We’re back with another showdown. This time it’s between two of our favorite little bikes — the Yeti SB135 and the Santa Cruz 5010. One has two 27.5” wheels, while the other rocks a mixed-wheel setup.  Both fill that fun, lively, jibby trail bike category. So today, we’re doing some back-to-back laps to find where each bike shines. The terrain we’re going to ride varies from steep, rocky, and challenging to fast, flowy, and smooth. Stick around to see which bike is best for you.

So all the riding and testing is done. Let’s dive into where each bike shines — starting with some high-level details about the two bikes. First, these bikes are similar but not identical. The most significant differences between them will be the wheel size, the travel amounts, and the suspension feel. First of all, the SB135LR has quite a bit more front travel and marginally more at the rear axle. The head tube angles are basically the same, and the seat tube angles are relatively close.  The reach numbers are within a couple of millimeters, as are the chainstays. The biggest difference lies in the wheelbase measurement, with the 5010 coming in 10mm longer than the 135. Check out the full reviews for more details on each bike.

The full reviews

Get up to speed on each bike before diving into the showdown.

Yeti SB135 vs Santa Cruz 5010: Climbing 

Let’s get the hard part out of the way first. As difficult as early-season climbing can be, going uphill on both of these bikes is made less difficult by efficient pedaling platforms, great traction, and good geometry. One bike does stand out as a better climber overall.

The SB135 would be my pick if I placed a high priority on climbing performance. It’s slightly more efficient and offers better technical climbing ability due to its agility and handling characteristics. It’s able to pick its way up almost any climb around. Although, the newly formed spring runoff waterfall tripped me up quicker than it did on the 5010. So the lesson here is as long as it’s not under a foot of water, the SB135 will make it to the top. Overall the handling, body position, and suspension platform seem to be better suited for climbing. Its suspension feels snappy and responsive, and the body position is a bit more forward-leaning. 

The 5010 loses a little bit of that snappy acceleration, but it makes up for it in traction and control. Its suspension feels more active, providing even more grip and comfort than the SB135. As a tall guy, I also appreciate the taller front end with a more upright body position. I noticed less weight through my arms and shoulders, which after a long ride, can be pretty nice. It stays very composed on rough climbs, but when things get tight and twisty, it can be slightly more difficult to manage than the SB135. 

It’s not really fair to compare weight on these two have different builds, but for those who just have to know, here they are – 33.9 for the 5010 (ready to ride with pedals, tools and bottle cage) and the 136 comes in at 34.3. 

Overall, both bikes do a perfectly fine job on the climbs. Neither is going to win an XC race, but they’ll both make it up the most technical climbs around. 

Yeti SB135 vs Santa Cruz 5010: Descending

Now we get to do the fun part — it’s especially fun on these bikes. Downhill on a short travel bike can be a ton of fun, especially on the right trails. Luckily, both of these bikes broaden the range of what the “right trail” can be. They’re fun, lively, playful, and far more versatile than I ever could have imagined.

Again, starting with the SB135, it’s easily one of the best cornering bikes I’ve ever ridden. For me, there’s a perfect sweet spot between agility and stability. Too agile, and the bike feels twitchy. On the other hand, if it’s too stable, you can’t do anything other than go in a straight line. The SB135 hits that sweet spot right on the head. It’s plenty agile and offers just the right amount of stability to keep you from wadding up in every corner. The 5010 is also pretty spectacular in the corners, but the SB135 wins on the tighter ones.

The 5010 takes the cake on the higher speed and bumpier corners. Like the SB135, it strikes a great balance between stability and agility, although it has more stability. While it takes just a bit more effort to initiate a corner, once you’ve got the bike leaned over, it carves a perfect smooth arc through it — no micro adjustments are required. The bigger front wheel and a longer wheelbase help with confidence and control in the rougher corners.

