Handguards are a brilliant invention and I'm never going through a summer without them. These particular…
I don’t think most people that buy the Yeti SB160 are buying it because it represents a great value package and premium performance.
- Brand: Yeti
- Product: SB160
- From: Silverfish UK
£7,299 when reviewedReduced to £5,999 in November 2023
- Tested: by Hannah for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 151
This was my first proper shot on a Yeti. My only previous experience being a couple of local laps on an XC magic carpet ride of an SB100, and a rear hanger breaking incident on a secret pre-launch photoshoot. Oops.
Yeti is one of those brands that has fans. Once known as the ‘Yeti Tribe’, the marketing has moved away from that and its overtones of cultural appropriation. A quick glance at the athlete roster suggests this venerable brand is making efforts to avoid being stale or too attached to the past.
As something of a tech-sceptic, I am not a natural member of the fan club. Less is more in my view, especially when it comes to fancy moving parts and price tags. But it seems the world is raving about this SB160 and its enduro-tastic capacities, so I looked forward to being won over by whatever magical properties it is that enraptures Yeti fans so. Surely I would find myself channelling my inner Richie Rude, schralping some turns, and eying up the next round of the EWS?
The SB160 is Yeti’s EWS ready race machine. I tested the size Medium, the usual choice for my 175cm height, in a pleasantly built-for-mortals C2 spec. Often us journos get sent the tippy top of the range option. Having said that, this bike comes with a £7,299 price tag so it’s hardly a budget bike. The T-Series is the lighter carbon, but at around 225g difference per frame I’m not convinced you’ll notice the difference by the time you’ve attached a pile of enduro ready rubber, wheels, suspension and so on to it.
Possibly of greater interest is that it’s only the T-Series that currently comes with the new Switch Infinity link which promises reduced friction and more bearing protection, among other things. If you want that new assembly, you will be able to buy it in future as a retrofit, but that may be unnecessary given that Yeti offers a lifetime warranty on frames, which includes the link. Servicing is a fairly simple ‘keep it clean, insert some grease’ process, so even UK mud dwellers shouldn’t be overly concerned. In short, the C-Series is probably fine unless you just like to be able to say you’ve got the tippy topness.
The build kit even on this lower end model is solid. A SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is paired with SRAM Code brakes with suitably large 220/200mm rotors front/rear. DT Swiss wheels, a nicely reliable One Up dropper with pleasing actuator, Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR tires… it’s all good stuff. The only thing I’d quibble with is the Burgtec bar and stem: at 50mm, the stem is too long in my opinion, and the bars are rather too straight for my liking – a little more rise and a little more back sweep would be welcome. Unless you are an ape, I suspect you will want to chop the provided bars down – but better that way round than too narrow.
Maybe it was overly high expectations based on What The Fans Say, or all those stanchions, but it took me a while to gel with the SB160. Don’t get me wrong, even when I was busy cursing it, the SB160 would climb its way up obstacles, rear tire tracking the ground in just the way the Switch Infinity suspension is famed for. But while the rear wheel kept on rolling, the front end was dithering around like a terrier hunting mice. Line choice evaded me, and my confidence took knock after knock as I headed here only to end up there.
Tire pressure and suspension tweaking, plus an eventual swap of the stem to a shorter 32mm option (and the inevitable birth control saddle swap) finally got me into a position that felt more balanced and in control. More sag on the shock than I’d usually run put me more in the bike than on it, and the front end stopped choosing its own path. It was real princess-and-the-pea stuff, and something of a surprise.
Despite the improvements, the bike still holds some curiosities to me. Even sagged, it felt like quite a tall position from the ground – which would only be worse if I swapped to the shorter cranks I’d generally prefer. The front end still felt a bit wandery on steeper climbs, making climbing feel more like an exercise in patient traction holding rather than repeated feats of goat-like moves. That rear wheel traction offers scope for getting up and over plenty – if you manage to stay on the track – but I found myself losing my nerve on narrow ruts and tricky contouring moves as the ground felt such a long way away. I am not Richie Rude. You might be more Richie Rude than me. But it seems like more of a winch and plummet bike than an efficient EWS-ready technical climber.
