Long Term Test and Video: Yeti SB66 Carbon

Words by Mick Ross | Images by Flowtographer, Dave MusgroPro

The not-so-minor details

Product

Yeti SB66 Carbon

Contact

Yeti Australia
www.pureyeti.com.au

Price

AUD3,990.00

Weight

12.65kg

Positives

Hard charging bike that incorporates efficiency, stability, durability and killer looks into a highly desirable option for 26" wheel fans. The Ryan Gosling of suspension bikes.

Negatives

Mega bucks.
Original shock was insensitive, and made us unhappy.

Us

This Yeti was never actually meant to be a ‘long term test bike’ – but after a few weeks on board, we decided we’d do all we could to avoiding giving it back. So, here it is, almost a year on and going mighty strong, we give you the Yeti SB66 Carbon, the most desirable 26″ all-mountain bike in the cosmos.

 

Oh, hello super bike.

Oh, hello super bike.

Fact: the name SB is derived from the term ‘super bike’, good call, Yeti.

The SB66 came to us as a bare frame – a blank canvas – opening up amazing potential to build the sweetest bike ever. It was to be a test mule, where the Flow team would fit bits and bobs to it for reviewing. And since the beginning, it has seen many different parts, varied road trips, enduro events and loads of totally sick airtime. The best thing about long-term test bikes is that we are able to muck around with setup options, like cockpit, fork travel and rear shock tunes. Plus, the assessment of durability can come into play, which is somewhat hard with regular bike tests.

How did it fare? Do you really need to ask?

Suspension – the old switcheroo:

The SB66 Carbon runs Yeti’s Switch Technology suspension system – you’ll note the nice turquoise eccentric pivot just above and behind the bottom bracket. So what’s it all about? See if this makes sense:  As the bike moves through its travel, the fully-sealed eccentric ‘Switch’ rotates, moving in one direction in the early parts of the travel, before ‘switching’ its rotation deeper into the suspension movement. This allows the system to achieve what many dual link bikes (such as DW Link, Giant Maestro etc) accomplish, but without the linkages.

The Switch Technology allows the SB66 to have a rearward axle path to counteract suspension movement under pedalling forces in the early part of the stroke. The tension that pedalling puts on the chain helps to stiffen the suspension, and that’s what gives the Yeti a real spritely and efficient feel. Later in the stroke at around about 100mm into the travel, the turquoise coloured eccentric pivot cleverly switches direction, shortening the chain stays to limit the effect of  chain growth.

This allows Yeti to give the SB66 an axle path that allows for both pedal efficiency at the top, and then the ability to use all of its travel without excessive pedal feedback when the time is right.

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A perfect balance of frame stiffness and solid pivot axles gives the rider confidence in the Yeti’s stability at times of need, like when you’re completely out of control and about to compress so hard your eyes pop out.

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There’s that cheeky little patented switch pivot, responsible for the SB’s efficiency and plushness. An adaptor mount for ISCG tabs is available if you choose to run a chain guide, but we’ve been loving this Wolf Tooth ring that requires no guide at all. Clean, neat and quiet.

 

Up and down on the SB66 at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro - Stromlo.

Up and down on the SB66 at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro – Stromlo.

The bike responds exceptionally well under power, the rear shock is visibly stable when mashing away on the pedals. We found ourselves using the FOX Propedal adjustment in the mid-range to light setting most of the time, even when descending.

It’s quite unassuming in its action though, whereas some rear suspension bikes have quite obvious anti bob/squat/energy robbing bizzos, the SB66 just feels very neutral. It looks like a single pivot from a distance, but on the trail it feels a lot more like an FSR or a DW Link bike, with a perfect amount of suspension activity when climbing and under brakes to maintain great traction.

Any durability concerns have long since faded. After almost a year of riding, we removed the shock from the bike and the suspension up and down to determine how the Switch Pivot was faring. It’s still silky smooth, top marks there.

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From jumping in Stromlo puddles at the Flow Rollercoaster and straight into the photo studio.

Confidence plus:

We love the way the SB66 takes big impacts in its stride, particularly how it handles big impacts even when already deep into its travel. Pushing the bike hard into the trail, or pumping down the backside of a rocky step to gain speed feels great.

