First Impressions: Yeti SB66C

26 pounds of carbon fiber badass-itude

By Vernon Felton

Things can get real Animal Planet around the office at times—particularly when a bike like this Yeti rolls through the front door. Six inches of travel, 26 pounds fully built, bomber construction, geometry dialed for aggressive riding…despite the fact that most of us here are indisputably Beta males, when a model with those proportions saunters through the office in need of a test rider, suddenly everyone gets real Alpha male. There’s grunting. There’s shoving. There’s spraying of urine to mark territories. We devolve quickly.

Being in possession of pencil-thick arms and a fondness for crochet and cat shows, a guy like me has only one option when it comes to scoring the right to mount Yeti’s newest super bike—cheat.

When I heard Yeti had one, I had them ship it straight to my house. Send it to the office? To hell with that—I’d never pry it out of the clutches of my stronger, smarter, muskier co-workers.

Yeti SB66C

Here I am unwrapping the new Yeti, fervently praying that my co-workers never realize that I am in possession of the bike.

Of course, now the other guys know I have the carbon Yeti, so I guess I better start doing push-ups and going to monster truck rallies, or whatever it is that raises your testosterone. I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow and find one of the other editors urinating on my doorstep and bellowing for the bike.

In the meantime, here are my initial thoughts after a few rides on the Yeti.

HITTING THE HILLS

I’m blessed (or cursed) by a preponderance of large mountains. Any ride I’m going to do starts at sea level and gets steep real fast. So far, the SB66c is proving one of the better climbers in the all-mountain genre. The heart and soul of the bike is its “Switch” suspension design. In a nutshell, David Earle (the guy who designed the first Santa Cruz Blur and Nomad, and who know co-owns the design group, Sotto) created this suspension design with the same Holy Grail goals shared by most mountain bike engineers: he wanted it to pedal efficiency, boast excellent bump compliance and not have the suspension buggered with by braking forces.

At first glance the Yeti looks like a linkage-driven single pivot bike, but it’s actually a dual-link system. The Switch technology uses an eccentric that acts as a miniature link in its own right. What’s more that eccentric link constantly repositions the lower pivot as the bike cycles through its suspension.

Why does that last bit matter?

Because the eccentric essentially optimizes the amount of chaingrowth at different points in the bike’s travel. Initially, the eccentric moves rearward, creating enough chain growth to provide anti-squat and combat monkey-motion. As the bike moves deeper into its travel, the eccentric switches direction (hence the name), which keeps chain growth at a reasonable level, therein preventing that horrible backward tugging on the pedals that you feel on some bikes that exhibit too much chain growth.

So back to the main point here: the Yeti climbs really well.

I’m running the recommended 25 percent sag and, aside from fireroad climbs, I’m operating the RP23 with as little ProPedal as possible. The bike still scoots forward (the lack of heft helps here as well), but also boasts phenomenal grip on roots and rocks.

THE GOING DOWN PART

We’ve covered this bike’s aluminum brethren in the past and if you’ve read those reviews, you might remember that the SB geometry is well dialed for descents. This carbon version sports the same numbers: 67-degree head angle, 17.1-inch chainstays, 45.2-inch wheelbase and a bottom bracket that’s perched 13.4 inches off the dirt. If you want to slacken the head angle a bit more, you can slap on something like a 36 or Lyrik; doing so will bring the head angle to 66.3 degrees.

Of course, all the spec-sheet mumbo jumbo can be just that. Geometry alone does not dictate ride quality. There are a hell of a lot of variables that influence how a bike behaves, including frame rigidity, component selection and, of course, proper suspension set up.

All those disclaimers aside, this bike rips on the descents. It reminds me, in fact, a lot of a more efficient-pedaling Specialized Enduro. It’s playful, fun to pop off of little jumps and yet completely capable when tossed into terrain that seems over-the-top for a bike this light and quick-footed.

The “SB” in the bike’s title stands for “Super Bike” and while I initially rolled my eyes at that bit of marketing, I have to admit that those initials are not too far off the mark.

It’s still too early yet to go out and buy roses and a box of chocolates for this bike—things that I don’t like about it may crop up in the future—but so far, I’m wishing I had enough money to buy one. In a few months I’ll have to pick my favorite bike of the year, and it’s looking like it’ll be a three-way death match between this Yeti, Cannondale’s Jekyll and Santa Cruz’s Tallboy LT.

