As I write this, there are 12 Marvel movies in development (that we know about) with release dates spanning through summer of 2022. Some of them will be good, but there's no doubt that some of them will not. There's also no doubt that people will come out in droves to see them regardless. Marvel’s following is so thirsty, they’ll forgive a few duds in the lineup. The filmmakers must be tempted to just phone it in once in a while. I'm looking at you, “Thor: The Dark World.”
But imagine that kind of following building over three decades, and not in the realm of something as pedestrian as popular film, but in something as core as mountain bikes. Yeti Cycles has amassed such a dedicated tribe that it hosts regular gatherings around the world of devoted Yeti fans that is, in fact, called Tribe. You'd think that a brand like that, when it came time to update a popular model, might be tempted to release an iteration that's simply 15 millimeters longer and a half degree slacker than the one that preceded it. Of course, that's not what Yeti does. And it's certainly not what it did when designing the SB150, which will be replacing the SB5.5. From its geometry to its hardware to its leverage curve to, yes, its bottle-cage mount, Yeti looked at every aspect of the previous long-travel 29er Super Bike and made it Superer.
So, the bike got longer and slacker. You probably saw that coming. But it got a lot longer and slacker. Depending on the frame size, the reach on the SB150 is between 39 and 42 millimeters longer than that of the 5.5. And it’s 2 degrees slacker than its predecessor, plus it's running a reduced-offset fork. The chainstay shrank by 4 millimeters, and standover dropped by 5 to 15 millimeters, with the smaller sizes benefiting the most. Speaking of smaller sizes, where the SB5.5 stopped at a medium, there's now a small available in the SB150. But what is not available is a Beti version of any size. Yeti claims the way today’s shocks work in tandem with today’s Yetis makes for broader adjustability. Lighter female riders should be able to get very close to the lighter tune the Beti builds are known for. Still, it may come as rough news for some female tribespeople.
Ok, back to the good news. The seat angle got steeper. A lot steeper. By almost 4 degrees on some sizes, with each hovering at or just below 77 degrees. That is getting dangerously close to too steep, which is another way of saying it's probably absolutely perfect.
And I almost forgot about travel. The SB5.5 was 140 rear, 160 front. The SB150 is, you guessed it, 150 rear and went up to 170 millimeters in front.
Those were some big leaps to take, especially given that they were taken well over a year ago before each respective geometry-trend bandwagon had gotten up to speed. But when they decided to start development on the SB150 the team at Yeti had an idea of what trends were trending. So they grabbed their stock SB5.5s and started getting weird. They built up bikes with frames a full size larger than they were used to. They slammed saddles forward, installed semi-spherical, angle-adjust headsets and shorter-offset forks. And things kept getting better. They went from the data they gathered in those experiments to a few test mules, to the finished product.
The SB150's rear shock mounts to an extender, something no SB has done. It was a way for Yeti to have more control over the position of the shock and the shape of the frame. And it's partially to thank for the lower standover, deeper post insertion, better leverage curve and, of course, the in-triangle bottle mount. So we're going pause here to talk about shock extenders, damn it.
Extenders don't come without consequences. They subject the shock to extra lateral load during compression because they essentially decrease the shock's bushing overlap (how deep the stanchion sits in the body at any given moment) relative to the eye-to-eye because that eye-to-eye has been ... extended. That's why the extender is as short as possible at 60 millimeters. Technically, the extender itself is two pieces, each half hinging off either side of a pivot on the swing link and meeting at the shock eyelet. The design happens to make the shock easier to remove, and the hinged configuration means its width and that of the shock eyelet don't need to be perfectly matched. The extender also allowed Yeti to position the shock farther forward, matching the new longer cockpit, making the lower standover possible, and leaving the extra room necessary for coil shocks. Oh, and the extender essentially replaces one of the eyelet bushings with a bearing, making for smoother action. There's even more bullet points to cover on the extender, but they're beyond even my nerd threshold.
The frame itself got some new hardware updates. The seat tube went from 30.9 to 31.6, making up for the strength penalty of the new lower standover and shorter seat tube. Also, the new SB150 now features guided cable routing in the frame. And it works a treat. I just finished building up an SB150 for Bike editor-in-chief, Nicole Formosa, and the derailleur cable and brake hoses slide through and line up from front to rear triangle more easily than any other setup I've worked with. There's even a little removable door under the down tube to guide the dropper cable up into (or down from) the seat tube. And while we're talking about tubes, the head tube went from an internal- to a fully integrated headset, meaning the bearings lay directly into the carbon. It's not much, but this means there can be a few millimeters more purchase between the headtube and the top and downtubes. Every little bit helps, especially given the longer-travel fork. For years, I've been paranoid about fully integrated headsets. Chris King famously posted a lengthy manifesto about why they were a bad idea. But now, King is producing their own. That's all I need to know.
One thing that didn't change is the frame did not go to Super Boost. While Yeti will not say they'll never adopt the new standard in the future, right now it sees it as a logistical burden for both the brand and for the consumer. The new SB150 is able to have the kinematics, geometry and tire clearance Yeti wanted it to have without Super Boost, so it didn't seem necessary. That tire clearance, by the way, stops at 2.5WT. None of the designers at Yeti rides a 2.6 rear, and they claim the bikes already have slashing potential beyond what 2.6 can offer.
Another feature the frame gets is a lifetime warranty. Yeti drove home how rigorous its testing standards have gotten on these frames. Engineers started with DH-level standards, notched them up and added new tests until they were satisfied.
