Tested: Yeti SB5.5

Let us introduce you to the dreamy Yeti SB5.5.
Let us introduce you to the dreamy Yeti SB5.5.
Pure class.
Pure class.

What is it?

The SB5.5 is Yeti’s long-travel trail bike, it’s built with pretty aggressive parts, meaty tyres, wide bars, piggyback rear shock and massive 160mm travel 36mm diameter leg forks. Sitting below it with 29″ wheels also is the trail oriented SB4.5 and cross country racer ASR with women’s specific ASR Beti. It’s absolutely gorgeous with smooth and fluid carbon shapes and clean angles finished with a durable and stylish matte finish. Yeti are known for their attractive bikes, just take a look at those sweet lines! Worth paying for alone, almost.

Confidently throwing the SB5.5 down blind trails in Beechworth, VIC.
Confidently throwing the SB5.5 down blind trails in Beechworth, VIC.

Switch Infinity, oooh fancy suspension!

Yeti’s exclusive suspension design is about as unique as it comes, produced in conjunction with FOX Suspension the two little Kashima coated sliders above the bottom bracket give the bike its desired rear wheel axle path.

The one-piece carbon rear end pivots around one point that slides up and down on the Switch Infinity system.
The one-piece carbon rear end pivots around one point that slides up and down on the Switch Infinity system.

Yeti SB 5.5-4844

As the bike goes through its initial phase of travel, the carrier moves upwards on the two shafts, creating a rearward axle path putting tension on the chain for improved pedalling performance. As the bike compresses further into its travel it switches direction and moves down, creating a vertical axle path, reducing chain tension for better use of the suspension on bigger hits. There’s only slight movement in either direction and is easily serviced via pumping fresh grease into the grease ports while simultaneously pushing out old grease.


TURQ and Carbon options.

The SB5.5 can be purchased in two frame variants, Carbon and TURQ. The higher priced TRQ saves around 250-350g over the Carbon model using higher grade carbon materials. The Carbon frame comes as part as a slightly cheaper build kit options beginning at $7390. The premium TURQ option can be purchased as a frame only for $5350 (yes, we know, ouch!) and ranging from $9890 for a Shimano XT drivetrain build through to $10850 for the Eagle X01 model with the FOX suspension we’re testing.

TURQ is the premium carbon frame. It looks the same, feels the same, but is 250-350g lighter.
TURQ is the premium carbon frame. It looks the same, feels the same, but is 250-350g lighter.

Long way for a drink.

A total deal breaker for some, unfortunately, but the layout of the suspension leaves no space for a drink bottle to be mounted in the main frame like we’ve been accustomed to. So the mounts for a bottle cage have been shifted down on the underside of the downtube, which is a long way to reach for a drink whilst riding and the part of the bottle you put in your mouth is in direct line of debris flying off your front tyre. It’s also a little bit foreign and an eyesore to a degree, ah well, it’s a Camelbak type of bike for us.


The drivetrain, wheels, brakes, cockpit etc.

It’s a pricey one but the build kit is really quite nice, well selected to match the bike’s purpose and works together to create a highly desirable and reliable bike.

There is not one bad thing we could possibly say about the SRAM Eagle drivetrain, it’s absolutely superb in its shift, quite driving and the gear range is immense. It’s certainly the flavour of the moment, SRAM has raised the bar with this impressive stuff.

The brakes were ok, not overly powerful but the modulation is great. If you’re a fan of brakes with feeling, these will be nice, but sometimes we wished for a little more bite.

The wide bars and short stem give the Yeti a quick steering feeling with loads of stability in attack mode, but we’d probably go for some cushier grips.

Big rubber, big bite.
Big rubber, big bite.

The rims are nice and wide, 30mm hooray! This alone helps lift traction levels right up, with the tyre sitting nice and wide and supported with lower pressures. Wheel removal is quick release at both ends too, where many bikes are ditching the levers for a more clearance and a slimmer look at least you won’t be reaching for allen keys when removing wheels.


FOX bounce.

The fork and shock are straight off the top shelf from FOX, the Float X uses a piggyback system for a larger volume of oil to help keep its composure on longer descents and has an excellent range of tuning that is accessed easily from where you’re sitting.

The highly adjustable and composed Float X.
The highly adjustable and composed Float X.
The burly FOX 36 with Kashima coating and all the adjustments.
The burly FOX 36 with Kashima coating and all the adjustments.

The fork and shock can be tuned easily to gain a very nicely supportive bike, with a few clicks of the slow speed dials in ‘open mode’ it cancels out much of the bobbing from your pedalling and braking. This adjustment alone is gold for the setup conscious rider.


How does it ride?

Yeah, not too bad…

$10850 for just  ‘not too bad!!?’

Ok, we loved it. No surprises really, these days it’s unlikely to find a bike from a reputable brand built with such great parts that won’t ride like a dream is it? Our fairly extended testing period aboard this beauty was a real pleasure, it’s comfortable all day, quiet and smooth to pedal along and quite fun to flick about and jump. We learnt that it’s not a hard out enduro race bike, more of a go literally anywhere ride anything in your path bike. It doesn’t sacrifice too much climbing or flat terrain performance by making it super long and slack, and the suspension feels very supportive when you get up and crank on the pedals out of the saddle.

High above High Voltage in Falls Creek, a particularly rocky and long descent. No worries!
High above High Voltage in Falls Creek, a particularly rocky and long descent. No worries!
Keeping it low on the whopping jumps of the new Bright Hero Trail.
Keeping it low on the whopping jumps of the new Bright Hero Trail.

Up the hills.

Despite its long travel amount, the SB5.5 is a brilliant climber, especially when you ride it alongside comparable bikes like the Norco Range or Trek Slash. The seating position is more neutral than a bike that’s aimed at descending hard, and with plenty of ground clearance and a manageable head angle, it’s really great at climbing the twisting singletrack that we might struggle on an enduro race bike.

Where some big travel bikes don't like to be pedalled out of the saddle, the SB5.5 is firm and supported when cranking hard.
Where some big travel bikes don’t like to be pedalled out of the saddle, the SB5.5 is firm and supported when cranking hard.

When it was time to climb we twiddled the suspension adjustments to suit and up we went without whining.


Down the hills.

The SB5.5 is not a burly ground hugging monster, there’s the 27.5” wheel big travel SB6 for that, the trade-off for the SB5.5’s excellent all-round trail manners like we mentioned above is a firmer feeling ride in the rough. With the suspension set up just right and all the compression dials backed off, and even with fairly low tyre pressure, there is still quite a bit of feedback from the trail transferred to your hands when the speeds get high and you really start to move along. The stiff fork chassis and supportive suspension tune may have a lot to do with that, but it was certainly obvious when we jumped on the Norco Range on the same ride (which of course was no match on the climbs).

Roosting summer dust on Beechworth's new Don't Be a Hero Trail.
Roosting summer dust on Beechworth’s new Don’t Be a Hero Trail.

The firm ride gives the Yeti real pop and a quick direction changing feel when descending, it doesn’t take much from you to change line, jump a rut or manual through a section of the trail. A lot of the time we forgot we were riding a bike with so much travel.

With such a massive fork up the front you can really lean on it and trust it will hold a line, and paired with the 2.5” Maxxis Minion we were deliberately putting more weight over the front wheel through rough turns.


Punching it harder.

If you’re new to 29ers then it’ll take some getting used to if you’re keen to jump big and land precisely or corner down on the sides of your tyres with aggression, sure we hear everyone saying that too, but it’s also something that really becomes quite intuitive after only a short time one.

Jumping the SB5.5 at the new Bright Hero Track was a little on the nervous side to really relax and send it, but out of all the bikes around us it’d be our pick if the shuttle vehicle broke and we had to pedal to the top.

Backcountry Boulder swagger near Eldorado, regional VIC.
Backcountry Boulder swagger near Eldorado, regional VIC.

Big travel 29ers, who are they for?

Big wheels equal bigger confidence, traditionally that meant you could pair 29” wheels with less travel to gain a similar level of confidence over a smaller wheel bike with more suspension travel. But in this case, we have a fair whack of bounce – 160/140mm – with 29er wheels, a trend we’ve seen becoming increasingly popular in the last couple years.Yeti SB 5.5-4863

Why big travel and big wheels too? It’s double the confidence and grip, and with the way frame geometry and component construction has improved these big bikes are not too big to get around. So when you point one at an angry trail, they just manage to calm them down a little, take the sting out of the bumps and there’s less interruption of your momentum.

Yeti were slower than most to the 29er game; we recall Yeti being quite averse to the bigger wheel size when the bigger brands began to push them hard. They even named their first 29er the Yeti Big Top referring it as a ‘clown bike’. Fast forward to 2017 and not only has the public wholly accepted 29” diameter wheels, the industry has successfully managed to produce great riding 29ers, and Yeti have strong representation of them in their well-curated range.


Does it make hard trails easier ride?

Yes, we think so. Jumping between a fairly traditional 27.5” wheel bike and a long travel 29er like this one, or the Trek Slash or Norco Range we certainly felt more capable on hard sections of trail right away. The steep chutes don’t feel as steep, the rocky surfaces don’t seem to require as much attention to get through and it feels harder to break traction on sketchy surfaces. Even on the climbs, the grip provided by meaty tyres on big wheels with wide rims feels endless.

So yes, these bikes to tend to make trails easier to ride. But on the flip side that also can mean that you can ride them quicker, and with an aggressive style, these things are scary fast.


Does Richie Rude race one?

We couldn’t care less, if he doesn’t race it, it’s almost a good thing to us. Too often do we see everyday riders look towards the pros on what to ride, when they are on a completely different level. Yeti has the SB6 for that, a far more aggressive bike with the suspension and geometry for charging mighty hard.


Where did we ride it?

The SB5.5 came with us on our mammoth Ride High Country road trip which took in a seriously diverse array of trails over a whole week of exploring and filming. From clawing our way around the jangly tracks of Mt Beauty, boosting big tabletops and hauling through towering berms on the Bright Hero Trail to cruising blissful singletrack in Yackandandah we found it super reliable and it held its own no matter where we took it.

Mt Buller, of course. The raging Delatite River Trail.
Mt Buller, of course. The raging Delatite River Trail.

Its versatility is its finest asset, if you don’t know what’s ahead you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more reassuring bike to ride.


Gripes?

The new generation of Yeti frames use internal cable routeing with rubber grommets at the ports to secure and quieten the gear cable, seatpost and brake lines. On our test bike the grommet for the gear cable never sat in its place properly and eventually fell out somewhere on the trail. Not a big deal, but an area where we’d expect Yeti to have all their ducks in a row. And the grips are super-thin, we’d swap them out for something thicker and cushier.


Why so expensive?

There are no two ways about it, these bikes are a fair hit to the back pocket and always have been. Is it the boutique brand thing? Is it the Colorado-based brand’s smaller size in comparison to the mass-market producers, or is it the US dollar vs ours? Sure it all contributes to it, but the best thing you can do it don’t compare them to the big brands and appreciate the craft, deep heritage, cutting-edge design, fine details and supreme quality of a top-dollar Yeti.Yeti SB 5.5-4802


Get one or not?

If you’re in the market for a Yeti in the first place you have great taste, they are not your average mountain bike, they are pure class and it’s obvious they push the envelope in suspension design. Their catalogue may be small but it’s precise, they offer a bike for all type of rider. The SB5.5 may not be as grounded and plush as others on the faster descents, but it strikes a very good balance everywhere else making it one of our favourite all-day trail bikes.Yeti SB 5.5-4866

This one comes at a price, but represents the cutting edge of the modern trail bike that’ll go up, down and over anything in style.

Flow’s First Bite: Yeti SB5.5 Turq

The Yeti SB5.5.
The Yeti SB5.5 looking majestic high in the Victorian Alps.

Even though the Yeti SB5.5 is a brand-new model from the Colorado based company, it’s refreshing to see that despite its long travel, Yeti haven’t tried to compete in the ‘longest, lowest and slackest’ game some manufacturers seem to be playing.

The SB5.5 isn't pushing the envelope with its geometry, which is refreshing to see.
The SB5.5 isn’t pushing the envelope with its geometry, which is refreshing to see.
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Off the brakes on the new Tombstone trail in Bright, VIC.

What is the Yeti SB5.5 Turq?

The Yeti SB5.5 Turq is Yeti’s first long travel 29” model, combining 140mm of rear wheel travel with 160mm of squish up front.

You know you're in for a good time when you see a Fox Float 36 up front!
You know you’re in for a good time when you see a Fox Float 36 up front!

Much like Santa Cruz’s C and CC carbon models, Yeti have now adopted a two-tier system for frames across their range, with the ‘Carbon’ title representing their budget offering, and the ‘Turq’ series offering a lighter overall frame weight by using higher quality carbon throughout.

Yeti's 'Turq' range represents their top of the line offerings.
Yeti’s ‘Turq’ range represents their top of the line offerings.

Despite the claimed 250-350 gram saving on the Turq model framesets compared to the Carbon framesets depending on model and size, there’s no difference in strength or stiffness between the two.

Regardless of whether you get a Turq or a Carbon Yeti frame, you'll still be able to get as reckless as this guy!
Regardless of whether you get a ‘Turq’ or a ‘Carbon’ Yeti frame, you’ll still be able to get as reckless as this guy!

How much more do I pay for a Turq model?

In Australia, there are a variety of options when purchasing a Yeti SB5.5. The Turq model comes as a frameset, retailing for a mighty $5350, but also comes in four build options (two Sram and two Shimano) ranging from $9890 for a 1×11 XT drivetrain build through to $10850 for the Eagle X01 model with the Fox suspension we’re testing.

Our test bike is equipped with the Sram XX1 build kit, and Fox Factory suspension.
Our test bike is equipped with the Sram X01 build kit, and Fox Factory suspension.

The Carbon model comes in a full build only, retailing at $7390. Major differences include the Fox Performance line suspension in place of the Factory level suspension specced on the Turq models, and the XT/SLX drivetrain. Whilst these componentry changes are downgrades, the spec is ready to roll straight onto the trail, not to mention the fact that despite the slightly heavier frame than the Turq series, the Carbon frame is exactly the same. For those reasons, we’re very happy to see a lower price point option!

The SB5.5 Carbon offers excellent value for money considering it's a Yeti.
The SB5.5 Carbon offers a more affordable price point.

Enough about the Turq and Carbon series, how can we expect the SB5.5 to ride?

Simply having a roll around on the SB5.5 reaffirmed that Yeti haven’t redesigned the geometry textbook with the SB5.5. With numbers like a 66.5-degree head angle, 73.6-degree seat tube angle and an 1168mm wheelbase in a size medium, we don’t feel like we’re regurgitating the ‘jack of all trades’ tagline by saying that the SB5.5 is designed to do a bit of everything.

Equipped with the 160mm Float 36 fork up front, the SB5.5 will handle the burly descents, but the 140mm of Switch Infinity rear suspension pedals insanely well, so combined with the slightly more upright position than other long travel 29” bikes on the market, the SB5.5 should be more suited to all-day pedalling missions in varied terrain, rather than out and out descending.

140mm of rear travel is delivered via Yeti's unique 'Switch Infinity' suspension setup.
140mm of rear travel is delivered via Yeti’s unique ‘Switch Infinity’ suspension setup.

What are you getting for $10850 for the model we’re testing?

As we mentioned before, the SB5.5 we’re testing is X01 Eagle build kit option with Fox suspension, which retails for $10850. This bike is out of the price range of most consumers; however, Yeti has always been, and will always be a boutique brand.

One of the most desirable head badges to be rocking at the trailhead.
One of the most desirable head badges to be rocking at the trailhead.

Obviously, the main attraction of this bike is the stunning frameset. Smooth, curvy lines encase the Switch Infinity suspension design, which uses a custom system provided by Fox to provide some of the best pedalling performance on the market.

The Switch Infinity system is a proven performer.
The Switch Infinity system is a proven performer.

We’ll go into the Switch Infinity design and its effectiveness on the SB5.5 more in the full review, however, to summarise the system uses two rails located directly above the bottom bracket to manipulate the bike’s axle path as it moves through its travel.

These two rails are the crux of the Switch Infinity system.
These two rails are the crux of the Switch Infinity system.

As the bike goes through its initial phase of travel, the carrier moves upwards on the two rails, creating a rearward axle path for improved pedalling performance. As the bike compresses further into its travel however, the rails move downwards (hence the ‘Switch’ part of the title), creating a vertical axle path and reducing chain tension for more supple suspension performance on bigger hits. The rails only move slightly in either direction, but in practice the system works excellently to provide both excellent pedalling performance and a supple stroke as the suspension moves deeper into its travel.


What about the build kit?

The build kit on the model we’re testing is excellent, as you would expect for the money. A Factory series Fox Float fork, with the three position Fit4 damper has low speed compression adjustment in the open position, but also a lockout, which adds to the bike’s ‘do it all’ intentions.

The Float 36 is the 3 position mode, with a full lockout mode.
The Float 36 is the 3 position model, with a full lockout mode.

