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Yeti’s new SB100 fits into a grow­ing cat­e­gory of cat­e­gory-less bikes. This can be dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend; we hu­mans like to put things in boxes. A 100-mil­lime­ter-travel, car­bon-fiber 29er from a race­bred brand like Yeti? That’s cross coun­try, of course. Ex­cept it’s not. A drop­per post, beefy fork, meaty tires, ag­gres­sive geom­e­try, wide bars and a to­tal weight over 25 pounds. That’s a trail bike. Ex­cept it doesn’t have enough travel to be a trail bike, right? And aren’t all moun­tain bikes es­sen­tially trail bikes?

Luck­ily, you don’t need to spend much time men­tally cat­e­go­riz­ing the SB100 be­cause it un­equiv­o­cally checks the most im­por­tant box of them all: damn fun. For a bike that’s short on travel, it doesn’t feel lim­ited, and while it won’t de­scend with the same reck­less aban­don as a plush, long-travel 29er, it’s play­ful, an ul­tra-ef­fi­cient climber and likes go­ing down as much as go­ing up. In a nut­shell: take the SB100 to Canada, but en­ter the BC Bike Race not the Whistler EWS.

The SB100’s ride qual­i­ties can be at­trib­uted to the kine­matic changes Yeti made in con­fig­ur­ing its Switch In­fin­ity link­age for a shorter-travel bike. Also at­trib­uted to the re­vised Switch In­fin­ity? The bot­tle-cage bosses in the front tri­an­gle. Nor­mally, it would be out of place to men­tion such a small de­tail so early in a re­view, but this is a big deal.

Yeti’s ex­ist­ing Switch In­fin­ity mech­a­nism lim­its space in the front tri­an­gle, ban­ish­ing wa­ter bot­tles to the dreaded down­tube un­der­side, but when en­gi­neers set out to tran­si­tion Yeti’s ASR XC bike into its SB line some two years ago, they saw an op­por­tu­nity to solve the bot­tle-cage de­sign chal­lenge since the bike has only 100 mil­lime­ters of travel. En­gi­neers tested five it­er­a­tions of a mod­i­fied Switch In­fin­ity, and ended up ro­tat­ing it 90 de­grees, slim­ming it down, tuck­ing it be­hind the seat tube and in­te­grat­ing it into the frame, re­sult­ing in a lighter, more ef­fi­cient pack­age. The way Switch In­fin­ity works doesn’t change—it’s still based on a trans­lat­ing pivot point and still uses the same links.

The new place­ment cuts weight (the SB100-spe­cific ver­sion is 60 grams lighter than the Switch In­fin­ity on Yeti’s longer-travel of­fer­ings), al­lows for an un­in­ter­rupted seat tube to ac­com­mo­date what­ever length drop­per post your in­seam dic­tates and makes way for kine­matic changes. On the SB100 ver­sion, the slope of the lin­ear lever­age ra­tio curve is slightly steeper, al­low­ing the sus­pen­sion to be tuned specif­i­cally to cre­ate a more ef­fi­cient climber, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing any sup­port as the shock gets deeper into its travel.

Yeti rec­om­mends set­ting sag at 32 per­cent, or 12 mil­lime­ters of shock stroke,

although I ul­ti­mately had to take about 15 PSI out of the shock to get the full travel out of it. Once I had it di­aled, though, the shock felt ac­tive and its travel is us­able; 100 mil­lime­ters truly feels like 100 mil­lime­ters—the shock doesn’t blow through its travel mid-stroke. I also spent some time on the Beti ver­sion of the SB100, which along with a few fe­male-friendly touch­points, also comes stock with a lighter shock tune. I al­ways won­dered if that par­tic­u­lar sell­ing point on ‘women’s-spe­cific’ bikes is merely mar­ket­ing speak, but in this case set­ting sag at 32 per­cent on the Beti felt ex­actly right on my first ride, so it re­quired slightly less tin­ker­ing for some­one of my body weight (135 pounds).

