Yeti Cycles SB135 Lunch Ride T3 Review
It's a lovely, cool morning with summer around the corner. My organic beans, cooked up by Cowboy Coffee Roasting, are strong and reliable. It's the familiar taste and aroma I've come to appreciate every morning before I do anything around the house. I know there are better brews out there but the Phillips coffee machine churns out the Cortado I love so much in a loud, obnoxious way. I know the beans, I know the machine and I know what it means to start the day in this calm, delicious way.
I shared similar opinions about the way my bikes should ride and what those bikes ought to look like on paper. "We live on the North Shore; the bikes need to be burly and slack and long and with as big a wheel one can fit on them," my mind kept yelling at me all these years.
Then along comes the Yeti SB135 LR to give the pot a much-needed stir.
The LR in SB135 LR stands for Lunch Ride and it is how Yeti employees set their bikes up for their Lunch Hour spin. I hear these rides are mandatory and include a stop at the dental office for a quick cleaning.
Joking aside, the fellow humans at Yeti generally set their bikes up burlier than the bikes Yeti offered to their customers. The part of Colorado these folks work and ride in doesn't have über gnarly trails out the back door but who doesn't want to bring a lifted Tacoma to the shuttle ride? The idea for a special edition that slightly deviates from the original build is a brilliant idea. Rocky has their BC or Rally editions while Scott has Tuned, as other examples. Providing slightly more bike than what's offered to the general market is a great way to increase value and reach a wider audience and I am all for it.
I would expect this kind of investment to come with some bonds, or maybe a time share in the Turks and Caicos. Heck at the very least a free helmet or something. Yetis are not cheap bikes and someone looking to extend their dollars may want to look elsewhere. In comparison, a fully decked out Trek Fuel EX 9.9 and a Pivot Shadowcat AXS build each come in for around 11K CAD. But bikes, like most things in life, are more than simply the sum of its parts, so let's dig in a little.
On my first few rides, I found the Yeti to be a comfortable climber. The 800mm bars got trimmed to 780mm. I also moved the seat a little more forward on the rails to put more weight on the bars for technical climbs. The size medium bike had 600mm of stack with a 107mm headtube. I found it had tendency to wheelie on power moves. The front wheel felt light and I mostly chalked this up to the 433mm rear center and the smaller wheels. One person's problem is another's crutch however. The short rear end also allowed for better crank clearance on technical terrain and a tight turning radius for negotiating obstacles. After hauling the bigger diameter wheels of my Orbed Rallon with heavy DH casing Kryptotals, the Exo+ casing DHR IIs felt down right lively.
Combined with the magic that is the Switch Infinity Link, each pedal stroke propels the bike forward without much resistance. There was never a moment where the bike felt like it was re-accelerating on the climb trail. Bumps smoothed out and I got to the top with a little more oxygen concentration in my legs than normal.
Out of saddle efforts didn't sink the bike deep into travel but kept it within a few milimeters of the sag which I settled on around 30% at 170 psi as a 160 lb/ 72 kg when wet rider.
Yeti's motto should be ""go far and play often"" and the SB135 LR encouraged this slogan on every ride. The way it pedalled out of the gate was fun but a little concerning. How would it behave on the way down?
Sram X01 T- Type
This lovely carbon build came with the new metal bits from Sram in the X01 flavour. The setup procedure was simple enough; loosen the rear axle, loosen the derailleur, put it in the red setup gear and pull back on the cage until chain is tight. Finally tighten the derailleur bolt to 25 Nm. That's really all that's necessary to set the gearing up on this and every other Transmission-equipped bike. The simplicity is a bit scary, kind of like letting Haysoos take the wheel, and the X01 mech was ready to smash through some gears for me.
The first couple of rides were uneventful despite the rapid way to the top on the 32lb go-cart. I noticed the engineered-lag in SRAM's new system and had a chat with one of the tallest guys they employ (Chris Mandell) about all the new tech. The bottom line was that the cassette has full control of the shifting point with the on-off ramps and shift denial points. There is no way to force a chain on to the next gear until it's on the correct spot on the cassette. Each shift is a complete shift with full chain engagement until the next shift happens. While it feels like there is a slower response to all the button smashing you are doing at the handlebar, the final shift speed is more or less identical in speed to the previous AXS system. It feels better underfoot and allows for a longer lasting cassette and chain interface. I also quite like the new shifter pod with the simplified button interface, however there is no problem going back and forth with the old paddles for me so I won't be rushing to change the old setup just yet.