The Fox Float X in the rear also has three positions and can also be locked out- if the start of your rides typically involve a road pedal, being able to lock out your suspension guarantees you a few extra minutes on the trail!

An awesome build from the guys at Summit Cycles helped us get out on the trails sooner too!
An awesome build from the guys at Summit Cycles helped us get out on the trails sooner too!

The drivetrain is a full Eagle X01 arrangement, need we say more?

Eagle X01 just plain works, enough said.
Eagle X01 just plain works, enough said.

Brakes are also provided by Sram in the form of their Guide RSC brakes, and the dropper post is a RockShox Reverb.

The cable routing from the front of the bike is neat and well thought out.
The cable routing from the front of the bike is neat and well thought out.

In the wheels department, some will be disappointed not to see carbon at this price point, but DT Swiss’ 350 hubs are proven performers, and they’ve been laced to RaceFace ARC 30 rims, with a 30mm internal rim width that gives the Maxxis WT tyres an excellent shape.

Despite costing the big bucks, the SB5.5 is perfectly specced to cope with a huge variety of riding, from general trail duties to rowdier adventures you won’t be admitting to the partner about when you get home.

Dry and loose in Beechworth, VIC.
Dry and loose in Beechworth, VIC.

So, where will we be riding the SB5.5?

Bloody everywhere! We’re very excited to be testing the SB5.5 alongside the YT Jeffsy, another 140mm 29er, and we’ll be riding all sorts of terrain to see how the SB5.5 stacks up.

First up is a huge road trip through the Victorian High Country, we’ve chosen the Yeti to join us in Falls Creek, Bright, Mt Beauty, Yackandandah, Dinner Plain, Beechworth and Mt Buller. Stay tuned!

Video: Richie Rude – This is Home

“Home to me is everything familiar; where I know every street, every trail, every store and all my family is there. Its where I can just relax and focus on training and not worry about what hotel we are going to next” – Richie Rude

Featuring: Richie Rude
Directed by: Harrison Mendel
Cinematography By: Harrison Mendel and Rupert Walker
Edited By: Harrison Mendel
Sound Design: Racket Sound
Title Design: Studio Dialog
Still Photography: Paris Gore

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Richie Rude – This Is Home from Ride Shimano on Vimeo.

Happy New (Bike) Year: Here’s Our 2015 Top Five

With Eurobike done and dusted, just about every bike brand has now shown us their wares for the new season. But before we begin afresh, riding whatever wheel size it is this year, we thought we’d take a look at our personal five top mountain bike ‘things’ of the past 12 months. These are just our personal picks – what would you put on your list?


Shimano XT 11-speed:

XT-11-speed-6

It took a long time for Shimano to come up with an 11-speed mountain bike grouppo that was a viable contender for SRAM’s plethora of 1×11 drivetrains; SRAM had already released XX1, X01 and X1 before Shimano showed us their XTR 11-speed groupset. But not only was XTR mega bucks, it also topped out at with a 40-tooth cassette, which wasn’t low enough for many people to consider going 1×11.

And then, finally, came the XT version. Not only was it a shitload more affordable, but it also comes with a 11-42 cassette, which is a nice low granny gear. The use of a standard freehub body means it’s an easier upgrade to 11-speed too. Plus it works flawlessly too.

Read our full XT review here. 


 

Tasmania:

Ok, so Tassie has been around a lot longer than the last 12 months. But it’s only in recent times, thanks to the development of new trail centres, that we’ve been happy to call it Australia’s leading mountain bike state.

Tasmania-Flow-Nation-68
Riding the Juggernaut at Hollybank.

In particular, the amazing Blue Derby and Hollybank MTB parks, both not far from Launceston, really put Tassie at the forefront of Australian mountain biking. We were lucky enough to spend some time at both of these trail centres last year, and they blew us away. Since our visit, Blue Derby has undergone a whole stack of new trail building too, and we’re itching to get back.

Flow-Nation-Blue-Derby-19
The Blue Derby trails are stunning.

But there’s far more to Tassie’s mountain bike scene than just these centres – Hobart has killer riding too, the west coast has some of the best adventure/back country trails going, and there’s a healthy race scene too (take the Hellfire Cup or Wildside for example).

It’s a little nugget of mountain bike awesomeness. Read more about Hollybank, Blue Derby and Hobart.


 

Crankworx Rotorua:

Crankworx’s first foray to the southern hemisphere was a huge success, in every regard, and Rotorua further cemented its status as one of the coolest mountain bike towns on the planet.

Crankworx-Slopestyle-52
Slopestyle at Crankworx Rotorua.

The courses were great, the town was totally buzzing, the locals got right behind it all and it all went smoothly! It was great to see how many Aussies made the trip over too, filling the forest trails in between the events and getting into it.

We’re bummed to hear that the Enduro World Series won’t be combined with Crankworx Rotorua next year, but apparently there will still be an enduro, just not an official part of the EWS. Given how much the riders seemed to froth on Rotorua, we’d imagine a healthy contingent of the world’d best riders will still be on hand.

The Enduro World Series down under.
The Enduro World Series down under.
Crankworx-Day-1.1-17
The local crowds came out in force for Crankworx Rotorua.

Regardless, we’ll be back next year, and if you’ve been thinking about a riding holiday to Rotorua, we think it’s the perfect time to do it.


 

FOX 34 and 36 forks and DPS EVOL shock:

FOX got their arses handed to them when RockShox released the Pike, but they’ve responded with a furious bout of development and the new 36 and 34 forks are the result. Put simply, the Factory versions of these two forks are mind-blowingly good.

Fox-36-First-Bite-8

The 36 is lighter than many of the old 32 forks we used to ride, but has proper downhill race-worthy performance, and the 34 is so sublimely smooth it seems to be predicting the terrain.

FOX-2016-14

While FOX have traditionally had the edge when it comes to rear shocks, they’ve been losing ground to RockShox in this arena, but the DPS EVOL shock should stem the bleeding. The new air can shape seems like such a simple change, but the improvement in small bump response in particular is so dramatic it’ll make your old shock feel like it’s filled with Selleys Space Invader.

Read our full review of the FOX 36 here, and our review of the 34 and DPS shock here.


 

Yeti SB5c:

For us, this was the standout bike of 2015 in a field of incredible contenders. We admit to having a soft spot for Yetis, but when you look raw performance alone (and ignore the stunning looks and fantastic heritage) this bike is a winner.

Yeti-SB5-C-16

Yes, it costs a million bucks and can’t fit a water bottle, but as a tool for slicing and dicing the trail, they don’t get any better. Just enough travel, delivered via a suspension system that is both efficient and plush, perfectly poised geometry, low weight, great versatility – this is a bike you can race at an EWS round one day then cross country on the next. In short, it embodies the kind of do-it-all performance that the best trail bikes shoot for.

Read our full Yeti SB5c review here. 


Also on the shortlist:

RedBull’s race coverage: It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve been glued to the computer too many Saturday and Sunday evenings to count this year!

Aussie young gun downhillers kicking arse: We get the feeling we’re about to see a return to that age of Aussie domination in downhill, with Andrew Crimmins, Connor Fearon and Dean Lucas all set to follow in the footsteps of Brosnan and Hill.

Cairns: Rad trails, crazy jungles and even crazier locals. The scene in Cairns just keeps on growing as it undergoes a huge revival. Bring on the 2016 World Cup!

Ibis 741 rims: These 35mm wide rims have been a revelation, transforming out trail bikes into grip seeking missiles!

 

 

Happy New (Bike) Year: Here's Our 2015 Top Five

Happy New Year! The bike industry has done the countdown, popped the cork and, with Rod Stewart’s rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the hi-fi, said goodbye to 2015.

With Eurobike done and dusted, just about every bike brand has now shown us their wares for the new season. But before we begin afresh, riding whatever wheel size it is this year, we thought we’d take a look at our personal five top mountain bike ‘things’ of the past 12 months. These are just our personal picks – what would you put on your list?


Shimano XT 11-speed:

XT-11-speed-6

It took a long time for Shimano to come up with an 11-speed mountain bike grouppo that was a viable contender for SRAM’s plethora of 1×11 drivetrains; SRAM had already released XX1, X01 and X1 before Shimano showed us their XTR 11-speed groupset. But not only was XTR mega bucks, it also topped out at with a 40-tooth cassette, which wasn’t low enough for many people to consider going 1×11.

And then, finally, came the XT version. Not only was it a shitload more affordable, but it also comes with a 11-42 cassette, which is a nice low granny gear. The use of a standard freehub body means it’s an easier upgrade to 11-speed too. Plus it works flawlessly too.

Read our full XT review here. 


 

Tasmania:

Ok, so Tassie has been around a lot longer than the last 12 months. But it’s only in recent times, thanks to the development of new trail centres, that we’ve been happy to call it Australia’s leading mountain bike state.

Tasmania-Flow-Nation-68
Riding the Juggernaut at Hollybank.

In particular, the amazing Blue Derby and Hollybank MTB parks, both not far from Launceston, really put Tassie at the forefront of Australian mountain biking. We were lucky enough to spend some time at both of these trail centres last year, and they blew us away. Since our visit, Blue Derby has undergone a whole stack of new trail building too, and we’re itching to get back.

Flow-Nation-Blue-Derby-19
The Blue Derby trails are stunning.

But there’s far more to Tassie’s mountain bike scene than just these centres – Hobart has killer riding too, the west coast has some of the best adventure/back country trails going, and there’s a healthy race scene too (take the Hellfire Cup or Wildside for example).

It’s a little nugget of mountain bike awesomeness. Read more about Hollybank, Blue Derby and Hobart.


 

Crankworx Rotorua:

Crankworx’s first foray to the southern hemisphere was a huge success, in every regard, and Rotorua further cemented its status as one of the coolest mountain bike towns on the planet.

Crankworx-Slopestyle-52
Slopestyle at Crankworx Rotorua.

The courses were great, the town was totally buzzing, the locals got right behind it all and it all went smoothly! It was great to see how many Aussies made the trip over too, filling the forest trails in between the events and getting into it.

We’re bummed to hear that the Enduro World Series won’t be combined with Crankworx Rotorua next year, but apparently there will still be an enduro, just not an official part of the EWS. Given how much the riders seemed to froth on Rotorua, we’d imagine a healthy contingent of the world’d best riders will still be on hand.

The Enduro World Series down under.
The Enduro World Series down under.
Crankworx-Day-1.1-17
The local crowds came out in force for Crankworx Rotorua.

Regardless, we’ll be back next year, and if you’ve been thinking about a riding holiday to Rotorua, we think it’s the perfect time to do it.


 

FOX 34 and 36 forks and DPS EVOL shock:

FOX got their arses handed to them when RockShox released the Pike, but they’ve responded with a furious bout of development and the new 36 and 34 forks are the result. Put simply, the Factory versions of these two forks are mind-blowingly good.

Fox-36-First-Bite-8

The 36 is lighter than many of the old 32 forks we used to ride, but has proper downhill race-worthy performance, and the 34 is so sublimely smooth it seems to be predicting the terrain.

FOX-2016-14

While FOX have traditionally had the edge when it comes to rear shocks, they’ve been losing ground to RockShox in this arena, but the DPS EVOL shock should stem the bleeding. The new air can shape seems like such a simple change, but the improvement in small bump response in particular is so dramatic it’ll make your old shock feel like it’s filled with Selleys Space Invader.

Read our full review of the FOX 36 here, and our review of the 34 and DPS shock here.


 

Yeti SB5c:

For us, this was the standout bike of 2015 in a field of incredible contenders. We admit to having a soft spot for Yetis, but when you look raw performance alone (and ignore the stunning looks and fantastic heritage) this bike is a winner.

Yeti-SB5-C-16

Yes, it costs a million bucks and can’t fit a water bottle, but as a tool for slicing and dicing the trail, they don’t get any better. Just enough travel, delivered via a suspension system that is both efficient and plush, perfectly poised geometry, low weight, great versatility – this is a bike you can race at an EWS round one day then cross country on the next. In short, it embodies the kind of do-it-all performance that the best trail bikes shoot for.

Read our full Yeti SB5c review here. 


Also on the shortlist:

RedBull’s race coverage: It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve been glued to the computer too many Saturday and Sunday evenings to count this year!

Aussie young gun downhillers kicking arse: We get the feeling we’re about to see a return to that age of Aussie domination in downhill, with Andrew Crimmins, Connor Fearon and Dean Lucas all set to follow in the footsteps of Brosnan and Hill.

Cairns: Rad trails, crazy jungles and even crazier locals. The scene in Cairns just keeps on growing as it undergoes a huge revival. Bring on the 2016 World Cup!

Ibis 741 rims: These 35mm wide rims have been a revelation, transforming out trail bikes into grip seeking missiles!

 

 

Tested: Yeti SB5c

“Ooooh, a Yeti,” said pretty much every mountain biker, ever. These beautiful mountain bikes from Colorado are at the cutting edge of frame design, steeped in racing heritage, and look hotter’n Georgia asphalt.

Their latest suspension design –  the Switch Infinity – is as unique as they come, developed in collaboration with FOX Racing it turns some heads and perplexes others. We were lucky enough to spend a good amount of time on the Yeti SB5c and during that time (though knowing we had to return it) we tried our best not to, but we fell deeply, deeply in love.

Yeti SB5 C 15
It’s hard not to love a Yeti, they are wonderful machines.

[divider]Who is it for?[/divider]

The SB5c sits proudly in a category that caters for the majority of mountain bikers out there, trail riding. With 127mm of rear suspension travel, it’s not pretending to be a cross country race bike, or a hard hitting enduro machine, but more aimed to please the classic mountain bike rider looking to just have a good time out on the trails on a capable yet efficient bike.

The frame is wildly lightweight at 2.3kg, so you’ll have the ability to build it into a sub-12kg bike if you throw the money wand at it hard enough, opening it up to more possibilities than just a trail bike. You could probably dabble in marathon or endurance racing with a tricked out SB5c if you spent all your dough on only one bike and not a quiver of them.

Yeti SB5 C 2
For going up and down all day, this is an efficient and light bike.

It’s a flashy piece of kit, with the frame trading for around $4490, a Yeti owner is sure to know what they’re in for if that amount of cash is being exchanged. A Yeti is available from the Australian distributor as a bare frame, or one of the locally hand picked build kits ranging from $7930 up to $11485.

[divider]The frame[/divider]

The fluidly shaped SB5c comes in two colours – matte black and this lustrous glossy turquoise one, which is synonymous with Yeti. It is an all-carbon affair with a very unique suspension design at the heart of it all. Let’s get right into it and try to explain Switch Infinity.

Yeti SB5C 9
Immaculate attention to detail.

Switch Infinity:

After a few good years of so many mountain bikers loving Yeti’s funky rotating eccentric Switch Pivot design (found on bikes like the SB95, SB75 and SB66) things got a little hot in relation to design patents between Yeti and other big brands, so the updated Switch Infinity was born. A product of the tight relationships between FOX and Yeti, it is a very fine concept.

It’s all about giving the rear suspension terrain-gobbling properties whilst maintaining pedal efficiency. Sound familiar? Well, it’s the holy grail of the mountain bike suspension world. Whether its with speed sensitive damping, fancy sensors and electronics, wheel paths, linkages, or persuasion through loads of marketing, the world of mountain biking is hungry for the best suspension system. Some get closer to the mark than others, whilst some flounder.  In our opinion the Yeti’s Switch Infinity comes very close to perfection.

Yeti SB5C 22
The engine room of the rear suspension, The Switch Infinity.
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How does it work?

What looks like two Kashima coated FOX shock bodies inside the centre of the frame are actually sliders that carry the main suspension pivot up and down in a vertical plane as the rear suspension does its thing.

Watch Switch Infinity in action in this little video, accompanied by a very dramatic soundtrack for maximum feel:

Why?

It might look complicated at first glance, but in truth it’s pretty simple in operation. There are less pivoting points than your typical suspension bike, and with grease ports on the Switch Infinity sliders, maintenance is a real snack to do at home (or at least in the kitchen). And without a floating pivot design – for example a DW-Link, Maestro or VPP – the Yeti is able to do away with a link and have a one-piece rear end, which no doubt contributes to boosting rear end lateral stiffness and retaining low frame weight.

Yeti have been producing bikes with vertical rear travel paths for many years now.

The Switch Infinity concept is an evolution of previous Yeti suspension concepts, specifically the ‘rail’ design that was first seen on their original 303 downhill bike. It was revolutionary and a very unique experience to ride, the early versions would eat anything in its path but were not exactly agile to ride. Instead of pivoting around a couple points, the rear end would actually slide up and down on two rail tracks, and while the design has since been simplified their current downhill bike still uses a rail concept, and thus the SB6 and SB5 are products of this Yeti technology.

Execution:

This Yeti was with us for three months, and it sure did cop some bad weather. Upon inspection of the frame’s moving parts, we noticed a few of the sealed cartridge bearings had been affected by the conditions and had become rough, which we didn’t expect in this short timeframe.

