Hereís my short and sweet review of a few selected bikes Iíve been fortunate enough to ride. Iíve been impatiently waiting for Yeti to release the new SB5 and SB6. Once they did Iíve been pulling my hair out on which one I should own. I currently own a SB66, which helped convert a couple of my riding friends over to Yeti. One of our regulars works for Giant and was always able to hook us up with a bro deal on a frame or complete bike, so we always rode Giant Reign'sÖÖ.until I bought the SB66 a couple years ago. I got a bit of **** at first, "boutique bike", ďwhat, are you going to start wearing skinny jeans and drinking coors" etc. But once they rode it, the conversion started and they ditched the Giants for SB66ís. Now theyíve jumped in ahead of me and bought new Yetiís while Iím waiting to figure out what I want. I am biased towards Yeti. Great company ran by great people. This will probably show in this review but I think the meat and potatoes is objective. I was pretty excited about riding all of them, except maybe one of them. Iím not ranking them because bikes are so subjective to the rider. I could be completely happy with any of them, but really stoked with a couple.
Santa Cruz Nomad
The first of the bikes I tested, because my brother owns it. Itís a monster going down heavy trails. Rocks, drops, chutes, ramps, all handled with ease. Itís a difficult bike to swing through tight corners and still keep momentum. More of a point and shoot type if that makes any sense. Iíve never been in a situation that was too much for the Nomad and it gives me confidence to attack lines that I would normally ease through. This version of the VPP suspension is really good. The bad part of the Nomad is climbing. Itís a ***** to grind up steep single track or even long fire road climbs. Itís just not what the bike is made for. For long rides or rides that will require an effort to get to the downs, the Nomad isnít my first choice. The Nomad seems a bit specific to me, itís a park bike/Enduro race bike. I had a blast on it at Mammoth this year. Thereís really not a whole lot to write that isnít already out there. I couldnít pick three bikes I would rather have.
I was so excited to try this bike. I currently own a SB66 and figured this would be a better version of itÖ.which may not be all together true. My SB66 is set up with a 36 160 fork which has the geometry a bit slacker the the 67 degrees it would have with a 150 fork. The SB5 I rode had a 140mm fork on it. Once aboard I knew this was nothing like my SB66 and not a version of it at all. It pedaled so much better, like every pedal stroke increased momentum. Iíve never been on a FS bike that felt like it. Once I started getting into some climbing I started forming an opinion that this was going to be more of a XC/Trail single track sort of bike, than a bike you would want to get aggressive downhill on. I rode a combination of steep chunky single track and steep fire road to the trail head. It pedaled like a dream, almost like getting pushed up. Ridiculous how efficient it was. Once we started heading down my opinion quickly changed. Itís not in the same class as the Nomad, but it was easily as capable as my SB66. Tracked perfectly, never got unsettled, even through a steep high speed section of gutted trail that you need to be precise about the line you pick or youíll wind up in a rut and on your ass. The SB5 just blasted through this section. Held itís line and stayed composed. This section eats up travel and I never felt like I bottomed out anything weird going on. The bike is connected to the ground and will not let go. There was a review on Pinkbike I believe that mentioned an issue with the rear shock packing during a rhythm section. I did my best to keep the SB5 airborne and never once felt this happen. I suspect there may have been a set up issue on the test bike. The SB5 absolutely flies downhill, and maintains itself even when drug outside of itís intended purpose. I did find times that I wished there was more suspension up front and definitely would have appreciated a more slack HA, but grabbing a bit of brake got things under control quickly. Tight single tracks were right in the SB5ís wheelhouse. Throw it in and rail it. The bike responds to inputs quickly, doesnít need any coercing and gives you a nice pop of momentum on exit. Really a thrilling feeling. It feels low and locked in, like a slot car almost. All in all, the similarities between this and the SB66 are that these bikes are unbelievably good, but thatís where it ends. I found the SB5 to be at least as capable going down, but heads and shoulders better going up. I think with a 150mm fork this bike would have been even better. I have a feeling that this is going to wind up being named the bike of the year by plenty of websites and magazines. The SB66 is still an industry favorite and the SB5 is much better.
