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First Impressions: Yeti SB95

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| All-Mountain

By Vernon Felton
Yeti SB95

One of the most buzzed about bikes at last year’s Interbike trade show was this model right here—Yeti’s SB95. For starters, the bike is designed around Switch; a dual-link suspension system that bears more of a resemblance to VPP and DW-Link designs than to any suspension design found on Yeti’s of the past.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of wheel size: this version sports 29er hoops, which instantly made it a contender in the relatively small (but quickly growing) pool of aggressive wagon wheelers.

Yeti was kind enough to send us this bike for testing in our Bible of Bike Tests issue. As a result, I was able to ride the SB95 on our rocky, all mountain test loop in Pisgah National Forest. During the course of the past few weeks, I’ve also been able to pummel it about, here in the Pacific Northwest.

My thoughts on the SB95? For starters, the stiffness to weight ratio is outstanding. It can be a challenge to make a longer-travel 29er that feels confident in technical terrain. When you mate flexxier wheels to longer frame members, things can get a bit noodly. The Yeti’s oversized, hydroformed frame is a study in testosterone. The top-tube/downtube junction is simply massive. The rear triangle is precisely that; a solid rear triangle (with no seatstay or chainstay pivots to get sloppy) and the brawny rear drop outs are a thing of beauty, at least, if you’re the kind of person who finds things like John Deer tractors, 9-inch Ford rear ends and Hemi engines beautiful.

In addition to sporting some very clean, internal cable routing, the Yeti's rear dropouts are, well, simply beautiful...in a monster truck/Conan the Barbarian kind of way. Actually, the entire frame is like this: beautifully overbuilt.

In short, this is not a bike that gets fickle and squirmy when the terrain gets rocky. The SB95 feels capable of mowing through the kind of terrain that breaks other bikes and I say that as a complement.

Of course, the other bane of 29ers (excess weight) does rear its head a bit with the SB95. Despite a fairly lightweight kit, our test bike weighs in at about 29 pounds without pedals. By contrast, the full-carbon 26er version (the SB-66) weighs a good three pounds less and that is a noticeable difference on big climbs and after long days in the saddle.

Yeti debuted the dual-link "Switch" suspension system on the SB66. This 29er version operates on the same basic platform, which was designed by David Earle of The Sotto Group. The new suspension system is a major departure for Yeti and, in my opinion, a huge leap forward in performance.

As for the suspension, you’re looking at roughly five inches of travel (front and rear). The SB95’s rear suspension feels a bit more progressive than what I’ve experienced on the slightly longer (six-inch) travel SB-66 models, but when it comes to actually rolling over logs and big rocks, the SB95 is every bit as capable as its smaller-wheeled sibling—the larger wheel size definitely makes itself known here, as the rear wheel merrily skips over obstructions that want to hang up smaller 26er wheels.

Pedaling efficiency is also excellent. I generally wind up climbing with the rear shock set wide open (that is, with an absolute minimum of ProPedal compression damping). True the SB95 isn’t the flyweight, climb-consuming monster that goes by the name SB66c, but despite the extra poundage Yeti’s wagon wheeler motors nicely up climbs quite nicely.

Do I like the SB95? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? If you’re eyeing more aggressive 29ers, you should add this to your list, right alongside the Intense Tracer 29, Kona Satori, Banshee Prime and Niner WFO.

Do I actually prefer this 29er version to the 26er (SB-66) model?

Now, that’s an interesting question, and one that I’ll be tackling in the pages of a future issue of BIKE. Stay tuned for more.

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