denizmerdano cam yeti sb60 cover
REVIEW

2023 Yeti SB160 T1 Full Review

Photos Deniz Merdano (unless noted)
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In the increasingly-crowded enduro category, there are orcs and there are elves. The burlier bikes edge closer to downhill bikes while on the other end of the spectrum there are bikes that often behave more like long-legged trail bikes. Like orcs and elves in Tolkien's world, both can be effective but they need to be handled differently.

For more on the SB160's angles and this version's spec. check out my first impressions article.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 7

The SB160 was right at home on Boogieman, one of the North Shore's toughest legal trails.

Some bikes that have the reputation of manoeuvring with brute force are the new Trek Slash, the Norco Range, Santa Cruz Megatower and the Specialized Enduro. The SB160 is more scalpel than mallet. It is capable in the rough stuff but you are more likely to evade peril with finesse than brawn. It wants to be ridden actively and aggressively while some bikes can be piloted more from the back seat while the suspension does the work.

For me the best part of this surgical character trait is versatility. The SB160 loves to go fast but it's not bad when things get slow, tight and technical either and it's a blast on lower angle trails where some burlier bikes might feel like a bazooka at a water fight. It's rare to feel over-gunned on the SB160 and considering it has 170/160mm of suspension travel and a pedigree to match, this is a unique capability.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 3

Happy going down. The longer wheelbase and increased rear travel have improved on the stability of the SB150 at speed and when things get steep.

Going Down

Hopefully anyone buying a bike with this much travel has access to some long and challenging downhill trails, because, as good as it is almost everywhere, this Yeti shines even brighter when either the speeds pick up or the trails tip down, or both.

Almost every time I saddle up the SB160 I'm impressed by how quiet it is. It's got a solid state feel and it seems the improved frame protection on the driveside chainstay, with shark teeth on the top and bottom, amplifies the silence, even in the boniest circumstances.

2023 yeti sb160 zach white 3

The SB160 encourages you to go in head first, but you need to be on top of things to get a favourable result. Photo - Zach White

As mentioned above, this bike rewards an active and mobile pilot who isn't afraid to get some weight up front. It's not surprising that this riding position is emphasized considering the bike is longer and a little slacker than the SB150, and the bike really starts to sing once your weight is on your hands.

The biggest difference I notice between it and the SB150 is in g-outs at the bottom of rockfaces. It handles these situations with much more composure and I often find myself waiting for a bang that doesn't come.

In the steeps, the control I'm able to have on the SB160 makes it feel like everything is slowed down. I find myself able to manoeuvre into tight spots or lift up when it's called for on moves where I'd be more inclined to grip tight and hold onto a bad line on other bikes. It almost feels as though it makes the trail wider because of this responsiveness and the ability to hit sniper lines.

2023 yeti sb160 deniz merdano31

The chainstay protection is very effective at keeping the ride down quiet, with shock absorbing shark's teeth above and below the chainstay.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 5

It's nice to have a quiet bike when the forest inspires awe.

Cornering

An SB160 aptitude I've tappped into more recently is its cornering ability. It's a bike that tips down easily and smoothly, once you adopt the aforementioned aggressive stance. It feels almost like a mullet in this regard. Riding with legs extended and hands weighted helps this bike everywhere and as I've leaned into this more, I've been getting lower in the corners and with more control. I feel able to angle the SB160 more dramatically than other bikes and this has given me the confidence to increase my entry speed, which has improved my exit speed. I'm not dragging bars like Matt Hunter, but it feels like I'm getting low by my standards, and it's a blast. This has had me seeking out twisty bits and bermy trails more than usual.

2023 yeti sb160 zach white 1

This is a bike that responds well to body english. Photo - Zach White

In line with its elven character, the 160 doesn't demand perfect arcs with berms banked by the gods. The North Shore is famous for squared off corners and tight spots to get out of and the SB160 is right at home in these situations. It responds well to body english and the subtle inputs which are required for janky circumstances and sniper exits. More sled-like machines are less happy doing this kind of riding, on trails like Bookwus on Mount Fromme or Pangor on Seymour.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 10

The SB160 loves the twisty bits.

Climbing

With just enough anti-squat to keep the bike stable when you are cranking rhthmically on a fire road, and good responsiveness when things get chunkier, the Yeti SB160 climbs as well as the SB150, and the 150 is an excellent climber. I've never felt bogged down by this bike's 160mm of rear travel and I rarely feel the need to use the lockout. It is efficient and pleasant to climb and it often surprises me by getting to the top of tough singletrack sections. It climbs as well or better than any 160mm travel bike I've ridden.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 16

The SB160 inspires confidence due to its agile character and excellent suspension dynamics more than its all out smashing ability.

