LONG TERM REVIEW: YT DECOY MX ELECTRIC BIKE
Enticing electric power
The direct-to-consumer brand—YT—has revamped its Decoy e-mountain bike with the latest updates. While the names and motors have been updated, geometry and sizing on the latest Decoy models remain the same. YT has also transferred its naming system from its other modes to the Decoy for the entry-level Core 2 all the way to the top-of-the-line Core 4 build options. The Decoy comes in two different options depending on the wheel and travel platform. The shorter-travel (150mm front, 145mm rear) Decoy 29 Range with 29-inch wheels front and rear is more trail-focused than the Decoy MX, which has numbers that are more enduro-friendly.
The premium Decoy MX Core 4 tested utilizes Shimano’s EP8 drive unit. YT decided to create its very own custom battery to maximize efficiency with Shimano’s EP8 motor. Using 30 cells, they developed a 540-watt-hour battery that is fully integrated into the downtube and is held in place with two bolts. The battery can be charged on and off the bike. Its protective casing can easily be replaced, too.
Notably, this motor can be tuned with your smartphone. While that might sound like a hassle to some, there are advantages to using Shimano’s E-Tube Project app. Right out of the box, the Decoy comes set in the first of two profiles input into the bike. The Option 1 profile sets the assist to a happy medium on modes for fire roads and tough singletrack where low-end torque is needed. Option 2 is dial adjusted to offer maximum assistance when a rider wants every drop of power from the different modes. A rider can toggle between both settings on the display unit on the fly or change the settings completely in the app to achieve different responses. The app also makes it simple to bring your eMTB up to date with the latest firmware and can check error codes if they appear while providing the rider with solutions.
The Core 4 Decoy MX tested the full-carbon front triangle and swingarm features. YT’s Core 2 and Core 3 builds have a front triangle and an alloy rear triangle. It is also worth noting that the Decoy 29 is not a mixed wheel like this model, hence the “MX” in the name. That’s right, the Decoy MX is 29 inches in front with a 27.5-inch wheel at the rear.
Further shaking things up is a flip chip situated at the lower shock mount to adjust the geometry. The numbers are on par with a heavy-hitting enduro machine with a 64.5-degree head angle in the low setting and 65 degrees in the higher position on the flip chip. A somewhat steep 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle (76-degree in high) and 449mm reach are featured on the size large. The chainstay length comes in at 442mm with the smaller rear wheel. As with some of YT’s other models, there is room for a water bottle, but only YT’s fits. For best space management, we recommend using YT’s Thirstmaster custom bottle for the Decoy, which has enough clearance and will not interfere with the shock (cost is $50 for this extra accessory).
The Decoy’s frame protection is located in key areas that make it count. The nylon protection is tough and wear-resistant. It covers the downtube and can easily be replaced if damaged. Additionally, there is rubber over the chainstays/seatstays with plenty of coverage. Taking things a step further, YT also uses double-sealed bearings in all pivots that have an additional seal to keep out any unwanted water and dirt for extended service intervals.
The Decoy MX is offered in three different build options. The Core 4 build we’re testing has a Crankbrothers Synthesis alloy mixed wheelset and top-of-the-line Fox Factory suspension. Every model/build runs the same 2.5-inch Maxxis Assegai tire up front and a 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHR in the rear with the same Crankbrothers wheelset. As for the drivetrain on our Core 4, you’ll find mostly Shimano parts with 160mm Shimano XT cranks and a 36T chainring that operates the 10-51 XT cassette. SRAM Code RSC brakes are utilized with 200mm rotors front and back.
The Core 2 and 3 are the lower-priced component builds. The Core 3 retails for $1000 cheaper than the Core 4 and is built with a Shimano SLX drivetrain, Fox Performance Elite suspension and SRAM Code R brakes. The Core 2 comes in at $5999 with Shimano’s Deore drivetrain, a RockShox Zeb fork with Super Deluxe shock, and SRAM Code R brakes. Each Core option comes in all black, but in addition to black, each Core model is offered in a unique color as well. For example, Core 4 is offered in white (as shown for our testing). Core 3 is a mossy green, and Core 2 is in a rose gold/champagne colorway if you are into that.
