Dirt Rag Magazine

Inside Line: Yeti introduces new SB4.5c, a Switch Infinity 29er trail bike


The 29er trail bike market continues to heat up, and Yeti turns up the flames even more with the SB4.5c. This is Yeti’s first 29er to use its Switch Infinity suspension system. We covered the tech behind Switch Infinity here if you want to read more about it, but to sum it up: “As the suspension moves through its travel, the main pivot, mounted to a carrier that slides on two Kashima coated shafts, initially moves up, but at the inflection point, it moves back towards the bottom bracket.” At this point, Switch Infinity is well proven under Richie Rude and Jared Graves, who have been rallying the SB5 and SB6 in the Enduro World Series.

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The 4.5 stands for 4.5-inches of travel, also known as 114 mm, and the bike is designed around 130 or 140 mm forks. Geometry is fully modern with 67.9/67.4 degree head angle (130/140 fork), a 23.7/23.8-inch toptube in a medium frame, 13.0/13.2 bottom bracket height and 17.2-inch chainstays.

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“When we released the SB5c and SB6c, the number one question we heard was ‘When are you going to make a 29er trail bike?’ Truth is, we were already well into development and have been riding prototypes for nearly a year,” said Yeti’s President Chris Conroy. “The goal with the SB4.5C was to build a trail-specific bike with the firm pedaling platform and supple bump absorption that our Switch Infinity design is known for. Based on feedback from racers on our team like Jared Graves and Richie Rude as well as a range of local riders and dealers who’ve ridden it, the SB4.5C is exactly the bike we were trying make.”

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Yeti SB4.5C Features:

  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Frame Weight: 5.4 pounds
  • Travel: 4.5 inches / 114mm
  • Rear Shock: FOX Float Factory DPS
  • Bottom Bracket: PF92
  • Rear Spacing: 148 Boost
  • Internally routed cables
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 5 years

Models / Availability

  • Yeti SB4.5c + XO1: $6,899 (September 15th)
  • Yeti SB4.5c + XO1 + Enve: $9,299 (October 1st)
  • Yeti SB4.5c + GX: $5,599 (December 1st)
  • Yeti SB4.5c + XTR + Enve: $10,499 (October 1st)

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Inside Line: Yeti releases two women’s bikes: the Yeti Beti ASRc and SB5c


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The women’s bike market just got a another serious player in the form of Yeti Cycles.

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Taking an approach that mirrors Santa Cruz’s Juliana women’s bikes, Yeti’s new Beti line utilizes existing frame designs, adapted for women with distinct finishes and component selection.

Yeti selected two of its most popular carbon fiber models for the Beti line, the ASRc and the SB5c. All touch points are changed, with a WTB Diva saddle, narrower handlebars and slimmer grips. Frames get a gloss finish and very subdued graphics.

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Yeti explains the name “Yeti Beti”:

The first known use of ‘Yeti Betty’ came from a Yeti freak in Keystone, Colorado. She was so attached to her bike that she referred to herself as a Yeti Betty. She encouraged her friends to join the Tribe and soon there were a slew of Bettys spreading the gospel. Shortly thereafter, Amy Thomas, who ran a team called the Betis, approached us seeking support for the team. Naturally, they became the Yeti Betis and have been flying the flag ever since. The Yeti Betis were instrumental in putting together our Yeti Beti line: they advised on colors, graphics, and component choices. They’re also, well…women. Turns out that’s pretty important.

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Bikes will be available June 25, 2015. More info in the Q & A below and on Yeti’s website.

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Yeti Beti ASRc / XO1 – $5,799

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Yeti Beti SB5c / XO1 – $6,899

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Some Q &A provided by Yeti:

Why did Yeti choose to use an existing frame platform rather than build a
women’s specific frame?

We felt our current platform fits and performs very well for women. For example, our ASRc / Yeti Beti has 27.5 wheels on the extra small and small sizes and 29” wheels on medium and large. This was done, in large part, to accommodate women riders. We also offer extra small and small in the SB5c / Yeti Beti and since it’s already built with 27.5 wheels, it fits women very well.