Wish List

Despite this being a big step forward from the SB150, There are a few things I'd like to see on this bike going forward, particularly considering its premium price tag.

  • Shuttle guard - you don’t need to be a shuttler to own a truck and if you hang your bike over the tailgate, that protection is important. Yeti sells one of these as an accessory, so why not throw one in the box?
  • In frame storage - who doesn’t want this? Companies are doing this on aluminum bikes now and if you are paying a premium price, why not have that extra space to keep storage off your body and the outside of your bike?
  • Angleset compatibility - particularly because the frame will accept up to a 190mm fork without upsetting the warranty police.
  • A fender at the rear to protect the Switch Infinity Link. This is an expensive little gizmo when out of warranty and if you live in B.C. or Oregon or Sheffield etc. keeping that sucker out of the muck is essential. We Are One includes a great little carbon fibre bolt on rear fender with their bikes but something less elaborate would do. I made one for the SB150 that worked pretty well but I haven't tried with the SB160 yet. Again, this is something Yeti has made for some models of their bikes and it would be welcomed by many riders.
deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 11

Manoeuvrability is an element that sets the SB160 apart from many long travel bikes.

Complaints Addressed/Improvements Made

  • Switch Infinity improved for better bearing sealing - but only on Turq models.
  • New cable ports secure the entry and exit points of cables and house
  • Better routing of hose and housing at bottom bracket to prevent frame wear.
  • Better tire clearance in swingarm to accomodate up to a 2.6" rear tire. Some 2.4s would rub on the frame of the SB150.
  • All bearings pressed into replaceable links rather than expensive carbon fibre components
  • All tolerances in suspension linkages seem dialled.
  • Frame is tested and found certified to the DH level.

deniz merdano 2023 sb160 review cam mcrae 9

This elf can still handle chunky bits though.

Servicing the Switch Infinity

The new Switch Infinity linear bearing appears to have larger bearings and it now has dust seals covering each cartridge. Previously the collet axle rotated, every so slightly, on the actual bearings, and it was machined to press fit precisely between the bearings. Now there is a sleeve with shoulders to support bearing races that is pressed between the bearings and the axle, while the previous sleeve floated between the bearings. The axle on my test bike appears to be able to turn within that sleeve, based on the streaked grease present when it was removed. The bearings themselves were a little stiff but very smooth suggesting they hadn't rotated very much. When the collet is placed inside the SI, it isn't a press fit and you can feel a tiny amount of play. It may be that when the collet is tightened to the correct torque value, it swells slightly and takes up that minute play. Otherwise it means the collet axle rotates within the sleeve, leaving the bearings static. Either way, once assembled there is no play and the axle rotates smoothly as the swingarm moves through its travel and it was still well greased when disassembled.

Disassembly requires crank and chainguide removal, and once the collet axle is removed the swingarm must be rotated rearward and then supported to gain access to the mechanism, either for removal or to inject grease into both ports. This is a relatively simple and quick procedure but give yourself half an hour to get everything apart to be safe if, like me, you aren't a pro mechanic.

Once I had everything apart and had removed the SI, I was impressed to see no discernible wear on the tiny Kashima stanchions of the linear bearing or within the housing. In fact I couldn't even find any debris inside; only clean grease. It seems the improved design, currently available on Turq models only, (or apparently as an aftermarket purchase, but I was unable to find it on Yeti's Website) is a big improvement over the previous version.

The North Shore is an unforgiving environment for bikes. It can be wet at any time of year and between October and June, the ground is almost always wet. I wash bikes after every mucky ride and I delibrately spray where I shouldn't be spraying to accelerate any wear at pivots, in an attempt to approximate a longer period of use. The 2023 SB150 passed those trials as well as any bike I have tested.

denizmerdano yeti SB160 fox dhx

This Fox DHX2 shock has been flawless. Hopefully the problems Fox has had with these shocks in the past have been addressed.

Set Up

I didn't have an easy time getting the SB160 dialled. Small changes seem to produce quite a different ride and being a little off with either spring rate or damping can seem like you are a long way from the sweet spot. It has been worth the effort however and the bike has been feeling better and better for as long as I've had it. It gets frustrating when your suspension changes because of weather or elevation and your dialled bike feels like a jalopy until you find the solution, and the difference between your suspension being bang on and being close feels wider on the Yeti than some other bikes.

