Review: Yeti SB130 X01 Race Turq| Bible of Bike Tests 2019


The Up Side

There's almost no other non-XC bike that can match the SB 130's eagerness to climb. It's lightweight, accelerates like it has a motor, and floats cleanly through technical climbs.

Down Time

The SB 130 is long and wants to be ridden hard. It hits way above its rear wheel travel number, but needs to be piloted aggressively.

Dollar for Dollar

With perhaps the industry's highest dentist approval rating, Yeti's aren't known for their value. Our test model was decidedly doctor-priced, but you can actually get into an SB 130 for 5,200 bucks.

The SB130 is long. It also has travel. Therefore, it's a long-travel bike. It's a long-travel bike in spite of its rather diminutive actual amount of rear-wheel travel, of—you guessed it because it's in the name—130 millimeters.

Truth be told, we started out riding this versatile new 29er on our short-travel course, which was sort of a mistake. Actually, we prefer to call it a learning experience. Thanks to its proprietary Switch Infinity suspension, the bike is remarkably efficient. There's no doubt that it was one of the fastest and most fun bikes around the short-travel loop. If it were considered a short-travel bike, it'd be right near the top of the litter.

But this cheetah needed more range to really open things up. So, we went over to the long-travel course—where it belongs because it has 150 millimeters of fork travel and a 65.5-degree headtube angle, duh—and it was right at home there, too. There aren't a lot of bikes that can behave so well on punchy technical ups and downs, and then mob through steep, chundery, drawn-out descents with the same ferocity.

Short-travel tendencies with a long-travel attitude.

So how do we categorize the SB130? Is it short travel because of its rear-wheel travel, or is it long travel based on the fork? Maybe it's both. It's a short-travel bike with a long-travel fork, that climbs like a little bike but descends like a big one. That sure simplifies it, huh? Perhaps we'll just call it mid-travel. Or mid-travel-shred. Best thing to do when you find yourself in a classic categorization conundrum is to shut up and go ride.

Geometry: Yeti SB130

And when we do that, we learn that the SB130 has a considerably long reach—460 millimeters for the medium and 480 for the large. Those represented large and XL reach numbers a very short time ago. Correction, we didn't learn those numbers by riding it—that happened when we looked up the geometry. What we did learn by riding it though, was that it feels long. Wicked long. Not just because it is, but also because there's a slack 65.5-degree head angle with a reduced-offset fork attached to it. Slack headtubes make steering slower and increase high-speed stability. So does increasing trail, which is what short-offset forks do.

Want speed? The SB130 likes speed.

What we get, then, is a bike that wants to go really, really fast. Like a cheetah. The SB130 has no idea that it doesn't have a ton of travel out back. It couldn't care less, as long as it's hauling ass. Which, is something it's quite good at. The suspension feels decidedly ground-huggy, has nice off-the-top suppleness, is predictable and supportive throughout and doesn't suffer from harsh bottoming. It turns out that little double-popsicle-looking thing in the linkage actually turns a little bit of travel into a lot-bit.

Form and function.

So, it's a long, short-long-travel bike that does just about everything well. Sounds like a dream, right? The perfect bike, even? Yeah, perhaps. But there's a catch. You have to relearn how to ride a mountain bike to get the full effect. And, once you learn how to ride the SB130, you realize that there are no more chill rides. We'll explain:

The bike corners exceptionally well, but it requires the rider to completely shift his or her weight forward over the front end. It can actually feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first, as you timidly inch farther and farther forward, corner after corner, to get the front wheel to stick. That much forward bias would pitch you over the bars on a lot of other bikes, so it takes some practice to get used to it. Also, it takes more energy, so when you get tired and want to sit up and relax, the bike will understeer and blow corners. But when you're switched on, the SB130 will not disappoint.

Are you qualified to ride an SB130? That depends, how many push-ups can you do?  

Check out the rest of the Short-Travel 29 class

Q&A With Chris Conroy, president, Yeti Cycles

With its new super bikes, Yeti has taken longer and slacker to new dimensions, and at this point, it's hard to imagine reaches getting stretched any more. Do you think we've finally reached the limits of progressive 29er geometry? Why/why not?  

It’s tough to define the limits of geometry or any other innovation in mountain biking. The sport continues to progress and that allows us all to push designs forward. We don't view geometry in a vacuum—it's an integral part of the complete system. Kinematics, packaging and travel all play an important role in making a solid-riding bike and if any one of those variables changes, it changes the equation. As the variables exist now, we've likely hit the limit on progressive geometry, but stay tuned … .

If someone is torn between an SB130 and an SB150, how would you explain the advantages of the 130 over the 150?

The SB150 is a race bike that was designed for unbridled speed. It's a great choice for anyone who wants to go fast and is gravity leaning. The SB130 is still a ripper, but it feels more neutral, due in large part to the steeper head angle and suspension kinematics. It's more versatile on the trail and is rider-agnostic: It can go fast up or down depending on how it's ridden.

Hallelujah for water bottles bosses inside the front triangle! What design concessions did you have to make to achieve this on the 130?

Yep, the water bottle was a big deal. We had several design goals with the SB130: explore and implement progressive geometry, add a size small to the size lineup (previously the SB55 was M-XL), fit a water bottle within the front triangle with a piggyback shock, lower the standover height, maintain the pedaling efficiency/anti-squat properties of Switch Infinity and modify the leverage rate to allow for greater shock compatibility, as well as offer a larger tuning window for varying rider weights and styles.

With the addition of the shock extension to the Switch Infinity layout, we were able to manipulate the leverage rate within a huge range, independently of other kinematic variables such as anti-squat. This provides the flexibility to position the shock to fit a water bottle in the frame while obtaining the ideal leverage rate.