There's less room to hide a strange leverage curve or odd shock tune on a bike with 120mm of travel. In this case, Yeti's engineers and suspension technicians don't need to worry about hiding anything – the SB120 does an outstanding job of managing its travel. There's no hanging up at the beginning of the stroke or any harshness at the end; instead, the bike feels silky smooth through the entirety of its travel.
The SB120 felt most at home on moderately steep, twisty, technical trails. Isolating frame stiffness from the myriad of other factors at play isn't easy, but I can say the the SB120 definitely isn't uncomfortable or jarring. It has a 'carvy' nature to it; I never felt like I was fighting against it to get around a tight turn, or getting knocked around in chunky, rocky sections of trail.
It's on steeper terrain and at higher speeds that the SB120's limits start to appear. It took a more conscious effort to keep my weight centered compared to a bike like the Norco Optic, or the Santa Cruz Tallboy, bikes with head angles that are a full degree slacker. That's not to say that you can't ride steep trails on the SB120 – you absolutely can – it's just that its handling is a little pointier than those other options.
The SB120 also jumps impressively well. That might not be a characteristic that's high on the list for riders shopping for a short travel trail bike, but considering the number of flow trails popping up everywhere it's worth mentioning.
The SB120 is fairly neutral when it comes to bunnyhopping over small obstacles, but put a bigger lip in front of it and it's a very smooth, extremely fun bike to get airborne with. The DPS shock did a great job of handling the return to earth, delivering as close to a bottomless feel as you can get on a bike in this travel bracket. There's just enough progression to avoid going through the travel too quickly, while also making it possible to use all the travel when necessary. Who's it for?
Personally, I wish the SB120 had gone one of two ways. Option one, give it a slacker head angle and embrace the aggressive trail category. That would make it feel more surefooted in the steeps, and broaden the scope of terrain where it excels. Yes, 66.5-degrees used to be a common figure on enduro bikes not all that long ago – it's just that the SB120's competitors with slacker head angles feel more at home at higher speeds and steeper trails.
Option two would have been to make it lighter, embracing the slightly steeper geo in favor of making it a trail rocket. Downcounty may be a dumb name, but there's something to be said about a light bike that makes you want to pedal your face off and doesn't feel too sketchy on the descents.
In isolation, the SB120 is a great bike. It's smooth, comfortable, very quiet, and really doesn't do anything wrong. It's when you start comparing it to other recently-launched bikes that it loses a little bit of its luster. It's still good, it's just that it's so well rounded it doesn't really have trait to truly elevate it above the rest, and it's expensive to boot.
Realistically, that's more of an issue for me, the picky reviewer. For most riders, in most places, the SB120 is going to be a great option – I could see it being a good choice for East Coast riders and their slow speed tech, or Colorado riders and their sometimes swoopy, sometimes chunky high alpine rides.