The sealed cartridge bearings that sit on either side of the Switch Infinity sliders don’t have a large range of rotation in their role of the suspension action, which is what makes them prone to getting sticky. Bearings are smoothest and resist noise best when they’re moving, lubricating themselves, so we’d suggest whipping the rear end off the bike and giving all the bearings a spin every now and then to get the balls rolling and coated in grease, it’ll help avoid them going stiff like ours did from lots of wet weather riding. This is something we’d advise with just about all suspension bikes (especially those designs where the bearings only have a few degrees of rotation). After a few rotations, they were back to spinning freely, problem solved.

Yeti SB5 C 13
The whole rear end is one-piece, no pivots on the seatstay or chainstay as you’d find on most bikes.

The Switch sliders each have a grease nipple, so pumping in some fresh grease and the pushing the old stuff out is a quick and easy job with a grease gun.

That said, the bike never made a noise from the suspension parts, we had no loose hardware and with readily available rebuild kits, the maintenance of this system is really quite simple if you are up for it.

[divider]Geometry[/divider]

The SB5c isn’t a long and slack number, it strikes a good balance between all-round agility and stability with some sharp but sensible angles.

We used the SB5c with a 140mm fork, whilst most of these bikes are specced with a 150mm fork as standard. Fitted with a 150mm travel fork, the head angle is said to be 66.5 degrees which puts it in the middle ground between a cross country and enduro race bike. With a 140mm fork however, it’ll sharpen the angle to 67 degrees and quicken the steering a touch. Did we regret going 140mm instead on 150mm? Only in some extreme descending situations, but 99% of the time we thought the angles with the 140mm fork were awesome.

Interestingly, Yeti’s EWS racers Jared Graves and Richie Rude have both raced the SB5 with up to a 160mm fork on it, so it’s obviously a bike that’s comfortable with some serious firepower up front.

Yeti SB5C 6
Sensible and well-thought out frame geometry won us over.

The other important numbers are; 442mm chainstays, 72.3 degree seat tube angle, and a 599mm top tube length in a medium.

The bottle cage mounting is a bit tricky, with the two bolts right underneath the downtube making for a big reach to get your water bottle which has been covered in roost from your front tyre. It’s really a hydration backpack type of bike, the price you pay for having the rear shock and moving parts in the middle of the frame, unfortunately.

Yeti SB5 C 16
HOT.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Our SB5c is a real mutt, we built it from a bare frame using a Shimano XT 11-speed kit, and new 2016 FOX suspension. From the Australian Yeti distributer – Rowney Sports – you can pick and choose from a variety of build kits using SRAM or Shimano, and RockShox or FOX.

You’re also be able to choose fork travel, between 140 and 150mm. It’s a good option to have, 10mm more travel might not sound like much, but the slightly higher or lower front end will help you tune the setup to your trails.

Yeti SB5C 19
Rear shock of the century award goes to, this one. The FOX Float DPS with EVOL air can.

We did wish we had ridden this bike with a standard 2015 FOX rear shock, as the new DPS shock with the EVOL extra volume air can is a pretty special piece of kit. We can only imagine that part of our praise for this bike’s performance can be attributed to the new rear shock’s abilities. Luckily, if you’re running the standard non DPS shock, you can look at upgrading it with an aftermarket EVOL air sleeve to bring it up to speed. We’d highly recommend it.

[divider]Ride Impressions[/divider]

On our local Sydney trails the SB5c felt as perfectly suited to the rocky and challenging terrain as any bike we’ve ever ridden. Every ounce of effort and input we had translated into fast handling through corners and efficient speed across rough terrain, riding the Yeti feels very rewarding.

Singletrack manners:

Most often are we finding ourselves riding bikes that shine on only some sections of the trail, and have only acceptable performance in others. The Yeti however was just as at home blasting steep descents, laying smooth power down through the singletrack or popping up and over the rocky ledges. It just didn’t feel compromised in any area.

The way it would rapidly change direction and somewhat intuitively know where you want to go had us twisting our way through turns with less effort than we’d become used to on such familiar trails.

Yeti SB5 C 9
The Yeti loves to corner. It has the quick handling where you want it to, but won’t feel too twitchy.

The Easton handlebars were on the narrow side – at 740mm – so our hands were pushed right out towards the end of the grips when riding. While they did feel a little small when it got rough, the positive traits of a narrower bar really matched the Yeti’s vibe. Quick, light direction changes and the increased clearance in tight trails was very obvious, plus tipping the bike down side-to-side onto the side knobs of the tyres would create a super aggressive position to really bite into the dirt and rip around a turn with pace.

The rear shock has a wide range of compression tuning, adjustable on the fly via the little blue lever. We spent 90% of our time in the Trail mode, and only let it open on the roughest of descents, and firmed it up for a tarmac climb. Even in the Trail mode, the suspension flowed over the terrain like melting butter in a Teflon pan. As we mentioned above, maybe the new EVOL air can on the shock had a hand in this, but the way it responds to the bumps is just eerily smooth.

Descending:

Yetis and descending go together like Vita Wheats and cheese. For a bike with only five-inches of rear wheel travel, this thing is a hammer. In fact, it was onboard the SB5 that we set our fastest ever times down some very rough descents, even though we regularly ride these trails on 150-160mm bikes.

The sharper head angle as a result of the 140mm fork meant the SB5 would sometimes find its limits when rolling down the backsides of big rocks, and into more rough terrain. With the beefy 34mm fork legs, though, we were able to muscle our way out of situations that may have been over the Yeti’s head. But we were generally very, very happy with what it was capable of handling when pointed down.

As we’ve noted above, we’ve seen Jared Graves racing enduro on this frame with a 160mm travel fork – we wonder how that would go?

Yeti SB5 C 8
Ride the SB5c hard, it’s ok with it.

The rear suspension handles hard square-edge impacts much better than its SB75 or SB66 predecessor. It takes a lot of pounding for the SB5c to lose momentum, you’ll be able to keep the power on and pedal hard over the rockiest trails without slowing down.

It’s quick to get up to speed, and the portion of vertical wheel travel really lets the rear wheel move up and away from the path of impacts.

Yeti SB5 C 6
Low and narrow cockpit won’t suit the heavy handed enduro crowd, but tipping the bike into quick turns was a real highlight.

Climbing:

The SB5c hides its travel really well, the way you can mash away on the pedals without the bike bouncing around beneath you is testament to the well-executed rear axle path design. Tension on the chain helps to keep the rear suspension from squatting, and that’s what stops the rear shock absorbing your pedalling efforts.

Yeti SB5 C 1
You’ll notice the rear shock remaining calm when you’re stomping on the pedals, it won’t rob you of effort.

There’s also plenty of room to get up and out of the saddle and crank down on the pedals without bashing your knees on the bars.

On trails where you have to lift the bike up and over obstacles, we found the SB5 to be quite amazing. Whether it was the light rear end, roomy top tube or supportive rear suspension, we think it all has a lot to do with why we found ourselves hopping up bigger steps with much less effort than we had expected. Is this cheating?

Final thoughts:

This is a really, really nice bike to ride. We found it very poppy and agile, super-efficient and so light to ride.

By striking a perfect balance between what you want out of a bike going up, and going down, this Yeti succeeds in confirming its place as one of the finest trail bikes you’ll ever find.

The frame geometry and supple suspension won us over, if we were to manufacture our own bike from scratch, we’d probably try and base the design around the figures that shape this bike. Or we could just save up and buy one…

Yeti SB5C 15
The stamp of a Yeti.

You could dress it with some meatier parts and you’ll have a light enduro race bike, or keep it trim and it would serve you well as a superbly capable and comfortable all-day trail bike. And yes, it’s expensive but if you know what you want out of a high end mountain bike, the SB5c will love you back like you’d always dreamt.

The Build Begins: Shimano XT 11 Speed On Test

It’s time to unbox all the goodies and build up our Yeti 5C test bike with the all-new Shimano XT groupset. Oh dear, this is going to be fun.

Take a peek at our first impressions of the whole XT group here: http://flowmountainbike.com/post-all/shimano-xt-11-speed-with-new-11-42-cassette/

The Yeti 5C has been mighty impressive, on a recent trip to Rotorua we fell in love with the grounded and hard-charging bike that loved the flowing singletrack.

For the XT test we will begin with the double chainring version of the new groupset, opting for a 36/26 tooth crank with the 11-40 tooth cassette out the back. And in a few weeks when the single chainring and super low range cassette arrives we’ll be fitting that up too.  The single ring variant has made us most excited about the new XT, and could be Shimano’s answer to the super popular SRAM 1×11 drivetrains.

The new brakes will go onto a 180mm front, and 160mm rear disc rotor and will bolt via Shimano’s centrelock mounts to the super hot XTR Trail wheels.  The wheels are 24mm wide internally, and use Shimano’s mouth wateringly attractive and tough carbon/aluminium construction. More on those later.

New FOX suspension front and back add to this bike’s ‘out of the future’ spec, with all these parts still a few months away. We tested the FOX fork and shock recently, review here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-2016-fox-34-fork-and-float-dps-shock/

So stay tuned for an update from the trail as we put the highly anticipated Shimano XT to test.

_Q5A0214
11 Speed, double chainring, that is a lot of gears!
_Q5A0213
Are we missing anything?
_Q5A0220
The new cassette comes in two variants, 11-40 and 11-42. We’ve got the 40t option here, for use with the double chainring.
_Q5A0225
The new FOX DPS shock with EVOL air can, next level stuff.
_Q5A0227
Expect to see the FOX 34 fork on many bikes next season, it has taken what we love about FOX forks and thrown aside what we didn’t. Longer service intervals, more support in the air spring and all in a remarkably light package.
_Q5A0228
22 speeds should be enough.
_Q5A0229
Shimano XTR Trail wheels, wide and tough.
_Q5A0231
Rolling on the 650B treads from Specialized, a Butcher up front, Purgatory out the back.
_Q5A0235
The brakes shave a few grams from the current version, but will take up less space on the bars with a new slimmer clamp.
_Q5A0236
Shifter windows are back! We’ll try them out for a while at lease, but they are easily removed if you wish.
_Q5A0237
The XT rear mech goes under the knife in a big way, looking a lot like the new XTR one with an adjustable and hidden clutch lever.
_Q5A0238
Shimano are all about being cool, with their aluminium brake rotors sandwiched by a steel tracking surface. Ice-Tech, good name for it.
_Q5A0239
The Yeti 5C is a real dreamy bike, and deserves any fine test product that walks through the doors here at Flow.

Build time!

Yeti SB5 Carbon First Impressions

Over the last few years, Yeti Cycles have been kicking goals with both feet. First the SB66 and SB95 pushed all our feel good buttons, and then came a new version of the legendary 575 which nailed the balance of nostalgia and progression perfectly.

The SB75 was good too, if not quite to the same standard as the 66 or 95.

We’ve since published our final review of this bike here – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-yeti-sb5c/

yeti sb5 4
Gorgeous. We have a dropper post coming to complete the picture soon. And some less blurry suspension.

And now it looks like Yeti’s their form is holding, with the new SB5 Carbon. Jared Graves and Richie Rude have already demonstrated in no uncertain fashion what this bike is capable of in the right hands, so let’s see how it goes in the wrong hands then.


Read our other recent Yeti reviews:

Yeti SB95 http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/yeti-sb95/

Yeti SB66 Carbon http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/long-term-test-and-video-yeti-sb66-carbon/

Yeti 575 http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-yeti-575-27-5/

Yeti SB75 http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-yeti-sb75/


At the heart of the SB5 Carbon lies the new Switch Infinity suspension system, which was developed in conjunction with FOX. It’s unlike any other suspension design on the market – a kind of mash-up of the original Switch design and the rail system which has been a feature of Yeti’s downhill bikes in recent times.

Describing its operation in words is like trying to explain iMessage to your elderly mother, so take a look at Yeti’s excellent video below to get a feel for the system’s mojo.

The frameset is filthy light, coming in at 2.3kg including shock, which helps keep our test bike to just 11.46kg. (That figure will increase by a couple of hundred grams once we add a dropper post, but it’s still very impressive).

yeti sb5

On of the talking points of the SB5 is the adaptability of frame to take on a wide range of riding styles and an equally wide range of fork travels. Our bike is set up with a 140mm fork (compared to 127mm out back), but Yeti are planning on speccing this bike with a 150mm fork. Jared Graves has been racing his SB5 with a 160mm-travel FOX 36 up front too, which seems like a fair travel disparity, but it clearly works!

You may have noticed that we’ve given the fork and shock the ol’ swirly treatment in the pics above too. There’s a good reason for that – all will be revealed soon. To the trails!

 

Video: Jared Graves in The Kootenays

There are core experiences that define a mountain biker. Like venturing into unfamiliar mountains to find amazing trails chiseled into the landscape, and then pushing your limits, against all common sense for the pure thrill of it. These experiences are woven into the psyche of every mountain biker. Jared Graves is not an ordinary rider. The reigning Enduro World Series champion is considered one of the most versatile mountain bikers in the world and when not racing, he’s all about having good times on the bike. “It’s all about going out in the bush with your mates and riding natural terrain, whatever you can find really and just having fun.” Following his victory at the Whistler EWS, Jared traveled deep into the Kootenay region of British Columbia.

Proven Here. The Kootenays x SB6 Carbon.

 

Yeti Launches New AS-R Cross Country Bike

Yeti has introduced the new AS-Rc cross-country bike, expanding its line of ride-driven products. Built for cross-country racers and trail riders, the AS-Rc rolls on size-specific wheels and delivers 100mm of optimized rear wheel travel. The AS-Rc will begin shipping immediately as a complete bike.

Australian Frame pricing is $3890

US Spec XO-1 $7990 AUD
US Spec XX-1 Enve – $12,990 AUD

Details and Australian availability via Rowney Sports. 

2015_Yeti_ASRC_Detail_01

The super lightweight (4.2lb. frame and shock) and efficient suspension has been dialed for shorter travel with an updated and modified single pivot design. Yeti has worked closely with FOX to refine the suspension rate to give the AS-Rc a predictable feel that holds up while pedaling and retains composure when the trail begins to get rough. The new AS-R frame is designed using a carbon Dogbone link to add considerable stiffness to the chassis and sports Yeti’s progressive geometry (69-degree head tube angle, long top tube, low bottom bracket) that has been borrowed from their experience in DH and Enduro. Wheel size on the AS-R is optimized with 27.5” wheels on the Extra Small and Small frames, and 29” wheels on Medium through Extra Large Frames.

2015_Yeti_ASRC_Side_DS_Turq

2015_Yeti_ASRC_Profile_ND_Blk

“We have been out of the cross-country market for several years, so it was important that we nailed the form, fit, and function of the AS-Rc.” said Yeti President and co-owner Chris Conroy. “The AS-R has been a storied bike in our line. We raced cross-country for nearly twenty years and have produced some greats in the sport. XC racing is in our DNA and we’re excited to reintroduce people to our heritage with a bike that showcases Yeti’s progressive geometry.”

2015_Yeti_ASRC_Profile_Blk_Clip

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.52.26 am Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.52.18 am

About Yeti:

Yeti Cycles is a rider-owned high-end mountain bike company, based in Golden, Colorado that has crafted race-bred and hand-built bicycles since 1985. The company has over twenty-five years of racing experience and focuses its product development on making racers go faster. If you visit their offices at noon, they won’t be there – they’ll be out riding. Visit www.yeticycles.com to learn more.

Video: Jared Graves Wins The SRAM Canadian Open Enduro!

350 riders who came out to test their Enduro mettle at the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized at Crankworx Whistler were met by, what many described as, the toughest course they’d ever done. At the end, two pro riders bested them all – Jared Graves (AUS) sat atop the Pro Men’s podium, solidifying his spot at the top of the Enduro World Series (EWS) point standings, while Cecile Ravanel (FRA) finished fastest in the Pro Women’s category, winning her first EWS race.

