Reviewed: The Yeti SB5C
Photos: Re Wikstrom | Location: Golden, Colorado
It would make sense if you’ve been wondering, “What’s up with Yeti?” After all, it’s been a while since we’ve seen any new hardware from the boys in Golden, Colorado. As it turns out, though, the radio silence has been masking some big changes, with the new SB5C serving as the first shot fired in Yeti‘s latest offensive.
And to answer your immediate questions: Yes, it’s the new incarnation of the SuperBike lineup, it also has 27.5-inch wheels, it won’t be offered in alloy, and the suspension design isn’t like anything that you’ve ever seen. Don’t worry, though, because in all of the important ways, it’s still 100% Yeti. With that out of the way, let’s dig into the DNA of the new SB5C.
It doesn’t take an eagle eye to notice the two miniature stanchions that are tucked just above the SB5C’s bottom bracket shell. The Kashima branding hints that the unit was co-developed with FOX Racing Shox, who has a storied history of partnering with Yeti’s factory team.
The stanchions are traversed by a tiny forged shuttle that gets about an inch of total travel, and like the previous SB-series’ Switch Link, it travels upwards through the initial phase of travel, settling into the sag point. Deeper into the stroke, however, it travels down. Essentially, it mimics the pattern of the Switch Link, only that it travels a perfectly linear path. In other words, it combines the best attributes of Switch Link and Yeti’s World Cup DH-proven rail system. The upshot is that it’s afforded Yeti some intriguing tuning options when laying out the rear suspension.
Now, before the armchair engineer crowd goes wild, let’s address a few points right off the bat. First, and perhaps most importantly, it’s durable. In fact, FOX tested several units by running them through over a million compression cycles while submerged in mud. Needless to say, the testing went without issue. Now, for a fun fact, said mud was comprised of dirt samples taken from locations overall North America and Europe. Yes, this is true, and yes, this also means that FOX, indeed, has a “Mud Library.” Crazy.
Outside of the lab, though, a handful of Yeti’s thrashers have been on preproduction Switch Infinity test mules for as long as three years, and the original prototype units are still in use today.
Second, it’s light — the whole unit is significantly lighter than the Switch Link eccentric pivot that it replaces. Third, its easily accessible grease ports ensure that it’s low maintenance. And lastly, Switch Infinity serves as the heart of a supremely stiff rear end.
If you’ve ever grown attached to a Yeti SB-anything, you’ll be comfortable on the SB5C right out of the gate. As befits its lineage, the SB5C is roomy, low, and stable, which lends it to riding fast. Of the SB series, it predictably feels the most similar to the SB-75, except that the steering feels slightly more relaxed.
When either climbing or riding smooth singletrack, it maintains an exceptionally firm feel at the pedals. But charging into the high-speed rock sections of Golden’s Dakota Ridge trail, I was genuinely surprised at how smoothly it rolled. With a correct setup, there’s almost no feedback transmitted to the rider, even when smashing into cinderblock-sized rocks.
There’s a sense that the rear end gets dramatically more sensitive as it compresses past the sag point, and unlike the Switch Link-equipped SBs, you’d be hard pressed to notice the transition from a firm platform to a smooth mid-stroke. Now, I’m not trying to speak ill of the previous SBs, especially since the SB-66 Carbon has long been one of my benchmarks. It’s just that the SB5C exhibits the same characteristics, only in a noticeably smoother-riding package.
Beyond that, there’s surprisingly little to say, simply because, after about five minutes on the bike, I basically forgot about it. Riding the SB5C was a completely instinctive, point-and-shoot kind of situation. Regardless of what the trail threw at the bike, it was free of any discernable handling quirks.
Three days on the bike wasn’t long enough to comment on long-term durability, but it was certainly enough to get a feel for the handling. Basically, it’s everything that you’ve come to expect from Yeti’s Superbikes, except that it’s better. I found the SB5C to be well balanced, and honestly, it only gets more comfortable the faster that you ride it. With light wheels, it feels spritely enough to be an XC race rocket, but with bigger tires, a smooth rider could throw down in a bike park. Ultimately, it’s pretty damn hard to categorize. Buzzwords aside, though, the simplest way to describe the SB5C is that it’s really good for going mountain biking. Time will tell, but the new Yeti should easily be one of the strongest contenders in the “one bike” category. In other words, I found that the heir apparent to the SuperBike throne is more than worthy of the title.