Our fundamental bike design remained unchanged on the Yeti Beti bikes. We know from experience core riders appreciate the performance and attention to detail regardless of gender. We sought to make meaningful adjustments like customizing crank lengths according to frame size and, perhaps most importantly, tuning the rear suspension for better performance. The rear shocks are valved for lighter riders – they have less rebound damping so the suspension doesn’t pack-up when the going gets rough. This results in a bike that is more efficient going uphill and more controlled when descending.

Do you guys have a lot of women on staff?

We have two women on staff. We’re a small company, but the ratio is still a little out of whack. We work so closely with an array of different women closely associated with Yeti that it really feels like they’re part of the family. We’re lucky enough to benefit from constant dialogue from all their different perspectives.

Do you envision the Yeti Beti line growing in the future?

We know that entering any new bike category takes time and commitment. We wouldn’t have taken this step if we weren’t committed to growing the line, but our underlying commitment will always be to the women’s community and creating products that resonate with them. We will continue to listen to their feedback and use it to shape bikes that suit their needs and deliver the best possible riding experience.

How does the apparel line fit into the overall plan?

The bike and apparel lines are very complementary. Performing your best on the trail depends on a variety of factors, and having high-quality equipment that fits women and functions well is essential. It goes without saying that there has been a void here, and we sought to address multiple aspects by having a coordinated apparel and bike line. There’s nothing wrong with looking good, too.

In fact, when we started making women’s specific apparel three years ago, people told us we were crazy. Many had tried and failed. But our women riders encouraged us and were very helpful in helping us create the line. It was due to their input that our shorts were created and have become so popular. We also had a woman running the entire apparel program at that time, which was critical
to the line’s success.

You’ll see many color and branding similarities between the bikes and apparel. In fact, our SB5c / Yeti Beti is coral based on the huge response we got when we introduced the coral Norrie shorts.

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Finding new limits at the VIDA MTB women’s skills clinic series


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Photos by Emily Walley and Justin Steiner.

The VIDA MTB Series is a multi-city women’s clinic tour spearheaded by Sarah Rawley and Elena Forchielli that evolved out of the Beti Bike Clinics of 2013 and 2014. The Sedona MTB Festival was the debut of the VIDA MTB Series and the first of five stops for 2015. Participants had the option to sign up for a one- or two-day clinic for $180 and $310 respectively. Clinic registration also included entry to the Sedona MTB Fest’s bike demos, shuttles, bands, and beer tickets.

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In addition to professional mountain bike skills instruction, VIDA clinics promote cycling as an holistic lifestyle activity. Each of the coaches and ambassadors shared their successes within the sport and they were unified in their passion and excitement about expanding women’s mountain biking. Listening to the tales of coaches, ambassadors and participants, one quickly realizes cycling can have a ton of positive influence in women’s lives in terms of community, relationships, environment, emotional and physical fitness and fun.

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The VIDA clinics are supported by Yeti, and VIDA aims to reflect the signature Yeti “tribe” mentality at its events. One way that they’re achieving this goal is by building a network of ambassadors throughout the country. VIDA ambassadors connect with the women in their area, growing the mountain bike community.

“These are the women getting people stoked and motivated to get after it, organizing trail days, advocating for bikers, and volunteering in their communities.” according to the VIDA website. Ambassadors also play supporting roles at VIDA Clinics by demonstrating skills, sweeping rides, and more. Think you’d make a great VIDA ambassador? Apply here.

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Day One

A total of 6 coaches, 14 ambassadors, and 35 participants from Maine to California gathered at the Sedona Posse Grounds Park. In pre-clinic surveys each individual detailed her riding history, perceived skill level and what she hoped to learn. We then split into groups of six that varied from novice to advanced. The small group size allowed time for the coaches to critique each individual rider and hone in on areas to improve, while still large enough to provide some necessary peer pressure. VIDA VP and Marketing Director Elena Forchielli emphasized that the groups would remain small even as the clinic scaled up; it would simply mean employing more coaches.

Basic bike/body separation, body position, cornering, looking ahead, lifting the front and rear wheel independently, and drops were all on the agenda. The coaches demonstrated each skill and then we practiced several times while critiqued. For me, skills out of context will forever feel awkward, but I think that’s what makes it so important; when it’s the only thing I have to think about it I’m aware of what I’m doing wrong.