I never planned on trying this bike out but when the opportunity presented itself I figured It would be silly not to give it a try. I never clicked with the HD and didnít think I would like the HD3. I actually really liked it. It pedaled close to or as good as the SB5 with one exception. Pedaling up steep ckunky ledgy sections where you kinda throw the front end up and power up and over the ledge. I found the HD3 to suffer a bit there. DW Link suspension to me has always felt like the hung at the top of itís travel and didnít start to really work until you ďbroke it freeĒ at the top. Sort of like a sticky fork in the first few mmís of itís travel. Once into the suspension itís plush and stays planted. The HD3 felt like this as well. Iím searching for the right words, trying to avoid the ďsits high in itís travelĒ thatís sort of clichť nowadays, but itís mostly true. It sits high in itís travel and is resistant to let it go without some initial force. I think this is by design, and with everything being a give and take, this was something that had to give to get the pedaling platform DW wants. So when presented with these ledgy sections I found the best way to approach them was with a quick burst out of the saddle and use your legs to absorb the rear wheel impact the then power it up. Not a huge deal but sometimes when Iím feeling lazy or chatting on the way up I would rather finesse my way through. The HD3 requires a more aggressive approach. Other than that, I could ride this bike for hours. Pedaled perfectly. Light and nimble. Now to the fun part, going down. I never clicked with the HD, because it felt tall and a bit awkward, like riding a horse. Apparently I wasnít the only one because this one feels much better. Much more comfortable and confidence inspiring. It felt good at speed, not quirky at all. The one thing I did notice is heavy trail chatter at speed had the rear end feeling a bit poppy. I tried to adjust it with rebound, air pressure, etc, but came away feeling like it is what it is. The chain stays are the shortest of all the bikes I tested (I think) and the shock has a fairly short stroke as well. Iím not an engineer and really have no idea how suspension ultimately works, but Iím left wondering if this feeling is a result of that. When the trail got fast and chunky I felt myself grabbing the brake a bit more than I thought I would have. It was a bit easier to unsettle than the SB5, BUT with the added inch plus of fork suspension there were times on the SB5 that had me feeling like I was running out of travel, where the extra travel on the Ibis front end soaked it up. The Ibis cornered excellently and was always planted and in control especially on smooth windy single track. It handled similar to the SB5, but where I would give the SB5 a nod in rear suspension, I would give the Ibis the nod up front with 160mm of travel. Sitting here today I can say the Ibis isnít the Ferrari that the SB5 is, but the SB5 isnít a 6 inch enduro bike either. If I had to nitpick, I would say the Ibis got a bot more twitchy than the SB5 when riding medium to slow speed technical downhill sections.
A perfectly good bike to wander around on for hours. Up down whatever. Mostly unremarkable but not in a good or bad way.
This is the one Iíve been waiting for and I finally had a chance to ride it today. When you see this bike in person for the first time itís shockingly perfect. Looks fast just sitting there. Yeti is known for sleek designs and this one didnít disappoint. I almost felt bad because a friend just got it and I was already begging for a chance to ride it. We had already done a couple runs at a local trail today, the same one I rode the SB5 on a couple weeks ago. I was tired but figured this was my chance. Shuttled part of the way and pedaled the rest. I was expecting the initial fire road climb to be a pain in the ass. Itís steep and fairly long. I quickly found that it climbs better than my SB66, but my SB66 has roughly the same HA and has a pushed CTD that is pretty active even in climb. It climbs unexpectedly well. In my excitement, I left the shock in trail mode all day, never thought to change it. There was a bit of front wheel wander on the steeper technical sections if you grannyíd up. Dropping a gear or two and being purposeful eliminated that. I wouldnít say you needed to be aggressive climbing, but you wonít be rewarded for driving Miss Daisy. I would absolutely give it the nod over the Nomad in this respect. Pointed down was freakish. Otherworldly. Insane. Hard to describe it. I was tired from the mornings ride and didnít want to crash a borrowed bike. Once I started heading down all my thoughts just turned to faster. This bike is unbelievable comfortable at speed. Uniquely so. Itís pinned and smooth. Never getís unsettled. I hit sections of trail at speeds that I havenít hit before. It was calmingly smooth and quiet. Thereís a section of this trail that is just gutted and steep with a tricky steep rock garden that has a four foot drop to flat. I told myself at the beginning that I was going to go around that section but once I dropped into it I decided to go for it. Rocketed down and hit the drop, never felt my rear wheel land. Iím always a bit unsettled on this section no matter what Iím riding, the speed is high and the drop is tricky. The SB6 was just so smooth and fast that I never really gave it much thought. Cornering is as good as youíll find on a bike. Itís like riding a sport bike through a canyon. Bermed, off camber, flat, no matter. Stick it in there and keep your feet on the pedals and you will rocket out the other end. I will say if you try to ease it through corners you will end up with a handful of brakes and an awkward speed depriving exit. This bike wants to be driven hard. Going straight down hill though, you are low, connected, and fast. It makes it easy to go fast and you never feel like youíre losing control. I know there new bike stoke, but I can confidently say I hit this trail and speeds I havenít done before. Once moving, this bike makes you want to push it and you are rewarded for doing so. In the air this bike puts you in a more natural position than my SB66. Seemed to me that every time I launched I was behind the seat and in the perfect position. With my SB66 I always felt like I needed to be mindful of body position.
Needless to say Iíve decided on the SB6. I still have thoughts of the SB5, but my riding style is to take all day if need be to get to a trail head, because all that matters is getting down. They have some similarities, but the unbelievable gravity side of the SB6 made up for the pedaling advantage of the SB5. There isnít a bike Iíve ridden that feels like the SB6. I initially wondered if a Fox 36 150mm would change my mind and have me go with the SB5, but the feeling I got from the SB6 is really indescribable for a hack writer like me. I know if I buy the SB5, I would just end up buying the SB6 at some point and time anyway. Now to start breaking piggybanks.
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