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First Impressions

2020 YT Jeffsy 29 Pro Race - Out of the Box

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae
Date Mar 4, 2020
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Direct to your Door

Direct to consumer bikes are here to stay and in the age not-quite-top-of-the-line bikes regularly pushing over 5 figures, they make a lot of sense financially. German internet brand, YT has come to the forefront in terms of value and performance for mountain bikes in the trail to gravity categories. The bottom-of-the-line Jeffsy Base, for 3399 CAD (2999 USD), has everything you need to get serious on rowdy trails. It even comes with an Eagle drivetrain and Maxxis Minions. Pushing up to the top model, the Jeffsy Pro Race, makes the value even more apparent.

The 29" Jeffsy we are testing has 150mm of travel front and rear, a full carbon frame, and carbon wheels, at an almost irresistible price – if you are okay with throwing down as much as a good used Honda for a new bicycle. The same model is also available with 27.5" wheels if you are looking for a more playful and nimble ride.

You aren't likely to see carbon wheels on many bikes under 10K Canadian, and certainly not with Fox Factory level suspension (Kashima abounds!), Code RSC brakes and an XO1 Eagle drivetrain, but the Jeffsy serves up all that and more for 7299 CAD or 5299 USD (because of some exchange peculiarity, or maybe Trump's tarriffs, the base model is much better value in Canada while the Pro Race ends up slightly north of the current exchange rate for Canucks). A parallel spec on a Santa Cruz Hightower, (XO1 Reserve model with a carbon CC frame) a direct competitor for the Jeffsy, will set you back 10,949 CAD (or 8399 USD).* Reserve Carbon wheels with DT Swiss hubs are certainly more expensive than E13s, but otherwise the spec on the bikes is comparable.

*I'm not picking on Santa Cruz - many other brands are similarly priced - SC is just particularly transparent about their retail pricing.

Having a bike show up on your doorstep, in a box, is not for everyone. A large percentage of riders would prefer to have the experts at the bike shop do everything, and to know they will be taken care of by someone they know, if something goes wrong. The logistics of warranty coverage can be daunting when you buy a bike from a German brand with no dealer network. And thus far in Canada I haven't heard many stellar reports from riders who have had to warranty frames or other components. We are a new market however and growing pains are inevitable. For riders who can handle tools and figure things out for themselves, this can be a great way to save some cash, assuming there are no catastrophic failures.

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It's possible to find cheap tools that would do a reasonable job for a fraction of the price, but YT purchased these from Icetoolz. The T-handle has a very convenient torque guide and all the required bits. The sleeved 8mm for pedal installation is a nice touch. I would happily continue using both.

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This is the only tool I added, aside from a stand.

Assembly

If you are considering purchasing a bicycle on the internet, it's probably going to arrive in a box.* This would be a terrifying prospect to some riders, but generally mountain bikers are a capable lot, and the Jeffsy was the quickest and easiest bike assembly I've done, with the exception of a bike that came in an extra long box with both wheels installed as a 'media build'. There are also dealers/repair shops who will do the build and regular service for you, and you can even have it shipped to some. More of these options will likely pop up in the future. Locally Wheelthing will happily perform that service.

*The direct-to-consumer model companies like Trek are using involve the bike being shipped to the dealer of your choice who will handle the build at no cost to you, and take care of warranty and service demands.

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Incredibly, you can remove wheels and/or frame individually without 3 hands. Normally all these pieces are attached together using approximately 17 fastening points of either tape or zip ties, but probably both. That isn't hyperbole.

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The protection for the rear axle and swingarm incorporates a handy stand, which is labelled as such. YT is big on labels. You can install the bar to the stem without an awkward lean or having to pinch the frame between your legs.

I suspect that most of you reading this would tackle the prospect yourselves, so I decided to try and recreate conditions many riders would encounter for their build. The only tool I added to those provided by YT was a pair of side cutters to help with unpacking. I also cheated a little by using a stand, but it wouldn't have been a hardship to do without.

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A free-standing bike makes life much easier.

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In this case, the stem clamps are already in place, but this is a peculiarity of Renthal stems. Very handy for this application.

Most boxes that arrive at the NSMB campus have been taped together by a gorilla. They arrive safely, and that's somewhat important I guess, but the tape battle that ensues sometimes goes multiple rounds. Instead, the YT box had three cardboard tongues holding down the lid and each was fastened securely by a single piece of tape. Things were off to a good start. My simulation continued with my failure to read the instructions, although I did consult for bar and stem torque specs.

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There is more cardboard used by YT than other brands, but plastic is kept to a minimum.

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After installing the bars, all that was left to do was remove the brake pad spacers and slap on the wheels. There was hardly time to take more photos and, while useful, the repair stand didn't actually save any time. If you have fixed a flat tire, you are over-qualified for this task.

