Yeti SB120 - Employee Bike Check with Liam Woods

employee Bike Check: Liam Woods

Yeti SB120 Custom Build

What Is This Bike For and Why Did You Pick It?

The Yeti SB120 is currently the Colorado brand's shortest travel full suspension bike in their lineup. With 120mm of rear travel (following Yeti’s theme for naming bikes after the rear travel number) and coming stock with a 130mm fork, the SB120 sits in the middle between XC or downcountry bike on one side and trail bike on the other. This category is my favorite bike to ride for many reasons, but there are two major reasons for it. Firstly, with my XC background, I enjoy bikes that pedal well and are efficient. I also like to do long backcountry rides that might have some chunk and fast sections mixed in there. Secondly, for my everyday bike, this style of bike really is the best for the trails right out my front door, which is usually a mix of XC singletrack, short repeatable laps that are more manmade style trails, and being at the north end of the Santa Monica mountain range, I can quickly get in big loops that make a bike like this shine.

So over the years, I have built many shorter travel bikes where I am looking for a balance of how efficient the platform is along with how capable it is downhill. This also comes into play for an event that I love to do, the Downieville Classic. Downieville is a two-day race where day one is a point-to-point XC race with 5,000 feet of climbing, a chunky and fast 7,000 foot descent, and day two starts at the top of the mountain and drops into Downieville which is about an hour of mostly descending. Oh, and both of these days have to be done on the same bike, with the same components, and the same weight. It’s the perfect place to ride a bike that is both efficient and capable, balancing everything from weight and a fast tire for the climbs, while having enough suspension, brakes and tires for the downhill. In September of 2022, I was lucky enough to head to Yeti HQ and check out the new 2023 bikes. As soon as I saw and tested the SB120, I wanted to build one up with my own choice of components to see if it would be my goldilocks. I got one right away, and have spent the last few months riding it in a few different configurations and feel I have found the sweet spot. I’m coming off my last bike, a Revel Ranger that I also did a full bike check on. That bike didn’t lack anything that I needed for this category, but after two years on two different Ranger builds, it was time to try something new. The SB120 also fondly reminded me of my all time favorite bike, the SB4.5, which was way ahead of its time when it came out back in 2017. It was also the first bike that I would do the Downiville Classic on.


Frame Model & Size

Yeti SB120 | Large


140mm front / 120mm rear

Handlebar Width


Seatpost Height


Wheel Size

29" Front and Rear


27lbs with pedals & cage


As bikes keep growing, I find myself being more in a “tween” size from many brands. Having ridden mostly size large bikes in the past, some brands are so long now that I prefer to ride a medium. At 5’10”, I chose to ride a Yeti SB120 in a size large, with a 475mm reach, which I find to fit quite well and it's just at the longest reach of a short travel bike that I would like to ride. When Yeti updated the bikes for 2023, a lot of the full suspension details remained largely unchanged, and for good reason. They work really, really well with the current form of Switch Infinity suspension. What they did was refine every other little detail they could. We have a full video and article on the SB120 so check that out for all the details. I will go over some of my favorite touches that make this new SB120 so good. While this first one isn’t a deal breaker to me, it's a welcomed change, which is the threaded bottom bracket. I think at this point it speaks for itself. Next is all the noise reduction Yeti did on these bikes. The cable routing at every entry or exit point on the frame has anchor points to keep it from moving at all and a nice guide around the main pivot of the Switch Infinity. They also beefed up the chainstay protection and added some rubber peaks. The pivot hardware has also been updated for better serviceability and also keeps everything working better in the back of the bike. With an aggressive geometry, the bike has a 66.5-degree headtube angle with a 130mm fork, a 475mm reach, 439mm chainstays, a 1250mm wheelbase, and a 77-degree seat tube angle.