“It’s my first win and it’s the best one to win, in the best place,” said an elated Ravanel. “At the beginning of the season I said that I preferred to win one Enduro World Series race in Whistler than two or three others during my career.”
Ravanel’s win in 58:04 put her one step up from the two women who’ve spent most of this season battling it out for top spot – Tracy Moseley (GBR) finished the day in second place with a time of 1:00:11, while Anne Caroline Chausson (FRA) took third with 1:03:11 after a puncture slowed down her final run of the day on Stage Five.
For the Pro Men, the end of the day reflected the current EWS rankings, but certainly not the beginning of the day. Jared Graves’ massive run in the final stage was enough to earn him the top of the podium, a total time of 51:11 and enough to make up for some challenges he faced during the first four stages – a fork malfunction had been slowing him throughout the day.
“I was really battling through that for the first four stages,” said Graves. “But we got an opportunity to come back here and work on our bikes and get it sorted out. We just nailed a good last stage. It’s rad.”
In second place behind Graves was Nico Lau (FRA) who took second with a time of 51:13, while Curtis Keene (USA) rounded out the podium, taking third with a time of 51:27.
In total, winners in all categories walked away with a total of $25,000 – the richest prize purse in the EWS.
Before the winners crossed the finish line, the story for most of the day remained consistent – the course, that some renamed Crankzilla.
“I maybe spent eight hours on my bike today,” said Ravanel.”With the warm weather, it was crazy.”
The buzz around the course exploded when it was unveiled earlier in the week. In the five transitions, riders climbed a total of 2,442 metres over 36.53 kilometers.
Designers of this year’s course focused on technical style while presenting competitors with a cross section of Whistler’s finest. The resulting trails were well-received by riders, and will continue to benefit the community. Extensive work was done to re-route, upgrade and reactivate Crazy Train and Boyd’s Trail before the race, while Micro Climate, the trail used for Stage One, is a very recent addition to the Whistler Trail Network.
Looking to the future, the points Moseley earned for her second place finish keep her at the top of the women’s rankings of the EWS, while Graves’ win solidifies his spot at the top of the men’s.
“There’s only one round to go and I’ve got a good points lead now. It’s a big goal but…I couldn’t be happier right now. It’s sweet.”
The final EWS race of the season, Finale Ligure Superenduro powered by SRAM, round 7 of the series, will take place October 4-5, 2014.
Next up on the Crankworx calendar is the first of three DH races – the Garbanzo DH hits the dirt Tuesday, August 12, followed by the GoPro Dirt Diaries film competition.
Pro Men’s Results: 
1. Jared Graves
2. Nico Lau
3. Curtis Keene
Pro Women’s Results
1. Cecile Ravanel
2. Tracy Moseley
3. Anne Caroline Chausson

 

Tested: Yeti 575 27.5

When Yeti’s 575 disappeared from the Colorado-based brand’s range a couple of year ago, the crew here at Flow were devastated. We rank it right up there with the disappearance of Scribbler ice blocks in the disappointment stakes. But then, like a leader in exile, the 575 made a glorious return, and while it was away it underwent a fantastic transformation.
Yeti 575 27-23
The 2014 575 is proof that a classic bike can be modernised, without damaging its original appeal – something that few remakes ever achieve (VW Beetle, we’re looking at you).
[divider]Build[/divider]
Yeti 575 27-18
Unmistakable.
The 575 retains its unmistakable profile and simple, effective suspension configuration, but the ‘old-school’ 26” wheels have been upsized to 27.5”, the spring curve has been changed to provide more mid-stroke support, the formerly carbon seat stays are now alloy, and there’s internal dropper post routing amongst a host of other tweaks.
Yeti 575 27-4
With the move to 27.5” wheels, the geometry was also brought in for a nip and tuck too; Yeti slackened the head angle (now 67 degrees) and slightly lengthened the front-centre measurement too, in line with the trend towards long top-tubes / short stems. But the overall fit and feel of the 575 hasn’t changed one bit – think your favourite track suit pants; instantly comfortable. It has a relaxed, slightly upright position that is best suited to big days in the saddle and which takes absolutely no effort to get used to.
Yeti 575 27-3
Compared to the new-wave suspension designs that abound on the most modern Yetis (check out the new Infinity design here), the single pivot 575 is like a blast from the past. The seat stay drives a swing link, which deliver 5.75” /146mm travel from a FOX CTD damper. It’s a reliable, proven design. While there are some drawbacks to this simple system, it has the benefits of being easy to understand and maintain, it’s relatively lightweight, is cost effective to produce and works bloody well in most trail situations. Sometimes, with so much development emphasis and marketing directed at suspension configurations, it’s nice to ride a bike that reminds us there’s more to a good bike than a fancy wheel path.
Yeti 575 27-8
Lovely machine work! The swing link design is many years old now, but it just continues to work so well.
As we’ve always found with the 575, the sizing runs a little tall, with a long seat tube and fairly high handlebar position relative to the reach. For shorter riders, (especially with a 150mm fork fitted) the bar position may be a bit high, so switching to a headset with a lower stack height or running a negative rise stem might be the trick.
Yeti 575 27-14
The main pivot uses a double row of bearings. It’s not the stiffest Yeti we’ve ridden, but it’s more than up to the job.
As a bike that instantly appeals to the traditionalists, it’s nice to see that the 575 still fits a water bottle within the mainframe, a feature that is missing from the new crop of Yetis. Tyre clearance is a little tight but up to a 2.35” should clear with minimal rub in the corners. We were running the massive Schwalbe Hans Dampf on the rear and we did notice a bit of scuffing where the tyres had rubbed on the seat stays.
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Tyre clearance is a little tight, and under hard cornering the tyre did occasionally rub on the seat stays.

[divider] Spec[/divider]

Yeti 575 27-22
For a classic bike, our build kit was anything but, with a suite of sweet all-mountain components. 2014 will be remembered as the year that SRAM dominatde the all-mountain / Enduro segment, and the 575 gets a Reverb post, X01 drivetrain and superb Rockshox Pike fork, along with a set of Elixir brakes. We opted to encase the Easton wheels with meaty Schwalbe rubber, which may have done us no favours in terms of rolling speed but gave the 575 cornering and braking traction like a cat on a billiard table.
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Easton and Thomson finishing kit is a nice touch.
As befits such a nice bike, the cockpit gets a Thompson stem and carbon Easton bar. We’d prefer to see a headset with a lower stack height, just to give riders the option of getting lower up front.
The 575 is available with a range of different build kits, none of which we’d call low-end, so you can really make this bike as light and Gucci as your wallet will allow. Our bike clocked in at $5600 and 12.62kg.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Having spent a lot of time on previous versions of this bike, getting back onto the 575 was kind of like dropping by to visit grandma’s house…after she’d died and someone else has moved in. It smells the same, but the taffeta curtains are gone and there’s now a modern flat screen TV.
Yeti 575 27-20
It’s a seriously familiar feeling bike; the top tube length isn’t rangy like many new all-mountain bikes, there aren’t any funky on-the-fly shock adjusters on the bars, you’ve got a spot for your water bottle. It’s just so easy to get along with!
Getting the suspension balance right with the 575 has been a bit of challenge in years past; the suspension design tended to blow though the middle portion of the travel quite easily. For 2014, Yeti really focused on creating a more progressive ride, and for the most part they’ve succeeded, with the bike sitting higher in the suspension stroke and not bottoming out as readily. We did still ultimately end up running a tad less sag than usual (more like 20% than the usual 25%) in order to get the front and rear suspension to work as a team. Taking the time to get it right makes all the difference.
The 150mm travel Pike is pretty much cheating.
The 150mm travel Pike is pretty much cheating.
Putting a Pike on the front of a bike is like having four or five beers before you hit the disco – it imbues you with so much confidence you’d swear you were the best rider/dancer in existence. With a slacker head angle than previous versions, the monstrous contact patch of the Schwalbe front tyre AND the Pike, the 575 is now far more adept at running things over than in the past. The improved front/rear balance helps keep the bike on a more even keel too, when you get in too deep, the bike doesn’t find itself all bottomed-out and out of shape.
With an X01 drivetrain fitted, the 575 was deadly quiet.
With an X01 drivetrain fitted, the 575 was deadly quiet.
Unlike more modern suspension designs, the 575 doesn’t exactly rocket forward when you mash the pedals. Out of the saddle sprints can set the rear suspension bobbing unless you rely on the shock’s CTD lever to keep the monkey motion to a minimum. We were disinclined to use the Trail mode on the rear shock in most cases, finding it a bit firm, especially as the fork is so freakishly plush. It’s not really a ‘sprinty’ kind of bike, favouring a more consistent kind of pedalling. Spin and win.
Just like the Yeti man, you've got confidence to let it all hang out on the 575.
Just like the Yeti man, you’ve got confidence to let it all hang out on the 575.
For an alloy bike, the 575 is remarkably quiet. Partly this is due to the stable X01 drivetrain, but the clean, rattle-free cable routing plays a roll, as does the bike’s overall suspension smoothness. When it comes to eagerly slurping up the bumps, the effectiveness of the 575 does make you wonder how some more complicated designs really stack up in the complication/effectiveness ledger.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

Yeti 575 27-1
With its full alloy construction, the 575 makes it more affordable than ever to own a Yeti full suspension bike – still, we’d shudder to use the term ‘price point’ with reference to this great machine. The 575 proves to us that a classic can be reinvented, reformed and evolved without losing any of its original vibe. The fact that this bike continues to be real performer does also subtly call into question how much development is actually genuine progress, versus mere sideways stepping. As a long-legged trail bike, or a mellow all-mountain steed, the 575 is still as relevant, capable and desirable as ever.

Yeti Cycles ride The San Juans, stunning Colorado in Fall.

In late fall, we traveled to the high elevations of the San Juan mountains to explore the vast range and to test out our prototype suspension platform. Our trip took us to the southwest part of Colorado because the San Juan’s contain some of the most rugged terrain in Colorado and offer a loose network of trails — some fully developed, others just old mining paths filtering down the mountainside.
Fall in the Rockies is always epic, but the weather is variable. We encountered freezing temps and snow, but were rewarded with fresh loam and peak colors. In the end, after the trails were explored, weather was endured, flat tires were fixed, and a few beers were drunk, we found out what works and what doesn’t. Excursions like this are part of the feedback loop necessary to fully develop our suspension designs. SB5 Carbon & The San Juan’s. Proven Here.

Fresh Product: YETI SB5 CARBON x SWITCH INFINITY

Those crafty Colorado folk at Yeti have come out of nowhere with a wild new suspension design called Switch Infinity. Conceptualised by Yeti, manufactured by FOX Suspension, and built into a new Yeti SB5.

The popular SB platform with the Switch Pivot (SB66, SB95 and SB75) is a phenomenal design, just read the reviews, see them on the trails and look at Jared Grave’s results on his SB66. But the design was not without its flaws, it was often criticised for not handling sharp, square-edged impacts on rougher trails as well as other bikes, plus another big name frame manufacturer was rumoured to be concerned that the Switch was infringing on an existing patent. So, Yeti have thrown their best at a new design, and this is the outcome.

Combining the efficiency of the Switch on the existing SB bikes, with their crazy ‘rail’ system on the 303 DH bikes (which allows vertical wheel travel) the Switch Infinity is born.

We’ve ridden one briefly, and will be putting more time on one soon, but for now hear what Yeti have to say about the SB5 and stay tuned for a proper Flow review soon. We’re as curious as you are.

Yeti SB5C Infinity 1

 

[divider]Yeti[/divider]

THE SB5C IS OUR INTERPRETATION OF WHAT A TRAIL BIKE SHOULD BE — LIGHTWEIGHT, GREAT PEDALING UPHILL AND A SCREAMER GOING DOWN. THIS BIKE WILL MAKE YOU SMILE.

We’ve taken all we’ve learned from our popular Switch Technology and merged it with our bump smashing 303 Rail Technology to come up with a completely new suspension design called Switch Infinity.

This new system allows the suspension to achieve seemingly contradictory characteristics. In the early stage of the travel it displays superior pedaling efficiency and excellent small bump sensitivity. As you move deeper into the travel, it is well supported and responds effortlessly to square edge hits.

Yeti SB5C Infinity 7

What does that mean from a rider’s perspective? You can hammer away in all conditions, including rough, chunky ascents with zero loss in efficiency. You don’t get knocked off-line, and you have amazing traction. Point it down and it’s very fast. The controlled mid-stroke keeps the bike composed through rough terrain and g-outs, while allowing it to open up when encountering bigger hits deeper in the travel.

Our geometry has always been progressive and mirrors our gravity-influenced riding style — long top tube, low bottom bracket, and slack head angle. This allows the bike to achieve great front to rear balance when descending. When pounding the pedals uphill, you’ll appreciate the seat tube has been moved forward a bit to put the rider in the optimum pedaling position. It feels right from the moment you get on it.

And here’s the bell ringer — the frame weighs just 5.1 pounds and is very stiff, so you can hold your line no matter how hard you push.

Jared Graves on top in E.W.S. after win in France

June 23, 2014, Valloire, FRANCE – After 6 stages of wild alpine racing, epic hammer-down descents that lasted up to 18 minutes, and a winning overall combined time of 1h20:39.921, the final podium of the the third round of the Enduro World Series this weekend in Valloire, France, came down to a microscopic four second spread between the top three men.
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Jared Graves now leads the EWS despite having no knees and being therefore unable to pedal.
A testament to the unpredictability of racing flat-out down mountains for a cumulative 12,000 metres of descent, (the largest amount of vertical covered in any EWS round yet), the weekend saw a myriad of punctures and mechanical issues shake down many of the top racers and early leaders. Every stage saw the top 10 leaderboard reconfigured dramatically.
Tracy Moseley on stage 3, EWS round 3 2014, Valloire. Photo by Matt Wragg
Tracy Moseley. Does this look steep and exposed enough for you? Brutal conditions punished bike and body at this round.

Despite not winning an individual stage, the Aussie Jared Graves’ (Yeti/Fox Shox) consistency put him on the top step, flanked by two newcomers to the Enduro World Series podium – Frenchman Damien Oton (Devinci/Alltricks.com) who powered home on the final two stages after top 10 finishes all weekend to take second place, and Switzerland’s Rene Wildhaber (Trek Factory Racing Enduro) who took third.

In the women’s race, Britain’s Tracy Moseley (Trek Factory Racing) won all but one stage to finish in 1h29:49.767, 1:36 ahead of France’s Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis) and 2:02 ahead of The Netherlands’ Anneke Beerten (Specialized Racing).

Anneke Beerten finally gets podium!
Anneke Beerten finally gets podium!

Beerten celebrated her first EWS podium after being so close for so long. Isabeau Courdurier (Rocky Mountain Urge BP) finished in 4th, followed by Cecile Ravanel (GT Pulse) whose powerful start to the weekend was upset by a puncture on stage 2.

The Enduro Series Valloire driven by Urge Bike Products was the 10th anniversary of the Valloire French Series Enduro hosted at the famous mountain bike hub, featuring the style of riding that forged the discipline. Both Moseley and Graves declared it the hardest round yet, with Graves telling Dirt TV in the first day’s highlight video, “It’s real riding. Your heart rate’s on max, you’ve got arm-pump, your legs are burning up and you’re just ploughing through rock gardens at 50 kms/hr. It’s awesome.”

Navigating snow patches, endlessly unfurling singletrack and menacing alpine rock at full-throttle took its toll on the field.

Wildman Wildhaber in his natural habitat, shredding humungous mountains.
Wildman Wildhaber in his natural habitat, shredding humungous mountains.

France’s Francois Bailly-Maitre (BMC Enduro Racing Team) started strong, winning the first stage ahead of Graves and Leov, and holding the lead after the second stage, but a spate of mechanical issues saw him drop back to 19th.

After a second place finish at TweedLove, New Zealand’s Justin Leov (Trek Factory Racing) had his eye on the top step this weekend. After winning two stages, he finished day one in the lead, only to see a 38 second lead eaten up by a puncture on stage 5. Leov rallied to win the final stage and finish 11th overall, keeping him in second place in the Overall Series Rankings.

Nico's comeback didn't go to plan - he picked a tough venue to return to racing.
Nico’s comeback didn’t go to plan – he picked a tough venue to return to racing.
TweedLove winner, and the current French Enduro Series leader, Nico Lau (Cube Action Team), was another threat thwarted by a puncture. Lau salvaged his race, coming back on Sunday to win stage 4 and 5 and take second on the final stage, for a top 20 result and 5th in the Overall rankings.

Nico Vouilloz (Lapierre Gravity Republic) who finished the inaugural Enduro World Series season in 5th, but has been rehabilitating from knee surgeries and a broken scaphoid, made his comeback ride this weekend, but retired from the race with fatigue, saving himself for round four in La Thuile in three weeks.

Having identified himself at TweedLove as one to watch, France’s Damien Oton proved to be the most consistent rider amongst the field, clinching top 8 finishes in every single stage to secure second place.

Bringing his deep alpine racing experience and swag of Megavalanche victories to bear, Switzerland’s Rene Wildhaber (Trek Factory Racing) held strong through the race to secure third place, his first EWS podium.

Curtis Keene (Specialized Racing Team) and Ben Cruz (Cannondale Overmountain) both rode on pace to put the USA into the top 10.

Series leaders, EWS round 3 2014, Valloire. Photo by Matt Wragg
EWS leaders: Moseley and Grubby Graves.

“This was the tenth anniversary of the Valloire French Series Enduro and it went down in style, securing itself as a classic that will not be forgotten by many of the riders for a long time,” says Enduro World Series Managing Director Chris Ball. “The diversity we saw in the top 10 in the men’s and women’s, in ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, is a real testament to the demands of enduro mountain biking. It’s physically and mechanically challenging. I think this weekend was a bit of a surprise to those who expected the alpine specialists to dominate.”

To indulge in further speculation as to who is primed to dominate in three weeks time when round 4 kicks off, review the results in detail and visit the Rider Results Analyser tool at http://www.enduroworldseries.com/results.php.

