One year ago we tested the YT Jeffsy 29 Pro Race. It was a knight in shining carbon and Kashima. Full-carbon frame—even carbon wheels—Fox Kashima 36 fork (with Grip2 damper no less), Fox Kashima DPX2 shock, Fox Kashima Transfer post. So much silver carbon and gold Kashima for $5,000, which we deemed quite a value. In the year since, YT has updated the aluminum Jeffsy (this test bike, named in full the YT Jeffsy Base 29) and it now touts the same 66-degree headtube angle, 77-degree seat tube angle and 490-millimeter reach measurement (size XL, tested) as its carbon sibling. It, too, touts all name-brand componentry so it’s remarkably similar—except that it only costs $2,300.
Twenty-three-hundred dollars didn’t used to buy you much for a real full-suspension—meaning one with a reputable linkage, actually efficient pedaling characteristics and strong enough components to take a beating without snapping and popping in a hiss of mis-shifts, bent wheels and begrudging suspension noises. You could find entry full-suspensions at $1,800 or $1,900, too heavy to be XC though their travel numbers suggested it, yet too flimsy to be all-mountain based on their wheels and frugal-first forks and shocks. As costs went down, so did durability.
Until the rise of value. You can now find a number of great-value trail bikes between $2,100 and $2,500 and not only from consumer-direct brands; true bike-shop brands offer comparable, if not closely comparable options in this range too. But where the YT Jeffsy Base 29 looks to provide something few others offer is in capability. True, there are plenty of $2,100 to $2,500 trail bikes out there, but, look closely, those are trail bikes. Most hover between 115 millimeters to 130 millimeters of rear travel. The Jeffsy brandishes 140 millimeters matched to 150 up front. And that front is a real RockShox Yari fork, based on the same chassis as the Lyrik, the spare-no-expense enduro offering from SRAM.
Capability continues throughout the Jeffsy Base 29’s spec: dual-compound 2.4-inch Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO TR tires are mounted (already tubeless upon arrival) to 30-millimeter-inner-rim width DT Swiss M 1900 Spline wheels. Let’s pause for a second, that’s a $440 wheelset, made by DT Swiss in a DT Swiss factory with a known and proven DT Swiss 370 hub … on a $2,300 bike. Not bad. A full SRAM SX Eagle kit complements Guide T brakes, a Race Face Aeffect R 35-millimeter cockpit with ODI grips, and a SDG RDR MNT saddle sits atop a YT-branded Postman dropper providing 170 millimeters (for the size XL tested). All pretty impressive when glancing over a spec sheet.
To the Molehill
Testing in a time of COVID. The majority of my riding I spent storming my local molehill during the early hours any sane person should be sleeping. It’s a large lump with a broken-pavement climb that crumbles between deteriorating water tower access and overgrown-brush singletrack. It has some surprisingly steep jaunts, a few mind the front wheel and uphill positioning alignment maneuvers but overall it’s short. It’s SoCal so it’s either sunbaked conglomerate, freeze-dried dust, sandpapery sandstone, or sharp, pugnacious igneous rock. This applies to the descents as well, which fall into three categories: traversey, berm-aspiring and not steep; steep and rut like with a continuous fall-line insult of very sharp rocks, which tends to rattle out suspension’s insecurities; or a combination of the first two mixing in bouts of puckery rock jumble rolls and small ledges, a g-out or two, and some haphazard side hits throughout. It’s strange to closely revisit what you have nearby, you find variation hiding in what you’ve overlooked.
As time wore on, I drove to a bigger local bucket-list ride combining a long, drawn-out climb, smooth pine tree narrow singletrack, sun-exposed hardpack trenches, dry leafy serpentine turns, brutal embedded rock jumbles and slow-speed boulder hoisting and maneuvering.
With the YT Jeffsy Base 29, you don’t have a climb switch on the RockShox Deluxe Select shock—as in, not there, not able to add on later, no combination of tinkering with a minute Allen key will ever magically produce one. It’s something that, as reviewers, we all tirelessly say that we don’t need when describing a bike’s efficiency uphill, but in the back of our minds, it’s a really nice security blanket. Didn’t exactly nail your sag to be that irrefutable perfect balance of traction, sprightly pedaling and still somehow plush? No worries, use the climb switch. Or at least that’s how it feels in my head. So I really did have to find that sweet spot, and while I started out closer to 35-percent sag, I migrated to 30 and stayed there. For me, it was plenty efficient uphill, provided good traction clawing over slippery rocks, and didn’t feel too resistant or harsh on descents.
Uphill, the Jeffsy did well, thanks in large part to its 77-degree seat tube angle. Most of the climbs I did are fairly steep, so a steep seat angle feels even better as the hoisted front end still had me in a neutral placement over the bottom bracket. It had a predictable, efficient feel as though there’s a pedaling platform built in with each dig you take. It’s not indifferent, like the magical, cloudlike hoverbikes we constantly laud, but it doesn’t wallow about in a ripple of bob—your efforts aren’t wasted. Horst link bikes may not elicit coos of delight from nearby riding bros, but they get the job done and they’ve only gotten better with time. And riding one without a lockout gives inefficiency no hiding place, you know how it climbs, and it climbs well. At 34.8 pounds (without pedals, size XL), its weight is felt, but at $2,300 for a 140/150-millimeter bike, that’s not a bad weight.
Downhill the same proven linkage did its job, and true to Horst link’s strengths, the suspension felt brake-jack free, seemingly completely independent of braking forces on performance. It felt supportive without feeling overly progressive, if anything it erred on the crisp side of things, but most noted was its no-surprises nature. When steeper rocks are covered in a loose sheen of silt-like sand, predictable traction is a premium asset.
Also predictable was the Jeffsy’s steady-handed nature of descending. It wasn’t easily jostled off line, it didn’t sop up rocks like a downhill sled but its long, 1,255-millimeter wheelbase combined with the Jeffsy’s 440-millimeter (intentionally 5-millimeters longer on XL and XXL) chainstays made for a planted but moveable manner. Want poppy and playful exuberance? Seek other bikes, this is a get-the-job-done descender.
Where the Jeffsy fell short in descending duties was in its braking power. Four-piston Guide T brakes aren’t bad but they’re also not good and it could be that I’m spoiled by using SRAM’s higher level ‘RS’ and above series brakes. With Guide Ts (and Guide Rs for that matter) you get great initial bite, it’s the same sensation as the expensive SRAM brakes, but when it comes time to really slow down, near the apex of that rapidly approaching corner, little happens when you wail on the brake lever. It creates a nice sense of panic, and it’s not a fool-me-once sort of thing, it’s a fool-me-every-time—the brake always gets the last laugh. It’s not fair to pick on YT necessarily about this, as we see these brakes on many brand’s more-economical offerings, but it sure would be nice to see a very basic Shimano brake specced, or it seems like there has to be a Tektro or something that would provide more power, or at least more ramp up in power at a good price.
Wait a minute Mr. Postman
The flip side of this is the dropper. House-branded droppers can raise a suspicious eyebrow, but YT’s Postman worked flawlessly. Action was great, it didn’t wobble, has a positive lever feel and nothing curious happened over time. And, it’s a 170-millimeter dropper on a $2,300 bike, again, awesome. The SDG saddle sitting atop also felt far nicer than would be expected on a bike at this price—most of the time, you feel as though you sink through an inexpensive saddle’s padding to sit directly on the shell, while here the padding has a nice, supportive microcell feel. Great for a big day on the bike.
Overall, the YT Jeffsy Base 29 doesn’t feel all that much different than the far-fancier Jeffsy Pro Race 29 we tested a year ago. Sure, the Jeffsy Base is heavier, it doesn’t have a Grip2 damper and you can’t lock out the shock, but it also doesn’t really need the lockout, and the alloy DT Swiss wheels it comes with are great and don’t necessitate an upgrade. Plus, the alloy frame rides plenty stiff without making any noises so while you will get a lighter bike going carbon, you’re not getting a lesser ride going aluminum. And in updating the alloy Jeffsy, they’ve upgraded to Maxxis tires so our nitpick over the e*thirteen tires from a year ago has been addressed as well.
With the Jeffsy Base 29, you get an incredibly capable bike at an exceptional value. It climbs well, it descends well, it has great components and it’s thoroughly modern. Were it mine, I’d buy a set of Shimano MT520 four-piston Deore brakes and YT’s Thirstmaster 4000 (awesome name noted) so I could have a water bottle onboard. And at $2,300, I’d have money to afford those two quick upgrades.
Of course, the YT Jeffsy Base 29 happens to be out of stock right now. That’s an issue YT has been getting better at, but the recent run on affordable bikes isn’t helping. Still, you can keep tabs on the inventory at us.yt-industries.com