Yeti Big Top 29er (frame only) - First ride £995

Iconic brand's first big-wheeler

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Even some of the most ardent full-suspension fans like to ride a hardtail from time to time, and a lot of riders have noticed that the best 29er hardtails are easier to ride than the best 26ers. Yeti’s Big Top turned out to be one of the very best 29ers we’ve tested.

Its bump-eating efficiency, amazing stability and easy rolling rhythm instil confidence that can be translated into extra speed. Handling is constantly superb and dead neutral in all the best possible ways. The very best 29ers, and this is certainly among them, forgive rider error far more readily than 26ers, which is very appealing.

The feel: Displays superbly practical trail manners

We went for a frame rather than a full build so that we could use the Big Top as a rack for different forks and bits. It felt at its best with a 100mm-travel fork, although a 120mm-travel fork set soft maintained the neutral handling feel.

We were also amazed how forgiving the Yeti felt with a rigid fork; we tried it with Salsa’s £70 Cromoto fork and big profile tyres. The 12in bottom bracket height is a limiting factor, causing occasional pedal strikes on technical terrain, but we quickly got used to that and the low centre of gravity boosts stability.

The biggest compliment paid to the Yeti was by a tester who hadn’t realized it was a big wheeler. He asked: “What is it that makes it roll so well?” That’s the essence of the best 29ers. Initially, the bigger gear ratios and smoother roll on rough ground often make you feel as if you’re slower than you would be on a 26er.

But on a bike like the Big Top you soon realise you’re carrying speed better over rough ground, and braking less through the corners, to a point where you can leave other riders behind on sections of trail where you used to struggle.

Frame: Oozes must-have status and desirability

A tapered head tube and removable ISCG mount on the bottom bracket imply that the Big Top is meant for more than just gentle cross-country use. Despite the carbon composite rear triangle and custom butted aluminium tubes, including a scandium down tube, our frame weighed a sensibly middleweight 1986g (4.4lb).

It’s obviously designed to bolster Yeti’s reputation for building perfect tools for the job, with future proofing in mind. The reinforced head tube is embellished with the classy Yeti badge and our frame came with Chris King’s reducer lower headset race so we could plug in a 1.125in fork.

Yeti ‘chip’ dropouts are offered in standard 135mm, 142mm (for a 12mm through-axle) or adjustable singlespeed compatible versions. The front mech is direct mount only, with a tidy cover plate to blank it if you run a single ring. Bolt-on guides take winter- proof full outer cabling to the gears and there are two sets of bottle cage bosses.

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