Product Release and First Look
Yeti SB135 & SB135 Lunch Ride
A friend of mine who was studying dentistry in Cochabamba, Bolivia once told me, "if you really want to learn how to fix some messed up teeth, study here, then move anywhere else in the world, because there is no money in it here."
If he was into riding mountain bikes, I might have the bike for him: the 2023 SB135. With the Dentist joke out of the way, lets have a look at the new platform from Yeti.
Following the footsteps of the SB140 and the SB160, the new bike uses all the refinements that came along with those bikes thanks to years of racing and testing.
First of all, all the bearings are now captured in the aluminum links. This eliminates the possibility of damaging the carbon where the bearings used to sit in most Yeti Frames. Sounds like a simple enough solution to a problem, but executing it within the confinements of the frame design, switch infinity link location and shock orientation, it took some time for Yeti Engineers to dial in.
Threaded bottom brackets now decorate the sleek frames from Yeti across the product range and wet weather bandits will appreciate the ease of maintenance and extended life of these low hanging components.
The new SB135 comes in 2 versions and 7 builds in total. SB135 and SB135 Lunch Ride which I will be reviewing long term.
Yeti gave the new bike the RIP category rating. The dual 27.5" wheel bike does not fit in any race categories; too slow for XC riding in any part of the world and too slow for most of the gravity focused racing, the SB135 wants to win races by beating the hell out of the trails, or perhaps Dual Slalom courses. A bike that is designed to be fun... Fun? Who said mountain biking should be fun?
Clad with 27.5 x 2.6" tires, DHF front and Rekon rear, the low-fat footprint is designed to float over loose sand and take the edge of the gnar factor for the majority of the people who call this type of activity, fun. There are 5 different builds and 2 different carbon layups to choose from.
At the lower end of the spectrum, you have the C series bikes that come with a 150mm Fox 36 Performance fork and a Performance level Fox Float shock. You get sweet DT Swiss 1900 ratchet hub wheels and either a Shimano SLX or a SRAM GX drivetrain to go with your shifting duties.
Turq series carbon frames use higher end sheets of the fiber stuff in more strategic ways to make the frame lighter and stiffer than the C series. Turq series also open the door to higher-end builds with cable actuated XO drivetrains, FOX factory suspension and even the Sram XX Transmission for the people with the deepest pockets.
A 65.4° head tube angle with a reach range starting at 400mm and maxing at 504mm. There is a SB135 for anyone from 5' to 6' and beyond. One of the main design goals for the bike was not only to be able to fit vertically challenged riders on fun bikes but also to provide them with plenty of clearance from their saddles. XS-SM bikes come with 150mm droppers while MD is 175mm and L-XL with 200mm droppers.
I am not sure what it is like to work for Yeti, but the fact that they get to rock nicknames like "Rocket" and "Beach" and they all go on sweet rides on their lunch breaks, speaks volumes. Folks who work at Yeti often want to give their bikes some extra shred-ability, so they beef up their rides for these fun lunch loops.
The idea of over-forking and shocking the stock bikes has caught on enough that Yeti offers the SB135 in a Lunch Ride configuration straight from the factory. The LR bike gains 10mm of travel up front on the same Fox 36 fork, but swaps the lightweight Fox Float for something a little burlier in the form of a Float X. With it's piggyback reservoir and more robust chassis, the increase in front wheel travel takes the seemingly capable SB135 in to "oh we are now starting to really have fun" territory.
The unfortunate side effect of the bigger shock is that size small and extra small frames do not get the Lunch Ride treatment due to fitment issues. The piggy back oil reservoir of the Float X bumps into the top of the downtube.
With one C and one Turq build option, it's easier to choose the right table to at lunch hour. The C build gets a reliable Sram GX drivetrain while the Turq build is clad with XO Transmission and a custom DT SWISS EX1700 Wheelset that had my eyebrow do Jim Carey impressions after a couple of rides. (More on that below).