The stock suspension spec from Yeti was pretty dialed, so I ran with it. It’s rocking a Fox 34 Factory fork with a Grip2 damper and a Fox Float DPS Factory rear shock. Up front, I had planned to put a 140mm air shaft in the bike but I did want to try it with the 130mm for a few rides. While performing great, I felt like my thoughts of a 140mm air shaft would give me the feel I want. The front wheel is a smidge farther out, with a .4 -.5 degree slacker headtube angle and really I feel as though Yeti’s Switch Infinity works so well that it can be paired up 20mm from what the rear is. Once I did that, the bike felt perfectly balanced to me and I ended up with 73 psi in the fork with two volume spacers, LSC fully open, HSC two clicks from fully open, and a neutral rebound position. For the rear shock I started with about 30% sag and felt that I could go up a bit in pressure to give me the ride feel I want. While sag is a good starting point, on a short travel bike I like something closer to 27-28%. This landed me at 178 psi in the back. I still felt like the bike bottomed out just a touch too much. So I added a .2 larger volume spacer from the stock .4 to a .6 spacer.

To conclude the category of "Tubes That Slide and Have Seals, I first built the bike with a Wolftooth Resolve dropper post, which I loved and worked flawlessly. I had a 200mm travel post on there and really loved how rowdy I could get on that bike. But then Fox came out with a longer travel Transfer SL with 150mm of drop, and I felt like that would give me some weight savings without compromising much downhill capability since a 150mm drop on a short travel bike is still quite good.

Fork Settings

Fork PSI


Volume spacers










Rear Shock Settings

Fork PSI


Volume spacers






Front End/Contact Points:

Out front, I have a full Trail One Components cockpit. Yup, shocker. Having helped design the specs on all Trail 1 components, it's only fitting that they work for me super well. Starting with a Crockett carbon handlebar with a 15mm rise and cut to 750mm wide, this rise bar gives me a great feel without being too high. I paired that to a Rockville stem in a 40mm length. For me, the 40mm length feels the most natural on current bikes. I think having the stem length be as close to the fork’s offset and keeping the handlebar center close to the front hub center as far as distance in front of the headtube goes, makes a huge difference in handling. Shorter to me feels like I push the front end a bit and longer feels like I flop more and am less stable. For grips I have the Hell’s Gate grips. I’ve been on these for over three years and they feel so natural to me. The slightly larger diameter really helps me not deathgrip and adds some extra cushion.

My butt rests on a Fizik Anteres R1 saddle. While technically this is categorized as a road saddle, I've been riding this shape for 8-9 years now and it works for me so I don't try anything else. With carbon rails and a carbon seat base, it’s light yet strong and does not develop any sag. I also choose to run the version without any cutout or relief, which is the original version. The side of the channel or relief simply don’t agree with me. I think a saddle shape that fits you well and a quality bib like the KETL MTN Canyon Bib are often overlooked. With saddle comfort, people go deep down a rabbit hole. The last contact points on my bike are pedals. I recently made the switch over to Time pedals, having ridden Shimano for years. I tried other clipless pedals but kept coming back to Shimano. Once I tried Time I felt this platform was solid and I could get in and out easily. On this bike I run the Time Speciale 8 pedals, which have enough platform to feel solid on the downhills without too much weight or bulk of their larger pedal, the Time Speciale 12.


When pushing the limits on short travel bikes, I find stock spec will often be underpowered and also maybe undersized in the rotor department. Brakes, believe it or not, do not add a ton of weight when going up in spec, and it’s not a place I like to compromise too much. Previously this led me to run SRAM Code RSC brakes with 180mm rotors on my last Revel Ranger. For the SB120 I was going to do the same and then I heard that SRAM was coming out with a new Level brake in a four piston caliper. This intrigued me as I felt like this would give enough power yet fit this bike's purpose very well. So the SRAM Level Silver Ultimate Brakes found its way to my SB120 as soon as I could get my hands on them, paired with SRAM 180mm HS2 centerlock rotors. I also love when a bike has the correct sized rotors without adaptors, just a little OCD that comes out when stuff works well and looks good.


