Yeti SB5c - first ride

Outstanding performer, both uphill and down

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Yeti backs up its “ride-driven” motto with a small but passionate staff who follow company president Chris Conroy's lead and duck out of the office each day around noon to spend some quality time on the trail. We accompanied the Yeti crew on one of their lunch rides for a quick spin aboard the new SB5c.

Thankfully, they throttled back the pace, and while our time aboard the new bike was limited to one hour-long ride, it was just enough time for us to come away impressed by Yeti’s latest creation.

Click here to learn more about the development of the SB5c and the Switch Infinity suspension system.

Ride and handling: outstanding climber with downhill chops

The trails we rode typify the singletrack that surrounds Yeti’s headquarters in Golden, Colorado — kitty-litter gravel strewn over hardpack, interspersed with enough embedded granite boulders and water bars to get a feel for the SB5c’s suspension.

Halfway up the first ascent, the climbing prowess of the SB5c became apparent. It has an uncanny ability to scramble up loose terrain while maintaining traction. The suspension is notably firm, providing just enough give to keep the rear wheel gripping the trail, without needlessly sinking into the travel while rolling over the backside of rocks and berms.

The Switch Infinity suspension system combines knowledge gained from Yeti's linear rail-equipped downhill bikes with the eccentric Switch design used on the SB66, SB75 and SB95

Once onboard the SB5c, we didn’t give the Switch Infinity suspension system a second thought; it just worked. We left the shock in the fully open “descend” mode for the duration of the ride (save for a short pedal on the road toward post-ride refreshments).

Like the Switch bikes currently in Yeti’s line, the kinematics of the suspension keep pedal bob at bay, requiring little to no additional low-speed compression damping from the shock. There’s no soft spot in the mid-stroke, and the suspension ramps up predictably as it nears the end of the stroke.

The SB5c sticks with Yeti's low and slack design philisophy

The SB5c is longer and slacker than many of its peers in the 5in trail bike market. In fact, in terms of handling, it has more in common with 150mm travel rigs. The 67-degree head angle and roomy cockpit on our size medium tester inspired a great deal of confidence during high-speed descents. On the flipside, it’s still a trail bike equipped with a 140mm fork, and just 127mm of squish in the rear. It’s no enduro racer, but rather, a versatile trail bike for riders who enjoy pushing the envelope.

Frame and equipment: stiff frame with budget-busting components

While nearly a pound lighter than the SB66c, the SB5c is impressively stiff for a bike with a 5.1lb / 2.31kg frame. Our test bike rolled on ENVE’s new M60 carbon wheels, which were a good match for the frame’s stiffness.

The new ENVE M60 wheels complemented the SB5c's stiff chassis

In addition to the carbon hoops, our SB5c test bike was equipped with the ever-reliable SRAM X01 drivetrain. Shimano XT brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors kept our speed in check, while a Fox Float CTD shock and 140mm 34 Float CTD FIT fork soaked up the hits. The tire choice could not have been better suited to the local terrain, with a 2.4in Maxxis Ardent digging in upfront, while a 2.2in Icon provided a surprising amount of traction in the rear.

In total, this build will set buyers back US$8,999. Opting for alloy DT Swiss wheels, rather than the ENVE upgrade, is slightly more manageable at US$6,599. Yeti is positioning the SB5c as a premium level bike, a fact reflected in the high cost of admission and limited build options.

Verdict: a promising start

Firm suspension for excellent climbing performance and geometry that lets the rider get rowdy on the way down make for a stellar trail bike

While expensive, this kit allowed us to focus solely on the ride of the SB5c, which was outstanding. The SB5c is one of the most well-rounded bikes we’ve thrown a leg over in a long time. But a single lunch ride isn’t enough to pass judgment. We look forward to spending more time aboard the SB5c to bring you a long-term test.

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