2014 Yeti SB95 Carbon
Size Tested: Medium
MSRP: Starting at $4,700
Rider Info: 5’9”, 150 lbs.
Days Tested: 1
Locations Tested: Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City, Nevada
[Editor’s Note: Last fall, we tested the Yeti SB95 on the rocky trails around Boulder City, Nevada during the Interbike Outdoor Demo. We’re going to be spending more time on this bike very soon (stay tuned for that announcement), but for now, check out our initial review of the SB95.]
Intro / Caveat
Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we didn’t get much time on each bike—at most around an hour, and with many bikes it was just a 25-minute loop. 25 minutes can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for our customary in-depth, BLISTER analysis.
In addition, these bikes are set up by mechanics at each company’s booth, and while these guys do a great job, there isn’t really time to get each bike dialed for how I’d normally set it up. (If nothing else, I probably would have put wider bars on most of the bikes I rode.)
And then there are the trails. Interbike’s Outdoor Demo takes place at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City. It’s a little bastion of awesomeness that overlooks the pit of despair that is Las Vegas, and the trails are fantastic: super rocky, with lots of sand, some rocks, some jumps here and there, and did I mention the rocks? Most of my time on these bikes was spent on the more cross-country oriented trails, even though the DH trail system is (in my opinion) the crown jewel of the Bootleg trail network.
The XC trails have a good mix of flowy corners, short punchy climbs, rock gardens, and a bit of chunder. All in all, they’re decent for testing out the different aspects of a given bike, but to really develop a feel for how a bike works, there’s no substitute for riding it for a long time on a lot of different types of trails.
So with all that in mind, let’s talk about the SB95.
Yeti’s “super bike” suspension platform has been around for a couple years now—it started with the 26″ wheeled SB66, and now it’s available on the 29″ wheeled SB95 and the 27.5″ SB75. While I was hoping to take a spin on the new SB75, the seething throngs at Interbike had the same idea, and I didn’t end up riding one. But even though the SB95 isn’t quite as fresh, I still wanted to see what it can do.
I rode the carbon version of the SB95, but it’s also available in an aluminum version. With 5″ (127mm) of travel, the SB95 is positioned to compete with some of the more aggressive wagon wheelers on the market, though there are a few options that have more travel (e.g., the Specialized Enduro 29 has 155mm travel).
Prior to this test, I’d spent a very short amount of time aboard an SB bike. Yeti made some waves when it first debuted this suspension platform—it has a clever eccentric bearing that allows Yeti to manipulate the axle path in a way that supposedly creates great bump compliance while retaining an efficient pedaling platform.
Overall, Yeti’s hype about the SB design is pretty accurate. I found the SB95 to be a fairly efficient pedaler—not quite as good as a few options out there (the Santa Cruz Bronson, for example), but still very good. I’d say the pedaling efficiency is roughly on par with many of the dw-link bikes I’ve ridden.
I was also pleased to find that the efficient pedaling didn’t detract from the bike’s small bump compliance. For small and medium size bumps, the SB95 smoothed the way efficiently and without any noteworthy quirks. And the larger wheels also do their thing—they roll over chunky terrain nicely.
On larger hits, the SB95 is a little less in its element. While I didn’t feel like the rear end blew through its suspension, I definitely bottomed the bike out pretty hard on my “huck to flat” test.
On the Trail
As the speeds picked up, the SB95 was reasonably composed, but it’s definitely not as stable as some of the longer, slacker options. With a 67.6-degree head tube angle, the Yeti is similar to some of the other “aggressive” 29ers. But compared to the Enduro 29, the Yeti’s wheelbase is quite a bit shorter (1,140mm vs 1,183mm in a medium). This certainly aids the Yeti’s maneuverability, but it comes at the cost of straight-line stability.
A perpetual problem with 29ers is their long chainstays, which make the bikes corner slowly and make the front end harder to loft over obstacles. At 17.5″, the Yeti’s stays are average-ish for a 29er. While I didn’t notice the Yeti to be particularly bad in this department, it wasn’t as flickable or playful as other 29ers that have shorter rear ends.
The SB95 seems to be designed as a slightly long legged trail bike. For a big wheeled bike, it’s pretty maneuverable, and it was very comfortable at sub-pinner speeds. It never felt unwieldy, and it would thread through tighter corners relatively well. It’s obviously not as playful as most 26″ bikes, but it’s nowhere near as a mac-truckish as, for instance, the Enduro 29. I also felt like it was more maneuverable than the Kona Satori I looked at last year.
If you’re in the market for a 29er trail bike, and you want to dabble in the realm of longer travel bikes but aren’t quite ready to dive into the long travel world, the SB95 is an excellent option. It’s more capable in rough terrain than some of the trail bike options that carry over their geometry from XC race bikes, but it’s not nearly as singular in its purpose as the Enduro 29. The SB95 does a great job treading the fine line between an all-arounder that likes going uphill all day and an all mountain bike that really focuses on descending.
So does that make it a “super bike”? I don’t know about that, but the SB95 is a solid option, especially if you’re looking for something to handle big, all-day rides through technical terrain.