WORDS: Matt Wragg
ACTION PHOTOS: Simon Nieborak
Yeti aren't shy with their SB series bikes. Calling a bike a "superbike" is like painting a bullseye on it, setting a very high standard for the bike to be measured against. Yet with both the SB66 and SB95, we found that they more than lived up to that moniker, leaving us very impressed with their all-round capability as true mountain bikes. Yeti's first foray into mid-sized wheels, the 575, left us pining for those superbikes - there was something special about them that the 575 was missing. So how does the SB75, the introduction of mid-sized wheels to their superbike line up fare out on the trail? Does the 127mm travel, aluminum-framed, 27.5" wheeled bike live up to its heritage?
Our test bike was supplied by Yeti's French distributor, Tribe Sports Group, who don't bring complete builds over to Europe. However, they also distribute Fox so the bike was kitted out with an OE spec 140mm Fox 34. This is the same fork that the full builds come with, so we will look at that as part of this test. For the rest of the build we swapped in parts we know well so we could focus on the performance of the frame and fork as a package.
Yeti SB75 Details
• Purpose: trail / all-mountain
• Rear-wheel travel: 127mm
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Fork: Fox 34 Factory Series, 140mm
• Shock: Fox Float CTD
• Switch Technology suspension system
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L
• Frame weight: 7.7 lb (frame and shock, claimed)
• MSRP (frame with shock): $2000 USD
Visually, the genealogy from the SB66 and SB75 is clear. The low-slung top tube has the signature seat tower rising above it and a hydroformed downtube reaches up to join the burly tapered headtube. It strikes a delicate balance between curves and square edges, appearing muscular yet simultaneously delicate. We don't want to end up writing bad amateur poetry here, but the point is that it's a seriously good-looking bike. And the plain, yellow paint job is an absolute winner in our book.
The bottom bracket is a standard 73mm affair, for an externally threaded unit, a welcome sight. The bottom bracket shell is splined to accept an adapter to mount either an ISCG03 or ISCG05, or it can be removed to save a little weight if you're not running a guide. At the base of the seatube there is a port for an internally-routed seatpost. Out back a 142x12mm axle keeps things sturdy, although it can be changed to take a 135mm QR, if you prefer.Yeti's Switch Technology
As with the SB66 and the SB95, the SB75 uses Yeti's Switch Technology, a suspension design that uses an eccentric pivot to alter the wheel path of the bike. Initially, the link rotates counter-clockwise, to create an efficient pedaling platform by using chain tension to slightly stiffen the suspension. As the rear shock sinks deeper into its travel, the link's path changes directions, and it begins to rotate clockwise, a motion that removes the majority of the chain force from the suspension in order to help with large bump absorption. The Switch eccentric is tucked low on the frame, just above the bottom bracket, and rotates on sealed cartridge bearings. Additional o-ring seals are also in place to provide further protection from moisture and grit. No special tools are required to remove the unit for maintenance or bearing replacement. Setup
We went for a fairly racey feel with this bike. To dial in enough compression damping for our taste on the fork we set it to the hardest setting in "Trail" mode and then set the sag to about 25%. The Fox 34 is a noticeably stiffer fork at 140mm than it is at 160mm, and it seems to control the travel more effectively when it is shortened. Fox have stepped up their game with their 2014 CTD forks compared to 2013, but, if you push the bike hard on challenging terrain, it does still dive a little, and right when you most want control you can find your front end lower than you'd like it to be. However, we have been using a version of the fork with a modified compression profile and it is nothing short of brilliant - a short trip to a Fox service centre can turn it from a decent fork into a great one. To keep things balanced we went for a matching setup on the shock, never running it wide open in "Descend" mode to try and keep the same feel for front and rear. It was one of the little details we really liked about this bike - set like this you didn't have to touch the suspension again, you could roll up to the trailhead and straight on into the fun stuff. It is also worth noting the sizing of the bike - the medium is a 19.5" seat tube, which meant that for a 5'9" test rider we had to run the seatpost almost as low as it would go, which leads us to throw caution on Yeti's recommendation that a 5'7" rider could go for the medium.Climbing
From the very first climb we were impressed by how the Yeti climbs. Heading up to the test tracks around Sospel you always start with a stretch on the roads and fireroads. On that first road climb we simply felt we were going faster than we had before, like the bike was subtly encouraging us to push on rather than take it easy. Even without switching the shock into the "Climb" position, you felt like all of your effort was being translated directly to the rear wheel and the long cockpit and 73 degree seat angle put you in a really comfortable position to tackle distances. After experimenting a few times, we stopped bothering with the "Climb" mode at all and kept the shock in the "Trail" setting for virtually our whole time with the bike, as the difference was negligible thanks to the Switch suspension system. When the road ends and you reach technical climbing it really suited the 1 x 10 setup we ran for our time with the bike. It responded well when you attacked a section and we found ourselves clearing lines that we had struggled with on other bikes. Despite being one of the longer mediums we have tested, getting weight and placing the front wheel were never an issue, it felt very intuitive and precise. This is helped by the relatively long 442mm chainstays, which make it easier to keep traction through the rear. More cross-country focused riders would probably find the 7.75lb frame weight of the SB75 a turn-off, yet the numbers don't really do the bike justice, out on the trail it feels lighter than the numbers imply.Descending
The SB75 is a lively bike, and we found 127mm to be really nice amount of travel if you are the kind of rider who wants to play with the trail. On paper we would have guessed that a long top tube and 442mm chainstays would make for a bike that was happiest in a straight line, but again, you need to set aside the numbers. From early on with the bike we found ourselves seeing if we could add little gaps and cut lines into our regular runs. To shoot the bike we took it to some of the play lines at Woburn Sands, and it instantly felt at home. The bike is stiff enough to really compress it hard into big berms, and precise enough just to flick the back after you off a little drop or thread line between two berms to carry speed into the following section. Time and again we'd reach the bottom with a huge grin on our faces, feeling like we could make the bike do whatever we wanted it to.
On faster, rockier terrain it was easy to forget it only has 127mm of travel as it feels stable, sturdy and capable. When things got steep and technical that precision was invaluable and the bike gives you the confidence to feel like you can place it wherever it needs to be. But, you could definitely find the edges of the bike. Practicing for a local enduro race there was a two minute rockfest, with barely a moment to catch your breath before you were dealing with the next jagged outcropping. Here the shortcomings of the fork were brought into focus as it didn't always stand up in the way we hoped it would. By the end of the run we felt like we had taken a fair amount of abuse to the arms and hands as after dealing with all that ugliness there wasn't travel left for comfort. It was a similar story when we got up to really high speeds on the long straights of the Sospel DH track, it could be done easily enough, but to hold the bike wide open took a bit of commitment. Those limitations aren't what stuck in our mind from riding the bike though. What stayed with us is the very fact that a bike with little travel was encouraging us on to try find those limits, and no matter how ugly it got, it was always a lot of fun.Pinkbike's take:
|The SB75 sits outside fixed categories. It probably isn't the bike to buy if you want to win races, either up or down hill. It's not a bike for people who worry about numbers, as the weight, chainstay length or head angle cannot tell you the whole story of how it feels on the trail. Rather, it's a true mountain bike, a bike you can ride the entire mountain on and come out grinning at the end. More than all of this though, it has that rarest quality of all, personality. And for that reason alone, it's more than worthy of keeping the "superbike" title. - Matt Wragg|