Arguably the most important part of this bike's setup are the wheels and tires. Not only am I kinda obsessed with wheels and especially tires, but it's also a weight you notice immediately and can change the whole ride quality of your bike. For what I want to do with this bike, wheel and tire choice are a huge component that I probably spend way too much time analyzing. The wheels were pretty easy to choose this time around. About six months ago BERD Wheels came out with their Hawk30 rim, a shallow depth, 30mm wide carbon rim with a wide rim lip that also is lightweight. Pair that with the feather light BERD spokes and that is an amazing combination. But recently BERD went the final step and made a hub to best work with their spoke, the Talon hub, which has a hook flange so the spoke can wrap around this hook and not be pulled through the j-bend hub. The Talon hubs also use a reliable dual ratchet system with a 36T engagement, that is enough engagement for quick accelerations but allows the rear travel to move freely as well. The HAWK30 rims and Talon hubs weigh in at a total 1300g for the wheelset, giving a great platform with 30mm wide rims that can take some rough terrain while still being on the lighter end of the 30mm wide options on the market. We have lots of articles on BERD Spokes, BERD Hawk27 rims and BERD Talon hubs for all the details.


Tires are something I spend way too much time thinking about, making spreadsheets to compare weights, trying tons of different combinations, all to find that goldilocks setup. I’m always searching for the best combination of grip, weight, rolling speed and of course flat protection because at the end of the day, the slowest tire is a flat tire. While this is always changing, my recent tire combos have been made up of two main tires with a third mixed in. For the most grip, I have been running the new Maxxis Forekaster 2.4 tire in dual compound. I find this a great intermediate tire that gives a bit more traction over a Rekon yet isn’t quite as slow as a Minion or Assegai. It works well in a wide range of conditions and so far I have been really impressed with this tire, front and rear. I have the Forekaster in 3c that I am testing now and think that it really makes it an amazing light trail front tire having the softer compound. As I am getting into some testing for Downieville Im going back and forth between running the Forekaster front with 3c and an Ikon 2.35 rear, this is a super fast combo, quite light and that Ikon 2.35 is a real sleeper for the xc crowd. The other combo I have been running is a Rekon front and rear. The Rekon feels a bit faster rolling than the Forekaster and also weighs about 110g less however, I dont think it has as much overall grip. After trying both back and forth I feel as through the Forekaster 3c front and Ikon 2.35 rear gives a good balance of rolling speed, grip and weight. The combo weighs about the same as the Rekon/Rekon but the front tire has more grip especially in the loose dirt and the Ikon rolls incredibly fast. Luckily I have some of the new Ikon 2.35 tires with the newly updated Maxx Speed compounds ready for Downieville that Maxxis claims are 25% faster than the current model. Lets hope my legs can keep up.


The drivetrain is pretty simple now. With SRAM Eagle XXSL Transmission just coming out, it is the lightest and best option for this bike. With a direct mount rear derailleur thanks to the frame spec of the SRAM UDH, the shifting is smooth, fast and the best I have ever ridden. With a 10-52t rear cassette and a 34t chainring, I have enough climbing gears while never topping out on a downhill. The chainring might drop to a 32t for Downieville to spin a bit more on that everlasting climb, but for now the 34t feels great. I also really like the new 2nd and 3rd gears in this new cassette, evening out the gaps a bit more. I find myself needing the 52t less and can spend more time in those other gears, especially with the 34t ring. For cranks they are the stock XXSL cranks but I have chosen to ride a 165mm crankset. I started to try a 165mm crank on the pedal bike last year and loved it. Fewer crank strikes, smoother pedal cadence and also keeps my hip flexors more open, which has been a spot of fatigue for me in the past.

