2016 Yeti SB5.5
Size Tested: Medium
- Drivetrain: Stram X01
- Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC
- Fork: Fox 36 Factory FIT4
- Rear Shock: Fox Float X Factory
- Wheels: DT Swiss 350 / XM481
Travel: 140 mm rear / 160 mm front
Blister’s Measured Weight: 28.4 lbs (12.9kg) without pedals
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Montana, British Columbia
Duration of Test: About 2 months
The Yeti SB5.5, released last spring to much internet bed wetting, is Yeti’s longest travel 29er. The only longer travel bike in Yeti’s current lineup is the SB6 (which runs on 27.5” wheels).
It’s been a while since I’ve spent much time on a Yeti, and this was my first opportunity to ride one of the latest SB bikes that have Yeti’s new Switch Infinity suspension design. And I’ll admit to being slightly skeptical about the new design, as I often am about linkages that are new and different. But maybe more than any other bike brand, Yeti has a loyal cadre of followers, and the brand has a long history of winning races that doesn’t appear to be letting up any time soon. So maybe all these people know something I don’t, and maybe my skepticism is unfounded.
I’ve spent the last two months or so on the SB5.5, and I’ve arrived at a tentative conclusion. I think this is the fastest bike I’ve been on to date.
The SB5.5 is only available with a carbon frame, and Yeti has recently released their 2017 lineup which sees the SB5.5 come in two flavors – “Carbon” and “Turq.” The new Carbon version is essentially the same as the 2016 model that I rode, while the “Turq” version uses a higher end, lighter weight carbon layup (but geometry and frame details are the same).
The heart of the SB5.5, along with all of Yeti’s full suspension bikes, is their Switch Infinity system. It looks kind of complicated, but in reality it’s fairly straight forward.
In terms of the basic suspension layout, I like to think of the Switch Infinity system as a modified single pivot. Those little sliders allow the main pivot to move up and down a little bit (they only move about 1.5 cm’s through the entire arc of the travel), which in turn allows Yeti to place a swing link near the shock.
That swing link is key, and does a couple things. First, it substantially stiffens up the rear end – rather than all of the forces being focused on the main pivot, they’re spread between the main pivot and the swing link. Second, the swing link allows Yeti to dictate the suspension kinematics much more precisely – the leverage rate and anti-squat curve, both of which have a big impact on how the suspension moves, can be dialed in by adjusting the size and position of that swing link and its relation to the Switch Infinity sliders.
All that suspension is running on high quality pivots – a collet system helps keep everything snug, and the SB5.5 has nice, custom hardware. In my time on the bike, all the pivots stayed tight and everything is still spinning smoothly.
Cable routing is internal, running through small rubberized ports to help keep the elements out. There isn’t any internal piping in the frame, so running cables on the SB5.5 is a frustrating exercise that requires magnets, swearing, and strong temptations to cut larger holes into your expensive frame. Yeti’s new SB5 frame incorporates a larger port to make this task easier, so hopefully Yeti will incorporate something similar on the SB5.5 in the future.
The rear axle is from Shimano – nothing exotic, but it works well and it’s reasonably low profile. The drive side dropout and derailleur hanger are a single aluminum piece that’s replaceable in case you crunch a derailleur or bung up the axle threads.
The frame gets a small rubberized guard on the downtube as well as some protection on the chainstay. Again, nothing too crazy, but it gets the job done and looks cleaner than most integrated guards I’ve seen.
My biggest gripe about the frame is the lack of a good water bottle mount. There’s one mount on the underside of the downtube which is better than nothing, but it’s a crappy place for a water bottle. And I mean that in a literal sense, since I occasionally end up with horse droppings on my bottle.
NEXT: The Build, Fit and Geometry, Etc.