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After the morning skills session, lunch was provided at the Posse Grounds Park and then we set out for on-trail instruction. My coach was downhill-slalom-enduro-extraordinaire Wendy Palmer of Moab. Wendy has coached me in the past and I admire her expert instruction and welcoming personality. She has the unique ability to connect with each rider on a personal level, evaluate her skills and push her in a constructive manner. We spent much of the afternoon on Sedona’s Jordan and Anthill Trails, stopping at locations en route to work on line selection, steep descents and drops. After the on-trail instruction ride, there was an optional yoga session in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, the MTB festival’s home base.

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Raffles from awesome sponsors like Smith Optics, Yeti Cycles, Skratch Labs, Stan’s NoTubes, and a free two-day VIDA clinic took place each day. Everyone that stuck around walked away with a prize.

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Saturday closed with tech talk from FOX. Even the guys gathered ’round for this informative information session where Jeff Menown, of Outside Technical Services, disassembled a fork, explained the inner workings, and detailed proper suspension setup.

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Day Two

On Sunday we grabbed prepared lunches at the VIDA tent and went straight to the Mystic trailhead to ride Pigtail, Hogwash, and Broken Arrow up to the view at Chicken Point for more on-trail instruction. All of these trails were challenging, offering excellent opportunities to challenge the skills we had practiced the day prior. We rode Pigtail a few times which offered technical descents into switchbacks, drops, and a jump.

Personally, our discussions about downhill brake modulation on technical descents and proper body position in switchbacks were invaluable lessons for me; from Friday to Monday my confidence descending increased dramatically and I think this speaks volumes about the instruction.

I wasn’t the only one that pedaled away with a success story, here’s what some other participants had to say.

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“I rode things that I would instinctually avoid if I were riding by myself. I learned to be confident and smart in my riding. I learned how to do a jump. I learned that riding with a group of girls is super fun and inspiring. Having already ridden back on my home trails, I feel like they are brand new and I tried a couple new lines today that I’ve never done before.” – Taylor of Tucson, Arizona.

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“I found out with the clinic that I have a lot of bad habits but now I know the correct way to do things and also that I am very capable of doing things that I didn’t think I could previously do. I cannot wait to practice more and get rid of the bad habits. I really wish that I had taken this clinic years ago and I will definitely go next year to continue learning new things.” – Becky of Guaymas, Mexico.

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“The day after I got home, I met up with a girl I met at the clinic and we rode one of my favorite trails in Phoenix. When we came up to my usual “I’ll just walk this” section, I felt equipped to try it, analyze my approach and conquer the former obstacle. Overall I left the experience empowered and more confident in riding a bike. A success story for me!” – Heather of Phoenix, Arizona.

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Prior to the clinic I’d found myself idling as an intermediate rider; feeling like I’d hit a physical and mental plateau. But after a couple days out of my element with VIDA instruction I experienced noticeable growth as a rider, and I realized that I hadn’t been pushing myself to improve. After the clinic I had visions of conquering specific sections on my home trails that I’ve never ridden in the past.

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The VIDA MTB Series really is for ALL skill levels; even the most skilled rider has a place with VIDA. The advanced group tackled one of Sedona’s most challenging trails, Hangover. This steep and exposed trail lives up to its name and is not for the faint of heart.

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There are five VIDA Clinics on the roster for 2015! Next up is the Core one-day Clinic in Boulder, CO. Start planning your weekend to better riding and new friends!

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VIDA MTB Series Founders, Elena Forchielli and Sarah Rawley.

Read a full report of the Sedona MTB Festival here.

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Long-term review: Yeti 575


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When the 575 was first introduced a decade ago, it broke the mold for trail bikes. With 5.75 inches of travel, it doubled what other companies were offering, plus it featured a 69-degree head-tube angle, which was unheard of at the time. Back then, it was considered so slack that Yeti told dealers it was 71 degrees. The 575 continues to remain hugely popular and has helped galvanize Yeti Cycles’ cult following.

