Twenty nine inch wagon wheels are making quite the appearance right now, especially when it comes to the mid-travel bike category. A mid-travel 29 inch bike that is capable of really doing it all is likely to be the type of bike that will suit most people. It’s the kind of bike that some people call the quiver killer. You can do a four hour pedal, take it to the bike park, or just ride it on your everyday trails. We are going to take a look at two that we really like, the Yeti SB4.5 and the Evil The Following MB. Both bikes are very similar on a spec sheet, but have completely opposite personalities on the trail.
When you look at both bike brands separately, it makes sense as to why these bikes may look similar on a geo chart, but exhibit totally different traits when on the trail. Yeti as a company has a very clean, efficient racer style approach to their bikes. They consider everything that might affect a rider’s time against the race clock, like the weight of every frame, clean lines that don’t get in the way of you moving the bike around, and anything else that would make for the best overall riding bike they can engineer.
Evil, on the other hand, takes a very different route. The style they pioneered, which several other bike companies have started to follow, came to life with first generation Following. Featuring a very strong, purposely over-built frame, it can pedal to the top, but it excels on the descents. In the end, they are trying to make the most fun bike going downhill. Yeti and Evil demonstrate their unique bike philosophies through their SB4.5 and Following MB, respectively.
Let's break down the geometry similarities and differences between the two. First of all, our SB4.5 is running a very close to stock build. It has a 140mm Fox 34 fork up front. The Following MB is set up in the Low flip chip position (which is actually the higher of the two positions: Low and X-Low) and is rocking a 140mm Rockshox Pike up front. Headtube angles between the two are similar with the SB4.5 at 67.4° and the Following MB at 67.0°.
Head tube Angle = 67.7°
Seat tube Angle = 73.3° Effective
Chainstay Length = 437mm
Reach = 444mm
Wheelbase = 1180mm
Head tube Angle = 67.0°
Seat tube Angle = 73.9°
Chainstay Length = 430mm
Reach = 452mm
Wheelbase = 1181mm
As you can see on paper, some of the main things we look at are very similar. The Following MB features a slightly slacker headtube angle and a shorter chainstay. Reach between the two is close, wheelbase is almost exact, and effective seat tube angles are similar. However, it’s the actual seat tube angles where these bikes differ significantly. The Following MB actual seat tube angle is much more slack thanks to the significant kink in the seat tube which puts the seat pretty far back. More on this in a bit.
The other few differences to talk about before we get into ride impressions are the different features on the bike. Starting at the front, the SB4.5 sports a rather traditional headset of ZS44/ZS52, while the Following MB has a custom made headset (comes pressed in) of a ZS44 upper and a massive ZS62 lower. Evil’s huge head tube gives the front end a ridiculous amount of stiffness. The shocks also are much different. The SB4.5 comes stock with a Fox Float DPS and the Following MB has a trunnion mounted Rockshox Super Deluxe. The Fox on the Yeti is suited for XC/trail duty while the Rockshox on the Evil is more trail/enduro/freeride/DH oriented. This makes a huge differences in how the bikes perform.
The last major frame difference is the ability to use a chainguide and optional bash guards. The Yeti doesn’t include ISCG tabs on the frame and it’s also a pressfit BB, so there’s no way to get a simple chain guide on nor a chain/bash combo. The Following MB, on the other hand, comes with a built in chain guide on top and also has two ISCG tabs with a custom bash option available, giving you the ability to do both. Again, these small details show the different personalities of the brands.
I’ve had the chance to put a significant amount of time on both of these bikes over the last year, so I know them inside and out. While we all have our personal favorites from a wide range of bikes (in the interest of staying unbiased, I will not name mine for the review), our shop employees are most often choosing between these two quiver killers. Getting rides on different builds and all sorts of terrain gives us a chance to dive deeply into these two rigs. There are certainly places where one bike can excel over the other, but as an overall winner, let's get down to it.
Starting with the Yeti SB4.5, this bike can really impress a rider on the climbs. While it’s much more than an XC bike, it sports some serious pedaling efficiency. Steep punchy climbs or out of the saddle jolts nearly become effortless as just about everything you put into the bike makes it go forward. I don’t think anyone will complain about a bike being able to fly up climbs. Even though it’s not why most of us ride, it’s a factor I always look at when picking a bike. Downhill performance on the SB4.5 is very controlled. Getting used to the bike is almost immediate, so it’s easy to start going full speed on the first descent. While it might not be extremely playful, a rider who likes to jump and manual can still get their fix and then some. A very smooth, consistent feel over pretty much any terrain means the Yeti SB4.5 really covers the trail bike category and is an incredibly versatile bike.
To save the best for last...maybe...we have the Evil Following MB. While it isn’t the climber the SB4.5 is, it's not a slug either. It comes in much more average on the climbing scale, but hey, it gets you to the top without cursing in pain (rider results may vary). As mentioned earlier, the seat tube angle is what I feel is really hindering the pedaling performance. As a rider with long legs, the actual seat tube angle gets very exaggerated and in some cases you feel as if you’re sitting over the rear axle. While the compression adjustments help, and slamming the seat forward is a fix, kinda, I think a steeper seat tube on this bike would change lives :) Speaking of changing lives, if you point the bike downhill and do not smile, I would be concerned.
The Following MB screams fun. The shorter chainstays means the bike turns and swaps direction on a dime. Pair that with a DH quality shock and you can really get wild on this bike. As the shorter chainstays require a period of adjustment (for me anyway), once you know your balance spots you are ready for some #manualmonday videos. Pulling into a manual or getting the front wheel up for some trail features is not an issue. I could ride a Following MB and just manual on smooth trails all day long. The Super Deluxe out back is not shy about big hits, either. Punching way above its desired bike category, the Following MB can take bike park hits all day long and pedal to the top after.
While we don’t intend to disappoint, we’re not declaring a winner as this is more of a comparison than a shootout, so it's going to come down to rider preferences. Are you the rider looking to hit every jump, manual any chance you get, and really push some limits of what a mid-travel bike can do? Maybe Evil’s Following MB is a match for you. Or maybe you like to earn your turns, climb to the top, log heavy days in the saddle and have a blast shredding the descents as fast as you can. An efficient and confident bike like the Yeti SB4.5 might be the way to go! As I mentioned at the start, each bike really represents what each company is after and is therefore a good representation of what kind of rider you’d like to be… Are you into maximum fun or all about that efficient bike to crush your friends? These bikes can do either.