Daniel Sapp's Yeti SB130
One of the things I really appreciate the most in life is consistency. Whether it's two cups of coffee in the morning, a scroll through the morning news to start the day, or eating at the same restaurant at the Atlanta airport often enough that the staff and I know each other by name, consistency helps me keep things in check and provides a mental baseline when everything else is a bit off kilter.
I'm the same way with bikes. Don't get me wrong, I love riding just about anything that comes my way, but having one bike, a baseline to measure from when you put a different part on it, is crucial. When you're perfectly in tune with a bike the slightest changes are noticeable, which makes easier to determine if a component is performing better or worse than the part it replaced.Yeti's SB130
The SB130 is pretty dialed right out of the box. With 130mm of travel paired to a 150mm fork and a robust parts spec, Yeti have a bike that is capable of a wide range of riding, all while being plenty nimble to get to the top of the hill. The bike fits right in the middle of their line of 'Switch-Infinity' bikes with a little less travel than the EWS ready SB150 and more than the aggressive XC themed SB100.
We first spent some time on the SB130 at our field test in Whistler this past fall. If you haven't checked that out yet, give it a look
for a full run down our impressions there. After the Field Test concluded, I brought the SB130 back to North Carolina with me for longer term testing, where it's ended up being my 'go-to' for everyday riding, and has served as my rolling test rig for the components that have shown up for review.
Daniel Sapp's Yeti SB130
• Intended use: product testing, trail riding
• Wheel size: 29"
• Rear wheel travel: 130mm
• Fork: 160mm Fox Factory 36 Grip 2, 44mm offset
• TRW Active/SRAM Drivetrain
• Maxxis DHF 2.5'' / WTB Judge 2.4"
• Weight: 32.0 pounds
Western North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest is where I do nearly all of my riding. Aside from the mind-melting heat and humidity, hornets, rattlesnakes, ticks, and overgrown trails in the dead of summer, the riding is as good as it gets, at least in my opinion. With grueling climbs coupled with fairly sustained and turbulent descents, there's none of that curated bike park flow trail stuff (not my thing), just good and proper mountain biking that sneakily wins your heart, steals your soul, and if you're not smart about it, wrecks your bike.Frame
I was a fan of Yeti's SB 5.5, but it was lacking a water bottle mount inside the triangle. Sure, there are ways around it, but if I want to go out for an hour ride, and especially in the 100% humidity and summer heat that blesses Western NC, having a bottle with me that's not mounted to the bottom of the bike and catching horse manure infested trail spray is a huge upgrade in comfort - short and long term. The SB130 fixes that, and is further updated throughout. The bike has a fairly long reach - 460mm on my medium-sized frame. At stock and with a 150mm fork, it has a 65.6-degree head angle and 77-degree seat tube angle. The chainstays are 433mm long.
I've added a 160mm fork on, which slackens things out an additional half-degree or so for both the head tube angle as well as the seat tube. This works fine since the seat tube is pretty steep to start with.Drivetrain
One of the more interesting parts of the bike is the drivetrain. I swapped the perfectly capable SRAM X01 Eagle for Microshift's 9-speed Advent,
a reliable and budget friendly set up I tested several months ago. Since then, I have replaced it with TRW Active's budget friendly 11-speed derailleur, cassette, and shifter.
TRW Active's entire drivetrain, cranks included can be had for around $400, and the 11-speed set-up I have bolted on currently has a 52-tooth ring on the cassette. If you've lost count, that's one tooth more than Shimano's new XTR and two more than SRAM's Eagle. In order to function, the SRX derailleur mounts to an extender which then bolts to the derailleur hanger.
How does it perform? It could be better. It is nowhere as smooth and reliable as Microshift's 9-speed and the fact that it does have a wider gearing range doesn't really matter if you're consistently dropping chains and don't have confidence in the set-up you're running. The key fault of the derailleur is the extender, which adds a bolt, pivot, and leverage to help it rattle loose no matter how much Loctite is slathered on, or how many newton-meters you crank things down with. The clutch on the derailleur is also finicky, and doesn't really work as a clutch should. There are some big gaps in the tension depending on where it's indexed, which leads to chain slap and dropped chains consistently throughout a ride.
It goes to show that there's a reason the S brands claim to have put a lot of engineering into derailleurs and larger tooth cassettes, and why we haven't seen them sooner than the last few years. There are few things more frustrating on a ride than repeatedly dropping chains, slipping gears, and having to stop and tighten a derailleur that wants to fall off after being properly installed. I have since taken the drivetrain off for now and am awaiting a solution before passing final judgement.
