A paradoxical little machine, the SB135. Small wheels are supposed to be slower, yet it feels
fast. They're twitchier and easier to turn, but somehow you can still get things to calm down at speed. Turns out, a bike is a bike, and this little Yeti is a very fun one. From a geometry standpoint, the SB135 isn't exactly cutting edge, but if you've been riding long enough to have adapted to the shape of bikes 10 years ago, you'll quickly remember that there can be quite a bit of fun in swinging off the back of a smaller bike and making it work.
Sizing plays a critical roll here, as I've been spending time on the size Large, with a relatively short 475mm reach. I could just as easily get along with the XL's 505mm length, but that would take away some of the spunky nature of the bike, biasing instead towards overall stability. If I were trying to race this bike for some reason, I'd probably go with the bigger frame, but that's really not the SB135's purview.
What the smaller bike does offer is a tight wheelbase that slots nicely into corners of all sizes, pumps effectively anywhere on trail, and catches backside in a way that longer and bigger bikes may not be able to. Many of the trails I regularly ride were built deep in the prehistoric era of the triple chainring, so modern wheelbase numbers and wheel sizes were hardly considered when constructing features. That rarely poses a problem, given how capable modern bikes have become, but the SB135 provides a very cool sensation that I haven't felt on some of those bigger sleds: the perfect two-wheeled backside. Smaller undulating features and one-off bits of tech suddenly offered an opportunity to generate a bit more speed, thanks to the shorter wheelbase and smaller wheels. Obviously there's a tradeoff when you encounter a feature that's more significant, but that pumptrack feeling is one that kept me keen to ride the Yeti on more and more of the local trails I know well.
I found the SB135 to be very easy to ride, especially if you have an active style on the bike, moving machine and body around to make the most of the trail ahead. The additional feedback you get from the smaller wheels and tighter numbers just goads you on to mess around even more, turning mundane sections of trail into a hoot and a holler.
All this talk of fun and exciting handling has to reach its limit at some point, and the SB135 does a good job of letting you know when you've hit that ceiling. Over the course of long rides that ranged into gnarlier terrain, I found that the Yeti found its limits before I did, in steep and janky terrain where you're fighting to stay in control of the bike anyway. It's very easy to change direction and pick smaller patches of lines, but the smaller wheels and tighter geometry can get pinged out of your desired path quite easily if you're not on point.
Though the handling gives less room for error than a big truck of an enduro bike might, the suspension performance remains impressive through thick and thin. The team at Yeti did a great job of packaging the smooth and predictable feel of the Switch Infinity system into the smaller travel bracket. Grip is plentiful and support seems to be there whenever you want it on trail. This is a tricky sensation to describe, but the bike manages to pump in a way that feels efficient, while still absorbing the bumps and chatter along the way.
The harder-hitting parts spec of the Lunch Ride kit is key to some of the mannerisms I've come to enjoy on the SB135, with stronger brakes, more fork travel, and burlier wheels all playing a critical role in the end product. If you're really trying to make the most of mellower trails, then the standard spec might be enough, but for those with more serious steeps and features, the LR kit does push the Yeti a bit closer to the capability of bigger bikes on the market.