Many riders believe that Yeti is a Colorado company
through and through. They overlook the fact that the
ocompany was originally founded in Agoura Hills,
California, by Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member John Parker
when mountain biking was in its infancy. The current company
is a whole new crew, but they’re just as passionate about the
bikes they make. When the trails around their office in Golden,
Colorado, aren’t covered in a blanket of snow, the Yeti employees use their two-hour lunch break to ride. While these rides
aren’t mandatory for the Yeti crewers, it’s safe to say that if
you’re not going to go, you’re not going to last long at Yeti. This
level of passion is evident the first time you throw a leg over one
of these bikes. These guys care about the products they make.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The SB-66 Carbon was named during the prototype phase
of development. Yeti employees referred to it as “the super-bike,” because it’s capable of everything from long cross-country missions to aggressive trail riding and even light-
duty downhill riding. Building a bike that can do it all is a
tough task, but the SB-66 Carbon pulls it off pretty well—as
long as you’re happy with the 26-inch wheels.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
We first tested the SB-66 aluminum in our April 2012 issue. Yeti
claims to take a full 2 pounds off the frame weight by using full-
carbon construction. The SwitchLink suspension design rides
on a series of cartridge bearings and works much like other multi-link, full-suspension designs. The frame uses a 12x142-millimeter
Shimano thru-axle, a tapered head tube and a standard 73-millimeter threaded bottom bracket. Our bike didn’t come with ISCG-05
tabs, but don’t fret; Yeti makes a custom-splined mount that’s
removable for the chainguide riders out there.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Yeti isn’t tied to a house brand, so they’re free to use any
components they like. Our bike was built using their
Shimano XT Comp kit. The Shimano XT group is a tried-and-true performer; the Fox suspension works flawlessly, and the
DT Swiss 1600 wheels come with Maxxis Ardent tires set up
tubeless right out of the box. They didn’t even skimp on the
stem and seatpost, which are Thomson. Nice work.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
How SwitchLink works: The key to SwitchLink technology is the ability to control the wheel path through its stroke.
The cam rotates in multiple directions to provide the smooth
and controlled feel. At the beginning of the stroke, the
SwitchLink cam rotates up and back, causing the effective
chainstay measurement to lengthen. This action gives the suspension a bit of resistance to pedaling and other low-speed
inputs by using the tension from the drivetrain to resist diving.
Toward the end of the stroke, the cam switches direction. It
rotates down and forward to allow the bike to dive deep into its
travel. This second motion is what gives the bike a linear,
falling-rate suspension feel. Yeti is currently seeking a patent on
Moving out: Our large test frame fit true to size and
provided more than ample standover clearance. The
external cable routing is perfect for mechanics,
since it is easier to deal with when working on
the bike. We would like to see internal routing
on a bike of this price, but it’s tough to argue
with a simple solution that works this well.
Pedaling: Out of the gate, the SB-66 feels
pretty snappy, but it’s not the fastest 6-inch
bike we’ve been on by a long shot. The designers clearly put active and supple suspension
first. However, Fox’s CTD shock (which allows
the rider to choose the Climb, Trail or Descend
damping setting) is a perfect match for this bike.
You just have to be willing to reach down and flip the
switch when you want the efficiency. We had the best luck with
the shock-in-the-middle “Trail” mode, with the trail tune set to
its firmest setting.
Climbing: It’s tough to ask a 6-inch-travel bike to do the job
of a cross-country race bike, but the SB-66 comes close. This
bike will be the first to the top of a climb if you’re the strongest
rider in the bunch, but don’t expect it to do the work for you.
The carbon frame saves a claimed 2 pounds over its aluminum
predecessor, and the SwitchLink suspension is a great pedaling
Cornering: The slack front end and low center of gravity
make for a bike that will rail corners. The Maxxis Ardent tires
are a smart spec, sporting relatively high volume and plenty of
aggressive side knob that deliver traction even when laid over.
Descending: Simply put, it’s a treat. The SwitchLink suspension feels like a dream when the trail gets rough and the tempo
speeds up. Whereas other carbon copies of their aluminum predecessors have felt twitchy and quick, the geometry of the SB-66
Carbon retains its sure-footed feel on the trail. Other linear or
falling-rate suspension designs can feel permanently glued to the
trail, but the SB retains a lively feel and loves to be “flicked”
down the trail.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
We might just be spoiled after riding with clutch-style
derailleurs like Shimano’s Shadow Plus and SRAM’s Type
2, but this drivetrain sounded like it was “klunking” down
the trail. We appreciated Yeti’s custom-molded rubber
chainstay and seat stay protection, since these protectors
keep the chain-slap from damaging the frame—but, it didn’t quiet the impact. We would upgrade to a clutch-style
derailleur if we were already spending this much money on
The triple chainring doesn’t make sense on a bike this
light (and there are plenty of ways to make it even lighter)
unless you subject yourself to long climbs at the end of
longer rides. A single or double ring with their simpler-is-better drivetrain approach would be sufficient for most riders. The removable ISCG mount is also a nice addition for
riders who demand the stability of a chainguide.
Yeti’s SB-66 Carbon delivers across-the-board performance
in the right terrain. The 6 inches of travel pedals efficiently
enough to climb even the steepest grades and offers the
plush and aggressive feel we love from a long-travel trailbike.
The SwitchLink suspension delivers the promise of a very
linear suspension curve that makes it feel like you’re getting
every bit of the suspension travel. The geometry also keeps
the bike feeling lively and “flickable” on the trail.
While this is not just an off-the-shelf bike, the build kits
Yeti chooses provide plenty of value and can go knobby to
knobby with any other brand.