2019 Yeti SB 150 - First Impressions*
*Our First Impressions pieces talk about componentry, geo and background so we can focus on ride characteristics for the full review later on.
When I first saw Yeti's new SB 100 at Sea Otter I hoped a burlier sibling was on the way. The 100 was a departure for Yeti in that it was longer and slacker than the bikes that came before but it also had a pair of bonuses; water bottle bosses in the main triangle and a less eager seat mast.
A few years ago many riders wouldn't have been fussed about the absence of a well protected cage but the age of enduro has alerted many riders to the freedom and simplicity of packless riding. A long seat mast was NBD either, before the advent of long travel droppers, which have seen widespread adoption, and riders going a size up to get more reach
You could say the SB 5.5 was such a solid performer, it took two bikes to replace it. Richie Rude occasionally selected the 5.5 for EWS rounds and it was Cody Kelley's first choice when he rode for Yeti. With 140mm in the rear mated to a 160mm fork, it could take a beating on the way down but get you back without laying a beating. The 5.5 was replaced by both the SB 130 and the SB 150. Yeti will tell you the 130 is the direct replacement, but it has 10mm less travel front and rear. The 150 has 10mm more front and rear than the 5.5 with, not surprisingly 150mm rear and a hefty 170mm up front.
Bikes continue to grow in length and Yeti took a big leap with the SB150. The large 5.5 had a reach* of 442mm while the large SB150 measures 480mm. This is larger than the incremental change we normally see with new models and these numbers compare to some manufacturers XL frames. Of the frames I compared to the SB150, only the Pole Machine was longer at 510mm in size large. Or course the smallest Geometron, which are sized by reach; the 'long' is 485mm. If that scares you off it shouldn't. I'm 6' without long arms or torso and the large fit me perfectly. After I tested the XL Bronson, the large Yeti 5.5 began to feel small to me.
*reach is the measurement of a horizontal line extending from the centre of the top of the head tube to a vertical line that bisects the centre of the bottom bracket
So she's long of cockpit and also of wheelbase. At 1248mm the 150 leads most mainstream brands. Transition's Sentinel is within a whisper at 1247 while Pole's Machine leaves both in the dust at 1335. The SB150 goes the other way with the rear end and the chainstays measure 433mm, the shortest among the bikes I compared with, aside from the 27.5"-tired Santa Cruz Bronson at 430mm.
That sounds pretty good unless you want to run fatter than standard tires in the rear. I have a 2.5" Minion DHRII installed right now and there is enough clearance, but nothing extra. 2.6" Minions are out but 2.6" Specialized tires fit just fine. A 2.8 will turn a good day into a bad day.
While we are talking about the back end, I should mention that some riders have had some issues with rear end flex and even some bushing play. On the trail I haven't noticed the rear end feeling noodly at all but the frame overall feels less robust than my most recent tester, the Santa Cruz Bronson. There is no play to speak of after a handful of rides but when you grab a fist full of tire you can induce plenty of flex. Thus far this doesn't seem to be an impediment but time will tell.
With the shock extender and the new orientation the frame will work fine with a piggyback shock and, because of the more progressive suspension curve, a coil shock is an option.
The first place I was able to notice the short offset fork and how it works with the SB150 geometry was on the road. The first time I pushed up to ride 'no hands' I was surprised by how solid the bike felt. I could juggle, mix a martini or even do a handstand on my saddle with ease. The SB150 is vastly more stable sitting back on the saddle than any bike I've ridden. How this translates on the trail needs more evaluation but it's safe to say that this platform holds lines extremely well.
It's early days but I haven't had the easiest time tuning this bike. It came from another publication and it had been ridden pretty hard. Or at least beaten up a little. I'm also not sure, since it didn't come directly from Yeti, if there are non-stock volume spacers in the shock. The fork came without any spacers and after bottoming out hard on a drop recently I'm going to add one at least.
Another challenge is that I had to adjust my riding position after either shorter 29ers or the long Bronson in XL with 27.5 wheels. This bike rewards an aggressively forward position, even more than other big wheelers I've been on, and it took me a few rides to sort that out. Despite all that the shape feels bang on and the bike gets faster and more fun with every ride. And boy can this thing climb. I expected to pay a price over the 5.5 but if there is a tariff it's a very small one, likely thanks to the anti-squat characteristics and the 76.9º effective seat angle.
Stay tuned for the full review, likely in January. Until then check out