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Which Yeti mountain bike is right for you?

By Bruce Lin

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In cycling, some brands develop mythic reputations. Mountain biking has a few, but I would argue that Yeti Cycles has to be the most iconic. Few bike companies possess the rare combination of history, racing success, innovative technology, and desirability of Yeti.


Yeti bikes have won races at the highest level under some of the world’s best riders. Racing has always been in Yeti’s blood, and it’s still a small company of dedicated riders who simply love riding and designing bikes that maximize performance and fun. For many riders, once they ride a Yeti, they get it.

Yeti’s range of high-end, high-performance machines will satisfy everyone from casual trail riders to Enduro World Series champions. This overview covers all current Yeti models, and a few discontinued, but still popular models too.

Like any bike, your next Yeti should reflect your needs as a rider. What sort of terrain will you ride? Are you more interested in speed or style? Do you want to go on long backcountry adventures or race an enduro? Hopefully, this guide helps you make an informed decision when buying your next bike.

which yeti mountain bike is right for youFor more information on all brands of mountain bikes, you can check out our Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide.

Contents

History

Yeti mountain bike history John ParkerYeti was founded in 1985 by John Parker (standing, third from left), a welder from California. Parker had a background working in Hollywood's special effects industry and used his welding skills to build Yeti’s first mountain bike frames as the sport was getting off the ground.

From the beginning, Parker had a passion for mountain bike racing and built one of the best teams of the era. Yeti became a household name thanks to the success of legendary racers like John Tomac, Juli Furtado, Missy Giove, and Myles Rockwell.

vintage yeti race team juli furtado, john tomac, missy gioveUnder Furtado, the Yeti FRO won the inaugural cross-country world championship in 1990. Other classic ‘90s bikes such as the Yeti ARC and the Yeti Ultimate helped establish Yeti as one of the world’s premier mountain bike builders.

In 1995, Yeti was purchased by Schwinn. Schwinn sought to tap into Yeti’s design prowess, and in return, provided capital for Yeti’s new facility in Durango, Colorado. The mountain bike industry was flourishing in the late '90s and manufacturers and sponsors wanted to field big rosters of racers to promote their latest products.

Yeti lawwill dh bikeYeti and Schwinn’s race teams competed side-by-side, with Schwinn using painted-over Yeti models. For many old-school mountain bikers, this was the golden age of mountain bike racing. It spawned legendary bikes like the Yeti-Lawwill Quadrilatteral DH bike developed by former motorcycle champion, Mert Lawwill.

As Schwinn began to decline at the end of the decade, Yeti employees decided it was time to return the company to its roots as an independent manufacturer. In 2001, two Yeti employees, Chris Conroy and Steve Hoogendoorn bought the company with Conroy becoming the president and Hoogendoorn the vice president. The company moved its headquarters to its current location in Golden, Colorado.

Yeti mountain bikes richie rude

Yeti has continued to push mountain bike design and develop some of the world’s top racing talent through the years. From 2008 to 2011, the Yeti downhill team introduced the world to Aaron Gwin, America’s most successful downhill racer, and Yeti’s enduro race team won three successive Enduro World Series championships from 2014 to 2016 with Jared Graves and Richie Rude.

One final note should be given to the history of Yeti turquoise. Some colors just belong on certain vehicles. Ferraris are red. Subaru WRXs are World Rally Blue. And Yetis are turquoise. Of course, Yeti bikes come in plenty of other colors, but turquoise is the color most people think of when they think of Yeti. This is unique in the mountain bike world as no other bike brand has a color so intertwined with its identity.

Yeti president, Chris Conroy, tells the story behind the color’s origin: “There was a late-‘60s Dodge truck, I don’t remember the model, but it came in this color called 'Desert Turquoise.' John Parker’s wife, Linda, wanted a bike in that color so he painted one just for her. But people were stoked on it and started asking for it. Turquoise ended up becoming Yeti’s trademark color.”

To learn more about the story behind the Yeti brand, check out our interview with Chris Conroy, “Nine things you should know about Yeti Cycles.”

Carbon Series vs. TURQ Series frames

Yeti frames come in two levels, the standard Carbon Series, and the top-of-the-line TURQ Series. TURQ models are more expensive, $1,500-2,000 more than a comparable Carbon Series model because they use higher-modulus carbon fiber to optimize weight and stiffness. TURQ Series frames generally weigh 200-400g less than Carbon Series frames, depending on the model, and are around 25% stiffer.

