Take an excellent, aggressive trail 29er, add direct-to-consumer pricing, and you have a bike that's hard to pass up
The Good: Premium components, feathery carbon wheels, and a smart, tough build. Hell, even the beefy 2.4-inch Onza Ibex tires won us over. This is, without question, the best deal going for an aggressive trail bike right now.
The Bad: Though SRAM’s new Guide brakes have been mostly reliable on our testers, here they had some fading and bleed issues. The 1x11 XO1 group worked great, but it’s not top of the line anymore with the advent of Eagle and the 50-tooth granny.
The Verdict: This 140mm full-carbon trail 29er is every bit as good as comparable models from all the major brands (Specialized, Trek, Santa Cruz, etc.). But it’s more than just a good bike: it also represents a paradigm shift in the industry. The Jeffsy, like all YT bikes, costs a fraction of the competition, because it’s sold direct-to-consumer online, thereby cutting out lots of costs. YT Industries doesn’t have widespread brand recognition, but if it keeps building bikes this good, it will.
In the same way Amazon has disrupted the traditional shopping experience, direct-to-consumer bike companies are turning the bike industry on its head. Brands such as Canyon, Evil, and YT Industries are building exceptional bikes and selling them well below what you might expect because they’ve cut out the costs associated with brick-and-mortar stores: expenses like shipping, inventory, and dealer markup. Meanwhile, YT surged into the American psyche last year by luring away Aaron Gwin from Specialized. Gwin then went on to capture another World Cup overall title aboard a YT downhill bike. The convergence of that winning credibility and the low prices put YT on a lot of riders’ radars. The Jeffsy, YT’s first trail bike, builds on that success by offering the same quality-to-cost ratio in a bike that’s applicable to a much bigger market segment than downhilling.
YT has built this 140mm carbon trail 29er around the tried-and-true four-bar Horst Link suspension (the same configuration used by Norco, Specialized, Canyon, and many others), with the shock mounted, in this case, to the seatstay and anchored to the down tube. It’s a clean-looking design, though it lacks space for a full-size water bottle. Thankfully, YT built its own micro bottle cage and proprietary bottles to fit, which isn’t a perfect solution but allows you to roll without a pack.
Mated to a 140mm Fox 34 fork, the bike has a pleasantly slack front end at 67.6 degrees, which can be extended to 66.8 by flipping the chip at the shock mount. That drops the bottom bracket eight millimeters for better stability and descending. The rear end is Boost spacing, which YT says it used to tighten up the chainstays for poppy, fast acceleration and tighter wheel radius. (Curiously, the fork didn’t get Boost treatment as well, which not only would help with wheel stiffness but also would keep the Jeffsy up to latest standards.) The fit and finish are just as good as any major manufacturer, though the largely external cable routings do seem a bit behind the competition, which are mostly all going inside now.
Every part on the Jeffsy CF Pro is thoughtfully spec’d, especially considering the price: a SRAM X01 11-speed drivetrain, Race Face Next SL carbon cranks, SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes, and a RockShox Reverb Stealth Dropper. Most of these are generally reserved for bikes much pricier than the Jeffsy Pro. The same goes for the DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels, which are so light and stiff they feel like cheating. (Note: for 2017, the equivalent bike to what we tested is the Jeffsy CF Pro Race, and it gets a slightly different but still excellent spec. YT also added a Jeffsy 27 range.)
We had few complaints. At first we were a little disappointed that this top-level model of the Jeffsy came with a 1x11 and not the new 12-speed Eagle, which adds the awesome 50-tooth bailout ring. However, this bike is so light that we always felt we had enough gears. The Guide Ultimate brakes worked well for a few months, but then developed some fade and needed to be bled a few times. Hopefully that’s just a one-off. The only other niggle: as rowdy as this bike wants to get, we’d take a bit more width on the bars than the 760mm carbon Renthal Fatbar.
Oh yeah, and special commendation goes to Onza for its 2.4 Ibex tires. This was our first time riding them, and it won’t be the last. They are chunky, held up great under the duress of Southwest rock and pokey bits, and felt fatter than their measure for tons of confidence.
For the breadth of riding we do around the interstate Mountain West region—silky singletrack in Idaho, Moab slickrock, loose-over-hard kitty litter in Santa Fe, brutal southern Arizona scree, and some bike park thrown in—a mid-travel 29er is probably the ultimate multitool. And the Jeffsy is the best example we’ve found yet. It doesn’t stand out at any one thing, but it’s balanced and totally at ease on pretty much anything you throw at it.
The superlight DT wheels make it climb like a smaller, sportier bike, which means every time I hit a descent, I was shocked with how ready and willing the bike was to jump, huck, pop, and fly. If you think 29ers aren’t agile, think again. There is a bit more pedaling feedback than I’m used to in the suspension, but it didn’t detract from performance. Also, in the low setting, I hit my cranks from time to time because of the low bottom bracket. That said, I left it in low, not high, because the bike just feels so stable and confident there. Otherwise, the small bump sensitivity is good, and the suspension ramps up as it should.
In short, this is a bike you can take everywhere and have fun. Ten-mile 5,000-foot climbs? No problem. Banging descents with out-of-nowhere drops? Easy. The bike park? No worries. The White Line? We had a tester do it, no problem.
This category is full of killer bikes, including the Santa Cruz Hightower, the Specialized Stumpjumper 29, the Intense Primer, the Pivot Mach 429 Trail, and the sadly now-discontinued Trek Remedy 29. I could—and probably have at some point—argue for them all. The truth, though, is that it’s almost impossible to recommend any of those before the Jeffsy, because this bike rides as well as all of them—and it costs a lot less. The only other bike in the same neighborhood, price-wise, is the incredible Evil The Following (also internet direct, by the way), though it’s a burlier machine for harder-edged riding.
To wit, the Santa Cruz Hightower was my hands-down personal favorite mountain bike in 2016. It’s the bike that the Jeffsy reminds me of most. As we tested it last year, the Hightower weighed 26.6 pounds and cost $10,000. Our Jeffsy Pro this year weighed 26.5 pounds and cost $5,600. Math like that must be making the heritage brands squirm a little, especially if the newcomers start cranking out bikes as good as the Jeffsy (and the Following). And the YT savings go down the line. A Jeffsy CF Two, which is an identical frame to the Pro model but equipped with XT and carbon wheels from E*Thirteen, is $4,000. Compare that to $6,500 for the equivalent Stumpjumper FSR 29, which gets a lesser carbon layup. There’s even an aluminum Jeffsy AL Two, which is an excellent bike at $2,600.
There are tons of great bikes in the trail 29er category, and based on performance alone, the YT Jeffsy has to be considered near the top of the heap. It’s a perfect bike for riders who like to push it on both pedaling and downhilling. And once you factor in the pricing, few bikes can keep pace.