2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon XT/SLX

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon XT/SLX  2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon XT/SLX (turquoise)
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Review - 2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon from Vital MTB Test Sessions

Yeti's updated SB5 is an excellent all-around bike with great trail feel that rewards an active rider.

Rating: Vital Review
Review - 2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon from Vital MTB Test Sessions

Back in 2014, Vital MTB awarded Yeti Cycles with the coveted Bike of the Year Shreddy Award for the SB5 Carbon, noting how incredibly capable and efficient the short-travel steed felt on trail. Fast forward to 2017 and Yeti has revised the SB5 with tweaked geometry, updated standards, an exclusive shock configuration, a much more pleasing aesthetic, and a host of fresh components that bring it up to date with the latest and greatest trail bikes. Curious to see just how much the changes improved the ride, we shifted into overdrive on Tucson, Arizona's notoriously rowdy Mount Lemmon trails while sampling the goods during the 2017 Vital MTB Read More »

Back in 2014, Vital MTB awarded Yeti Cycles with the coveted Bike of the Year Shreddy Award for the SB5 Carbon, noting how incredibly capable and efficient the short-travel steed felt on trail. Fast forward to 2017 and Yeti has revised the SB5 with tweaked geometry, updated standards, an exclusive shock configuration, a much more pleasing aesthetic, and a host of fresh components that bring it up to date with the latest and greatest trail bikes. Curious to see just how much the changes improved the ride, we shifted into overdrive on Tucson, Arizona's notoriously rowdy Mount Lemmon trails while sampling the goods during the 2017 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Full carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 127mm (5.0-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) fork travel
  • Switch Infinity suspension design
  • Tapered Inset headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Metric 210x50mm rear shock
  • Collet axle system on all pivots
  • Integrated axle and derailleur hanger system
  • Press fit 92 bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 27.6 pounds (12.52kg)
  • MSRP $4,699 USD

At the heart of the carbon-only frame rests a suspension technology known as “Switch Infinity,” which builds off Yeti's years of experience working with linear rail systems. It's called Switch Infinity because you'd need a link of infinite length to duplicate the perfectly linear movement using a traditional design.

Key to Yeti's design, by changing the direction of the main pivot's movement they're able to achieve certain anti-squat characteristics and meet leverage ratio needs as the bike goes through its travel. At the beginning of the travel the Switch Infinity system moves upward as the wheel path goes rearward, providing anti-squat. Chain forces are perpendicular to the Switch Infinity system, allowing it to react to the terrain independent of pedaling inputs. Once the system reaches the inflection point it reverses directions, preventing the chain force from adversely affecting suspension performance and giving the bike a more controlled, bottomless feel.

By partnering with FOX, Yeti brings FOX's knowledge and expertise in off-road and mountain bike applications into the picture. The Switch Infinity assembly uses FOX off-road bushings and seals, as well as a pair of Kashima-coated stanchions.

Keeping up current mountain bike trends, the frame now supports a metric-sized 210x50mm shock and Boost 148mm rear axle spacing. Yeti also took the opportunity to make the suspension design just a tad more progressive than the previous version. The shock is said to have "an exclusive air volume configuration and tune. This results in better mid-stroke compression and small bump sensitivity providing a wider range of riders with a custom feel."

Shifting to the rest of the frame, you'll notice that they did away with the junction between the seat tube and top tube. This gives the bike a much cleaner look and helped Yeti achieve a drastically lower standover height. In the extra-small and small sizes it's claimed to have best-in-class standover heights, making it suit a wider range of shredders that previously may not have been able to ride it.

The bike's clean lines are helped by Yeti's new tube-in-tube internal cable routing method that reduces cable noise and makes routing through the frame easier. Taking it a step even further, there's now an access port near the bottom bracket allowing you to see what you are doing when routing the seatpost cable.

Additional details on the 1X-drivetrain specific frame include a Press Fit 92mm bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs for mounting a chainguide, and rubberized guards on the downtube, chainstay, and seatstay. While a water bottle mount is made available under the downtube, we really wish it had one inside the front triangle to keep bottles free of whatever your front tire happens to roll through. Mud clearance is good with ~20mm of room for the muck with the stock 2.25-inch Maxxis tire and enough space for tires up to 2.4-inches wide.

Yeti makes the SB5 frame in two different carbon types. One is simply noted as "Carbon" and the other is listed as "Turq." Other than the color they look identical from the outside, and both are said to be just as strong. Turq models are the high-end version with 0.77-pounds (349g) of weight savings thanks to a different carbon layup.