And last but not least, the bottle mount. Every size SB150 can fit a full-size bottle. Take one down, pass it around.
Anti-Squat and Leverage Curve
Speaking of that nerd threshold, we’re about to stretch it. Yeti's Switch Infinity platform is already notoriously good at isolating pedal and suspension forces from one another. Problem is, it's totally impossible to have perfect 100-percent anti-squat in all gears and at all sag points. But it can always get closer. Yeti claims to have found a configuration that has ideal anti-squat for the most common gears and the widest range of sag, with that anti-squat dropping off later in the stroke to ensure that drivetrain forces won’t get in the way when heavy pedaling meets hard hits.
Leveling-up the nerd factor is the updated leverage curve. The SB5.5 was designed with somewhere around 3- to 8-percent progressivity. The SB150 goes to 15 percent. The idea is to tune the leverage curve to suit the bike's travel and intended use. For reference, the more XC-oriented SB100 gets 10-percent progressivity. And that curve gets flatter, meaning there's less of a hammock in it and just a little extra ramp at the end. The idea is to offer steady support throughout the stroke, not just bottom-out resistance. It's what makes the frame work so well with coil shocks or larger-volume air shocks like the Float X2. And it ought to further prove Yeti's claim that these bikes can and should be ridden with the shocks set wide open all the time.
Build Kits and Pricing
We'll link to the Yeti page at the bottom of this post, so you can get all the nitty gritty you want, but there's still a Carbon and a Turq frame. Prices on each range from $5,200 to $… well, you should just look at the site.
Every build gets SRAM drivetrains and Fox suspension, with the Carbon frames getting DPX2 shocks and the Turq frames getting Float X2. Every frame gets a Fox Transfer post which, despite all of Yeti's progress in lower standover and deeper insertion, maxes out at 150 millimeters. But don't get me started talking about that. It's time to get started talking about the ride.
For the past four years or so, the introduction of new long-travel 29ers has been happening with steadily increasing frequency. But every time I get a chance to ride one, I find myself comparing it to the first one to truly blow my socks off: the Evil Wreckoning. That bike scared me. For a mere mortal like myself, there was no reaching the end of it. But the further I was from that end, the more it would remind me so. That bike is really only ideal when the speeds and the consequences are high.
The SB150 has a much broader range of ideal speeds and consequences. After just a half a day on it, I could push it nearly as far as I could the Wreckoning, but what was really remarkable was that I didn't need to. I rode the SB150 at Snowmass Bike Park in Aspen, Colorado. Snowmass has its share of pucker-worthy high-speed descents, but that's not the region's defining terrain. The lifts disappear in the distance, not the clouds. The berms are to be pumped through, not dived into. There's even a fair bit of pedaling. This kind of terrain was made for the new steady and supportive leverage curve on the SB150.
In your standard bike park flow-trail fare, where deep-travel big bikes often go too deep, the SB150 sits perfectly in its mid-stroke. Aloof but eager. I felt something similar in the Transition Sentinel, and there are plenty of reasons. Their head angles are within half a degree of each other, reach within 5 millimeters and wheelbase within 1. The Sentinel feels just as ready to rumble, but the SB150 feels more ready to take a punch. Part of that is its extra 10 millimeters of travel. A bigger part is Yeti's taste in disproportionately long-travel forks. One advantage of short-offset forks and slack head angles is that they encourage the rider to stay in attack position because the front end is more trustworthy. And it was a relief to have 170 millimeters of travel between me and what I was expected to trust.
But to compare it to another bike with a similar front end, the Yeti is not the insatiable rock-gobbler that are the Pivot Firebird 29 or my benchmark, the Wreckoning. People often say that Yetis ride like they have more travel than they do. I'd say that depends. The SB150 has the small- and medium-bump sensitivity of a bike with more than 150 millimeters of travel, and taking its geometry into account, it offers a net capability above 150. But there are bikes that actually do have longer travel than the SB150, and some of them absolutely ride like it. The Firebird 29 and the Wreckoning take the biggest of high-speed hits better than the SB150. But on top of having a higher minimum acceptable speed, those bikes are hogs, and they climb like it.
The best of today's long-travel 29ers might make you wonder why short-travel ones still exist. The geometry, the linkage and the shocks themselves are narrowing the gap between efficiency-first marathon bikes and bruisers like the SB150. The Snowmass bike park featured plenty of rocky traverses, and some take you all the way into downtown Aspen, where you’re taking either a bus or your own ‘chev-ro-legs’ on a long, winding singletrack back to the lift. The Switch Infinity-equipped SB150 is exactly what you want on long winding singletrack. Though traditional bikes are always improving, I’ve still never felt a linkage isolate suspension activity from pedaling force better than Switch Infinity, and it’s never been better than on the SB150. Part of that is the updated leverage curve, but most of it is that 77-degree seat angle. On top of the ideal body position and more efficient pedaling platform, it leaves the bike higher in its travel where it’s more ready to deal with small and medium trail chatter.
On the steepest and smoothest of sections, I would still rely on the shock’s climb setting. It made the bike into that ultra-efficient marathoner I might once have chosen on rides the SB150 is actually far better suited for. On dreaded endless fire roads, suddenly there’s no dread. Nevertheless, the folks at Yeti insisted the climb setting isn’t necessary. And of course it’s not necessary. But bikes like this are raising the bar. As climbing continually becomes less and less of a chore, riders will have higher and higher standards. The SB150 has truly spoiled me. What could they possibly think of next.