After spending nearly two years with my last long-term test bike, the Orange Stage 6, I was struggling to find a replacement. I wasn’t sure if I wanted more or less travel, whether I wanted 27.5in or 29in wheels or if I even wanted a trail, enduro or all-mountain bike.
Although I wouldn’t exactly call my situation a total bind – and there are much worse problems to have in life – it did leave a bit of a question mark over the sort of bike I needed, and wanted, for 2020 and 2021 to fulfil my love of gravity-fed riding while still being able to pedal about.
So ending up with a 165mm travel, coil shock, 27.5in-wheeled rig took me a little by surprise to be totally honest, but I’m hoping that reverting back to the smaller wheel size and bigger travel won’t be a hindrance out in the woods.
The Yeti SB165 is currently the Colorado brand’s most radical bike on offer, with the most travel and slackest head tube angle, it’s even compatible with dual crown forks. That means it’s a gravity-focused rig and, because of that, has been tested to Yeti’s downhill strength standards.
Along with plenty of travel and modern geometry – it’s got a 77-degree seat tube angle and a 480.1mm reach – bottle cage mounts, internal cable routing and a full carbon fibre frame it looks like it ticks plenty of my ‘must-have’ boxes.
Obviously going for an uber-expensive bike wasn’t a conscious choice, and I’d have been just as happy on a frame worth half or even a quarter of the price, but once I’d secured the frameset, it seemed fitting to build it up with a host of high-spec parts befitting of Yeti’s boutique reputation.
The spec definitely fulfils a need, too, and isn’t just lavishly luxurious without reason, but more on that below.
Yeti SB165 specifications and details
How has the SB165 ended up looking, then? And why did I choose those parts?
Yeti SB165 Turq Series frameset
As I said, the SB165 is Yeti’s burliest bike.
It’s got 165mm of rear-wheel travel that’s been meticulously tuned by Yeti’s engineers to provide what it deems to be the best performing suspension out there.
This is done with its Switch Infinity system, which modifies the bike’s anti-squat by shifting the main pivot’s location vertically upwards as the suspension compresses through the first part of its travel, then vertically downwards as it gets deeper into its stroke.
This is claimed to give low levels of pedal bob at the start of its travel – with an increase in anti-squat – and more suspension compliance deeper into its travel as the anti-squat drops off.
The system uses a set of stanchions side-by-side with the main pivot in the centre of a ‘shuttle’ that moves up and down the stanchions.
The SB165 frameset is only available in Yeti’s top-of-the-range Turq carbon fibre, which is claimed to offer the “perfect balance of stiffness and compliance” and to reduce weight over standard carbon.
My SB165 frameset with Fox Factory DHX2 shock and coil spring weighs 3,690g.
Fox 38 Float Factory GRIP2 fork
With a price tag worthy of the SB165’s, the Fox 38 is the American brand’s latest hardest-hitting enduro single crown fork.
Bolted to the front of my long-termer is the 27.5in-wheeled version with 180mm of travel and a short 37mm offset to increase trail, which should further calm the bike’s steering on steeper and faster tracks.
Coupled with the GRIP2 damper – that has external high- and low-speed rebound and compression damping – and float EVOL air spring, it makes for a rather luxurious and highly controlled ride.
As the largest diameter stanchion single crown fork I’ve ridden since the Totem, I am excited to see how it performs.
- Fox 38 Float Factory GRIP2 fork: £1,299
TRP TR12 rear derailleur and shifter
Touted as a genuine alternative to Shimano’s and SRAM’s mech and shifter, TRP’s TR12 mech and shifter was launched back in May 2020.
I pounced at the chance to bolt it to my brand-new long-term test bike and see how the kit designed by world cup downhill racer Aaron Gwin’s mechanic performs.
Standout features include an adjustable clutch, chain length and b-tension set up guides and the Hall Lock, which helps to limit the mech’s body from rotating forwards over bumps.
The derailleur’s cage and upper link is made from carbon fibre. The rear mech weighs 292g.
The shifter’s ergonomics have been designed with input from Aaron Gwin, too.
The cable release lever has a linear movement, instead of a pivoting motion used on most other shifters, that’s claimed to mimic a rider’s thumb’s action.
The cable pull paddle’s position can be rotated to suit rider preferences, too.
- TRP TR12 mech: £220
- TRP TR12 shifter: £110
Shimano XT M8100 cranks, cassette and chain
Because the TRP TR12 mech and shifter don’t form part of their own groupset, I’ve fitted Shimano’s M8100 12-speed 170mm long XT cranks with a 30-tooth chainring and 10-45t cassette, along with matching XT chain.
I had to use Shimano’s smaller 45-tooth cassette because TRP’s TR12 mech is only officially compatible with up to 50-tooth cassette sprockets. This means Shimano’s larger 51-tooth and now SRAM’s new 52-tooth cassettes aren’t supported.
I do have a 51-tooth XT cassette to try with the mech to investigate what limits compatibility and will report back once I’ve managed to have a look.
- M8100 cranks: £199.99
- M8100 cassette: £144.99
- M8100 chain: £41.99
Race Face Turbine R 30 27.5in wheelset
I’ve always liked the feel aluminium wheels have on the trail and have had good experiences with Race Face’s ARC wheels in the past on my previous long term test bike.
Unfortunately, the ARC rims weren’t available as complete wheelsets when I was building the bike up so had to opt for Race Face’s Turbine R 30 wheels instead.
The Turbine R 30s have a 30mm internal width which, for me, feels like a good compromise for reducing the tyre carcass roll sometimes felt with narrower profile rims, while maintaining a more rounded tyre profile to improve lean angles in turns before the tyres lose traction.