Race coverage from Dirt TV can be viewed at enduroworldseries.com. A full race highlights edit will be released on Wednesday.
Riders now move to a new battlefield just across the border in the north-west of Italy for the La Thuile Superenduro powered by SRAM, 12-13 July. http://www.enduroworldseries.com/events/ews4-superenduro-lathuile

Tested: Six 2014 model 27.5″ bikes

Still wondering if this whole 650B/27.5/fence-sitter hoohah is worth a look? We’ve tested a whole bunch of 27.5-wheeled bikes of late. Maybe these reviews will help you make up your mind!

Giant Trance 1 27.5 

Click here for the full review.

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Giant’s overhaul of the Trance range this year went the whole nine yards. This was no quick botox and collagen, oh no, Giant booked the Trance in for the works: nip and tuck, implants, hair extensions and more. Diana Ross would be in awe.

Yeti SB75

Click here for the full review.

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Many people have been hanging out expectantly, waiting to see what Yeti would do with 27.5″ wheels after this core Colorado-based brand arguably came to the mid-wheel market a year late. Some were betting on 27.5″ version of the SB66, but instead Yeti unveiled two new 27.5″ machines. One was a remake of the classic 575 (which we hope to test soon), the other is the gorgeous yellow machine you see here; the SB75.

Pivot Mach 6 Carbon

Click here for the full review.

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All carbon and all glorious, the Mach 6 is only a small step up in the travel stakes from the legendary Mach 5.7, but it’s quite a different beast. First of all, the wheels are a little bigger – it’s one of three new 27.5″ bikes in the Pivot lineup. Secondly, it shuffles towards the descending end of the spectrum a bit, with slacker angles, a lower bottom bracket and FOX’s premium Float X shock. Pivot built this bike with Gravity Enduro racing in mind, you know.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5

Click here for the full review.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-2

The Remedy has been Trek’s all-mountain / trail bike for a number of years now, and it’s always been an impressive machine, well noted for its excellent suspension and spritely feel. For 2014, Trek have made two big changes to the Remedy. There’s the wheel size, obviously, with the Remedy now packing 27.5″ hoops, but they’ve also reduced the travel, back to 140mm from 150mm in previous generations.

Merida One Forty B

Click here for the full review. 

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When we ripped open the box containing the new Merida One Forty B, we immediately knew that this was a big step in our preferred direction. Fortunately for us, we had a five-hour ride planned the next day on the exact style of trails this bike’s designed for. Let’s get acquainted!

GT Sensor Carbon Team

Click here for the full review.

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What GT has aimed to do is build upon their Independent Drive system which we’ve known for many years, and improve on it. And with the new bigger (but not that much bigger) 650B wheels and a wild looking carbon frame thrown in the mix, the 2014 Sensor gives you a real sense that GT have stepped it up, reaffirming their heritage rich reputation, big time.

Jared Graves Interview, Part 1: Enduro World Series and the DH World Champs

Jared Graves has had an incredible year. Perhaps the most versatile and dedicated mountain biker of our time, in 2013 he claimed second overall in the inaugural Enduro World Series, bagged a spectacular third place at the World Champs in downhill and raced at the sharp end of XCO at the National Champs.

We caught up with Jared Graves, calling in from his hometown of Toowoomba. Incidentally our chat came just a couple of days before his local club played host to the Queensland State Enduro Championships (on the same day as his first wedding anniversary!). In part one of our interview, we chat with Jared about his successes in both the Enduro World Series and the World Champs, but we begin by asking him about the scene right there in Toowoomba.

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How’s it all looking for the race this weekend?

Yeah, it should be good. We’ve got great trails for Enduro racing. There’s about 300 metres vertical to play with here, so for Australia that’s pretty solid. One stage is about six minutes if I have a good run, so that’s pretty decent.

 

Things really seem like they’re going very well for Enduro in Queensland.

Yep, we’ve got some good guys here, people like Ian Hardwood really pushing it. That’s what you really need, some people who just push it. It’s been really successful; I’ve got a few downhill bikes in the garage I’m trying to sell, but no one wants to buy them! Everyone just wants the enduro bike, something they can do anything on.

 

You’ve probably had a bit of an impact on that.

I don’t know, I feel like that’s the way the club has been going for a few years now. There used to be talk about getting another downhill track, but more and more trails general have been going in. We’ve got a really solid network now – it’s probably a good three-hour ride to take in everything we’ve got. There’s new stuff going in all the time. You’ll go out and suddenly see a new section of singletrack with a couple of diggers parked in the middle of it. It’s cool. We’ve got a good group of maybe 20 guys who love getting in there with a shovel.

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Let’s have a chat about the Enduro World Series (EWS). What are your thoughts about the series in its inaugural year?

Going into it I had no idea what it’d be like. I had the idea that if you were a well-rounded rider, you’d go ok. I mean I’ve got a downhill background, and a cross-country background from when I was a young fella. And so I sort of trained with that in mind; I really just worked on everything to be as fit and strong as possible.

One thing I knew would work in my favour is that I’ve always ridden the smaller bikes better than the downhill bike. It’s almost like that as downhill bikes got better, as suspension technology improved, my results went down. I mean my focus changed too, but the smaller bikes suits my style a bit more, I tend to go faster on the small bikes. I think it’s just my technique – I’ve got a good position on the bike, using my body more than just the suspension. You see so many young guys now on World Cups who you can just tell have never had to ride the fully rigid cromo bikes with cantilever brakes. I started pre v-brakes.

You see these young guys now who absolutely rely on the bike, they just plough through a section. If you put them on hardtail they’d have no idea at all. The really good kids would be fine, because they ride all kinds of different bikes. But there are so many kids who just say ‘I want to be a downhiller’ and all they ride is their downhill bike.

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When did you make the decision to make the EWS your focus?

Well, the start of 2012 I trained hard for downhill, but as soon as we got underway with the World Cups, I realised that deep down it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing.

It was kind of a bit of a weird time. We did this one enduro in Spain, we thought we’d do it for a bit of fun, for a bit of variety in the training. It wasn’t the most competitive field, but I won it and I really enjoyed it. After that I thought I’d do Crankworx, because I was going to Whistler anyhow to train. So I did the Enduro there and won a stage, and I thought I had just been stuffing around, I only got there the day before and did a tiny bit of practice. So I thought, ‘shit, I could probably go pretty good at this’. And I just love the style of riding too, you get more time on your bike, it’s just how I wanted to ride.

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So how did the actual series go from your perspective? Was it a good cohesive kind of series even with the variety of different formats?

Yeah, I think everyone really liked the varying formats! Some people got confused with it, but you really only needed to spend half an hour on the internet to work out exactly what was going on – there are a few different formats, the Italian format, the French format etc. But once you read about them, you knew what you were in for. Some riders did better at a certain format where you might get more practice, while other riders did better at the French format where you only get one practice run then have to go flat out into it. And again I think it showed the more rounded rider as you needed to be good regardless of the format. I hope they continue doing it like that.

 

Do you think we’ll see more specialist Enduro riders in 2014?

I think that’s how it’s going already. For the downhill guys though, enduro is really the perfect way to train. You get a lot of time on your bike, it’s physically hard, and you’re in that race frame of mind.

Still, it doesn’t necessarily translate; there are some guys who are fast on downhill bikes who aren’t nearly so quick in Enduro, and vice versa. I mean, there are a lot of downhill guys who were scratching their heads wondering why they weren’t going faster or placing higher in the Enduros.

I was thinking about it the other day; I don’t think you’ll ever be at your full potential in downhill without motocross, I don’t think you’ll ever be at the top of 4X without BMX and I don’t think you’ll ever be at the top of Enduro unless you race a bit of downhill. The cross-training goes hand in hand.

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What makes a good Enduro rider fast?

When you look at downill and Enduro, the mentality is the same. But the trails and style are different. Enduro trails tend to be more raw, more natural. But downhill I feel is getting more like motocross. The tracks are very man made; the trails start off quite man made and groomed and then get more and more rutted out. To me it’s not really a pure form of mountain biking anymore.

Perhaps that’s why the speed doesn’t always translate. Minnaar for example, at the first round in Italy, he didn’t do that well. And everyone on the forums was saying, ‘oh he was just there having fun,’ but he was deadset scratching his head wondering why he was so far off the pace, losing 30 seconds in a five-minute stage. I can’t put a finger on what it is, but I had expected Minnaar to be up there too.

Then at the second round, Greg turned it around and got third overall, he got a stage win. It’s just a different form of racing and something doesn’t always click.

 

From a rider’s point of view, do you feel like the coverage missed anything?

Oh yeah, sometimes, for instance there might only be time for media to film the pedally bit at the bottom because there hasn’t been enough time for them to get tot the gnarly bit up the top. A bit like the World’s course in South Africa – on TV you’d think it was all just pedalling and the groomed jumps at the bottom, when there was actually some proper full-on downhill up the top. But then you’d rather have that coverage then no coverage at all.

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Spectating must be hard.

Yeah sure, but at some races the spectators were wild. Like in Whistler or in Italy – in Italy there were masses of people out on course.

 

Can you quickly explain the different formats?

The Italian format generally sees you climbing to the top yourself. The stages are generally shorter because you can’t obviously have five stages in a day where you need to climb a thousand vertical metres each stage. You tended to have two days of practice before the race, which was normally enough to have a couple of runs down each of the stages.

The French format, because they have such big mountains, it’s good to take advantage of that vertical and have some really long stages, so they tended to have uplifts. Some of the races had a minimum of 800 metres vertical descent each stage, with up to 1500m – 15 minutes of pure downhill, very physical, high speed. Some people say ‘that’s not enduro’, but the enduro aspect comes from having very long, very physical descents. Some of the French races had two hours of racing per race.

In the French format you have one practice run per stage, right before the race. So you do a practice of stage 1, then your race run of stage 1, then a practice of stage 2, then your race of stage 2.

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That sounds so awesome.

Yeah, I loved them. The courses flow really well and you can see far enough ahead that you can hit them very fast even on the first run. They’re careful to not put things in that will completely catch you off guard. I like to go pretty much flat out on my sighting run, so I can see how it all feels at speed and see what might catch you out. And that’s kind of a skill in itself, knowing how to make the most out of a practice run. You don’t have time to stress about it.

The two in America, at Crankworx and at the Winter Park race, they had a combination of formats. Actually at Winter Park we mainly used the chairlift because of the altitude. They actually ended up shortening some of the stages because people were passing out in their race runs; a lot of the stages started at over 11,000ft, the base of the mountain was even over 9,000ft. At that altitude you can go into oxygen debt in like 30 seconds. A well-paced race run at altitude should feel very slow at first. If you’re breathing hard in the first few minutes, you’ve blown it pretty much!

 

In Australia, there’s definitely a lot of discussion of what the most appropriate format is. 

I think the Italian format is definitely the best in most instances in Australia. But still, that can be hard too because that’s a lot of pedalling for the some riders you’re trying to encourage into the sport. But overall I think riding to the top is the best option. Shuttles can be a pain in the butt to organise, they can add to the expense and things go wrong. I mean, some places like Thredbo or Buller obviously use the chairlift, but somewhere like Stromlo you should definitely be pedalling back up.

One thing I have seen from race reports in Australia is that some Enduros just become mini downhills on trail bikes. To me, that’s not what Enduro is, that’s just multiple stage downhill racing. Even here in Toowoomba, when I was riding with some of the guys and looking at trails to include in the Enduro State Champs, I pointed out one trail and said it’d be good, but they said ‘oh, but it’s got a little climb in it.’ But that’s just meant to be part of it – it brings the fitness side into it. I mean, the good thing is that Enduro can be whatever the race organiser wants it to be. The only thing I don’t like is when there’s just a one-minute downhill – that seems pointless to me.

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Did you change your bike setup much during the season with the massive variety in formats?

I tried to keep it the same mostly. I guess the thing is, when you practice the track you get an idea of what the terrain is like you might make a few tiny changes – chain ring size, brake rotors perhaps. But the pressure in my fork and shock didn’t change one bit all year. You just don’t have time to change your setup to suit different stages, and every time you change your setup it takes a run or two to adapt and get comfortable.

I think that’s good too, especially for people getting into the sport, that you don’t need to make that many changes. At World Cup level in downhill, suspension can make such a huge difference, but in Enduro you can kind if take that aspect out of it and just go ride.

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What’s your relationship with Jerome Clementz like?

He’s a really good guy! I mean, the Frenchies can have a reputation for being a bit happy to get into the grey areas when it comes to shortcuts on the course. But Jerome isn’t like that; he’s the perfect guy to have as the face of Enduro, he’s a nice guy who loves riding his bike. He’s everything that Enduro is all about in my mind.

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Moving on to downhill. What was more important to you; getting third in downhill at the Worlds or second overall in Enduro?

Well in terms of my year goals, I was more focused on Enduro results for sure. But at Worlds I knew it was a track I could do well at and a medal was always my goal. And I didn’t realise until after the result what an effect my result would have; so many people just blew up about it, it got so much attention, it’s been really cool and a nice bonus at the end of the year.

I knew it’d take a really good run, and that’s what I got. I had to take it a bit steady up top on the little bike, but on the bottom half of the track the bike paid dividends. As far as a single result of the year goes, it’s the best.

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Was there a point that you regretted riding the SB66?

Well, my downhill bike was there. But it came down to what I was comfortable on. At the Fort William World Cup at the start of the year I was just there having fun, but even still I didn’t really ever feel comfortable on the downhill bike, even after three days straight on it. For me it takes a couple of weeks on a bike before I feel like I know exactly what it’s doing, like it has become an extension of my body. And at Fort William I was coming into rough sections and not knowing fully how the bike was going to react. And that’s always going to slow you down.

I knew I’d need to be fully comfortable on the bike to get the result I wanted at World Champs. And when we walked the track after the juniors had been on it for two days, I was a bit unsure – you sort of forget how rough bits get after they get chopped up during practice. It felt a bit sketchy at the start of practice on the SB66, but then everyone was saying they couldn’t find grip out there, so I wasn’t the only one. But then by the day before race day I knew I’d made the right choice.

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Come back soon for part two of our chat with Jared Graves where we talk about training, racing across multiple disciplines and Jared answers your questions.

 

Tested: Yeti SB75

We seem to be testing a lot of 27.5″ bikes all of a sudden, across a whole range of riding styles too. It’s almost like the old days when one wheel size did it all.

Many people have been hanging out expectantly, waiting to see what Yeti would do with 27.5″ wheels after this core Colorado-based brand arguably came to the mid-wheel market a year late. Some were betting on 27.5″ version of the SB66, but instead Yeti unveiled two new 27.5″ machines. One was a remake of the classic 575 (which we hope to test soon), the other is the gorgeous yellow machine you see here; the SB75.

Yeti SB75 test -3

The build:

The SB75 fills a hole left in the Yeti lineup by the departure of the ASR-5, a bike that was lauded for its meshing of cross-country weights and all-mountain aggression. Given the resounding praise the SB66 and SB95 bikes have garnered, it’s no surprise that the SB75 follows a similar line of development, built around the Switch suspension system.

Yeti SB75 test -4
Yay for the Yeti Man! Note the fat welds and stout tube profiles.

The geometry underpinnings are similar too; short stays out back, a longer travel fork (in this instance 140mm, compared to 125mm rear travel), a slack head angle and low bottom bracket. It’s that iconic Yeti feel once again.

We’ve been riding the SB66 Carbon for some time now, and while the basic frame architecture of the SB75 is similar, the aesthetics of the frame are very different. With welds bigger than your fingernails and broad, flat-topped tube shapes, it looks and feels very robust, rather than slippery and sleek. Weight-wise, there’s a bit of muscle in there, with our medium sized bike edging up just over 13.4kg, so no featherweight.

Post mount rear brake tabs and a Shimano made 142mm rear axle.
Post mount rear brake tabs and a Shimano made 142mm rear axle.

The frame bristles with well considered features (aside from the constraints around fitting a water bottle). Highlights include a threaded bottom bracket – this system is still the best in our humble opinion – and a Shimano-made 142mm rear axle. The cable routing is neat too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area, and there are provisions to run either internal or external cables for a dropper seat post.

Yeti SB75 test -9
The internal seat post cable goes in here, or there are guides for an external cable too.

When it comes to sizing, we were caught out a little by the SB75. The size medium measures up more like a size large when compared to other Yetis. For our 170cm-tall test rider, a medium would normally be spot on, but a size small would’ve been more appropriate. We ended up swapping out the 90mm stem for a 70mm. We also ran the stem flipped too, as the medium frame has a quite a tall head tube. For a medium frame, the seat tube length is considerable, at 19.5 inches. Again, check the size before you buy, as the long seat tube has the potential to cause dramas should you wish to run a dropper seat post. (Some dropper posts are super long, and tall seat tubes can sometimes mean it’s hard to get the seat low enough when the post is at full extension).

Ostensibly a size medium, our test SB75 is pretty big.
Ostensibly a size medium, our test SB75 is pretty big.

