Yeti has unveiled the latest evolution of their SB lineup: the SB5.5c. It’s a 140mm-travel 29er that’s pretty clearly aimed at downhill-oriented pillaging. We’ll be spending some time on the bike later this spring, but for the moment, here are a few initial impressions.
Geometry of the Yeti SB5.5c
The SB5.5c’s geometry is actually pretty middle of the road by modern standards. For a long time, Yeti had a reputation for making relatively long bikes. But it seems the rest of the industry has caught up—both the top tube length and reach of the SB5.5c are right in line with what most of the major manufacturers are doing for bikes in this category. And to be clear, that isn’t saying that Yeti is making bikes shorter than they used to, it just means that everyone else has starting doing what Yeti has been doing for years.
It’s also noteworthy that Yeti hasn’t gone as short as possible with the chainstays. At 437 mm (17.2”), they’re short, but there are plenty of 29ers out there that are shorter. This should add a little stability at speed, and it should also really help the bike on steep climbs. The question is whether it’ll noticeably detract from the bike’s maneuverability, which is always a factor that’s tricky on a long-legged 29er.
Yeti has also gone decidedly slack with the SB5.5c — the 66.5° head angle is at the slack end of 29ers on the market. It’s not the absolute slackest (I believe the upcoming Evil Wreckoning holds that title), but it’s still a full degree slacker than, for example, the Specialized Enduro 29. Like the chainstays, this should make for a decidedly stable beast, but these sort of slacker, longer dimensions also mean that the wheelbase on a size Medium is a pretty rangy 1168 mm (46”).
All that aside, to me the most interesting aspect of the SB5.5c is the fact that Yeti has spec’d it with a 160mm-travel fork and a 2.5” tire in the front. It’s pretty normal to see bikes spec’d with slightly longer-travel forks, but a fork that gets a full 20 mm more travel than the rear, while certainly not unheard of, gives some pretty good insight into Yeti’s intentions for this bike.
The same can be said for the 2.5” tire in the front. A 2.5” 29er tire is a meaty, heavy piece of rubber that’ll provide crazy amounts of grip. And the fact that Yeti is including it in the factory spec means that this bike is squarely aimed at the enduro crowd. And by that, I don’t mean the guys in neon baggies riding their long travel bikes on the local XC loop. I mean the people that are riding trail bikes down the steepest, roughest, nastiest trails around, and doing it fast.
I’ll have to wait and see if the SB5.5c lives up to expectations, but I’m already compiling a hit list of the trails that are best suited to a bike like this. Long, slack geometry + a big fork + big tires all mean that this bike should be in the running to be one of the most stable, capable bikes on legitimately challenging terrain.