We've been testing the YT Decoy Elite e-MTB for a while now, and during that testing period the online MTB retailer announced a newer version - the Decoy Core - that would see the Elite being phased out of production.
However, since we've already put the time in with the Decoy Elite - and the only real upgrade seems to be the Shimano EP8 motor - enjoy reading this review and if you like the sound of the bike, try to get your hands on one before it's gone for good.
For a more recent opinion of this bike, see our YT Decoy Core 4 review
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Design and geometry
The Decoy is a seriously chunky bike dominated by the huge rectangular down tube that houses the custom 540Wh battery. It has an oversize head tube that sucks internal cable and hose routing into its pronounced ‘cheek bones’, and while the top tube is tapered, it’s still a big piece of carbon with a swollen junction onto the extended top tube. Meanwhile, the U linkage sits low on top of the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor with big seat stays pushing forward to mount directly onto the rear of the Fox X2 air shock via a two-position chuck insert.
Although YT calls it ‘Virtual 4’, the chainstays do pivot ahead of the big rear dropouts, making this a full four-bar linkage, that again is seriously oversized all the way to the top and rear of the chainring-aligned main pivot.
The stays are heavily rubber-wrapped for chain protection, while the whole belly gets a replaceable AP 66 protection pan, and the Acros Block Lock rotation limiting headset is backed up with downtube bumpers to prevent fork and frame damage.
YT also makes its own short, fat bottle to sneak plenty of refreshment into the space under the shock. The way the cables and hoses bridge across from the mainframe to the seatstays is pretty conspicuous, however, and having the charging point on the belly of the bike makes at least a short fender a smart idea to reduce the chance of contamination.
The really glaring comparison to contemporary bikes is the geometry. The 64.5/65-degree head angle and 75.5/76-degree seat angle are in line with what you’d expect for an enduro bike, but at 449mm reach for a large it’s more like most medium bikes in stretch. A 470mm seat tube length on the 470mm reach XL means there’s not much scope for sizing up, unless you opt for a short stroke dropper post.
While the quoted 350mm bottom bracket setting (in high) is definitely tall, we actually measured it at 337mm in the lower, slacker setting, so it’s actually pretty slammed. 442mm chainstays are short too, making this a compact wheelbase setup despite still having room for a knobby 27.5 x 2.8in Maxxis DHR tire in the rear.
Components and build
The obvious component difference when comparing it to the newer Decoy Core is the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor. It’s not as powerful as the new EP8, it doesn’t have the deliberate overrun for hoiking up steps, it’s not as easy to app tune and the walk mode is so awkward to access it’s barely useable. That said, less peak power means it doesn’t empty the battery as quickly, and while it’s not a quiet unit, it doesn’t have the freewheeling clack and bang issues of the EP8. Both generations of Decoy get the same monochrome OLED display and power mode switch of the cheaper E7000 series, too.
Using the older motor has freed up budget for the premium E11 Carbon version of Crankbrothers' Synthesis E-bike wheels rather than the alloy version on the Decoy Core 4. Fox supplies the suspension at the front and rear: you get a Fox Transfer Factory dropper post with Kashima gold-coated stanchions, as well as the premium 38 fork and X2 rear shock. Both are benchmark suspension pieces with full high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjusting, the latest sensitivity boosting oil flow and pressure regulation tech. The Shimano XT drivetrain matches the motor, but SRAM Code RSC brakes with 200mm rotors do the stopping. SDG provides a custom YT saddle, while UK motocross and MTB brand, Renthal, makes the stem and bar. However, a 55mm length means that the stem is also behind the curve of most handling setups.
Ride, handling and performance
Unsurprisingly, the overall shape is obvious straight away, particularly if you’re heading upwards first. The short reach is exacerbated by the steep seat angle, making the Decoy Elite feel cramped on climbs, which requires a regular shuffling of position when pedaling. Thankfully, the motor assist and massive rear tire mean that’s less of an issue in terms of poised traction, but the Decoy Elite definitely takes more back and forth rider input to keep it on target. While there’s a big difference in claimed torque between the older E8000 motor and the new EP8, the Decoy Elite doesn’t feel obviously less powerful on the trail.