We’ve dwelled on the Switch suspension system in previous reviews (see here, and here) so we won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say its pedalling performance is a real highlight, it handles big impacts like nobody’s business and it’s super durable too. We did let all the air out of the shock and compress the suspension to observe the Switch system in operation; on this particular bike, the eccentric pivot really does not rotate very much at all, just a few degrees. This is interesting to note, as the Switch system on the SB66 has noticeably more rotation.

A Kashima FOX Float CTD Trail Adjust shock is the damper of choice for the SB75 frameset.
A Kashima FOX Float CTD Trail Adjust shock is the damper of choice for the SB75 frameset.

The Bits:

There are numerous build kits available for the SB75, with SRAM and Shimano options. Our bike ran an XT kit, using a premium FOX 34 CTD (Trail Adjust) fork, with Kashima coated legs an 140mm travel – SRAM kits come with a Rockshox Revelation fork. No matter which kit you choose, the frame runs a superb FOX Float CTD shock.

The Easton wheels are great - stiff and tubeless ready - but we did notice a bit of play in the rear hub.
The Easton wheels are great – stiff and tubeless ready – but we did notice a bit of play in the rear hub.

Easton provide the carbon Haven bar (a narrowish 710mm wide – we wouldn’t mind a tad more width) and Vice XLT wheelset. We noticed the tinniest amount of play in the rear hub; it wasn’t overly noticeable on the trail but giving the rear wheel a wiggle you could feel it. The rims are tubeless ready, as are the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres and so we ran them sans tubes.

If you're running a fixed (as opposed to a dropper) post, Thomson is the way to go. It's pretty cool to see this item come stock on the SB75.
If you’re running a fixed (as opposed to a dropper) post, Thomson is the way to go. It’s pretty cool to see this item come stock on the SB75.

A Thomson stem and seat post add a glamorous touch; it almost seems a pity to remove a Thomson post to install a dropper, but that’s what we’d do given the option. Shimano’s XT brakes and drivetrain can’t be topped for sheer reliability, and the 2×10 gearing with a 24/38 crankset is a sensible option for most riders.

The Ride:

Our first ride on the SB75 left us feeling a bit like a passenger – as we mentioned earlier, the medium frame is actually pretty big – so we quickly went away and fitted a slightly shorter stem. Instantly we felt 100% better on the bike and we could get down to the serious business of riding the arse off this Yeti.

The Cane Creek headset has a bit of height to it, on top of an already tall head tube, so we flipped the stem. Normally the SB75 runs a Thomson stem too, but we needed something a tad shorter for our tad short test rider.
The Cane Creek headset has a bit of height to it, on top of an already tall head tube, so we flipped the stem. Normally the SB75 runs a Thomson stem too, but we needed something a tad shorter for our tad short test rider.

In terms of how we’d position the SB75’s performance on the trail, it slots in fairly close to the SB66 in many regards. 125mm of travel doesn’t sound like much when you position the 75 alongside the current ranks of all-mountain bikes, but thanks in part to the 140mm fork with its 34mm stanchions, the SB75 can hold its own when things get rough. The flat out descending performance is not in the same league as the SB66, but neither would you expect it to be, due to the steeper head angle and shorter wheelbase. That said, with some larger rubber on board we reckon the downhill performance gap between the 75 and 66 wouldn’t be much at all.

The Switch. Any doubts we had about the durability of this system when it was announced have long since been alleviated.
The Switch. Any doubts we had about the durability of this system when it was announced have long since been alleviated.

As we’ve noted in past tests, the Switch suspension found on the SB series bikes is best when ridden hard. As such, we set both the fork and shock to Trail mode most of the time, giving up a little small bump compliance in order to deliver a ride that skimmed over the terrain and saved its legs for the bigger hits. Despite the different travel lengths between the fork and rear suspension, getting a balanced feel was easy. The fork ramps up quite hard near the end of its stroke, so it never felt as if it was diving, and the rear end is so capable it genuinely feels like there’s more than 125mm on offer.

The FOX 34 series fork is a massive boon to this bike. The extra couple of hundred grams is well worth the point-and-shoot confidence.
The FOX 34 series fork is a massive boon to this bike. The point-and-shoot confidence is well worth the couple of hundred gram weight penalty.

A low bottom bracket height makes the 75 a lot of fun in the corners, but some care is needed on technical climbs. We tagged the chain rings a number of times when climbing up rock ledges. Overall, we’d gladly take the stability benefits of the low bottom bracket height any day, even if it means the odd pedal or chain ring scrape. Overall climbing performance is pretty good. It’s not a mountain goat, not at this weight, but there’s no pedal induced bobbing, and forward drive is excellent.

We primarily left the fork and shock in the Trail setting, for a firmer, faster ride.
We primarily left the fork and shock in the Trail setting, for a firmer, faster ride.

On the medium sized frame, the tallish head tube has both positives and negatives; you do have to work harder to ensure the front end keeps biting, but you’re also filled with confidence to drop into chutes and roll-ins that would be intimidating should the front end be much lower. In terms of the riding position, it reminded us bit of the 575 of previous years – ultra comfortable.

Do the bigger wheels make a difference? That’s a hard call to make. On fast, pedally, flat sections of fire road, the 75 certainly seems to roll nicely and carry momentum well. However, whether or not this is the product of the wheel size or just an indicator of great suspension is hard to say!

Overall:

If you were a fan of the ASR-5, you’re going to love the new SB75. It retains that same hard-charging trail bike vibe, but incorporates greatly improved suspension, faster rolling wheels and a stiffer frameset too. For us, the weight is a slight niggle, so we’re hanging out for the inevitable carbon version of this bike.

Yeti SB75 test -2

If we had to choose between an SB75 and an SB66 for our day to day riding, it would be a very tough call to make. They’re both great bikes, with the 75 maintaining a slight edge in the versatility stakes, largely because its slightly steeper angles make it less of a handful on flatter trails. And then there’s the new 575 to consider too… We’ll have to give it a try too and pick our favourite.

 Test rider:
Chris Southwood. Height: 170cm. Weight: 63kg

Fresh Product: 2014 Yeti 575

Yeti 575 27 masthead

The 575 has been completely updated and built around a 27.5” wheel platform. Long revered for its impeccable trail manners, the 575’s suspension rate has been optimized to give more support in the mid-stroke and a consistent feel throughout the suspension travel. This gives the 575 even more versatility on a variety of trails.

As in the past, all the features that made the 575 a true trail bike are back: hydro-formed aluminum tube set to optimize chassis stiffness, oversized chain stays for durability and stiffness, ISCG mounts and a progressive geometry that gives confidence climbing and descending.

Flow’s First Bite: Yeti SB75

You’ve got to hand it to Yeti. For a relatively small, and certainly boutique, brand they never rest on their laurels. They’re constantly refining and innovating, looking for ways to be more relevant and desirable.

Yeti SB75 -5

The SB75 is no surprise, rather it’s a perfect evolution. The Switch Technology debuted a couple of years ago with the SB66 finds a new home, nesting happily with a set of 27.5″ wheels, all wrapped up in that progressive geometry that Yeti is renowned for.

Yeti SB75 -22

With 125mm travel, the SB75 is a direct replacement for the ASR 5, a bike of fierce repute and a favourite of ours. The ‘5’ as it was affectionately known, brought all-mountain geometry and cross-country weight together, making it the trail bike of choice for many aggressive riders.

Yeti SB75 -28

The 75 picks up this vibe and runs with it, maintaining the slack angles, long top tube and low bottom bracket height that made the 5 so much fun. The addition of 27.5″ wheels and the extremely good Switch suspension system should mean more efficiency and better roll-over too.

Yeti SB75 -19

As we’ve noted before, the Switch system responds best to hard riding, so it’s fitting that the SB75 comes well equipped up front. Stock SRAM builds will come with a 140mm Rockshox Revelation, while this bike pack with a Shimano kit runs a 140mm-travel Fox 34 fork. Even with 140mm up front, Yeti importer Paul Rowney points out that there’s still a good leap between the SB75 and the SB66 – the 66’s length and geometry is decidedly more downhill focused.

Yeti SB75 -6

In this XT guise the 75 is a smidge over 13kg, so by the time you’ve got tubeless and then added a dropper post (a must) it’ll balance out around 13.3kg. We expect there’ll be a carbon version of the 75 in the wings too.

The SB75 will be winging its way back to us next month for a proper review.

Long Term Test: Yeti SB66 Is Fitted With SRAM X01 And RockShox Monarch Plus

Out with the old, and in with the new, it was time to show the Yeti SB66 long term test bike some love, and give our shiny new SRAM X01 a worthy home.

The Shimano XTR cranks and shifters have served us so well, it’s really quite impressive. And the Shimano XT derailleur and cassette also deserve a fine send off for never missing a beat during its tough life aboard the super bike.

We’ve run the Wolf Tooth Components chainring for many months now, and for only $70 it’s a really sensible and simple solution to convert your bike to using a single ring (check out our review). We feel a shorter cage derailleur with more tension is needed for maximum retention, as we dropped the chain twice with our long cage XT derailleur.

Shimano XT and XTR is so damn durable, it may look a bit beat up, but function is 100%.
Shimano XT and XTR is so damn durable, it may look a bit beat up, but function is 100%.

X01 signifies a step forward for the Yeti, with eleven speed single ring drivetrains becoming the latest and favoured trend. Shimano will have eleven speed one day too, so why not. We’ve loved SRAM XX1 since day one, and with X01 being so incredible similar in construction and features, we are curious to put it on long term test, but we can’t help but think that it’s just XX1, only a minute fraction heavier. So that means it should be just as good on the trail, right? We’ll see.

One advantage of running a brake and shifter from the same brand is combining the clamps, into one.
One advantage of running a brake and shifter from the same brand is combining the clamps, into one.
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Off comes the Shimano, cheers for the good times.
Hello SRAM, and your thick and thin chainring teeth.
Hello SRAM, and your thick and thin chainring teeth.
The shifter and brake lever, are now mated very neatly.
The shifter and brake lever, are now mated very neatly.
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Very neat indeed.
SRAM XD driver body and the outgoing standard one. A new standard is always a pain to begin with, but the new system actually makes sense, simply in the way that the bearings are positioned to support the cassette.
SRAM XD driver body and the outgoing standard one. A new standard is always a pain to begin with, but the new system actually makes sense, simply in the way that the bearings are positioned to support the cassette.
The big and bulky X01 derailleur is a target for impacts and abuse, we'll need to keep that in mind, as the Shimano Shadow it replaces tucks away out of harm very well.
The big and bulky X01 derailleur is a target for impacts and abuse. We’ll need to keep that in mind, as the Shimano Shadow it replaces tucks away out of harm very well. We’ve already dropped the bike, and the derailleur walloped the ground, whoops.
The Rockshox PIKE is so bloody good, we simply cannot get enough of its controlled, smooth and sturdy action.
The Rockshox Pike is so bloody good, we just cannot get enough of its controlled, smooth and sturdy action. (check out our review)
Is it so, are the crowns creaking? This is usually a negative trait to FOX forks from a few years ago. We greased the headset bearing, bar clamps, and fork axles, but when you stop to a halt with the front brake on, there is creaking.
Is it so, are the crowns creaking? This is usually a negative trait to FOX forks from a few years ago. We greased the headset bearing, bar clamps, and fork axles, but when you stop to a halt with the front brake on, there is creaking.
The best tyre in world? We love the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, but the rear tyre is showing serious signs of wear, after an acceptable term of shredding. The front tyre could stay on for a while longer, but we have fresh rubber to test.
The best tyre in world? We love the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, but the rear tyre is showing serious signs of wear, after an acceptable term of shredding. The front tyre could stay on for a while longer, but we have fresh rubber to test.
A Specialized Ground Control 2.3" sealed up the the ENVE wheels nicely.
A Specialized Ground Control 2.3″ sealed up on the ENVE wheels nicely.
Up front, the Specialized Purgatory in 2.4" width. We've had great experiences with these guys, and they are also lighter than the bigger Schwalbe tyres that it replaces.
Up front, the Specialized Purgatory in 2.4″ width. We’ve had great experiences with these guys, and they are also lighter than the bigger Schwalbe tyres that it replaces.
One of the Shimano XTR Trail pedals felt a bit sloppy in the axle, so we whipped the axle out, and nipped up the tiny bearing adjustment. A quick and easy job.
One of the Shimano XTR Trail pedals felt a bit sloppy in the axle, so we whipped the axle out, and nipped up the tiny bearing adjustment. A quick and easy job.
The Thompson post is a real winner, the up and down action is so slick. The collar/seal was coming loose a few times during each ride, a quick bit of Loctite on the thread fixed that and it hasn't budged since. No additional play has become obvious either, so far so good for the most expensive seatpost we've ever sat on.
The Thompson post is a real winner, the up and down action is so slick. The collar/seal was coming loose a few times during each ride, a quick bit of Loctite on the thread fixed that and it hasn’t budged since. No additional play has become obvious either, so far so good for the most expensive seatpost we’ve ever sat on.
The latest Rockshox Monarch Plus rear shock also found its way onto the Yeti. We plan to do back-to-back comparison testing with the FOX Float X. We d have to say, that it has its work cut out for it though, the FOX Float X is superb, and our past experiences with the Monarch shocks have been fairly average. Let's hope the latest revisions to the damping have helped the sensitivity.
The latest Rockshox Monarch Plus rear shock also found its way onto the Yeti. We plan to do back-to-back comparison testing with the FOX Float X. We’d have to say, that it has its work cut out for it though, the FOX Float X is superb, and our past experiences with the Monarch shocks have been fairly average. Let’s hope the latest revisions to the damping have helped the sensitivity.
PRO Tharsis controls, we love the feel, weight and look of the gear. It is well worth a look into for taking any bike the next step into all mountain terrain. We use a 60mm stem and a 640mm wide bar.
PRO Tharsis controls, we love the feel, weight and look of the gear. It is well worth a look into for taking any bike the next step into all mountain terrain. We use a 60mm stem and a 740mm wide bar.
Hey good looking! Ready for Flowtorua next week, the Yeti is born again and looking hot!
Hey good looking! Ready for Flowtorua next week, the Yeti is born again and looking hot!

If anyone has some ideas to further upgrade this juicy test bike, we are all ears. Just look at the thing!

 

Video: Yeti Freak – Alex Petitdemange

Alex is a Yeti Freak through and through. He spends the entire winter traveling with the US Ski team as a race technician which allows him to have most of the summer and fall off from work.

He uses this free time to ride and explore trails all over the world. Hailing from France, he now calls Moab, Utah home and knows more trails there than just about anyone. We caught up with “Frenchy” in Moab for a few days this summer to get the low down on his amazing lifestyle and to explore some of the more unknown trails in Moab and the La Sal mountains.

Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #6

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Val d’Isere – France

Mentally, Round 6 was one of the toughest weekends of my life. Since racing the Val d’Isere World Cup downhill here last year, I have been looking forward to coming back. The town of Val d’Isere is so cool and the surrounding mountains provide beautiful views; the kind that make you stop and feel lucky to be where you are.

Tuesday – Arrived in Geneva after a long flight from Colorado. And by long, I mean hugely stressful. I don’t recommend going to Europe from the US, with stopovers in Canada. I had a 1.5-hour layover in Toronto before my flight to Geneva. In that time, I had to collect my bags (some of which didn’t make the flight leaving Denver…including my bikes), clear customs, re-check my bags, change terminals, and go back through security. Dripping with sweat and running everywhere through terminals, I barely made my flight. I finally landed in Geneva and had to complete more paperwork in order to have my bikes delivered to me in Val d’Isere after they arrived. Our good friend and fellow Yeti Freak, Albert “The Albatross” Callis would be my team help for the weekend. He picked me up at the airport and we were on our way. We arrived late Tuesday, got settled in, and pretty much went straight to bed.

Wednesday – Albert had his bike here, which was a similar to mine. So, I was able to go for a bit of a ride today and spin the legs. I can’t remember the last time I tried to ride a bike with the brakes set the opposite from how I run them, it’s such a dramatic change. I found some easy single track along a river to spin along and I was so scared every time I got on the brakes…not a confident feeling at all! Not much else today and I was just trying to stay awake with the time change; getting over jetlag was the main priority for the first couple days. I’m also sure I’ve racked up about a $250 phone bill today trying to get through to the airport and delivery company as to the whereabouts of my still undelivered bikes. Everything was automated voice messages (in French nonetheless). Where is a real person to speak to?!?!

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Thursday – REALLY hoping my bike shows up today. I have some changes that still need to be made to get it race ready and I’m getting stressed! A couple small training sessions today to get the body ready for racing with some plyometrics and a few intervals, but I decided to stick to the road to avoid having to deal with Albert’s backwards brakes…haha! My bike was supposed to be delivered this afternoon, but it never came. I’m starting to border on RAGE! At about 9pm, I was starting to get ready for bed, when a delivery guy texted saying he was here with my bike…yewwwwwwww! So happy, I could now go to bed stress free and hopefully get my first good night’s sleep.

