Update October 2018
The Yeti SB5.5 has been discontinued. It has been replaced by the more burly and slacker Yeti SB150. October 2018
Charging down brawny, enduro-grade terrain at high speeds is the Yeti SB5.5's happy place. Descent focused geometry, 29er wheels, a burly 160mm fork, and a supple 140mm rear end keep the bike grounded through the chaos. This bike lives for high speeds. We never found a straightaway long enough to top out the SB5.5's RPMs. Walking the line between an efficient enduro rig and hard-hitting trail bike, the Yeti sacrifices some climbing speed and comfort for downhill domination. The Yeti does have its limits. Bigger impacts can feel harsh and rattle it's cage. That said, the SB5.5 doesn't sacrifice too much in the way of efficiency and is perfectly capable of carrying you up a multi-hour climb.
The Yeti is a great bike for shredding rough terrain, be it park laps or a big, burly climbs to the top of a bigger, burlier descent. While it's still fun on the soft, eroded folds of the foothills, it's not the best bike for those trails. Its true talents won't be tapped. It's a great choice for anyone hitting technical, challenging trails with any frequency. The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is more maneuverable, better on the big hits, and harsher on the small ones. The original 135mm Santa Cruz Hightower offers improved climbing and a marginally more playful attitude. The Hightower is still plenty capable but can get in over its head.
Our Analysis and Test Results
2018 X01 Eagle Turq Components
The 2018 Yeti SB5.5 X01 Eagle TURQ gets a new rear shock, dropper post, grips and a brake upgrade and cassette downgrade. None of these changes should significantly change the ride quality we loved on the 2017 version, but they will run you $100 more. The new version comes in classic turquoise and sleek black.
Here's a quick summary of the updates:
Rear Shock — A Fox Factory DPX2 replaces the Fox Float X Factory shock on the 2017 version. The new DPX2 is purported to improve small bump compliance, offering excellent traction, and ramp up to support bit hits, providing solid recovery. We tested one on the Santa Cruz Hightower LT. It didn't stand out as particularly magical but was perfectly serviceable. We call this a draw.
Seatpost — The Fox Transfer replaces the Raceface Turbine on the 2017 model. The Transfer has received a substantial amount of positive press. We have tested a few and they worked flawlessly for us.
Brakes — SRAM Guide RSC brakes and centerlock rotors replace the Guide RS and centerline rotors on the 2017 version. The centerlock rotors are a little more complicated to remove but the RSC is a more adjustable upgrade.
Cassette — The SRAM 1275 10-50 cassette is the SRAM GX Eagle version and is heavier and cheaper than the SRAM X01 Eagle 1295 cassette on our 2017 model. Meh.
Grips — Ergon GA2's replace the 2017 Yeti Lock-on.
The Yeti SB5.5 is a well-rounded, aggressive 29er. The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is another fantastic bike in this category. Curious how they compare? We have sprinkled some comparisons into this review, but check out the head to head showdown and time trial data in our 2018 Trail Bike Review.
The Yeti is fast. Barrelling down the trail at these speeds would freak us out on a less stable ride. Endless traction and reliable steering don't hurt. The SB5.5 is never quite playful, but is fun due to its hard-charging attitude. The Yeti is confident on new school jump lines (for a 29er) and balanced in the air.
The SB5.5 approaches nimble handling and is able to monster-truck over demolition derby style choss. The tradeoff — it's not as playful and poppy as shorter travel rigs like the Ibis Ripley and doesn't have the nimble/laser beam handling of the Ripley LS or even the Santa Cruz Hightower LT. But the SB5.5 is crazy good at high speeds. The stiff frame and solid suspension mean the faster you go, the smoother the ride gets.
As such, we give it a 9 of 10 for fun. Only the überplayful nature of the Ripley LS tops it.
The Yeti SB5.5 is extremely confident over a wide range of terrain. Its frame is among the stiffest we've tested, and its plush suspension makes it easy to smooth out mistakes. This makes for a stable ride and guarantees that the SB5.5 is one of our top choices for rough and chunky terrain.
The Yeti's handling is excellent. It goes where you want it. The cockpit sets you up for success. With a square and balanced feel, the SB5.5 doesn't require a lot of riding style adjustment, unlike bikes that force you to figure out how to ride them. It has the traditionally taller feel of a 29er. That big cockpit gives you room to move on the descents, letting you bob and weave without interference. When descending with the dropper down, you're sitting inside the bike, with a tremendous sense of confidence.