I reached out to TRW Active and they claim they are aware of the issues I've had and are working on a new derailleur that should solve some of these issues. When it arrives, I'll give it a go, as budget drivetrains are practical and a good choice for many riders who would rather put money into suspension and tires.Suspension
The SB130's stock setup is 130mm of travel out back via Fox's DPX2 shock, and I ran that for several months and was pleased with the performance. As with most things on any bike, I started wondering..."What if?" I wanted to give a coil shock a whirl and was able to have a DHX2 made to fit the SB130.
Now, it's worth noting that the folks at Yeti told me this wasn't the best idea, and that the bike was designed to work with an air shock. I'll also be one of the first to say that air shocks are really good now and can give close to the same feel as a coil. I'm running a 400 lb spring and am running the compression fairly open. The DHX2 feels good after after several months of riding, but the air shock feels better and manages the travel of the bike better - the DHX2 bottoms out more easily compared to the air shock. Even after tuning the X2 coil with the team from Fox, I'd still say that the stock DPX2 does indeed ride better.
With the fork, I stepped away from the stock 150mm FIT4 in favor of a 160mm-travel GRIP2 36. I prefer the GRIP2 Damper over the FIT4, and the additional travel slackens out the angles by half a degree, and also makes the bike a hair longer. Even with the slacker front end and coil shock, the bike still climbs very well, and I almost never find myself reaching for the pedaling platform on the shock. The stock 150mm fork is getting a RUNT damper set-up installed in it now and will be going back on the front for testing in the near future.
Wheels and Tires
Crankbrothers' Synthesis carbon wheel on the front.
For wheels, I'm using the Crankbrothers Synthesis E wheel on the front. The Crankbrothers rims are front and rear specific, with the front being wider than the rear - the idea is that the more compliant front wheel will find its way through chunder while the rear wheel is stiffer for more precise tracking. I had the rear wheel on as well, but needed a different driver for the drivetrain I have on so I swapped over to an Industry Nine Trail 270 wheel in the back. I'll attest that the Crankbrothers wheels do ride really well.
The rear Industry Nine wheel has their new Hydra hub. The hub has 690 points of engagement which is a ridiculously high amount, and it is noticeable when ratcheting across technical sections of trail. The rear wheel uses Industry Nine's aluminum straight pull system spokes and their 27mm internal width aluminum hoop.
On the front, I'm running one of the more standard and reliable tires there is, the Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT. I use an EXO casing on the front typically. Many riders don't like the EXO casing on rougher terrain, but I am pretty picky with my lines, ride light on the bike, and have had fairly good luck with them myself. I have WTB's Judge 2.4 in the back with a thicker casing. It has plenty of bite and manages root and rock laden terrain well.
Our trails are pretty saucy and soupy with sections of blown out who-knows-what at most times of the year. I like to run about 19-21 psi in the front tire and 22-23 psi on the back. It varies if the trails are wetter, of course, but that's about the most I'll run, even in the dry as the rocks and roots tend to sweat in the humidity.Other Bits and PiecesFender:
These are mandatory most of the year where I live. I'm a big fan of basic black, but the designs that Groundkeeper fenders are making rock and the plastic they use isn't garbage. That means that it holds up to me pulling the fenders off the bike often without tearing or cracking in the cold.Bar and Stem:
I'm using the stock 35mm clamp, 780mm wide carbon handlebar from Yeti and it's held on by Industry Nine's A35 stem.Magura MT7 Pro Brakes:
Long descents are more fun with consistent braking the entire way down, aren't they? I've found the MT7's to be a strong contender in this category. The 180mm rotors and Magura's performance-level pads coupled with the Danny MacAskill HC-3 levers are what's on the bike right now. I reviewed these brakes a few months back
and have been running them ever since.Specialized Zee II Cage with tool
: I don't like riding with a pack and I would rather not weigh down my pockets, either. Specialized's Zee cages are one of the best side entry cages available. The cage has a small multi-tool mounted underneath it so you always have something available without having to dig through a pack when you need to make an adjustment. I run this cage on almost every bike and haven't found a solution I like more.Time Speciale Pedals:
Time's Speciale pedals have become my go-to over SPD's in the last year. I've been running this set for 9 months now and don't have any complaints. They're still holding up like new despite seeing plenty of use and abuse.