PRODUCT REVIEW: SIBLING RIVALRY
YETI SB5.5 CARBON VS SB5 TURQ
When we were asked to pitch the Yeti SB5.5 against the Yeti SB5 Turq, we were faced with a similar dilemma we always get when siblings fight – Who should we side with? Can we be a fair referee in this fight? Would there be a clear winner? What are these cretins going to wreck in the house this time? How much is left to go on my mortgage? Read on for the outcome.
INTRODUCING THE YETIS
One is regarded as the most versatile mountain bike in Yeti's current arsenal – a lightweight, nimble climber and dominant descender. The other is Yeti's version of the modern day 29er – a lively trail bike equipped with the latest in aggressive suspension specifications, inclusive of short chainstays. Not really an apple-to-apple comparison here, more like; which bike would be more suitable for what type of rider? Can't decide what riding style you're rocking? Read on to see if we described your style here.
THE YETI SB5.5
The SB5.5 is Yeti's answer to a modern day 29er as far as it's root design concept is concerned. It has 140 mm (5.5 inch) of rear travel, matched to a 160 mm fork and designed with enduro and trail epics in mind, over cross-country loops. The bike we tested is Yeti's entry-level model weighing in at slightly less than 14 kg. This bike could be paired with a 150 mm fork for a slightly steeper head angle too.
While we did mention it was an "entry-level" model, the SB5.5 was fitted with a list of household, tried-and-tested components. Starting with the 160 mm Fox Performance 36 GRIP Series Fork and Fox Performance DPX2 rear shock, these are currently some of the most reliable and top performing suspension bits available. The rest of the list comprises of DT Swiss' M1900 30mm wheels on Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5" front and Maxxis Aggressor 2.3" rear (max clearance 2.4" for the frame), Shimano XT/SLX combo drivetrain, Race Face Affect 30T cranks, Fox Transfer Dropper post. The components for the cockpit were clearly chosen to please the All-Mountain rider with Race Face Respond 785mm handle bars, Race Face Respond 45mm Stem and WTB Custom Saddle. Not too "entry-level" at all, if you ask us.
The SB5.5 has a comfortably slack head tube angle of 66.5 deg for a 29er, and was matched with an effective seat tube angle of 73.6 deg. This gave the bike a slightly more neutral position than a typical enduro bike. Bear in mind this is a 29er afterall. Coupled with its comfortably spacious cockpit as a result of its generous 421 mm reach, the bike has lots of room for some creative body english as we negotiated through the trail. The chainstay of the SB5.5 is made really short at 437mm.
The slack and spacious design worked out to a relatively long wheelbase of 1168 mm for a medium size bike. Expect a 29 inch trail bike with a nimble yet confident feel.
The YETI SB5 Turq (Custom)
The "other" Yeti sibling is a custom built Yeti SB5 Turq. This 27.5 inch wheeler is regarded as the most versatile bike in the current Yeti armory. And we can definitely see why.
The SB5 Turq is designed as a trail bike first and an enduro bike second. With 127mm (5 inch) of travel to the frame working with the Switch Infinity and matched to a 150 mm fork, this translates into an efficient bike meant for full day rides that allows the rider to enjoy any trail to its fullest, with the added ability of being able to take on bigger hits should the occasion arise.
The SB5 frame is designed with the intention to be the most versatile 27.5 inch trail bike in Yeti's stable. As such, we are looking at very familiar geometry numbers like: head angle at 66.5 deg matched to an effective seat tube angle of 73.6 degrees, a reach of 424 mm for the medium size frame and a 1168 mm wheelbase. This is quite a long and spacious trail bike that could truly be quite the Swiss army knife of mountain bikes.
The Turq label for the SB5 deserves some mention here. Turq Series bikes are manufactured with Yeti's highest quality and best-performing carbon fiber available. They are supposed to offer the perfect balance of stiffness, durability, and compliance. By using different materials and tweaking the fiber layup, the SB5 Turq is 250 g lighter than the Carbon series SB5 frame.
As mentioned, the SB5 Turq we tested was a custom build. The bike was fitted with DT Swiss EX511 rims laced with Project 321 hubs, Renthal Fatbars and a 50 mm stem. Naturally, the bike felt different from a stock build.
RIDING THE YETIS
The bikes were tuned to our test riders' weight with an initial sag of 30% at the rear and 20% at the front as recommended by Yeti. Tyre pressure was at a comfortable 28 PSI for both bikes. The SB5.5 is a 100% stock build, straight from the box and the SB5 Turq went through some personalization. To start off, this is not another Battle-of-the-Wheel-Size kind of review.
To add complexity to the situation, we pitched a stock build versus a highly personalized build, where one was a Carbon Series frame and the other was the top-of-the-line Turq Series frame!
Rather than force ourselves with a reluctant verdict for a winner, we decided to review and rate the bikes based on it's intended usage and how it fared, ending with a vote on which bike we preferred to use for our local trails and which bike suited which type of rider best.