My latest settings, in generally cooler weather despite our weirdly warm winter, are below. These aren't far off what Yeti recommends for my 165 lb weight.

Cold weather suspension settings, with damping clicks measured from completely closed.

Rear shock

170 psi HSC 4 out LSC 8 out LSR 11 out HSR 5 out  

Fork

85 PSI HSC 8 out LSC 5 out HSR 6 out LSR 10 out

yeti sb160 geo chart 2023

About those Size-Specific Chainstays...

Originally, in my first impressions article, I mistakenly suggested that Yeti was making size-specific swingarms for each size of SB160. As it turns out, like other manufacturers, Yeti has managed to alter the dimensions of their bikes without making multiple swingarms. These changes are acheived by manipulating the pivot locations on the main frame of the bike. What is confusing is that Yeti's geo-chart lists chainstay lengths for every model from size small to XXL as different, while the length of the swingarms are unchanged. Chainstays have traditionally been measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the rear axle because bikes were at one time one continuous tube for that span, and that is the measurement listed here, so it certainly isn't deceptive. It comes down to the fact that the name of the structure - a chainstay - and the geometry measurement, have the same name. The difference is two millimetres between sizes ranging from 437mm in size emall and 445mm in size XXL. Yeti's text describing this isn't that helpful either: "To achieve this, we’ve further refined geometry with little more reach, rebalanced front and rear centers, and size-specific chainstay and seat tube angles." This reads as though there are size specific chainstay angles which obviously isn't the case. The actual seat tube angles are however different for every size, leading to identical virtual seat tube angles of 77.5º. This is great news for riders like me who are long of leg.

deniz merdano yeti SB160 review

How can you not love that headbadge? After many brands have ditched actual badges for decals, it's nice to see Yeti holding on to some timeless style.

Component Spec. Performance

From the beginning I was impressed with Yeti's approach to this model. It's built with top of the line suspension components, good wheels and excellent brakes, as well as solid DT Swiss aluminum wheels. The drivetrain has no batteries or transmitters and it has worked flawlessly while knocking hundreds of dollars off the retail price. There is very little I would change here, aside from my personal preference of a post that drops more than 200mm. Right down to the saddle, tires, grips and handlebars, I've been happy since I pulled this out of the box. I added some Panzer inserts I was testing but they are so light the character of the bike has not changed, and the tires have likely stood up better as a result.

2024 Model

It seems the T1 spec. no longer exists but the T2 has a similar build. The rims are now Raceface Arcs but the DT Swiss hubs remain. The cassette and shifter have been upgraded to XO1 from GX while the GX chain remains. You can swap out the Fox X2 rear shock for a coil at no charge while the rest of the well-thought out spec. remains. Despite these changes, the 2024 model has a lower MSRP of XXX CAD and 7900 USD, compared to 8500 USD for the T1 in 2023.

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This derailleur has never had a dead battery.

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The aluminum wheels are comfortable and have stayed true over many months of use.

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This is a build that prioritizes performance over bling and gives you access to top quality suspension and braking components without any costly bells and batteries. The T1 build has been replaced by the T2 for 2024 and overall it's a little better, for 600 USD less.

Final Thoughts

Every element of the frame has been well thought out and the details, like the paint finish, the cable ports and routing, and the suspension linkages, are very well executed. There are, in my opinion some details missing, the big one being a stash compartment of some kind, but I'd rather have a vessel that sails well rather than one with large hold if given the choice. But if I could have both? That doesn't sound so bad either.

One thing that has continued to impress me about this bike is that I'm still learning about its capabilities after riding it for many months. It seems that I regularly discover that I can push it a little harder through a rough section or carry more speed into a corner. While it may not be the sort of bike where you can wring out every drop of performance right away, it seems the performance improvement arc is very long and I have found myself riding many jumps and features for the first time on the SB160. It's fast, it's fun, it's agile and it's incredibly capable.

Yeti no longer lists the T1 model but it seems to have been replaced by the T2, with a little nicer spec. and an MSRP that is 600 USD lower at 7900 USD. If you'd like to save a little money, the C models have a frame that Yeti says is as stiff and as strong that weighs 225g more but at considerable savings, but with the previous generation Switch Infinity mechanism. A Turq frame-only with with a Fox X2 shock is the toughest sell at 4800 USD.

Overall, this is a fantastic bike and a nice jump forward from the excellent SB150. If you are looking for a versatile and nimble enduro bike that will keep pace as your skills improve, the SB160 is an excellent choice.