Friday – track walking day. As is normal with the French format, Friday is set aside to walk stages. It takes about three hours to walk down just one race stage, so you have to pick a trail to walk and hope it pays off. The obvious choice to walk (according to the map) was the top of Stage 1 and then cut across to the bottom half of Stage 3. That’s what we did and it seemed like a lot of people had the same idea. If only I would have been given an earlier heads up that Stage 2 was the one that you really needed to walk. My legs were already feeling blown out after almost four hours of walking, so there was no chance I was going up for another three hours on them. A small easy spin for an hour before dinner, make sure the bike is 100% dialed for day 1 of racing, then off to bed.

Courses: The format for this weekend was three different stages with one practice/sighting run on each course, and then racing on twice on each course, making a total of six race stages.

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Stage 1/2 started by using the exact same start as the World Championship DH skiing course, which was pretty cool. From the top of the Gondola it made for a brutally steep, bike over shoulder hike, to the very top for our first two timed stages. The course was fairly flowy and fast, and I thought it was very cool they just taped virgin trail through grassy fields and used some very cool natural features of the terrain. There were so many dips and holes and natural berms and it was super fun…the sort of trail I would absolutely love to get a full days riding on to get to learn properly and really get up to speed. From the top natural grassy stuff, it went in to some very rough and unused single track that had okay flow. The track eventually joined back into some DH type switchbacks near the end and finished on part of the XC world cup track’s descent from last year. I enjoyed the stage and felt confident on it.

Stage 3/4 had so much going on with very tight and awkward trail, without much flow through most sections. It also used some bike park trails in small sections to give you a bit of a mental break from looking for lines, which was nice. The hardest part came after massive storms rolled through and turned the stage super greasy and slippery. I just tried to remember three key points for this stage, all of which completely stalled me out in practice.

Stage 5/6 was very long at 17 minutes and very physical. Similar feel up top as Stage 1/2; with a lot of natural grassy flowing stuff. I really enjoyed that and hope they do more of that stuff in the future. That was a big thing I heard from people this weekend; racers enjoyed the flow of a lot of sections, but sometimes things got a little awkward and flow (and fun) was lost. The middle of this stage had a fairly prolonged climb, a good few minutes with another minute or two of flatter stuff as you crested the top…a huge leg and lung burner! The bottom 1/3 dropped into steep wooded switchbacks before a few more short punch climbs before the finish.

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Racing – Stage 1 – Found my flow straight away today, and didn’t have that first run tight riding like other races this year…PUMPED! Everything went well, and I was eating into the 20-second interval that I started behind Jerome Clementz. The only problem was the dust. It got to a point where all I could see was his dust. I just couldn’t push to get any closer in the last minutes of the stage as it steepened. I couldn’t see where I was going and the dust just lingered. I was happy to take some time out of him to start the day, but a little annoyed about the dust. Still a stage win to start the day…can’t complain!

Stage 2 – Such a rookie start, my brain was out of gear and I crashed into the very first turn. I just completely over cooked it, so dumb! I didn’t panic; it was an 11-minute stage and I got back into my rhythm. From there, I rode almost perfectly and was catching Jerome again, but the dust became the biggest issue again and I couldn’t push. Once I got to within 8 seconds of him, that’s where I stayed. I had to accept that was as close as I was safely able to get to him and keep any sort of visibility. The last thing I needed was to smash a rock and get a mechanical because I hit something I couldn’t see. Finished with another stage win and feeling happy.

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Stage 3 – Lunchtime storms rolled in right on time. At least dust wouldn’t be an issue. The storms however made for quite a long delay before we actually got to ride. Conditions were now super slick and mud tires would have been the call. But, travelling by myself (and travelling light), muds weren’t an option, which made for some wild times! My run started really well…for about 45 seconds. Anyone who raced this weekend got a feel for how bad the visibility was in the heavy fog. Combine fog with only one practice run to remember hundreds of sections of track (impossible) and I found myself coming into a turn through the fog with no visibility and I launched straight through the tape and down an embankment. I was soaking wet and covered in mud, including my gloves. By the time I got back to where I left the track, Fabian Barel had caught me (so I had lost 20 seconds). We ended up riding the whole run together and I tried to push to build small gaps on the pedaling sections, but Fabian was right behind me. And my mud covered gloves made it very difficult to hang on to the bars…it was like having cakes of soap for grips. I got all the way to the last turn when I decided to put the bike down one more time and I slid for what felt like an eternity! I got back up and my number plate was missing from my bars, but I found it and grabbed it quickly. I could feel that I’d hit my thumb pretty good and was disappointed to have just thrown away another 15 seconds on the VERY last corner. The 20-second lead I had over Jerome had turned into a 25 second deficit after this stage. I was feeling very frustrated. Once I finished, I realized that I had put an 8 inch long gash down my right quad and that it was bleeding fairly heavily through my shorts, and I could feel my thumb seizing up more by the minute. Time loss, nagging injures to deal with, and still a full day’s racing tomorrow. My mental state just took a massive blow, and I was very frustrated.

I also felt bad for my good buddy Justin Leov, who was sitting 2nd overall just behind me after the first two stages and would have been in the lead at the end of the day’s racing but he suffered a puncture and lost 7 minutes on this stage. Racing can be brutal sometimes!

Stage 4 – Due to the delays and storms yesterday, Stage 4 was delayed until Sunday morning. After a night full of rain and freezing conditions with fresh snow up the top of the Gondola, it was time to head to the top of the mountain for an 8am start. This was going to be a rough one; my thumb had swollen up fairly well and hanging onto the bars was difficult. As my run got going it wasn’t too bad, but I had to go easy through any rough sections. I just didn’t have the strength to hold on with my left hand, combined with freezing temperatures that made my thumb feel even weaker. I had to try and survive and limit the time loss as much as I could. It was a pretty bad stage for me, but not as bad as it could have been. I made it down and was still hanging onto 3rd place overall. Jerome won the stage with another solid run and set himself up in a strong position for the overall win.

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Stage 5 – This ended up being the final stage. We had more delays with heavy fog up top that made getting a helicopter in impossible (should anyone hurt themselves). The race was simply unable to go ahead if the medical situation wasn’t up to par, which is a good decision. This however meant that we would only be racing this stage once, instead of the planned two runs.

My thumb was feeling much better as the day warmed up a little. Some brief sunshine and some much needed ibuprofen helped, too! Overall, I was feeling really good about this stage after our practice run. My plan was to make sure I stayed 3rd overall, stay safe, and try and push to make up the 26 seconds I was behind Fabian Barel and take back 2nd overall for the weekend. My run went great; I rode almost perfectly…just like the final stage in Whistler two weeks ago. By the midway climb, I had caught and passed Fabian (who started 20 seconds ahead of me) and had my 40 seconds man, Jerome Clementz, in sight. So, I set out after him. I pushed right to the line and was right on his back wheel as we crossed the finish. What a perfect way to end what started as a very rough day! I got back into 2nd overall, and was only down 11 seconds from the overall weekend win. I was really happy, but a bit disappointed at some less than ideal circumstances and some rookie maneuvers on my part that cost me the top step of the podium. Fairly bummed as well that they decided not to run Stage 6. After taking 40 seconds off Jerome on Stage 5, I could have gotten the win if the race had gone its intended full distance. Not sure why we didn’t do Stage 6, as we had all afternoon to do it!

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So that was it, round 6 of the Enduro World Series done and just one round left to go in Finale Ligure in Italy in October. But for now, I’m at the airport in Geneva, my bags packed, and on my way to the Downhill World Champs in South Africa this weekend! Been excited for this race all year, can’t wait!

Frame – Yeti sb66c Medium
Fork – Fox float 34 2014
Rear Suspension – Fox Float X
Seatpost – Thomson Elite Dropper
Wheels – DT Swiss 240 hubs, 500 rims, and Aerolite spokes, alloy nipples
Tires – Maxxis Minion 2.5 EXO Front, 27psi, Maxxis MinionDHR2 30 psi rear, ghetto/ split tube tubeless
Brakes – Shimano XTR race lever, Saint calipers, 180mm Ice-Tech Rotors
Derailleur – Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Cranks – Shimano XTR 170-millimeter with Stages Power Meter Chainring – Shimano Saint 38-tooth
Cassette – Shimano XTR 11-36 Pedals – Shimano XTR trail
Chainguide – E13 LG1
Bars and Stem – Renthal 740mm Fatbar lite, 20mm rise, and 50mm duo Stem
Headset – Chris King
Grips – ODI Ruffian MX

 

** This content was originally posted on the Yeti website and has been reproduced with the permission of Jared Graves.

Video: The Pacific Northwest

After years of seeing imagery of the lush green trails from the Pacific Northwest have overwhelming influence on the media and culture of mountain biking, we decided it was time to go experience the rich, dark loam of the coastal regions for ourselves. So in the spring, we dusted off our trail bikes, packed up the rig and headed north to see what we could find.

The Pacific Northwest from Yeti Cycles on Vimeo.

Pro Rider Diary: Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #5

Monday

Typical travel day. We flew out from Denver and arrived in Whistler just before dark and with just enough time to go for a mellow cruise with my favorite WAMP (Weird Ass Mountain Person) Joey Schusler on the Lost Lake trails. I really love the trails there, if you’re after some fun turns and some bits that are still technical, Lost Lake are probably the easiest trails Whistler has to offer.

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Tuesday

Just a fun day in the Park, again out with Joey, he’s one of the most fun guys to go riding with, always laughing and with a smile on his dial. He’s pretty much equal with Richie Rude as far as getting rowdy on the bike goes. On this particular day I couldn’t wait to get up to the Top of the World trail, a track that features all the kinds of riding I love the most. Hands down, Top of the World has the best views of Whistler I’ve ever seen and it’s a fun flowy trail with some altitude to get the lungs going and a good amount of rocks to keep you on your toes. After Top of the World, we rode some other stuff in the park, probably a little too much, but were only in Whistler for six days, so the feeling was that we should make the most of it.

Wednesday

The first day of official training and we were able to ride Stage 5. With it being the longest stage and almost half the total time of the race, I knew it would be where the race was won or lost. I was able to get in two full runs and, despite feeling tired after yesterday, I had encouraging runs. The track was a similar one of the stages last year, so I more or less remembered it. The run was around 23 minutes and featured literally a thousand turns, so learning the whole thing was never going to happen. My goal was just to find my rhythm and remember the few bits that might catch me out.

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Thursday

Really just nothing to report today as it was exactly the same as yesterday. Perfect weather and two runs of Stage 5, Might have been the same as the day before, but riding in Whistler is always good times.

Friday

Practice for Stages 1 through 4.

Definitely not what I was expecting, but the course covered some awesome trails! Most were definitely not my strong suit with all the super tight and fiddly bits, followed by steep and rough terrain. Overall this event was shaping up to be a real all over physical test. With all the riders on the mountain, the tracks were also getting blown out fast!

I rode all four stages to get an idea of what it would be like on race day. Stages 1 and 2 went from the Top of the World trail as part of the liaison and the timed section for Stage 1 started on the Khyber Pass trail. I’ve heard a lot about this trail and it lived up to its reputation, it’s soooo good! Stage 2 was a weird trail, like nothing id ever ridden before, not quite sure how to explain it. It was very tight and, so, it was easy to run completely off the track into the bushes. In the middle of all this, two extremely short and steep climbs, the sort of ones that send you straight into the red zone. No question, it was going to be tough to have a clean run on Stage 2.

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After Stage 2 was a long, steep climb up to the beginning of Stage 3. To be honest, I wasn’t very into this stage. Mostly because I know I struggle a little on this type of super tight and fiddly stuff. Some bits were almost like downhill trials and many were definitely a challenge to maintain flow through.

Next it was over an hour of climbing up to the beginning of Stage 4. The uphill was brutally steep and had a few sections that required walking to avoid completely blowing my legs up on. The stage itself was one my favorite trails that I’ve ever ridden, steep and rocky, with constant flowing turns. Riding it fast gave me just such a rewarding feeling. A trail that good almost makes up for an hour of climbing.

Saturday

The day before the race and I was feeling pretty tired. I knew I needed to take it easy or, at least, easier than Friday. The bottom of Stage 4 was very close to our house for the week, so it was an easy pedal over. Riding Stage 4 for a second time made it clear that the trails were badly blown out from all the riders that had been on them. Luckily we got a good idea of what to expect for Sunday’s timed runs. The rapid rate of deterioration of the trails became even more clear in the afternoon when we went up and did Stages 1 and 2 again. The change was complete and they both a completely different trail compared to 30 hours before. After our practice runs it was time for a nice cruise along the road back to the village and then it was feet up and time to relax.

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Sunday

Race day and my plan was pretty simple: After racing the enduro in Whistler last year and being beyond tired for the final stage (which descends 5500 feet down the mountain over 23 minutes), I knew it would be extremely important save some energy for the final stage, Begin that stage tired and there would only be one result: Massive bleeding of time! I planned to not go too hard in any stage. Sure, I knew I might lose some time, but I would probably be the freshest guy left on the hill for the final stage. With that in mind, I launched into Stage 1.

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Stage 1

MAN! I need to get better at finding my flow and not riding tight on the first stage of the day. At pretty much every race this year I’ve given up time to Jerome Clementz on Stage 1. Not sure what it is, but I just can’t get into a rhythm early, but as soon as that first stage is out of the way I find my flow. I was still second fastest for the stage, but I was a full nine seconds behind Jerome. I guess that not too much over nine minutes but that guy is just too good at every sort of trail to gift him a nine second head start.

With Stage 1 out of the way I did achieve my main goal for the stage which was to grunt up the SUPER steep climb about two thirds of the way down the hill. I wasn’t able to make it up in practice, I did it when it counted. It was an all out sprint to make it up the grinder and I was already starting to fatigue coming into it, but I just punched it as hard as I could. After the stage, I looked at my Garmin and it showed that I put out 1960 maximum watts while getting up the climb! So much for trying to save energy for later!

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Stage 2

I had a pretty good run, and I was happy with it. At the very least, I didn’t throw myself into any trees on the tight bits! A very hard trail to find good flow and pace, especially when it was only the third time I’d ever ridden it. My time was fastest by a comfortable margin at the time I crossed the line, but right behind me Jerome went 1.3 seconds faster. Second for the stage again was a bummer, but I did manage to save a good amount of energy for later in the race.

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Stage 3

I was kind of dreading this stage because I didn’t get along with it in practice. I’d only ridden it once, so I decided to put my brain in neutral and just go with it. It actually worked really well, I was a bit slow in a couple parts, but I hit some other sections faster than I should have and managed to get away with it. Unfortunately toward the bottom I decided to see if I could knock over a tree with my shoulder. Needless to say, I lost and went straight onto the ground….Ooops! Fabien Barel went fastest on this stage and put a good chunk of time into everyone. I was mainly concerned with Jerome’s time and, again, was disappointed to see he pulled another six seconds in front of me. I had to find a way to stop the time bleeding to him. Also Rene Wildhaber was having his best race of the year and was close behind, so I was watching his times closely as well.

Stage 4

I knew things might swing more in my favor for the final two stages. I had setup my bike to suit these stages more and I just don’t like to change tires and chainrings and all that stuff that other guys do throughout the race. I like to have the feel of all my parts 100% for each stage and not be trying to find the limits of a different tire, or gearing of a different chainring. I like to keep it simple!

I had a lot of fun on Stage 4 and was fairly happy with it. I just lost a little focus here and there and forgot a few key things, but all-in-all it was a solid stage.

Once again though, Jerome went four seconds faster than me. I was starting to get pretty frustrated as he was always just one step ahead of me all day. I was OK with being 16 seconds back after Stage 3, but wanted to pull back some time in stage 4 and that just didn’t happen. It ended up that I was second for the stage again, and was 21 seconds back going into the final battle.

Stage 5

This was the big one! All week I knew the race would come down to the final stage. My body was feeling strong and I was really fresh and ready for a big finale. My plan was to have a good smooth run, and make sure I secured second spot for the day. I was also thinking that maybe I could challenge Jerome with a really good run, but taking back 21 seconds on a guy like that is a pretty tall order in any race, even one that is 23 minutes long!

As my run started I could just feel that it was going to be a good one, I had found my rhythm and flow, and found myself hitting everything just like I’d imagined. I knew I was on a good run, but it’s impossible know how the other guys are going. After about the halfway point, I decided I would take some risks on the parts that weren’t too rocky or dangerous.

I overcooked one turn in “Angry Pirate” which resulted in me slapping my man bits on the seat pretty hard and made for an uncomfortable couple of minutes. On the last few sections of the trail I was giving it all. So much so that my legs were starting to buckle, but, amazingly, I had no arm pump.

I crossed the line and was in the lead by a long way. Jerome started one minute after me and I had my clock going on my Garmin so I could gauge his time. I just sat and stared at it, watching the seconds ticking over, knowing the exact time he had to hit if he was going to beat me for the overall. The 1:21 that I needed to take the overall seemed to take forever, but the time came and went before he came into the finish area. I knew I had it but I waited until he crossed the line and got the official time before celebrating!