The Yeti holds excellent momentum when ploughing through repeated impacts and the way we set up the bike in terms of component choices definitely lends itself to the more aggressive end of the spectrum, so letting off the brakes and hanging on tight became the norm. The SB66 prefers to be ridden with real gusto, much harder than its predecessor the Yeti 575 – the rear suspension feels so supportive and balanced. It’s not one of those bikes that reacts to every single little thing that it rolls over, hence why it can be ridden really rough without it squirming or feeling mushy and vague.

A temporary 2012 model FOX shock - RP23 in place of the FOX CTD shock which had some issues, but nothing we couldn't sort out.

A 2012 model FOX shock – we used an RP23 in place of the FOX CTD shock which had some issues.

Teething issues:

Initially when we first took the Yeti out into the woods, we found the rear suspension feel to be surprisingly choppy and the early part of the suspension travel very insensitive. Compared to the aluminium SB66 we had ridden prior, it felt surprisingly harsh – quite the opposite of what you’d expect from a carbon bike. We persisted with it though, mucking about with air pressures but with no luck, the bike just felt wooden. Slightly frustrated we sent the shock back to Yeti and the diagnosis was that it was a bit of a dud with too low air pressure in the Boost Valve. We actually replaced the shock with an  older model FOX RP23 which made the bike feel amazing and smooth like it should be.

Some of the neatest rock and chain slap protection we've ever seen, in all the right places and smartly integrated.

Some of the neatest rock and chain slap protection we’ve ever seen, in all the right places and smartly integrated. Water bottle mounts are under the frame. This not too much of an issue for the hydration bag wearers, but it makes for very awkward water bottle use.

Geometry and component choices:

Geometry wise, the SB66 is long, with our medium frame stretching over 61cm in top tube length. We like this as it can help widen the bike’s range of usability. Fitted to the medium frame, a stem length over 70mm the position will make the riding position very open and roomy, and steering won’t be too nervous or twitchy when the climbs begin. For longer and calmer rides, we’ve fitted an 80mm stem and 700mm bar for a more cross country feel. Currently we’ve opted for a short 60mm length stem and a 740mm wide PRO Tharsis bar – this setup is more suited to the bike’s intended riding style, giving you a stable, centred position for high speed confidence.

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Big volume tyres, wide rims and low tyre pressures in conjunction with a sturdy cockpit and stiff legged fork. It doesn’t get much better than this. The Rockshox Pike is a wonderful fit for this bike and leads the way into rough terrain with real big balls.

Wide, low and bloody fast.

Wide, low and bloody fast. Almost as fast as Jared Graves.

With a 150mm travel fork, head angle is 67 degrees which is in line with the contemporary 26″ all-mountain/enduro/aggresive trail bike. It can shred hard, but still feels great to ride all day long up and down all sorts of trails. We did experiment with a longer 160mm FOX 34 fork, but in the end we preferred the slightly sharper steering provided with a 150mm fork.

We decided to ditch the front derailleur and run the FOX D.O.S.S. post lever under the left side of the handlebar.

We decided to ditch the front derailleur and run the FOX D.O.S.S. post lever under the left side of the handlebar.

Ok, ok putting ENVE wheels on any bike lifts it to another level, and these AM wheels with a bit more width and volume enabled a big tyre to be run with fairly low pressures.

Ok, ok fitting ENVE rims to any bike lifts it to another level, and these AM wheels with a bit more width and volume enabled a big tyre to be run with fairly low pressures with no drawback. Did we say we like the new Rockshox Pike?

Unlike so many bikes in this category, the SB66 will be remaining as 26″ (for at least a while)  keeping the ‘old school’ wheel size fans (like us) happy. So, in the end after all we’ve thrown at it, the SB66 keeps on trucking and confirms its reputation for being one seriously desirable bike. It’s almost $4000 for just the frame – holy crap that’s a lot – but hey, you buy a Yeti for more than its ridiculously good looks, right?

Them

The Switch Technology explained.

Geometry chart - click to enlarge

Geometry chart – click to enlarge

Switch Technology: Overview from Yeti Cycles on Vimeo.

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