Yeti SB150 turq frame mountain bikeTURQ frames like this SB150 TURQ can be identified by the small "TURQ" badge on the side of the head tube.

Is a TURQ Series Yeti worth the money? Racers and competitive riders will choose TURQ Series frames for the performance gains. If cost is a minor concern, and you want the best-of-the-best, then go TURQ. However, most riders probably won’t notice the difference in weight and stiffness, and the suspension design will be the same. Carbon Series frames are still high-performance and will satisfy the vast majority of riders.

Another factor to consider is that TURQ Series frames will have better resale value than their Carbon Series counterparts. TURQ models are also generally built with higher-end components, which adds to the price, while Carbon Series frames are generally built with more entry-level components.

Switch Infinity suspension

All of Yeti’s current full-suspension mountain bikes use its proprietary Switch Infinity suspension system. This system allows the main suspension pivot to change position relative to the frame, rather than remain in a fixed position like most other bikes. The main pivot moves up at the beginning of the stroke, and then it switches (get it?) direction as the bike moves through its travel.

Switch Infinity provides anti-squat early in the travel for an efficient, bob-free pedaling platform. But when descending hard, the anti-squat will drop off quickly to provide more mid-stroke support and a plush, bottomless feel.

Switch Technology first appeared in 2012 as a dual-link design that utilized an eccentric mechanism. This eccentric Switch design is found on Yeti’s 2012-2014 era mountain bikes the SB-66, SB-75, and SB-95. It has since been discontinued.

In 2014, Switch Technology was refined into the current Switch Infinity system. This patented design was developed with Fox Racing Shox and involves a “translating pivot” that moves on two Kashima coated stanchions. This new design improves the bike's rearward axle path to help absorb bumps when riding quickly through chattery terrain. It also improves serviceability. The Switch Infinity link uses grease ports for quick and easy service that can be performed with little to no expertise required.

Yeti mountain bikes

Yeti currently offers six MTB models that give riders plenty of options to suit their particular style or terrain. Yeti doesn’t produce road or gravel bikes (though they did make a cyclocross bike in the past) because it’s a small company that chooses to focus only on its passion — mountain bikes.

Yeti’s current full-suspension bikes are designated “SB” for “superbike,” followed by a number indicating the rear travel in millimeters. As is the case with most bikes, riders who are interested in pedaling and climbing efficiency, or who ride flatter and less-technical trails will prefer short-travel models, while riders more interested in downhill speed and sending big features will want more travel.

SB115

Yeti SB115Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 115mm
Fork Travel: 130mm

The SB115 is the successor to the groundbreaking SB100. Its predecessor was Yeti’s attempt to show how capable a 100mm travel bike could be made. With its progressive (for XC) geometry, it ended up being part of the vanguard of “downcountry,” a category invented by bike media to fill the gap between pure cross-country race bikes and trail bikes. The SB115 pushes the SB100 platform further into the “down” side of the spectrum with a different suspension linkage, fork, and shock to increase the travel.

SB115 climbingThe new SB115 resembles a trail bike more than a cross country bike, but it still retains the old SB100’s lightweight (under 6-pounds) frame and efficient suspension kinematics. It’s perfect for all-day adventures that prioritize fun, rough downhills while still requiring lots of pedaling and climbing along the way.

Who it’s for: Downcountry riders or marathon XC racers. Riders who enjoy the fast, efficient feel of cross-country bikes but want more downhill capability for trails that might overwhelm normal XC bikes.

SB130

Yeti SB130Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 130mm
Fork Travel: 150mm

The SB130 is Yeti’s do-it-all, mid-travel trail bike, designed to fit neatly between the XC-leaning SB115 and the enduro-focused SB150. The 130mm of rear travel paired with a 150mm fork provides the ideal compromise between pedaling efficiency and downhill capability. For most riders who like to explore a wide range of terrain and only want one bike, this is the best option. It will be responsive and efficient enough to feel playful on smooth flow trails, and capable enough to allow riders to push their limits on technical downhill trails.

