Best For: Those who see jumps, not obstacles; Moab devotees.
The Test: We thrashed this do-it-all six-inch trail bike, from hucking off five-foot sandstone steps to slogging through mountain mud in a snowstorm, and nothing fazed it. Chalk that versatility up to the new Switch rear linkage, so named because the pivot reverses direction partway through the travel for an unyielding and responsive pedal stroke and pillow-soft cushion on big hits. We think the dead-accurate shifting and powerful braking of Shimano XTR components are well worth the price, but we also love that you can get the same frame with less expensive parts for half the cost.
The Verdict: Not just best-in-class aluminum, but nearly the best mountain bike money can buy (at least until the carbon and 29er versions are released in August). 26.8 lbs
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Read the full review of the Yeti SB-66 Pro xtr before our editors got their hands on it.
The SB-66, our Editor’s Pick mountain bike in the May edition, is the bike that reawakened our love for 26-inch wheels. We’ve become 29er devotees because the trails in Santa Fe, where Outside is based, are mostly buffed out and rarely technical, but even here we’ve come to love riding Yeti’s new six-inch offering. It’s light and nimble enough for long-distance riding yet still big and burly for the few tech trails we have and for when we go away. In short, it’s the proverbial one-bike quiver.
At the heart of the SB-66 is the new Switch rear linkage, so named because the pivot reverses direction partway through the travel. This gives the suspension a totally linear feel: With the ProPedal on the Fox RP23 rear shock turned on, there was almost zero pedal bob when we were climbing and small bumps virtually disappeared. Yet with the shock fully engaged, the bike felt totally bottomless—we never maxed it out, even on five-foot ledge drops—and as plush as a blow-up pool lounger. The Kashima coating on both fork and shock add to the luxurious feel, with a smooth, fluid action not found in other suspensions. Given the slack 67-degree head tube angle, we were surprised just how well the SB-66 pedaled, never floating in the front—even on the steepest pitches. Of course the easy angles made for even easier descending, and thanks to Yeti’s characteristic burly build quality, we could slam down rock gardens and push as hard into corners as we pleased without the SB-66 so much as stuttering. “There are bikes that are just as efficient at pedaling, and bikes that are just as confident descending,” said one tester, “but I’ve never been a bike that’s so good at both.”
Our tester was hung in full Shimano XTR parts, reminding us once again just how well this stuff works. The shifting was precise and solid without being clunky or noisy, and the trigger shift option is something we always miss with SRAM. Braking was as confidence inspiring as always, and we are quite certain that, between the one-finger ergonomics and the sturdy, clean snap of the return, there’s no better feeling lever out there. Another thing we love about Yeti: Whether you splurge on the high-end Pro version we rode or economize with the Enduro ($3,300), you’ll get a similar top-shelf ride quality because the frame and rear shock are identical.
The real testament to the SB-66 is that it made us feel like better riders, tempting us to crank up taller steps, fire off big ledges, and hang it out on ever steeper, more hectic terrain. The only thing missing was a dropper seat post, which is a simple after-market addition, though we’d love to see cable-routings to accommodate it. It is one of the few bikes that we’re genuinely sad to ship back, though it’s hopefully just short-lived melancholy as Yeti already has a lighter carbon version as well as a five-inch 29er model in the works. 26.7 lbs.; yeticycles.com