It’s been 10 years Dirt Rag’s original 575 review in Issue #110, and since then the bike has become an iconic player in the Colorado company’s line. Its characteristics have helped define a genre of bikes whose traits are now common throughout the market. Rear travel remains the same at 146mm and it’s paired with a 150mm Fox 34 up front.

Over the years there have been several updates; the most notable this year has been increasing the wheel size from 26 inches to 27.5. Almost everything about the bike, from kinematics to geometry, was redesigned and optimized around this larger wheel size.

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Other updates include ISCG-05 tabs, interchangeable dropouts for a 135mm QR or 12x142mm thru axle, and a PressFit 30 bottom bracket. Yeti offers four different kit options: a least-expensive Enduro build, the equally-priced Race kit with Shimano components or SRAM X01, and the highest-end Pro build with Shimano XTR.

I’ve had the chance to ride our 575 test bike with the Race kit on trails around Dirt Rag headquarters in Pittsburgh, and also on Yeti’s home turf along the Front Range of Colorado. This difference in terrain has allowed me to experience two different sides of the 575.

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Back East, the bike feels very responsive and agile. It is quick to accelerate out of turns and through power moves. It maintains maneuverability in tighter settings, but feels very balanced. Sometimes bikes that do well at slower speeds tend to feel a bit twitchy when you’re moving fast, but the slacker angles of the 575 kept me confident when I needed to get behind the saddle. With a solid Race spec, the 575 was a bike I could immediately relate to.

Along the Front Range, the 575 settled into its plush, trophy-truck personality. The single-pivot suspension design utilizes a pivot-less rear triangle relying on the flex engineered into the redesigned butted-aluminum seat stays. The seatstays provide enough compliance as the wheel moves through its travel.

The 575 has had a history of customer feedback concerning its wallow-y mid-stroke, meaning it would blow through the middle portion of its rear travel too quickly. Traditionally there have been a couple of ways around this: air pressure in the shock or more compression damping. But for 2014 Yeti re-designed the hard points of the suspension to improve the kinematics of the rear-wheel travel and eliminate the wallow while still providing a plush suspension feel.

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The same responsive and neutral handling was apparent on Yeti’s home trails in Colorado, but as the terrain opened up and descents got faster, I noticed something that I didn’t in Pennsylvania: I felt very high on the bike. The XL I tested has a long head tube measuring 6.3 inches, which is at least an inch longer than most competing bikes of this size. Even with the stem slammed to the headset, the bars are nearly an inch higher than what I typically run. Combined with a 13.60-inch bottom-bracket height, the bike felt more comfortable being steered than carved while hovering over the saddle in a ready position.

The 575 eats the rough rather than skipping through it. In other words, it has plushness rather than a sport-tuned feel. The long 47.5-inch wheelbase means stability and confidence holding a line through technical terrain. Combine that stability with the softer feel of its suspension and the bike is willing to devour rough trails. This is where it felt most within its element.

When ascending, the bike really benefits from the Climb setting on the Fox CTD shock. The Trail option isn’t bad if you’re going up and down, but walking feels more efficient than Descend. Don’t expect much anti-squat from the suspension. Those three settings really make a difference when going uphill with this bike. The 575 has always been a gateway into Yeti’s tribe. Chris Conroy, president of Yeti Cycles, puts it like this: “Your first BMW probably isn’t a 5 series or an M3. It’s probably a 3 series.”

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That doesn’t mean it isn’t one hell of a car. It’s a good analogy for how the company views the 575. It’s a more accessible introduction into the brand and it features several of the same design principles that all Yeti bikes are known for, like longer top tubes and slacker angles. The latest super bikes, like the SB5c and SB6c, build on those principles and offer extremely high-end performance. The 575 comes from the same mentality and innovation that drives all their models but is less focused on the podium.

It was a game changer 10 years ago and continues to be a relevant bike in a now-crowded category. The simple and proven suspension design allows the price point to remain relatively low when compared to the newer SB bikes. With a lot of sexy new offerings out of the Yeti camp, the 575 remains a relevant option for most trail riders. If you’re looking to graduate to The Tribe as a trail rider, then the 575 is your introduction.

