM Guide brakes not powerful enough, reported motor failures||Battery or motor rattle, expensive, sluggish handling at low speeds||Mediocre suspension components, SRAM SX drivetrain, can be a handful in tight spots||Less battery storage capacity, less powerful drive unit, expensive|
|Bottom Line||A versatile and well-rounded trail/all-mountain eMTB with a great build at a competitive price||Class-leading range, power, and innovation make this our top-rated eMTB for the third year in a row||A well-rounded electric mountain bike with a solid distance range||A ripping, versatile eMTB that can tackle the gnarly stuff in a relatively budget-friendly package||Lighter weight and less powerful, the new Levo SL is the e-bike for the rider who seeks a "regular" trail bike experience with a just a little pedal assistance|
|Rating Categories||YT Decoy 29 Core 4||Specialized Turbo L...||Trek Rail 9.7||Commencal Meta Powe...||Turbo Levo SL Comp|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Climbing Performance (20%)|
|Distance Range (25%)|
|Power Output (15%)|
|E Bike Controls (10%)|
|Specs||YT Decoy 29 Core 4||Specialized Turbo L...||Trek Rail 9.7||Commencal Meta Powe...||Turbo Levo SL Comp|
|Battery Size (Wh)||540Wh||700Wh||625Wh||630Wh||320Wh (+160Wh Range Extender)|
|Wheel size (inches)||29||29||29||29||29|
|Motor System||Shimano EP8||Specialized 2.1, Custom Rx Trail-tuned 250W||Bosch Performance Line CX||Shimano EP8||Specialized SL 1.1 (240W)|
|Motor Power (torque)||85Nm||90Nm||85Nm||85Nm||35Nm|
|Measured Weight (w/o pedals)||49 lbs 5 oz (Large)||50 lbs 7 oz (Large)||49 lbs 10 oz (Medium)||53 lbs 8 oz (Large)||41 lbs 10 oz (Large)(2lbs 6 oz - range extender battery)|
|Measured Effective Range||23.2 miles||29.6 miles||28.95 miles||26.1 miles||13 miles|
|Fork||Fox 36 Float Factory E-bike+, 150mm||RockShox Lyrik Select RC DebonAir||RockShox Yari RC e-MTB, 160mm||RockShox 35 Gold RL, 150mm||Fox Rhythm 34 Float 150mm|
|Suspension & Travel||V4L Virtual 4-Link 145mm||Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm||Active Braking Pivot, 150mm||Contact System 4-bar, 140mm||Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm|
|Shock||Fox Float DPS Factory||RockShox Deluxe Select+||RockShox Deluxe Select+||RockShox Deluxe Select+||Fox Float DPS Performance|
|Frame Material||Carbon Fiber||M5 Premium Aluminum||OCLV Carbon||Alloy 6066||M5 Premium Alloy|
|Frame Size Tested||Large||Large||Medium||Large||Large|
|Wheelset||Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy e-MTB with I9 1/1 hubs||Roval Traverse 29, 30mm internal||Bontrager Line Comp 30||Spank Spike Race 33 rims with Formula hubs||Roval Traverse 29, 30mm internal|
|Front Tire||Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 29" x 2.5" WT||Specialized Butcher GRID GRIPTON 2.6"||Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6"||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4"||Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL GRIPTON 2.3"|
|Rear Tire||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 29" x 2.4" WT||Specialized Eliminator BLCK DMND 2.3"||Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6"||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4"||Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL 2.3"|
|Shifters||Shimano XT 12-speed||SRAM S700 11-speed||SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM SX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano XT 12-speed||SRAM GX, 11-speed||SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM SX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle|
|Crankset||Shimano XT M8150||Praxis||SRAM X1 1000||E13 E*Spec EP8||Praxis M30|
|Bottom Bracket||Part of motor system||not specified||not specified||Part of motor system||part of the motor|
|Cassette||Shimano XT M8100 12-speed, 10-51T||SRAM PG-1130 11-42t||SRAM PG1230, 11-50T||SRAM SX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle 11-50T|
|Chain||Shimano Hyperglide+||KMC X11ET||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle|
|Saddle||SDG Bel Air 3.0 YT Custom, 140mm||Specialized Bridge 155 S2||Bontrager Arvada 138mm||Fabric Scoop Flat Sport V2||Specialized Bridge Comp|
|Seatpost||YT Postman, 150mm (size Large)||X-Fusion Manic 150mm||Bontrager Line Dropper, 150mm||KS Rage-I||X-Fusion Manic 150mm (large)|
|Handlebar||Renthal Fatbar 35, 780mm||Specialized Trail 780mm||Bontrager Comp Alloy, 780mm||Ride Alpha R20 E-Bike, 780mm||Specialized Trail 780mm|