The first surprise was the pre-installed dropper post. On an XL frame with a 175mm dropper, this takes up a lot of vertical space. As I opened the box, the post extended for an over-eager greeting. I imagine the normal strategy may be to lock the post in the down position, but the cable wasn't tight enough to keep it there. Whatever the intention, I prefer this performance. Usually the aforementioned gorilla could be put to work removing the bike and components from the box, but in this case it was possible to remove either of the wheels or the frame individually. Again no mass of tape or zip ties and a minimum of plastic to dispose of after removal. It's no exaggeration to say that the unpacking portion of some bike builds can take twenty minutes, while in this case it was less than five. To use Andrew Major's measuring protocol, your first beer will still be cold and mostly full.

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These little fasteners will stop your cables from slapping together and rubbing your frame, and also keep things looking tidy. What I'm less sure about it is whether they will survive shuttles, chairlifts and crashes. My guess is a couple of spares in the box would have been useful.

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These wee grommets keep debris out and also reduce movement in the housing and lines, which should eliminate rattle.

The Frame and Details

Once assembly was complete, it was time to admire the finish and thoughtful details provided by YT. The "by riders, for riders" cliché was already overdone by the 90s, but it's clear in the cohesive finished build that the product managers, industrial designers and engineers involved in this bike have spent a lot of time doing real riding on real trails. The fine points here have even improved since I first saw and rode the Jeffsy in late 2018.It seems the Germans have cottoned on to the Japanese concept of Kaizen,* which involves continuous small improvements to manufacturing processes that translate into improvements in the finished product, as well as reduced waste and improved efficiency.

*TBF, Kaizen, meaning literally 'change for better,' can be at least partially credited to American manufacturing experts working in Japan after WWII

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I love the combo of glossy and matte paint on this frame. It's tastefully done and precisely executed.

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Frame guards abound. Beyond the obvious armouring at the bottom bracket, the entire downtube has a thick plastic protective sheet applied. I'd love to see a shuttle guard added however.

It's clear YT knows that for many riders, their bikes are treasured possessions. Despite subjecting them to abuses in transport and on rides, many of us care about how our bikes look after months or years of use, and efforts put into protecting the frame's finish, durability and appearance over the long haul add real value. These additions can also improve the ride experience by reducing the noise from chain and debris strikes. Beyond the inside of the drive side stays and the downtube, which are effectively clad, YT has applied frame-coloured protection to the outside of the stays on both sides where heel strikes and rubbing are likely to occur.

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I haven't spent much time on the Fox Transfer post but the Kashima of the Factory version matches well with the murdered out theme.

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I like short stems and I cannot lie. This 35mm Renthal Apex tells me the reach is adequate.

The Parts

The build of the first Jeffsy I rode had some creative details that reminded me of when product managers were able to be more imaginative. The drivetrain was a mixture of Shimano XT and E13, with the latter providing the cassette. There are still some E13 bits but the juggernauts of SRAM and FOX are well-represented here. Brakes and drivetrain are SRAM, with Codes and XO1 dividing responsibilities, while suspension and post are FOX Factory level, with the Raceface sub-brand nicely taking care of the lever. These parts perform as well or better than anything else, and function counts for more than originality in these categories, although I don't have enough time on a Fox Transfer to render such a confident verdict.

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A friend who mechanics for his privateer son on the DH World Cup told me the double DHRII combo is the most popular tire choice - with some Assegais thrown in.

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The YT website says the tire spec. should be Maxx Grip but these are both Maxx Terra. The 2.4 width makes sense to give some separation between the Jeffsy and the Capra, as does the EXO casing. Wheel smashers will want to go up to Double Downs or add a liner or two.

There are a few slightly exotic details, with the Renthal carbon Fat Bar, a nice short Renthal Apex stem, and wheels by E13's TRS Race Carbon with 28mm internal width rims. The SDG saddle has a beautiful shape and it's begging to be sat upon. Spread your wings where it makes sense I guess. Tires are probably the safest choice, and one of the smartest, with Maxxis Minion DHR II front and rear in the EXO casing. The website suggests Maxx Grip compounds but this bike shipped with Maxx Terra on both ends. I would prefer a Terra in the rear and a Grip up front. Another nice surprise was tires that arrived set up tubeless and fully inflated.

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This is a good looking machine.

Jeffsy 29 Geometry Questions

When this version of the Jeffsy was released for model year 2019, the geometry looked pretty good for a bike that straddles the gap between trail and enduro/all mountain. Some of the numbers look a little long in the tooth a year later. The 66º (or 66.5º in the high position) head angle is a wee bit steep for a bike to be called cutting edge in the 150/160mm travel category and the reach numbers are a little short. It's 490mm for the XL, which would be a very short for the largest size. Thankfully YT makes an XXL which is 510.

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The 2020 Jeffsy geometry numbers aren't on the cutting edge, but they aren't off the back either. The numbers only tell some of the story however and we'll have to wait and see how she does on the trail.

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The Fox DPX2 Factory is a proven performer, well suited to a bike expected to achieve both uphill and down.

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The Fox 36 Float Factory with the Grip 2 damper scores well for performance, stiffness, and durability.

The recently released 2020 Norco Sight 29 has a 63.5 head angle and the 130/120mm Santa Cruz Tallboy, a cross country bike, has a 65.7º head angle, almost identical to the Jeffsy. The reach for the XL Sight is 515 while the large is 485. The Sight however does not have an XXL size meaning the XL on the Norco has to serve a wider range of tall humans.