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Inside Line: Yeti unveils new AS-Rc, because not everyone races enduro


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Hot on the heels of the the SB5c trail bike, Yeti releases a new cross country platform dubbed the AS-Rc.

As much as longer trail trail bikes are everyone’s favorite topic these days, not everyone wants or needs all that travel and slackness. This new AS-Rc should fill in the gap nicely between the trail bikes and ARC carbon hardtail.

Get all the details here.

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Inside Line: Yeti unveils SB5c with radical new suspension design


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Across the board, the staff at Dirt Rag was more than a little surprised by this new suspension design. We knew there was a new 27.5 bike in the works, but we had no clue it would be so new and unique.

Yeti calls this new design Switch Infinity, or a “translating pivot”. As the suspension moves through its travel, the main pivot, mounted to a carrier that slides on two Kashima coated shafts, initially moves up, but at the inflection point, it moves back towards the bottom bracket.

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See how it works here.

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Review: Yeti SB-66


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By Justin Steiner

There’s been much hubbub in recent months about Yeti’s newest flag- ship trail bike, the SB-66. At first glance, it seemed strange that Yeti might keep their venerable 575 alongside this new 152mm-travel machine, given their similar geometries and travel figures. Yeti’s Chris Conroy described the differences and the reasons for having both bikes in the Yeti lineup: “The 575 is plusher, the SB-66 will feel more ‘performance.’ Those are subjective descriptions, but the SB-66 will pedal better than the 575. Riders interested in comfort and being able to blast through rock gardens with a more muted feel would prefer the 575. On the SB-66 you will feel the nuances of the trail more.”

Having reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed, the 575 in issue #154, I was eager to experience the differences for myself. Read the full story

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Sea Otter Report: Yeti introduces two new carbon bikes


By Mike Cushionbury

Yeti Cycles held a special off-site ride day to introduce its two newest carbon offerings: The SB95 Carbon and the ARC Carbon. Both are based on the iconic brands successful aluminum versions of the same names.

SB95 Carbon

Yeti president Chris Conroy readily admits it took his brand a long while to come out with its interpretation of a long-travel 29er so as such, it began with an aluminum frame, the successful 5-inch travel SB95. According to Conroy, reports of riders saying, “If you make this in carbon it will be my favorite bike” left them with little reason to not take the plunge for 2013.

Following the design elements of the original ARS5, the platform has a slack head tube, low bottom bracket and long top tube (a concept Yeti incorporated in 2001.) This new carbon frame weighs 5.7lbs, shedding a whopping two pounds from the aluminum SB95 frame. Goals for using carbon are obvious: optimize stiffness, loose weight and maximize ride quality, a feat Yeti easily achieved.

During our short stint aboard the new bike we had little to complain about. Some of that came from the frame’s instant response, light weight and chatter muting characteristics but we also we can’t deny that the Switch technology suspension played a major role as well. This single pivot suspension design uses an eccentric lower pivot. When the suspension compresses, the eccentric initially rotates counter-clockwise. Then about halfway through the travel it reverses direction and rotates clockwise. This subtly changes chain stay length to counteract pedaling forces. On the trail it essentially eliminates pedal bob by pushing the rear wheel into the ground for maximum traction, small bump compliance and zero harshness under braking, making it one of the most effective designs available for all types of trail riding.

The test loop aboard the new carbon consisting of a long, steep climb and ripping singletrack descent reconfirmed just how great the long travel SB95 platform climbs. With the carbon bike’s two-pound weight savings and noticeably stiffer frame it rocketed up the incline (with the FOX CTD shock set in Trail mode) more in tune with a shorter travel 29er. Though test time was limited, the Yeti provided initial sensations of good stability at speed and great responsiveness in tight, twisty switchbacks and serpentine singletrack. The suspension was tender off the top in Descend mode to comfortably absorb smaller hits on our smooth-ish test loop without sacrificing square edge ability at higher speeds. Though just an initial test, results were highly positive.