We had the opportunity to test the most affordable SB5 Carbon with a Shimano XT/SLX build at $4,699. Things get very fancy as you look through the four pricier builds ranging from $5,599 to $10,499. It's also possible to build up a custom bike based around the $3,400 Turq frame.

Geometry

The bike sports subtly tweaked geometry numbers for 2017. Since the SB5's debut it has gained 10mm of travel up front, and the head angle now rests at 66.5-degrees. In addition to improving standover, Yeti steepened the seat angle to give a more upright pedaling position, shaved a few millimeters from the chainstays to enhance maneuverability, lengthened the front end slightly, and dropped the bottom bracket height a little bit. We measured the bottom bracket height at 335mm. With five sizes to choose from, there's one that will fit everyone from 4'11" to 6'6" (1.50 to 1.98m). On Yeti's recommendation, our 5'8" and 5'10" (1.73 and 1.78m) tall testers chose a size medium test bike with a 424mm reach measurement.

Suspension Analysis

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the SB5's kinematics for the purpose of this review. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:

Observations:

  • The Yeti SB5 has an almost linear leverage ratio. Therefore it uses all the travel easily.
  • Great pedaling efficiency for a single-ring setup with anti-squat values close to 100-110% on most cogs.
  • The anti-squat values remain constant at near 100% in the pedaling zone and drop at the end of the travel, allowing the suspension to be more independent from chain forces and decreasing the total amount of pedal kickback.
  • Anti-rise around 90% at sag, meaning that the geometry of the bike is preserved under braking.
  • Overall it's an almost linear trail bike with excellent pedaling characteristics.

How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the new SB5 Carbon performed on trail.

On The Trail

Our 2017 Yeti SB5 XT/SLX was put through the paces in the rugged terrain of Tucson, Arizona. Riding from the top to the bottom of the mountain we encountered everything from snow and mud to loose over hardpack soil types. The trails varied widely in their technical features from wet roots to rocky tech. Our test rides included Aspen Draw, Bigelow, Bug Springs, Prison Camp, and La Milagrosa.

Due to personal preference we swapped the stock 60mm Race Face Ride stem and 750mm Evolve bars for a slightly shorter and wider 50 x 775mm setup. Both testers felt immediately at home on the size medium test bike with a comfortable cockpit feel while seated and standing. Yeti recommends setting up the rear FOX Float Performance shock sag at 30% (15mm of stroke), so we started there.

The major takeaway is one of compression versus progression. Yeti seems to favor lots of damping to provide the bike's ride qualities. This results in great trail feel and an excellent pedal and pumping response, creating what feels like very quick trail speed. The downside is that the bump response is a tad harsher than other adaptations of the metric shock standard like the Giant Trance Advanced. For better or worse, you know where the tires are at all times. Traction was good and the bike tracked well, though there's some slight room for improvement in this regard.

The major takeaway is one of compression versus progression. Yeti seems to favor lots of damping to provide the bike's ride qualities. This results in great trail feel and an excellent pedal and pumping response, creating what feels like very quick trail speed.

Yeti's SB5 is more linear than many of its competitors, and this comes across on the trail in various ways. It rides like it has more travel through the chunky bits, and surprisingly we never felt that it would tempt us into a situation it couldn't get us out of. Even through high-speed consecutive hits the 127mm of rear travel didn't feel overwhelmed often. We were impressed by this. There was no harsh kickback at any time. Despite not containing any volume spacers, the shock provides a nice smooth ramp towards the end of the stroke - presumably through the use of a smaller positive air spring in the custom shock. We used full travel often but the bottom was never very noticeable.

When you're riding a smoother trail and on the gas, pumping and pedaling whenever there's an opportunity, the SB5 feels like a rocket ship. The suspension works very well when pushing into the trail, adding little bursts of speed along the way. It really excels on fun, flowy, dippy sections. Ride it like you mean it and you'll be rewarded.

The cornering feel is one of precision, and the bike likes to slice and dice its way through terrain. It's easy to move around and felt solid and stable at speed with the slightly-longer-than-most chainstays coming into play. Changing lines at a moment's notice was easy to do, as was picking up the front end for manuals or the entire bike while jumping or bunnyhopping. It has quicker handling than Evil's The Calling, even though it comes pretty close to that bike as far as geometry is concerned. On some corners, however, you're met with a feeling of being on top of the bike, not in it. It's best when ridden with both feet up and legs supple through chattery turns.

When you're riding a smoother trail and on the gas, the SB5 feels like a rocket ship. It really excels on fun, flowy, dippy sections. Ride it like you mean it and you'll be rewarded.