So is it worth upgrading your d-train to t-train? If you feel that the clutch on your old AXS is weak, you will benefit from the new setup. If you tend to stand on your derailleur when the bike is on it's side, you'll like the new setup. If you smash gears without a care about your chain and cassette, your metal bits will like the new setup. For about 1500 CAD you can upgrade to the new GX T-type and call it a day.
It is quite obvious Yeti's motto is "go far and play often" and the SB135 LR encouraged this slogan on every ride.
The Way Down the Mountain
The SB135 LR took me to the top of the mountain a few times in the past couple of months. My Strava records say I've pedaled around 350 km save for a day at Whistler Bike Park. Apart from a mysterious creak coming from the cassette, the bike has been flawless. No bolts came loose or rattled and all hardware stayed put. Even the air stayed in the tires until the last ride where I landed 6-footer to flat on some sharp rocks (Bellingham drop trail build fault).
The SB135 LR made its way down the North Shore jank in admirable fashion. On the first few rides I kept speeds at bay, rode cautiously and got to know the small-wheeled Yeti. The 160mm Fox 36 did a great job keeping the front right side up and is one of the easiest forks to get feeling nice without much tinkering; 80-ish psi in the air side and a couple of clicks of HSC (4 clicks from closed) and LSC (7clicks from closed) to keep the front from diving made for a nice setup.
The 65° Head Angle would be unridable by Tim Coleman Standards but for me it meant that I could ride any trail, anywhere and not feel like I had the wrong bike. As a matter of fact, Tim and I played bikes for a full day at Whistler bike park where he brought his Canyon Sender to it's natural habitat. I brought the little SB135 LR to see how it would do. I've never ridden a bike that is so interested in getting airborn and gaining speed like the little Yeti. There were no lines too gnarly (shalemeister was borderline but it is on every bike) or jump too big. Dirt Merchant was a breeze and a full lap down Misfire was hard on the hands but not out of SB135s scope. I struggled to comprehend how a bike with small wheels and short travel could be this capable. I rode the Forbidden Druid with similar travel quite happily on the Shore but it had bigger wheels helping it stay out of the holes. Maybe wheel size doesn't matter as much as I think it does? Maybe the suspension platform and the geometry are the keys to fast and fun riding just about anywhere?
I often went back to my bigger bike for rowdier, steeper terrain and appreciated the DH tires and the 10mm increase in fork travel along with 25mm more in the rear. The one degree slacker head angle and 29" wheels on the Rallon added up to a more capable descender but it sure wasn't a lot more fun than the little Yeti.
I ran into a friend and a reader of these pages on one of the earlier rides and he asked me what I thought of the bike so far. I told him honestly that I liked it and that it was one of the better suspension platforms I have ridden.
He told me " Fuck off, you love every bike you review"
I was taken aback by that comment. Was I really that easy to please? Am I not dissecting the bikes I test deep enough to find their flaws? Or am I just such a talented rider that even shit bikes feel just fine when I ride them? Yes, that must be it! I am that good...
I took my time and tried to understand what the little Yeti was trying to tell me. Taking the path to any good, healthy relationship, I wanted to know its purpose in this world. When I did take the Yeti for granted it warned me promptly with a crash, a big one I might add, if not the biggest, down a chute I'd ridden a thousand times. It hurt, but didn't kill me. I went back up immediately and rode it the way Yeti wanted me to. I thank the SB135 for not breaking me or itself in the process of this little incident.
The Bits that Make the Whole
The top tier Yeti comes with plenty of nice parts on it unsurprisingly and the Carbon Turq frame sheds 200 grams off the regular one. It's a premium layup Yeti uses that saves weight but retains strength and stiffness in the same package. In house 800mm Carbon bars are comfy and light. They don't offer any unique sweep or rise or even damping claims. They were uneventfully perfect for this rider, after cutting them to 780mm.
On the bars you get SRAM Code RSC brakes. Tons of people love these brakes and for good reason. They work and become second nature for riding on the North Shore. All the power you need is there, mated to 200mm rotors on this bike. I wished I had my Shimanos for the long bike park days where holding onto the bars and braking hard was taxing on my hands but that's really my only complaint about the Codes; the hand strength needed to use them all day. Maybe I should get stronger or maybe SRAM should add a little power and sensitivity?
The Factory level Fox 36 and Float X have been faultless; no weird noises and no cavitation. The float X fits the poppy playful character of this bike exceptionally. The 17% progression designed into the system is modest to keep things from bottoming out, and I never once felt a harsh bottom out on the SB135 LR. It has been quite puzzling as to how bottomless the bike feels with that little only 135mm of travel on tap.
