Long Term Review: Yeti’s Switch Equipped SB95 Alloy
When Yeti first introduced their two “super bikes”, the SB66 and the SB95 represented a departure from the norm. Embracing an eccentric pivot in place of a what would effectively be a very small link on the frame, Yeti called the new suspension Switch Technology. The reasoning behind the name? That would be due to the fact that half way through the travel, the rotation direction of the eccentric pivot actually switches direction. In addition to the eccentric switching directions, the suspension rate also switches between falling and rising rate and back to create an ideal pedaling platform that still rips on the descents.
My first impressions of the two bikes were extremely favorable, but what would it be like to live with one for a season? I switched over to the SB95 alloy to find out.
Essentially, the SB95 alloy frame would now be considered the SB95 Comp. Since this bike was sent out for review the SB95 line has grown to include the SB95 Carbon, the SB95 which has an aluminum front triangle and carbon swing arm, and the SB95 Comp which is the full aluminum frame seen here.
The main difference other than the build, is that our test bike was fitted with a Fox Float CTD Adjust Kashima rear shock. Thanks to the adjustable levels of Trail tune, you can really dial in how you want the bike to respond.
The SB95 is an excellent climber, even in the Trail and Descend modes. It’s just not necessarily a fast climber. Likely due to mostly the bike’s nearly 30 pounds of mass (30+ with pedals), the SB95 seems to prefer consistent effort up the mountain, rather than sprints. But with the shock set in Climb mode, the SB95 hid its weight a bit better during slow, grinding climbs and fireroad spins. Built with lighter wheels, and the carbon swing arm or full carbon frame, the SB95 could be a lot faster up the mountain.
However, at no point in the climbing are you really doubting your bike choice because once you reach the top, you know you’re in for a treat on the way down. To quote one of my friends and riding buddies, “dude, you descend like a rocket on that thing!” The SB95 certainly drops elevation with ease. In spite of all of the pivots in the Switch suspension, the frame is impressively stiff laterally (especially for a 29er), which when combined with Fox’s 34 series fork, thru axles at both ends, and the added terrain crushing of the bigger wheels, makes for a very fun bike when pointed downhill.
I’m happy to report that after a full season of riding by a few of our contributors, and virtually zero maintenance, the Switch suspension is click/creak/slop free and still cycling through the travel smoothly.
Not exactly a big issue, but at the end of testing there were quite a few scuff marks on the seat stays from errant heels probably when getting rowdy. It’s not something we really noticed while riding, but if you have exceptionally big feet or ride with your heels in you’ll want to make sure your heels clear the stays before purchase.
Really, the only component downers on our test rig were two things you probably won’t see very much of in the future – the non clutched rear derailleur, and the triple crank. Because of the descending capability of this bike, a Shadow Plus derailleur or SRAM Type 2 is practically a necessity. As far as the triple is concerned, it’s actually a bit funny as I was a triple hold out for a long time. Now, having been over a year since my last ride on a triple getting back on one really hammers home the benefits of a double, or even single chain ring set up.
I was very happy to see the SB95 fitted with a 2.4 Maxxis Ardent in front, and a 2.20 Ikon in the rear. The Ardent is a favorite tire of mine in any wheel size, while the Ikon works well as long as the conditions are dry. Based on the condition of the DT Swiss XR400′s rims at the end of the test period though, a meatier tire in the rear is probably a good call.
As good as the SB95 is, I’m not sure I would buy one for myself due to the sizing – an issue I run into on a lot of 29ers. At 5’8″ the small frame is really too short in the top tube, even with the seat all the way back on the rails and an 80mm stem (our test bike was fitted with a Thomson stem and Easton Haven carbon bar, I was just testing out the Deda 35mm kit when the photos were taken). But even with the small frame and the stem slammed in the negative position I couldn’t get the handlebars low enough for my liking without a super negative drop stem or flat or even negative rise bar. A set back post would help, but when coupled with a shorter stem it would likely place the weight too far over the rear wheel of the bike for proper handling.
Going up to the medium frame for the top tube length (S: 22.2, M: 23.2″) would make the problem worse, with the head tube .4″ taller. This isn’t a Yeti issue, just more of a 29er with a 120-140mm travel fork on smaller frames issue. Not to get into the wheel size debate, but a 160mm travel 26″ bike, and 150mm travel 27.5″ bike in my garage are both able to attain drastically lower handlebar heights (lower than the saddle at the same height) without resorting to special bars and stems when compared to the Yeti. Shorter riders not looking for a bars-below-the-saddle aggressive riding position probably won’t have a problem with the bar height, but the potential is there.
Ours came in at 29.81 pounds.
The picture of the Yeti doing skids on the top tube is pretty much how you’ll feel ripping the SB95 downhill.
Overall, the SB95 has proven to be a fantastic bike that manages to blend pedal efficiency with sheer downhill grins. Newer models help get the weight down to improve climbing speed, and offer more choices in frame material, but the suspension the SB95 is based on remains dialed. Shorter riders may have issue with the 29er geometry, but fortunately for them (me) Yeti has a 27.5″ answer for that. It’s been a while since we’ve busted out the Thumbs Up rating, but here it is: