Accessibility Widget: On | Off

The Ultimate Park Bike? Vital's Yeti SB165 Project 29

DH fork, DH drivetrain, coil shock with climb switch, and dropper seat post. Are we confused or on to something?

The Ultimate Park Bike? Vital's Yeti SB165 Project

They say jealousy is an ugly thing and envy is green. What about a flat, moss green? And what if we hung downhill-bike-ready FOX Factory suspension and a SRAM X01 DH drivetrain off it? Is it still ugly? Is jealousy acceptable then?

Last year, Vital tested the Yeti SB165 and were fast friends with the new platform. We dug the rowdy, trail-ready nature of the long-travel 27.5-inch wheeled bike. Proper enduro bikes are a delight at the bike park and we knew the SB165 was just such an animal. At the end of the day, having a dual crown fork, coil shock and a dedicated downhill drivetrain just make a park day that much better. That said, a full-on downhill bike can often feel like overkill on all but the gnarliest of terrain and lugging one around the resort is cumbersome.

Enter the SB165 project bike, AKA, the park destroyer

 

Strengths

  • Lightweight
  • Smashes rocks and sends big lines
  • Builds and carries speed
  • The entire park is your oyster
  • Tracking through rocks is superb
  • Climb switch on DHX2 is noticeably helpful
  • Maxxis tire combination never stops gripping
  • Reliable, crisp X01 DH drivetrain
  • Say goodbye to excuses


Weaknesses

  • Dream builds are expensive
  • FOX Transfer has needlessly tall stack height
  • Say goodbye to excuses

Photo

Highlights

  • Yeti SB165 Turq Frame 7.71 pounds
  • 165mm Switch Infinity Travel
  • 190mm FOX Factory 40 maintains same axle to crown as 180mm single crown
  • FOX DHX2 rear shock
  • SRAM X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain
  • SRAM CODE RSC Brakes, 200mm Rotors
  • Maxxis Assegai and DHR-2 MaxxGrip, DH tires
  • DT Swiss FR1950 wheels
  • FOX Transfer 150mm dropper post
  • 63.5-degree head angle, 77-degree seat angle (claimed)
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 460mm (18.1-inch) reach on Medium frame (tested)
  • 433mm (17-inch) chainstay
  • Weight: 34 pounds 11 ounces with pedals
  • Price: Frame-only: $3,999 USD, Project Build: $9,200 (projected)

Photo

Geometry of stock SB165 with 180mm single crown fork. According to Yeti engineers, the 190mm FOX 40 makes a negligible change to the geo

We know a dual crown fork on a Yeti SB165 isn't new or ground-breaking. We saw one built up at the Northstar stop of the 2019 EWS. Nate Hills has one all built up with a Boxxer, ready for the rowdy. Then, when Reed Boggs was signed to Yeti we could take it no more. We were jealous and we needed to see what this build was all about. We reached out to Yeti and proposed a proper DH build with the addition of a dropper post as the ultimate park bike. When we unboxed our new project bike, we were admittedly blown away by the aesthetics and the specs. This was a bike to inspire the deepest envy.

Setup

As is with most bikes these days, our SB165 was set up tubeless. Running full downhill casing and with a focus solely on downhill fun, we ran the tires a bit softer than normal with 27-psi in the back and 25 in the front. A few heavy slides in berms left the tell-tale x-hatching on the sidewalls but we never experienced any issues with the bead.

Photo
Photo

For our 170-pound test rider, the FOX 40 had six, volume spacers and we ran it at 66-psi. High-speed compression was wide open, low speed was five clicks from fully open. Our DHX2 came with a 450-pound spring. As with the fork, high-speed compression was wide open and the low-speed was, coincidentally, five clicks from fully open.

Photo

Initially, we ran the 150mm Transfer dropper as we would on a trail bike, optimized for leg extension when climbing. It later dawned on us, this was a downhill bike and we wanted the seat lower. So there it was, we slid the Transfer further into the frame until we liked where it sat. After all, the seat going up was more for comfort and a bit of help, not for long, sustained ascents.

Photo

On the Trail

Getting the SB165 on Trail had us Giddy is an understatement here. With COVID having resorts shut down all over and struggling to put together a shuttle crew, we let our enthusiasm take the reins and headed out for some pedal-power laps at the city downhill park. Climbing was not easy with the gearing, but it did happen and we regret nothing. Later on, when bike parks were open, getting the Yeti to more remote trails was easy and our selected gearing was fantastic.

Yeah, riding the tops of berms and carrying speed is nice but have you tried the inside?

Putting the SB165 to the task for which it was designed yielded dividends galore. To give credit to the Yeti's standout characteristic, we would say it makes rocks and small boulders disappear. Like a talented street magician, you see the rocks and ready for impact but it never shows. It took approximately 200 yards for us to fully surrender to the SB165's wizardry. After that, we just played along.

Trap door to route dropper cable
200mm rotors to slow this monster

Not a one-trick, rock-eating pony, the SB165 strikes a balance of sure-footed and easily maneuvered. This is still an enduro bike frame and some of that favorable, trail character is alive and well. The beauty of a lighter weight frame and a little less travel is that the rider feels less a passenger and more the pilot. Foibles in a section wouldn't have us trying to rebuild speed like a locomotive, we were back on step in no time. Well, a little time, we did have some burly tires.