For a fair comparison, our test riders rode both bikes at the same trails, with focus on some of the trail sections that would allow the bikes to show their salt.
ENJOYING THE TRAIL
The first impression we got from the SB5.5 from the onset was that this was really a competition-ready bike straight from the box. There was nothing that needed to be replaced for us to feel at home with the bike. This is impressive since Yeti labelled this build as merely "entry-level".
The bike felt responsive and confident with an easy-going feel within the spacious cockpit as we cruised along the trail. We didn't really feel the heftier 13 kg weight of the bike hindering us during the ride – this could be due to the smooth SLX drive train and the buttery feel from the suspension and Switch Infinity. This buttery suspension feel would later translate to superb dominance over square-edge bumps.
One thing though, while it is as plush as we described, we noticed that the bike's suspension and linkage movement was also leaning towards the linear side of things. For those who like their suspension and linkage to show obvious progressiveness, this could be a little too subtle for them. This linear movement means that at some parts of the trail, the suspension may be working a little too hard, and compressing more than it should. Yeti did advise that different riders with different styles would want to tweak on the shock setting and sag. We agree with that too. For even more adjustability, using volume spacer(s) to adjust the suspension behavior to a rider's particular preference could enhance the riding enjoyment and bike's performance even more.
One part to highlight is the nice choice of tyres. Maxxis Minions DHF front and Aggressor at the rear worked perfectly. The Minions instill the confidence while the Aggressors grips confidently and rolls smooth. We cannot be sure how this would change in the monsoon months when things could get a little more muddy and slippery. Some personal monitoring would be needed here.
YETI SB5 Turq
The SB5 Turq feels quite different from the SB5.5 the moment we mounted it. It definitely felt more energetic and agile. As a 27.5 trail bike, it had a playful personality and seemed to enjoy rushing forward like an eager trail dog. Apologies for the metaphor but that was the feeling one of the riders got. We have to add that the SB5 Turq might again feel different from a typical stock build, as the owner had modified the rear shock to his riding style with 1 x Volume spacer. This allowed for more support from the rear shock in terms of mid stroke and bottom out resistance.
While we are aware that it is unfair to comment on the bike's performance based on its custom components, it did indeed feel fast and smooth throughout the ride. Good spec-ing there. Yet, despite the components alone, the high performing suspension bits working in tandem with Yeti's Switch Infinity magic was evident on this bike making the whole ride very enjoyable with just the right balance of dampening and feedback.
Being a shorter travel bike than the SB5.5, the rear has less movement throughout the ride but the experience didn't translate to any particular harshness. Alright, we are talking about local trails here so it is hard to say the ride could cause short travel bikes to feel over- harsh. That aside, the ride was definitely more well sorted than some of the other bikes we have ridden on the same trails.
The shorter travel and lighter setup also made the SB5 an evidently faster bike at speed sections and descents.
CLIMB AND DESCEND
For this review, we will discuss both the climbing and descending of both bikes in a particular section.
For a 29er, the SB5.5 climbs competently. While we may feel that it may not be the most efficient 29 inch climber we have ever ridden, we are also aware that this is a worthwhile tradeoff for a bike with a well-balanced set of capabilities. In contrast, the relatively long wheelbase and slack geometry for this 29er makes it a very confident descender.
If climbing and descending capabilities are approximately inversely proportional when designing a bike, then the SB5.5 is a very well-rounded and balanced-performance bike. The Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre and Aggressor rear tyre, though a good combination of grippy and stable tyres, may contribute an ever so slight reason why this bike wasn't as good a climber as it could have been. But based on the bike's intended riding purpose – trail and enduro – we would say they are still the tyres we would go for over any other faster rolling (XCish) ones, trading off a little bit of speed and climbing efficiency.
As Yeti's dedicated all-rounder and most versatile mountain bike, we picked up this bike with some prior expectations. We have to admit that, with our prior expectations on the SB5 Turq, and after riding the 29 inch SB5.5, we came out with some mixed feelings. It's not that it can't climb well. In fact, it climbs very well! It's just not as relaxed as some of us would have expected it to be, especially after we had gotten used to the relaxed confident manner of the SB5.5. We had to be more alert because the bike felt like it wanted to rush up the slope. Metaphor again: the 29er seem more like a Sports Utility Truck while the SB5 Turq feels like an agile Trail Buggy.
Descending is a different story for the customized SB5 Turq. It descends with agility, speed and lots of fun factor. We were able to get up to some aggressive descend pace at some rocky sections on our early runs. The Switch Infinity kept the bike in its confident stance throughout the section. The SB5 Turq is quite a flickable bike too – which explains the "fun-factor" part as we popped off bumps and kickers.
CORNERING, CONTROL, FLICKING AND EVERYTHING ELSE
It is commonly expected that 29ers are more clumsy than their 27.5 wheel brothers. This could still be true from a comparative sense but it is not at all like how it used to be. Modern day 29ers are a lot more agile and forgiving than those of old. And the SB5.5 is one such modern day 29er. Along the trail, we deliberately chose some of the harder and more technical lines, and in some occasions simulated riding mistake that typical riders may commit at certain sections of the trail, and the SB5.5 guided us out of it gracefully enough. The slack frame geometry, Fox 36 GRIP Series Fork and fat grippy front tyre worked together to create this optimal and balanced personality.