ARC Carbon

Yeti has also reintroduced its legendary ARC in carbon. Conroy was blunt by saying, “It’s one of the most iconic bikes in history so we can’t screw it up.” One of the most storied frames ever made, the Yeti ARC was the very first Easton aluminum Taperwall frame ever made (the Easton logos were bigger then the Yeti logos Conroy recalled) and it was ridden to victory by such greats as Missy Giove, Juli Furtado and John Tomac, who rode one of the first ever carbon framed bikes, the ARC C26. “We had to live up to the legacy of the ARC name,” Conroy said. While that original aluminum frame weighed about 3.1 pounds, this new carbon wonder hits a feathery 2.6 pounds.

The loop chainstays remain but what’s new besides carbon are 29-inch wheels for sizes M-XL while XS and S use 27.5-inch hoops to better fit smaller riders. By doing this engineers were also able to make handling consistent across the size range—a huge plus of riders who fall at either height extreme. Yeticycles.com

Pricing

SB95 C

  • Enduro $4,700
  • Race: $5,800
  • Pro: $8,000
  • Frame: $3,200

ARC C

  • Enduro: $ 3,400
  • Race: $4,400
  • Pro $6,400
  • Frame: $2,000

 

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The 650b fork meets the Yeti SB-66c — a love story


By Matt Kasprzyk

Why mess with a good thing? To make it better, of course. If you agree with the reviews and press; Yeti’s SB-66c is a good thing – if not a great thing. So good that I leapt at the chance for the super-bike to kill my quiver. Yeti has already received several accolades from our staff and many others for their Switch Technology suspension bikes. They must be a good thing, right? So why f’ck with it?

Here’s my reason. Maybe you’ve heard about the 650b craze that is now the 27.5 craze, or what may become the 27 rage? If you have, then you’ve also heard about the shortcomings of 26-inch wheels and the overcompensating 29-inch wheels. What you’re about to read is my attempt at taking a good thing and making it slightly better by asking one question: How would a really ballin 26-inch bike feel with a 650b front wheel.

The steps to answer that question aren’t so simple. Sure, you could grab any 650b fork with a wheel and slap it on there.

The problem with that solution is it could affect the bike’s geometry and characteristics. Maybe the new axle-to-crown length is longer, thus slackening the head-tube-angle. In turn that raises you handlebar and bottom bracket height. Blah, blah, blah and see what a slippery slope this gets into. Sure some of those adjustments could be favorable, but this experiment is solely about a 650b front wheel on a 26-inch bike and what the slightly larger diameter wheel feels like out front. Will this give the “goldielocks” ride while largely maintaining the personality of the bike? Is the slight diameter increase even perceivable?

First, I needed to isolate some variables in this experiment. I wanted to preserve the geometry of the bike as much as possible. That means you need to do some math. Or find someone smarter than you who knows what math to do, which is exactly what I did. Enter Justin Steiner, our resident engineer and mecha-builder. (I’ve never seen Justin build a mecha, but it would be cool.)

Step 1: Measure twice

Know your current measurements

  • Head tube angle
  • Axle-to-crown
  • Front wheel axle height

New setup

  • New fork axle-to-crown
  • New wheel axle height

Step 2:  Sketch

Step 3: Math

Step 4: Space fork down and install

Step 5: Ride

Ride Impressions

I’ve done some intense rides on this 627.5er or SB6/27.5-6/5. My first impression was that there was more wheel flop. With equal HTAs the math shows that there will be a slight increase to Trail. This could account for the added perception of wheel flop while climbing.

However, other than that there really isn’t much to say. The bike’s character wasn’t drastically altered. The 650b wheel is actually not smack-dab in the middle of 26 and 29. It’s closer to a 26-inch wheel then a 29. On the trail I could hardly tell a difference. I like to think that I was able to truck through the rough a little easier without getting a smaller wheel sucked into divots, but it wasn’t as obvious of a change as the move from 26-inch to 29-inch. I attacked descents with the same reckless abandon and emphasis on inertia, rather than grace, as I always do and there was never a moment where I wished for a smaller wheel up front.

The X-Fusion Vengeance fork used in this conversion was slightly heavier than the Fox 36 I had been using. Even so, with the larger wheel and heavier fork, lofting the front wheel wasn’t unwieldy. The Vengeance travel was supple and smooth but I did miss the CTD settings of the Fox.