YT stuck with its V4L suspension technology that is found on its other models for the Decoy. This is a 165mm-travel Virtual Four Link design claimed to provide sensitivity off the top, with good mid-stroke support and plenty of end-stroke progressivity. This design is also intended to provide a high degree of anti-squat in order to keep the rear suspension neutral while improving pedaling efficiency. Handling all the terrain we could throw at it on our build was a 170mm-travel Fox 38 fork combined with a Float X2 shock. We initially ran this shock at the recommended setting, but ended up going to a softer setting than recommended.
At 51.2 pounds, the Decoy MX is on par with most other full-carbon eMTB frames with this travel range. Sure, more weight could be saved with lighter components for added efficiency on the battery; however, it’s noticeably stable, and the weight with the longer wheelbase seems to give the rider predictable traction to hold steady up straight climbs. The Decoy doesn’t sink into its travel and is supportive while pedaling with no additional pedal bob, thanks to the suspension platform. Given the type of riding we were doing on the Decoy MX, we rarely used Eco and remained in Trail or Boost. We did try to see how the bike pedaled with the power off, and while that was fine for the downhill, we would not be keen on pedaling this bike without the assist. At the end of the day, we always used assist to get this hefty machine in motion.
For our sustained climbs, we mostly stayed in the Option 1 profile that is intended for more fire roads and climbing efficiently. If things got technical, we would pop over to the Option 2 profile. From there, the motor could give us max assist when power was needed to hurtle up tricky, loose sections. As we’ve found with EP8 on other brands, a higher cadence helped us maintain power from the motor and allowed us to make it up extremely steep sections without having to stand up and grind in an awkward position. In fact, sitting down with our weight balanced over the front and back was the best way to clear sections on the Decoy.
Picking a line, holding the bike straight, and letting it eat up the terrain is what the Decoy MX is all about. In other words, the bike was built to go big, hit the chunky sections and instill confidence on steep terrain. It is not the most airborne-happy bike out there, but then again, it wasn’t meant to be. Most of our time was spent on rough ridgelines that branched off from our easy-going fire-road climbs so we could use the Decoy as it was intended. Our more skilled test riders found that the Decoy really started to shine when the terrain became steep, loose and flat-out fast.
“Beast of a bike” and “It’s a tank” were two phrases we heard from our test riders. Although the long wheelbase of the Decoy did prefer to be pointed straight through the rough stuff, it also performed well in corners. This was largely due to the mixed-wheel platform. This gave us the sensation of pointing the big 29er front over terrain and having the control and maneuverability to place the smaller 27.5-inch wheel where we needed. The suspension was snappy and always seemed to pop us into the next corner on tight back-to-back berms.
After some experimentation with both the high and the low shock positions, we leaned towards the low in all situations. The high setting gave us a little bump with efficiency during climbing; however, most riders who hopped on the Decoy favored the low setting because it was more stable through the chatter, better planted on steep terrain and felt more in control when the trail pointed back down the mountain. Given the power of the assist, we felt the low setting remained plenty efficient on climbs. While this is subjective and depends on your riding style, we love the fact that anyone can make the adjustment with the use of the flip chip.
MODS AND UPGRADES
Overall, you will be hard-pressed to find another brand with an e-MTB that has all of the top components a rider wants right out of the box for $8000. Given its value, it is difficult to argue with this build or the rest of the Core options. Sorry to our readers for being a broken record, but we would likely update the brakes. A noteworthy upgrade was swapping to SRAM’s 220mm, 2mm-thick HS2 rotor. These rotors offered better heat management while also being more robust than the standard rotors. While some riders might want to save weight with a carbon wheelset, we loved how well the alloy Crankbrothers wheels held up to our abuse on the trails. The wrecking crew also wanted a longer dropper, as 145mm was a bit short for a size large bike with an appetite for steep terrain like the Decoy.
Our biggest takeaway after putting the Decoy MX through its paces was how planted it was on steep terrain in rough conditions. Its burly Fox suspension, mixed wheels, and substantial weight make this bike feel at home on steeper and rougher trails without sacrificing confidence to maneuver. While it’s skillful on technical downhills, it is not our first choice as an eMTB to gracefully navigate tight climbs.
Overall, the Decoy MX is going to put a big smile on your face when fast fire-road climbs link gnarly, steep singletrack. The Decoy MX Core 4 is a great value; other brands would easily be $1000–$3000 more at this component level. If you like to stay planted to the trail, stable at high speed and want to plow through rough singletrack, the YT Decoy MX is a whole lot of good times.
SUSPENSION: 170mm (front), 160mm (rear)
WHEEL SIZE: 29″ (front), 27.5″ (rear)