2024 Yeti SB160 Models

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 170lbs/77kg

Inseam - 33"/84cm

Ape Index - 0.986

Age - 57

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Lower Digger

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 485-500mm (longer with 27.5 wheels than 29)

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Comments

Kenny
+10 Allen Lloyd Shinook ohio WasatchEnduro Vik Banerjee dhr999 BarryW Timer Skooks utopic

The SI link is the heart of the frame, I think the fact that only the turq gets the more reliable variant is lame. 

Maybe they should start putting cheaper bearings in the lower end frames, too. 

Why use a version of such a key component that you know is less reliable?

I guess they've done the math and decided that price point versus profit margin versus likelihood of warranty claims results in a net benefit to use the (presumably cheaper, but really, to yeti what is the actual cost difference?) link, but it still seems like nickel-and-diming, same as the lack of included shuttle guard. 

I'm sure it's a great bike but all of that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, just personally.

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cam@nsmb.com
+3 Shinook BarryW Andy Eunson vunugu Kenny

This is something the entire bike industry is guilty of I’d say.  And retail products in general. The way car companies won’t give you heated seats without buying a package that costs $3500. Or on bikes where you can only get top of the line suspension and brakes if you go for electronic shifting, tyrewiz and carbon wheels. This is something Yeti is not guilty of. 

Margins are higher for higher priced products so there is a profit incentive to make the lower cost items less desirable and vice versa.

There could be other reasons though, like back stock of the original SI that needs to be sold. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the bikes had the same mechanism before too long.

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Jotegir
+1 BarryW utopic WasatchEnduro

"Margins are higher for higher priced products so there is a profit incentive to make the lower cost items less desirable and vice versa"

For manufacturers maybe, but not for retailers. High end product is where you see the worst margin and often the worst terms for dealers/retailers. 

Shame that the non turq yetis are so budget and pedestrian they can't put the proper link in. I can't believe that Yeti would even allow peasants to ride their bikes that can't afford the top of the line.

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Kenny
+4 Cam McRae WasatchEnduro dhr999 BarryW

> This is something the entire bike industry is guilty of I’d say.

"Entire"? I gotta disagree there.

Plenty of manufacturers specifically not trying to play that game out there, but we all see things through our own lense so I won't try to convince you otherwise. :)

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cam@nsmb.com
0

Certainly there are exceptions. Good point Kenny. There are less corporate companies led by those who remember scraping together whatever they had to buy the best bike possible. Larger businesses tend to get drawn into following the bottom line sadly, but there are exceptions even in that realm.

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Timer
0

In a certain way that consumer hostile corporate culture has unintended benefits. It pushes people towards smaller companies and allows the more rider-focused niche brands to survive.

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kperras
+4 Mammal Andy Eunson Hardlylikely utopic

Incorrect broad brush stroke there. The entire bike industry does not limit premium options to higher pricepoint options. In Rocky's case, you get the same high-end carbon layup from the C30 to C99 (when there is a 99 option). No corners cut with cheaper, heavier fill material. We also use Enduro bearings, premium hardware, and include all frame accessories starting from the most entry level A10 option. I'm sure I can find other brands that also mimic our frame spec decisions.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Kenny

Indeed, as Kenny pointed out. And I have retracted that broad brush above.

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rigidjunkie
+2 ohio Mammal

Agree, when I read this I assumed that they have a pile of them left over and the best way they could find to get rid of them was to keep putting them on the lower spec bikes.  Feels like an odd thing for such a high end builder to do, but I am sure they have a reason.

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ohio
+1 utopic

If I had to guess, it's to get rid of excess inventory of the old mech. Lame move for a premium brand, if so.

(edit - what Allen said above)

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IslandLife
0

Exactly what I was thinking... some warehouse manager is like: "Whoa, whoa whoa... that a nice new version of the link and all... but wtf and I supposed to do with this pallet of the old ones??"

Marketing Manager: "Easy... we'll just put the new ones on the top tier spec and sell the old ones to the poor pleebs... most probably won't even realize!  Boom, mic drop..."

That may not have been how it played out... but, not realizing that's what the average consumer is going to think and how that will affect the brand is the real "fail" in all this.

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Kenny
0

The reality is though that many people don't ride enough for it to even matter. 

Roll out the new ones for warranty replacements, since people who are needing warranty replacements would obviously benefit from the update, and ship with the old variant until they run out, then update all bikes. Easy.

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KDix85
+4 Cr4w Mammal Velocipedestrian chacou

Pic 4 and the nifty red brake caliper in your Swingarm shots has the keen eyed component Mavens over on Vital MTB's tech rumours thread all aflutter this morning... ;)

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craw
0

Wow good catch!

