Words by: Liam Woods
Yeti Cycles has always been a forward thinking brand, making bikes ahead of their time with a very unique ride feeling, but one thing they also do well is listen to consumer demand and riders’ needs. Introducing the new Yeti SB115, a 115mm rear travel 29” bike that really doesn't fit in a normal mountain bike category, which is our favorite style of bike to ride. Yeti previously had the SB100 and SB130 for model year 2020, and while the SB100 is a totally capable XC-ish bike, and the SB130 is a do-it-all trail bike, the gap between the two was apparent and some riders, including Jeff and myself, noticed. Splitting the gap perfectly, the SB115 covers this XC+, downcountry, light trail or whatever name you wanna put on this bike. For us, it's just exactly what we want to ride. You can do long all day rides with tons of climbing, or you can go out and blast your way down some singletrack. You would be amazed by what 115mm of rear travel and 130mm of front travel paired with good geometry can handle.
As I mentioned above, geometry is key to how a bike of this travel range rides. Similar to the rest of the industry trend, you see longer reach numbers, slacker head tube angles, and steeper seat tube angles, all put in a package for all day ripping. Some highlights on the SB115 are a 67.6 degree head tube angle, a 74.1 seat tube angle and a 436.7mm chainstay length. Reach numbers are longer than some short travel bikes but not on the extreme side, with a medium rocking a 430.6mm reach and a large at 450.6mm reach. For the entire geometry chart, check it out below.
Yeti has always set up their bikes to be able to rip straight from the showroom flow without any changes needed, and it's no different with the SB115. Having lots of amazing riders working for Yeti, it's no wonder why they don't skimp out on tires, brakes or small parts to save weight or cost, which is something I think everyone can appreciate. Since I mentioned tires, this short travel bike comes with Maxxis rubber front and rear, with the front tire being a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 and the rear a Maxxis Aggressor 2.3,. This is quite a bit of rubber for a bike with only 4.5 inches of rear travel. Same with the brakes, as ALL build kits get spec’d with 4 piston brakes, no matter if you have a SRAM or Shimano build. Your brakes will not be lacking and those are matched with 180mm rotors front and rear, as well. Other highlights include Fox 2021 suspension front and rear as well as dropper post kits (once 2021 models are available), 170mm cranks on all bikes and SRAM build kits will get the new expanded range of 10-52t (once available). Check out the list below for a breakdown of all the build kits.
So you might say the SB100 and SB115 are very similar, and that is because they are, but Yeti didn't just long shock the SB115 and call it a day. There are plenty of revisions around this bike with probably the biggest being to the rear suspension linkage. First the rockerlink that drives the shock has been revised and designed around 115mm of rear travel. There is an included roller bearing shock hardware on the rear shock mount that matches up with the rocker link. This helps deliver a smooth off the top feel with the rocker link and kinematics tuned for a supportive and bottomless feeling throughout the travel. This leads to the last bit of the suspension linkage that the Switch Infinity sees a revision or update. Previously on the SB100, Yeti changed the Switch Infinity from running front to back like on the SB130 and SB150 to side to side, making more room in the frame. A smaller travel bike like this can get away with a smaller Switch Infinity. But some riders when riding the SB100 at or above its limits found that this new unit had a tendency to come loose. Well, Yeti wants its bikes to be able to be ridden as hard as the rider is capable of, so they updated the Switch Infinity link. Now the link has threaded bolts that thread right into the Switch Infinity that has a locking nut on the backside, so instead of a male and female bolt you have a threaded unit with a locking nut. After the first few rides (we pushed this bike hard), the Switch Infinity was solid and looking at the new design we can see how this will be much more durable and reliable. We're stoked to see Yeti make these small changes that improve the end user experience.
Yeti SB100 Switch Infinity on the left, Updated Yeti SB115 Switch Infinity on the Right
A few other differences are on the build kit side of things. Firstly, the SB115’s rear shock has a longer stroke than the SB100 and up front you get a longer fork at 130mm on the SB115 versus the 120mm on the SB100. While that means you won't get the lightweight 120mm Fox Step Cast or even switch to the Rockshox SID Ultimate, the 130mm fork makes for a more capable bike. As noted in the build kit, the SB115 gets a bigger tire, with the front going from a 2.3 Minion DHF on the SB100 to a 2.5 Minion DHF on the SB115 as well as the brakes get burlier. Yeti makes the move from 2 piston brakes on the SB100 to 4 pistons brakes and 180mm rotors on the SB115.
When you throw a leg over a Yeti, there is a special feel that you get that isn't apparent on any other bike. We're not sure what kind of black magic or deal with the devil they may have made but it's a pretty great feeling. The same applies to the SB115. Right when I first pedaled this bike after building it, I immediately knew it was a Yeti Cycles shredder. On the first ride I took it out to our normal lunch loop trails. They are a good mix of fire road climbs with some steep, loose sections and some singletrack descents that offer a bit more chunk than a smooth XC singletrack, but don't require too much travel and only have small drops or jumps. After the first trail and getting used to the SB115, you can immediately tell it has a bit more travel and composure than the SB100. It's what you would expect with 15mm more rear travel and 10mm more up front, but it's also the tune and revision to the kinematics that I think made this so apparent.
When climbing the SB115, it felt smooth and fast, and also very similar to the little brother SB100. I really didn't feel any hindrance in pedaling performance and actually felt like I had a bit more traction while climbing loose or rocky sections on the SB115 over the SB100. While you have a beefier build kit that might make it feel slower, I don’t think the efficiency took a hit, which is something that you always want to see when getting a bit more travel on a bike. One thing I did notice was that even with the stem slammed down, it felt a bit high when climbing on the steep terrain. I had to put a bit more weight on the front wheel to keep it down and holding traction on steep switchbacks. The bike does have a positive rise stem and a riser bar so that could easily be combated with a different setup, but it’s worth noting since we rode the stock T2 build kit. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t need to use the climb switch at all while climbing and I think at this point with 2020/2021 models, that shouldn’t ever be needed. Bikes these days can climb well open and not have pedal bob.
Once you get the bike to the top and start heading down is where the big differences are made over the SB100. While I mentioned it's more composed over rough terrain than the SB100, I also felt like the travel is better used on the SB115. The SB115 has a very soft off the top feel, which is probably a combination of the revised linkage and roller bearing but also the Fox 2021 rear shock and the tune Yeti and Fox worked out. With the geometry and more travel matched with the beefy build kit, the SB115 really does ride like a trail bike while being a bit more efficient in the flatter or more pedaly sections of trail. Both Jeff and I were able to get a few weeks of riding on the bike and really felt like it hits the spot for what Yeti aimed for. It’s more than an XC bike but not a trail bike. Most local trails around the country don’t call for big 150mm forks, but you also want to have a bit more fun than what 100mm can provide out back. That is the Yeti SB115, a capable light trail bike that you can ride to the top and have a blast going down. The only thing I noticed on the SB115 when going down is the same as climbing, the front end felt a bit high when on not-so-steep trails. The front wheel needed a bit more weight to keep traction and it was more of an adjustment to be comfortable with flat, loose corners. Again, that can be fixed with a quick cockpit change, but it’s worth noting if you like a lower front end.
Both Jeff and I were able to get a few weeks of riding on the bike and it really feels like Yeti nailed it. It's more than an XC bike and it's not a trail bike, but let's face it, that's exactly the kind of bike most terrain calls for. Yeti really filled their line up with the introduction of the SB115, it's exactly what you need and nothing you don’t. We are stoked to see new bikes from Yeti and can't wait to see what sweet custom builds come out of this bike.
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.