Yeti Cycles: YEti SB165
By Alex Evans

Yeti Cycles: The SB165 is a new trail bike that offers an impressive range of performance features and top-of-the-line geometry. At first glance, it may not appear to have the same stiffness or agility advantage of other Yeti models; however, review of trail time on a number of these bikes has revealed noticeable differences. In fact, all of the pros have been quick to compare the SB 165 to other leading trail bikes, and many have found significant differences in both performance and comfort. So what makes the difference between this trail bike and all others? 

Yeti Cycles

So ending up with a 165mm travel, coil shock, 27.5in-wheeled rig took me a little by surprise to be totally honest, but I’m hoping that reverting back to the smaller wheel size and bigger travel won’t be a hindrance out in the woods. The Yeti SB165 is currently the Colorado brand’s most radical bike on offer, with the most travel and slackest head-tube angle, it’s even compatible with dual crown forks. That means it’s a gravity-focused rig and, because of that, has been tested to Yeti’s downhill strength standards.

Along with plenty of travel and modern geometry – it’s got a 77-degree seat-tube angle and a 480.1mm reach – bottle cage mounts, internal cable routing and a full carbon fibre frame it looks like it ticks plenty of my ‘must-have’ boxes. Obviously, going for an uber-expensive bike wasn’t a conscious choice, and I’d have been just as happy on a frame costing half or even a quarter of the price, but once I’d secured the frameset, it seemed fitting to build it up with a host of high-spec parts befitting of Yeti’s boutique reputation.

The spec definitely fulfils a need, too, and isn’t just lavishly luxurious without reason, but more on that below.

Yeti SB165 descending performance

The Yeti’s suspension and geometry combine to make it a true monster truck, which is especially handy when the trails get rough, fast or technical (or all three at once!).
This feeling of invincibility – where the rear-end absorbs bumps quickly, smoothly, and competently – means that line choice is easy and grip is monumental, even on rough, square-edge, bump-laden cambers that would normally catch lesser bikes out. 

Thanks to the rear end’s progressivity, the initial stroke is soft enough to be forgiving and track the ground with impressive precision while ramping up enough towards the mid-and end-stroke to give loads of support up take-offs through large, high-speed berms and drastic jumps and drops to flat. The suspension’s kinematics suit the coil-sprung Fox DHX2 shock well.

Even if my riding gets messy with poor line choice – towards the rock-strewn edges of trails – I know the Yeti is capable of munching up pretty much everything in its path. And that’s a great feeling because it lets me concentrate on either getting my riding back in shape or just going faster.

Yeti Cycles

And even the 27.5in wheels don’t seem to hold it back. I’ve not had any issues with feeling like I’m getting sucked into holes or bucked around, suggesting the SB165’s chassis is ever-so capable. And then there’s the geometry, with its slack 63.5-degree head-tube angle enhancing the suspension’s confidence-inspiring competence. Couple that with a lengthy 480mm reach figure, and it takes large weight shifts to upset its composure, making it perfect for hammering down the trails with near impunity. 

Arguably, the chainstays could be longer – at just 433mm, they’re fairly short. It does make the rear end of the bike happy to be flicked about, but a longer figure here wouldn’t necessarily make it harder to maneuver and should further improve its stability.

Yeti SB165 climbing performance

A coil-sprung, 165mm travel enduro-come-park bike shouldn’t be as capable as the SB165 is when ascending. Okay, so it’s not XC-bike fast, but it is comfortable to winch to the top of the descents. Although Yeti claims its Switch Infiniti link increases anti-squat around the sag point – which should reduce pedal bob – my experiences differ. It would be fair to say the rear suspension is more inclined to bob, whether seated and spinning the legs at higher cadences or grinding a harder gear while standing. The rear shock has a climb lever, which stiffens it up enough to all but eliminate unwanted rear-end movement, but this is at the sacrifice of comfort and grip.

Yeti Cycles

And that’s the thing with this bike – I was never expecting to set any PRs when heading uphill, but have been impressed with how comfortable it is to gently spin to the top of my favourite descents, helped massively by the 77-degree effective seat-tube angle putting my hips more central over the bike and the comfort-focused rear suspension that’s helped to keep my tush happy. 

I’ve genuinely come to love how the Yeti rides, and it would be fair to say it’s exceeded my expectations of what a 165mm travel bike can do. But that also means it’s raised the bar for what I know is possible, raising my baseline of potential performance.

Yeti SB165 Custom Build

The SB165 custom build has a nice proportioned fit and feel about it. The fit on the Yeti is a little on the loose goo side, but it’s not extremely uncomfortable either. The main thing I would like to see improved upon is the suspension. The Yeti SB165 has a full-track dual zone system which is supposed to be a little more aggressive than the stock system, but it’s hard to tell if it’s really any better.