It was just under two years ago when Yeti debuted their unique Switch Infinity suspension design on the SB5c, a nimble and versatile 27.5” trail bike with, as the name suggests, 5” of travel. The SB6c followed soon after, a fire-breathing monster built to withstand the punishments doled out by Richie Rude on EWS courses around the world. The third addition to the SB family was the 4.5c, a lively and capable 29er. There's a pattern here, and it doesn't take a Soduku master to make an educated guess about what would be the next logical addition to the line.
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• 29" wheels
• 140mm rear travel
• 66.5° head angle
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing, 15 x 110mm front
• Sizes: M, L, XL
• Frame colors: turquoise, silver
• Available mid-May
• Complete bikes start at $5,699 USD.
That's right – meet the SB5.5c, Yeti's burliest 29er to date, with 5.5" (140mm) of rear travel and a slack, 66.5° head angle. It's a bike that's been spec'd with an eye towards aggressive riding, and all three possible build kits come with a 160mm Fox 36 up front, meaty tires on wide rims, a short stem, and wide bars. The frame alone with a Fox Float X shock will retail for $3,500 USD, and complete bike prices start at $5,699 USD. Details
The SB5.5c's full carbon frame weighs a claimed six pounds, and shares the same curvy looks as its Super Bike siblings – the top tube slopes down and out of the way for plenty of standover clearance, and the lines match up nicely with those of the rear swing arm. During the two days we spent riding in Moab, Utah, we passed a number of other riders out on the trail, some of them even riding Yetis themselves, but no one even batted an eye or asked prying questions about the yet-to-be-released bike – it looks so similar to the rest of the current Yeti line that it was easy to fly under the radar.
There's no mount for a front derailleur, which is part of the reason Yeti were able to get the chainstays down to 437 mm, but there are ISCG 05 tabs, a welcome sight given that the bike is certainly capable of being called into enduro race duty, where a dropped chain can ruin a day. It's also possible to run a coil-sprung shock for riders interested in going down that route. There's one water bottle mount, but like the rest of the SB line, it's located on the underside of the downtube, directly in the line of fire for mud and anything else that splatters when you roll over it. Geometry
Yeti's geometry tends to be on the long and slack side of things, and the SB5.5c continues this trend, with a 66.5 degree head angle and a reach of 442mm for a size large. Rather than trying to get too
extreme with the new bike's numbers, Chris Conroy, Yeti's president, said that one of the goals was to make the bike into a little more of an all-rounder compared to the race-bred SB6. To achieve that goal, the SB5.5c's wheelbase is 20mm shorter than the SB6, and it's spec'd with a fork with 51mm of offset to help counteract the slightly slower steering that can come with larger wheels.Suspension Design
Like the rest of the bikes in the SB lineup, the SB5.5c uses Yeti's clever Switch Infinity
suspension design. Developed in conjunction with Fox Racing Shox, it relies on two short Kashima-coated rails located just above the bottom bracket to manipulate the bike's axle path. Initially, as the bike goes through its travel the carrier moves upwards on the rails, giving the bike a rearward axle path for improved pedaling performance. As the rear wheel goes deeper into its travel the mechanism moves downwards, reducing the amount of chain tension for better big hit absorption. Build Kits
It was 2001 when I made my first trip to Moab, a place that had been on my wishlist from the moment I first saw photos of its surreal trails in a magazine. Clad in a full spandex kit and aboard a V-brake equipped hardtail, I rode until I could barely hold onto the bars, astounded by the scenery and the traction provided by the reddish brown sandstone. If you'd told me back then that I'd one day return aboard a 28 pound, carbon fiber full-suspension bike with almost six inches of travel and 29" wheels, a bike that could be launched full speed into football field long sections of tombstone-like rocks and come out the other side without missing a beat, I'd have laughed out loud. The future is an amazing place.
I was able to get in two days of riding aboard the SB5.5c, just enough time to begin to suss out the turquoise machine's character. Our first ride was the HyMasa – Rockstacker – Captain Ahab loop, which consists of multiple punchy climbs up sandstone ledges, followed by an engaging downhill that's chock full of technical rock sections. Set up with 30% sag and with the Float X shock fully open, there wasn't any unnecessary suspension movement while climbing - the Switch Infinity design means that it's rarely necessary to flip the compression lever into a firmer setting. For as stout as the SB5.5c feels, it was still easy to lift the front end up and over the natural stair steps, and scaling the barrage of awkward ledges didn't pose any problems. The bike's uphill handling does feel slightly less lively than the SB5 or the SB4.5, but that's not really surprising given the slacker angles and additional travel.
On the descents, there's an unflinching solidity to the SB5.5c, a feeling that makes you want to see just how long you can go without touching the brakes. It's a speed freak through and through, and it felt best barreling through the chunky rock gardens on the Porcupine Rim trail and Captain Ahab as fast as possible. That's not to say it can't handle slower speed riding – I didn't have any trouble navigating the techy, tight switchbacks found on the Rockstacker trail - but it's most at home rocketing along at a blistering pace. The bigger wheels do take a little more effort to snap through tight turns or to bunnyhop over obstacles compared to a smaller wheeled bike, but that extra effort is a minor tradeoff for the improved rollover ability, a trait that helps keep the front wheel from getting sucked into potentially endo-inducing holes.
There may be a 20mm difference between the amount of front and rear travel, but it's certainly not enough to upset the balance of the bike, and the fork and shock were both silent and smooth, taking the edge off the innumerable jagged outcroppings I plowed through. I did find that the Easton 35mm carbon handlebars felt unnecessarily stiff, a feeling that was likely exacerbated by the rocky rather than loamy terrain, but other than that the rest of the build kit is exactly what you would want for tackling everything from enduro race courses to laps in the bike park, with meaty tires, a short stem, wide bars, and excellent suspension.
|The SB5.5c is a lot of bike, and for many riders the shorter travel and sharper handling of Yeti's SB4.5c will more than suffice. But for those who are looking for a 29er that can carry an inordinate amount of speed through nasty, chunky terrain, and still comfortably be pedaled uphill, the SB5.5 could be just the ticket. Of course, two days of riding isn't nearly enough time to comment on durability or to really dive into all the handling and suspension nuances of a bike - we'll have a more in-depth review later this year.- Mike Kazimer|
View the hi-res gallery for more images.