|Stem||Renthal Apex 35, 50mm||Specialized Trail||Bontrager Rhythm Comp, 60mm||Ride Alpha Freeride 50mm||Specialized Trail|
|Brakes||SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors||SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors||Shimano M6120 4-piston||SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors||SRAM Guide R|
|Grips||ODI Elite Motion V2.1||Specialized Sip Grip||Bontrager XR Trail Comp||Ride Alpha DH||Specialized Trail|
|Measured Effective Top Tube (mm)||612||630||611||626||625|
|Measured Reach (mm)||463||460||450||485||454|
|Measured Head Tube Angle||66.3 High/ 65.8 Low||66||64.9 High /64.5 Low||64.5||66|
|Measured Seat Tube Angle||77.5 High/ 77 Low||74.7||75||77.5||74.5|
|Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm)||345 High/338 Low||347||344||350|
|Measured Wheelbase (mm)||1241||1235||1220||1279||1218|
|Measured Chain Stay Length (mm)||458||455||447||453||437|
|Warranty||Five Years on frame||Lifetime||Lifetime on frame||Two Years||Lifetime|
Our Analysis and Test Results
YT has been making electric mountain bikes for a few years now, starting with the mixed wheel e-enduro Decoy and adding the Decoy 29 in 2020. We tested the original Decoy a couple years ago and were quite impressed with the bike's downhill capabilities and high price to performance ratio, but its long, low, and slack geometry didn't make it the best all-arounder. The Decoy 29, however, rolls on 29-inch wheels front and rear and has a somewhat more conservative geometry better suited to trail and all-mountain riding. We spent weeks testing this bike and came away super impressed by its versatility and sky-high fun factor. It falls a little short of the competition for its smaller battery and corresponding reduction in range, but otherwise, we have few complaints and we feel it is an excellent value.
On the descents, the Decoy 29 Core 4 is the epitome of what a modern trail bike should be. Well-rounded, versatile, responsive, and capable enough to inspire the confidence to tackle any terrain. It may not be the absolute hardest-charging eMTB out there, but our testers were generally having too much fun riding to really care. Whether you're riding mellow flow trails or steep slabs and chunk, the Decoy 29's 145/150mm of rear/front wheel travel feels generous and balanced and the moderate modern geometry hits the sweet spot for trail riding. The Core 4 build we tested is also spectacular for the price, enhancing its downhill performance at every turn.
YT bills the Decoy 29 as a trail/all-mountain eMTB, and they gave it a modern, but not over the top, geometry that reflects their intentions for this bike. We tested a Large which falls in the middle of the five sizes, S-XXL, that YT offers. The Large frame has a recommended rider height range of 5'7" to 5'11.5", which positions it as more of a medium/large compared to many other manufacturers. We would suggest that riders take a good look at YT's geometry chart and sizing recommendations before settling on a size. That said, our large test bike measured with a 612mm effective top tube length and moderate 463mm reach. Chainstays are 458mm long across all sizes, and with a 65.8-degree head tube angle (low geometry setting) that creates a 1,241mm wheelbase (size large). There is also a flip-chip in the lower shock mount which steepens the head and seat tube angles by 0.5-degrees and raises the bottom bracket height by 7mm in the high setting.
While it isn't as long and slack as some other bikes on the market, this moderate geometry is one of the reasons the Decoy 29 excels as a trail bike. The head tube angle is slack enough to confidently attack some seriously steep and rough terrain, but not so slack that it feels out of place on mellower trails. Likewise, the 458mm chainstays and 1,241mm wheelbase, along with the weight of the bike, feels plenty stable at speed but doesn't feel too long at lower speeds or in tighter terrain. Handling is responsive, and it feels intuitive to thread this bike through technical sections or rail through some berms. The weight of the motor and battery feels well distributed, though at 49 lbs and 5 oz it is still quite noticeable, and doesn't impact the Decoy 29's handling other than making it feel super damp and planted. We found it surprisingly easy and comfortable to pop off features and jumps and get this bike in the air. We didn't find it to be the easiest to manual, however, but that goes for most bikes that weigh roughly 50 lbs.
