Everyone likes to get a bonus helping of the good stuff, and with the 2021 SB115, Yeti indulges cross-country riders that want a little more plushness, a little more pop in the terrain park, a little more tiger in the tank. This new model isn’t aiming to be an enduro rig or even a trail bike built for big hits. Instead, it’s a short-travel 29er with what the Cajuns call lagniappe—an extra serving of something you’re really gonna like.
The new SB115 is a variation on Yeti’s successful mainstay, the SB100. That 29er paired a 120-mm fork, 100mm of rear suspension and a slackened cross-country geometry that climbs great and descends with authority. But Yeti decided to give the short-travel SB100 some extra oomph.
Keeping the geometry and frame weight of its predecessor, the SB115 gets a longer-stroke shock, 130mm fork, and a new linkage that adapts the additional travel to the SB100’s angles. Thus the SB115 offers a little more plushness—without growing longer or slacker. The frame still leans toward the cross-country end of the spectrum, with a 67.6 head angle and 74-degree seat angle. But its componentry reaches toward the enduro realm, with 180mm rotors and a 2.5” Maxxis Minion DHF tire on the front. Consider this the latest addition to the growing field of “down-country” mountain bikes that pair agile climbing with surprising aggression on the descent.
At 27 pounds, the size Small build I tested is relatively light, yet too beefy to impress true weight-weenies who insist on 21-pound rigs. The SB115 also weighs the same as the 140mm bike I regularly ride, so devotees of lightweight trail bikes might wonder what they’d gain by forfeiting their squish for the shorter-travel SB115.
The answer is versatility. The SB115 is light enough for long-mileage epics and stout enough to spar with technical features. Yeti expects this bike to appeal to stage racers, but it also calls to enthusiasts who ride a little of everything—who want a sprightly uphiller that can keep its composure through rocky trail while feeling playful on jump lines.
And truly, the SB115 romps through flowy terrain. On trails built for lift-served riders at Steamboat, this bike rocketed out of bermed corners and skipped briskly over jumps. It loves what I’ve come to call “elder air” — modest launches that exhibit more style than loft.
It raged on flat corners made treacherously loose by a summer-long Colorado drought. That’s due, in part, to the famously grippy Minion DHF. But frame geometry also plays a part: The SB115 puts the rider in an attack position that made it effortless for me to stay balanced through corners. Positioned evenly between the front and rear wheels, I could carve through S-curves like a hero.
On the uphills, the SB115 felt zippiest in technical terrain, when small rocks and root features unleashed the impressive efficiency of Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension system. The design uses a proprietary linkage with pivots that move as the bike moves through its travel. And on textured singletrack, it makes the SB115 feel like it’s fitted with a pedal-assisted electric motor—that’s how much of an efficiency boost I noticed while cranking through nubby features. Such efficient pedaling, along with the larger 29” wheel size, turns this bike into a juggernaut through pebbly stretches and webs of tree roots.
On smooth climbs, like the packed-clay trails near downtown Steamboat Springs, the suspension’s pedal-assist seemed to fade away while the greater inertia of the 29” wheel grew more pronounced. It helps that the cassette is fitted with a supersized 52-tooth cog, which makes it easier to roll the big hoop up steep inclines. Even so, as I cranked this bike up smooth, sustained climbs, I found myself wishing for a genuinely racey XC hummingbird of a bike—which the SB115 is not. When I lent it to my riding buddy (who also happens to be an ultrarunner with seemingly indefatigable muscle and lung power) I discovered that she was slower than usual on steep, smooth pitches where I enjoyed the rare experience of staying right on her wheel.
She dropped me, though, once the trail dipped downhill. The SB115 made her faster than she typically is, particularly on smooth, serpentining singletrack peppered with occasional roots and dirt ledges.
For my part, over a month of testing the SB115 on my home turf, I also found it to be a solid descender. It maintains its stability through broken rock, and it charges over ledges as few XC hummingbirds can. This bike doesn’t blink from standoffs with eroded, boulder-studded trail. On one particularly rocky directional (downhill) trail that I routinely ride as a lunch loop, I zipped downhill at about the same speed that I achieve on my 140mm bike. Plus, I cruised comfortably through the tight switchbacks at the bottom of the pitch. The SB115 turns adeptly though sharp, slow-speed hairpins.
However, it doesn’t spare my body from punchy hits the way a 140mm bike does. Although the SB115 let me conquer that rocky directional trail with confidence, it didn’t offer much cushioning during the 30-minute rodeo ride. I felt beat by the end, and on subsequent outings, I made a greater effort to choose the smoothest line options, as one would on a XC bike. Even with the enduro-ready components, this is still a short-travel build—albeit one that punches above its weight class. That makes it giggle-good fun almost anywhere you steer it.
Frame sizes range from XL to S (no XS, so the SB115 won’t serve riders shorter than 5’1” says Yeti) and builds start at $4700 (the T2 build I tested costs $6900).
Leave a Reply