Today we’re camping in Moab and we’re doing a Yeti SB135 review. The 2023 Yeti SB135 replaces the outgoing 27.5” SB140. When I first pulled it out of the box, I thought Yeti had screwed up by releasing a 27.5” trail bike in 2023. The rest of this video will make me look like a big dummy because I was very wrong. And Yeti was very right. And now I’m eating my words. And I don’t like it.
First, let’s talk about why I thought Yeti had screwed up. I’m a tall guy, and I ride XL frames. I don’t suffer some of the consequences that some shorter folks do when riding 29” wheels. In the past, I’ve generally had some issues with short to mid-travel 27.5” bikes. I thought they felt a little slow and stuttery in rough terrain — and by the way, Moab is full of rough terrain. I’ve usually had issues with the front wheel getting jammed into rocks, holes, and ledges, making for some uncomfortable moments. The back wheel also wants to get hung up on all the bumps in sight, making the ride feel slow and awkward. So now let’s talk about how wrong I was. Or how wrong my preconceived notions were.
The SB135 LR defies all my past experiences on shorter-travel, small-wheeled bikes. It’s not slow, doesn’t find itself stuttering through bumps, and doesn’t make me wish it had bigger wheels. And honestly, that blew my mind a bit, considering where we were riding. After some more thought, I maybe realized that while every rock in Moab seems to be hellbent on robbing your momentum, there actually isn’t a ton of momentum to be robbed in the first place. The trails are a little slower and twistier compared to a lot of the wide-open terrain I ride at home. The SB135 does a great job of picking its way around and over all the wheel-grabbing rocks. It makes for a great time trying to generate any amount of flow.
Let’s take a deep dive into how it rides.
Yeti SB135 lr geometry and build
The exact bike in question for today is the Yeti SB135 LR. More specifically, it’s the TLR Transmission T3 build kit — so obviously it leaves nothing to be desired. It rolls on a Turq frame with a 160mm Fox Factory 36 Grip 2 up front and a Factory Float X to control the rear travel. Being a Lunch Ride build, this is a bit burlier and more aggressive than the standard kit with a 150mm Fox 34 Fit 4 to handle to front travel. Other notable differences between the LR and standard kit include a burlier tire spec with an Assegai/Minion DHR combo on vs a Minion DHF/Rekon combo. Tougher rims, and bigger brake rotors round out the differences between the bikes.
My test bike features a new Sram Transmission XO drivetrain — and no, I didn’t stand on my derailleur. It’s the first chance I’ve had to take a spin on the latest and greatest. I have absolutely zero negative feedback so far. Against my better judgement I purposely made some shifts while standing up cranking on the pedals. To my delight, the chain stayed in one piece and my knee didn’t smash into my stem. It’s pretty trippy being able to shift so smoothly and quietly under a load like that. More on Transmission to come, but for now I just wanted to provide some initial feedback.
The full geometry chart and build details can be found at Yeti Cycles
Yeti SB135 Review
Moab is a technical climber’s daydream. It’s full of tight, twisty, steep, and ledgy climbs. In fact, there are very few smooth sections of uphill terrain. Most of the time, you find yourself redlining as you step up ledge after ledge. Throw in some sand-covered rocks, turns that feel too tight, and slabs that feel too steep, and it’s one heck of a challenging place to go uphill. That is, until you have an SB135 — I was blown away by the climbing ability on this thing. It has endless traction, great handling, and a solid pedal platform.
Let’s start with the wheel size. Every time I ride a bike with a 27.5” rear wheel, I’m impressed by how quickly that wheel accelerates. Compared to big 29” wheels, a smaller wheel spins up quicker and easier. It becomes apparent on steep climbs where a bigger wheel is hard to keep turning. The SB135 motors up the steepest bits of trail without much fuss. The SB135’s suspension platform contributes to the quick acceleration feel as well. Just like the SB140, it is plenty efficient. While the suspension remains more active under pedaling forces than previous Yetis, the compromise is well worth it in my book.
All the acceleration in the world does you no good without traction. Otherwise, you’re just spinning out and leaving skid marks on every rock. The SB135 has a very similar suspension curve to the SB140. If you haven’t been following along, that bike generates a ton of traction. Just like the SB140, the SB135 keeps that rear wheel stuck to the ground even while standing and putting down maximum effort. Brock and I kept commenting on how well the bike stuck to some of the sketchiest climbs. One, in particular, was a steep, sandy ramp with a 5” tree root cutting across it halfway up. The section required you to stand up and hammer on the pedals while navigating the tree root bump. Neither of us slid out on the root, though, and we probably should have.
Lastly, the SB135 has excellent handling characteristics. The geometry is well-balanced for a bike that needs to go uphill and descend. The angles are neither too steep nor too slack for an all-mountain bike. The geometry paired with small wheels keeps the handling quick and sharp. I struggle with certain sections on the Captain Ahab trail on bigger 29” wheels. On the SB135, they felt easier to manage. The slow-speed handling characteristics are better. I’d imagine the 1261mm wheelbase (XL) has quite a bit to do with it. Although Moab has quite a few short down-to-up sections. They always seem about the same size as a front wheel. I did notice the smaller front wheel wanting to get stuck in them. A bigger wheel has an advantage here as it rolls through the dip much easier.
Overall, the SB135 is a heck of a climber. It didn’t cease to impress, especially as the climbs got more technical. It reminds me quite a bit of the Ibis Mojo 4, which, if my memory serves me correctly, is also a remarkable technical climber.