I couldn’t believe it! All day he had been too good, but I knew Stage 5 played to all my strengths and I did all I could to make the most of it. Having my wife there at the finish to share the win with was so amazing! Then I was reminded of the $10,000 first place prize! I hadn’t thought of that all day because I was focused on just winning.

So that was that. My First EWS win and it happened at the biggest race of the year. I just couldn’t be happier!

A big thanks to my mechanic for the weekend Nate Espinosa. With my usual mechanic, the Polar Bear, doing DH wrench duties at the MSA, Nate did a top-notch job as his stand-in. Cheers Friend!

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Bike Specs

Frame – Yeti sb66c Medium
Fork – Fox 34 R.A.D
Rear Suspension – Fox Float X
Seatpost – Thomson Elite Dropper
Wheels – DT Swiss 240 hubs, 500 rims, Aerolite spokes, alloy nipples
Tires – Maxxis Minion 2.5 EXO (ghetto/split tube tubeless) @ 27psi F/30psi R
Brakes – Shimano XTR race lever, Saint calipers, 180mm Ice-Tech Rotors
Derailleur – Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Cranks – Shimano XTR 170-millimeter with Stages Power Meter
Chainring – Shimano Saint 38-tooth
Casette – Shimano XTR 11-36
Pedals – Shimano XTR trail
Chainguide – E13 LG1
Bars and Stem – Renthal Fatbar Lite (740mm width and 20mm rise); Duo Stem (50mm)
Headset – Chris King
Grips – ODI Ruffian MX

 

Long Term Test and Video: Yeti SB66 Carbon

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?

Fresh: Yeti Carbon SB95C and ARC Carbon Hardtail

Yeti announces the SB95C and ARC carbon hardtail.

SB95C

SB95C

The ultimate big-wheeled trail bike just got better.

The SB95C isn’t just the most advanced 29er we’ve ever made, or the most advanced carbon frame we’ve ever designed, it might be simply the best bike we’ve built to date.

This is the culmination of more than six years of work and testing on the SB platform. There’s the revolutionary Switch Technology suspension platform, which received rave reviews on the SB-95, for snappy pedaling and predictable bump absorption; the slack, low-slung geometry that keeps the bike attached to the trail; and a new carbon frame that makes the whole package lighter and livelier.

And now we have the SB95C, which carries the same progressive geometry, short chain stays, and five-inch travel as its 29er predecessor but wraps it all in a light, stiff high-mod carbon frame that is the result of years of R&D and testing on the trails we call home. The one-bike quiver? This could be it.

Features:

• HIGH MODULUS CARBON FIBER MAIN FRAME AND SWING ARM
• SWITCH TECHNOLOGY PATENT-PENDING SUSPENSION SYSTEM
• FULLY SEALED ECCENTRIC SYSTEM
• OVERSIZED PIVOT PINS WITH ENDURO MAX BEARINGS
• SPLINED BB SHELL ACCEPTS REMOVABLE ISCG 03/05 TABS
• TAPERED INSET HEADTUBE – 44MM/56MM
• DROPOUTS ALLOW FOR 142MM X 12MM AXLE
• POST-MOUNT REAR BRAKE TAB
• INTERNAL CABLE ROUTING ON REAR TRIANGLE
• CUSTOM CHAIN-SLAP GUARDS
• CABLE STOPS FOR HEIGHT ADJUSTABLE SEAT POST
• DIRECT MOUNT FRONT DERAILLEUR

Specs:

Travel: 5.00” – 127MM
Weight: 5.75 LBS  – 2.6 KG
Sizes: SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, X-LARGE TURQUOISE, BLACK
Rear Shock: FOX CTD ADJUST – 7.5”X2.0” / 191 MM X 51 MM
Bottom Bracket: 73MM SHELL
Rear Wheel: 142MM SPACING – 12MM AXLE
Front Derailleur:  DIRECT LOW MOUNT – E-TYPE
Seatpost: 30.9MM DIAMETER
Build Kits: ENDURO, RACE, XTR

Pricing:

SB-95 Carbon Pricing is $3990 Frame/Axle RRP
SB 95C XT EASTON – $6990
SB 95C XT RACE – $7450
SB 95C XTR – $9100
SB 95C SRAM X0 – $7590
SB 95C SRAM XX1 – $8050
All prices with FOX 34 120MM CTD

 

ARC Carbon

ARC Carbon

A perfect blend of carbon fibre, big wheels and Yeti XC heritage.

We never like to think of ourselves as slow, but we were definitely deliberate in our approach to 29ers. And as with all things, once we committed, we committed fully. The hardtail Big Top, the first 29er we were proud to call a Yeti, debuted in 2010 after years of above- and below-the-radar tinkering by a core group of Yeti employees who were enamored with big wheels.

It was no one-off. The following year we rolled up on a full-suspension 29er, the ridiculously fun SB95. And now we’re back again, taking everything we’ve learned over the years about bike racing, big-wheel handling, and materials engineering to deliver the all-new ARC Carbon. Twenty years of ARC racing heritage updated with fast-rolling 29-inch wheels and a light, snappy, high-mod carbon frame. For you smaller riders, we made the small and extra small sizes with mid-sized 27.5” wheels for added stand over and improved handling.

Basically, take Yeti’s most storied XC race bike, make it even more stable, add bigger wheels, then make the frame as smooth and responsive as only the best carbon frames can be. That’s the ARC Carbon.

Features:

• HIGH MODULUS CARBON FIBER MAIN FRAME
• TAPERED INSET HEADTUBE  -44MM/56MM
• INTERNAL CABLE ROUNTING FRONT/REAR DER
• 29” WHEEL SIZE ON M-XL SIZES, 27.5” ON XS-S SIZES • YETI LOOPTAIL REAR TRIANGLE
• GEOMETRY COMPATIBLE FOR 100MM-120MM FORK
• REMOVABLE ISCG MOUNT
• BOLT-ON CABLE GUIDES
• DIRECT-MOUNT FRONT DERAILLEUR
• 142X12 REAR AXLE

Specs:

Weight: 2.6 LBS – 1.18 KG
Sizes: X-SMALL, SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, X-LARGE BLACK, TURQUOISE
Botton Bracket: 73MM SHELL
Rear Wheel: 142MM X 12 MM THRU AXLE
Front Derailleur: DIRECT MOUNT
Seatpost: 30.9MM DIAMETER
Build kits: ENDURO, RACE, PRO

Pricing: 

ARC – Carbon Pricing is $2690 Frame/Axle RRP
ARC XT EASTON – $5600
ARC XT RACE – $6050
ARC XTR – $7700
ARC SRAM X0 – $6200
ARC SRAM XX1 – $6650
All prices with FOX 32 100MM CTD

Photo Feature: Yeti Headquarters

Way back in 2009, Flow’s Damian Breach and Mick Ross were in Colorado for some riding, relaxing and margarita indulgence.

We both fell in love with the margarita and we also fell in love with a very special part of the trip, a visit to Yeti Headquarters in Golden, Colorado.

The Yeti brand has always been famous for “grass roots” mountain biking and seeing the facility first hand enforced that image.   Yeti is steeped in mountain bike history but that history hasn’t always been golden (pun intended).  There was a time where the brand almost disappeared.

We found that the people who worked their really love the brand, they all rode mountain bikes, and we got a sense of a small family atmosphere.  Yeti is no small brand by any sense of the imagination, however they have found a way to balance the busy craziness of the corporate world and the peace and friendship of mountain biking.

We’re pretty sure some things would have changed since our visit in 2009, but we’re confident that the Yeti brand and the culture remains the same.


The front office of Yeti HQ, Golden, Colorado.  It’s both a work space and display area for a little bit of history behind the brand.
The “Yeti”.
Yeti has sponsored and supported some of the biggest names in mountain biking. It’s hard to think of a brand that has had so much talent come through their doors.
Which bike do you want?.  The Yeti facility in Golden was a global business HQ, office and assembly facility.
So much Yeti eye candy to be had everywhere we looked.
All brands have bikes that break and this is where some of the Yeti destruction ends up.  It’s important that some broken bikes end up back with the manufacture so they can learn and make improvements.
The Golden facility didn’t manufacture all the production Yeti’s but the prototypes made their home there.
This is just one such prototype.  It was very cool to see all the different designs Yeti plays with and there’s many that never see the light of production.
Can’t say we’ve seen too many of this colour on the local trails?
The assembly area.  This is where your dream Yeti is build and shipped off for your enjoyment.
The end.

 

Anton Cooper and Cam Cole tackle Mt Fyffe

What happens when you take one professional XC rider and one professional downhill rider and send them up a mountain above Kaikoura, New Zealand?

We weren’t sure either, but that is exactly what we did in December with current Junior World XC Champion Anton Cooper and 2006 Junior World Downhill Champion Cam Cole.

Descent
Anton Cooper, Martin Frey, Darryn Henderson and Cam Cole race down from the summit of Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.

To make conditions even more volatile we threw in five-time New Zealand downhill champion – turned business professional – Darryn Henderson. He is 47 these days, but still has the mental aptitude of a teenager the instant he touches a mountain bike.

Martin Frey joins the, aghhh, this is awkward … fray. He’s a German XC racer visiting New Zealand to learn some tricks off Anton or at least devise some ways to poison him.

Mt Fyffe is 1600m tall and rises straight above the Kaikoura coast. It’s a hell of a climb, but the descent is oh so creamy.

If you think there will be blood then you’re right. There is blood and lots of it.

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Cooper
Anton Cooper (just days before his Cannondale Factory Racing announcement) near the summit of Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Mt Fyffe
Anton Cooper, Martin Frey, Darryn Henderson and Cam Cole on the summit of Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
The summit
The summit of Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Darryn Henderson
Darryn Henderson climbs a technical section on Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Summit
Anton Cooper, Martin Frey, Darryn Henderson and Cam Cole on the summit of Mt Fyffe, Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Cam Cole Signs With Yeti

Professional downhill mountain bike racer Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, has signed with Yeti to race the UCI Downhill World Cup series, World Downhill Mountain Bike Championships and selected enduro events for 2013 and 2014.

Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, with the Yeti SB-66 Carbon that he will race in selected enduro events for the Yeti team.

Cole’s two-year contract with Yeti comes at a pivotal moment in his career as the likeable Kiwi continues his rise to the very top of the world’s elite.
Cole is currently ranked 15th in the world in the UCI standings.

“There is a lot of history in Yeti,” Cole smiles.

“It’s one of those teams that has been quite influential since day dot as far as downhill is concerned. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that and to tap into that depth of knowledge about the sport.”

The Golden, Colorado-based head of Yeti Cycles, Chris Conroy said he had been watching Cole for some time – “since his Junior World Championship”.

“People always wonder how Yeti gets so lucky with its racers, but it’s not luck – a lot of what we see in Cam is what we have learned from other riders,” offers Conroy.

“We’ll ask our guys who they like and who they feel is ready to uncork it and Cam was right at the top of that list.”

Conroy continued to explain that Cole was a great fit in many ways.

“He is a quiet ‘get it done’ kind of racer and from a testing perspective we liked that he is a big and powerful rider,” he shares.

At 6’2″ Cole allows Yeti to do the testing that it can’t do with lighter, more nimble riders.

“Cam gives us a chance to do that real-world testing with a big powerful guy that can supplement our lab testing,” adds Conroy.

Cole said he was excited to be riding on one of the top brands in the pinnacle sport of downhill mountain bike racing.

“I’ve signed for two years, but I think that will just be a small chunk of it,” he explains.

“The direction they are heading is aligned with mine as an athlete on and off the track and I can see this relationship being a strong one.”

Cole said he had enjoyed his past two years with the Lapierre International Team.

“It’s always a bit sad leaving a team behind – I’ve had four World Cup podiums with Lapierre – we achieved some good things and I have learnt a lot – I thank the Lapierre International Team for that, but this feels like a new chapter for me and I am really excited.”

Kiwi riders have featured on the Yeti team before with Sam Blenkinsop, of Whanganui, and Justin Leov, of Dunedin, racing for the Yeti team over the years.

The Yeti team is fully supported by leading suspension manfacturer Fox Racing Shox.

“I love Fox suspension, so that was an essential requirement for a team and it’s a real bonus with Yeti having a really strong relationship there,” he shares.

“I’ve been riding Fox since day one of my international career so I am excited to continue working with them, help them develop their products and keep that relationship going. I’ll also be back on Maxxis tyres as well and that’s something I am really excited about, too.”

Joining Cole on the Yeti team for the 2013 season will be polished professional Jared Graves, of Toowoomba, Australia, and rising star Richie Rude, of Connecticut, USA.

“Richie will be looking to get a Junior World Championship and he’s well positioned to do so in 2013,” offers Cole.

“Richie’s right there and I think he’s going to be the next junior to come through and knock on the door of the podium at World Cups. I like being on a team with young blood around – it reminds you why you started racing and the excitement and enthusiasm is contagious.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Jared Graves and he’s really nice, down-to-earth and one of the gnarliest guys out there when racing a downhill bike. He’s achieved so much in his career and I can learn a lot from him.”

Cole said the team manager and mechanics were also part of that vibrant culture that made this team such a success.

“We’re all very similar people and will work well together for the coming season.”

Cole will race the 303 DH in downhill races and the SB-66 in selected enduro events.

“I’m looking forward to riding the new 303 DH – it’s quite different to my bike from last year in its design. From what I have seen and heard the design is great and I can’t wait to get on it.”

Cole will first ride the new bike in December. In the meantime he is training on the Yeti SB-66 Carbon for enduro and trail riding.

Part of Cole’s role on the Yeti team will be bike development.

“That is a big thing – we’ll be involved in the new bikes at a very early stage. I’m looking forward to working with their engineers and getting stuff going right from the start of the design process. It’s a real buzz to see finished products when you have helped design them.”

Conroy explained that bike development was always key for Yeti and its racers.

“Whenever we look at racers like Cam we look and say, okay, he’s a top-10 rider – that’s assured. The second thing we look at is, okay, he’s a top-10 rider, but does he have a win in him? It’s a little bit of a different value proposition with a guy who can uncork one for a win versus a guy who is always top-10. Then we talk to our sponsors and the guys who have to work with them everyday. Then we talk to the team guys and we ask is this a person who can fit into our programme. We know that if we get a racer in the team and the chemistry isn’t just right, then it can ruin everything,” shares Conroy.

“We asked those questions of Cam and he was a perfect fit for our programme.”

Cole proved to be one of the top racers in the World Cups in 2012 and hit the off-season (the Kiwi summer) injury free.

“I’ve kept on top of my fitness – I avoided any slump this year and so my base fitness is really good and I can hit the pre-season races really hard and be strong and ready for the first World Cup at Fort William [Scotland] in June,” he explains.

“Fort William is a great track for me and so I am excited to open the season there. I really want to enjoy the season this year – I enjoy the process to get to where I want to go and I feel very motivated. I know I am strong and so I’m just going to build on that,” he offers.

“It’s real easy for me to get out of bed and get up and get into my training each day,” he admits.

“I qualified first this year at a World Cup and I know my speed is there now – I’m not going to rush in and force it to happen, but I feel like I can win World Cups this year.”

“Everything that we have in place with Yeti is going to make that goal a lot easier for me.”

For Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, the move to the Yeti World Cup race team has been a long held dream. Here he pushes the Yeti SB-66 through its paces on a favourite trail near Christchurch.

This Yeti goes bigger: SB95 test

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Yeti took a long time to come around to 29ers. They make no secret of the fact they once thought 29ers were slow, dull and no fun on the trail. In response to what they saw as lacklustre 29er performance, they set out to create 29er with a different flavour; Yeti flavour.

They started out with their Big Top 29er hardtail, three years ago now. It was hard riding hardtail, with an aggressive spirit that most 29ers lacked. Now, they’ve rolled that ethos into their very first dual suspension 29er, the 120mm travel SB95.

The SB95 cuts an imposing figure. Clean lines, with a great mix of tube shapes and geometry that just looks spot-on!
The Fox Float 34 fork is the perfect match for this bike. The stiffness of the 34mm stanchions was greatly appreciated; you can really notice the benefits, particularly on a 29er. Kashima Coat finish helps keep ’em smooth.
A Fox RP23 took care of duties on our test bike, but more recent versions come equipped with Fox’s new CTD Float shock. Rear travel is 120mm, and a very smooth 120mm it is too. Note the neat cable routing and the cable stops for an adjustable seat post. One downside of the shock placement is that the bottle mounts are underneath the down tube.
Truvativ provide the low-rise carbon bar. For our taste, it was a little narrow. A bike like this is crying out for a bar of 720mm+.
You have the option of running either a 142x12mm rear axle or a standard 135mm quick release through an interchangeable ‘chip’ dropout system. You’d be crazy not to go 142mm – it’s stiff as a board, not to mention easier and neater than a quick release.
Attention to detail is one of the things that make Yetis such highly sought after bikes. The finish is just brilliant!
Ditch the quick-release seat clamp and get an adjustable dropper post onto this bike, stat! The SB95 is crying out for a dropper so you can let it all hang out on the descents.