YT Decoy CF Pro Review
Cons: Expensive, sluggish handling at times, came setup with tubes in tires
Manufacturer: YT Industries
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For 2020, YT has expanded their e-bike lineup. They make two models of the Decoy, the Pro Race and the Comp that have the same frame, geometry, and mixed wheel sizes as the model we tested. They also make two models that are aimed at the all-mountain/trail market that have 29-inch wheels front and rear. The Decoy Pro 29 and Decoy Base 29 have a little less travel and slightly more conservative geometry compared to its enduro-oriented sibling. March 2020
YT is a consumer-direct mountain bike brand that recently entered the e-bike market with three models of the Decoy. YT is one of a few brands putting out bikes that fall into the E-Enduro category, catering to aggressive downhill riders. This long travel bike has a modern geometry, mixed wheel sizes, and a quality component specification that lends itself well to crushing descents. It can't quite match the versatility of our favorite eMTBs, but it charges on the descents harder than most.
The Decoy CF Pro comes with the Shimano Steps E8000 motor system and Shimano's E7000 shifter and display. The controls are intuitive and the display is located by the stem in an easy to see location. These are the same controls that we've used on other bikes equipped with the Steps E8000 motor system and they are relatively intuitive, easy to reach, and the digital display is a nice touch.
The Decoy's power button is hidden from view on the underside of the top tube. There is a large button that turns the bike on and off with an affirming click when you press it. It isn't exactly obvious where the power button is at first glance, but after you've turned the bike on once you'll never forget. Once the power is on, you can shift through the Decoy's power output settings with the small E7000 shifter that is located right next to the left grip on the handlebar. Pressing the top or bottom button shifts you up or down through the modes; Off, Eco, Trail, and Boost. Ergonomically speaking, the controls are pretty good. It's easy to reach your thumb over and press the buttons on the shifter. The small shifter also leaves room for the dropper post's lever to be mounted below it in a natural feeling location that is easy to reach with your thumb.
The E7000 display is a small monochrome digital screen that is mounted next to the stem and shows your current speed, output setting, and remaining battery. This location makes it relatively easy to see while riding, especially compared to the all-in-one displays that make you look over to the side. While the location of the display is convenient, the screen is small and not very easy to read while riding, plus the info that is displayed the largest is your current speed. Sure, it can be nice to know what speed you're traveling, but we feel that the output setting and remaining battery life are the most important bits of information and they are more challenging to read when moving.
The Decoy comes with a charging unit that gets plugged into the charging port on the underside of the downtube. This charging port is concealed with a rubber gasket-like cover. This cover presented us with one of the biggest challenges while testing, as it takes a fair amount of fiddling to get it back into place perfectly. Its location on the downtube is also prone to getting splashed with water and debris while riding, so you'll want to make sure it's closed properly or risk getting all kinds of dirt in there. The charging cord and port have a solid connection while charging.
The Decoy is one of the new breed of E-Enduro bikes that have the angles and travel numbers to ride rowdy terrain aggressively. This is easily one of the hardest charging e-bikes we've ridden on the descents. The generous 160/165mm of front/rear-wheel travel and modern slack but not excessively long geometry make this bike especially stable and capable when the going gets rough. We wouldn't exactly call it quick or agile, this bike feels planted and ground-hugging yet still feels playful enough to pop off obstacles in the trail.
With a 1200mm wheelbase and a 435mm reach in the size medium we tested, the Decoy isn't an especially long bike by today's standards. The reach is roomy enough without feeling long, and there doesn't seem to be any sacrifice of stability due to the shorter length of the wheelbase. The long-ish 443mm chainstays may have something to do with its unflinching stability as does the slack 65-degree head tube angle. The Decoy also has a pretty low bottom bracket, especially in the low setting, and it gets even lower when its weighted and you settle into the bike's sag. The weight on this bike is also pretty low, and when you dive into a bermed corner it feels like its on rails. When you put the bike in the high flip-chip setting it steepens the head and seat tube angles by 0.5-degrees and raises the bottom bracket height by 7mm. The high setting gives this bike a bit sharper handling and crank clearance when riding technical terrain.
The Decoy begs to be ridden fast and it gets up to speed quickly thanks to the heavy weight, 29-inch front wheel, and cushy suspension. YT's V4L, Virtual 4-Link, suspension design feels very active with great small bump compliance and enough progressivity to handle big hits well. The Fox 36 fork and DPX2 rear shock are supple and make small bumps disappear while taking big hits in stride. This suspension package is plenty capable of handling whatever comes down the trail and is quite tuneable to adjust it to your preferences. The mixed wheel sizes, or mullet configuration, is an interesting choice and speaks to the hard-charging intentions of the Decoy. The 29-inch front wheel sports a 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF and it easily rolls over obstacles in the trail and gives loads of confidence when you lean this bike over in a turn. The 27.5-inch rear wheel has a wider rim and 2.8" Maxxis Minion DHR II mounted to it. This massive tire has an enormous contact patch, loads of air volume, and an aggressive tread that claws into all dirt surfaces and provides loads of braking traction. Speaking of brakes, the SRAM Code RS with 200mm rotors work very well for slowing this heavyweight and fast bicycle. The cockpit is also well-appointed with a 35mm clamp Renthal 800mm handlebar and 40mm stem combo that provides precise steering and is burly enough for pushing this beast of a bike around.
