Studio Photos: Anthony Smith; Action Photos: Margus Riga
The Up Side
A steep seat tube angle and Yeti’s remarkably effective Switch Infinity system combine to make the SB150 shockingly efficient under pedaling forces. Just be ready to adjust your timing and expectations to suit the bike’s length and slackness.
Yeti took risks while designing the SB150 so that you can take risks while riding it. The big carbon beauty boasts a beyond-slack head angle, sprawling wheelbase and roomy reach. It all amounts to a bike that’s got your back when riding high-consequence terrain at race-level speeds.
Dollar for Dollar
The SB150 is a highly sophisticated and specialized machine with boutique pricing to match. Cost-conscious buyers should probably avoid Yeti altogether, but especially the Turq frames, which shave weight at a considerable premium.
For years now, testers have been ruining otherwise useful reviews with the infamous cliché “descends like a downhill bike, climbs like an XC bike.” The sentiment behind that platitude is understandable, and being phrased as an analogy is somewhat exculpatory, but it is ultimately nonsense. So let me say this now, so that there is no confusion: The SB150 is neither a downhill bike nor an XC bike.
Based on geometry alone, though, it wouldn’t be that out of place in the start hut atop a World Cup track. The large size’s 1,248-millimeter wheelbase is only 9 millimeters short of a Giant Glory or Transition TR11. Its 480-millimeter reach is longer than either of those bike’s, and its 64.5-degree headtube angle is only a degree-and-a-half steeper.
Still, what surprised us most was how efficiently the 150-millimeter-travel Yeti climbed: There was almost no detectable bob during seated pedaling, and still very little when out of the saddle. Switch Infinity is at least partially to thank for this.
With Switch Infinity, the main pivot is a carrier that’s mounted to vertical rails above the bottom bracket. The carrier moves as the suspension cycles: First upward to achieve a flat and high anti-squat curve around the sag range, using chain tension to resist movement under pedaling forces. It then reverses direction about halfway through the stroke, reducing the effect of chain tension on the linkage and allowing it to cycle more freely. It’s one method of mimicking an eccentric pivot, and it works really well.
So the SB150 pedals with gobsmacking efficiency, but there’s no avoiding the bike’s length. Some testers had trouble scaling the many shelfy steps on our long-travel test loop, struggling to calibrate the timing of both pedal strokes and body-weight shifts relative to the Yeti’s wheelbase. We’d get our front wheel up a step, and then twiddle our thumbs for a moment as we waited for the rear wheel to hit. But this just required us to tweak our timing, and with more rides would surely become second nature.
Our descent began with drops and ledgy slickrock and then transitioned to fast, sweeping corners before starting its precipitous plummet down the steep mesa’s edge, where square-edged rocks and precision moves were punctuated by wheel-swallowing holes that threatened to send us over the bars and off a cliff. The final straights were fast, loose and exposed affairs that tested pilots’ resolve as much as the bikes’ capabilities.
The SB150’s suspension did exactly what testers needed in each section. It ramped up to resist bottoming off diving-board drops and provided play-happy mid-stroke support and traction-enhancing sensitivity through corners. When the chunk began, the SB150 plowed with abandon, teasing riders who pulled the brakes not because they felt uncomfortable or out of control, but because they feared the consequences of traveling at the SB150’s preferred speed: faster, faster, faster. Hard braking was key when the corners tightened or the line required precision, but we were surprised by how well the big bike handled small spaces. One tester chalked this up to the plentiful support found throughout the SB150’s stroke, which made rear-wheel pivots easier than on gushy 29ers like the Evil Wreckoning.
Controlling the front end through turns required a forward weight shift that felt less instinctive than what’s demanded by the Ibis Ripmo, Evil Offering or Devinci Troy. Unlike on the Mondraker Foxy 29, however, the forward weight shift actually yielded tractable cornering performance aboard the SB150. Specialized’s Enduro has a softer, get-lost-in-it feel to its suspension that made it seem like a bigger bike than the SB150. The Enduro’s geometry is much more conservative, though, so its handling will feel more natural to riders who aren’t yet aboard the super-long, super-slack barge.
Still, for those who can take advantage of the SB150’s length and slackness, it will be a singular instrument with few contemporaries. DH bike? Not quite. XC bike? Certainly not. But it’s as close to being both as we’d want any single bike to be.
Q&A With Chris Conroy, president, Yeti Cycles
Our testers noticed that the SB150 and bikes like it require a forward weight shift in order to really corner well. Are we a bunch of slouches who ride too far off the back, or are Yeti staff and riders making the same adjustment?
You guys are correct. The longer reach and slacker head angle allow you to be more centered on the bike when standing and descending. It’s a more aggressive posture and rewards riders who push the bike. It’s performed well on the EWS circuit—Richie Rude is undefeated on the SB150.
How should riders decide between the SB130 and SB150?
The SB150 is designed for EWS racing and is built to withstand the most demanding courses on the circuit – including a frame that meets Yeti’s downhill tolerance standards. It’s incredibly versatile, especially given its pedaling efficiency, but requires a bit more rider input to pilot it up and downhill. The SB130 is long and slack, but rides more neutral. Many people who throw a leg over the SB130 instantly feel comfortable and comment on how lively and playful it is.
Yeti went to a lifetime warranty on the 2019 SB frames, up from 5-year in 2018. Was that just a reaction to market demands, or was there an increased focus on durability in the manufacturing and testing processes behind the development of the new bikes?
It’s both. When we designed our 2019 line, we decided to add all the features that our customers have asked for over the years: water bottle in main frame, lifetime warranty and a commitment to constantly evolving our suspension and geometry. We’ve also broadened our testing protocol in the lab and on the trail to increase strength and durability. We’re pretty excited about the performance of our new products.