Yeti SB4.5 trail bike review

Could this 114mm travel 29er be the Holy Grail one MTB solution?

29er All Mountain Trail

Interbike Mtbr

Yeti SB4.5

The Yeti SB4.5 in brilliant nuclear green.

Lowdown: Yeti SB4.5

I spent a good chunk of 2016 getting to know the SB4.5 carbon. Yeti’s long, low and slack 29er trail bike offering features their usual reverse mullet suspension travel setup and is built around the unique Switch Infinity platform. The transition from my personal Yeti ASR-5 carbon 26” chassis to the 4.5 was surprisingly easy, handling seven-hour backcountry endurance adventures and some short course XC races with equal aplomb. The lightweight trail tamer can scoot uphill with gobs of traction and momentum, but can also descend with near reckless abandon. Could this be the Holy Grail one bike off-road solution?

Stat Box
Frame: Yeti SB4.5 (114mm travel) Cassette: SRAM 1180 10-42t
Fork: Fox Float 140mm Kashima Chain: SRAM 1130
Shock: Fox Float Factory DPS EVOL Bars: Easton Haven Carbon 740
Wheels: DT Swiss XM401 Stem: Easton Haven 55mm
Hubs: DT Swiss 350 Seatpost: RockShox Reverb
Tires: Maxxis Ardent 2.4/Ikon 2.2 Saddle: WTB Volt
Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC Headtube angle: 67.4 degrees
Rotors: SRAM Centerline 180mm/160mm Chainstay length: 437mm
Shifters: SRAM X01 Seat tube angle: 73.3 degrees
Front derailleur: None Weight: 26.5 pounds (w/XTR pedals)
Rear derailleur: SRAM X01 Price: $6900
Cable routing: internal Rating: 5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 5 out of 5
Crankset: Race Face Atlas

Pluses
Minuses
  • Low center of gravity with great maneuverability and handling
  • Frame broke at the seat tube due to relatively typical crash
  • Arguably best suspension platform on market
  • 30t chainring tall when paired w/29er wheels
  • Extremely comfortable cockpit
  • $6600 but no XX1 or XTR parts
  • Chainring swaps relatively easy
  • Maxxis Ikon rear tire light but fragile.
  • Bulletproof wheels
  • No room for bottle cage inside frame
  • Great looking frame
  • Knocking sound in front triangle
  • Benefits of boost 148 spacing
  • No clearance for piggyback shock
  • Minimal rear tire clearance (~2.35 max)

Review: Yeti SB4.5

I’m glad I gave the SB4.5 a second look. It was a leap of faith, actually, to eBay my favorite bike, swipe the debit card, and commit to that reevaluation. My own cash all in on the suspicion that this might be the one. The bet paid off.

At Outerbike 2015, the SB4.5 was Yeti’s latest offering. I had decided prior to my trip to Moab that I needed to unload my beloved ASR-5 before the 26” wheels drained away the rest of its residual value. The newer Yeti ASR 29 geometry was lovely and I found the bike exceptionally fast, but it felt too race-oriented for the everyday riding I wanted to do. Looking at the Yeti SB4.5 specs, it was a lightweight trail-oriented carbon 29er paired with a Fox 34, and the new Switch Infinity suspension that had blown my mind on the SB5 the first time I rode it. However, when I tested the SB4.5, I found myself disappointed that the suspension felt overly-platformed, even a little harsh. It was not deep and controlled like the SB5, and not active and zippy like the ASR.

Yeti SB4.5 Shock

The XC Tune Fox Float shock spec’d at launch wasn’t my cup of tea.

A few months later, I started to hear via magazine articles and online posts that the Fox Float DPS EVOL had been overhauled with a higher volume air can and a new trail tune. Word on the street was the bike now rode like a big wheeled SB5.

Yeti SB4.5 Shock

Up-close with the Fox Float DPS trail tune shock.

Well, I’m a Yeti fan. The geometry just works for me, and the ride quality combined with the close attention to the details makes me happy. But 29ers in general have been hit or miss. One of my ongoing issues has been that in order to get rear clearance for the wagon wheel, some manufacturers will slacken the seat tube angle. At full extension for my long legs, the seat is way out over the rear hub and it creates adverse handling characteristics.