Thanks to the wealth of power on tap from the Shimano Steps pedal-assist drive unit, the Decoy has respectable climbing abilities. It seems to us that downhill performance was more of a priority in the design of the Decoy, though it will get you back up the hill to smash more descents with little to complain about. It's not quite as natural feeling or spirited of a climber as come of the other bikes in this review, but it won't hold you back too much either. You can rip this bike up just about any incline, though the low bottom bracket and super cush rear suspension can make it a little awkward in step-y technical terrain.
The Decoy's geometry puts you in a nice comfortable position with a reach that isn't too stretched out and a steep effective seat tube angle of 76-degrees in the low setting. The wheelbase isn't especially long at 1200mm, keeping the turning radius and maneuverability respectable. That said, the active rear suspension and sag, along with the larger front wheel and tall front end can make the steering while climbing feel somewhat vague and wander-y, especially when the trails get steep.
The small rear wheel combined with the low bottom bracket height of the Decoy make your feet dangerously close to the ground when you're pedaling, especially in the low geometry setting when you're settled into the sag of the rear suspension. To compensate for this, YT has spec'd 165mm cranks, and even then our testers found themselves making contact with rocks and other obstacles when navigating tight and technical terrain while climbing. You've really got to pay attention and time your pedal strokes to avoid pedal strikes. This was improved by using the compression damping/climbing switch on the rear shock, but it was still way easier to pedal strike on the Decoy than on the Turbo Levo, for example. The high geometry setting raises the bottom bracket a bit and helps reduce pedal strikes somewhat, though it is still an issue.
As with all e-bikes, the pedal-assist is the biggest benefit to the climbing performance of the Decoy. There's more than enough power to blast your way up virtually any trail, and you can switch between the output modes to achieve the workout you want. It also had a relatively smooth cutoff of power that wasn't especially abrupt or awkward when climbing. The massive 2.8-inch wide Maxxis Minion DHR II on the rear of the bike also provides amazing amounts of traction thanks to the aggressive tread pattern and huge contact patch.
Shimano's Steps E8000 motor system is one of the most common on the market and we've become accustomed to its consistent and predictable power output. It's not the most powerful pedal assist drive system, though it works well and never really feels underpowered, sluggish, or erratic in its delivery. The three output modes, Eco, Trail, and Boost, offer a good range of pedal assistance so you can choose the assistance level that suits your needs or preferences. The output settings can also be adjusted through the Shimano E-Tube app to further dial them in to your preferences. YT claims a power output of 250W with up to 70Nm of torque which is on par with most other models on the market.
The power of the E8000 Steps drive system comes on right away when you start pedaling. We didn't notice or experience any lag or jerkiness in the delivery. Acceleration feels about on par with the majority of other bikes in this review, although the Bulls and the Specialized Levo felt slightly quicker overall. Shifting between the output modes while under power had a smooth feel. We found the top pedal-assist speed of the Decoy to be right around 19mph. Once we hit that speed we could feel the motor cut out and stop providing assistance until we dropped back down to a lower speed. Due to the weight of Decoy, it was hard to get it going much faster than 19 mph, though you could get it above 20 with some serious effort in the flats. When you stop pedaling, the power cutoff isn't notably abrupt, it feels relatively natural and doesn't leave you hanging during a technical section of climbing.
It is important to note that when you are powering up the Decoy, or any bike with the Shimano Steps drive unit, you can't have any pressure on the pedals. If you are pressing on the pedals at all during the power-up it will result in an error code and it won't function properly until you power it down and start it over again with no pressure on the pedals. We experienced this issue during testing on more than one occasion, though it is an easy fix once you know what the problem is.
YT has developed their own battery that they call the SMP YT Custom. This is a removable battery that is cleanly integrated into the downtube of the frame and has a 540Wh storage capacity. This is slightly more storage capacity than the more standard 504Wh batteries found on the majority of e-bikes. More battery storage should correlate to more distance range, and we found that the Decoy has a very respectable range in our testing, though it was roughly the same as several of the bikes we tested that have 36Wh less of battery capacity. On our steep test hill, we were able to ride the Decoy for 19.1 miles and 4,039 vertical feet while riding it in the Boost setting. These numbers are competitive with the best we've tested, and you can obviously ride this bike much farther than that if using it in the Eco or Trail modes. This range is respectable and far from the worst we've tested.
The CF Pro build of the YT Decoy is quite stellar. Everything on this bike is dialed and matches the downhill smashing intentions of this long travel e-bike. Plush suspension, powerful brakes, and short cranks have been spec'd and help give this bike a stable and planted feel, ample stopping power, and less likelihood of smashing your pedals despite the low bottom bracket height.