Despite having less travel and a lighter-duty fork, the 5010 rides bigger. What I mean is that the suspension feels deeper, and the bike feels more grounded when things get rough. I suspect three things are at play here. The big front wheel, longer wheelbase, and taller front end give the bike a certain degree of confidence, especially when you’re pushing the boundary of the bike’s capability.  The suspension curve is also slightly more progressive, which may contribute to the deeper feeling ride quality.

When it comes to flowier terrain, where arguably both of these bikes were designed to thrive, they’re an absolute blast to ride. The SB135 offers a bit more fun in terms of handling, but I’d have to argue that the 5010 has a bit more pop in the suspension. To me, that means if you like taking creative lines, the SB135 might be your jam. If you like logging air miles, hop on board the 5010.

My big takeaway was that these two bikes maximize fun without sacrificing stability and confidence. I knew they’d be good on jumpy, bermy, flowy trails, but they both surprised me on the steep, rough, and scary trails. Having a bike as fun as these without giving up the capability to ride any trail you’d like is a huge plus in my book.  

Yeti SB135 vs Santa Cruz 5010: Pros and cons

Let’s go over a few pros and cons. The biggest one, and this may seem silly, is going to be the Glovebox on the 5010. Internal frame storage is a really nice touch. Something I wish Yeti could have included on their new bikes. That said, at the end of the day, I’ve been finding creative ways to carry all my gear for years — it’s not a dealbreaker.

Next is price. The SB135 will cost you more for a comparable build. There isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison, but for a XO Eagle Transmission-equipped bike with top-tier suspension, the SB135 is about $1500 more than the 5010.

The SB135 offers a better fit for smaller riders, with the XS and S frames being unique to those sizes. This maximizes stand-over clearance and seatpost insertion.

The SB135 also offers more versatility when it comes to aftermarket shocks, including coil shocks. The 5010 is somewhat limited by the shock tunnel.

Yeti SB135 vs Santa Cruz 5010: Which one is best for you

I feel like both of these bikes fill the same category. They’re fun, lively little bikes that punch above their weight class. They offer exceptional handling, cornering, and plenty of good times out on the trail. The SB135 takes the handling one step further with razor-sharp steering and agility. The 5010 leans to the slightly more stable side of the equation. I’m equally impressed by how well each punches above its weight class. Neither bike is an excuse not to ride a difficult trail or to bypass features usually reserved for the long-travel machine.  They both could easily be the one and only bike in my garage. That said, I think certain folks would be better served by one or the other.

Yeti sb135

Starting with the SB135, I think this bike is better suited for riders with tight, technical, slower-speed terrain. It’s easier to manage at low speeds, handles tight turns better, and offers better technical climbing ability. It’s also going to be the better option for people more vertically challenged as it is likely to be a better fit. The front end and standover (in the smaller sizes) are lower, helping those shorter riders not feel too upright and uncomfortable on the bike. As a tall rider, though, it doesn’t mean you should write off the SB135. I’m a tall rider and thoroughly enjoyed the different ride quality the smaller wheels brought to the table. It opened up a different style of riding which I hadn’t experienced in a long time. The SB135 is going to be for the rider who wants all the agility without sacrificing too much stability.

Santa Cruz 5010

With a longer wheelbase, deeper riding suspension, and a big front wheel, the 5010 is going to be the better bike for those who want more speed and stability. Despite having marginally less rear wheel travel and significantly less fork travel, the 5010 seems to ride bigger and burlier than the SB135. It handles rough terrain and steep trails with a bit more composure. The taller front end and longer wheelbase are to credit here. That stability does come at a cost, however. The 5010 takes more effort in the corners and on the climbs. I’d have to say the 5010 is for the rider who wants a little playful bike they can ride the same way as their big bike. What I mean is that you don’t have to tip-toe around the rough stuff, but you get the quick handling and more playful attributes of a short-travel bike.

Time for some awards. We’re going dog-breed-themed for whatever reason today. The 5010 wins the English Bulldog Award—short, stocky, but really tough. The SB135 takes home the Beagle Award— tenacious, energetic, and big for its size.  

Well, that’s going to do it. Thanks for sticking around. See you next time.

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