Trevor at our Glentress store has been out for a bit of a spin on our new Yeti SB-66 demo bike. Here he shares his thoughts on what just might be one of the best all round bikes on the market.
Dubbed the Super Bike (SB) by Yeti under its secretive construction and testing process, on first glance the bike looks to be like any other linkage driven bike in the array of platforms currently available. However, under closer inspection you may spy a suspicious looking arrangement sitting just above the bottom bracket. This is the heart of the SB’s ground breaking new suspension system, snappily named the ‘switch’.
In the pursuit of perfect suspension, many designs have come and gone, and to better understand why, we must first look at the geeky subject of axle paths, the direction the rear axle moves when hitting a bump. Basically there are 2 forces acting on the suspension. The first is the obstacles/bumps you are hitting, and the second is the influence of the chain. The best way for suspension to work is for the rear axle to move upwards and back. Great, why not design suspension that works like that? Well you can't because the chain is wanting to pull the rear axle upward and forwards! The chain can't move backwards otherwise you would end up resisting the suspension movement and breaking the chain, as the distance between the rear axle and bb area of the bike would change. To give a technical term it's called, "chain growth". So basically suspension designs have always been a compromise between the two opposing forces.
This is where Yeti’s new Switch Technology confidently enters the fray! The main pivot bearing is mounted on an eccentric rotating cylinder, cleverly mounted off centre. This means that as the pivot rotates through its travel, the off centre mounting allows the axel path to change direction – the switch! Initially the axel path of the SB66 is rearward and upward, and then as the travel passes into the mid and final stroke the path switches to forwards minimising chain growth. So under pedalling the all important first third of the stroke is rearward and thus suffers no pedal induced shortening, and no bob, as the hits get bigger the stroke can shift into a more forward direction minimising inhibition caused by chain growth as it delivers 150mm of plush travel.
So how does all this technology reflect in the ride of the SB66? From the first few pedal strokes, the intentions of the bike become immediately crystal clear, pure speed! The low and long bike feels planted and taught and there is instant power pickup as you hit the pedals, there is no lag from the suspension when you power down, the bike simply surges forward in a way that no other current 150mm travel bike can come close to. Looking at the back end as you pedal there is minimal bob from the swing-arm, it just quietly gets on with the business of bump absorption. The switch system comes into its own on climbs, where the SB drives up the hill with intent and lightness that defies its long travel roots. I would say it is a more accomplished climber than most of the 120mm travel bikes currently on the market and you can really feel the switch system dialling out power loss. Short technical climbs and long drawn out slogs are deftly dispatched and the bike always feels poised and tracks well when the going gets steep. The long wheelbase keeps the front wheel planted and there is minimal wandering.
When it comes to descending over rough terrain and the bike starts working through its travel, you will be rewarded with control and poise that allows you to carry insane speeds. A lot of 150mm travel bikes are either too plush, like over sprung sofas that remove you from the trail isolating you from the contours and removing important feedback, or at the other end of the spectrum bikes touted as efficient peddlers sacrifice ride quality through being too firm and unsophisticated, getting out of shape and unruly in rough ground. The Yeti manages to find that elusive middle ground, the suspension actively dealing with impacts while maintaining precise feedback with the terrain. Small bump sensitivity is good, it is not super plush in the mid stroke but that is not what this bike is all about! This firmness in the mid stroke allows immense pop and speed out of berms and lets the bike find massive traction in the turns, this bike rails everything and will pop you out of corners at warp speed if you have the minerals to hang on. If you like your bikes super plush, you would be better looking to the Yeti 575, the SB66 is a race machine wrapped up in an All Mountain package! That is not to say that it feels uncomfortable, harsh or overly stiff, Yeti have built a bike that feels alive, confident, poised and accurate, this is an aggressive bike that can be ridden all day and wills you to go faster and faster.
Our demo bike weighs in at 28.6lbs with an excellent XT group set, Fox 150 Kashima 32 fork and high end Thomson and Easton finishing kit. If you are more into gravity riding the SB can take a 36 fork up front giving a head angle of 66.3 degrees (67 degrees with a 150mm 32) and will handle any amount of abuse that could be dished out on any track in the UK. If you are in the market for a new 150mm travel bike, or even a superb trail bike and like your riding on the fast and fun side, you have to demo this bike!There can be no doubting the SB-66’s outright speed and handling, there is simply no equal in the current crop of big hitting All Mountain bikes. The bike hits that magically quality of feeling composed and neutral in the corners without losing that vital liveliness and engaging ride that proves elusive for many manufacturers. Only time will tell how well the switch holds up to UK winters, and if it will prove to be the Achilles heel in perhaps the most groundbreaking and innovative suspension platform yet. So far long term tests have been very promising and if the switch does prove to be as durable as Yeti claim, the SB-66 could well be the finest ‘do it all’ platform currently available.
Want to give the SB-66 a spin? Click here for more information.