Yeti's Switch Infinity

Pointing the SB165 down flow trails meant riding like a complete hooligan in every corner. Yeah, riding the tops of berms and carrying speed is nice but have you tried the inside? This Yeti was built for fun and we made sure to have as much as we could. We did notice, however, that lower-angle, loose corners had us exiting a little more over the back of the bike than we were used to. A touch more compression or even a heavier spring may have helped assist in that department.

In all, the Yeti SB165 project bike proved to be all we had thought. Though we did not get into as gnarly terrain as originally intended, the strokes of brilliance in a setup like this are plain as day.

Photo

Build Highlights

There were only two things that kept our Yeti SB165 from being a full-blown downhill bike: the frame and the dropper post. All other parts were exactly what you would expect to find on any top-tier gravity bike.

Our FOX 40 and DHX2 felt every bit as incredible as when mounted to a downhill bike. Tracking was superb and line selection was simply a matter of deciding where to go. In larger rock gardens, we would pull over, evaluate where we wanted to go and the Yeti made it happen. There was seemingly no deflection from the front end and our setup dealt with the rough stuff without feeling dead. The climb switch on our DHX2 made an incredible difference when it came to the flats and climbs. Rotating the lever produced a much stiffer shock and slightly taller ride height/bottom bracket.

The magic lever

Head to the Vital forum and you will find a thread on bike upgrades. The most commonly referenced upgrades are full DH casing on your tires. The Maxxis Assegai and DHR-2 are front-runners when the trail is dry and blown. There is no doubt, part of the SB165's decisive handling was in part due to the rubber selection.

Photo

7-speed drivetrains are ideal for downhill. The SRAM system is the class leader. Compact, crisp, and reliable. We kept the chainring to a smaller, 32-tooth ring to take advantage of the Yeti's climbing ability. If we couldn't get up the occasional climb, our project would have been for not.

Why Not Just Have a Downhill Bike?

Downhill bikes are awesome. We all love tuning into the World Cup and watching the worlds best perform super-human feats aboard them. The technology, the capability, it is all just so amazing. For many mountain bikers, a downhill bike can be a novelty, something that fits in the 2nd or 3rd bike category. As more and more bike parks open around the country though, the case for a big bike is growing stronger. The thing is, not all parks and riders can make use of a Schladming worthy rig.

There is not a single trail, not one line on the mountain that the SB165 is not up to tackling.

Even some of the larger resorts, ones that we love, have amazing trails that require a bit of pedaling or even a small climb. A downhill bike on anything other than...downhill is cumbersome at best. Lower-grade or less-aggressive trails feel more like exercise than fun and much of the features that make them a delight are simply lost.

Photo

Why Not Just Ride Your Enduro Bike?

After spending many years aboard downhill bikes, almost exclusively, we started experimenting with bringing our trail and enduro bikes to the park. It was a new world of lines, opportunity, and fun. However, anyone that has clocked more than a few days at the bike park will tell you, it's just hard on your bike. The massive ride that culminates in a 12-mile descent is one thing. Fifteen runs at the resort, each one attacked by a rider ready for mischief will leave your 150mm bike in shambles. Not to mention the excuse factor. How many of us know the rider that states they would hit that jump or line if they had a downhill bike?

The Yeti SB165 fills the void, it is the missing link between your daily driver and that race-for-the-rainbow rocketship. There is not a single trail, not one line on the mountain that the SB165 is not up to tackling. Concurrently, there is not a flow trail, blue coaster, or traverse that the Yeti won't get you through in proper order.

Photo

Things That Could be Improved

Nothing is perfect and until Yeti-Clause starts dropping these things down chimneys, the SB165 project will be cost-prohibitive to many. This is not a build you can just purchase from Yeti, riders will have to buy the $3,999 frame and proceed to build from there. We hunted down all of the parts for this bike and used MSRP to come up with a price tag of $9,200. The bargain shoppers among the Vital community will surly do better on price. Granted, one needn't spring for a FOX Factory 40 when the Performance level or even Marzocchi options are out there. True, X01 DH is amazing but there is a GX line as well and it's every bit as awesome. All of which is to say that his bike can be had for less. So while it may be easy to write this one off due to budget, the possibilities are out there.

On the parts front, the FOX Transfer has a significant stack when accounting for the collar and exposed seatpost to display the Kashima logo. A post with a lower stack or even more drop, such as the OneUp or Bike Yoke would have given us optimal pedaling height and optimal descending height.

What's the Bottom Line

We were smitten with the Yeti SB165 during its initial launch and pondered the possibilities. Making those schemes reality resulted in a bike that is an absolute riot to ride. All-day laps with the gang are on the menu. Stay fresh with a lighter, ready to rip platform that smooths out all the rough stuff and lets you hang it all out. This is what park riding is all about.

Head to yeticycles.com to view the new colors and builds, as well as the Vital MTB Product Guide for a complete overview of the SB165 lineup.


About the Tester

Brad Howell - Age: 41 // Years Riding: 26 // Height: 5'9" (1.75m) // Weight: 170-pounds (77.1kg)

Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was large, and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to fix those bikes. Fortunate enough to have dug at six Rampages and become friends with some of the sport’s biggest talents, Brad has a broad perspective of what bikes can do and what it means to be a good rider. For several years Brad worked in the bike industry and got to see the man behind the curtain. These days, though, he just likes riding his bike in the woods with friends.

Video and Photos by Shawn Spomer

Create New Tag
29 comments
Show More Comment(s) / Leave a Comment