With 145/150mm of front/rear travel, the Decoy 29 has enough squish to handle any terrain. YT has employed their Virtual 4 Link (V4L) suspension design to control the rear wheel travel, and we found it to feel excellent. During testing, we were particularly impressed by this design's performance over high-frequency chop and mid-sized chunk, it handled successive hits beautifully and seemingly levitated down rock gardens. The initial part of the stroke was also very supple, and it felt super composed on bigger hits with a nice progressive ramp-up to prevent any harsh bottom-outs. We discuss the Core 4 build in greater detail below, but the suspension, brakes, cockpit, wheels, and tires came together perfectly to provide an exceptionally balanced ride feel with fantastic traction and control.
Thanks to a powerful motor and a moderate modern geometry, the Decoy 29 is a comfortable and adept climber. We'd even go so far as to say that climbing on this bike is nearly as fun as riding it back downhill. The seated pedaling position is comfortable, handling is responsive, and it negotiates technical puzzles or powers up steep sections like the trail bike that it is.
With the powerful EP8 motor, climbing on the Decoy 29 is half the fun. With three output modes, you can choose the support level best suited to your terrain or preferences. Put it in Boost to mash up that fire road, Trail to rip up that singletrack, or Eco to get a better workout or save some battery. Obviously, the power is one of the primary reasons this bike is such a capable climber, but it isn't the only reason. With a nice, steep 77-degree seat tube angle and a moderate 464mm reach, it's also super comfortable. The rider is positioned right up above the cranks, power transfer feels direct and efficient, and the cockpit is roomy without feeling stretched out (size up if you like a longer reach). The 65.8-degree head tube angle (low setting) isn't too slack that steering feels vague, and handling is responsive through tight and technical terrain. Due to the 49+ lb weight of the bike and its overall length, it can still be a handful in super tight switchbacks, but that's to be expected. Unlike the mixed wheel Decoy we tested previously, we didn't find pedal strikes to be an issue, even when riding in the low geometry setting.
While a powerful pedal assist motor definitely decreases the importance of a supportive pedaling platform, our testers were still quite impressed by the performance of YT's V4L design. With the shock's compression damping switch in the open setting, it feels nice and calm while maintaining excellent traction and taking the edge off bumps in the trail. Out of the saddle, there is a bit more suspension movement, but not enough that we ever found ourselves reaching for the little blue switch save for a few extended paved or fire road grinds. As for the components, the XT drivetrain performed flawlessly as expected, the Minion DHR II provided loads of climbing traction, and the SDG Bel-Air 3.0 saddle quickly became one of our new favorites.
Shimano's newer EP8 motor comes on all models of Decoy 29, and we found it to be an improvement compared to the older E8000 system. In fact, this motor boasts a smaller size, lighter weight, and higher torque than its predecessor, plus it has less drag and is quieter to boot. We also found power delivery to be improved with virtually no lag when you press on the pedals, and three levels of customizable pedal assistance so you can dial it in to your preferences. There is a minor rattling noise that comes from the motor on the descents, but that seems typical of the EP8 system.
The Shimano EP8 motor has a claimed 85Nm of torque, right up there with the most powerful eMTB motors on the market. It has a nominal power output of 250W with a maximum output of 500W. On the trail, that translates into a very robust feeling motor with plenty of power on tap. When you start pedaling, assistance comes on smoothly with virtually no lag and it shuts off almost immediately when the pedals stop turning. The three levels of pedal assistance, Eco, Trail, and Boost, provide a great range of support for your pedaling efforts. Shifts between support modes also feel quite smooth and there is no jerkiness or abruptness when you start or stop pedaling. Like any Class 1 eMTB, power shuts off when you reach the 20 mph speed limit, but again, it doesn't feel abrupt or like you're hitting a wall, but you'll absolutely notice when it happens. The motor is also notably quieter than its predecessor. Sure, there is still some motor noise, perhaps a touch louder than the newest Specialized/Brose motor, but it is far from obnoxious. The reduced drag is also worthy of mention, and we found the Decoy 29 to pedal without motor assistance as well or better than any other 50 lb eMTB we've ridden.
We rode primarily in the bike's default settings and found them to work well for our trails,
For some eMTB riders, range is one of the most important aspects of a bike's performance. These days, many electric mountain bikes are coming with larger capacity 630-700Wh batteries, so it may be a little disconcerting to some that the Decoy 29 only has a 540Wh battery. While a smaller battery will inherently result in a shorter distance range, we were still quite impressed by the YT's performance in our standardized range testing and while out on real-world trail rides. In fact, we took our test bike out for numerous rides over 25 miles in length with around 4,000 feet of climbing (riding mostly in trail mode with a little boost) and always finished with battery to spare.