At 30% sag the bike had more of a firm feel that didn't mute the trail. It was light and fun but needed constant rider management in rough terrain. Dropping to 33-34% sag there was a little more margin for error. The bike still pumped and jumped quite well but it was a more comfortable ride and felt as though it required less energy. We appreciated this at the end of a long day on trail. Which personality did we like more? Too close to call. Both have their place and make the SB5 a versatile bike.

Noting that the suspension feels a bit firmer than many comparable trail bikes, we found that running the 150mm travel FOX 34 Float Performance fork with a good bit of compression damping helped balance things out. The fork often felt under-gunned compared to the rear of the bike in terms of both compression and air spring support. We found two volume spacers inside and felt the need for more after a few harsh front end bottom-outs while running close to FOX's suggested pressures.

It sounds cliché to say a bike climbs like a goat, but this one truly does. Standing or seated it was light on its feet and the scale concurred at just 27.6-pounds (12.52kg). There's no need to mess around with rear suspension levers while climbing because it performs so well fully open. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that dropping the sag didn't really negatively impact climbing ability. We still found it had an excellent pedal response but with less of a cross-country feel on tricky climbs. It's a very quiet ride when leaping up and over obstacles, never pitching your weight around or making already hard moves harder like many other bikes do.

Build Kit

Yeti did a good job spec'ing the SB5 Carbon XT/SLX model, striking a good balance of durability, performance, and low weight with the build kit.

DT Swiss has a great reputation for their wheels and it was nice to see them on this bike. While the M1900s are on the less expensive side and a bit heavy as a result, we didn't notice any drastically negative effects from their weight. They have straight-pull spokes and Boost spacing, making spoke replacement relatively easy and adding some stiffness to the mix. The rear hub had nice engagement when we needed to make repeated bursts to get up and over the many rocks on the trail. Last but not least, the M1900s came set up tubeless. At the conclusion of our test the rear wheel had just a slight wobble.

We were skeptical of the Maxxis Ardent EXO tires from the get-go given past experiences, and following the first ride opted to swap the often drifty rubber out for more stout and meaty Maxxis Double Down casing tires. While fast-rolling, we've found Ardents to lack that supreme sense of control in loose terrain. Flat prevention was also a concern with the slight 2.25-inch wide rear tire. If the trail forecast calls for rugged or wet, it may be wise to switch out the Ardent tires for something a bit beefier.

For a budget level brake, the Shimano 615 Deore stoppers performed quite well. They had good modulation and weren't overly grabby. We liked the spec of a 180mm front rotor and didn't feel we needed more than the 160mm rear, especially with the low-profile tread on the Ardent tire out back. The only thing we missed were tool-free adjustments for reach. It isn't a deal breaker but it does make life easier. We suggest bending the ends of the cotter pins used to hold the brake pads to reduce pad movement and noise.

While it never skipped on us, Shimano's XT/SLX drivetrain was more clunky than we've come to expect from the brand with a distinct "ka-chunk" noise at times and resulting jarring pedal feel. After verifying that the lock-ring was indeed tight, we were surprised when a portion of the cassette remained jiggly. The wide-range 11-46 tooth spread also has a large jump from the 37-tooth cog to the easiest 46-tooth cog which can feel awesome or awkward depending on the situation. Transferring the power of the rider into all that get up and go are Race Face Aeffect cranks paired with a 30-tooth chainring. Shorter 170mm cranks are spec'd on size extra-small and small bikes while size medium to extra-large come with 175mm cranks. Even with the longer cranks we felt we had plenty of pedal clearance while riding through technical sections.

We were quite happy with the 150mm travel Race Face Turbine dropper post. It performed well during our test and the ergonomics of the lever allowed us to keep a secure grip on the bars while riding. Cockpit setup was also clean and simple. Based on a recent update to Yeti's website, future sales will include the FOX Transfer dropper post instead which we've found to be a top performer.

Overall we thought the spec on the XT/SLX build made sense. There was nothing funky or proprietary, and at $4,699 it's a good value. That said, the Carbon Eagle build at $5,599 is also worth some consideration. The extra $900 isn't exactly pocket change, but it does get you a wider range SRAM Eagle drivetrain for less than what it would cost to do the upgrade yourself. You also get SRAM Guide R brakes which are comparable in stopping power but include a tool-free reach adjustment.

Long Term Durability

Aside from potentially troublesome rear tire flat resistance, we experienced nothing else in our testing that sent up red flags for durability. Everything about the bike feels stiff and stout, and small touches like the collet axle system on pivots are designed to reduce wear. The downtube guard is a bit small, so consider some extra protection in that area if it's a worry for you.

