Perhaps the most playful bike in the Yeti stable, the SB140 was the final installment in a busy launch cycle that saw the Colorado-based company unveil five new trail tamers over the span of 16 months between April 2018 and August 2019. While options such as the 29-inch SB100 cross-country bike and enduro-oriented SB150 are specifically designated as race rigs, the 27.5in SB140 is positioned as a rip bike, though that certainly doesn’t mean it’s slow. Indeed, as I wrote in my First Ride Review, while there’s arguably no race this bike is right for, there’s almost no ride it’s wrong for.
Yeti SB140 Highlights
- Long, low and slack geometry
- 140mm of Switch Infinity rear travel
- Increased shock leverage rate of 13%
- Available in five frame size: XS-XL
- Weight as tested (size XL): 29.5 pounds
- Price as tested: $7,399
- Available now
- Learn more at: https://www.yeticycles.com/bikes/sb140
Key metrics include 140mm of proven Switch Infinity rear travel, 160mm of rock smashing front travel, a slack 65-degree headtube angle, and a steep 77-degree effective seat tube angle. Add in reasonably stubby 433mm chainstays and long’ish 480mm reach in size large, and you have a thoroughly modern trail bike that can do many things—and do them well. And, yes, you can also slip a full-size water bottle inside the main triangle.
Mtbr spent the better part of three months testing a size XL Yeti SB140 with T2 kit, which includes the higher end Turq series carbon fiber frame that’s claimed to be about 220 grams lighter than the less expensive C-series option. Component highlights of this build include Fox Factory-level suspension front and rear, DT Swiss M1700 aluminum wheels with a 30mm inner rim width, Maxxis tires, and a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain with SRAM G2 RSC brakes. You can learn more about other build options here.
It’s truly remarkable how much expectations have changed when it comes to mountain bikes. Just a few years ago, you’d have rightly assumed that a bike with 160mm of front wheel travel and a 65-degree head angle would climb like crap. The front end would get unweighted easily and wander around on climbs like drunk frat boy stumbling home from the bars.
But thanks in large part to the advent of steeper seat tube angles and better suspension designs, many trail bikes can now go uphill nearly as well as their cross-country brethren. The Yeti SB140 certainly fits in this category. It has the requisite steep seat tube angle, and the Switch Infinity set-up has just the right amount of anti-squat to keep you from sagging into the travel during steep climbs, but still allows enough movement to maintain rear-wheel traction on rougher sections.
For me, the proof came during one particular test session (climbing Crested Butte’s Teocalli Ridge trail, for those familiar with the area). I managed to claw my way up the lengthy and relentlessly steep high alpine ascent, including clearing the upper climb for the first time ever. Yes, the legs were feeling good and the dirt was tacky from recent rain. But there’s no way I’m cleaning that climb if I’m sagging into the suspension and the front wheel is drifting around.
Related: Top 5 reasons to ride Crested Butte
I should note that I often cranked up compression damping a hair on the shock; not all the way to “firm” mode, but maybe a quarter of the way there. That helped keep me fully upright while seated but still allowed the suspension to do its thing, maintaining critical rear wheel traction.
Admittedly, I felt like I had to seek out clean lines and shift my weight around to get the smaller-wheeled bike up and over obstacles that a 29er would have just crawled over. But as I noted in my First Ride Review, it almost becomes a stylistic choice: What kind of ride experience are you seeking? One where you’re more actively engaged physically and mentally, or one where the bike does most of the work as long as you can provide power through the pedals.
It’s an important question to ask yourself if you’re considering this bike—or even just deliberating between the merits of 29er and 27.5-inch wheeled trail bikes. Either way, the SB140 is a perfectly capable climber.
That same deliberation carries through to the descending side of the SB140 equation. With many longer travel 29er trail bikes, you can essentially roll through everything in your path without being particularly choosy with line choice. But—and this is where the central debate lies—it’s not always the most spirited experience, more an exercise in sheer force of will versus applying personal skill to the tool that’s underneath you.
Conversely, the Yeti SB140 encourages increased rider engagement. Sure, with that slack head angle and 160mm of front wheel travel it’ll handle most bad line choices. But where it truly comes to life is when you start playing around the edges of the trail, finding lips to pop off or boosting over chunky rock sections.
It’s total bike review cliché, but when piloting SB140 I found myself riding in a far more playful manner, and not just straight-lining for max speed. And while post-ride Strava checks invariably revealed marginally slower descent times, the fun factor was often greater. It reminded me that though I’ve long been an advocate for the myriad benefits of 29er trail bikes, there’s still much to love about 27.5s, especially ones as capable and balanced as the Yeti SB140.
Indeed, it’s long reach puts you in a truly centered position, and the increased rear suspension progressivity creates a feeling of travel numbers beyond what it says on the spec sheet without negatively impacting sensitivity at the beginning of the shock stroke. Bottom line: this is a high-performance, two-wheeled trail machine, no matter which direction it’s pointed.
Yeti’s culture as a bike company run by bike riders is on full display with the SB140’s component selections. Key on-point decisions include the use of 170mm cranks, which help alleviate pedal strikes on this fairly low bike. Yeti also utilizes the longest dropper post possible at each frame size, meaning the XL Mtbr tested comes stock with a 175mm Fox Transfer post.
We also appreciated the 50mm stem combined with 780mm bars that conspire to help get you in a more forward riding position, which is where you want to be on this bike in order to get the most precise response, especially when cornering.
Maxxis gets the nod for tire choice, with a 27.5×2.6 Minion DHF EXO paired with the same sized Rekon EXO in the rear. I loved the girth and extra security of EXO protection, but found the Rekon to be a touch lacking in the traction department. I would probably swap to something a touch more aggressive if this was my personal bike.
Elsewhere, the Fox Factory suspension was trouble-free and top-notch. Kudos to Yeti for opting for the Fox Factory 36 with GRIP 2 damper, which has a wide range of adjustability, a feature I’m guessing most potential buyers of this bike will appreciate.
Finally, while I truly appreciate what SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle drivetrains have done for the sport, I continue to find their shifting performance to be finicky. That said, if I’m buying this as a complete bike, I’d opt for the T1 Turq build, which costs $500 less and comes with Shimano’s new 12-speed XT drivetrain and four-piston XT brakes. They’re simply better than SRAM X01 Eagle and the G2 RSC brakes.
While 29ers may be faster going from Point A to B, the smaller-wheeled (and shorter rear-ended) 27.5ers are arguably more playful and poppy. Combine that with the revamped geometry of the SB140, with its slacker front end and steeper seat tube angle, and this is a bike that, as long as it’s within budget, you can have a ton of fun with. It certainly has me reconsidering my allegiance to 29ers.