The Cycle Life

First Look: The New Yeti SB4.5C

This new 29er from the Colorado brand was worth the wait

First Look: The New Yeti SB4.5C

The Yeti SB4.5C effortlessly handles rough terrain, but at a price. Photo: Aaron Gulley

Eurobike starts today, and Golden, Colorado-based Yeti is launching a new 29er to kick off the show. We’ve been riding the SB4.5C for a few weeks, and so far, it’s one of the most versatile trail bikes we’ve tried.

The frame is built around the Switch Infinity Link, which Yeti unveiled last year on its SB5C and subsequent SB6C. We’ve already written extensively about the system, which garnered high praise in our test process this year, so to quickly summarize: Switch Infinity Link uses a pivot that changes direction as the rear wheel moves through its travel, resulting in both a super stable pedaling platform as well as plush compression all the way through the travel.

We liked 2015’s 27.5-inch models, but Yeti was long overdue to release a 29er version. The company discontinued its excellent SB95 almost a year ago, and has been without a trail-oriented 29er ever since. We’d rather not have waited, but happily, the replacement is better than its predecessor.

The first thing you notice about the SB4.5—that’s 4.5 inches, or 114 millimeters, of travel—is how light it is: 25.6 pounds for our tester, which is hung with a SRAM X01 drivetrain, aluminum DT Swiss wheels, Shimano XT brakes, and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. That’s a second-tier build, which sells for $6,900, meaning that the top spec with Shimano XTR and Enve wheels ($10,500) will be silly light. A more budget-conscious option (though still hardly cheap) will be spec’d with SRAM’s new GX drivetrain and go for $5,600.

The second thing of note on our SB4.5C is the revised Fox suspension: a Float Factory DPS rear shock and 140mm 34 Factory fork. Fox has had some travails with its designs over the past few seasons, but they turned it around this year. The 34 fork is not only much stiffer and more confident than the noodly, overly compressible 32s of last year, it also has a great platform and feels buttery all the way through its travel. The shock is likewise smooth and solid. And one of our favorite things about Yeti is that they use the same high quality shock and fork on every single rmodel, meaning that all SB4.5Cs, regardless of spec, will get these great new suspension bits.

What really stands out, though, is how capable the SB4.5C is for its size. It rides much bigger than its 114 millimeters of travel out back suggests, plowing through rubbly scree fields and making quick work of drops and step downs. Credit that to the Switch pivot, the pleasantly slack 67.9-degree head tube, and that stable, cushy 140-millimeter-travel fork.

It’s also about those 29-inch wheels. We know that the marketing folks have jumped all over the 27.5 bandwagon in recent years, and while we like the midsize just fine, truth is we’re still sold on the big wheels. The SB4.5C is another refutation of the old chestnut that 29ers are cumbersome. This bike is as quick and playful as any we’ve ridden, and, from what we’ve seen, it's sure to contend for best all-around trail bike in 2016. Select models will go on sale on September 15, with the full range to follow by Christmas.  

Filed To: Bike Reviews, Bikes and Biking

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