The YT Izzo Touches Down on Endurance Island [Review]

The YT Izzo represents a big departure from the rowdy mountain bikes the brand has designed up until this point.

The YT Izzo represents a big departure from the rowdy bikes the brand has designed up until this point. YT started out with a dirt jump bike and quickly moved to the gravity side, putting together highly capable yet accessible bikes that up-and-coming riders could more easily afford. Prior to the Izzo, the brand singularly focused their product offerings on young and talented gravity riders, leaving the next generation of World Cup XC champs and countless NICA athletes to either pay up for high quality bikes from brands like Trek and Specialized, or to settle for more affordable, but less capable, endurance race machines.

This chart from YT makes it clear that aside from their first bike, the Dirtlove, the Izzo is the only YT (so far) that isn’t designed to be raced or ridden “enduro.” If there were an XC column listed, the pink Izzo line could legitimately cover that one too.

More than building a bridge to reach endurance riders, the Izzo is truly a hop to an entirely new island where the natives speak a different language. Whereas speccing a slightly heavier, but much more affordable and capable build kit on a gravity bike is a tradeoff YT buyers in enduro land have proven willing to make, the natives of endurance island worship the god of the climb who is angered by such thinking. Perhaps this is why it’s taken YT so long to add a proper trail bike to the line; there’s no obvious way to please the god of the pedal rider and gram counter without making a costly offering.

YT uses words like stiff, precise, agile, and fast in their marketing materials for the Izzo, noticeably more so than words like fun and playful that are often associated with trail riding. But it’s not that the Izzo is a straight XC race machine; it’s a trail bike that’s designed to be ridden anywhere, anytime, but clearly in the places that are far removed from bike parks and gnarly mountain descents.

On the surface, the Izzo looks like a YT with the same harsh, angular lines set in the top and down tubes that the brand is known for. That edgy look, however, belies a much more practical, efficient machine beneath the surface. It’s this duality that sets the Izzo up to be a bike that both kids and uncool grownups alike can appreciate, though neither may be willing to admit it to the other. Overthink this one too much and the cool factor could easily float away.

Geometry tends to offer a more objective view into a bike’s intentions, and it can even hint at how a bike will ride. For a short-travel trail bike, the Izzo features solidly modern geometry with a head tube that can be set as low as 66° with the flip chip, and a climb-friendly seat tube that straightens as steep as 77.5°. The 492mm reach on the size XL bike I’ve been riding is properly long, and the 437mm chain stays aren’t a buzz kill by any means.

The thing is, as progressive as the geometry is on the Izzo, it still just rides like a really dialed short-travel trail bike. We like to imagine that one day someone is going to manage to stuff enduro-level descending capabilities into an XC bike. Or make a 130mm trail bike that rides like a 160mm enduro bike through some magic combination of just the right geometry numbers.

Like their other models, the Izzo features balanced suspension numbers with 130mm of travel front and rear. While many brands today are choosing to add a little more party in the front to the business in the rear, the Izzo plays it safe with business at both ends of the bike. The result is a poised ride feel that keeps its steely focus on notching miles and rolling with the terrain. This is a bike that knows what it is, and isn’t trying to be something it is not.

YT doesn’t currently offer an alloy version of the Izzo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they held off on adding one for a while, if at all. Unlike enduro and gravity competition, when it comes to XC and stage racing, aluminum bikes with entry-level components just aren’t as likely to make the grade. That’s not to say a reasonably light weight aluminum Izzo build isn’t possible; the question is, how many riders would want one?

Ride impressions

On the trail, the YT Izzo is a joy to pedal. I spend a lot of time riding hardtail mountain bikes, and the Izzo didn’t have me missing them on the climbs. The bike accelerates up sharp, punchy steeps and the power transfer feels nearly instantaneous. On some full suspension bikes the first pedal stroke can feel like stepping into watery quicksand, or at best, cookie dough. Mashing into the Izzo feels more like mashing into silly putty, or to use a better example from the bike world, D3O. Punch it hard, and it feels as if there’s stiff resistance, yet beneath the surface the suspension works to maintain traction and smooth out the chatter.

While testing the Izzo I often felt like those guys and girls in the bike videos who are furiously pedaling out to the trail, or through the flats in between flowy descents, heart racing, yet somehow never out of breath. It’s a fleeting feeling that I’m used to experiencing only on my best days, sun shining and energy levels high. Riding the Izzo I found that zone surprisingly regularly, and with ease. I was suddenly faster, and more focused, and free.

According to YT, the Izzo weighs nearly two pounds less than their similarly priced all-mountain Jeffsy. Judging by its climbing abilities, the Izzo indeed feels lightweight, though the official 30.04lb. weight of the extra-large test bike probably won’t impress everyone. YT says a size small bike without pedals weighs just a bit over 27lbs. which has a much nicer ring to it. That lightweight makes it easy to add some energetic style to the ride, or just as easily, to pass everyone on the climbs.

On tight and technical trails, the Izzo proves itself agile and responsive. Awkward switchbacks are a little less awkward thanks to the climb-friendly geometry, but also the ability to instantly power up at just the right moment. The rear end is short enough that it’s maneuverable, but not quite to the point of being playful. The Izzo feels like a scalpel (the knife, not the bike), designed for efficient singletrack carving. Put another way, it’s much closer to a tool than a toy.

The bike’s serious focus doesn’t let up on the descents either. One hundred and thirty millimeters of travel isn’t a lot to play with on fast, rocky descents so YT opts for a tightly managed four-link suspension design that prioritizes traction and control over comfort and squish. The result is a racy ride feel that doesn’t get bounced around, but still requires the rider to give a little too. For all day rides, the Izzo delivers just the right amount of suspension to keep the rider feeling fresh.

Smooth but angular tubing.

I never really meshed with the grip-shift-style shock lockout remote on this bike, which tends to get twisted at just the wrong time, or I accidentally bump the release while reaching for the dropper remote. A bar-mounted lockout remote is a racy touch for sure, though one I think most riders are willing to do without. It also limits grip selection down the road.

Depending on local conditions and riding style, buyers may want to swap out the stock Maxxis Forecaster 2.35″ tires for something meatier, especially if the Izzo will be used for everyday trail riding. The stock tires are nice and supple though, and I didn’t have any problems with them during my test aside from a shipping-related gash that I plugged right out of the box. Similar to the tires, the SRAM G2 RS brakes are well-suited to the bike and its intentions, but don’t seem to deliver quite the same stopping power as other 4-piston brakes I’ve tested.

In keeping with its ninja-like persona, the Izzo is whisper-quiet on the trail thanks to dialed cable and hose routing and a ribbed chain slap protector. Even the value-oriented GX drivetrain was reliably quiet throughout testing and delivered snappy performance.

Who is Izzo?

I admit, it’s a little weird to describe a trail bike as racy. I mean, there’s XC and Enduro racing, and fiercely-competitive World Cup downhill. Even the freeriders and slopestylers have Crankworx and the FMB World Tour. The closest thing to trail bike racing is probably something like the BC Bike Race, a multi-day singletrack stage race across miles of notoriously challenging (and beautiful) terrain. The Izzo definitely seems like it would be a great choice for stage racing, able to handle a variety of terrain without wearing out the oxygen- and burrito-powered engine. But there must be more to it than that, right? For most of us, if we’re lucky we get to do a stage race once a year, or maybe just once in a lifetime.

Which gets me back to YT’s seemingly safe landing on endurance island. A lot of young mountain bikers are being introduced to the sport through high school mountain bike leagues, especially here in the US, where the races are decidedly XC-focused. But young riders don’t have the coin, nor are they experienced enough, to own a quiver of bikes to suit every occasion. They need a bike that can be competitive at the weekend races that’s also fun to mess around on during the rest of the week with friends. Not only that, the bike has to be cool, which conveniently, is YT’s specialty.

I counted at least 18 YT logos plastered on the Izzo frame, bits, and baubles.

As it turns out, a lot of weekend warriors have almost exactly the same needs as the young talent. They want a bike they can possibly race in the local summer series without getting lapped, but also want a bike they can take on a weekend trip with friends. And yeah, even middle-aged folks like to feel cool.

After a couple of months riding the YT Izzo, it’s hard to find fault with this bike. It’s as good a choice as any in the short-travel, dare I say downcountry, category and delivers impressive results, particularly given the $3,899 Pro build sticker price. While this may be new territory for the YT brand, it’s clear they’ve done their homework and can deliver a well thought out trail bike that riders will love.

For more photos and detailed info about the build as reviewed, be sure to read the YT Izzo in for Test article.

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