By Justin Steiner,
Our review of Yeti’s much anticipated, and subsequently revered, SB-95 has traveled a rocky trail to fruition. First, we intended to do a head-to-head comparison with the SB-66 like we had with Specialized’s Stumpjumper 29 and 26.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. When our SB-95 tester arrived, yours truly was “forced” to ride my first 29er since the Jones Diamond frame back in late 2011. Prior to that, my last full suspension 29er was Niner’s WFO 9 in late 2009, early 2010. It’s been a while.
That’s a long-winded way of explaining that my riding has evolved to a more gravity-inspired style over recent years. I’ve been enjoying the fun, playful nature of my recent string of 150mm+ travel 26-inch test bikes, and have to say I wasn’t thrilled to switch back over to “wagon wheels.” I use that term in jest, as I do fully see the value of the various wheel sizes depending on a rider’s style, terrain, and physical size.
Enough already, let’s talk about the bike. The SB-95 is one of a growing group of “new school” 29er trail bikes with more suspension travel and slacker, more rugged trail bike geometry. This 127mm (5”) travel frame can be paired with either a 130mm-travel RockShox Revelation or a Fox 34 CTD set to 120mm of travel out of the box. The beauty of the Fox 34 is its ability to increase to 140mm of travel with the removal of an internal spacer. With the fork set to 120mm, the SB’s headtube angle sits at 68.5-degrees. At 140mm, it slackens to 67.6-degrees.
From the beginning, Yeti’s approach to the geometry of the SB-bikes intrigued me. The SB-66 is designed with longer-than-average top tube lengths to accompany shorter-than-average stems. However the SB-95 offers shorter top tube lengths with longer stems. For instance, the size small SB-66 I tested has the exact same top tube length as my size medium SB-95 (given the choice, I would have tested a medium of both). The end result, and I’m guessing one of Yeti’s key design ideals, is very similar wheelbase measurements size-for-size.
Though the wheelbase measurements may be very similar, the ratio of front-center to rear-center lengths goes a long way toward explaining handling differences. The SB-66 has shorter chainstays coupled to a longer front-center, while the SB-95 has a shorter front-center teamed with longer chainstays. As expected, the SB-66 lofts it’s front wheel with less effort and offers a touch more stability descending steep terrain. The SB-95 handles with a bit more traditional “steering” feel, requiring a less committed lean into corners, while the larger wheels provide ample stability. The SB-95 rolls through rough terrain with less effort, but requires more effort when trials-style moves are required. Everything has a trade off.
Overall, the SB-66 handles with a bit more gravity influence while the SB-95 feels comparatively XC inspired—exactly what the suspension travel suggests. In my opinion, Yeti really nailed the geometry on both of these bikes, given their intended use.
Like the SB-66 I recently reviewed, the SB-95 utilizes the Sotto Group’s Switch suspension design, which employs an eccentric lower link. This eccentric lower link provides snappy pedaling thanks to healthy anti-squat characteristics during the initial stroke, as well as a plush, controlled end of stroke as the eccentric “switches” directions.
Out on the trail, the SB-95 handles rough terrain quite capably, rolling through chunky rock sections with little effort required of the rider. In general, it begs to be ridden hard, as its capable geometry and suspension comes alive as speed increases.
After swapping the fork to the 140mm-travel mode, I personally dug the SB-95’s ride even more. The slacker angles provide a touch more stability and a little bit more carve when turning. If you’re running the 34 fork, you’re carrying that extra 20mm around regardless. Might as well put it to good use.
Thus far in the test, the Yeti has gone a long way toward reinstating my confidence in 29-inch wheeled bikes. It’s much more fun and capable than XC-ish 29ers, while offering an efficient pedaling platform. For the time being, I’d personally opt for the SB-66 thanks to its more playful nature, but can’t help but wonder how awesome an SB-27.5 might be…
Look for the full review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe today to have that issue delivered directly to your mailbox.