Long Term Review: Yeti’s Switch Equipped SB95 Alloy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Geometry Yeti SB95

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.

Yeti SB95 Review 29 switch

Ours came in at 29.81 pounds.

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The picture of the Yeti doing skids on the top tube is pretty much how you’ll feel ripping the SB95 downhill.

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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:

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Comments

Onelegbiker - 10/31/13 - 10:30am

Only complaint I have is the rear tire clearance. I heard they remedied it on the 2014 with the carbon rears.

nobby nic - 10/31/13 - 11:51am

OLB: tire clearance is only an issue with the front derailluer mounted. Pull that in favor for any 1x combo and you’re all set.

MissedThePoint - 10/31/13 - 12:12pm

It has plenty of rear tire clearance, until the rear tire contacts the back of the seat tube. :D

yee_haa - 10/31/13 - 1:39pm

I rolled my new SB95 out of the shop in May. XO gruppo with KS Lev post, King hubs and WTB rims wrapped in Hans Dampfs. I then proceeded to log about 10k vertical ft a week (under my own power) for the entire season. Throw in some multi day trips to Oakridge OR, Northern Idaho, and Bend OR in addition to my own steep and technical back yard. By the end of the summer I had switched the XO spider for a NSB spider less single ring, burned up a chain, worn through 4 sets of organic brake pads, and while the Hans Dampfs still have some tread the side knobs are almost universally torn 75% through, because, well, CORNERING! The suspension continues to work as well as the day it was new – no issues whatsoever.

I love this bike. It has totally changed my approach to descents – I’m no longer looking at the trail surface so much as just making sure I miss the trees. And at 6’4″ and 200 lbs I would say that this bike (XL frame) is the first one I have had that really truly fits me. It climbs great, and while heavy, it certainly doesn’t ride that way. I could not be more pleased. Although I do surely covet the carbon version ;)

Brian - 10/31/13 - 3:04pm

Anyone got a stock weight (for comparison) of the newest version with the carbon rear triangle (race build) and the carbon race build? Can’t seem to get Yeti to share this info.

Onelegbiker - 10/31/13 - 6:18pm

The rear carbon is said to nearly shave a 1lb. I think you’re mistaken that a FD have anything to do with rub on the lower stays. Check out my Yeti in the Pinkbike buysell and you’ll see some rubbing. That happened when I was using 2.3 Schwalbe HD. Also had a little issue with Maxxis 2.30 Ikons.

will - 10/31/13 - 7:01pm

A clutch type rear derailleur is now a necessity? Horse-puckey.

thad - 11/01/13 - 2:27am

no water bottle in the triangle? lame

Steve - 11/01/13 - 4:48am

Based on my build I estimate that the SB95C with the standard Yeti Race Build would be somewhere around the 28 to 29 pounds. I have a SB95C with a 2×10 XT build, a RockShox Pike, Reverb and AM All Mountain Wheels with Nobby Nic tires and a tubeless set up. With pedals, my bike weighs just under 28 pounds (on some old baggage scales which may not be super accurate but it gives you an idea).

Re the clutch type mech, for me it is one of those things that you don’t think you need until you try one. One of my other bikes had one as standard and I thought it worked so well I retro fitted them on my other bikes.

Charlie - 11/01/13 - 5:13pm

@Zack. I’m curious why you, a self-professed 3-ringer, now prefer 2-rings. I also am a self-professed 3-ringer, especially Shimano DynaSys triples which are fabulous.
(A) Chainline will always be better with more rings because they have to each service fewer cogs and so are closer to the cogs’ planes.
(B) At least the first 2-ring solutions were heavier than their 3-ring counterparts. (I found this hard to believe, but data sheets never lie. Do they?)
(C) 2 rings should wear out faster when they handle the load of what had been 3 rings.
(D) Shifting the front rings must be harder with two rings that are farther apart in # of teeth than the rings on triple set ups.
(E) You typically don’t have the top end gearing with doubles that you do with triples and it’s fun to pass road wienies as you pedal back from the trailhead. (Driving to the trailhead is proof that you gotta move.)
All this said, I have many times found that I am tragically wrong. I offer my ex-wife as proof. So I could be very wrong about all of the above. I would like your opinion of the merits/demerits of 2 ring setups. Or does it not make any difference because soon triples will go the way of threaded headsets and polar bears.

ZachOverholt - 11/01/13 - 6:00pm

@Charlie, ha, triples may very well go the way of threaded headsets and the polar bears but that’s not the reason for my liking of doubles. Honestly as I’ve been riding more and getting stronger I found myself rarely, if ever, using the granny gear on my triple and finding myself between the middle and big ring. Your comment on chain line is theoretically correct but in actuality I’m not sure that plays out on the trail. In panic situations you usually find yourself (or at least I do) shifting the rear, not shifting the front, then the back. These less than optimal gear shifts seem like they would have more effect on the drivetrains longevity. With a double I find myself shifting the front less and finding myself in the right gear more often so it seems ideal. That could be just me, but a lot of my riding friends seem to feel the same. Also regardless of the gear, even when perfectly adjusted triples seem to rub the chain on the cage more, plus you have to run a longer chain with a longer cage derailler with more chain wrap capacity. Then add in a bigger big ring (potentially, depending on your chain ring selection) with more potential to be destroyed on rocks and downed trees. Yes you lose some speed on paved roads and have maxed out on a few fast downhills, but ultimately for me it boils down to less shifting, lighter weight, and lesser chance of snagging rings or cages. By all means stick with what works for you but don’t be afraid to at least give it a try!

Out for a Ride - 11/01/13 - 6:39pm

@Thad… where on earth would a water bottle fit in that FT? Not trying to be condescending, but key geometry features (shock and linkage points) are usually chosen with ride quality and suspension travel in mind. It would be strange for a company just to put the shock anywhere so the frame looked the way they wanted (or fit a water bottle). Long travel 29ers and suspension in general is becoming so fine tuned that companies have to maximize without any compromises. Hydration pack FTW!

Carl - 11/02/13 - 9:37pm

I invite you to test the bike’s climbing ability when it is 1 pound lighter or heavier (and you are still circa 160 pounds). I think you’ll find there is no measurable difference. you’re better not to make assumptions when testing bikes. IMHO the 95 climbs great, especially when it’s bumpy, because the suspension works well under power. In comparison to 1lb less or more, suspension performance (and rider performance) actually makes a difference to how the bike climbs. Again, you should test it – it’s not that hard to do with a power meter and lead shot in a water bottle… Let us know what you find…

bin judgin - 11/03/13 - 4:11pm

My only complain with my SB is the lack of bottle cage. It sucks, I hate carrying a pack for 2 hour rides when I could jam a link in my pocket, and a bottle in the cage.

bin judgin - 11/03/13 - 4:38pm

i have the sb66, otherwise its incredible!

Tokek Rider - 11/03/13 - 8:32pm

One more reason to move on to SB 95…….but I still love my SB 66, so hard to choose on those super bikes :)

Shaky Start - 11/04/13 - 4:08pm

bin judgin, I use a tall (large) water bottle and it works OK for my normal 2 hr. rides. Just pop a cap of some sort over the mouthpiece to keep the dirt/mud out. Hydrate well before ride, and s b good to go!

ron erez - 11/22/13 - 11:19am

i have sb95c size large build 2X10 xtr wheels crank brothers tubeless hans dumph front nobby nick back pedals dx fox talas 140 with ks lev post long 150 mm weight 29.51 pound or 13.40 kilo
the bike is fantastic like a dream.

chad Irey - 06/22/14 - 11:35am

Sweet Trial!

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