The Fox suspension package on the CF Pro is quite impressive and gives the bike its especially plush and ground-hugging feel. It's easy to match the feel front and rear for a balanced ride. The Fox 36 Float Performance E is burly and designed specifically for use with heavy e-bikes. It has 36mm stanchions, a stout chassis, and handles the 160mm of front wheel travel with a highly tuneable and plush yet sturdy feel. The Fox DPX2 Performance Elite rear shock Is a mid-range rear shock with a black stanchion coating, rebound adjustment, and a three-position compression damping/climbing switch. This shock offers a decent amount of tunability, felt nice and smooth in its travel, and could handle the heavy weight of this bike with no issues.
YT has thoughtfully equipped the Decoy with cockpit components that match its downhill smashing capabilities. They chose an 800mm Renthal Fatbar 35 matched with a stubby 40mm Renthal Apex Stem. This is a stiff setup that is plenty wide and provides precise steering for muscling this heavy bike around. The ODI grips attached to the bars are plenty comfortable. The SDG Tellis dropper seat post is a relatively common OEM spec on bikes these days. The medium through XL frame sizes come with a 150mm travel length while small frames get 125mm and XXL come with 170mm. The Tellis isn't the smoothest post we've used, but we've never experienced any issues with one while testing. On top of the seat post is an SDG Radar saddle. It's a comfortable enough saddle, though we'd likely switch it out for something else if we were keeping the Decoy for ourselves.
YT chose an 11-speed Shimano XT drivetrain for the Decoy. This includes Shimano XT shifters and cranks, although the cassette is an E*Thirteen TRS Plus with a wide range 9-46 tooth cassette. Shimano's shifting is generally quite good, although it felt a bit harsher than usual with the E*Thirteen cassette instead of Shimano. YT has spec'd 165mm cranks which is good considering how low bottom bracket is when the suspension is sagged to 30%. Even with the short cranks, pedal strikes were somewhat common when climbing in technical terrain. The SRAM Code RS brakes with 200mm rotors worked impressively well and are the right choice for controlling the speed of this heavy and fast e-bike. These brakes give you the confidence and control to get this bike up to speed.
The YT Decoy is one of many new bikes with mixed wheel sizes. Known in the industry as mullet-bikes, they are business up front and party in the back with a 29-inch front wheel and tire paired with a 27.5-inch rear tire. In this case, the Decoy has an E*Thirteen E*Spec Plus wheelset with E*Thirteen hubs. The 27.5-inch rear wheel has a 36mm internal rim width to pair well with the plus-sized 2.8" Maxxis Minion DHR II rear tire. The 29-inch front wheel has a 31mm internal width and a 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF mounted to it. We've tested similar setups on other bikes and it works quite well. This tire combo is excellent and provides great traction and we can't complain about the wheels. Our test bike did, however, come setup with tubes in the tires, adding additional weight and increasing the likelihood of flats. It would be preferred if YT shipped the Decoy set up tubeless.
At $5,999 we feel the YT Decoy represents a pretty average value. It's one of the most expensive models we've tested, though the component specification is significantly better than any of the other bikes in this review thanks to YT's direct sales model. Due to the somewhat less versatile performance of the Decoy, we feel it it will be a better value to the rider seeking a plush long-travel enduro-style shred machine. They also offer a couple more builds that range in price from $4,999 up to $6,999.
The Decoy CF Pro is a quality e-MTB from YT that has a serious preference for smashing the descents. Aggressive riders tackling enduro-style terrain will be the best fit for this bike, as it excels when speeds increase of the terrain gets steep and rowdy. The modern geometry, mixed wheel sizes, and quality component specification all combine to make it aggressive and hard-charging when gravity takes over. It's far from the most versatile or well-rounded option, but thanks to the quality Shimano Steps pedal-assist drive unit it is a respectable climber. If you're an aggressive rider looking for an eMTB to dominate the descents we feel the Decoy is a good option to consider.
Other Versions and Accesories
YT makes 3 versions of the Decoy including the middle of the line CF Pro we tested.
The entry-level CF Base model retails for $4,999. The geometry and travel numbers are exactly the same, but the frame features the same carbon fiber front triangle paired with an alloy rear triangle. The suspension consists of a RockShox Yari RC fork and a RockShox Deluxe R rear shock. The drivetrain is Shimano's SLX 11-speed and it comes with DT Swiss H1900 Spline wheels.The top of the line Decoy CF Pro Race is the spendiest option at $6,999. This model comes fully tricked out with Fox Factory suspension with shiny gold Kashima coated stanchions. The drivetrain gets an upgrade to Shimano's electronic Di2 XT 11-speed that integrates into the Shimano Steps display. The brakes are also upgraded to the SRAM Code RSC and the wheels are E*Thirteen's E*Spec Race carbon.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara