With the launch of the new SB135, Yeti are unveiling a new trail bike with 27.5″ wheels, showing that the smaller size isn’t dead yet. We tested the new Yeti to find out what it’s capable of and what you’ll get for your money, apart from the small wheels, two travel options and Yeti’s distinctive features.
SB120, SB140 and SB160. A few months on, Yeti are introducing yet another bike, the new SB135 trail bike, which rolls on smaller 650b wheels and generates 135 mm of travel at the rear. At the front, you can choose between a 160 or 150 mm fork. Yeti have also thought of short riders, developing a special frame for the smallest XS and S sizes.
Last year, the Colorado-based cult brand went on an authentic “release spree”, adding a total of three new bikes to their portfolio: the SB120, SB140 and SB160. A few months on, Yeti are introducing yet another bike, the new SB135 trail bike, which rolls on smaller 650b wheels and generates 135 mm of travel at the rear. At the front, you can choose between a 160 or 150 mm fork. Yeti have also thought of short riders, developing a special frame for the smallest XS and S sizes.
Despite having been mocked as “wagon wheels” for quite a while, 29” wheels have long since become standard in mountain biking. Bikes with a full 650b setup, on the other hand, are a rare sight these days, making the Yeti SB135 look refreshingly extraordinary. In this test, we found out whether it’s also extraordinary on the trail, and which kind of riding it suits best.
The new Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3 2023 in detail
“What a cute little bike!” was one of the most popular comments amongst our editorial team when the unusually small Yeti was delivered at our office. Yes, 27.5″ wheels are pretty rare for a new model in 2023! In typical Yeti fashion, the compact SB135 is built to the highest standards and with painstaking attention to detail, which is reflected in the paint finish, the decals and Yeti’s characteristic head badge. As usual, the cables are routed internally, disappearing into the frame through the head tube. Moreover, the cables are securely clamped at the ports and guided through additional sleeves in the swingarm, which prevents them from rattling on the trail. A generously sized chainstay protector that extends far over the front section of the swingarm helps keep the noise down too.
A massive TPU plate on the downtube shields the frame from nasty impacts and stray rocks, effectively preventing paint chips. There’s a service port right in the middle of the protector, which makes it easy to access and service the internally routed cables. Of course, there’s a bottle cage in the front triangle, but there’s no trace of a tool mount on the frame.
The spec variants of the Yeti SB135 2023
The Yeti SB135 is available in a total of seven versions, including two bumped-up Lunch Ride Edition models. Our test bike is one of the latter and has 10 mm more travel upfront, generating 160 mm instead of 150 mm. Furthermore, Lunch Ride models have bigger 200 mm rotors instead of the standard 180 mm discs, and more robust, aggressively profiled tires for better downhill performance. Both the standard and Lunch Ride models are available with either the lighter, high-quality TURQ carbon frame or the standard C carbon variant. Regardless of the frame you choose, top-spec models come equipped with SRAM’s brand-new EAGLE Transmission rear derailleur. The biggest drawback for small riders: The Lunch Ride version is only available from frame size M upwards.
The availability of the new Yeti SB135 2023
For the European market, only the Lunchride models will be available for the present. These are expected to be at your local bike shop in summer 2023.
The spec of our Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3 2023 test bike
Our shreddy-ready Yeti “Lunch Ride Edition” test bike generates 10 mm more travel at the front than the standard model. The suspension consists of a finely tuneable FOX Factory 36 mm fork and matching FLOAT X shock. The SRAM CODE RSC brakes feature tool-free reach and bite point adjustments, as well as SRAM’s proprietary SwingLink technology, which is designed to reduce the amount of force required for braking. The brakes are paired with big 200 mm brake rotors, thus ensuring powerful and reliable deceleration.
SRAM’s brand-new Eagle Transmission X0 direct mount rear derailleur ensures smooth shifting with minimal adjustment effort. That said, the new pods (aka shifters) take some getting used to. MAXXIS supply the tires, combining an ASSEGAI at the front and Minion DHR II at the rear – unfortunately both in the hard MaxxTerra rubber compound and EXO+ casing. Although the latter is more robust than the flimsy EXO casing found on the standard SB135 model, we recommend upgrading to the tougher DoubleDown casing at the rear, especially if you’re on the heavier side of the scales or spend lots of time on rough trails. While you’re at it, you should upgrade the front tire to a softer MaxxGrip rubber compound, which provides better grip and more traction. The tires are paired with a robust DT Swiss EX 1700 alloy wheelset, which has always treated us extremely well and has long become a staple choice in our office.
The FOX Transfer dropper post offers a whopping 200 mm of travel (from frame size L upwards) and can be fully inserted into the frame, ensuring excellent freedom of movement on the bike. The cockpit consists of a 35 mm Burgtec stem and Yeti’s in-house 800 mm carbon handlebars.
Yeti SB 135 TLR Transmission T3
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 160 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Factory 135 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer 200 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RSC 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Eagle Transmission X0 1x12
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3 50 mm
Handlebar Yeti Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss EX1700 27.5"
Tires MAXXIS ASSEGAI MaxxTerra EXO+/Minion DHRll MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"
Size M L XL
Weight 14.7 kg
Yeti’s Switch Infinity Link rear suspension
Like all of Yeti’s analogue full-sussers, the SB135 employs the manufacturer’s proprietary Switch Infinity Link suspension system, which utilizes a patented translating pivot that’s free to move and switch direction as the bike moves through its travel. This is meant to provide a high level of anti-squat at sag, while also reducing pedal kickback deeper in the stroke. The translating pivot was developed in close collaboration with FOX and requires regular cleaning and lubrication – every 40 hours of riding according to FOX. However, the Switch Infinity isn’t a shock, so it doesn’t have to be set up. To ensure longer service life, Yeti improved the bearings and hardware on all T-series models – but not on the cheaper C models.
The geometry of the Yeti SB135 2023
The SB135 Lunch Ride edition is only available in sizes M-XL and has a slightly more aggressive geometry than the standard model. Both the head tube and seat tube angle are a half degree slacker, while the fork is 10 mm longer. Small riders will have to make do with the standard model, which is also available in sizes XS and S. The two smallest frame sizes rely on a special frame design with different shock mounts, linkages and suspension kinematics, but still manage to fit a bottle cage in the front triangle. Moreover, Yeti adapt the chainstay length to the respective frame size to ensure consistent handling across the board. Despite relying on a short seat tube in all sizes, the SB135 allows you to push the dropper post all the way into the frame, which allows you to choose your frame size based on the desired reach.
Geometry Yeti SB135 Lunchride models
|Top Tube||569 mm||621 mm||649 mm|
|Seat Tube||400 mm||440 mm||470 mm|
|Head Tube||107 mm||118 mm||129 mm|
|Chainstay||433 mm||435 mm||437 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,203 mm||1,229 mm||1,261 mm|
|Reach||455 mm||475 mm||500 mm|
|Stack||600 mm||610 mm||620 mm|
Geometry Yeti SB135
|Top Tube||534 mm||566 mm||598 mm||620 mm||647 mm|
|Seat Tube||345 mm||365 mm||400 mm||440 mm||470 mm|
|Head Tube||92 mm||101 mm||107 mm||118 mm||129 mm|
|Chainstay||429 mm||431 mm||433 mm||435 mm||437 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,128 mm||1,164 mm||1,199 mm||1,225 mm||1,257 mm|
|Reach||400 mm||430 mm||460 mm||479 mm||504 mm|
|Stack||583 mm||592 mm||597 mm||606 mm||616 mm|
The Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3 2023 on the trail
Swinging your leg over the saddle, the Yeti feels surprisingly plush at first. However, as soon as you put some tension on the chain to grind your way up the mountain, the rear suspension stiffens up and doesn’t wallow. The upright pedalling position puts a slight pressure on your hands. At almost 77°, the steep seat tube angle positions you centrally on the bike, ensuring a comfortable, spacious ride feeling. Going uphill, the front heavy pedalling position quickly starts to make more sense, keeping the bike on-track, while the pedal-neutral rear suspension generates excellent propulsion.
When you point its hairy snout into the valley, the Yeti is intuitive to ride, feeling lively and agile from the get-go. The small wheels make it easy to change direction and flick the bike from one corner into the next, encouraging you to play with the trail and to commit to bold new lines. However, the smaller wheels also provide more direct feedback from the ground, spicing things up on long root carpets. As a rule of thumb, the slower you roll over an obstacle, the more it will slow you down, so speed is always your friend, ensuring significantly more stability. Overall, the rear suspension is on the plush side, reliably filtering out small to medium chatter. The plush response changes noticeably towards the final part of the stroke, where the suspension provides excellent support even with nasty hits and botched landings. Popping off ledges and wild jumps proves no problem for the yeti either. On the contrary, the SB135 TLR Transmission T3 encourages you to push yourself harder, with the playful character and excellent suspension making you feel as if you had more reserves.
Who should take a closer look at the Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3 2023?
The Yeti SB135 is a very exciting option for short riders, because the smallest XS and S sizes were developed specifically to suit their needs, with short seat tubes and space for a bottle cage. Furthermore, it proves a great companion for playful riders who love to carve through corners at Mach 10 and transform every trail into a playground. For rowdy trail rippers, we recommend the Lunch Ride model, which has more travel and a more downhill-oriented spec – it’s a real shame that the latter model isn’t available in the two smallest sizes.
Our conclusions about the Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3
The Yeti SB135 TLR Transmission T3 is clearly more than a nostalgic blast from the past, clearly standing out from the 29″ crowd and slapping a massive smile on your face with its playful character. Furthermore, it’s truly impressive how much effort Yeti have put into developing the XS and S sizes for such a small (😉) customer base. As usual for yeti, the build quality is top notch and rounded off by a painstaking attention to detail.
- Extremely fun on flowing trails
- Separate frame design for the 2 smallest sizes
- High-quality frame and clever details
- Tire choice could be better
For more info, please visit Yeti’s website.
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Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Mike Hunger