Reviewed by Steve Wentz, Joe Schneider, and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Brandon Turman
Meet the SB66. That's code name for Yeti's"Super Bike" with 26-inch wheels and 6-inches of travel. Why is it super? Because it's built to do it all, and to do it well. As proof of this bike's all-around super-ness, Yeti-stud Joey Schusler used it to race four different types of races over a single weekend. Dual slalom, downhill, cross-country and short track, all on one bike. And he crushed it. Inspired by Joey's results and a love for all things from Colorado, we called up the boys at Yeti for a chance to give the SB66 Carbon a go during our 2013 Test Sessions in Southern Utah.
SB66 Carbon Highlights
- High modulus carbon fiber main frame and swingarm
- Eccentric Switch Technology suspension system
- 26-inch wheels
- 152mm (6.0-inches) of rear wheel travel
- Tapered inset head tube
- 66.7-degree head angle
- 71.7-degree seat angle
- 343mm (13.5-inch) bottom bracket height
- 432mm (17-inch) chainstay length
- 73mm BB Shell, splined shell accepts removable ISCG 03/05 tabs
- 142x12mm rear axle
- Measured Weight (size Medium) 28-pounds 3-ounces (12.8kg)
- $5,600 MSRP
Introduced in the summer of 2011, the SB66 was originally launched as an alloy bike. Just a few months later, the sleek, sexy, and oh-so-smooth carbon variety was born, which has a few key performance benefits to consider - the biggest of which is weight. By going from metal to fibers, Yeti was able to drop an impressive pound and a half off of the frame. Down to a claimed 6-pounds, the SB66 Carbon is a full carbon frame, including the rear triangle, which equates to less unsprung weight. Add in some vibration benefits and retained stiffness numbers and it's easy to see why the up-sell is a popular option.
Details throughout are dialed, and it's obvious that someone (or a team of someones) was sweating the small things when designing this bike. Take the custom molded guards to protect frame from chain slap and rock strikes as an example. They're so cleanly integrated into the frame that at first glance you don't even notice they're there. Cable routing is also excellent, including a partially internal segment through the rear triangle. Another nice detail is the splined bb shell that accepts removable ISCG 03/05 tabs, allowing you to clean things up and save a few grams if you'd prefer a dual or triple-ring setup.
The frame sports dropper post cable guides, a direct mount front derailleur, 160mm rear brake post mounts, a tapered headtube, 12x142mm rear axle, and will fit a true 2.4-inch tire.
Out back is where things get really interesting, thanks to Yeti's dual-link Switch Technology suspension. The key to the system resides just above the bottom bracket. As the bike moves through its travel, the rotation of this fully-sealed eccentric link switches directions. What's the benefit in doing that? It allows the SB66 to have an initially rearward axle path to counteract pedaling forces, resisting bob and helping with square edge hits. Later in the stroke, at about 100mm of travel, the link switches direction, shortening the chainstay length and preventing further chain growth. The axle path follows a smooth curve thanks to the eccentric design, and sees chainstay growth of about 5mm before shortening to a net -6mm at bottom out. While quite linear looking, the leverage curve is slightly regressive, then progressive, then regressive again at the very end of the stroke.
On The Trail
To get a good feel of what the SB66 Carbon was capable of, three distinct locations and trail types were chosen. First, both Brandon and Joe piloted it down the rough, rocky, and rowdy Grafton Mesa trail near Hurricane, Utah. Next, Steve spent some good time on the varied Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Caldera Loop trails in Nevada's Bootleg Canyon. To wrap things up, Joe went back for another helping down Hurricane's mini-Rampage excursion known as Nephi's Twist trail.
Heading out, the fit on the bike was roomy and comfortable, but in a cross-country sort of way. Even with a reasonably short 70mm stem in place, we felt a bit stretched out on our size-Medium test bike. The top tube on the Medium measured 24.1-inches, which is nearly a full inch more than many companies would consider to be a Medium. Rather than sizing down, if anything, we'd suggest going even shorter on the stem to get a reach you're comfortable with. The added stability of a longer front end was nice to have. Add in a slack 66.7-degree head angle, 13.5-inch bb height, and decently snug 17-inch chainstays and the frame checked all the boxes.
On trail, the SB66 had a lively, flickable feel that was surefooted at the same time. It was easy to lift the front end up, move around, and send off the occasional huck. The frame was really stiff side-to-side, allowing the bike to track well and remain predictable through any section. Inputs were responded to immediately, and changing lines at a moments notice was a breeze. The slack front end and low bb made it especially fun in turns, and it seemed as though we were on rails much of the time. In short, when we told the SB66 to perform, it did, every time.
That's not without a caveat, though. You have to be willing to really tell the bike what to do to appreciate what it's capable of, and it's best if you provide those inputs at speed. If that sounds like they way you like to ride, as we do, then the frame is likely a good fit. Casually riding the SB66 didn't yield the best results, though, and it seemed to ride high in the travel if we were just cruising along. While this was great for pedaling and being ready for the next hit, we didn't find it to be very active or plush until we started pushing the bike a bit.
