Reviewed by Steve Wentz, Evan Turpen and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
For 2014, Yeti Cycles combined their proven Switch Technology suspension platform and some newfangled 27.5-inch wheels to create the SB75. After having a great experience on the SB66 Carbon and watching Jared Graves lay the hammer down on his SB66 time and time again during the Enduro World Series, it goes without saying that we had high hopes for the SB75. Is the new bike a better version of the original Super Bike, or is it an entirely different ride? Sedona, Arizona served as the perfect testing grounds to see what the new rig has to offer during the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
- Aluminum frame
- 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
- 127mm (5-inches) of rear wheel travel
- Switch Technology suspension
- Tapered headtube
- 67.5-degree head angle
- 73-degree seat tube angle
- 13-inch bottom bracket height
- 17.4-inch chainstays
- 73mm bottom bracket shell with removable ISCG03/05 mounts
- 135 or 142mm rear spacing with QR or 12mm through axle
- Measured weight (size Medium, no pedals): 31 pounds, 8 ounces (14.29kg)
- $4,900 MSRP as tested
Central to Yeti’s SB lineup is their dual-link Switch Technology suspension design which sets the bikes apart from all others on the market. 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 bike to have an initially rearward axle path to counteract pedaling forces, resisting bob and helping with square edge hits. Later in the stroke, 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. Yeti can also tune leverage rates using the system to suit a bike’s intended purpose.
Overall the SB75 frame is well thought out and clean looking. Save a partially internal segment for the rear derailleur cable, cable routing is almost entirely external for ease of maintenance. Notably absent is a stealth routing option for the dropper post, but dropper cable guides run cleanly under the top tube. The splined bottom bracket shell accepts removable ISCG 03 or 05 tabs, allowing you to clean things up and save a few grams if you'd prefer a dual or triple-ring setup. A direct mount front derailleur, 160mm rear brake post mounts, tapered headtube, and a 12x142mm rear axle (with the option to run 135QR) also highlight the frame. It’ll fit a true 2.4-inch tire with excellent mud clearance. Yeti made a compromise by putting the bottle mounts on the underside of the downtube, but at least it’s still an option to use a bottle.
At first glance you might think the SB75 is just a super-sized version of the SB66. In some respects you’d be right, but the SB75 varies in quite a few ways. In addition to the wheel size, the second most obvious difference is also contained within the name, where the “5” in SB75 means 5-inches of travel versus the SB66’s 6-inches. Yeti’s fork specs follow suit, with the SB75 receiving a 140mm fork versus the 160mm found on the SB66.
Digging into the geometry numbers, more differences become apparent. Compared to the SB66, the head angle on the SB75 is 1.5-degrees steeper, seat angle 1.8-degrees steeper, chainstays 0.4-inches longer, bottom bracket 0.5-inches lower, seat tube 1.5-inches longer, stack 1.5-inches taller, and while the reach is longer on the SB75, the effective top tube length is nearly a full inch shorter due to the steepened seat angle.
Unlike the SB66 and SB95, the SB75 does not come with a carbon swingarm at this time. This means the SB75 faces a pretty substantial weight gain of 0.95-pounds with its full aluminum frame. On the plus side, the SB75 is a little cheaper as a result. There’s also no size XL SB75 as of now. Are we comparing apples to oranges here? After really looking at the numbers it seems entirely possible. The real proof would come once we hit the trail.
Complete builds start at $2,900 and range up to $6,900. Our Shimano XT equipped “Race” build slotted in at $4,900, as does the SRAM X01 option that may appeal to many riders. Those wanting to build one from scratch are looking at a frame and shock price of $2,000.
On The Trail
Curious to see what the latest Super Bike is capable of, we chose a wide variety of Sedona trails to put it to the test. Steve piloted it around the famous Hangover loop with its many technical maneuvers and steep pitches before dropping into the faster Huckaby trail. Brandon spent time running laps on Brewer, Ridge, and Carrol Canyon, all of which are high-speed rock fests. Evan also got some saddle time in on the good mix of technical terrain and long descents offered by the Girdner and Last Frontier trails.
At 5-foot 8-inches tall with average proportions, Steve found himself in a bit of a predicament early on. While the reach and top tube length offered by our size Medium test bike fit him well, the increased seat tube length on the SB75 meant he was unable to fully extend the dropper post, even when fully slammed. With a 5-inch travel Thomson dropper installed, the lowest bottom bracket to saddle height was approximately 29-inches - a full inch more than Steve’s legs could accommodate. Riders on the cusp of sizes should take note of this oversight. Remedies include using a dropper with less travel or sizing down, but neither of those seem like acceptable solutions.
With a 711mm wide handlebar and 70mm stem, the SB75’s stock cockpit will be comfortable for some and offer plenty of room to move around. Even so, we feel the added control offered by something in the 750mm x 50mm range warrants the switch. The bike has a long front-center and feels comfortable seated or standing when headed out onto the trail.
Pointed downhill the SB75 is a fun and fast bike to ride, but only to a point. While neither twitchy or overly slack, the 67.5-degree head angle offers a decent all around mix of everything, helping to create a ride that’s responsive to quick steering inputs and ready for most obstacles. The bottom bracket height also feels spot-on.