The SB5.5 cuts through berms with a stable and firm feel. Not as agile (or playful) as the SB5 Turq, of course, but definitely more confidence inspiring and forgiving.
YETI SB5 Turq
When negotiating trail features and corners, the SB5 Turq gave us a sensation of it's eagerness to "dive in" as fast as it can. There were instances where it reminded us just how flickable 26 inch mountain bikes were and why we still love them. This agility is quite impressive to us as the bike is particularly spacious and has a comfortably long wheelbase.
WHAT TO LOOK OUR FOR
As a bonus to the review, we swapped out the Fox Performance DPX2 rear shock for an EXT rear coil shock. This coil shock is an option that buyers can consider when they get their Yeti SB5.5s. For a start, they look really fierce. The bike simply looks more aggressive and mean with the benefit of the metallic finish. The ride personality of the bike also changed with these coils. Bombing down rock gardens and other technical features resulted in an ever so planted feel and NO, we didn't manage to bottom them out in our local trails … damn! While flowing on some of the more connected parts of the trail, the bike felt plush and comfortable too – compliments go to a good pairing of these coils and the Switch Infinity. Definitely an upgrade that's worth considering.
THE SWITCH INFINITY
Every time we ride a Yeti, there is a term we could not get off our minds. The term was "buttery". And that's to describe the plush feel on Yeti Bikes. This feeling is largely the work of a well-tuned, patented Switch Infinity. The Switch Infinity is Yeti's unique linkage system produced in conjunction with Fox Suspension. In essence, they are 2 kashima coated sliders that's situated above the bottom bracket on rthe frame. These sliders adjust the axle path of the bike as it moves through its travel during a ride. The result is optimal anti-squat and enhanced pedal performance. The 2 kashima coated sliders added to the stiffness of the already stiff carbon frames.
We have to say that the Switch Infinity is really quite an amazing design. At the initial wheel path, the Switch Infinity moves the main pivot upwards causing the wheelbase to lengthen slightly. This allows for a more effective clearance of square edged bumps. The slight increase in wheelbase also increase chain tension and anti-squat meaning pedaling is enhanced at that point too. At inflection point, when the bike has cleared the square edged bump and is about to move on, the Switch Infinity lowers the main pivot and thus reduces the anti-squat of the bike. This prepares the bike with better mid stroke and bottom out support. Brilliant!
Do note that this extra sliders section is not an extra shock that needs to be filled with air. They just need to be greased and wiped clean. The fully sealed Switch Infinity mechanism has external grease ports to lube the bushings and seals. (Ed: They should include these in their build kit.) Yeti recommends greasing them only at every 40 hrs of riding.
(Do this after washing please!)
WHO SHOULD RIDE THESE BIKES
Both Yetis are extremely capable and fun bikes to own. They are bikes that want to keep on going … and going … and going. All their qualities add up nicely. It is agile although not overly playful; Efficient and confident, and let you enjoy the trail as they are. A spacious cockpit means you are able to adjust yourself and work the bike to your best in different situations.
The SB5 is really as good as they claim – a superb climber and a speedy descender – at least where TRAIL-Enduro bikes are concerned.
The SB5.5 is a more relaxed ride, especially when the ride is long and the miles add up. The long travel of this bike also means descending is confident and well-dampened. This might give one the feeling that the bike can deliver smoothly on fast and rough descents. In contrast, this is the Trail-ENDURO bike between the 2 in this story.
Both the Yei SB5 and SB5.5 comes in the Carbon and Turq series. If we had to really recommend the bikes for what they are best suited for, we would say that both bikes are in essence trail-enduro bike. For long epic rides (even peppered with some uncertainties along the way) with grand scenery and a camping night thrown in, to jamborees in flowy plantations – get the SB5.5. It will flow or bull-dozed its way through, either way. For moderate to long trails with opportunity to detour into bike parks, the SB5 would promise some fun sans the double black gravity trails.
For our review rides, the SB5 emerged as the more popular choice as it has a more relaxed personality when riding flowy sections, yet was capable of eating up technical sections with speed and sure-footedness. It is also forgiving where small mistakes were made.
For local riders, Yeti Bikes are represented by Yeti@Bukit Timah. With extensive knowledge on Yeti Bikes, they are the guys to call or visit when Yeti owners need some quick-response help locally. It's also interesting to note that Yeti@Bukit Timah is now located a stone's throw away from the Bukit Timah MTB Trail head, making it a regular hangout for many mountain bikers – Yeti or otherwise.
Want to take an SB5.5 for spin around our local trails? It is now possible too! (Fees apply)
Add: 6 Hindhede Road, Singapore 589242
Tel: 9695 2836
All photos by Bikezilla