When the dropper is up, the SB5.5 feels big, but not overwhelming. You can still get low over the front end which encourages you to engage the trail. "You can be over the front and make the same turn as if you're leaning back," explains another tester. "I feel like that bike kinda adjusts to your riding style". It has a very natural feel until it reaches its upper limit. Bigger impacts can rattle the 5.5's cage. The suspension becomes a little harsh on larger rock gardens and chutes. The Santa Cruz Hightower LT stands up to these larger hits far more confidently. The Santa Cruz is harder to disturb.
While its heft and strength are great for hard corners and burly lines, it makes for a rougher ride at slow speeds. You've got to work harder, moving your body around the bike to get it on your line when rolling slow. It's comfortable and it's an easy cockpit to maneuver in. The 800mm wide handlebars make it easy to wrangle. They fit this bike. The only downside is that they are inherently tricky in small spaces, like tight tree lines or rock slots.
The 5.5's has dialed suspension. It's a smooth charger that mows down rocks. The Yeti doesn't bounce over obstacles or sink into the suspension so much as it bounds off to the next adventure. It keeps you alert without overwhelming you.
Small bump compliance is excellent, with the suspension maintaining traction on what feels like every inch of the trail. That 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF EXO up front only aids the Yeti's descending prowess. The solid front end is just as eager to eat up the big bumps and, despite all the bulk around the linkage, it all works exceedingly well. The Santa Cruz Hightower LT cannot match the supple feel of the Yeti over small bumps. Where the anti-squat on the Hightower LT makes small impacts feel a little rattly, the 5.5 eats it all up with a muted feel.
The SB5.5 earns a 10 of 10 for descending prowess. The Yeti has no obvious speed limit. As we mentioned above, it came in just a smidge behind the similarly equipped Hightower LT in downhill speed. In our 2017 trail test, it trounced the competition.
The Yeti beat the second place Ripley LS by 0.9 seconds. These two 29ers won the day due to their tons-o-traction tires and confidence inspiring handling. The Santa Cruz Bronson falls 4 seconds behind the SB5.5 on average. It requires more aggressive handling at speed and just couldn't catch the rollout speed of those 29er wheels.
Speaking of 29ers, the Mach 429 Trail and Ripley LS accelerate faster than the SB5.5. The Yeti's pick up can feel dull, and you run through the gears rapidly to grind up to speed. Luckily that SRAM eagle drivetrain and X01 trigger levers offer super smooth shifting. The,n it holds speed like a cannonball.
With its long legs and momentum, the Yeti doesn't get caught up in the petty stuff, even on the uphill. It rolls into and over obstacles quickly, smoothly and with authority. On the flipside, its burly nature makes for a whole-lotta of bike to grind up a mountain.
The Yeti takes aggressive climbing in stride. This means your arms don't have to work as hard to stay on line as they do aboard lighter bikes. But, the bike's weight means more work for your legs. As long as you keep your momentum, the bike is balanced and you don't have to move much. Its small bump sensitivity works well and, when combined with its wide rubber and big wheels, the Yeti tends to eliminate chatter. The 160/140 suspension feels balanced, with the fork and rear shock working really well together. They seem to know whether you are climbing or descending, and adjust accordingly.
Slow speed handling is harder. Picking your way through a line at a crawl isn't the best, and it can feel long in the turns. The steep, sharp, stair stepping turns on our technical uphill test course are tricky aboard this bike. The Yeti charges up the stairs but, has a hard time getting around the turn as you lose your speed. The Yeti's front wheel can also lay over when coming into a staircase, leaving you to fight the dreaded flop. But, you're in a centered and balanced position that sets you up for maneuvering, and practice makes for precise turning on this bike. Over time we started nailing the line on the switchback stairs.
The Yeti has a solid pedaling platform while maintaining supple suspension, but it doesn't have the light, snappy pedaling feel of shorter travel rides. The first few pedal strokes are laboring ones, and getting it back to speed after climbing over a speed-sucking feature means work. The slow acceleration and extra energy lost when you're up out of the saddle combine to make super steep sections super tiring. Here you have to hit the pedals hard to get up and over the obstacle and then again to get back up to speed. It's a gut-punch, but you'll get to recover once the wheels take over.
The Santa Cruz Hightower LT is also another impressive climber given its aggressive feel. The Hightower LT has a firmer pedal platform but can get hung up on technical ascents. The Yeti bobs a bit more under pedal forces but the suspension motion tends to propel the bike forward and over obstacles more easily.