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The Jeffsy comes with an optional Fidlock bottle, that attaches to the frame magnetically. You don't need to align it - simply get it close to the mounts and the magnets do the rest. A twist is required to remove it. The bottle holds 600ml or 20oz. If you prefer you can remove the Fidlock mount and use a normal bottle cage, and with larger sizes you can use a big bottle. Despite the matching paint, Winston was not keen on posing with Jeffsy.

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I like the look of the ODI Elite Motion 2.1 grips. I'm glad these ditch the outboard collar but there is a distinct chamfer lets you know where the end of the bar is. Respected German-brand Acros got the headset spec.

Numbers don't tell the whole story of how a bike rides however and I was certainly pleased with the way the Jeffsy 29 performed in Portugal. We rode some steeper and nastier sections there, but overall the riding was less challenging than many of the trails here on the west coast, and I'm eager to check out how it rides on the North Shore and elsewhere.

For more on the 2020 Jeffsy - hit this...

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Comments

jon
+1 Dan
Jon Harris  - March 4, 2020, 1:10 p.m.

I cry BS! Come on, own up... the real reason you built that up indoors was the bunker was too messy. 

I get it.

I do the same when no one's home. :)

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Dan
Cam McRae  - March 4, 2020, 7:20 p.m.

Remarkably spotless actually. I’ve upped my game since we had a displaced migrant for 3 months!

Reply

cyclotoine
+1 Cam McRae
cyclotoine  - March 4, 2020, 1:35 p.m.

Looking forward to riding impressions. I'd personally choose the Pro version as I think it's better value. Though in 2019 it would have been the pro race for sure. I was thoroughly impressed with packaging and attention to detail when I built up my partners Jeffsy in 2018. The little rubber entry/exit grommets do not stay in place so hopefully the updated ones work better. The nice thing about the head angle being a little off the mark is that it's easily changed by up to 2 degrees with an angleset. Want to keep that steep 77.5 seat tube (yes!) and have a 64.5 degree head angle? No problem, pop a 2 degree angleset in there and you have something that goes toe to toe with the most progressive enduro bikes from the big brands including longer chainstays on the bigger frames. The Jeffsy is still on my short list. As you pointed out the XXL compares with most brands XL, it's a bonus that they have more sizing choice!

Reply

Emtb
0
Emtb  - March 5, 2020, 9:01 p.m.

Good idea but the angleset won't work if it's an integrated headset. Is the Jeffsy an integrated or zero stack headset?

Reply

cyclotoine
0
cyclotoine  - March 6, 2020, 10:37 a.m.

Standard 44/56 I believe. Same as my sentinel. I actually have a 1 degree on my work bench now going into the sentinel to steepen it to 65 for a fun experiment so see if it makes it a little more fun on mellower trails.

Reply

Jenkins5
+1 Cam McRae
Jenkins5  - March 4, 2020, 1:40 p.m.

Yeah the YT's have crazy value for sure. Even when taking the Reserve wheels into play when comparing to Santa Cruz (E13 carbon wheels are only $300 cheaper and still sport the lifetime warranty) the price difference is nuts. I think Santa Cruz has a more refined frame though and the lifetime frame warranty is nice...

Reply

Vikb
+1 Timer
Vik Banerjee  - March 5, 2020, 7:35 a.m.

Just keep in mind SC's "lifetime" warranty is 1) only for manufacturing defects and 2) for the frame's lifetime not your lifetime nor for as long as you might keep the frame rolling.

Based on that ^^^ I pretty much consider a 3-5 year warranty and a lifetime warranty equivalent from a practical perspective.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+3 Vik Banerjee Mammal JVP 4Runner1 Bikeridenow
Pete Roggeman  - March 5, 2020, 8:03 a.m.

Also keep in mind that 1) their historical warranty/return rate is really low, 2) they're known for taking care of their customers very well, and 3) that includes free bearing replacements.

Reply

mammal
+1 hurb
Mammal  - March 5, 2020, 2:50 p.m.

I don't think you can say the same about YT, or at least from the experiences I've heard about.

Reply

hurb
+1 Bikeridenow
hurb  - March 5, 2020, 3:05 p.m.

Worst customer service in the industry.

Reply

Bikeridenow
0
Bikeridenow  - March 6, 2020, 10:49 a.m.

My experience with YT was brutal.  Thank god for Commencal!

jclaremt
+1 Timer
jclaremt  - March 5, 2020, 9:03 p.m.

I’ve had two YT’s and the service from the company varies drastically. I’ve had parts shipped to me overnight and I’ve had orders that were completely forgotten about and arrived wrong after the fact.

Reply

Bikeridenow
+1 hurb
Bikeridenow  - March 5, 2020, 5:56 a.m.

Yeah sure it's a really nice bike but waiting 8 months for a bike isn't an option for me.

Reply

Inki31
+1 Bikeridenow
Inki31  - March 6, 2020, 7:05 p.m.

Jeffsy are really good bike.....but yt Canada sucks.

Reply

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