The Yeti Beti SB5 C is a trail bike with racing pedigree that boasts an extraordinary and innovative suspension system which has to be ridden to fully understand the feel. For the experienced trail rider, Yeti has produced a bike that’s really rather special.
- The Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series XT is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
First things first: this bike is not cheap. The Colorado-based brand can certainly be regarded as boutique, and boasts a loyal fan base known as The Tribe. There’s even an annual get-together for Yeti-owners that can take place anywhere from Patagonia to New Zealand, based on previous ‘Gatherings’.
The price isn’t all about the brand identity. Yeti has spent a serious amount of time and engineering know-how to develop a suspension system known as Switch Infinity, which looks different to anything else on the market and provides a unique ride feel.
And of course, the carbon frame and hand-built manufacturing approach also contribute to the costs.
Having ridden the Yeti on a range of terrain, I think I’m a little bit in love with the feel of the bike afforded by the suspension. However, the bike isn’t without its flaws.
Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series frame
The C-series carbon frame sits below the T-series or TURQ-series (named for the signature turquoise colour of the brand) in carbon hierarchy, though the C-series carbon is still very much a quality frame.
For a size medium the bike feels short. At 5ft 8in / 1m 74cm I was on the Medium frame, towards the upper end of the height range for the bike. The reach comes in at 424mm on the medium: for comparison, the reach on the Juliana Joplin and Canyon Spectral WMN is 430mm.
It may seem marginal but it makes a difference to handling. Shorter bikes can feel more manoeuvrable but may feel slightly less stable on steeper terrain, though the relatively wide 750mm handlebars help to control this.
There is the option to jump up to a size large frame. However, I’d be concerned that the jump in seat tube length and standover would then be prohibitively high, because the seat tube jumps from 445mm on the medium to 483mm on the large, and the standover from 724mm to 737mm.
While the geometry is more or less identical in terms of numbers between the Yeti SB5 and the Yeti Beti SB5, the Beti version does have a kinked top tube which extends the low point of the frame further forward for better standover.
So, although, the standover is listed the same on the geometry sheet, if you were to stand at the same point in the frame about a quarter of the way along the frame from the saddle on a Beti, the effective standover height is lower than on the Yeti.
Annoyingly, for a bike that’s aimed towards the big-days-in-the-hills side of trail riding, there’s no room for a bottle cage within the frame due to the suspension system. Instead, Yeti has opted to put the cage beneath the down tube.
While this means you can at least carry a bottle, it also means said bottle is likely to end up very muddy if you ride anywhere it rains regularly, and I also lost a bottle from one cage on a particularly rocky descent.
The Yeti Switch Infinity suspension system
One of the instantly noticeable elements to this bike is the Switch Infinity suspension system.
This system uses a system of rails to allow the rear triangle to move up and down as well as pivot in and out, and it’s the extensive engineering behind this that’s partly contributed to the higher cost of this bike. The result is a rather unique feeling.
The power transfer when pedalling and on climbs is exceptional, with noticeably good isolation of pedal forces from suspension, which meant it felt like every pedal stroke I put in went into turning the wheels, rather than getting sucked up by the suspension.
Ride feel is firm and fast: to get the best out of the bike you have to work the suspension. It’s not a plush ride, you don’t blow through the travel and it’s not at all wallowy — in fact, it's the exact opposite. It feels tightly sprung, efficient and taut. It works beautiful on medium to large hits, and pumping the terrain results in an extraordinary turn of speed. It’s exhilarating!
This system is one I long to find on a bike with slightly more modern geometry and with bigger wheel options. As for anyone who likes long rides on natural terrain, such as out exploring in the mountains of Scotland or the Lake District, it’s a great choice.
Finally, I was initially concerned that with the complicated looking arrangement of moving parts and small spaces, the workings would get clogged up with mud during my wet, wintry rides. However, it seemed to keep itself clear.
Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series spec
One major mark against the Yeti when compared to other bikes at a similar price point is the spec. I would not expect to be seeing Shimano SLX anywhere near a bike that costs as much as this one does — innovative suspension system or not.
While the Shimano SLX groupset with XT rear derailleur and RaceFace Aeffect cranks is a reliable choice, it’s also a touch heavier and doesn’t have quite as smooth a movement as found on more premium groupsets on other bikes around this price point.
On the upside, the 1x11 groupset with a Shimano SLX M7000 cassette provides a wide range from 10t to 46t sprockets, which combined with the light 12.93kg weight of the bike makes it a good climber.
The forks are also a weak point. Fox Performance 34 with 150mm travel doesn’t feel as stiff as I’d like when riding techy terrain, and again for the price I’d hope to see at least a Fox Factory fork.
Happily the wheels are a decent set of DT Swiss M1900s with Maxxis Ardent tyres in their EXO sidewall (for a touch extra rock protection) Tubeless Ready configuration. The Ardents are fine in the dry but don’t provide a great deal of grip in slick or muddy conditions which, let’s face it, a lot of UK riders at least ride in. So, if you do fork out for this and want to ride in the wet, you’ll be looking to get some grippier tyres almost immediately.
Finishing kit includes a relatively cheap, but perfectly acceptable RaceFace 760mm Evolve bar and Ride 60mm stem.
Finally, a Fox Transfer dropper seatpost comes with a women’s specific Deva saddle.
Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series feel and overall impressions
To really get the most out of the bike and the suspension system, I found I needed to ride the bike hard. This isn’t a bike for just cruising around, though it’s more than capable of that.
Work it and you’ll be rewarded with a lively, playful ride, but this is a bike more experienced riders will have the best time on. Put some welly in and it opens up, resulting in a performance that’s more capable than the suspension numbers might suggest.
However, I did find that got me into a little trouble now and again. The longer travel 150mm forks lure you in but on a few occasions I found that the 127mm at the rear couldn’t quite keep up, resulting in a few sketchy experiences.
The now slightly old-school geometry, with a relatively short reach for a trail bike (plus the aforementioned suspension travel issue), means I found the bike getting a little out of its depth on steep, techy stuff.
Overall, from the 2018 Women’s Trail Bike of the Year test, this bike was the pick of the bunch for climbing and is well suited to long days out on singletrack up hill and down dale, as well as being a blast to ride around the majority of trails that most riders are likely to encounter.
Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series price, sizes and availability
The Beti has an extensive size range from XS up to L, which according to the Yeti sizing guide should suit riders from 4ft 11in to 6ft 3in.
This version retails at the not insubstantial £4,799 / $4,799 / AU$7,290 and is available via Yeti dealers.