If you’re already a fan of Yeti’s current crop of trail and enduro bikes (and there are many), then the only thing you really need to know about the new Yeti SB150 is that it has space inside the main triangle for a full-size water bottle. Indeed, while the Colorado-based bike maker’s widely acclaimed Switch Infinity suspension system has put Yeti near the top of the mountain bike world in recent years, the lack of non-cow-poop-catching hydration stowage has been a deal breaker for some riders. Now, though, you can have your proverbial Yeti cake and drink it, too.
Read the Mtbr Yeti SB150 short term review here.
This change was achieved by adding a kink in the downtube and altering shock mounting placement, which on the Yeti SB150 attaches higher on the downtube (when compared to the outgoing Yeti SB5.5). This required use of a 60mm shock extender, which Yeti designed with input from suspension provider Fox in order to assure that the bearing overlap ratio did not put too much load on the shock. The extender itself is a two-piece hinged component that allows you to remove/install your shock without need for disassembly.
The use of the extender also allowed Yeti to maintain a low standover height (740.8mm size large), which along with a shorter seat tube means there is plenty of room for long travel dropper posts. How long obviously depends on post insertion depth, collar height, etc., but some Yeti staffers have managed to fit up to 185mm travel posts on size medium SB150 frames. (Note, though, that at launch of the Yeti SB150, the longest spec’d dropper will be 150mm because that’s the current longest Fox Transfer option. Presumably Fox will add a longer travel option soon and Yeti will in turn make a running change to OEM spec on the new bike.)
Made For Smashing
But the new Yeti SB150 is much more than just a revamped version of an existing bike that plays nice with energy drinks. Key metrics of this rock smashing 29er, which was essentially designed to give Richie Rude a clearer path to Enduro World Series glory, include 150mm of rear suspension paired with 170mm up front, 64.5-degree headtube angle, 76.9 effective seat tube angle, 433mm chainstays, shorter fork offset (from 51mm to 44mm), a yawning 480.2mm reach and 815mm front center, and a massive 1248mm wheelbase (all size large).
“Initially we looked at those numbers on paper and thought this is crazy,” explained Peter Zawistowski, Yeti’s director of engineering who oversaw an extensive development and testing process that involved taking an existing Yeti SB5.5 and doing things such as installing a shorter offset fork, slamming the saddle forward, and using an angle set headset to mimic a steeper seat tube angle and slacker head angle. “But as we made these changes and got the variables aligned, the bike started feeling better and better. It really puts your center of gravity more forward, which means more traction going up and down.”
Indeed, the Yeti SB150’s geo numbers were not so long ago more closely associated with big hit downhill bikes, though the reality is that if you dropped a bike such as the Yeti SB150 into the mid-2000s, you’d arguably have a puncher’s chance of pulling off a DH World Cup podium. And these days numbers such as those above are becoming less and less radical. Bottom line, the Yeti SB150 was built to go through anything and everything — especially when piloted by the likes of Rude, who got off on the right foot this past weekend, winning the California Enduro Series stop at Northstar aboard the masked Yeti SB150 pictured below along with the complete geo chart. Click the images to enlarge.
More Progressive Leverage Curve
The other major Yeti SB150 headline are the tweaks to overall suspension kinematics, which now include a slightly more progressive leverage curve while still maintaining Switch Infinity’s efficient pedaling platform. As a quick refresher, Switch Infinity utilizes a patented translating pivot that switches direction as the bike moves through its travel. This provides excellent anti-squat characteristics for enhanced pedaling performance, solid mid-stroke support, and still maintains the desired bottomless and plush feel as the suspension gets deeper into the travel.
“We studied leverage ratios for a long time, all the while knowing that more progression isn’t always better,” explained Zawistowski, whose lanky frame has earned him the much easier to pronounce nickname of “Stretch” at Yeti world HQ in Golden, Colorado. “Before we averaged a 5% leverage curve. Now we’re at 15% for the SB150.”
The result, continued Zawistowski, is that the new progression percentage delivers a wider range of shock compatibility (coils and piggy-backs included), and arguably more importantly, a wider tuning window for rider weights and styles, meaning you won’t need to drop in a bunch of shock volume spacers if you’re a heavier or more aggressive rider just to maintain decent small-bump compliance and get good end stroke support.
“We didn’t want to have too much progression because that can mean a harsh mid-stroke and then the feeling that the suspension is hitting a wall at the end,” added Zawistowski. “The intent is that you’ll use all travel and use it well, and still get good small bump and mid-stroke performance. That means greater bottom out resistance and a poppier feel. We were also able to keep the desired anti-squat curve, so you have a flat stable range around sag, and then a quicker dropoff. So the bike pedals efficiently, but then gets rid of anti-squat and uses all the travel while minimizing the influence of crank rotation.”
Suspension tinkerers will also like the fact that all three of the upper end Yeti SB150 builds (SRAM XO1 Eagle, XO1 Eagle Race, and XX1 Eagle) come with Fox’s highly tunable Factory X2 shock. And for those intimidated by that shock’s quartet of adjustment dials, Yeti has rolled out a new section on its website that provides recommended air pressure, compression, and rebound setting starting points, and then provides guidance on what to adjust if you’re feeling this or that in order to get closer to where you need to be.