So far I haven't found the need for a chain guide on this bike. The new SRAM XXSL drivetrain has amazing chain retention with the new rear derailleur and I’ve experienced zero dropped chains. There might be one on there for Downieville for reassurance as they don't weigh much, but as of now no guide and all is good.

ACCESSORIES and Special Touches:

Over the past few years, there have been fewer and fewer special touches that have needed to be done. Even the new SRAM direct mount rear derailleur takes care of some tricks that I used to do to other rear derailleurs. So I don't need to do much now, but I do like to always be prepared especially when I get out on those backcountry rides. I put a OneUp EDC tool in my steerer tube. I chose to thread my steerer tube on this bike as I feel it's super secure and I want the whole EDC kit with the C02 on the end, which I have 20g C02 there at all times. I always have a titanium Wolf Tooth Morse Cage bottle cage on there. It's simple, I have never lost a bottle and it has a ton of mounting spots so you can manipulate where the cage is mounted. This is helpful on so many full suspension bikes. I slam this cage as low as it can go, and I even dremel off a little bit of the mount so I can push it as far down in the frame as possible so I can run an extra large 26oz bottle if I need. Under the bottle cage is a mount for the DynaPlug Carbon racer plug tool. While I don't always have the carbon plug tool on the bike (I ride a normal DynaPlug and Stan’s Dart in my ride wallet), I keep the mount there for when I do want to go light and always have two plugs when needed. Lastly, I have a Worldwide Cyclery Occam strap holding a spare Tubolito tube, a tire patch, a C02 head, and some zip ties all wrapped in a small pouch from my Trail One Rockville stem (bags are great to repurpose like this). A little added rubber mastic tape around the rear tire and chain areas to prevent both scratches and noise and the bike is good to go. Quiet, fast, capable, fun, and easy on the eyes to top it off.


There is no denying that when you hop on a Yeti for the first time it has a different feel to it, a major reason why Yeti has developed a cult-like following. While they get the dentist joke often, I truly do feel that the way a Yeti rides and feels is totally different. You either love it or maybe you don't. I personally love it and have since my SB4.5. The Switch Infinity platform has this ability to remain smooth and efficient while pedaling, providing this feeling that every pedal stroke propels you with each watt you put in. Having found the full build spec on this SB120 I really like now, it has such a great balance of all things that matter to me. The 140mm fork and Grip2 damper really give the front end such a trail bike feel without weighing you down. The BERD wheels are another component that when you first ride it you can instantly tell these are super light wheels. Match that with some fast tires like the Rekon/Rekon and it gives you almost full xc bike acceleration.

As a whole, this bike really does blend the ups and down so well. While climbing, the steep seat tube angle puts you in a position over the front end and also keeps weight off the rear of the bike, which I feel adds to the rear suspension bobbing less and less like a couch. When I first built this bike up with a few different parts, I climbed this super technical singletrack that is about 2,000 ft of elevation gain in about five miles, something that I have trouble making every time. Coming off my Ranger I could feel this bike's wheelbase right away. I had to time my moves a little differently and put a little more body English in to get the back wheel over some square edge ledges or around switchbacks, both of which come often on this trail. But once I got used to it, I really liked the overall climbing feel of this bike. While not an XC bike uphill, it feels like the most efficient trail bike I've ever ridden.

Then once you go downhill is where the fun comes in. The slack angles and longer wheelbase for a bike like this really allow it to shine. I feel so stable that I found myself getting into trouble by running out of suspension, riding it harder than the trail bike I was on last year. With that the brakes didn't let me down and the Level 4 piston with the HS2 rotors slowed me down when needed. Overall, the Yeti Sb120 has been such a fun bike to dial in, really trying to find the best of both worlds (which is always impossible, but fun to try). I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year on this bike and how it performs at the Downieville Classic in July. Let’s just hope my body can be as ready as this bike will be.

June 19, 2023

Berd › Fizik › Fox › Maxxis › SRAM › Time › Trail One › Yeti ›

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