Yeti SB4.5 Seatpost

A lot of seatpost to make my setup work.

The SB4.5 approaches the problem differently, using boost 148 rear spacing and nixing the front derailleur to tuck the wheel in tighter. The effective seat tube angle is a reasonable 73.3 degrees. The travel is only 114mm (hence 4.5). Combined with a 140mm Fox Float 34, it’s an over-forked setup that on other brands would suggest a rear squat tendency on climbs. The SB4.5 features a long top tube, has an increasingly mainstream 55mm stem, and a low’ish 13.1” bottom bracket. With the relatively slack 67.4-degree head tube angle, at least for 29er purposes, you get a long front center with a low center of gravity suitable for ripping. The boost spacing front and rear along with the stout linkages effectively minimizes the extra flex that leverage from larger diameter hoops can create.

Yeti SB4.5

55mm isn’t as stubby as it used to be.

Back to that shock changeover: The trail tune with the larger volume air chamber brings this bike to life. The supple, active feel is very SB5-like in execution, and yet the Switch Infinity link manages to maintain a decent snappiness while taking the technical route up the mountain. Unlike its SB95 predecessor, the suspension doesn’t hang up at the translation point over square step-ups. It’s truly seamless in the shuttle switchover from upward to downward motion on the twin Kashima coated switch rails.

Continue to page 2 for more of the Yeti SB4.5 trail bike review »


About the author: Benjamin Slabaugh

Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr, lives near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The 37-year-old has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12. His first high-end bike was a 1995 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, which he still has. Ben considers himself a climber, and competes in local road and MTB events. But he also loves to cruise on fast, flowing singletrack, and even makes the occasional trip to the bike park. While not an industry insider, Ben is tuned in to the nuances of bikes and believes he can communicate those characteristics in ways that are helpful to others.


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  • MTBBoy says:

    Benjamin: You rated this a 5 out 5? It costs almost $7k, has a laundry list of negatives (in your own words), and it broke! It broke…

    If I bought this and it broke after a crash we have all had, then I had to walk out of the bush, deal with warranty hassles and wait weeks (you did as a reviewer, the avg consumer would presumably wait longer), build it back up etc.

    Maybe not zero stars, but really 5? As in 100%, best of the best. I am honestly asking what would it take to lose one star?

    There are so many good bikes out there and here is more ink spilled on another Yeti that broke. Let’s start calling things as they really are, if it ain’t it ain’t perfect – just say it!

    ~Mark

    • DirtDart says:

      I was thinking the same thing! There is no excuse for a catastrophic frame failure like that on a bike in this price range. None. Especially from Yeti. And 2.35″ max tire clearance? Really?? Right there you exclude anyone that rides in the Pacific NW or BC. One wet ride – of which ALL rides are (wholly or partially) for nine months of the year – with a 2.35 squeezed in the rear triangle and you’ll strip all that lovely paint off and start eating into the carbon.

      Giving this thing five stars is like supposedly going to the best restaurant in town and liking everything except the food. And then getting food poisoning.

    • Benjamin says:

      Mark, your question is a totally fair one, thanks for bringing it up. Because it was a crash with an element of user error, and not a “just riding along” (JRA) incident, my rating was totally dependent on context and Yeti’s response. Any brand and any frame material can break under the right circumstances. If the frame had failed for reasons other than a crash, I would have knocked it down at least a star. If Yeti had not stood behind it and warrantied it immediately, that would have been a star reduction as well. Had it failed a second time (for any reason, crash or otherwise) three stars would be in order and I would certainly not keep the eventual replacement. Rating it the way I did, and the fact that I would buy it again, is a testament to just how spectacular I think the 4.5 is after nearly a year living with it.

      • Michael says:

        I’ve cracked a Giant and a Santa Cruz. Both Companies replaced the frame fast and efficiently. Willy with Santa cruz was kinda of a douche/tough guy but he still replaced it.
        Point is, frames break; carbon and aluminum. I’ve owned my Yeti SB4.5 for 1 year with zero issues. However, I do wish Yeti would step up their game and offer original owner lifetime warranty like Santa Cruz recently did. I think that only helps companies sale more frames.