As with all the Yeti ‘SB’ mod­els I’ve tested, the SB100 hauls up climbs quickly and ef­fi­ciently with the shock open and the Open Mode Ad­just in the mid­dle set­ting. ‘Climb­ing’ in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia gen­er­ally con­sti­tutes brief fire-road gut punches de­void of trac­tion and flow, ideal for ground-gob­bling 29ers. It was on these soul-steal­ing climbs when the ben­e­fits of the steep­ened, 74.2-de­gree seat tube an­gle came into play, with the front wheel stay­ing planted on the ground as I ground up to­ward the sky. That said, the bike doesn’t give you li­cense to sit back and ex­pect the geom­e­try to do the work for you—at the apex of a few of the steep­est climbs, weight was cer­tainly re­quired over the front wheel to keep it tamed.

If the $900 car­bon-wheel up­grade is in the bud­get, it’s a splurge wor­thy of the quick ac­cel­er­a­tion with which you’ll be re­warded. And for the weight wee­nies who weren’t turned off by the open­ing para­graph of this re­view, the dif­fer­ence in weight is min­i­mal, with the Yeti spin­ning on stock DT Swiss XM 1501 wheels com­ing in at 26.15 pounds (with ped­als) and the Beti with the DT Swiss XRC 1200 up­grade reg­is­ter­ing at 26.07 pounds. Light, but cer­tainly not the feath­er­weight sta­tus of a true XC bike. Then again, descend­ing on the SB100 doesn’t feel like a true XC bike either, which is ex­actly what Yeti in­tended when it out­fit­ted the frame with a party kit, in­clud­ing the new 120-mil­lime­ter Fox 34 Step-Cast fork, Fox Trans­fer drop­per post, Maxxis 2.3 tires—Min­ion DHF front and Ag­gres­sor rear—760-mil­lime­ter bars com­bined with a 50-mil stem and a 180-mil­lime­ter front brake ro­tor. Though if I were pick­ing a spec pack­age, I would opt for the non-race ver­sion of the X01 build or the GX Comp, which both add some weight, but come with de­pend­able Shi­mano XT two-pis­ton brakes and Shi­mano ro­tors. Full dis­clo­sure: I also don’t race and ride qual­ity al­ways ranks higher than weight on my pri­or­ity list.

Re­gard­less, the SB100’s com­bi­na­tion of very ca­pa­ble parts, along with its for­ward-think­ing geom­e­try is what gives the SB100 its value, not its weight. Af­ter warm­ing up on a cou­ple of steep, trac­tion-less, but not par­tic­u­larly tech­ni­cal chutes, I ten­ta­tively pointed the SB100 down more tech­ni­cal trails that would have ter­ri­fied me on other bikes of sim­i­lar travel, and was re­lieved by the ease of con­trol, no doubt due to its con­fi­dent front end and ag­gres­sive geom­e­try. Its 67.8-de­gree head­tube, 332-mil­lime­ter bot­tom bracket height and Yeti’s stan­dard 437-mil­lime­ter chain­stays are sim­i­lar to Yeti’s ex­ist­ing 4.5C 29er (which is stay­ing in the line for now), though the SB100 has a longer reach and thus a 44-mil­lime­ter-off­set fork for the added ease of weight­ing the front of the bike and gain­ing more fron­tend trac­tion.

Of course, the only down­side of buy­ing a Yeti is you have to be able to af­ford a Yeti, and given a com­plete SB100 starts at $6,000, this might not al­ways be pos­si­ble. There are other bikes in this not-so-xc cat­e­gory—the Santa Cruz Tall­boy/Ju­liana Jo­plin have sim­i­lar ride qual­i­ties and can be ob­tained for sig­nif­i­cantly less money—but the SB100 sets the bar for how a bike in this non-cat­e­gory should ride.

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