Puts the rider in complete control
Ultimately, we have a lot of great bikes passing through the mbr office, but none this year have impressed us as much as the Yeti SB150.
At the first EWS out for Yetis’ new SB150, star rider Richie Rude was straight back to his winning ways. Was this a late-season peak in fitness or just that new bike buzz? It could be either, but just one week later at the final round of the EWS in Italy, Rude did something that no rider had done before, he won every single stage of the race to take overall victory.
Yeti SB150 T-Series XO1 review
We weren’t surprised at Rude’s impressive comeback however, because having had a couple of early rides on the new SB150 we were convinced that the bike had a big part to play, and not simply because of its 29in wheels.
In fact, it’s an incredibly compact bike, the low-slung top tube making it easy for riders to choose between sizes, of which there are four. The clean, flowing lines of the frame means there are no edges to snag knee pads or clip heels on, so rider movements are every bit as seamless as the carbon frame construction.
By kinking the down tube as it enters the BB, Yeti has even managed to shoehorn in a water bottle mount without ruining the overall look of the bike. And boy does this bike get more than its fair share of admiring glances.
Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension is a direct evolution of the rail system it pioneered over a decade ago. And for all of its complexity, Switch Infinity is essentially a variable height single pivot. So rather than having a fixed pivot point on the front triangle, the pivot on the SB150 moves up the Kashima coated sliders as the suspension compresses to increase anti-squat. Then in the final third of the travel it switches direction to kill off the anti-squat and unwanted pedal kickback deep in the stroke. It only moves about 5mm, but that’s enough to let Yeti fine-tune the characteristics of the suspension for each design.
What really sets the SB150 apart from its predecessors though, is that the shock is now driven by a scissor link rather than the swingarm directly, which has in turn makes the suspension more progressive. And Yeti has totally nailed it. With the Fox Float X2 you can access the full measure of travel without the bike every feeling too soft or unstable. So while the Yeti has 20mm less travel than a Scott Ransom on paper, in reality there’s probably only 10mm separating the two, because it’s so hard to get full travel out of the Scott.
Up front, the Fox 36 Grip2 fork balances the feel of the rear suspension perfectly, even though it dishes out 170mm travel. It’s got better small bump sensitivity than the 36 Fit 4 fork on the Scott, but unlike the shock, the four-way damping control on the Grip2 fork is somewhat redundant as the we ran all of the damping wide open, all of the time.
A few aspects of the T-Series XO1 build kit on the SB150 that jar with its race-ready tag. The most obvious being that it doesn’t get a chain guide. Testament to SRAM’s X-Sync narrow-wide technology we never dropped the chain, but a guide is a good insurance policy when racing, and not one you should have to take out after dropping over £7k on your ride.
Less obvious are the shortcomings with the tyres. The Maxxis rubber is great, but the standard casing, especially on the rear, just can’t withstand the beating this bike is designed to take. That said, if your not racing, do these minor details really matter?
Given how good the SB150 felt on home soil, and how well it pedalled, we were nervous that the suspension wouldn’t be able to handing the relentless beating of the Swiss Alps. And after the first day and half of racing, we were beginning to think that was the case. The bike didn’t carry speed anything like as well as a Scott Ransom over square edge hits and it seemed to have lost most of its playfulness.
Then we remembered that our SB150 test bike had been briefly returned to Silverfish UK for a UK Yeti Tribe event and that our damping setting on the shock had probably been changed. Opening up the high-speed compression damping by six clicks, and the low-speed by 4 clicks instantly brought the Yeti back to life. It still wasn’t as good as a Scott Ransom on the high-frequency chatter, but we suspect that’s because the stock 30t chain ring on the Yeti increases chain growth and anti-squat too much. Given how efficiently the Yeti dispenses with climbs, we see no reason not to go up to a 32t ring or even a 34t if you have the horsepower to make it work on the climbs.
Yeti’s bikes have always looked amazing but the new SB150 is different animal. With 150mm travel on the rear, combined with a 170mm fork and a slack 64.3degree head angle, this modern 29er enduro bike is an absolute weapon on the descents, yet you can still beast everyone on the climbs. The suspension is superbly balanced and the sizing is on point. Yes, Yeti has dumbed down some aspects of the built-kit from what the race team use, but that doesn’t stop the SB150 from being a truly impressive bike. Everyone at MBR that’s ridden it simply loves it.