In our standardized range test doing laps on a steep paved road, we rode the Decoy 29 Core 4 for 23.2 miles and 5,083 vertical feet riding in Boost mode with moderate input from the rider. While that is a bit shy of the top performers in our range testing, it didn't come as too much of a surprise given the 540Wh battery which is 90-140Wh less than the top-ranked competitors. Interestingly, the Decoy 29 went 4 miles farther than the mixed-wheel size Decoy we previously tested with the same size battery. The difference between the two is the EP8 motor that comes on the new Decoy models versus the older E8000 motor. This leads us to believe that the new motor system works more efficiently than its predecessor. All that said, riders who prioritize distance range may be better off looking into models with larger batteries, but we think the majority of eMTB riders will be satisfied with the Decoy 29. As of right now, YT only has a 540Wh battery option, you can buy an additional battery ($699 when they are in stock) directly from YT to carry along with you for huge rides.
Having the Shimano EP8 motor, the Decoy 29 Core 4 naturally also comes with Shimano controls, and YT chose the relatively standard E7000 handlebar-mounted controls and display for the Decoy 29. This system is one of the best on the market, with good ergonomics and an easy-to-read display that can show a variety of information at a glance. The bike can also be synced to the Shimano E-Tube app to customize settings and dial the motor system in to your exact preferences. Charging the battery is straightforward, and it can be removed for charging on or off the bike.
The bike's power button is stealthily hidden on the underside of the top tube. While this doesn't completely disguise the fact that it's an e-bike, this power button location does make it a little more subtle than some other models. Pressing the power button performs the obvious task of turning the power to the system on and off. The E7000 controls are mounted on the handlebar next to the left grip. This simple unit has great ergonomics and is very easy to reach with the thumb while riding. With just two buttons, their use is quite intuitive. The top button shifts up through the motor's 3 output settings, and the bottom button shifts down. Pressing and holding the bottom button also engages the bike's walk mode to propel it forward at a walking pace.
The monochrome Shimano E7000 display is attached to the handlebar and positioned just right of the stem in an easy-to-see location. This small digital screen displays a variety of information with numerous data pages that can be switched by pressing the button on the bottom of the unit. We found the default/start-up page to be the most useful while riding, showing current speed, pedal-assist setting, and remaining battery charge. Battery life is displayed as a 5 bars, each of which represent 20%, which works fine, but we'd love to have it shown as a more accurate numerical percentage. Shimano has also developed the E-Tube app, and you can connect via Bluetooth to customize your pedal assist settings. You can adjust the assist character, maximum torque, and assist start (mild to quick) of each of the three pedal assist support modes, Eco, Trail, and Boost, to dial it in to your exact preferences. Additionally, there are two profiles in the assist customize screen, so you can easily switch back and forth between them. The app is also useful for updating the system's firmware and troubleshooting error codes.
The Decoy 29 Core 4 comes equipped with the SMP YT custom 540Wh battery that is cleanly integrated into the downtube of the frame. It is held in the frame with 2 long bolts, a lot like thru-axles, that secure it and prevent it from rattling. The battery can easily be removed from the frame using a 5mm allen key, so charging can be done on or off the bike, and you can potentially purchase an extra battery to bring with you and swap out for some seriously long adventure rides. The charging port is on the underside of the downtube and it is covered with a large rubber cover to keep dust, debris, and water out. While the charging port isn't in the most convenient location, we found it to be relatively easy to line up and orient the plug's head for charging.
YT's consumer-direct sales model allows them to beat most mainstream brands on price, and that is very evident when looking at the build of the Decoy 29 Core 4. Not only does this bike come with a sleek and streamlined carbon frame, but it's decked out with very nice components that really enhance all aspects of its on-trail performance. Bear in mind that there are also 2 less expensive build kits available, both of which are also excellent values. The Decoy 29 Core 4 comes in either Storm Trooper White (tested) or Black Magic and is offered in 5 frame sizes, S-XXL. This bike also comes mostly assembled with only a few easy steps remaining to get it ride ready. YT also includes slick packaging, tools, and assembly instructions so you can easily finish the task yourself.