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BenHD
+2 Niels van Kampenhout Cam McRae

Well written article with thorough findings. Good job, Cam!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0

Thanks Ben!

Reply

bullit
+1 Cam McRae

Nice review,Fork

85 PSI HSC 8 out LSC 5 out HSC 6 out LSC 10 out must be HSR and LSR on the second ones?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0

Yep.  Corrected. Thanks!

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Bro-Tato
+1 Cam McRae

Great article. 

I think you’re being a tad unfair to the Megatower though - I’d call it a half-orc.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Bro-Tato

To be fair, most of my experience on the MT was on the first one and I’m sure it’s been tamed some since then.

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Bro-Tato
0

And to be fair, all of my MT experience is on the second one. It's very close in travel and very close to the Yeti geometry wise, at least with the flip-chip in "high" (which is the right setting, IMO). The only real differences are 5mm more of travel (or 10mm if you overstroke it) and  ~2cm more of stack, with a corresponding small decrease in reach, resulting in a more "upright" attack position. But you could arrange that position on the Yeti with a few centimeters of spacers, if you were inclined.

So then it would come down mostly to suspension, and Santa Cruz and Yeti usually have very distinct characters in that regard. In my experience with Yetis, they tend towards the "race day" in mindset - stiff and precise. VPP is more plush, though balanced rather than a monster truck. The MT2 that I ride is very balanced and I consider it a daily driver that you can also take to a bike park, depending on which tires you put on it and how you setup the shock.

But I haven't ridden an SB160 - sounds like I should though. The frame-only price is kind of an instant no, unfortunately.

Reply

craw
+1 Cam McRae

This review feels right on the money from what I learned when comparing the SB160 to a Megatower v2. I went with the Megatower for a couple of key reasons given it was similar to the SB160 in terms of quality, price and availability in a proper XXL. The Mega has a lot more stack and internal storage and is more of a smasher. I think if I lived anyplace else the SB160 would have been a more versatile choice for someone my size. The way you described the SB160 is pretty much how everyone reported it to be, so that's great, but I wanted an orc siege engine so I bought the Mega.

Reply

craw
+2 Bro-Tato Cam McRae

This comment has been removed.

ackshunW
+1 Cam McRae

Great write up, riding and photos ! (That opening shot, c’mon!!!!)

Especially loved “It almost feels as though it makes the trail wider because of this responsiveness..”

I know that feeling! But for me it only comes on a very good day with fitness and focus lining up, and only on a bike that is way dialed in for me.

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vincentaedwards
0

My imagination is running wild thinking about how many of these Yeti could sell if they were able to knock 15-20% off the price. But I suppose the exclusivity is part of the Yeti brand identity at this point. (An HD6 frameset with Float X2 is $3,800, for reference) 

Digression: it feels like Yeti and Ibis [among others] are still holding onto their image as mid-sized ‘semi-boutique’ rider focused companies. As opposed to my former favorite bike manufacturer Santa Cruz… who just feels like another Specialized or Trek at this point. Do others feel this way too?

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Jotegir
+3 BadNudes Velocipedestrian XXX_er

Trek did a market study a little while ago and found Santa Cruz is the #1 "core" bike brand, blowing everybody out of the water in the 4k and up category, including Trek and Specialized (the next 2 and 3).  So if you're feeling like Santa Cruz is not boutique or special anymore, it's because that description no longer reflects the reality of that brand. If anything it's impressive people still have that impression. Well done Cruz marketing department, I suppose.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Lu Kz

I’d say that comes down to the staff at Santa Cruz. Very good people there at at every position and most of them love to ride. So in that regard that reputation is well-deserved.

Reply

XXX_er
0

They  both did a great job but personaly  I like my SC sightly > I liked my Yeti, I think there are so many more  SC out on the local trails than any other brand  cuz people like them. Now days the top Norco is 12K list so how much dfference is there between a 12K SC/ Ibis/ YETI and a Norco ?

I see people oohing about some really eclectic bikes but I can't see how they can beat any of the top design/ mfg  teams from SC/ Ibis/ Yeti ?

edit: re switch infinity, no problems at all with the SI slider,  just pump it full of grease once a season which is like 7 months

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MTB_THETOWN
0

My friend got one of these and let me take a lap on it during our last shuttle day. The review matches my much more limited experience. The bike feels supportive, corners amazingly well, and feels fast. The suspension felt stiff, but not harsh. It feels like a race bike, and I really liked it.

Unfortunately frame only for $4800 USD is silly money

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