The new Yeti SB115 takes the SB100 recipe and adds some extra spice. But is it hot enough?
If you like your peaks to appear in a training diary, rather than attached to the front of your helmet, the new Yeti SB115 could be the bike for you.
Yeti SB115 need to know
- Yeti pumps up the SB100 with extra travel and a burly spec
- New linkage keeps geometry and kinematics similar
- Three bike range starts at £4,899 and gets heavier C series frame
- Covered by a lifetime warranty
It builds on the success of the Yeti SB100, taking a leaf out of the ‘super size me’ playbook to bump up the travel and pump up the spec. It’s still very much a traditional XC bike in poise and attitude, but if you don’t get on with modern geometry, and cushy trail bikes leave you numb, then you’ll probably love the new SB115. More on how it rides in a moment, but first let’s take a look the steps Yeti has taken to get from the SB100 to the SB115.
Before setting out on the SB115 project, Yeti’s designers had two options: downsize the Yeti SB130 or super size the SB100. It chose the latter for several reasons. Firstly it felt it already had a strong line-up of trail/enduro bikes with new school geometry coupled with the capability to crush most descents and the efficiency to stomp most climbs. So it consciously wanted the SB115 to offer a different ride experience. It didn’t want a copycat range where the only discernable way to tell which model you were riding was to look at the sticker on the top tube; it wanted you to feel it through the seat of your bib shorts. And this didn’t extend merely to geometry; tuning the ride feel also encompasses frame stiffness and compliance, kinematics, pedalling response and bike weight. Shrinking travel on the SB130 would, it reasoned, have done nothing to reduce the mass or sharpen the reactions.
Hence, just as the SB130 had been puffed up into the Lunch Ride special by eeking a bit of extra travel out of the shock and installing a bigger fork, so the decision was taken to enhance the SB100 by adding a longer stroke shock. Switching from 37.5mm stroke to 45mm gave Yeti the 15mm of additional wheel travel it was after, while a new upper link kept the geometry in check and the kinematics comparable.
The rest of the frame, including the side-by-side Switch Infinity link, remains the same. But that does mean that current SB100 owners won’t be able to hack their bikes quite so easily as SB130 owners. Into the head tube, Yeti plugs a 130mm travel Fox 34 suspension fork with 44mm offset. That’s 10mm more than the SB100. It also gets a chunky 2.5in WT Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre in place of the 2.3in version, which further slackens the head angle from 67.6º to 67.2º.
How close is the SB115 to the SB100? The answer is very. So close that I’m not going to spend time listing the trivial differences. The only change worth noting is that the BB has been raised from 332mm to 339mm, although at sag the two bikes will have a near identical dynamic ride height.
In the UK, Silverfish will be bringing three complete bikes into the country. At the entry-level is the C-series model with heavier carbon lay-up at £4,899, and this is supplemented by two Turq Series models; the T1 with Shimano XT throughout (£6,499), and the T2 with SRAM X01 (£6,899). There’s also a frame-only at £3,199, and all the bikes are covered by Yeti’s lifetime warranty.
How does it ride?
We received our SB115 in size large fitted with the T1 build kit. Finished in the Anthracite it looks absolutely stunning, but the SB115 also comes in Yeti’s classic Turq and an understated Blanco white option.
The no-fuss Shimano XT build on our test bike was hit and miss. We loved the ability to multi-shift with both index finger and thumb, and the gears worked well. Equally, in a bare knuckle fight between an XT and SRAM GX Eagle rear mech, our money would be on Shimano every time, but – and I never thought I’d say this – the Japanese drivetrain is marginally slower, rougher and noisier.
Yeti has given the SB115 extra stopping power in the shape of four-piston XT brakes, and much as the light action and ergonomic one-finger levers are a treat to pull, both front and rear brakes exhibited frustrating wandering bite points, and the finned Ice Tech pads rattled constantly on descents – which did muffle the noise from the dropper post cable inside the frame. Everything else hit the right note, especially the classic WTB Silverado saddle, the well-padded ODI grips and the stiff yet compliant Yeti Carbon handlebars.
In 2013, Kona launched a bike that quietly and gradually changed a lot of influential people’s perceptions of 29ers as stuck-up mile munchers without any sense of fun. That bike was the Kona Process 111, and when I jumped aboard the Yeti SB115, it instantly took me back to riding that Kona. Having looked up the numbers, I can see why the memories came flooding back: the two bikes are really close in head angle, chainstay length, travel, BB height… you name it. In many ways that’s a huge compliment – the Kona was the kind of knife you’d be happy to take to a gunfight. It was a joy to ride and it set the benchmark for engaging, short travel 29ers and paved the way for cult bikes like the Evil Following.
But, 2013 was a long time ago, and things have moved on. In fact the seven year-old Kona geometry was actually more progressive than the brand new SB115, with all four sizes getting a longer reach, shorter seat tube and significantly more standover clearance than the brand new Yeti.
Of course Kona no longer makes a Process 111, so it’s a moot point, but by diverging so far away from the strides made with the sizing of the SB130 and SB150, I think Yeti has blunted the SB115 a little. And I don’t think it needed to fall into the trap of offering a cookie cutter range of bikes, with little model differentiation, to end up with a better bike all-round.
This traditional take on geometry and sizing works ok when you’re sat down, pounding on the pedals while steering the bike around tight, flat turns and weaving through convoluted course markings in a cross-country race. It takes less effort to work the handlebars, and the bike feels more agile. But as soon as you take it on a typical modern trail ride, with mixed gradients, flowing turns, choppy braking bumps and steep drops, you end up adopting this rocking horse motion where you’re shifting your weight over the front wheel in the corners, then getting over the rear axle to avoid being thrown over the bars on chutes and plunges. Ok, to a certain extent I’m exaggerating, but the SB115 keeps you busy mitigating sections of trail that wouldn’t even register on a bike with a more stable disposition.
If Yeti had kept the geometry the same – head angle, seat angle, BB height, chainstay – but increased the reach on each size, it could have had a bike that still felt sharp as a tack and kept you on your toes, but also allowed you to settle into a composed riding position that inspires you to go harder and faster.
Which is a shame as the suspension feels superb. It has that magic carpet ride that so impressed me the first time I rode the SB150 – a deep, luxurious shagpile that you seem to sink into but never touch the bottom of, and that still provides an supportive, urgency when you put the power down. It’s not hugely progressive, however, so if you like hucking to flat regularly, you might want to try a larger volume spacer in the shock. Ultimately though, it behaves like a trail bike on the descents, but devours the climbs like an XC bike. That steep seat tube and excellent pedalling traction combining to claw up tricky pitches as well as spin up steady fireroads.
Mate that suspension with a more contemporary set of frame numbers and the SB115 would be a winner; a have-your-cake-and-eat-it contradiction that embraces all the factors that make short travel bikes so enticing. As it stands, it still has one foot in the past, which will definitely appeal to some riders, but if you're looking for a modern, 'downcountry' bike, this isn't it.