        • Shawn says:

          Re: Willy
          I’m a little puzzled on ‘he still replaced it’ yet ‘was kinda of a douche/tough guy’.
          Sounds like you throw him under the bus when he gave you what you asked for? He did his job and you got what you wanted? A little more background on your experience please?

  • Sean says:

    I am really loving my 4.5c. I heard the knocking noise on mine at times and it got worse when I changed to a 28t ring. I traced to the chain hitting on the chainstay on rough/downhill sections of the trail. Great review of the bike as I agree this is the best bike I have ever ridden and possibly the best trail bike on the market. Does suck about the cracked seat tube as I thought Yeti had the cracking problems behind them.

  • gg says:

    Of great interest (and concern) is warranty on frames these days especially with the high cost of frame both carbon & alu.
    Frames (3, 5, 6 years or Life) and stays/swingarms (2, 5, 6 years or Life) from my digging. Sounds like incarceration …
    Choose wisely !

    • MTBBoy says:

      I know, right GG? A great warranty is vital but also is the turn-around time and hassle. I could see breaking a frame in May, it being June by the time they own up to it being a defect, July by the time you get it. Better part of three months gone.
      Seems insane to pay big dollars for something where there is a known problem. Let’s also be honest with ourselves. This bike may be the best riding bike on earth, but bikes that cost half are probably 98% as good. If that 2% is worth $4k and a roll of dice if your frame will snap, then go for it.

      • gg says:

        I’d like to see more details in these reviews regarding the frame testing being (or not) performed during the design process.
        Some brands offer it up showing tests (i.e. SC), but seeing these types of failures indicates the approach may not be adequate to simulate “real world” conditions.
        Are any tests with side loading forces being applied at angles to the frame and triangle instead of linear say 90 deg application ?
        Food for thought.
        I’m picking on Norco hetre , but they clearly have an issue with their Sight trail bike (both ALU & carbon) frames cracking.
        They reduced their warranty to 5 yrs from Lifetime. I’ll bet they haven’t done anything to address the root cause.

  • Tom says:

    I’ve had nothing but problems with Yeti frames breaking. My SB-66 has broken 3 times in the same exact place, and I hate Yeti’s customer service. I’ll never ever ever ever buy a Yeti again.

  • Alex says:

    “Frame broke at the seat tube due to relatively typical crash”

    Talk about burying the lede. I’m glad they warrantied the thing for you, but I’d be deeply concerned about the safety margin of the replacement frame. You’ve also dashed any interest I might have had to pick one of these up secondhand; nothing quite defeats the bargain like a $3000 frame replacement.

  • MTBBoy says:

    Hey Benjamin, thanks for the response.
    For some more context, was this a bike your purchased then reviewed for a free bike for testing purposes and Yeti was all aware of that fact.

    • Benjamin says:

      Mark, as stated in the first paragraph, I bought the 4.5 from my local bike shop with my own dollars as an end-user. Towards the end of last year, I approached MTBR myself to see if they had any interest in my thoughts for the purposes of a user review, which they did. At no time did I have communication with Yeti, nor were they aware of my intention to write a review. No free product was offered or received aside from the standard consumer warranty front triangle replacement post-breakage. All on the up and up as a rider and enthusiast without influence from the manufacturer. Hope that clears things up for you.

      • Rose29 says:

        Good to know you weren’t bought off. I didn’t get that sense either reading the article, guess Mark didnt read too closely. Just some dude who dropped a load of money and was pumped to tell the world, but like the others 5 chilies dude? If you paid for it you should have been a little more cheesed off.

        MTBR: lets keep these self-justifying purchase reviews off here.

  • Saris Mercanti says:

    Hey Rose29,

    We tried to make to my make it clear that this was a “featured user review” by placing a banner at the top of the page. We’re still working on how best to differentiate our pro and user reviews when featured on the home page.

    In general, I think it’s cool to read why a real world rider bought a product and how it treated them. Yes, there might be an element of self-justification….but then again, a lot of users accuse our professional reviewers of being “bought off” because a brand might advertise with us.