I think there’s still some fine-tuning and experimentation yet to do, but my final verdict is that the 650b wheel is on there for keeps. I see no reason to take it off. Even if the benefits are minimal, there weren’t any drawbacks.
 

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Dirt Rag’s first Impression: Yeti SB-95


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.

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Interbike 2011: Yeti SB-66 versus SB-95


Yeti unveiled the SB-66 earlier this summer, and now its big-wheeled brother is almost ready for prime time.The SB-95 we rode was a pre-production version. Small changes, like water bottle bosses on the underside of the down tube and routing for a dropper post were absent on this bike but will be included in the production version, which should be available in early 2012.

As noted by a head honcho at a competing brand these two “Super Bikes” proved to be the sweathearts of this year’s Outdoor Demo. We rode both to compare and contrast the personalities of the SB-66 with that of the SB-95.

SB-66

Tested by Justin Steiner

This bike was first to make an impression on me this year, simply due to the buzz around the show about it, and the shear quantity of SB-66’s out on the trail.

We interviewed Yeti’s president, Chris Conroy [link] about the SB-66 earlier in the year, and there’s certainly been much anticipation about this bike all across the Interwebs.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the SB-66’s Switch Technology and a quick spin in unfamiliar terrain makes judgement quite difficult. Initially, it seems as though the suspension reacts quite differently when pedaling and coasting, firming up while on the gas and eagerly using more of its travel while coasting. Both sensations may be explained by his bike’s rearward initial axle path.

I also perceived a change in suspension character after the eccentric begins rotating the opposite direction (beyond 100mm of travel), where the suspension feels less firm and eager to soak up big hits. In my short spin the SB-66 used full travel, but never bottomed noticeably. During this quick ride I wasn’t able to come to a conclusion about how these changes in suspension character might translate over the long haul. I’ll wait for our long-term test before drawing any conclusions.

Chassis-wise, the SB-66 felt stiff and responsive, within the scope of a trail bike with a 67-degree headtube angle. I’m awfully stoked to put this bike through its paces on familiar terrain. 

SB-95

Tested by Josh Patterson

Much like the SB-66, the SB-95 is a slack bike (68.5-degree tapered head tube). It’s intended to be ridden with a short stem, wide bars, and balls to the wall. Ok, so the last part I made up. But if you decide that’s where you like to keep them the SB-95 will accommodate you.

The SB-95 comes equipped with a Fox 34. I was very impressed with the performance of this fork. It’s stiff, plush and unflappable through rough terrain.This fork is opening up a world of possibilities for longer-travel 29ers. Look for a review of the Fox 34 in an upcoming issue.

I also felt the suspension firmed up while pedaling, but I didn’t notice as abrupt a change in performance as on the SB-66. It could be that the 30mm more of rear travel on the SB-66 resulted in more exaggerated changes to the axle path. It is equally plausible that I was too busy enjoying the outstanding handling characteristics of this bike through rough terrain to also take note of the nuances of the suspension. 

Following in the footsteps of the recent introduction of the carbon SB-66, a carbon SB-96 is also in the works. No firm date on the availability of the carbon version. 

Keep reading

It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011, including demo rides.

 

 
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Yeti’s Chris Conroy on the SB-66


Yeti’s president  discusses the new Switch suspension platform and the new SB-66 all-mountain bike

By Josh Patterson

First off, there were rumors and speculation about a new suspension platform being developed but Yeti did a surprisingly good job of keeping things under wraps. How hard is it to keep something like this a secret in this day and age?

It’s a challenge—it seems like everyone has a helmet cam or a smartphone. We tested the SB-66 on trails for more than a year and a half. We were pretty covert about it. On our local trails we would have a couple guys riding prototypes and others on current bikes, if someone came by on the trail we’d surround the prototypes with the current bikes.

Talk to us about the development of the suspension design used on the SB-66. How did the development of this suspension platform come about?

