Words by: Trevor Mejia
The Yeti 160E is the first electric mountain bike produced by the brand and came out about a year ago. We were lucky enough to get some rides and first impressions on it before it launched. Our long-term review took a little longer than we expected, however, because of the now-normal supply chain issues and making sure our customers got bikes first.
So, did Yeti really make an e-bike that is designed to be raced? We think so and they made a platform specifically for the demands of an E Bike, which they injected with their proven race heritage to show their intentions. There have been a lot of companies scrambling to get their brand into the e-bike market, understandably so because of the influx in demand that we have seen over the past few years. The price of this is a generic looking bike that offers no versatility over the competition. Yeti wanted to take their time (five years) to develop an electric mountain bike that not only looks amazing but also blows other e-bikes out of the water in terms of performance on trail.
The Colorado brand chose to work with Shimano to power this bike with their EP8 motor boasting 85Nm of Torque and a 630Wh battery. This places the 160E amongst other competitors in the full size e-bike class. Using a Shimano system to support the bike allows users to have a reliable setup with global support and innovation for years to come.
Yeti’s new Sixfinity suspension system is a six-bar layout that was designed and engineered to work around the demands of motor forces and the extra battery weight. It is similar to Yeti’s Switch Infinity system found across their range of conventional full suspension bikes. When the shock is compressed, the lower link first moves upwards and then shifts downwards to allow for some unique suspension characteristics. Unlike Yeti’s Switch Infinity, there is no rail system with Sixfinity. The anti-rise was tuned to help with the deceleration of the bike, allowing more traction and consistent chassis movement when under heavy braking. Yeti knows that people are going to point this bike downhill and go fast so they tuned the suspension to work far past the capabilities of the motor’s 20 mph limit.
Yeti added a tuneable leverage rate for the shock with a simple adjustable chip on the bottom shock bolt. This allows the anti-rise and anti-squat numbers to stay the same while adding progressivity to the shock. The modes are 25%, 30%, and 35% progressivity to go from a more supported and efficient racing feel at 25% to a poppy lively feel at 35%. Yeti recommends the 35% option if you want to add a coil shock to the bike due to its linear nature. Stock configuration comes at 30% and after some adjustments we kept it at its stock setting.
The 160E has a straight, uninterrupted seat tube. This means that any length dropper post will fit in the bike, allowing maximum clearance for seatpost travel so your body weight can get back when the trail gets steep.
OneUp partnered with Yeti to create a custom chain guide that also assists in cable management for the rear derailleur housing. This is a neat feature that is not only functional but looks great in Yeti’s signature teal colorway. There are also custom cable guides on the rear triangle that hold them together to help eliminate noise. Internal cable management is supported with clips above the battery compartment to keep the cables in place.
The Yeti comes spec’d how we would want to ride it out of the box. This is something that we pay attention to and appreciate when companies understand the actual use of a bike. They offer only two build options, which makes the choice of which build to buy much simpler. Admittedly, it’s also a function of the struggling supply chain that we are experiencing in the bike industry. Both builds come with Yeti’s TURQ series carbon frame, rated for DH racing, stability and reliability. The T1 versus C1 build kits differ only in the level of component offered by the manufacturer. For example, the T1 build gets Fox Factory suspension, XT groupset and SRAM Code RSC brakes whereas the C1 build gets Fox Performance suspension, SLX groupset and SRAM Code R brakes.
We tested the C1 build and we loved the way it was spec'd. There is nothing limiting about this build. The real difference between the C1 and the T1 is that the upgraded components on the T1 have more features or adjustments available.
Yeti chose components that are strong, reliable and consistent, which meant choosing heavier components to ensure that the 160E is ready for whatever is thrown at it. All in, the 160E is a 50lb bike. Portly components like the Maxxis Double Down rear and EXO+ front casing tires as well as 220F and 200R SRAM Centerline rotors go a long way to ensure the bike is confidence inspiring and will meet the demands of the rider when pushing hard on trail.
DT Swiss wheels come spec'd on the bike with EX1700 on the T1 and E1900 on the C1. These are some of the strongest aluminum wheels on the market and we are glad they come stock on this hard hitting e-bike. Both builds have the option of upgrading to DT’s EXC 1501 carbon wheelset, if you so please.
The Yeti 160E boasts some good numbers for a race bred machine. The reach comes out to 460mm and 480mm for medium and large, respectively. Chainstay lengths are short by design at 447mm for quick cornering and a lively feel on the bike. The slack 64.5 degree headtube angle pairs well with the 170mm Fox 38, allowing confidence in the roughest and steepest terrain. Yeti designed the bike to have a 350mm bottom bracket height and paired with Shimano's 160mm crank arms, the 160E is ready to bolt up any climb that you throw at it. Seriously, these bikes are almost as much fun to climb as they are to descend.
We spent a few months riding Yeti’s newest E Bike around the dusty, rocky and loose trails of Southern California in the middle of summer. It was apparent very quickly that Shimano's EP8 motor does not quite have the raw power to keep up with other systems like Bosch and Brose on simple fire road climbs, but with 85Nm of torque, it will still make even the steepest of climbs with ease. The power delivery is smooth and feels efficient, and it is noticeably quiet when the motor is engaged. The motor does make a lot of noise when riding downhill and is not engaged. It sounds like something is completely loose in the bike but it is just the internal clutch in the EP8, which has been a common complaint about the motor. We suspect that down the line Shimano will fix this issue with a new motor, but we may have to wait a little bit for that. It’s a shame because of how quiet Yeti managed to make the rest of the bike.
Where the Yeti 160E really outperforms every other e-bike on the market is its downhill capabilities. We spent a few weeks consistently riding the loose and rough trails that the greater Los Angeles area has to offer. Everything from ripping singletrack to rough rock gardens and steep chutes. There was no area in particular that it excelled in, but handled everything with control and finesse. We experienced no issues with the bike and that is a testament to how great the bike comes out of the box. It’s true that the harder you push this bike, the smoother it feels, especially in its mid-stroke where the bumps seem to magically disappear. With its short chainstays and the medium sized bike that we were testing, the Yeti turns better than most bikes that we have ridden. This is unlike other e-bikes that tend to stand up in corners or have a lethargic feel all around. When pointed downhill, the 50lbs works towards your advantage, feeling very planted all around but still lively enough to pick out specific lines and set up for hard turns.
We were so impressed with how this C1 kit came out of the box that we didn’t need to change anything. Big rotors and powerful brakes have been more than capable of stopping this hard hitting bike on fast and steep trails. The tire spec with EXO+ front and DD rear is just enough to run fairly low pressures for a 50lb bike (25 psi front, 28 psi rear for us) and not have the tires roll. If this were a personal bike, we would be putting on DH casing tires and tire inserts to protect the rim from continual abuse and to allow us to run lower pressures. The Fox Performance suspension worked to provide a plush and supple initial travel for traction but ramped up quickly to give support from the forces that come with a descending e-bike. Of course, the added compression adjustments from the Fox Factory suspension would be nice but they’re not really necessary. We used Yeti’s shock setup calculator to provide a baseline setting which worked well and takes the confusion out of the set up process that most people run into.
Yeti has taken their time to make an e-bike that is on par with the quality that we have come to expect from the rest of their lineup. No cutting corners and a bike that is designed with purpose in mind. The Yeti 160E is no exception. These aren’t entry level E Mountain Bikes due to the price point and spec, but if you are an experienced mountain biker or have the budget for an e-bike that you want to push hard and possibly race, this is the bike for you. The 160E is a bike that gets better the faster you go and corners unlike any other e-bike we have ridden. A new standard to follow for on trail capabilities.