Other than that, the bike builds speed like crazy, keeping it fun on the climbs. Just downshift and crank through the steeper sections. The firm pedal platform and the Fox Factory X Float rear shock's lock-out switch makes for efficient climbing on silky smooth trails as well. There the beastly bike hugs the ground, as plush and smooth as a Cadillac. That gritty embrace of dirt and tread means that traction is nearly endless, helping the bike track nicely and eliminating power lost to spinouts. All of this works best when you're in the saddle. Standing up does impose an efficiency penalty.
The lofty bottom bracket lets you crank through rough terrain with impunity, but it does add to the big bike feel. The Yeti gets you there, but hauling that fun front end around — the one that intimidates rocks into insignificance on the downhills — isn't without cost. The SB5.5 is a fully enduro-capable rig and a fairly fast and efficient climber, though you gotta have some fitness to do it. The firm lockout increases versatility and, once you're up to speed, its heft becomes an asset. And, it's nice to know you can always bail out and rely on that SRAM eagle's wings.
In our sweeping trail review, that includes inherently efficient hardtails and cross-country leaning short travel rigs, the SB5.5's 6 of 10 climbing score is impressive indeed. In our 2017 trail bike time trials the Yeti's climbing speeds kept it in the pack, with smaller trail bikes. That's quite an accomplishment for an enduro worthy downhiller. Still, keeping enough speed to make it up the stairs took a lot out of us. We would never grab that bike for a long climb with no downhill reward on purpose. As such, it wasn't rated the highest in the climbing scores. In any case, it's pretty awesome that the SB5.5 is a fully enduro-capable rig and a fast and efficient climber.
The Yeti got schooled by the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie on our technical uphill benchmarking course. The SB5.5 finished a distant second, 3.1 seconds behind the stair-smashing Stumpie. Leading the pack of mere mortal climbers, the SB5.5 finished just 0.1 seconds ahead of the Pivot Mach 429 Trail, 2.1 seconds ahead of the fifth-place Ibis Ripley LS, and 7.9 seconds ahead of the Intense Recluse.
What happens when you take the rocks out of the way? The SB5.5 loses the speed advantage its plow factor affords and rolls back in the ranks. It places fourth on our smooth uphill race course.
Ease of Maintenance
When purchasing a mountain bike, consider how difficult it might be to maintain. Certain full suspension bikes require minimal amounts of service. Other bikes need more frequent attention to run smoothly and quietly. We rank our trail bikes for their ease of maintenance below. Read more about how we did it in the maintenance section of our full trail bike review.
Here are a few things to be aware of if buying the Yeti SB5.5. The Yeti frame design is slightly more complicated than most. It employs an infinity switch in place of a lower linkage. This is a serviceable unit with no air seals, requiring grease injections and cleaning every 10-100 hours of riding, depending on conditions. Typical users should service it every 40 hours. You can view Yeti's service recommendation on their website. A grease gun can be purchased for about $40. This is a simple task that just about anyone capable of lubing a chain can perform.
Fox recommends that the DPX2 and 36 fork spec'd on the Yeti should be rebuilt every 125 hours of riding. That's a season for some but a short interval for the truly active. In most of the country you'll need to send your suspension components back to Fox or a third party for service. If you live in a mountain bike hotbed, there may be suspension service close to you, but this isn't a service offered up by most bike shops.
The SRAM Eagle drivetrain includes some costly bits, like a $400 cassette! So change that $60-70 chain a bit more often and preserve the life of that cassette. Real world mileage on this drivetrain varies considerably based on conditions, maintenance, and power. Typical riders will replace the 12-speed chain at 600-900 miles and the cassette between 1,600 and 2,200 miles.
Frame Design and Measurements
Yeti's Switch Infinity suspension system places its translating pivot directly above the bottom bracket. This allows the lower pivot to shift vertically in either direction as the rear wheel moves through its travel range. Yeti claims that the design reduces squat, aiding in pedaling performance. We found that the rear suspension offers excellent small bump compliance, but bigger hits are a bit harsher than we'd like. Yeti claims that the TURQ carbon offers more of a weight savings than a performance advantage over the lower priced carbon version. We didn't have both carbon versions to weigh, but Yeti claims a 250 gram (0.55 lbs) weight savings in the frame.
We measured our size medium SB5.5 in-house. A lofty 348mm bottom bracket height is awesome for clearing rocks. The 810mm standover is less useful. The 73.5-degree seat tube angle makes for an efficient feeling climb. The Yeti is a true medium, fitting our entire 5'7" to nearly 5'10" biker fleet nicely. With its high bottom bracket, the bike feels tall when climbing or on technical terrain. It's never uncomfortable though, and provides ideal body positioning to move around and get aggressive as needed. Size Suggestions from Yeti: M (5'7" — 5'11"), L (5'11" — 6'3"), XL (6'1" — 6'6").