We do feel it's worth mentioning the little bit of added maintenance for the Switch Infinity suspension system. Recommended service is every 40 hours of riding. Luckily this can be done at home or by your local bike shop pretty easily. All it takes is a grease gun to make sure all the moving parts are properly lubed so they stay buttery smooth. To protect it from wheel debris and to stiffen the rear end, the sleek carbon frame wraps both in front of and behind the system. Yeti and FOX have proven it to be durable in the long-term by subjecting it to a demanding one million cycle dirt-slurry immersion test that's also performed on FOX's forks.

Take care of the bike and it will take care of you. Yeti backs the SB5 with a five year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

Is the new SB5 better than the old one? Undoubtedly. Updated geometry and more dialed details make this trail ripper an even better all-around trail bike. While bested by others in terms of terrain sensitivity, the SB5 provides riders with loads of manageable trail feedback and a quick response that'll make you feel like you're flying. An active and aggressive rider will reap the greatest rewards from this bike, though at a deeper sag point it's a bit more comfortable for the casual rider. In the end we found the SB5 to show little compromise uphill or down. It's an excellent climber and proved to be very fun on smooth, flowy sections of trail thanks to its playful nature. Those looking for a capable and fun short-travel trail bike that can pedal many miles will be pleased with the SB5.

Visit www.yeticycles.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2017 Yeti SB5 Carbon up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Brandon Turman- Age: 30 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 175-pounds (79.4kg)

"My current riding joys include pulling up hard and hucking test bikes into poor landings and techy sections with reckless abandon, then seeing how they react upon landing." Formerly a Mechanical Engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every new innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.

Steve Wentz - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 20 // Height: 5'8" (1.73m) // Weight: 178-pounds (80.7kg)

"Despite what it looks like, I'm really precise and calculated, which I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to drop my heels more and just let it go." Steve is able to set up a bike close to perfectly within minutes, ride at close to 100% on new trails and replicate what he did that first time over and over. He's been racing Pro DH for 14+ years including World Cups, routinely tests out prototype products, and can squish a bike harder than anyone else we know. Today he builds some of the best trails in the world.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.

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Specifications

Product Yeti SB5 Carbon XT/SLX
Model Year 2017
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
XS, S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size XS S M L XL
Top Tube Length 552mm 578mm 603mm 629mm 654mm
Head Tube Angle 66.5° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Head Tube Length 100mm 116mm 127mm 144mm 165mm
Seat Tube Angle 73.7° 73.7° 73.6° 73.5° 73.5°
Seat Tube Length 381mm 419mm 445mm 483mm 521mm
Bottom Bracket Height 338mm 338mm 338mm 338mm 338mm
Chainstay Length 437mm 437mm 437mm 437mm 437mm
Wheelbase 1116mm 1142mm 1168mm 1195mm 1222mm
Standover 668mm 683mm 724mm 737mm 749mm
Reach 382mm 402mm 424mm 444mm 463mm
Stack 585mm 600mm 610mm 625mm 645mm
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details High Modulus Carbon Fiber Main Frame and Swing Arm, Molded Carbon Internal Cable Routing Tubes, Custom Down Tube Protector and Chain Guards
Rear Travel 127mm
Rear Shock FOX Float Performance
Fork FOX 34 Performance, Boost
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 40 Inset Taper
Handlebar Race Face Evolve, 750mm
Stem Race Face Ride, 60mm
Grips Yeti Lock-On
Brakes Shimano 615 with Shimano 180mm Front /160mm Rear Rotors
Brake Levers Shimano
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano SLX
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Race Face Affect
Chainrings 30 Tooth
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB92
Pedals
Chain Shimano SLX
Cassette Shimano XT, 11-46 Tooth
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Rims DT Swiss M1900 Boost Wheelset
Hubs DT Swiss M1900 Boost Wheelset
Spokes DT Swiss M1900 Boost Wheelset
Tires Front: Maxxis Ardent EXO 2.4 Tubeless
Rear: Maxxis Ardent EXO 2.25 Tubeless
Saddle Yeti / WTB Custom
Seatpost Race Face Turbine Dropper Post
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp 35.0mm Standard
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148mm x 12mm (Boost)
Max. Tire Size 2.4"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Black, Turquoise
Warranty 5 Years
Weight 27 lb 9.6 oz (12520 g)
Miscellaneous Switch Infinity Patented Suspension System
Collet Axle System on Pivots Reduces Bearing Wear
Integrated Axle and Derailleur Hanger System
Metric Sized Shock
Molded Cover for Stealth Seatpost Routing
Price $4,699
More Info

​Yeti Website

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