Don’t be fooled. It’s not an XC bike.
The Yeti SB115 looks bike a cross-country bike on paper. It has short travel, more traditional XC geometry, and everything on Yeti’s website says this is a race bike. Well, I’m here to argue it’s a trail bike, through and through. The dead giveaway is Yeti’s tire selection. A Maxxis Minion DHF and Aggressor combo certainly isn’t very XC. Sure, tires are easy to swap out and can make a huge difference to how a bike rides, but I think the tires a manufacturer chooses to spec on a bike reveal its true intentions. The SB115 is a trail bike at heart, but it’s one of the quickest trail bikes you can buy.
YETI SB115 GEOMETRY, SIZING AND BUILD KITS
I’m going to bring this up throughout this article and video repeatedly, but the SB115 has an odd blend of cross-country and trail geometry. The reach, wheelbase, head tube angle, and seat tube angle are all very XC. The travel amounts, chainstay length, and stack are decidedly trail. Somehow, it comes together and works well on the trail. At 6’2”, I rode an extra-large. At 470.5mm, the reach is shorter than most extra-larges I’ve ridden in the last year. The head tube angle is on the steeper side at 67.6 degrees, and the seat tube could be accused of being slack at 73.9 degrees. A short reach and steep head tube angle add up to a shorter wheelbase. In the case of the SB115, it’s 1208.6mm. Here’s where things get much more trail. The stack height is very tall at 648.3mm. The chainstays are pretty short at 436.7mm. Phew, glad we got through that.
I rode a T1 build that retails for $6,400. It comes with all the fancy bits — Fox Factory suspension, a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, carbon bars, and a high-quality set of DT Swiss m1700 wheels. The only upgrade I can think of that’s worth doing on this bike is a set of carbon wheels. May I recommend the Enve M630. The way those wheels ride, matches the SB115 very well. If you only want a frame, it will set you back $3,500. Builds start at $4,800 for a Shimano SLX kit with Fox performance suspension. Enough with the numbers, let’s get into how it rides.
YETI SB115 RIDE IMPRESSIONS
The SB115 climbs very well thanks to the Switch Infinity suspension platform. It’s efficient enough, and the suspension smooths out the small bumps in the trail better than most. The first thing I noticed on my very technical test climb, was how smooth the bike felt over the minefield of pointy rocks. It helped me keep the cranks turning consistently as I focused on navigating the rough climbs. Keeping an even cadence can really help in the efficiency department. More than almost any other bike, the SB115 masters the hoverbike effect when things get bumpy. It lacks the pure XC pedal platform, but that’s a penalty I’m willing to take for a bike this smooth.
Don’t get me wrong. The SB115 doesn’t climb poorly. There’s not a ton of pedal bob or bouncing up and down while you’re trying to move forward. It sits pretty high in its travel, keeping your weight centered up on the bike. Even when things got really steep, I didn’t have much trouble keeping the front end down — and the front end on this bike is pretty tall. The taller stack height keeps the SB115 more comfortable and less stretched out than a traditional XC bike. I quite liked the climbing position — it surprised me a bit. The seat tube angle isn’t particularly steep. As a tall guy, that can become a pretty big issue for me as it puts me even further over the rear wheel. I didn’t have any problems with the slacker seat tube angle. The bike sits high enough in its travel that you’re not sagging off the back too much in the first place.
One downside to Switch Infinity is the added weight. Full builds come in around 27-30 lbs, putting the SB115 squarely in the trail bike category. I’m not much of a weight weenie. When it comes to critiquing a bike, weight is way down on my list. I’m much more concerned with the geometry, suspension design, and ride quality of the bike than I am its weight. It’s just worth noting that most of these long-travel cross-country bikes are coming in around 25 lbs. The added weight will make a small difference over a really long day in the mountains. It’s not something that will hold you back on a typical ride, though.
