Have you ever pushed a real cross-country bike hard on the descents? I'm not talking about a light trail bike here, but an actual race rig with pinner rubber, steep angles, and probably no party post. It's a frightening feeling at best, but the thing to remember is that these guys are often trying to recover on the descent, not set a new PR or take a wild line that saves them a second or two during a three-minute run like in a downhill race. Instead, these are two and three-hour races were pacing can play a big part, so a full-on cross-country bike is far from being optimized, and far from being fun, on the downhills. In fact, the opposite is often the case.
But this thing is different. This thing is fun. And fast.
Of course, I didn't need a crystal ball to know that the SB100 is going to be more capable than many other bikes of similar travel, but it was still a surprise to feel how solid and stable the little SB100 is. It holds a line infinitely better than a lighter, quicker handling bike, no doubt due to the relatively meaty rubber that Yeti chose to spec, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the frame is also much more resilient to flex than something that weighs a pound or two less.
You want to stay on the inside even though it's littered with roots and loose rock? You'll be much more likely to do it on the SB100 than you will on a more run of the mill 100mm-travel bike, and that opens up lines for riders who might not usually choose them when on a normal cross-country machine.
The Blur (on the left) and the Scalpel (on the right) are both competitors to the SB100, but neither are quite as capable on the descents.
That same confidence can be applied to other parts of the trail, too, and I have no doubt that anyone is going to be quicker and more at ease on a scary descent on the SB100 than they would be if they were on a steeper bike with a longer stem. If you're not, you should work on your skills before considering a new bike.
But where are the SB100's limits? Well, Yeti has done something really special with their short-travel bike's suspension, but at a certain point, 100mm is always going to be 100mm no matter what you do with it. I've spent time on all sorts of 100mm bikes, and because I tend to ride a cross-country rig like I don't have much to live for besides my cat, I'm usually forced to run around 20-percent sag if I don't want to clang off the end of the stroke and then walk around with a cane after the ride. As you'd expect, that makes a bike less than amazing on the small stuff where traction comes into play, which is then aggravated by tires that probably belong on a cyclocross bike.
Like going fast on a short-travel bike? Me too, and the SB100 feels the same.
The SB100, at the recommended 32-percent number, is more forgiving and no doubt delivers more grip, too, but that's not a surprise. I mean, look at the tires, and it has a load more sag. But the surprise is at the other end of the travel: The damn thing doesn't want to bottom-out. I'm sure all you guys on 150mm bikes are thinking "So what? Neither does my bike," but you need to understand how shitty a 100mm-travel bike usually feels when you're at ten-tenths because the whole thing is a compromise; pick traction or bottom-out control, Mr. Bib Shorts, because ya can't have both. Only, you can with the SB100.
Relatively speaking - after all, it's still just 100mm - the back of the SB100 is supremely supple and delivers traction while not bobbing, but it also has enough ramp-up to make 32-percent sag on a cross-country-ish bike a real option. Actually, not just an option, it's the best way to run the little Yeti.
This is quite the bike, but its limits are more obvious on long, rough descents that test your hands and feet as much as the suspension and traction. You'll tire quicker than on something more forgiving, and while the SB100 is far more merciful than other bikes of similar travel, your margin for error is still smaller than it would be on a slacker, squishier rig. I guess that's not exactly the bike's fault, however, as that's really just inherent in the type of bike that it is, and it'd be like me talking trash about a downhill rig for being a handful on technical climbs. Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.