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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