When we were getting after it and speed was plentiful, the Switch Technology system was smooth, supportive, and surprisingly difficult to bottom out on average hits. We did bottom the FOX CTD Float shock on a few silly big hits, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary for a 6-inch bike. The suspension handled chatter, square-edged hits, and jumps well. Only a hint of wallow was felt in the mid-stroke, which made it a little harder to jump than a really progressive bike. It also didn't gain speed by pumping as well as some other bikes that ramp sooner. On the other hand, though, the suspension characteristics made it a dream on bumps and chatter, so the mild wallow was hardly a negative, just different.
In discovering the "push it to love it" characteristic, we also discovered that the included 150mm FOX 34 Float CTD fork was super prone to diving when things got rough, even in the firmest Trail mode with higher than recommended pressures. Given how capable the frame is, we felt as though the bike would be much better off with a 160mm FOX 36 Float. Sure, the 34 is fine for most people the way most people ride, but the frame is capable of so much more, and the added compression controls and support offered by the larger chassis fork would be greatly appreciated. As is, the front end didn't pair up well with the rear.
At 28.2-pounds, our SB66 Carbon build felt light, snappy and was great at picking up speed when some effort was applied to the pedals. Pointed uphill, it responded quickly and there was hardly any bob in any of the chainring combinations. Yeti did a stellar job with regard to pedaling performance. Geometry wise, the front end was stable and not lofty when ascending steep grades, and our body position was very good. In fact, we'd rank it pretty high up among all the bikes we've ridden when it comes to climbing, especially considering that it can all be done quite well without a platform on the rear shock combined with the fact that it's a 6-inch bike.
The SB66 Carbon is available with three component kits or as a frame only option. Our "Race" kit was decked out with a mix of Shimano XT, Thomson, Easton, WTB, Cane Creek, FOX, DT Swiss, and Maxxis parts.
Cockpit wise, we were pleased to see a 70mm Thomson X4 stem. Like Yeti's frame, Thomson's parts show great attention to detail and quality. Easton's Haven Carbon bars were a nice touch, but we wished the bars had been wider than the relatively narrow 711mm. Again, this bike is capable of a lot, and we'd like to see some bars that reflect that.
Moving further back, there was a glaring absence of a dropper post. If you're not going to spec a dropper though, a Thomson post and QR seat clamp are among the next best alternatives we suppose. This is one area to upgrade that will absolutely improve the bike's overall fun factor.
Shimano's XT drivetrain again proved to be a solid performer, but the lack of a clutched derailleur was a big bummer, especially for a bike in the $5,600 price range. We had a few dropped chains at inopportune times (is there ever a good time?), and despite the nicely molded rubber guards, chain and seatstay slap was quite noisy compared to other bikes. The triple-ring XT crankset also seemed a bit outdated.
Braking was a no brainer thanks to the Shimano XT stoppers, with good initial bite and great overall performance, even over extended descents.
Where the bike met the ground, we were pleased with how the Maxxis Ardent tires cornered and rolled, but would have preferred something more aggressive on the front. When we were up to the speeds and aggressiveness levels needed to really make the bike shine, the front end would push just a little too much. A single ply Maxxis Minion could do wonders for confidence if nothing else.
Long Term Durability
Looking at the frame, one potential area for concern is the eccentric Switch Link. There's a lot going on there, and it's crucial to the performance of the bike. With things like oversized pivot pins, Enduro Max sealed bearings, and custom titanium hardware, it's clear that Yeti has taken some precautions to help ensure longevity of the system. Given our relatively short period of time riding the bike, we didn't experience any issues in this area, but it's something to keep an eye on. Yeti backs the SB66 Carbon with a 2-year warranty should anything go awry.
What's The Bottom Line?
The SB66 Carbon is an above average frame, borderline great. It's playful, capable, long, low, stiff, and rewards an aggressive rider with a platform that responds well to being pushed hard. It also looks phenomenal, and frame details are top notch. Anyone who likes to ride a lot, up and down, and has the skill to go fast will appreciate the overall ride, making it very close to most people's idea of a perfect do-it-all bike - even a "Super Bike" if you will.
When it comes down to rating the bike as a whole, though, we're really torn. It could be a five-star ride with a few component tweaks. In the end we're left to judge the bike as is, and we feel that some of the components on the Race kit hold it back quite a bit, compromising the overall ride and fun factor. Yeti has a wolf in sheep's clothing, and we'd love to see them let it out.
For more about Yeti's lineup, visit www.yeticycles.com.
Bonus Gallery: 40 photos of the 2013 Yeti SB66 Carbon
About The Reviewers
Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 17 years, 10 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).
Joe Schneider - During the day, Joe's busy solving complex mechanical engineering problems. When he's free, he's out crushing miles on his bikes and moto. He raced cross-country for several years, made an appearance on the Collegiate National Champs Omnium, turned Pro, and more recently shifted his focus to enduro.
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.