Even with the reasonably slack head angle the lack of length and a 51mm fork offset (most bikes are now running a wheelbase-lengthening shorter offset) means more movement and less stability at speed on descents. You’re more likely to be pushed forward over the bars than on a longer bike, too. In other words, it’s definitely a bike you have to ride yourself rather than just letting it center you and take care of the trauma itself. What it lacks in straight-line plow stability and automatic rider reassurance, the Decoy really makes up for in the tighter, twistier sections.
These might not feature in racing much, but they’re what rad recreational riding is all about now if Instagram is anything to go by. When we dropped in on the local schralping and jibbing trails the Decoy was clearly in its element. The stiffness of the squat frame is translated through the unshakeable tracking of the 38mm-legged fork and the stiff Renthal alloy bar for pin-sharp targeting of the front tire. The faster snap-out and drift of the fat back tire meant the rear always broke away before we found the longer stem to be an issue. The longer fork offset also syncs better with the stem length, and together they reinforce the railing-front-and-sliding-rear baseline that makes mullet a fun choice. The stem also adds to the overall length too, so while our initial instinct was to switch it out straightaway, we ended up leaving it on throughout testing.
While more aggressive riders on rockier trails will almost certainly want a more reinforced, softer compound set of tires, the lighter weight EXO and EXO+ carcass, MaxTerra compound rubber it comes with is another agility and rolling speed booster. That’s backed up by a larger than usual 36T chainring on the XT arms for cranking speed up well past the motor’s cut-off limit.
Another thing we didn’t touch much throughout testing was the suspension. Fox has really made big steps in aligning its default settings and performance with more riders - not just flat-out racers - in the past couple of years anyway, and the Fox 38 and X2 shock here are perfect examples of that.
The E-Bike version of the 38 has a freer moving low-speed compression tune, but a damping tune and an extra volume spacer stop it from diving too deep if you really slam the front end. The resulting balance of fork and rear end on the Decoy has to be one of the most sorted punishment-eating, tire-gluing combinations we’ve used recently.
The extra weight of the motor and battery tips the unsprung-to-sprung ratio of the bike even more in the favour of sensitivity. The short rear end also helps the rear wheel respond really quickly in terms of slap impacts and rebound so the whole bike feels more alive but tracking consistently in 3D, however chaotic things get.
A continually connected, well-supported ride feel means slamming the bars super low and hard into every turn to exploit the Assegai tire grip was one of the most addictive elements of the YT’s personality.
Looking at the geometry and the previous generation motor of the Decoy Elite you’d be forgiven for thinking it was dated and not worth a look. Check out the carbon wheels, Fox Factory dropper and lower price compared to the Decoy Core 4, however, and that less-powerful-but-proven motor is a lot easier to forgive. What the short reach and back end lack in stability and calm confidence, they potentially make up for with a super-agile, rear-sliding mullet character if you’re into tighter trails rather than max-speed racing. Add the superbly sorted, premium suspension setup and overall kit value and if you’re after a hugely fun, power-assisted play bike, the Decoy Elite should definitely still be on your shortlist.
Tech Specs: YT Decoy Elite electric mountain bike
- Price: £6,871.09 / €6,999.00
- Head angle: 64.5/65-degrees
- Seat angle: 75.5/76-degrees
- Frame material: Carbon
- Size: Large
- Weight: 23.15kg
- Wheel size: 29in front, 27.5in rear
- Suspension (front/rear): Fox 38 Factory Grip2, 170mm travel, 51mm offset/Fox Float X2 Factory 165mm travel
- Motor: Shimano Steps E8000, 70Nm motor with Shimano E7000 display and E7000 remote switch. Custom YT 540Wh battery
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT 11-51T 12-speed gearing and shifter
- Cranks: Shimano XT, 165mm, 36t chainring
- Brakes: SRAM CODE RSC brakes with 200mm rotors
- Cockpit: Renthal FatBar 35 800m bar, Renthal Apex 35 55mm stem
- Wheelset: Crankbrothers Synthesis E11 with i9 hubs
- Tires: Maxxis Assegai 29x2.5 Exo/Minion DHR II Exo+ 27.5x 2.8in tires
- Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory 175mm dropper post
- Saddle: SDG Radar Mtn saddle