These days my dreams have nothing to do with material things. As 40 appears on the horizon, wishing for the health and happiness of friends and family generally takes precedence over pining over the latest technological wonder. But then the Dream Builds project rolls around, and I find myself lost in the possibilities of putting together a bike that could truly take me anywhere.
I spent most of last year on a long-travel 27.5 bike and was continually awestruck by just how far big bikes have come in terms of climbing capability. I was truly blown away by how well the 170-millimeter-travel Juliana Strega shot up the steep, loose stretches of fire road that connect the singletrack descents at my local trails. With that much travel, I'd assumed the bike would allow me to revel in the descents at the expense of suffering through the uphills, my head hanging as I succumbed to the push of shame up every climb.
When that didn't happen, I became convinced that it was time to trust more travel on my favored wheel size. But I knew I didn't want a 29-inch-wheeled beast; it's easy to rack up 2,000 feet or more in elevation gain on an average ride around here, so it had to be something that liked to go uphill as much as down. I immediately thought of Yeti's Switch Infinity suspension platform, which pedals more efficiently than almost anything else on the market, and specifically, the 5.5, Yeti's 140-millimeter-travel 29er.
By sheer luck, it turned out that Yeti was on the cusp of releasing the successor to the 5.5, the SB150, when we were planning this issue. With a slackened headtube angle (64.5 degrees), steepened seat tube angle (77 degrees), 10 more millimeters of travel in the rear and a 170-mil-travel fork, it was clear that the new version of the brawler was ready to throw even more punches. It was time to call in a favor. Could I please get one of the first SB150 media frames? And could I pretty please ride it in the wild a few times before the embargo is up?
The bike gods (i.e. Yeti's marketing folks) were on my side and the foundation of my build was set. After that, I went about picking out parts with weight on the mind, determined to build a long-travel 29er that descended like a heavyweight but climbed like a featherweight.
I started with wheels, as the weight-conscious would, opting for Enve's new M630 rims, laced with DT spokes, spinning on DT 240 hubs and wrapped in 2.5 WT Maxxis Aggressor tires. Enve touts a more compliant ride on its redesigned rims, which had been my hang-up with previous Enve rims—I always felt like I was pinging down the trail. Already the change is noticeable, with vastly improved ride quality. The 30-millimeter internal-width rim pairs nicely with the WT Aggressor, assuaging my concern that I should've gone 5 millimeters wider for better tire/rim compatibility. I stuck with Enve for the cockpit, choosing the carbon M6 31.8-millimeter-clamp bar with a 25-millimeter rise and cut 10 millimeters off the stock 780-mil width, and matching 40-mil M6 stem. At 200 grams for the bar, my inner weight-weenie squealed in delight.
One place I didn't look to shave grams was with suspension—an uber-capable chassis like the SB150 deserves a shock and fork that can match its potential. Though going with the excellent DPX2 would've saved 100 grams or so, the added tunability and burliness of the X2 better fit the bruiser personality of the SB150. I paired that with the 170-millimeter-travel Kashima-coated Fox 36 Grip2 fork. With all that party potential, I knew I needed a dropper post that would put me in the right position to keep up with the bike on rowdy descents. I've never had a post with more than 150 millimeters of drop, but the SB150 commanded more. The answer came in OneUp's new dropper, which boasts the shortest stack height of any dropper on the market. This meant that I could fit a 170-millimeter dropper in a size-medium SB150 frame. And if it hadn't fit, the OneUp's travel-adjust shims would have allowed for a tool-free, custom fit to the exact millimeter of the size that would fit.
For brakes, I've been impressed with the reliable, consistent power from SRAM's Codes all year, but I wanted to see how Shimano's four-piston XTs stacked up. Actually, I really wanted to see how the XTR 9100 four-piston brakes stacked up, but those are still vapor. And I briefly considered a Saint caliper/XTR 9000 lever combo but figured the new XTs accomplish pretty much the same thing without the mixing and matching.
Returning to my weight-saving ways, I chose the lightweight Praxis Girder Carbon 170 cranks with a 30-tooth direct-mount ring. Finishing touches include Bike's 25th anniversary WTB Volt saddle, Santa Cruz Palmdale grips and a Specialized Carbon Zee water-bottle cage. The latter is only worth mentioning because, with past Yeti 'SB' frames, you'd never bother with a cage because it was condemned to the underside of the downtube. The new SB150 design, however, fits a full-size bottle in the front triangle, no doubt to the collective rejoices of Yeti freaks everywhere.
So where did all this trimming and slimming get me? 29.1 pounds of pure, dream-worthy joy (with XTR pedals).