Today we’re talking about the Yeti SB160. But, it’s a bit of a winter wonderland in Salt Lake, so we’re heading south to the desert for some quality time for a review on Yeti’s new enduro race rig.
While it’s still cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, we have some dirt and a whole lot of rocks down here for some proper test riding. So, the big question for the day is, “should I upgrade from my old SB150?” Stick around to find out.
Yeti SB160 Geometry and details
Before we go ride, let’s get into some details. The New SB160 is the updated version of the older SB150. As the name suggests, it has 160mm of rear wheel travel. Up front, we’re rolling on 170mm of travel courtesy of a Fox 38. We have a 64° head tube angle, a 77.5° seat tube angle, and a 510mm reach on my size XL test bike. Falling in line with many other brands, Yeti has made the chainstays size-specific on their new bikes. On my XL frame, the chainstay comes in at 443mm, bringing our overall wheelbase to 1302mm — perfect for mowing over everything in sight.
The SB160 features an updated Switch Infinity V2 system with refined leverage curves. Yeti’s bikes have always been supportive with a snappy feeling pedaling platform. The SB140 I reviewed recently gave up a tiny bit of efficiency in favor of more traction and a more comfortable ride quality. I’m going to be paying close attention to the SB160’s pedaling characteristics to see if that’s the case.
For the full geo and build info, head to Yeti’s website.
Yeti SB160 Review
So let’s get into how this thing does on the climbs. I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a Yeti that climbs poorly—and I still haven’t. The SB160 is a solid climber for the category. The suspension is the star of the show here.
The 160’s suspension is true to Yeti’s fast and efficient past. It doesn’t feel as though there’s much energy wasted in the form of pedal bob. Sure, this is a big bike with a lot of travel to sag into, so it’s not going to feel like a little XC whip, but it is apparently more efficient than most other bikes in the category. While the geo and weight don’t compare all that closely, I think the 160 pedals the most like the new Orbea Rallon. It has a quick and responsive platform that a lot of climbers will enjoy.
Just like the Yeti SB 140 I recently rode and reviewed, the 160 offers a ton of traction. It handles rocks and roots in a very calm manner. It’s not getting bounced around all that much, which means the rear wheel is going to stay glued to the ground. I did all of my testing in southern Utah where there are more rocks than stoners at a Willie Nelson concert. It’s the perfect testing ground for how well a bike does with traction and technical climbing. The 160 passed with flying colors, making it up everything I could throw at it.
Many long and slack bikes get a bad rap when it comes to getting to the top of a hill—and for a good reason, most of the time. Modern long and slack bikes, including the SB160, tend to do a bit better than their older counterparts. The body position is to credit here, getting more and more centered these days. The size-specific chainstays and steep seat tube angles counteract the rearward weight shift on enduro bikes of the past. The body position on the SB160 is very well-centered, making it easy to control on the climbs. The front wheel doesn’t want to lift, and you don’t feel like you’re falling off the back of the bike. That centered position will also combat pedal bob by shifting your weight forward, where it has a bit less leverage on the rear suspension.
While the suspension does a great job of tackling rough and technical climbs, the bike’s overall size and wheelbase will make it a little tricky when it comes to tight corners and switchbacks. At the end of the day, no matter how nicely balanced your weight is on the bike, a 1302mm wheelbase is still long. For my western U.S.-style trails, including desert terrain, I had few problems with the SB160—New Englanders might feel otherwise.
Interestingly the SB160 comes stock with EXO+ casing tires. Those will help by keeping weight down, but I’d argue they don’t quite fit the bike’s intentions. That said, even with heavier rubber, the SB160 is a solid climber for the category.
The new SB160 surprised me in a couple of ways on the descents. The biggest surprise was how manageable it felt for being such a big bike. It has very little of the wallowy pig feeling that often accompanies squishy enduro bikes. I wonder how much of this has to do with the geometry and lower front end than a lot of other bikes in the category. For reference, an XL Santa Cruz Megatower has a 658mm stack height, while the SB 160 comes in it at 635mm. That’s going to keep your weight shifted a little more toward the front of the bike. In theory, it should offer a bit more responsive handling at the expense of some confidence in steep and chunky terrain. For the most part, that all holds true here. The 160 feels like one of the more responsive and agile big bikes. Again, the Orbea Rallon comes to mind. That kind of makes sense given both brands’ pedigrees. They both place a big emphasis on their EWS programs.
The SB160’s handling ended up being a lot quicker than I would have guessed. It cornered surprisingly well for a bike with a 1302mm wheelbase. It affords you the confidence to lean the bike over, get off the brakes, and let it rip—the traction was certainly there.
For better or worse, the SB160 doesn’t have that ultra-plush, ultra-deep suspension feel you might expect from a 160mm travel bike. Don’t take that to mean it’s not capable or confident—it is very much both of those things. It just doesn’t feel like a Transition Spire or Santa Cruz Megatower. The best way I can describe it is the entire bike feels like the new RockShox Zeb. If you’ve ridden that fork you’ll know how it feels consistent and supported throughout the entire stroke without ever feeling too soft or too harsh. There’s never a weird squishy bit at the top of the stroke or a harsh ramp-up at the bottom—just supported and consistent the whole time.
At first, it caught me a little off guard, but the more I rode the bike, the more I came to appreciate the ride quality. It’s plush enough to plow through trail chatter with little to no regard for human safety, but it doesn’t ever feel like it’s too much bike. I even took a couple laps on a mellow cruiser trail and never thought I would have been having more fun on a smaller bike. The SB160 has a way of carrying speed on almost any type of terrain. In fact, I found myself carrying quite a bit of speed into trail features and overshooting landings quite often. The SB160 handled those big impacts with a good deal of composure.
Yeti sb160 Comparisons
Santa Cruz Megatower
This one is a pretty obvious comparison, that I’ll likely dig into a little deeper in the future (UPDATE – The Yeti SB160 vs Santa Cruz Megatower Showdown is now live). For now, let’s just say the Yeti SB160 is a little bit better on the pedals than the Megatower. It has a better pedal platform and with the lower front end, puts you in a better position for climbing. The Megatower however has that big bike feel that you’ll want if you’re mobbing through rough terrain and trying to survive the steeps. Both bikes are capable descenders so it’s just going to come down to your preferences. The Yeti is a bit more responsive and I’d argue faster and the Santa Cruz is more confident and fun.
This one is a bit of a surprise to me — I didn’t think I’d find these two bikes as similar as I did. The Rallon is still more on the all-mountain side of the spectrum than the SB160 but they’re much closer than I thought. They both climb better than almost anything else in the category. They both corner very well allowing you to keep your average speeds high. The Yeti SB160 is going to be the more confident descender, though. Even though it’s not the plushest or squishiest bike in the group, it still feels bigger and deeper than a Rallon.
Who the Yeti sb160 for?
At the risk of sounding like a shuttle bro, I’d call the Yeti SB160 a great daily driver for folks who like to descend. It’s ready for anything you can throw at it on the DH including the obvious rough terrain as well as the less obvious mellower terrain. Sure, it’s overkill if you’re going to ride greens and blues all day, but if you want to go ride nasty, rugged trails but still occasionally find yourself on the mellow stuff, you’re not going to be too sad about it. So if you live for the descents, you’re going to like the SB160, no matter what your descents look like. As a huge added bonus, it climbs better than almost every other 160mm bike out there.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this for anyone who wants a bike to cover bike park duty, rides out with the kids, after-work laps, or even big backcountry missions.
The Bottom Line
If you’re like Ricky Bobby and just want to go fast, you’re going to love the SB160.