Matt Wragg's YT Decoy 29
Why This Bike?
This bike is like a big, shaggy dog. I’m not sure YT’s marketing department will be too excited about that description, but it works for me. Its on-trail manners lean towards smash rather than finesse, it’s always ready to go and it always puts a smile on my face.
I’m not going to go down the “Why do I ride my eMTB most?” line here. I enjoy it. What more do you need to know? The Decoy 29 has been in my stable since last April, and I have notched up around 1,500km in that time - further than I have ridden any of my MTBs in a year during the past decade.
• Intended use: riding
• Travel: 155mm rear / 160mm fork
• Wheel size: 29"
• Reach: 462mm
• 65° head angle, 458mm chainstays
First off, I wanted a full 29. Mullet bikes are probably great, and in the name of curiosity I have the bits to try this as a mullet at some point, but I want my main wheels all in 29-inch.
Since 27.5" wheels and Boost hubs started infiltrating the market in 2014 or so my parts store has been in chaos. It is only in the last year or so I have got back to a point where all of my wife's and my bikes finally run the same axle diameter, axle width, and rim diameters again. When I break something, I want to grab a wheel off another bike and keep riding, not spend my life trying to marry one part to another from the ever-expanding web of ‘standards’. I want to pop the front tire on the back when it starts to wear down. So, 29.Geometry
Surprisingly for a brand with such a wild image, the Decoy is a fairly moderate bike. This large has a stated 462mm reach, which is short by today's standards, especially for a large, but at 5'9' / 1.75m it fits me so well. I have run bikes from 409-485mm reaches in the last few years and this is a sweet spot for me.
Beyond that, I knew the chainstays were suitably long. I spent the summer on a 435mm-chainstayed enduro bike and spent the entire time bitching about it. I wouldn’t want to go below a 440mm chainstay on any of my bikes anymore, and I still don’t understand the people who claim not to be able to manual these bikes. It was only looking through the geometry charts for this article that I discovered that this bike has a 458mm chainstay, some 8mm longer than I expected. Yet thanks to the bar height and riding position (which YT do a great job of out of the box), it has always popped quite pleasingly and we don't want for tight corners here in the South of France.
It has a head angle. I think it’s 65-ish, but I honestly don’t care. The BB was nice and low out of the box, with maybe one or two too many pedal strikes in the low setting. It definitely has a seattube angle and all the other measurements, but the fact is that the bike just feels like it fits me really well. What About the Motor and Battery?
The bike runs on the older Shimano E8000 motor and a 540Wh custom battery, which is just fine. Yes, the EP8 and the Bosch G4 are newer, sexier motors, but if you’re riding for yourself, how much does that matter? My wife has been running an EP8-equipped bike and you can definitely see the gains running side-by-side. That said, I don’t think it’s worth changing the bike just for the newer motor, the E8000 is still a decent bit of kit.
The advantage this bike has over Shimano-powered bikes with standard batteries is the firmware. On standard bikes, Shimano’s firmware holds onto the last 20% of the battery, I believe to save battery to power lights. YT has a far more focused view of how this bike will be ridden and strip this out. This means you get a fair bit more range than on a stock 504Wh Shimano battery. Weighing 70kg, I can get around 1,000m climbing in Boost, plenty for an hour clearing my head after work. If I drop the power down a little, around 1,500m is doable in Trail, enough for 2-3 hours of fun.
Up front is a 160mm Fox 38 with a GRIP2 damper, and a Marzocchi CR2 coil with a 400lb spring handles the rear end.Suspension
For the first six months with this bike, I ran the stock suspension, which only changed when my wife was no longer using the Marzocchi CR2 coil I bought her for our roadtrip
. It is a 65mm stroke shock, rather than the 60mm-stroke stock DPX2, which bumps the travel to somewhere around the 155mm mark (although don’t expect YT to be too happy you did this if you need to warranty your bike).
Having spent several years trying to get my bikes perfect, this shock was a bit of a departure for me. Arriving with a generic tune, it went on with the spring my wife was running (400lb) and I fiddled with the preload and LSC a little. It just works. When I took the bike to a DH track, I could start to see the edges. But for everyday riding around where we live, I get comfort and can still throw the bike around when I want to. It may not be tuned to win an EWS, but I don't need that level of performance to have fun. I should probably buy a fancier spring for it, I may even give a progressive-wound spring a try as the frame is a shade less progressive than I would prefer with the coil. We’ll see.
The longer-stroke shock changed the balance of the bike and the stock 150mm 36 started to feel a little under-gunned. I planned to pop a 160mm air shaft in there, but Fed Ex managed to lose it somewhere between the UK and here. Fortunately, as you do, I had a 160mm 38 going spare, so that went on instead. From the box the bike came with a big 10mm+ topcap/spacer, so to keep the cockpit constant for climbing I took that out and slammed the stem.
The 38 is a very, very impressive fork in this Factory GRIP2 guise, as my colleagues have said many times
, but I can’t help thinking that I don’t need that much fork. The stock 36 was stiff enough for my 70kg weight, and I don’t think another 10mm of travel will change that. If this were a regular bike I would probably keep the 38 on, but for my eMTB, I keep coming back to the fact that lower weight = more range, ie. more fun, although maybe having a big, impractical fork is exactly how this bike should be built...
The bike rolls on a set of DT Swiss HX1501 wheels shod with Schwalbe Magic Mary and Big Betty, both in a SuperGravity casing.Wheels and Tires
When I wrote about living with an eMTB long-term
, back in 2017, I described wheels as “semi-disposable.” DT Swiss have proved me wrong on that front. The HX1501s on this bike run on utterly dependable 240 hubs and a reinforced version of the rim that won our product of the year
last year. In honesty, I’m not sure how many bikes these wheels have been on - it is certainly the second bike they have graced, it could well be more.
Switching rear tires from a Schwalbe Eddy Current to the Big Betty was a revelation last year. Maybe the Eddy Current is ahead of its time, but for me, the rubber is too hard, even if their life is fantastic. The Big Betty looks similar enough, but uses a slightly softer rubber that brakes well, breaks away predictably, and still lasts impressively - I got around 1,200 km from my first rear tire this year. On the front is an ever-dependable Magic Mary. Both are in SuperGravity casing as I firmly believe that the fastest tire is rarely the lightest, but the one with air still inside it.
Inside is an Effetto Mariposa tire saver strip and their Vegelatex fluid. After interviewing Nico Vouilloz last year about his bike setup, I decided to give the low pressures he runs a go - I’m down to 19 psi up front and 21 psi in the back. Friends I rode with were freaked out by such low pressures, but I think they could be pushed further. I’m not the most assiduous at checking tire pressures before a ride, so I have likely ridden at even lower pressures. I mostly ride without tubes or a pump, and the only times I have had to limp home are when I have let the pressures drop too far or the sealant has gone off, usually after about 6 months of neglect.
Brakes are an XTR/XT 4-piston combo, pedals are XT, contact points are Ergon and a Renthal cockpit finishes the bike off.Other Parts
The XTR/XT 4 piston brake combo came about after a minor mishap with the stock Codes, but it has been interesting to run SRAM and Shimano back-to-back after several years on Formula. Shimano handle the rest of the transmission - the bike arrived with a full XT group - although when the derailleur met a rock I popped a Deore one on there instead. Shimano also provides the pedals with these XTs. Originally I was running the current generation of pedal on this bike, but I went steaming into another large rock with them and these older pedals were waiting in the parts box.
Cockpit is a Renthal Fatbar Carbon (780mm/30mm) and Apex stem (40mm). In the future, I am debating as to which Renthal bar I would run. In the past, the Fatbar was perfect for me, but they upped it to 800mm in the last few years. That means that when I cut it back to 780mm it is a touch stiffer than the previous generation. The dilemma is whether to sacrifice another 20mm of width to go with the 760mm Fatbar Lite, which should be more comfortable and a touch lighter.
Ergon provides the contact points. This carbon-railed Team SM saddle is another item that has been with me through multiple bikes. Grips are their GD1s, not the current version. I actually have a box of the newer Evo grips here with me and they are better grips, but these still feel so good that they will stay on while there is life left in them.
YT’s in-house Postman dropper has been fine - it made a fun sliding noise when it was new that I rather miss. I know the cool kids are all running long-drop posts now, but I seem to have missed that party and I have never felt like a 150mm post has held me back. The frame-specific water bottle holds about enough for my shorter spins, and I should take a backpack for the longer ones anyway. And finally, a PB Marsh Guard to finish it all off.How's It Ride?
Have you ever had a bike that just clicked from the first ride? For me, the Decoy did that. I have always preferred support over comfort from my suspension, so the poppy, direct nature of the bike really works for me. Even if I then put on the coil for extra comfort and the bigger fork for more smash. While that makes it a slightly different beast from what you can buy off the shelf, it doesn't feel like it has compromised the maneuverability that made me appreciate this bike from the beginning. When I have had a stressful day I want a bike that I can just grab and go - and for me, that is this bike.
In fact, I like this bike so much, I have convinced YT to let me hold onto it for the next two years. The plan is to check back in about this bike and look at how eMTBs really are to live with, in the long term. For instance, what is the service life of one of these batteries? How do the motors hold up? If there is anything you'd particularly like to know about living with an eMTB, please let me know in the comments