Yeti created the Beti SB5c to make a splash entry into the women’s-specific mountain bike market, with a high-end carbon-framed trail-ready machine that boasts 140mm of suspension up front, and 127mm at the rear with Yeti’s innovative Switch Infinity suspension system. We're lucky to have taken delivery of one…
Tearing your eyes away from this stunning coral-painted vision in order to get into the nitty-gritty is tricky, we know. Deep breath. Ready? Right then.
Yeti has chosen to base its women's specific offering around the standard unisex SB5 frame, drawing on Yeti’s philosophy of making bikes to fit smaller riders including components that the brand says says will improve the ride experience for women.
There's a story behind the name. It comes from team Yeti Beti, a women's specific mountain bike team set up by American Amy Thomas, who also directs the Beti Bike Bash, which Yeti claims is the biggest MTB event in the US. Inspired by the Betis, who were also instrumental in putting the line together, Yeti christened the bike after them.
According to Yeti, the bike has been built for "hard-charging women who are looking for the ideal trail bike". It's fair to say that bold claims like that only make me even keener to start putting this bike through its paces.
High-end carbon goodness and Switch Infinity suspension
Our X01-spec Beti retails at £5,799 / $6,899 (for comparison it's AUD$4,990 with X1 kit) – not a price for the faint hearted. So what does that outlay get you?
The Beti has a full carbon frame (did we mention its stunning coral paint job?) that incorporates a tapered head tube, custom chain and rock protectors, internal routing and a direct mount if you wish to run a front derailleur. The Beti will also be built in an extra-small to accommodate more petite women riders.
Switch Infinity is the name of Yeti's unusual suspension linkage system
The 127mm of rear suspension comes via a Fox Float Factory DPS shock and uses Yeti’s Switch Infinity translating-pivot design. The system, created in conjunction with Fox, is claimed to result in good pedalling efficiency and small-bump sensitivity when climbing paired with plush, controlled travel when descending. That DPS rear shock also features a special 'women's' tune, something designed around the lower rider weight on average compared to men's versions.
The Switch Infinity link uses a pivot that moves up and down on two Kashima-coated stanchions as bike moves through its travel. As the bike starts to cycle through the available 5in (127mm), the main pivot translates upwards along the shafts to create a rearward axle path, cutting pedal bob and increasing pedalling efficiency.
The pivot, which is housed on a sliding carrier, then ‘switches’ direction as the bike continues through its travel, moving downwards on the stanchions to give a bottomless feel and stop any chain force adversely affecting the suspension performance. In real terms this should mean energy efficient pedalling, small bump sensitivity on the trails and a plush feel at the end of the travel.
To really get your head round the system, it's worth taking a peek at the video below and examining the diagrams on the Yeti website. Up front is a 2016 140mm Fox 34mm Factory fork, which features more lovely Kashima coating and uses the all-new FIT4 damper. The Beti is designed to take forks with a travel range of 140mm to 160mm – using longer forks will raise the bottom bracket and slacken the head angle.
Number crunching the suspension and geo
In its 140mm-travel form the Beti SB5c has a head angle of 66.8 degrees, a bottom bracket height of 342mm, a wheelbase of 1157mm and an effective seat angle of 72.7 degrees. This is in line with most modern trail bikes with this amount of travel.
These numbers, combined with a longer than average chainstay length of 442mm and a test bike weight (without pedals) of 25.8lbs, point towards a bike that will should be nimble on the ups, with that 'stay length in particular indicating an eager climber. The wheelbase is what we'd expect for a trail bike, and ought to make for a confidence-inspiring and lively ride when the way points downhill.
The Beti SB5c is based around the unisex SB5c frame, with female-friendly contact points and a striking coral finish
Women's-specific contact points
As we mentioned above, the Beti SB5c frame is identical to the unisex (or male, if you prefer) version in terms of geometry. In addition to the specially tuned rear shock, Yeti has changed the contact points – namely cranks, bars, grips and saddle – to female friendly parts.
Up front you'll find 720mm Easton EC90SL riser bars, with an Easton Haven 55mm stem. Narrower handlebars are commonplace on women-specific versions of bikes, and in my opinion 720mm is the best match for most riders' needs – though many manufacturers go for even narrower 711mm items. The grips are narrower too, helping smaller hands hold on more comfortably.
Yeti has also specced the women’s-specific WTB Deva Custom saddle. While saddles are (as you may have read) very much a matter for personal preference, this looks as good as any perch to start with.
Ready to roll
Beneath the WTB seat, our bike is kitted with a Thomson Elite Covert Dropper post, with a drop height of 125mm and internal routing, which gets the saddle low and out of the way for technical descents.
As its name indicates, the X01 Beti is adorned with SRAM's X01 1x 11-speed drivetrain, with a RaceFace Turbine crankset combining a 30t chainring with 170mm cranks. Shimano XT brakes are on hand to trim your speed when necessary.
Last but not least, the Beti SB5c we have runs on DT Swiss 350 XR331 rims with a 20mm internal diameter, combined with DT Swiss hubs. DT’s website says these rims are for XC use, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they hold up to trail punishment. The treads supplied are Maxxis' Ardent 2.4 at the front and Ikon 2.2 at the rear, which are well suited to dry conditions. If you're riding in muddy environments you may want to swap them out for something grippier and more suitable to slop.
Maxxis rubber wraps the DT Swiss 350 XR331 wheelset
The SB5c Beti sits in the market alongside other high-end women-specific trail bikes such as the carbon Specialized Rhyme and the Juliana Furtado. These models also incorporate the theory of using identical frames to the unisex version, with female-friendly contact points and suspension tunes and different paint work.
I'll be putting the Beti through its paces for BikeRadar's sibling mag Mountain Biking UK. A full review will appear in the April 2016 issue; look out for more updates here on BikeRadar.