Though we reviewed the Yeti SB5.5 last summer, the bike created such a stir with our editors we realized it needed to come to The Bible of Bike Tests for a thrashing from the entire test crew. This was a good call: The Colorado company's new long-travel 29er was one of the most sought-after bikes of the test, and soliloquies of its superlative suspension performance resounded around the evening campfires.
There was strong consensus that the bike was among the most capable climbers–if not the most capable climber–of its class. Testers returned from their laps with poorly concealed looks of amazement on their faces, often claiming to have finally cleaned the most technically challenging climbing sections. "You just don't get hung up on anything," exclaimed one tester. "You have this incredible climbing ability, and then as soon as you start going down it's equally as capable."
Pairing Yeti's patented Switch Infinity rear suspension with 29-inch wheels had already proved successful with the introduction of the SB4.5c in 2015, but by extending the platform to a long-travel 29er the company might have created its most capable all-rounder to date. The 140 millimeters of rear-wheel travel, delivered by a Fox Float X Factory shock, meshes nicely with the 160-millimeter Fox 36 Factory fork, creating liveliness while climbing and instilling confidence on burly descents. The bike's 66.5-degree head angle also seems to have struck a fair compromise between climbing and descending prowess.
The components on this Turq Series X01 Eagle model–which features a lighter, higher-cost carbon frame–could hardly be better. In addition to the suspension, the bike comes with a SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Guide RS brakes and DT Swiss 350 wheels wrapped in the versatile combination of a 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF in front and a 2.3-inch Maxxis Aggressor in the rear. This dream build comes with a formidable $7,100 price tag, but you can buy a slightly less extravagant version for $5,700, or the XT/SLX option with Fox Performance suspension for $4,800. The Turq Series frame and Float X Factory shock runs $3,500.
Q&A with Chris Conroy, President – Yeti Cycles
What made Yeti decide to create a longer-travel 29er, especially in light of the fact that the company already had a capable mid-travel 29er in the Yeti SB4.5?
Twenty-niners were having some success on the Enduro World Series circuit and our racers expressed interest in racing a longer-travel adaptation of the SB4.5. We made a test mule and knew it was a special bike (it's the bike of choice for many of the Yeti staff). It ultimately became Cody Kelley's go-to bike for the EWS and could be Richie Rude's choice on some courses in 2017.
The Yeti SB5.5 has 20 millimeters of difference in front- and rear-wheel travel (160 millimeters in the front and 140 millimeters in the rear). How did Yeti end up deciding on these travel numbers?
The Switch Infinity suspension bikes typically ride like they have more travel than the numbers suggest. In the case of the SB5.5, we also knew it had to handle the rigors of EWS courses, so the Fox 36 / 160mm was the best choice. We built the geometry around 160 millimeters of front-wheel travel so we could achieve a bike that could plow in a straight line, but not be unwieldy in tighter terrain.
What type of rider did you design this bike toward?
We designed this bike for the crew at Yeti and knew if we nailed it, we'd find a group of like-minded folks who would appreciate it as much as we do. It's exceeded our expectations.