The DT Swiss EX 1700 wheels have been popping up on a few rigs these days and they suit the character of the SB135 really well. The bike itself is lively and agile and the softer alloy wheels allow for great tracking through rough stuff. They work so well as a matter of fact that I have been tempted to get a set for the bigger bike. I don't love how they ride out of supported corners but through the chatter, nothing beats alloy wheels in terms of comfort and traction. I love them. I've had no loose spokes or dents so far and believe me, I have tried.
The tires are a bit of a compromise on this bike. The intentions of the Yeti are a little confusing from the paper to trail. While the EXO Assegai on the front is lovely, it is the wrong compund for this part of the world. MaxxTerra is borderline in most conditions where moisture is involved. I would have loved to see a Maxx Grip DHR II. Santa Cruz has this combo dialed on their latest bikes and It is the shit. The rear tire is a DHR II in EXO+ Maxx Grip. I am more OK with this tire and it has done me well through a ton of hard riding, until last weekend I put a hole right on it after a horribly built drop on Galbraith. The tire plugged easily on the trail and will stay as it is until the plug fails.
Switch Infinity Report
There really is some magic to how this main pivot modifier works. It moves a total of 20mm up and down and affects the kinematics in the most wonderful ways.
The Yeti starts its life as a low pivot bike with high anti squat at sag to allow for great pedaling and power transfer, and moved up the Kashima-coated shafts for a high pivot performance later into the travel, which really isn't much to begin with. The anti squat values drop and the chain tension is decoupled from the suspension kinematics to allow for a deeper, softer feel late in the stroke. That's pretty much what I could make out of the system by riding and staring at it. I also tried servicing it after about 25 hours of riding which is what Yeti recommends. In the past Yeti hasn't supplied grease guns at purchase, but we've heard that may change in the future.
One of the Kashima stanchions is accessible with the main pivot axle in place, but the rear one needs some hardware removed to get to that nipple. I didn't see any visual wear on mine after 25 hours, nor after 50 hours which just went by. There was wet and very dry riding on the menu during those hours. The link itself is lifetime warrantied and the Yeti dealer will supply you with one at request. I have no reason to believe the system can't go for hundreds of hours without any ill effects. It would require serious wear to the stanchions to introduce play to the system. Which is why Yeti moved all the bearings to the links themselves. There is no bearing that goes in a carbon bore. This is smart, and will save a ton of headache.
I find the bike harder to clean than some of the other bikes in the garage. The nooks and crannies of the main pivot area are hard to reach unless you have some flexible brushes, which I don't so I mostly just hosed it down and left it as is. No rocks got caught in the Switch Infinity link but there may be instances where that could happen.
Considering how much this bike loves airtime, I wish the medium SB135 LR came with a longer dropper. I had to lower my seat manually for the bike park. This 5'9" guy with shorter legs could still benefit from a 200mm transfer post instead of the 175mm thats on there. The post works fine and looks pretty in Kashima but I wish it was black and 200mm instead. the WTB Silverado branded in Yeti colours is comfy for this butt and looks pretty sharp too.
The ODI Elite Pro grips were sleepers on this build. I loved them and will be considering buying a pair for my other bikes. They are thin but supportive. Lots of give at the bar ends without feeling mushy. Perfection with or without gloves!
I can fit a big water bottle, maybe not as big as Ferrentino's but enough for a quick spin in the summer heat. The bottle makes slight contact with the shock reservoir but nothing to be concerned about in my opinion.
The only problem I have with this bike is the price. 9500 USD, and whatever the Canadian retailers will sell it for, is too much money for a bike this fun. It is a shame most people won't be able to taste the flavour this little bike offers because they are priced out of it.
There will still be a Yeti Premium even with a low end build I reckon. When I look at the similar bikes in the category, the Pivot Shadowcat comes with a Fox DPS shock for a thou and a half less. One could upgrade that to have a similar build. The Transition Scout however takes the win for how affordable it is for a carbon GX build at 7400 CAD. Although it is arguable if the Horst link on the Scout is as nice as the Switch Infinity on the Yeti but that would come down to your personal taste. I don't think the price difference would be easy to swallow even if the Yeti rode two times better.
However, wherever you look on the Yeti, you see hundreds of hours of design and R&D work with the fit and finish. From the cable ports to the link yokes, there is not a millimeter that isn't designed to perfection. Beyond that, each size has a specific swingarm length, while much of the competition shares one rear end from size XS to XL. If you like nice things and can wing it to shred in style, Yeti is worth every penny.
I'll be sad to see this Yeti go but I am thankful that it had the patience to teach me that wheelsize is not the battle I need to fight. The 160/135 SB135LR is as perfect a ride as it was designed to be.
I'll say it again, there has been no bike as fun...