For having just 5-inches of rear suspension it does a good job with what its got and always remains composed. Because of this and the initially rearward axle path, you’re encouraged to ride the bike faster, and the SB75 excelled in quick terrain. All three testers agreed that the bike feels like it responds best when being pushed hard. It corners well, jumps with ease and likes to be man-handled. Slower speeds are not where it shines, often exhibiting a rather ho-hum, dead feeling when just cruising along. Once you put your body into it the SB75 becomes fairly playful and decently stable, though it’s far from the confidence-inspiring ride of the SB66. When things get steep and rough the bike can get a little bit sketchy. At 5-foot 10-inches tall, both Brandon and Evan noted feeling like they were constantly too far forward on the bike when descending anything with a decent pitch, pointing to the somewhat steep head angle and long-ish chainstays as the likely source of the problem. This over the front sensation was a real confidence zapper, and had us getting on the brakes more than we’d like.
Based on our experience, we’re inclined to think that more travel up front would be a good thing. The rear end has great potential, and a slightly slacker front end with 10mm more travel and a marginally higher bar could make the bike a better descender.
To expand on the rear suspension performance, the bike seemed to communicate a lot of feedback over small bumps. While it didn't feel harsh, we could feel every bit of terrain. Steve noted that he rides most bikes with the rear FOX CTD shock in “Trail” mode for added mid-stroke support, but on the SB75 this provided too much feedback. In “Descend” mode the bike kept traction pretty well, but we found ourselves double checking the tires to ensure they weren’t too hard a couple of times. Bigger hits (not drops, but bumps) are where the bike comes alive, overcoming the overall initial stiffness of the shock. G-outs are also absorbed with plenty of support, but potentially not enough ramp for when things get really crazy. The bike bottomed out hard (with a big “thunk!” sound) on big hits. Even so, it tracks decently through rougher sections.
Pointed uphill, the SB75 is among the most efficient of the 25 bikes we tested in Sedona. Pedaling and sprinting are definitely the strong points of the bike, regardless of the front chainring you’re in. It’s fast to respond and doesn’t really have any noticeable bob or loss of power, all the while staying active and ready to absorb the terrain. Forget the shock’s compression lever, riding in “Descend” mode yields great results. There’s ample rear tire traction when climbing and the bottom bracket height keeps the pedals out of harms way. The front end stays put on the trail, rarely wandering at all. During our tests, the bike would frequently surprise us when we made it up steep sections that looked impossible on the approach.
Though it feels pretty heavy when lifting it trailside, the SB75 doesn’t feel as heavy when it’s being ridden. It’s somewhat snappy (definitely not sluggish) and rolls very well. It also accelerates quickly when being pumped through rough or undulating terrain, making it feel lighter than it is.
Save our preference for a different bar and stem, Yeti did a pretty good job coming up with the spec on the SB75 “Race” build.
Among the component highlights is the Thompson Elite dropper post, which functioned perfectly throughout the test. It had a really good feel to it with infinite adjustability, great consistency and zero slop. We could even lift the bike by the seat without any play or side effects. However, the up/down cable movement is one big downside and the lever was a bit tough to push at times. The sharp edges on the lever could also use some refinement.
The bike came stock with a 2.3-inch MaxxGrip Maxxis High Roller II tire up front and a 2.25-inch Ardent in a standard compound on the rear. This combo offers a good compromise of braking and cornering performance without sacrificing too much rolling speed, but rear wheel traction left a little to be desired at times. The EXO casing sidewalls were nice to see and helped to prevent cuts and flats in harsher terrain.
The DT Swiss wheels provided a trouble free ride and got the job done at a decent weight, even though the rear wheel didn’t have the best engagement. It’s possible to upgrade the DT Swiss Ratchet Drive hub later on if you think it’s needed.
As we’ve come to expect, the braking performance offered by Shimano’s XT brakes was very good, and we always felt like we had control. There was plenty of power with good modulation, and we never experienced any fade.
Shifting was well-handled with Shimano’s 2x10 XT drivetrain, but we could see ourselves quickly opting for the comparably priced SRAM X01 build kit offered at the same price in favor of greater simplicity, fewer dropped chains and less chain noise.
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. That said, with regularly scheduled pivot bearing replacement the SB75 should last for many years to come. If you ever have any issues, Yeti stands behind their product with a two year warranty.
What's The Bottom Line?
Yeti’s new SB75 loves to be pushed, wants to go fast, and rewards a rider who isn’t afraid to charge. It’s a great pedaler and very efficient on the way up, sporting excellent geometry for climbing and gentle downhills. We can’t help but thinking that some of the ride experience was compromised to make it that way, because the rear suspension performance feels as though some sensitivity was given up in order to gain utmost pedaling efficiency. When pointed down steep hills it also doesn’t offer the confidence inspiring ride we’d hoped for, and many riders may find themselves all over the front end in a hurry. If it were better suited for descending, though, surely the performance on the way up would suffer. Even so, it’s an exchange we’d be happy to see. Sizing could also be a big issue due to the unnecessarily long seat tube, so be sure to try the bike out before committing.
Is the SB75 better than the proven SB66? In the end they are entirely different machines, and we can't see it replacing the SB66 anytime soon. It's certainly not for the aggressive type of riding we love to do, but it’s undoubtedly a better climber. So long as you’re in it for the entire trail and not just the nugget on the backside of the hill, it could be a better everyday trail bike for the right type of rider.
For more details, visit www.yeticycles.com.
Bonus Gallery: 33 photos of the 2014 Yeti SB75 up close and in action
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).
Evan Turpen - Evan has been racing mountain bikes as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most.
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 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.