Why the Shorter Fork Offset?
The short answer is because they could. Indeed, thanks in part to the efforts of Transition, which convinced both Fox and RockShox to make forks with shorter offsets for their Sentinel 29er enduro bike, other bike makers such as Yeti are now free to experiment. They did just that and liked the results.
The general rationale for the change goes something like this. In the past few years, bike geometry has evolved significantly, with the longer, slacker, and lower ethos fully permeating frame design (including the Yeti SB150). These new era geometries inspire confidence at speed, but can hurt performance at slower speeds and on flatter/slower terrain. The culprit is the front wheel, which sits so far ahead of the rider it can start losing its way when not being pushed at Rude-like speeds. But by reducing fork offset you bring the front axle rearward, moving it closer under the rider. That combined with a shorter stem nets better front wheel traction. Or so the thinking goes.
The potential drawback is that by shortening fork offset (and slackening head angle) you increase trail, which in turn means more steering input is required. Conversely a longer offset or a steeper head angle reduces trail, sharpening steering response. Or so the theory goes.
While Yeti’s Zawistowski acknowledges that all this is true on paper and that one might expect the new SB150 to suffer from slower steering, that in testing they found the results were different. “Basically we discovered that there was more to it than just trail,” he said. “We actually feel like we ended up getting the best of both worlds where you have high trail for stability and traction, but based on the geometry changes and your center of gravity being pushed further forward, there are some really positive changes on the steering side, and that it’s not nearly as slow as those values suggest. We don’t feel like we gave up anything.”
The key, continued Zawistowski, is that the geometry and requisite rider centering result in a more aggressive attack position, though this doesn’t come without a learning curve. “It was a big change for us and it even took me a few rides to get used to it and understand where your body needs to be in order to take advantage of the geometry,” Zawistowski admitted. “This bike is aggressive and that’s what its intended use is. This is not a direct replacement for the 5.5 [which has 10mm less travel front and rear and a steeper 66.5-degree head angle]. [The Yeti SB150] is really a step forward in terms of what we are trying to do for the fastest [enduro racers] in the world. It works best when your weight is shifted forward and you’re in an aggressive stance and you’re really attacking the trail both climbing and descending.”
“When climbing there’s not as much adjustment required because the steep seat tube angle puts you in the right spot,” he added. “But initially you may need to think about a change when descending and get your weight further forward and ride more in the front center of the bike. The steeper and gnarlier the terrain the more you’ll benefit from what this bike can do. But if you’re on a more relaxed trail maybe it’s not the ideal weapon.”
Bottom line, this bike is intended to win Enduro World Series races — and not noodle around on intermediate singletrack trails.
Other Features — and a Lifetime Warranty
Other top line highlights of the new Yeti SB150 include a high modulus carbon fiber main frame and swing arm that are tested to more rigorous downhill standards, 31.6 instead of 30.9 seat tube diameter meaning less required clamping force (and thus less friction in dropper post movement), integrated ISCG-05 mounts, tapered integrated headtube, downtube protector and chain guards, and internally molded carbon tube-in-tube inside the frame for truly hassle-free cable routing (and presumably no rattling after the fact).
The new Yeti SB150 also has an integrated axle and derailleur hanger system, a nifty removable port under the pressfit BB to ease dropper post routing, boost hub spacing front and rear, and a lifetime warranty, which is something new for Yeti and reads as follows:
All 2019 (and on) frames are covered for life against breakage due to manufacturing defects for the original purchaser. We will repair or replace, at our discretion, any frame we deem defective. There are a few conditions: You must take it to an authorized Yeti Cycles dealer for processing and you must register it online within 60 days of purchase. The warranty does not cover breakage due to ordinary wear and tear, neglect or intentional breakage. If you happen to have a crash or non-warranty situation, we’ll get you back on the trail with a reasonable replacement price. Same conditions as above. Lifetime Warranty applies to all 2019 and newer frames (including the SB100). Model year 2018 and older frames will be covered under our previous warranty (5-year or 2-year based on time of purchase).
What It’ll Cost You
The new Yeti SB150 comes in two colors (orange or turquoise) and two carbon frame options, C Series and the more expensive Turq, which shaves 200-300 grams depending on frame size. A Turq frame runs $3800. The two C Series builds are $5199 for a SRAM GX Eagle and $6199 for GX Eagle Comp. Price for the Turq complete bikes are $7599 (SRAM XO1 Eagle), $8599 (SRAM XO1 Eagle Race), and $9499 (SRAM XX1 Eagle). Here are the complete specs for all the builds, which can be upgraded to carbon wheels if you’re so inclined. Click the image to enlarge and be sure to head here to read our first impressions of this bike after about a month of testing.
Last But Not Least
Yeti also updated a number of their other bikes, adding tire clearance here, more suspension there, and so on. Check out these manufacturer provided one sheets for key details on model year 2019 Yeti SB5 and SB6 bikes. And again click the image to enlarge.