Maxxis Assegai in 2.5 and a DHR II in 2.4 replace the more pinner tires of the regular SB135. Both arrive with EXO+ casings, hinting the intentions of this bike. You wanna stop? 200mm rotors clamped by Code RSCs will do that nicely and somehow on a smaller-wheeled bike, they seem to work even better than on a 29er.
The size medium Turq build Lunch Ride showed up at the doorstep in the more-subtle Rhino color. Cherry and Turquoise were the other options. The richness of the Cherry is tempting in all the most sensual ways. It helps that Cherries are my favorite summertime snack. Tuquoise is a classic in the Yeti heritage and it appeals to my Turkish roots in the most appropriate ways.
800mm bars got immediately trimmed down to 780mm while the 50mm stem felt a little long on the first pedal around the block. It's amazing how each year my desire for shorter stems increases as the reach numbers get longer and longer. I'd prefer a 40mm on there if not a 35mm.
Yeti Carbon bars have a lower rise than I am used to but a decent bend. With all the spacers provided under the stem, the low stack Yeti sat low and long ready for some climbing to get the party going.
Up and Away
The seat tube angle is a comfortable 77° for the medium frame. The pedaling position felt very familiar like my Orbea Rallon. Seat slammed forward and pointed down, I was ready to hurt the lungs for the sake of testing. It was my first on trail experience with the new Sram Transmission. I want to keep calling it a drivetrain but the little voices in my head keep correcting me. One has to pay more attention to the pronouns these days. The shifting is silent and immediate. All the work electronics were doing disappeared into the background as I shifted my focus on to how the bike rode. I got through my technical climb warm up with a little more upper body effort than I am used to. The front wheel wanted to leave the ground at each pedal stroke. The numbers suggested otherwise at 433mm chainstays and 1203mm wheelbase. While 2mm shorter in reach 30mm in wheelbase than my daily, not short by any means. Do I need longer stays on 27.5" wheeled bikes compared to 29". I will investigate further for the long term review.
Well it is no surprise to you and I that a 160mm fork travel paired with a 135mm rear goes downhill well. 65° headangle feels neutral and agile. No surprises when it comes to dealing with big compressions and heavy landings. Couple of unexpected bottom-outs were met by deep, unlimited feeling suspension on the 135mm Yeti. Suggesting travel numbers way above the printed values. So far the suspension is set to 82psi in the Fox with an extra volume spacer than the 1 that came with and 170psi in the rear for my 160lbs carcass. Rocket the Yeti Product Manager says there is a .2 Spacer in the Float X from the factory and so far it seems adequate to me.
Biggest Oh Wow moment was on a local fast trail that sees you bounce atop and amongst a few roots and rocks at speed. With a carbon wheeled bike, one needs to be demanding of the line choice and hold the helm directed towards the exit. The custom DT SWISS EX1700 aluminium wheels do things a little differently. I haven't been on aluminium wheeled bike for a few years now and thought we had figured out how to engineer carbon the way we want it to feel. These swiss engineers put an arguement on the table that challenges that notion on the Yeti. The comfort and traction these wheels provide on the short-er travel Yeti are unreal. Finishing the trail less tired and more in control makes me want to go back to Aluminium rims on my personal bike.
Yeti went a step further and specced the DT's with J bend spokes for off the charts coolness factor. Can I get an amen for all the people who blows spokes and want a hassle free re-lace at any bike shop, any time? If you much desire, Yeti will let you upgrade to Carbon DT wheels for a change. EXC 1501 wheels should add couple of big bills to the final price. I do not have the upgrade price at this point in time.
69is kms in on the new Yeti, I am pleased with my findings. No creaks, weirdness or anything exciting to note of other than the excitement itself. Small wheels are still wheels and they work well on the North Shore. There is a group of riders who will be more than happy to hear about a non mixed wheel 27.5" bike coming into the market. As the other brands exit the category by slapping 29" wheels on the front, Yeti is sticking to the Fun Formula and I am really interested in finding out how this thing jumps on A-Line. So far, so good. Stick around for the long term review.
Builds start at $6400USD/$8554CAD