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Add a Comment

  • Anthony Bourdain

    You guys all know that Yeti is now paying Santa Cruz for infringing on the VPP patent on this right?
    Do some research

  • Niadruob Ynohtna

    Are you absolutely sure that Yeti is now paying SC? Kindly provide the link to support your claim. Thank you sir.

  • Niadruob Ynohtna

    I am not sure if the link below is true or not. Scooped it from another forum…

    http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/california/candce/3:2011cv04324/248762/38/

  • Disco

    Yeti’s have cache, seems like the best yet; I’d ride one.

  • vernonfelton

    Yeti was, in fact, sued by Santa Cruz for patent infringement in August of 2011.

    No big surprise since the Virtual Pivot Point design also uses two short links to optimize chain growth at different points in the bike’s travel. Chain growth (chainstay lengthening) being used, in this case, to reduce the bike’s tendency to squat while pedaling.

    In short, engineers are often faced with the tricky balance of trying to achieve the same results via different mechanisms. Lawsuits over intellectual property are, understandably, a common result.

    Earle, as I mentioned in the article, designed the original Blur and Nomad for Santa Cruz Bicycles as company’s senior engineer at the time (he has had a long career that included similar positions at Bontrager and Specialized). At any rate, Earle knows VPP and made references to it (and DW Link) in his patent application for Switch (which is, again, the suspension system being used here on the Yeti SB66, SB95 and SB66C). When you apply for a patent you have to prove that your design does not infringe (replicate) existing patented technologies. Clearly Earle and Yeti felt they had a strong case for not having infringed on VPP patents.

    The patent infringement lawsuit was dismissed on March 08, 2012, though whether that is because it was deemed Switch did not infringe on VPP or whether there was a legal settlement between plaintiff and defendant is unclear.

    At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is whether or not you like how a bike rides. There is no single “best” bike for everyone, so if you’re thinking of either a Santa Cruz or Yeti, find one and give it a spin (a trusting friend, a traveling demo fleet, a rental bike…it can be a challenge scoring a ride, but it’s worth the effort).

    Both of these companies make solid bikes–I wouldn’t let the lawsuit history sour you on either Santa Cruz or Yeti.

  • Evol Monkey

    Sb66 is a pretty nice ride no disputing that , my only issue is that a demoed a few and the rear linkage makes some noise .Yes ive seen there testing up/down on a machine .That doesn’t entail the force of twisting ,turning ,jumping ,rock gardens etc . 2 year warranty should be @ least 4 ,imo ill wait till the bugs get worked out .Btw last years sb’s had rock shock reverb post which i thought was great ,until you hit the button and nothing .

  • Green Mountain Flyer (i.e. Yeti SB95)

    Santa Cruz’s silly lawsuits aside….(a failed ploy to steal some attention away from Yeti who has stolen the show at the last few major bike events?!)

    I am riding the Yeti SB95 and smiling more and more as it shreds my local stomping grounds (muddy, wet, rocky, rooty, steep climbs/descents in the Green Mountains of VT). I have ridden my friends Santa Cruz Tallboy LT carbon and there is NO comparison. I actually quite liked the SC until I threw my leg over the Yeti. I know it’s not fair to compare weights since one is carbon and the other is not BUT on trails the difference was barely noticeable, especially since the Yeti had far superior traction attributes for climbing rocky rooty gnar. Coming downhill the Yeti is equally at home letting it RIP (hair on fire fast) and plowing through everything in it’s way or slowing up enough to flick off drops on the sides of the trail. All this AND I kept around $1800 in my bank account :)

    As a disclaimer: This is my very first Yeti and have owned a Ross, Ritchey, Gary Fisher, Klein, and Cannondale. The Yeti is shit eating grin fun!

  • Nick

    Anthony B – You should do some research. That lawsuit was dismissed fairly quickly.
    http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/california/candce/3:2011cv04324/248762/38/

  • Dan D

    Nice Review Vernon! So whats it cost to work at BIKE anyway? :)

  • Vernon Felton

    What’s it cost to work at BIKE? There are snuggies to contend with, frequent bouts of chronic halitosis and lots of slap fights. There are also long, demeaning emails centered around your taste/lack of taste in Ozzy-era Black Sabbath songs. It’s basically a lot like living in an episode of the Little Rascals, except we all wear lame black socks and occasionally buy one another beers. It’s actually a pretty great job.