This is where I really start to look like a dummy. The SB135 is so radically different than I would have imagined. I guess that’s why you never judge a book by its cover. It is fun, lively, jibby, stable, and rather confident.
I started the trip out a little hesitant to get into Moab’s rougher terrain. In the past, I’ve had some bad times on shorter-travel 27.5” bikes in Moab. We’ll just say I was worried about the front wheel finding a parking spot and sending me out the front door into a pile of rocks. I started out riding the SB135 a little gingerly. As time went on, I put more and more trust into the bike — it never let me down. We certainly didn’t repeat my lousy history. By the end of the trip, I found myself pre-hopping into rocky sections and pumping rough terrain that probably shouldn’t be pumped. The front wheel just didn’t hang up like I was used to on 27.5” bikes. Could it be the slacker 65° head tube angle and the burlier Fox 36? I certainly think those two things played a significant role. The 437mm chainstays (XL) played a part as well. That’s a bit longer measurement than the 27.5” bikes of the past. Those longer stays add a degree of stability to the bike that I hadn’t felt on 27.5 before. Whatever it was, I found the SB135 the most stable, small-wheel bike I’ve ridden. It was never once an excuse to back down from a rough line or feature I’d normally hit. Part of the magic of a little-wheel bike is the playful and fun factor. I don’t think the SB135 loses much, if any, of that fun factor to achieve its stability.
The fun factor is high on the SB135. It’s the culmination of many parts, including the balanced geometry and dialed suspension. Like the new SB140, it’s more active than the Yetis of the past. It gives the bike a more comfortable ride quality and a bit more lively and fun character. The SB135 likes to jump, hop and unweight down the trail. It’s the kind of bike that changes your mentality. Instead of going as fast as possible as you try to smash every rock in sight, it unlocks a more creative and fun riding style. I found myself jumping off every rise in sight, taking silly inside lines, and hitting corners with more pace than usual.
Speaking of corners, the SB135 challenges the Santa Cruz 5010 for the “Best Cornerer” award. I’d have to argue that the SB135 is significantly more agile than the 5010, but it gives up a certain degree of front-wheel stability compared to the MX setup. A 29” front wheel seems to track a line better through a corner without requiring as many micro-adjustments. That said, the SB135 corners with the best of them. It has enough traction to let you corner confidently, and it’s agile enough for even the tightest corners. With my riding style, I found it easy to get a little too much weight over the front wheel, leading to the back end feeling light and washy. It took me all of 20 minutes to adjust my body position to apply weight to both wheels evenly. Once I corrected for the shorter front center than I am used to, it was off to the races.
My favorite part about the SB135 is how comfortable it felt on a wide variety of trails. It was happy enough flowing through our warmup laps on Navajo Rocks, and it never complained about the rougher terrain on Captain Ahab. It’s truly happy to go anywhere and do anything.
Overall on the descents, I was happy to be proven wrong about my preconceived notions of what a 27.5” bike could be capable of. It offered all the fun without making things sketchy when the trail got rough. I now stand a little less confident in my 29-or-die attitude.
yeti sb135 review: Comparisons
Santa Cruz 5010 vs Yeti Sb135 LR
Santa Cruz 5010
It’s not every day I compare two bikes with different wheel sizes. They fill that fun, playful category while still having an “all-mountain” confidence level. As I touched on earlier, the SB135 is the more agile of the two, and the 5010 is the more capable bike. I’d have to give the climbing win to the SB135, with its ability to turn technical climbs into a paved parking lot. I think it wins in the efficiency department too. For riding steep and rough terrain where I might be in a little over my head, I’d reach for the 5010. It’s longer and marginally slacker, offering a bit more stability. To be honest, I’m pretty torn between these two bikes. Luckily I have both in my possession, so you can bet you’ll see a showdown soon.
Yeti SB140 vs Yeti SB135 LR
It makes a lot of sense to compare these two. And to be clear, this is the new 29” SB140, not the outgoing 27.5” model, which I haven’t ridden. These two fill a similar niche, with the most significant difference being the wheel size. Other than that, the geometry and suspension are very similar. They have similar climbing characteristics, but the SB135 is definitely the better technical climber. On a smooth trail or open fire road, the SB140 would most likely win with its wagon wheels. On the descents, I can’t help but say I had more fun on the SB135. It’s easier to jump, corner, and goof around. I’ve never done back-to-back testing, but I could almost guarantee the SB140 will be faster. So it comes down to your trails, priorities, and riding style. Do you prefer the speed and stability of the bigger SB140? Or are your trails tight and twisty where the SB135 will shine?
Who is the Yeti SB135 for?
I hate admitting I was wrong about anything, but here we are. I’d be pretty happy with the SB135 as my one and only. It’s undoubtedly one of those jack-of-all-trades bikes, yet it doesn’t feel like a master of none. It’s a master of climbing, cornering, jumping, pumping, plowing, and having a good time. If you’ve been a 29-or-die rider like myself, I wouldn’t write off the SB135 so quickly—I’m very happy I didn’t. It’s a tough bike to put in a neat and tidy category. It blurs all sorts of lines. It’s the jibby little play bike, the everyday trail bike, the two-wheeled mountain goat, and the technical trail destroyer all smushed into one sleek frame—with little wheels.
So, if you’re the type of rider that wants a (I can’t believe I’m going to use this word) quiver-killer, and you want something a little different, a little more fun, that’s not a standard 140mm 29er, then I wholeheartedly recommend the SB135.
One-line YEti SB135 review
Damn you, Yeti, I’m now having to rethink everything I thought I knew about bikes, and it’s all the SB135’s fault.