When we first rode YT’s Capra CF Comp 1 last year it totally blindsided us. We’d heard rumours of a new ultra value, direct sell enduro bike from the German DH and dirt jump specialists, leaving us intrigued.
Opening the Capra CF Comp 1's box revealed a ridiculous level of SRAM, Race Face and RockShox based spec for the price, but it was the incredible, immediately accessible performance that totally blew us away. Within seconds of clipping in for a quick lunchtime set up run it was sucking up landings and railing berms like we’d spent days getting it dialled.
Even with a ton of ‘we’ll set that properly in a minute’ sag, it charged climbs with super supportive damping underlining rock solid pedalling. Pushing the envelope on descents felt like the most straightforward and safest thing in the world and within ten minutes we’d burnt a whole set of fastest times into trails we’d been riding for a decade. By the end of the day it had caused similar carnage on an epic cross country ride and an awed response from every reviewer we knew.
Frame and equipment: high-falutin' selection that's the opposite of set and forget
All this meant the arrival of a second Capra almost 12 months later was a really significant event (a third, the alloy-framed Capra AL 1 has also passed through our reviewers' hands) . Especially as the Pro Race version we unboxed has a perfect enduro racing kit list.
Where we’d had forgiving but slightly slow rolling Maxxis High Roller treads on decent Race Face wheels before, we now had the insane front grip, rear slip rubber and perfect stiffness, smoothness pitch of Mavic’s CrossMax Enduro WTS Wheel-Tyre combo system. Those wheels were now connected to the bike not with user friendly get-on-and-go Rock Shox dampers, but cutting edge kit from French race suspension legend BOS.
Super stiff 780mm wide Renthal carbon bars are paired to a neat CNC stem
The RockShox equipped CF Comp is really hard to set up badly and will give you at least 90 percent of the potential of the outstanding Capra chassis 90 percent of the time. The Pro Race is a very different beast though and while it can produce another few increments of speed when set up right, there’s also more potential to get it wrong and actually go slower.
For a start, the BOS suspension is notoriously hard to ‘car park tune’. The sophisticated high and low speed compression and rebound damping can deliver ultra composed control when most other systems are at their ragged edge.
However the adjustment is so sensitive it’s almost unnoticeable until you’re pushing hard enough to hit the point it makes a difference. Even the compression adjusting ‘climb’ switch on the side of the shock is so subtle we weren’t always sure we had it in the right place.
The neatly sculpted carbon frame is stiff and light
Both ends of the bike need tuning differently too. We found ourselves continually dropping fork pressure so it settled further into the sag and then adding high and low speed damping for corner stabilising support. In contrast we were running much higher rear shock pressures than expected for a progressive feel but backed the compression damping right off to keep it responsive.
Even the tyres – particularly the rear – need riding in an almost caricature fashion. You need to swap a skim of brake belay while you tip in for a full on base jump of commitment as you slam the tips of the Sensus grips onto the floor to get the shoulder knobs biting.
Expect the SRAM Guide brakes to feel a bit weaker than they normally do and the chain tamed X01 gears to chatter more too. Not because they’re sub standard, but because when you get this bike dialled it’s a whole new level of high definition, heart in mouth, pencil sharpener sphincter fast.
Ride and handling: one of the very best enduro bikes – but not for everyone
With all these factors in mind, it was probably inevitable that repeating the first double drop, flick-flack berm sequence that had kick started the Capra legend was a flailing failure of unbalanced shock response and corrupted corner lines. The previously perfect rear end now wallowed and squatted through the Kirk shock.
The Deville fork stuttered and stammered through the super stiff Renthal bars and immaculately machined stem and while the numbers were all right on paper we couldn’t quite seem to get the business end into the right place on the trail. What we hoped would be a record setting hot lap rapidly degraded into a frustrating multi stop tyre and shock tweaking stumble… and it was obviously time to start again.
The BOS Kirk damper takes time to set up but gives incredible performance from 170mm of travel
The truth is – borne out by subsequent review of the opening segment times – is that the Capra was still going really bloody quickly. After our last experience though we had expected instant perfection from a bike we’d already said was one of the best in the world.
By the time we’d finished testing we had the personal Strava stats to back that up. But, and it’s a big but, it’s not for everyone.
The key is to take the name seriously. While the bike branding world is awash with ‘Pro’ and ‘Race’ versions of everything from socks to superbikes, YT isn't kidding when it applies both words to this version of the Capra.
Get this baby tweaked and you won't be slowing down any time soon…
To reiterate, this is one of the best enduro mountain bikes – if not the best – available right now. The slack, low, beautifully damped yet decisively accurate mostly carbon chassis can hang with full on DH bikes all but the most mental trails.
At just over 13kg with impeccable pedalling manners it sprints and climbs like a trail bike and still feels fresh after a full day in the big hills. The direct sell pricing beats anything else hands down and the chosen specs are generally spot on for every model, which means waiting for availability and DIY set up are the only downsides.
The big question is which Capra to buy. The Pro Race undoubtedly has the potential to be the fastest option, especially for flat out speed freaks who want a stiff, maximum support bike feel for uncompromising full gas riding. You’ll need to be equally skilled at setting up the BOS suspension and exploiting the tyres to make the extra investment not just worthwhile but stop them actually reducing your confidence and enjoyment though.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.