Yeti SB130 lunch rideThe SB130 is also available in a “Lunch Ride” build. This build bumps up the travel with a 160mm fork and a slightly longer stroke shock to increase rear travel to 137mm. Supposedly, this is how Yeti employees, who regularly ride steep and rocky trails on Colorado’s Front Range, like to set up their personal SB130s. Any standard SB130 can be converted into a Lunch Ride version with a longer fork and shock.

Who it’s for: Do-it-all riders. Riders who want a “quiver-killer” bike that pedals and climbs well but still handles all types of terrain from smooth XC trails to tough enduro trails.

SB140

Yeti sb140Wheel size: 27.5”
Rear Travel: 140mm
Fork Travel: 160mm

The SB140 is a bike built purely for shredding. Sure the SB140 can be raced, but racing isn’t everything. The overall goal of the SB140 is to maximize fun rather than speed. With smaller, more playful 27.5” wheels, and a moderate amount of travel, the SB140 is designed to be easier to maneuver both on the ground and in the air. Instead of mowing down terrain in a straight line like its 29”-wheeled brothers, the SB140 is better suited to boosting off hidden transitions in the trail, getting whipped sideways off big jumps, and just generally being ridden a hooligan.

yeti SB140 manualLittle features like rocks and roots all become fun excuses to jib, bonk, and hop around. It encourages riders to play and experiment. For those who like demonstrating their skill and style down the trail, the SB140 will be the best tool to reward their riding.

Who it’s for: Playful riders. Riders less focused on speed and more interested in a nimble and capable bike that allows them to jib and boost off trail features and attack downhills with style.

SB150

Yeti SB150Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 150mm
Fork Travel: 170mm

The SB150 is Yeti’s enduro race machine, ridden by its factory enduro race team in the Enduro World Series. Since its release, it has achieved multiple EWS wins under former world champion Richie Rude. Rude and other Yeti team riders have also used it to dominate the domestic race scene. With a 170mm fork and slack 64.5-degree head tube, the bike encourages riders to release the brakes and go downhill at ludicrous speeds.

Yeti Sb150 downhillThe combination of big travel, long reach, and slack head tube keeps the bike composed in the roughest terrain, so riders can focus on beating the clock. For those who regularly attack ultra-steep and technical terrain, or want to be competitive in local enduro races, the SB150 is Yeti’s ultimate race weapon.

Who it’s for: Enduro racers. Riders who want to descend rough downhill terrain as fast as possible on a bike that’s extremely stable and confidence-inspiring.

SB165

Yeti SB165Wheel size: 27.5”
Rear Travel: 165mm
Fork Travel: 180mm

The SB165 is Yeti’s heavy-duty freeride machine. Outside the confines of racing, there are riders who live to send it down the steepest trails and gnarliest features. This is the bike for jumping canyon gaps, flying off massive 50-foot drops, and riding down vertical rock faces that would be impossible to navigate on foot. With a coil shock, a huge 180mm fork, and an ultra-slack 63.5-degree head tube, it covers for any mistakes when riding high-consequence terrain and lets riders push the limits of their riding as far as they dare.

Yeti SB165 downhillThe SB165 is about as close as it gets to a full downhill bike while still being able to pedal it back up the hill. But riders who pick this bike probably aren’t too concerned with climbing anyway. They just need a sledgehammer to smash everything in front of them.

Who it’s for: Freeriders. Riders who live at the bike park, blast down the steepest terrain, or who need more travel for sending big jumps, drops, and features.

ARC

Yeti ARCWheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: Hardtail
Fork Travel: 130mm

The ARC was once Yeti’s cross-country hardtail, designed around a 100mm fork to be lightweight and fast for racing. But for 2021, the ARC has been redesigned, and now returns as a more capable trail hardtail. It still has a lightweight carbon frame, but it’s now designed around a 130mm fork. The slacked-out 67-degree head tube improves stability so riders can descend harder than they would on a traditional XC hardtail. The seat tube is short and straight, so riders can fit the longest dropper possible for maximum clearance on downhills.

Yeti ARC trail ridingThe new ARC is ideal for those not yet ready to make the leap to Yeti’s full-suspension bikes, as a fun addition to a growing bike quiver, or for backcountry adventurers who value simplicity, reliability, and storage capacity.

