If a new bike comes out, but it didn’t get drastically ‘longer, slacker and lower’ than its predecessor, does it even count as an update?
The question is obviously rhetorical, but I’ll answer it anyway. In the case of the Yeti SB 115, the iconic brand’s new short-travel 29er out today, yes, very much so. The 2021 SB115 isn’t an update per se—the SB100 we tested in 2019 will stay in the line for now—but it came about as Yeti’s engineers attempted to make a Lunch Ride version of the 100 (‘Lunch Ride’ is Yeti’s nomenclature for the variation on its popular bikes that include slightly more travel and more aggressive components, reflective of how employees tend to build their bikes for the company’s famous lunch rides.). As the travel crept up, they realized they had a different bike on their hands, even though the geometries are practically identical.
The travel sweet spot they landed on for the SB115 is, no surprise, 115 millimeters of rear travel paired with a 130-millimeter-travel fork (the SB100 comes stock with a 120-mil fork). To Yeti loyalists, this configuration might sound reminiscent of the SB4.5c, which was the first 29er Yeti developed with its Switch Infinity suspension platform five years ago. That bike had 114 millimeters of rear travel paired with a 140-millimeter fork, and lived in Yeti’s line between 2016 to 2018. In 2019, it was replaced by the SB100 (Does it feel like we’re going in circles here?).
With similar travels, it may seem worth comparing the SB115 to the 4.5c, but Switch Infinity platform has changed too much for that to be plausible. The Yeti SB115 is a completely different beast; in Yeti’s words, it climbs like an SB100 and descends like an SB130.
But, the first thing you’ll notice about the SB115 is what you won’t notice, and that’s the Switch Infinity translating pivot mechanism, which is tucked neatly into the frame and covered with a custom (removable) fender, similar to the SB100. The Switch Infinity linkage itself has been re-designed to support the additional travel, and the frame sports an uninterrupted seat tube to allow for longer dropper posts (the size-medium I tested comes with a 150-millimeter dropper, large and extra-large frames support a 175 or longer, depending on BB-saddle length).
Otherwise the numbers are fairly moderate for short-travel 29er of this ilk—67.6-degree head angle, 74.1 seat angle, 430-millimeter reach (size medium), 436-millimeter chainstays, 339-millimeter bottom-bracket height and a 44-millimeter-offset fork.
While the geometry doesn’t necessarily push the ‘longer, slacker’ envelop, it fits with other 29ers that perhaps err more on the side of ‘cross-country’ than ‘trail.’ On paper anyway. Think more Specialized Epic Evo than Santa Cruz Tallboy or Evil’s The Following.
In the saddle, though, the Yeti SB115 feels far more party than pinner XC bike. While Switch Infinity remains one of the most efficient climbing platforms in the high-end market, it’s also forgiving in the other direction in less predictable terrain.
Like other ‘SB’ bikes of this generation, the Yeti SB115 requires a more active, aggressive riding position—whether climbing or descending—to feel the full benefits of the harmony between suspension and geometry. With a seat angle that’s on the slacker side, it requires a notable forward weight shift to keep the front wheel planted on steep sections of the doubletrack access road on my local trails, and on that road, I felt most comfortable with the shock’s blue dial flipped into ‘Trail’ as opposed to wide open. At the recommended 30-percent sag (for me, this was about 10 pounds over body weight), and rebound set a few clicks fast of middle, the Fox DPS shock felt perfectly tuned for the dry SoCal descents consisting of hardpacked berms, steep chutes and chunky rock gardens. And after riding a few different tire set-ups recently, I was infinitely grateful for Yeti’s decision not to sacrifice rubber for weight, speccing the Maxxis Aggressor rear 2.3/Minion DHF 2.5 front tire combination, paired with DT Swiss’ XM1700 aluminum 30-millimeter-wide rims, a match made for the grip-less terrain inherent to our desert scape. The size-medium bike I tested with the Turq frame, X01 kit and the alloy wheels, weighs 29 pounds on the dot.
See, not really an XC bike.
Also, unlike an XC-bike, you won’t suffer the consequences of poor line choice on the SB115—it goes where you want it to and recovers quickly if you point is somewhere you shouldn’t. Similar to other SB bikes, notably the 150, the faster you go, the better it feels, begging for its pilot to blur the lines between control and fear, albeit on tamer trails than on what the SB150 can handle. And just because it’s a 29er doesn’t mean it’s fast, but not fun or stable, but not playful. It felt quick and lively on fast, smooth, twisty singletrack, where leaning into the corners is rewarded with momentum enough to dive through the next section, saving energy for one more lap.
The Yeti SB115 comes in the brand’s customary four sizes—small to XL—and the price to play is lower now than it is with the SB100. Complete builds start at $4,700 with C series carbon-frame, Fox Performance suspension, Shimano SLX drivetrain and Deore 4-piston brakes, a pretty sweet package for the money. At the top end, $8,000 buys you a Turq series carbon frame, Fox Factory suspension, XX1 Eagle drivetrain, with the ability to upgrade to a carbon wheelset and/or the AXS drivetrain if you’re feeling extra splurge-y.
So, who’s this bike for, exactly? Really, the same person the SB100 was for—the long-distance bikepacker, the BC Bike Race contender, the XC racer who wants to dabble outside their comfort zone when the numberplate is off—or perhaps a new customer, one previously torn between the of zippiness of the SB100 and the extra burl of the 130. Now, Yeti’s made the choice simple. See all five build kits over at yeticycles.com.