The last thing keeping the SB115 from climbing like an XC bike is the tires. It’s got the same tire combo that Richie Rude (two-time EWS winner) made famous a couple of years ago. The Maxxis Minion DHF and Aggressor provide a ton of grip. That’s great for rough, wet and tricky pitches, but it’s going to slow you down on most climbs. If you want to make the bike climb faster, swap them out for something lighter and quicker. You’ll pay a penalty on the DH, though.
If the SB115 feels like a trail bike on the climbs, it certainly feels the same on the descents. There’s nothing about it that descends like a cross-country bike. Sure, the travel numbers are kind of XC, but you wouldn’t know it just by riding it. While it only has 115mm of rear suspension, it’s used so well that it feels like more — I really don’t like using that played out phrase. Every bike review from two years ago mentioned that the bike felt like it had more travel than it did. This isn’t one of those reviews. This bike actually feels that way. While none of the features I rode were particularly big, there was enough to challenge the bike and push its limits. I never once clanged through the travel or had a harsh bottom out. Usually, bikes in the 120mm range feel pretty stiff — some can even feel harsh. The SB115 actually felt plush. I didn’t know that could be said about a 115mm travel bike.
Let’s dive into a couple of things that make the suspension really stand out. First, like most Yeti bikes, the small bump performance on the SB115 is outstanding. It does a great job of smoothing out small trail chatter. After the initial stroke, there’s quite a bit more support. The suspension firms up a bit and give you an excellent platform for pushing into corners, bunnyhopping, and doing all the things short travel bikes are so good at. Finally, the end stroke ramps up very well. I frequently used full travel but never experienced a harsh clang at bottom out — just how I like it.
The second great thing the SB115’s suspension does is help you keep momentum through bumpy terrain. The back wheel doesn’t get hung up. On my test trail, there were a lot of speed-robbing rocks embedded in the dirt. The Yeti didn’t have any problem running them over and moving on. The SB115 is a fast bike, and I attribute its speed to how well the suspension manages bumps. It seriously begs for more speed. If you like going fast and covering ground quickly, this bike is going to be your jam.
You’re probably going to think I’m crazy for saying this, but the SB115 rode quite a bit like its bigger brother, the SB130. The geometry is very different between the two, and in really rough terrain, the SB115 won’t hold a candle to the bigger SB130, but on the trails I rode, they felt similar. I’m going to say it’s because of how the suspension performs.
Speaking of geometry, the SB115 has some odd numbers, but somehow they all come together to work very well on the trail. The steeper head tube angle, short reach, and wheelbase keep things nimble. The taller front end prevents the front wheel from getting hung up in holes while also allowing you to stay more centered on the bike in steeper terrain. The XC/trail geometry combo just works.
Switch Infinity is remarkable
Fast in almost every scenario
Switch Infinity Maintenance
Comparison Yeti SB115 VS Transition Spur
We have a bit of a showdown happening right now amongst all our new short-travel 29ers. Our showdown includes the Cannondale Scalpel SE, Orbea Oiz TR, Transition Spur, and the Yeti SB115. The latter two are the most similar bikes. While I’m going to make you wait until we finish the showdown to get the whole comparison, here’s a little teaser. The Spur wins in flat out downhill capability due to its aggressive geometry. It also wins in the smooth, straight, and open climbs category, mainly because it’s a heck of a lot lighter. The Yeti wins in the techy climbs and suspension performance categories. Both are visually stunning, so there’s no clear “sexiest bike alive” winner — sorry to disappoint.
WHO IS the Yeti SB115 FOR?
Folks who want a capable, do-it-all trail bike, but don’t ride the hardest trails on a daily basis, are the perfect riders for the SB115. It’s capable enough to be your daily driver while adept enough on the climbs not to make you suffer too much. I’d put it much closer to the Tallboy and Ripley category than I would the Oiz TR and Blur TR category. Because of its geometry, if you have tight technical trails, the SB115 is going to shine.
- T1 build is the best bang for your buck
- If it fits the budget, spring for some Enve M630s to really make this thing rip.
- The SB130 is bigger, badder and burlier, but doesn’t come at too much of a climbing penalty. If you consistently ride difficult terrain, check that one out.
- Ride an SB115 demo before you buy.