Who it’s for: Hardtail lovers. Riders into Yeti’s style who want the simplicity, feel, and affordability of a trail hardtail.

Discontinued models

Yeti has an all-star roster, but its retired players can still shred hard. Here are some discontinued models that you’ll find both in our inventory and out on the trails. They share a lot of the same technology as Yeti’s newer offerings, but they are a bit more affordable thanks to their age. If you’re looking for Yeti style and performance, but don’t need the latest and greatest, then these bikes might be a perfect choice.

SB100

Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 100mm
Fork Travel: 120mm

As mentioned earlier, the SB100 helped create the new “downcountry” category. Riders could use the SB100 for XC and marathon racing but still tackle technical trails where most riders might choose trail or enduro bikes. It was discontinued for 2021 with the updated SB115 replacing it.

SB4.5

Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 114mm
Fork Travel: 140mm

The SB4.5 demonstrated the capability of short travel trail bikes with a 114mm travel (4.5 inches) rear-end that felt more plush and capable than the numbers let on. Paired with a 140mm fork, the SB4.5 was an interesting cross between a cross-country bike and an all-rounder trail bike.

SB5

Yeti SB5Wheel size: 27.5”
Rear Travel: 127mm
Fork Travel: 150mm

The SB5 was Yeti’s former do-it-all trail bike and one of its most popular models of all time. It could handle everything from smooth flow trails to bike parks to enduro racing. It had an efficient 127mm (5 inches) of travel, but with a 150mm fork and slack head tube, it was still extremely capable on downhills.

SB5.5

Yeti SB5.5Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 140mm
Fork Travel: 160mm

The SB5.5 emerged just as 29” wheels were gaining traction for downhill oriented riding. It combined big wheels with big travel, and it instantly became a favorite among trail riders and enduro racers, including several of Yeti’s top pros.

SB6

Richie Rude Yeti SB6Wheel size: 27.5”
Rear Travel: 152mm
Fork Travel: 160mm

The SB6 was Yeti’s former enduro race bike with the most travel at the time (152mm or 6 inches) and the most progressive, downhill focused geometry. It was the main bike used by Jared Graves and Richie Rude to win three consecutive Enduro World Series championships from 2014-2016.

ASR

Wheel size: 29”
Rear Travel: 100mm
Fork Travel: 100mm

The ASR is Yeti’s former full-suspension cross country race bike. Unlike Yeti’s other full-suspension bikes, the ASR didn’t use Switch technology. Instead, it used a lightweight, linkage-drive single pivot design. Since being discontinued in 2018, Yeti has not produced another pure cross country bike.

 

To see Yeti mountain bikes in stock, check out our Yeti collection.  

So which Yeti bike do you ride? Or which one do you wish you rode? Let us know in the comments!

Photos courtesy of Yeti Cycles.

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3 comments


  • I have a Specialized Epic for XC racing, purchased a Specialized Stumpjumper for all-mountain riding. I think it was a 2016, so not the latest version. The guys I ride with are aggressive and fast downhill ,the Stumpy wasn’t up to the task, I ended up scared all the time and on the ground occasionally. I sold it and am now on a SB150. It is AMAZING! I’ll be honest, I still don’t keep up with the fast guys and am not sure I’m even going faster, but I’m way more confident and having a LOT more fun. Jumping and jibbing and all that stuff are not really of interest to me, I plow through stuff and want to do it without gritting my teeth and crushing the bars with a death grip. I was planning to demo both the 130 and the 150, but rode the 150 for an hour at Apex and had no trouble pedaling uphill, taking tight switchbacks, or technical terrain. Once pointed down, it was the exact right tool for the Rocky Mountains (trails are steep and rocky). Very happy with my SB150.

    Jim in Colorado on

  • Been riding versions of the ARC since kate 80’s. Nothing new here except for what I already know – a sweet ride only getting better through the years!

    David Cope on

  • I just turned 65 and to date have only broken two
    fingers one on each hand and both were due to
    brake lever in different bike crashs 25 years apart

    “I have no Yeti Yet "

    but do ride a Kris Holm 26"MUNI/ Surly Instigator
    Litespeed Obed and Cannondale MT 2000
    Someday would like to ride turquois 27.5 SB 165 with Magura MT 7 Pro down the Slabs on SKYE

    john zenter on


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