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.
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.