The most obvious and eye-catching highlight of the Core 4 build is the Fox Factory suspension package. YT chose a Fox 36 Float Factory E-Bike+ fork to handle the 150mm of front wheel travel. It comes with the Grip2 damper that offers high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustments, ample stiffness, and blinged-out Kashima-coated stanchions. The fork on our test bike felt absolutely amazing. A Fox Float DPS Factory shock is in charge of the 145mm of rear-wheel travel. It also has the fancy Kashima coating, a 3-position compression damping switch, and adjustable rebound.
At just over 49 lbs, our large Decoy 29 Core 4 is quite heavy and capable of carrying some serious speed. YT smartly chose the powerful SRAM Code RSC brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear to slow and stop this beast of a bike. The Code RSC brakes and large rotors provide ample stopping power and good modulation, as well as adjustable bite point and reach. Interestingly, YT did a little mix and match on the Core 4, and it comes equipped with the trusty Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain. XT is among the most reliable and high-performing drivetrains you can get, and it shifts well under power and provides a massive range with the 10-51 tooth cassette. They also included an e13 chain guide to help prevent unwanted chain drops when you're hurtling through chunky rock gardens.
YT hit the mark once again with the wheels and tires on the Decoy 29 Core 4. It rolls on a set of Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy eMTB wheels built around Industry Nine 1:1 hubs. The rims have a 31.5mm inner rim width to pair well with modern tires, and we found them to have a comfortable ride quality. The freehub on the 1:1 hubs has 4-degrees between engagement points which helps to give the bike a refined and quick feel. On the back of the bike, a Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4 WT with the burlier EXO+ casing provides excellent braking, pedaling, and cornering traction. Up front, a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT with the EXO casing makes for predictable handling and confidence-inspiring cornering and braking traction.
For the cockpit, YT chose a 780mm wide Renthal FatBar 35 with 30mm of rise clamped to a 50mm Renthal Apex 35 stem. This combo provides a nice, sturdy front end for responsive handling and plenty of leverage for muscling this heavy bike around. While it is stiff and responsive, the alloy FatBar does have a bit of compliance to help take the edge off of trail feedback and keep the hands feeling fresh. At the rear of the bike, YT has spec'd their own Postman dropper. The dropper comes in varying lengths depending on frame size, with a 150mm on our size large. The Postman dropper isn't necessarily flashy, but we found it work well and it gave us nothing to complain about. A YT branded SDG Bel-Air 3.0 with Lux-Alloy rails rounds out the cockpit components, and we quickly grew to love this comfortable and supportive saddle.
While the retail price of the Decoy 29 Core 4 is no small potatoes, we feel this bike is an excellent value. Not only is it an absolute blast to ride, but it comes equipped with a build that would cost significantly more from a mainstream brand. For example, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp costs the same but comes with an aluminum frame, downgraded suspension components, and a Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes. Additionally, YT makes two less expensive options, the Core 3 and Core 2, both of which cost less but still come with fantastic builds for their respective price points. We feel you get more for money with the Decoy 29.
The Decoy 29 Core 4 is an excellent e-MTB for trail and all-mountain riding. This bike combines 145/150mm of travel, a moderate modern geometry, and a stellar build kit to create a super versatile and highly capable bike that is almost too much fun to ride. It falls a bit short of the competition for its shorter range, but that is honestly our only complaint about this otherwise outstanding bike. Compared to mainstream brands, it's also a great value with a price to performance and build kit ratio that can't be touched. This bike truly is fantastic.=
The Core 4 is the most expensive of the 3 Decoy 29 builds offered by YT. While its price is certainly on the higher side, we feel you get more bang for your buck than with most other bikes offered by mainstream brands. The 2 other models, the Core 3 and Core 2, have the same frame, wheels/tires, motor, and battery, but they cost less and still come ready for action with quality build kits.
The Decoy 29 Core 3 sits in the middle of the range with a retail price of $6,499. It comes with Fox Performance Elite suspension components, a Shimano SLX drivetrain, SRAM Code R brakes, and an e13 handlebar and stem combo. We think this bike is an excellent value.
The least expensive option is the Decoy 29 Core 2 which goes for $5,499. It comes with a RockShox Yari RC fork, RockShox Deluxe Select shock, Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Code R brakes. We would argue that this is one of the best values for a ripping eMTB you can find.YT also makes the Decoy which is billed as an e-enduro bike. It comes with mullet wheels, 29" in front and 27.5" in the back, and has more of a focus on ripping descents than the Decoy 29 we tested. It also comes in three builds ranging in price from $5,999 to $7,999.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens