Pimped out and redefined, the Yeti SB120 T3 drifts into the 2023 season with more travel, several exciting updates and Yeti’s distinctive high-end look. We jumped on a plane to Colorado and found out whether the new SB120 shares the same rocket-fuelled genes as its predecessor.
“Pimp my ride” is going into the next round at Yeti. After replacing the SB100 with the SB115 back in 2020, bumping up the rear travel from 100 mm to 115 mm, the Colorado-based cult brand has just turned up the volume to 12, increasing the rear travel by a further 5 mm to a total of 120 mm for the upcoming season. Alongside the newly introduced SB160, the SB120 is the second bike in Yeti’s 2023 portfolio to roll into the new season with more travel than its predecessor. The 120 mm rear suspension is complemented by a 130 mm fork and 29″ wheels. Nonchalantly humming the “evolution, not revolution” mantra, Yeti overhauled both the geometry and rear suspension kinematics of the bike while at the same freshening up the frame silhouette.
Yeti divide their bikes into two categories: Race and Rip, or in other words, bikes for racing and bikes to have fun with. And while the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the intended use dictates the development direction. The SB115 was listed in the Race category on Yeti’s website and was primarily developed for multi-day stage races, while the new SB120 belongs to the Rip group and is primarily intended to be fun.
The Yeti SB120 T3 2023 in detail
In typical Yeti fashion, the SB120 makes a very high-quality impression, both in terms of aesthetics and build quality, and is distinctly recognisable as a Yeti with its unmistakable silhouette. And while at first glance it’s hard to tell the new SB120 apart from its predecessor, upon closer inspection you’ll notice the differences. The updated version of Yeti’s short-travel trail bruiser has more ground clearance, a more compact Switch Infinity system as well as a stiffer frame.
For 2023, Yeti’s developers also tidied up the cable routing. All cables run inside the frame and are securely clamped in place at the ports. Moreover, the rear brake line is secured to a small bracket at the transition from the main frame triangle to the swingarm. A generously sized protector stretches all the way along the top of the chainstay, and all the way up the seat stay, covering all critical spots, thus preventing chain slap and paint chips.
A beefy TPU plate with a removable service flap protects the down tube from stray rocks. The flap can be replaced in case of damage and allows you to access the dropper cable for easier installation. Like its predecessors, the SB120 takes a bottle cage in the main frame triangle but forgoes a tool mount and storage compartment.
The spec variants of the new Yeti SB120 2023.
All new SB120 models feature a full carbon frame, which is available in two different grades of carbon fibre, called Turq (T) and Carbon (C). The premium T model uses a higher modulus carbon, allowing Yeti to achieve the same degree of stiffness at a lower weight, saving around 225 g per frame. There’s a total of two spec variants for the C-series and four for the T-series, with prices ranging between $ 6,300 and $ 12,100. Alongside Yeti’s legendary turquoise finish, you can choose from 3 more colours called Dust, Raw Carbon and Loch.
Yeti’s Switch Infinity System
Yeti introduced their proprietary Switch Infinity System back in 2014 and have been using it on all their full-suspension models ever since. What looks at first like a double-shaft FOX shock is actually a translating pivot, which slides up and down on a set of rails as it goes through its travel, thereby creating a virtual pivot point. This provides different suspension characteristics at different points in the travel.
Let’s take the anti-squat as an example, which peaks in the sag and remains consistent until about half way through the travel. If the shock of the SB120 compresses further into the stroke, the Switch Infinity changes direction, rapidly decreasing anti-squat levels. The main aim of the system is to improve the climbing qualities of the bike. To ensure longer service life, Yeti also improved the bearings and hardware on all T-series models – but not on the cheaper C models.
The spec of our Yeti SB120 TURQ 3 2023 test bike
Our test bike comes equipped with a 130 mm FOX Factory 34 GRIP2 fork and matching FOX Float DPS shock. The latter features a three-position climb switch with three preconfigured settings: open, medium and firm. Like the Yeti SB160, the SB120 employs a single rocker link.
Yeti SB120 T3 2023
Fork FOX 34 Factory GRIP2 130 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT DPS Factory 120 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer 200 mm
Brakes SRAM G2 RSC 180/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM XX1/X01/GX AXS 1x12
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3 50 mm
Handlebar Yeti Carbon 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XM1700 29"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF MaxxTerra EXO/Aggressor DualCompound EXO 2.5"/2.3"
Size XS, S M L XL XXL
Weight 13,2 kg (manufacturer specification)
Shifting is taken care of by a wireless electronic 12-speed SRAM drivetrain consisting of an XX1 AXS rear mech and a cheaper, slightly heavier X01 cassette and GX chain. While the bling rear mech might look great on the shop floor, you can’t help but feel cheated when you realise that Yeti pairs this with lower-end components. However, the cheaper components don’t compromise shifting performance. What does have a negative impact on performance though, are the SRAM G2 RSC four-piston brakes, which are paired with small 180 mm rotors front and rear. Although SRAM’s top-end RSC lever features tool-free reach and bite point adjustments, the G2 model is underpowered for such a fun bike, thus failing to live up to the potential of the bike. We would have chosen a set of SRAM Code brakes instead, which are 32 g heavier but way more powerful than the G2s, or at the very least fitted a set of larger 200 mm rotors.
The cockpit of the SB120 TURQ 3 consists of a 50 mm Burgtec stem and Yeti’s own-brand 780 mm carbon handlebars. FOX supply the Transfer Performance dropper post, which offers a whopping 200 mm travel from frame size L upwards and can be fully inserted into the frame of our test bike in size XL. For the tires, Yeti rely on fellow Americans MAXXIS, combining a 2.5″ Minion DHF at the front and 2.3″ Aggressor at the rear, both in the thin EXO casing. Unfortunately, the front tire comes in the harder MaxxTerra rubber compound while the rear has to make do with the even harder dual compound. We would have preferred a combination with the softer MaxxGrip at the front and MaxxTerra at the rear. Moreover, aggressive, downhill-oriented riders should upgrade the rear tire to a more robust casing, which allows you to run lower air pressures for more traction, better damping qualities and improved puncture resistance.
The geometry of the new Yeti SB120 2023
The new Yeti SB120 2023 is available in six sizes, XS to XXL, offering a suitable option for all riders between 145 cm and 210 cm tall. Reach is (a moderate) 475 mm in size L and increases at reasonable intervals. As the frame size grows, the chainstay length increases and the seat tube angle steepens up, which is meant to provide consistent handling across all sizes. However, in proportion to the 475 mm reach, the 440 mm seat tube is rather long, restricting freedom of movement on the bike.
|Seat tube||345 mm||365 mm||400 mm||440 mm||470 mm||485 mm|
|Top tube||540 mm||571 mm||603 mm||625 mm||652 mm||672 mm|
|Head tube||92 mm||98 mm||104 mm||115 mm||126 mm||147 mm|
|Head Seat angle||76.5°||76.5°||76.5°||76.5°||76.5°||76.5°|
|Chainstay||433 mm||435 mm||437 mm||439 mm||441 mm||443 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.122 mm||1.157 mm||1.191 mm||1.217 mm||1.249 mm||1.274 mm|
|Reach||395 mm||425 mm||455 mm||475 mm||500 mm||515 mm|
|Stack||604 mm||610 mm||615 mm||625 mm||635 mm||655 mm|
New Yeti SB120 T3 2023 – Our first riding impression
As already mentioned, the new SB120 2023 falls into Yeti’s Rip category rather than the Race category its SB115 predecessor belonged to. This becomes evident on descents, where the bike seems to generate more travel than it says on the tin, gobbling up big hits, jumps and drops without breaking a sweat. In tight corners, the agile character makes it easy to throw the Yeti from one corner into the next. This is exactly where the stiff rear suspension comes into its own, allowing you to generate speed through rollers and berms without too much physical effort. However, when slamming on the brakes on the hardpack, the rear wheel lacks traction. A tire with a more robust casing would help a lot, allowing you to run lower air pressures for better traction.
Uphill, the new SB120 can’t hide its roots and delivers just as impressive a climbing performance as its predecessor. Thanks to the pedal-neutral rear suspension, you can forget about the climb switch and sprint to the trailhead with tons of propulsion. While the upright pedalling position puts a slight pressure on your hands, this improves as the gradient increases. As a result, the SB120 is also fairly suitable for long tours, feeling comfortable even on long days in the saddle.
Our conclusion about the new Yeti SB120 T3 2023
The new Yeti SB120 T3 2023 jumps on the “more travel” wagon without losing its innate climbing qualities. The idea of improving an existing platform rather than creating one from scratch works a treat and brings along several practical upgrades, like the revisited cable routing and new frame silhouette. On the trail, the spec doesn’t do justice to the downhill potential of the bike and its cheeky Rip badge. However, the SB120 makes you feel as if you were sitting on a bike with more travel and spoils you with agile and playful handling.
- Excellent propulsion uphill
- Stiff rear suspension makes it easy to generate speed
- Usual high-quality look and craftsmanship
- Brakes are underpowered and don’t live up to the potential of the bike
For more info, visit the Yeti-Cycles website.
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Words: Peter Walker Photos: Calum McGee / Yeti Cycles