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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.