Yeti’s latest suspension design was something of a surprise when we first saw it this summer. The new bike it’s built into still delivers their classic, sweet handling, high-speed cross-country slant on long-travel riding, but the extra weight of the frame doesn’t gain you anything in terms of proper big-hit control.
Ride & handling: Smooth lightweight long-travel trailster, but not for big-hitters
Yeti have an enormously loyal fanbase and not just because of their legendary race heritage and trademark turquoise-and-custard paint options. Yetis just handle really well, above and beyond any basic geometric or dimensional basis.
That’s not to say their numbers are wrong – the 67° head angle/72° seat angle setup is bang on for a contemporary long-travel trail bike – but they just seem to engage really well as soon as you start riding them.
The SB-66's smooth pedal- and rider-reactive suspension creates an agile, easily manoeuvred and responsive feel straight away. Easy squat also makes it a doddle to hunker down and hold onto traction in fast sweeping corners. The multi-section frame tubes, single-piece asymmetric swingarm, screw-through rear axle and massive hollow pivot shafts make for an extremely tight-feeling chassis.
There’s always some ﬂex from Fox 32 forks – especially in the longer travel versions – but we rarely lost the front end, however low we pushed the bars through corners. The plush ride ﬂatters traction and long-ride efﬁciency too, letting you stay in the saddle and spin where shorter travel bikes will be shaking you out of the seat.
With a top tube length over 24in even in the medium size, the SB-66 is a seriously long bike. This meant we sometimes felt stretched on tighter technical stuff. A dropper post would have been a bonus. The low complete bike weight and long top tube make it a standout climber. Add the ultra supple suspension, which swings back to suck up square edges before they affect momentum but then tightens under power for a decent kick, and altitude gain is never an issue.
The SB-66 rolled up even the most jagged, random rock sections like a gecko and it’s a pleasure to spin up long drags compared with most 6in-travel bikes. Unfortunately what it doesn’t do like the best 6in bikes is feel massively composed and controlled when you start ploughing into the big stuff.
It’s not that the suspension doesn’t work – it works too well. Even at shock pressures close to the recommended 300psi maximum we were blowing through the travel on kerb-sized lumps. Anything bigger or higher and it properly walloped out, generally at the expense of yet another pinch ﬂat at the rear.
We fed it as much compression damping as we could to try to add some meaning to the mid-stroke, but the stiction-free main pivot bearings almost seem too smooth for the bike’s good. This is something that can be improved by changing the shock tune to give more compression damping where it’s needed.
Overall the length and deliberately designed upward mobility of the SB-66 make it clear that the Yeti is designed for cross-country trail riders after a bit more travel and smoothness, rather than being a day bike for downhillers.
Frame: New super-smooth, eccentric pivot-based Switch suspension system
The SB-66 has a full list of must-have frame features. The tapered head tube is held ﬁrmly by big curved hydroformed alloy tubes. The front mech is direct mounted, and there are splines on the bottom bracket shell to take a separate ISCG chainguide mount. The rear end gets easily adjustable post brake mounts and modular dropouts in either 135mm QR or 142x12mm screw-through axle formats.
The rear mech cabling is inside the chainstay with moulded frame protectors to stop rattling, and there are mounts for the remote cable of a dropper post too. The really interesting part of the SB-66 is the all-new Switch Technology suspension system. This uses a freely rotating eccentric bearing (rather than a lower linkage) and an upper push linkage that’s connected to both the shock and the upper pivot.
This gives a very supple rearward start to the stroke which then changes to a more vertical, less pedal-inﬂuenced path for the last 30 percent. A supple Kashima-coated Fox RP23 shock is supplied as standard too, which is a nice touch. If 7lb sounds slightly heavy, there’s apparently a 1lb lighter carbon version in the pipeline.
The SB-66 comes as a frame-only option or you can pick from four build kits ranging from the SRAM X7/Truvativ based Enduro to the Chris King, Thomson and Easton trimmed Pro XTR option. As Yeti have just switched UK distributors, complete bike prices aren’t conﬁrmed, but you’re hopefully looking at £3,000 to £5,500.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.