The SB5.5's frame is great, the tires are stellar, the 35 x 800mm handlebar is burly and appropriate for the bike, but the rebound adjustment on the rear shock is ridiculously located, hard to reach even with the tools you need to adjust it, and the RC breaks Are disappointing on such an expensive build.
Fork and Shock — While it works well with the SB5.5's Switch Infinity suspension, we don't love the Fox Float X Factory rear shock. This is in large part due to the placement of its rebound knob, which is extremely hard to reach, let alone adjust. The boosted 160mm Fox 36 Factory fork felt great.
Wheels and Tires — The DT Swiss W/XM481 wheelset with 350 hubs and a 30mm inner rim width is bomber and lets the solid tire set do its thing. The 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF up front and 2.3" Aggressor in the rear are the Editors' Choice combination in our Best Mountain Bike Tire review. Both hold traction like crazy, with the cushier tire up front helping to smooth out the big bumps and the rear Aggressor tracking perfectly behind.
Groupset — We were disappointed that the Yeti came with the SRAM Guide RC brakes levers instead of the RCS. This decreases the adjustability of the trigger. But the function is still there. While the 180mm rotors helped check the otherworldly speeds we reached, the front rotor's watery turkey gobble decreased our stealth factor.
With boost axle spacing across the board on these six bikes, the stiffness in the SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain is exemplary. They all have excellent resistance to torsional flex. The eagle is groovy, shifting smoothly and giving us more of a gear range than we needed during most of the test. We did bust three chains on three bikes during seven weeks of testing, one of those was on the Yeti. We find that somewhat concerning.
Handlebars, Seat, and Seatpost — The 35 x 800mm are burly, helping riders tame this beast, but they are wide for narrow tree sections and rock keyholes. The tradeoff of going a little slower in a few spots but being able to rip on the rest of the trail is quite worth it. The grips are comfortable. The WTB saddle is too. We didn't notice it for the most part. (High praise.) The 125mm Race Face Turbine dropper seatpost is nice, with a super fast but gentle return.
We tested the 2017 $7,099 SRAM Eagle TURQ build. The 2018 version described at the top runs $7,199. Other 2018 options include the following:
The SB5.5 is also available with a SRAM GX eagle drivetrain in a lower grade carbon than the TURQ, for $5,399. You gain a half pound in the frame on this bike over the one we tested, but Yeti claims you lose no performance. We loved the GX drivetrain on the Liv Pique SX we tested. The build on the non-TURQ bike has a lower grade Fox 36 Performance Fork, Fox Performance DPX2 rear shock, and SRAM Guide R brakes. Will the cost-saving build decrease the bike's adjustability and increase its weight? Certainly, but will the differences dampen the bikes spirits or detract from its character? It's hard to say.
The Shimano XT/SLX build runs $4,999 and comes with Shimano SLX brakes, a Fox 36 Performance fork and a Fox Performance DPX2 rear shock. The 11-46-tooth cassette offers a respectable gear range with the 30-tooth chainring, making it hard to throw down the extra $400 for a 12-speed eagle unless you really hate climbing. Many riders prefer the response rate of Shimano brakes over SRAM's modulation.
In mountain biking, you really get what you pay for, and at $7,099 you're paying quite a lot. With the step-down SRAM Guide RS brakes and fox suspension (as opposed to our RockShox preference), you aren't getting tippy-top of the line components. What you are getting is tippy-top of the line performance. If you're a diehard heading to the roughest hillsides, bashing your bike against every rock in the way, and looking to be home in time for dinner, you'll find the extra skrill well spent.
We would upgrade the SRAM RS brakes. The 2018 build did move to RSCs. That's one way to go. The the other is Shimano. Adding a chain guide would also be a quick, helpful fix.
We found the hard-charging Yeti SB5.5 to be the elusive quiver of one. This bike is suitable for a very wide range of terrain. While we might not recommend it for the rider who frequents flat or rolly terrain, this bike just doesn't falter. Words we might use to describe this turquoise trail smasher are confidence-inspiring, aggressive and capable. Yes, comparing this SB5.5 with its 160mm Fox 36 and beefy 2.5 Maxxis Minion DHF to shorter travel, less aggressive, bikes may seem odd. But, trail bikes continue to evolve and lines are being blurred.
Clark Tate, Curtis Smith, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal, Sean Cronin
Every year we research hundreds of mountain bikes and ride...
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