Pulling on my positive pants and pointing the SB160 downhill, after my initial set-up frustrations I found that there’s a pile of fun to be had. It’s nimble enough to throw around turns and wriggle through ruts, but chunky enough to save your skin when that jump proves to have a landing built entirely of dragon’s teeth and you’re eyeballing the turn that looms after them and hoping to make it round while still on the bike. Even through the chatteriest ruts and drops I had no problems keeping my feet on the pedals – I suspect the magic carpet effects of the Switch Infinity were at play. On the SB100 I’d found that smoothness a bit alienating, like I wasn’t really getting to feel the trail, but when you’re trying to stay on the bike at speed and in the rough stuff it made more sense to me. There’s nothing wrong with the tires that came with it, but adding a pair of the Pirelli Scorpion Enduro Race tires did have me feeling somewhat more Richie Rude. Or Harriet Harnden. Now there’s someone that deserves her fan club. Sign me up.
I loaned this Yeti SB160 test bike to a certified and paid up member of the Yeti Fan Club, and they promptly bought one (they sized up from their usual small to this Medium having had the chance to try it out). Having seen the chip I put in the top tube, they also took the time to Invisiframe their new toy, and in the process their mechanic reported that the build quality is good, with everything coming nicely built and greased. So, what do I know? I suspect that if you like how it looks and are into the Switch Infinity traction, you’re going to feel great on it, and that’s a massive part of how you perform on the bike. Confidence begets confidence, but the initial frustrations in getting the Yeti to feel right got under my skin and into my head, so it had ground to recover. I was expecting magical powers, or something discernibly superior to A.N. Other enduro bike, and for me that wasn’t there.
I’ll grant that the Switch Infinity gives a magic carpet ride feel, but I remain to be convinced that’s a ride quality I want enough to warrant all the extra stanchions and cost that comes attached to it. But I don’t think most people that buy the Yeti SB160 are buying it because it represents a great value package and premium performance. They’re buying it for the great performance and the prestige of Yeti history, fandom, and the chance to be just a little bit more like Richie Rude. Buying with your heart has a lot to be said for it, and Yeti continues to move with the times – both in bikes for modern challenges, and in an ambassador lineup that’s more diverse than many brands’. Whether you’re buying the SB160 based on a long love affair with the brand, or a newcomer to what they do, I’m sure you’ll have fun.
Yeti SB160 specification
- Frame // Carbon, 160mm
- Fork // Fox Performance 38, 170MM
- Shock // Fox Performance Float X
- Wheels // DT Swiss E1900
- Front tyre // Maxxis Assegai 3C EXO+ 29×2.5in
- Rear tyre // Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO+ 29×2.5in
- Chainset // SRAM GX Eagle, 170mm, 30T
- Drivetrain // SRAM GX Eagle, 10-52T
- Brakes // SRAM Code R, 220/200mm
- Stem // Burgtec Enduro MK3 35, 50mm
- Bars // Burgtec Ride Wide Alloy Enduro, 35mm, 800x35mm
- Grips // ODI Elite Pro
- Seatpost // OneUp Dropper, 31.6mm, 180mm
- Saddle // WTB Silverado Custom
- Bottom Bracket // SRAM DUB
- Size tested // M
- Sizes available // S, M, L, XL, XXL
- Weight // 15.5kg
- Head angle // 64°
- Effective seat angle // 77.5°
- Seat tube length // 400mm
- Head tube length // 101mm
- Chainstay // 439mm
- Wheelbase // 1,246mm
- Effective top tube // 602mm
- BB height // 353mm
- Reach // 465mm
|Tested:||by Hannah for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 151|