    - Sincerely,
    Saris

  • Rose29 says:

    A work in progress, thats’ fine.
    I don’t disagree about user reviews, the forums were great for that. I don’t even disagree with someone really liking a bike they bought and getting an article on the main page.
    As a reader I would like to see some consistency and as editors, you need to reel it in sometimes, your (MTBR that is) name is on this after all.
    A bike that costs more than an economy car that has list of cons and broke cannot be perfect (5 outta 5). Just a gentle editorial hand might have been all it took.
    -Regards
    Steven R.

    • Benjamin says:

      Steven, your tone is offensive. I’m not an overly-enthusiastic buyer who needs to be brought to heel. My rating was not a function of money spent, although you choose to dismiss my opinion as some kind of a public justification of the price tag.

      Every bike involves a series of trade-offs to fit their intended purpose. Nothing is perfect. We can still give bikes 5/5 scores, not for perfection, but because they are among the best that can be bought for their purpose, all things considered.

      The SB4.5 is squarely in that elite class, and I’m happy to continue to ride it despite that fact it’s not indestructible. Feel free to offer an informed opinion after you’ve spent a year with one.

  • Sun says:

    The huge extension out of the frame on the dropper post contributed to this Yeti frame breaking at the seat tube. Consider moving to a 170mm dropper.

    ~ take care

  • Mark C. says:

    I reckon that Sun is absolutely correct- what else could have generated enough pressure at this point (behind the rear triangle!) for such a crack?
    I also agree with Benjamin, in that I think my 4.5 feels like the most versatile trail bike on the market.

    • Benjamin says:

      Sun and Mark C., I’d guess that you have it exactly right. A 170mm dropper that extends further into the seat tube would be less likely to leverage a break in the frame under strain.

  • Ralph says:

    Benjamin – 100% correct! Agree with your response and review.

  • Rose29 says:

    Offensive? I am not trying to be confrontational just trying to stand up for good journalism and consistent reviews. I am actually trying to help you and MTBR out so people can treat their reviews as not fluff or paid advertisements (To be clear, I am not saying they are, those were Saris words that some people think that).

    Back to your review, Benjamin, your words:

    Minuses
    Frame broke at the seat tube due to relatively typical crash
    30t chainring tall when paired w/29er wheels
    $6600 but no XX1 or XTR parts
    Maxxis Ikon rear tire light but fragile.
    No room for bottle cage inside frame
    Knocking sound in front triangle
    No clearance for piggyback shock
    Minimal rear tire clearance (~2.35 max)

    I think you are missing the point. So you rode a bike all year and its the best on you have ridden and boom its a 5. Automatically? This review is not for you but for everyone else. If I am flipping through looking at bikes and I see the 5 on 5 and then read the drawbacks, including the broken frame, I question what’s up with this review.

    Maybe the solution isn’t a simple 5 chilies – way too subjective. But 5 for price, specs, ride, customer service,quality etc.
    Then it would be more like 2 for price (this is more than double what most people spend, ~$3k), 4 for spec (No XTR, doesnt fit big tires), 5 for ride (your fav), 5 for customer service (they treated you well), 2 for quality since it broke.

    how about that?

  • Suns_PSD says:

    I guess different riders value different things. The Reviewer prioritized ‘the ride’ over all else. Same as I would have.

  • Kenn says:

    I always thought Yeti’s were cool but dont like that it broke. Thats enough for me to take a chance elsewhere.

    That other green bike on the hompage Staran looks like it has the same or better specs (if you like Shimano) for half the price! That frame isn’t going to crack and even if it did there would be money left over for another.

  • ScaldedDog says:

    Nice review. My 2017 Eagle X01 arrives tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited. I rented several bikes last summer, and the 4.5 was the one I couldn’t get off of. I even rented one twice, a couple of months apart, just to make sure I still liked it. At 58, I’m hoping not to go over the bars much, and so avoid any frame breakage.

    $7K seems dumbfoundingly expensive, but I tend to keep stuff a long time. In fact, I’ll hate to see my 2005 575 XTR bike go. “Buy what you like, but like what you buy” – Me

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