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Mountain Bike

Yeti SB5c

Mountain bikes aren’t so different from consumer electronics: Their technology improves rapidly, reducing last year’s hot prospect to this year’s bargain bin item. The reason is that suspension is a tricky thing, and each season sees new refinements in the pursuit of the right balance between absorbing bumps and allowing maximum pedaling efficiency, goals that have often been at odds, with sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic improvements from year to year. So, what’s this season’s winner, and why?

It’s the Yeti SB5c, a five-inch travel, 27.5-inch-wheeled bike that shoves its Yeti cousin, our previous editor’s choice SB75, off the podium, thanks to a new suspension called Switch Infinity. The details of its mechanism are best understood with an engineering degree, but the gist is that it uses a pivot tucked into the space above the bottom bracket to make the rear wheel travel downward when the suspension first engages, which helps maintain excellent pedaling power, then lets it rise upward as the jolts and hits get bigger.

The result is that it works on the uphills and then some. The Yeti, spec’d with a rear Fox shock, has three settings: climb, trail, and descend, and funny enough, it might climb best in the all-around “trail” mode, because the supple suspension rolls fluidly over bumps and rocks and other impediments, gripping dirt with the tenacity of track spikes. And on the downhills, in descend mode, it bombs with a stability and plushness far beyond its five inches, offering unwavering stability in rock gardens and laser-like carves in high-angle berms. It’s a better climber than the SB75, as well as being a sturdier downhiller, and yet it feels more dynamic, like coming home.

We tested the carbon SB5c with SRAM’s 1x11 X01 drivetrain and the must-have Thomson Covert Dropper seat post, for a very competitive trail weight of 26 pounds. Speed demons have already complained the five inches isn’t enough travel, and for them there’s the six-inch SB6c, but for the vast majority of us, who like to ride up and down, who want all-day fun, the SB5c is more than enough. It punches above its weight, and below, too.

 

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