  • http://www.ph5insights.com Not Required

    Vernon, you have a great job indeed!

    I ordered the sb66 alloy last week, cant wait for Monday.
    Looks like I am taking next week off.

    Previously rode the Rocky ETSX and some Cannondale

  • Vernon Felton

    I think you’ll be stoked. I just finished riding the SB66c this afternoon–I wish I owned one, but finances won’t allow it this year. The only thing I’d change to this bike’s particular build, would be to add a stouter fork. A Lyrik, Fox 36 or one of the 2013 “34″ forks that will be offered for 26er riders (both X-Fusion and Fox are rolling those out right about now) would all spearhead the SB66 nicely.

    I’ve never been a fan of 150-millimeter travel forks with 32-mm stanchions and svelte crowns: just too much leverage on too wispy a lever. I’m glad to see the fork suppliers come to bat in 2013 with a burlier line of forks for aggressive trail and all mountain riders.

    At any rate, I’d slap something burlier on the front of the Yeti SB66 and would be a very happy camper.

    Let us know what you think of your new bike. Happy trails.

  • sbuck

    what was the build on the test bike to get 26lbs?

    • Vernon Felton

      We had the full XTR kit on it paired with carbon easton bars.
      Vernon

  • Oso Negro

    Demos at MBO August-

    Enduro EVO
    Carbon Nomad
    SB66C
    Yeti bested them all climbing. The Switch technology really works. It descended on par with the others- fast!

  • Dave Lerner

    Hey Vernon – You still feel the love for the SB-66C? You finished your review with a little back door, “It’s still too early yet to go out and buy roses and a box of chocolates for this bike—things that I don’t like about it may crop up in the future”. Anything yet? I’m sitting at home with a broken ankle and nothing better to do than sell a couple of my old bikes and buy a sweet new rig! This one’s at the top of my list, but I’m a little nervous. Don’t know anyone who has one, and even if I could test one, you can never really get the feel in the parking lot… I’d be building it up with the Fox 34 Talus & pretty much XT 2×10. Also plan to switch to flats. I’m done with ankle rolling Sidi’s, but that’s another story… Can I go wrong???

    • Vernon Felton

      Yeah, Dave, still loving that bike. The 34 would be pretty ideal in most places and would suit it well. I don’t think you can go wrong with it. They’ve done a good job with both the big picture and the little details. It kicks ass. Of course, I’m always an advocate of people riding as many bikes as possible before making their decision, so do everything in your power to get on a SB66 or SB66c. I will say that some people feel the travel is a tad too linear, but I am not one of those people.

      Other bikes I think you should consider, if you are committed to the 26er, all-mountain category?

      2013 Specialized Enduro: the previous years are awesome descenders, but do wallow a bit, which makes them a bit of a drag on long climbs. The new (2013) version has been tweaked to address that one complaint.

      Mojo HD: Sick bike. Biased a bit towards pedaling efficiency, which suits a lot of people perfectly (particularly if you have lots of climbing on your menu).

      Rocky Mountain Slayer: Arguably the most under-rated bike in existence. I love this bike. I own one. The seat angle is a degree to a degree and a half too steep for a lot of people, but this bike balances the climb/descend thing quite well and is really outstanding on the descents.

      The Yeti is my pick of the 2012 season for the 26er all mountain niche (the Tallboy LT is a sick 29er if you are thinking of going with bigger wheels), but there are a lot of good bikes (that’s what I’m getting at with the above recommendations) out there. It all boils down to your riding style and terrain. I live in Western Washington, which is sort of North Shore lite (similar terrain to Vancouver, but smoother, on the whole). Anyway, ride as many bikes as you can and don’t let me or the message boards sway you from what feels right to you.

      Happy hunting.

  • Dawey Lai

    Any comparison between SC Nomed C and SB66 C?

  • Jim Gardner

    I’m at the one year mark with my SB66 aluminum and am still in love with this bike. I ride mostly Denver front range rides (Chimney Gulch, Apex, White Ranch etc.) and have no regrets- other than the occasional carbon lust!

    Been riding alot this past year and beside the usual maintenance have had no problems. I can’t recommend this bike enough. At 155 lbs, the fox 32 seems to be doing the job. I wouldn’t mind demoing a 34 but like to keep it light.

    With XTR build, dropper seat post & tubeless 2.2′s , I’m at 28.2 lbs.

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