David Earle and Luke Beale [of the design and engineering firm Sotto Group] approached us two years ago at Sea Otter with the concept. At that point it was just an idea on a computer. We thought it had promise. Shortly thereafter, they came out with the first prototype, we rode it and instantly saw the potential. Over the next year and a half they worked with our engineers—going through a half-dozen iterations—to come up with this bike.

Numbers on graphs seldom tell the whole story. Can you compare/contrast how the SB-66’s suspension performs relative to other common suspension platforms such as the dw-link, VPP and single pivots such as the Yeti 575?

We were looking at the pros and cons of dual link designs such as the dw-link and VPP. With both designs there are compromises that must be made for pedaling performance versus suspension performance. When you change one thing, it affects the other—sometimes in a negative way. We wanted a better-performing pedaling platform, but didn’t want to compromise suspension performance through the middle and end of the suspension’s travel.

What is unique about the Switch Technology is that it switches direction about 100mm through the travel. So you have an optimized pedaling platform in the initial travel, without compromising the mid and end of the travel. The SB-66 pedals well, but still feels like a 6-inch bike. On other 6-inch [dual link] bikes you can have a great pedaling bike, but it comes at the expense of the travel, or you have an OK pedaling bike that gets the most out of its travel.

Unlike many brands—which use one suspension platform for all their bikes—Yeti seems to choose a suspension platform, be it a single pivot, rail system, or the pivoting dual link on the SB-66, based on the intended application. What applications is this latest design best suited for?

Good question. Honestly, we choose technology based on the application, we don’t take one technology and ram it through the product line for marketing purposes. We’re working on other designs as well. I think the Switch has a lot of legs to go up and down in travel.

As stated on Yeti’s website, the SB-66 is not replacing the 575. Though the SB-66 appears to be a similar bike, in terms of intended usage, to the venerable 575. Many riders may wonder what the primary differences, as far as handling and suspension feel will be.

I think the best thing I can say is go ride them both. The 575 is plusher, the SB-66 will feel more “performance.” Those are subjective descriptions, but the SB-66 will pedal better than the 575. Riders interested in comfort and being able to blast through rockgardens with a more muted feel would prefer the 575. On the SB-66 you will feel the nuances of the trail more. People will also be looking at price points—there’s about a $500 difference between the SB-66 and the comparable 575 build kits.

Was there a set of handling characteristics you were going after when designing the SB-66?

We’ve always been a little more progressive when it comes to geometry. We’ve always been a little slacker and a little lower [bottom bracket height]. It’s really influenced by the terrain we ride, in the Rockies we tend to go straight up and straight down. We also have really rough terrain at times, so our geometry is a function of our terrain. The 67 degree head angle [with a 150mm fork] may be slack for some people but having our bikes slack and low gives you excellent handling characteristics: it allows you to be really aggressive through technical terrain and handle high speed turns and berms.

A quick glance at the geometry also reveals the top tube lengths for the SB-66 are significantly longer than many comparable bikes. Does this point to a trend of running shorter (50-70mm) stems on trail/all-mountain bikes?

Absolutely. If you look at our employees’ bikes, we ride wide bars, short stems, and 1×10 drivetrains with chainguides. Many of us consider ourselves trail/all mountain riders more than gravity riders, but many of us come from the gravity side of the sport.

The site lists geometries for both 150mm and 160mm forks, but no built kits offer a 160mm option. All the built kits come spec’d with forks with 32mm sanctions, as opposed to burlier 36mm models. Does this point to the intended usage?

[The SB-66] really blurs the lines. In our mind, it is way more of a trail bike than it is a de-tuned gravity bike. Very similar to the 575 in whom it targets. It will be more for XC guys going long than DH guys going short.

The FAQ page for the SB-66 explains the naming conventions and appears to hint at a 29er version. Quote: “So, if we were to do a 29’r with this technology and it was a 5" travel bike, it would be the SB-95.”

[Laughs] “I guess people do read that stuff! That’s what it would be called… It does suggest that there will be other travel platforms, and we are working on 29er stuff as well.”

Can we expect to see other Switch-equipped bikes in the near future?

Yes. In addition to the carbon version of the SB-66 there will be other travel and wheel sizes for sure. We have a tremendous amount of product coming out in the next eight to 10 months.

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