The Turbine R 30 rims are built onto Race Face’s Vault hub that boasts 120 points of engagement using straight-pull spokes.
Although Race Face claims the wheels are best suited to trail and all-mountain uses, I suspect they’re going to be plenty robust enough for a year’s worth of abuse on the SB165.
The pair, with Boost 12 x 148 rear spacing and MicroSpline freehub and front 110 x 15mm Boost spacing, weigh 1,710g.
TRP DH-R EVO brakes
Complementing the TRP TR12 drivetrain are these DH-R EVO brakes, designed for world cup level DH racing.
The lever bodies are CNC machined and polished to a shiny finish. The lever blades have small depressions to improve grip and their reach has tool-less adjustment.
Along with four-piston calipers, power is provided by the 2.3mm thick rotors.
The brakes use mineral oil, like Shimano systems, and I found them quite tricky to bleed correctly compared to SRAM’s DOT fluid brakes with its Bleeding Edge bleed system.
I opted for 203mm rotors front and back on the Yeti.
The DH-R EVO brake levers weigh 133g each, a caliper with 190cm hose weighs 199g and a 203mm TRP rotor tipped the scales at 244g.
- Front and rear brakes with 203mm rotors: £490
OneUp Components V2 Dropper Post, Carbon Handlebar and EDC Stem
OneUp’s natty EDC steerer-tube-stashed tool propelled the Canadian brand into the limelight by providing an elegant solution for an annoying problem; how to carry tools on your bike.
Since its tool was released, it’s worked on a host of other parts including dropper posts, handlebars, stems, pedals cassettes and chainrings.
After being seriously impressed with its V2 Dropper Post, awarding it 5 stars, it seemed logical to fit a 210mm travel version to my new long-term test bike.
Managing to squeeze a 210mm-drop post onto the Yeti means my saddle can be totally out of the way on the descents while still rising to the correct height for climbing.
With the OneUp post’s performance impressing me when I reviewed it, I’m hopeful its reliability will continue on the new bike.
I’ve stuck on a set of OneUp’s Carbon Handlebars, which it claims have been tuned to provide great levels of comfort by minimising the width of its 35mm clamping diameter and having a profile that flattens into an oval shape the closer it is to the bar’s bend.
The 35mm rise bars I’m using weigh 226g.
As someone who prefers not to mix and match brands too much, I’ve stuck OneUp’s 35mm EDC Stem on the bike, too, with the idea of fitting its EDC tool without needing to tap threads into the steerer tube at a later date.
- OneUp Components V2 Dropper Post (with remote): £221
- OneUp Components Carbon Handlebar: £119.50
- OneUp Components EDC Stem: £69
Fabric Funguy 31mm diameter grips
Fabric’s Funguy grips have quickly become my next favourite set of grips to use after fitting them to another bike.
They’re soft, they’ve only got one lock-on ring so can twist slightly, and they feel like the perfect diameter for my hands.
This set of marble coloured grips might not everyone’s cup of tea but I think they’re awesome.
- Fabric Funguy grips: £16.99
SDG Bel Air 3.0 Lux-Alloy saddle
Although the Bel Air 3.0 wouldn’t be my first choice saddle – after I confessed my undivided love for SQlab’s 610 ERGOLUX Active 2.0 in 2019 – it’s ended up on the Yeti.
With a 140mm width and short 260mm length, I figured I’d give it a go. Also, it looks more conventional than SQlab’s offering and only weighs 236g.
- SDG Bel Air 3.0 Lux-Alloy saddle: £79.95
Cane Creek 70 Series Hellbender bearing upgrade
Officially the Yeti SB165 is only compatible with Cane Creek’s 40 Series IS41/28.6 IS52/40 headset that retails for £49.99. However, because some of Cane Creek’s bearings are interchangeable it was possible to upgrade the 40 Series headset with 70 Series Hellbender bearings.
Although it’s a small upgrade, it’s one that’s worth it given the grotty UK conditions this bike is going to have to endure.
Hellbender headsets start at £74.99.
Vittoria Mazza tyres
Rounding off the Yeti is a pair of Vittoria Mazza 2.4in wide tyres that use Graphene 2.0 in their four compound rubber to improve grip while maintaining good rolling resistance.
Up front I’ve fitted the 2.4in wide Trail casing Tubeless Ready (TNT) tyre that weighs 930g. On the rear, I’ve gone for the tougher 2.4in wide Enduro casing TLR tyre which tips the scales at 1,140g.
As a new tyre to the market at the start of 2020, I was keen to give them a go on my bespoke Yeti build.
- Vittoria Mazza Trail casing Tubeless Ready (TNT): £59.99
- Vittoria Mazza Enduro casing TLR: £59.99
Yeti SB165 custom build price and weight
Had I gone to the shops and bought this exquisite custom build Yeti SB165, I would have had to part with £7,904.38 – making it less expensive than Yeti’s top-spec SB165 T3 TURQ full bike, especially if I wanted to fit DT Swiss carbon wheels and SRAM’s AXS drivetrain.
It’s still impressively expensive, though.
For the money, I’ve managed to land myself a pretty lightweight and seriously capable 180mm travel fork, 165mm rear travel enduro bike.
Without pedals the full build weighs 14.67kg / 32.34lb.
Yeti SB165 geometry
As the burliest bike Yeti currently sells, it’s not a surprise to see the SB165’s geometry sitting at the more progressive end of modern.
The size large I’m riding has a 63.5-degree head tube angle, a 77-degree effective seat tube angle and a 480mm reach figure.
It’s got 433mm chainstays (the same length across all sizes) and a 1,255.2mm wheelbase.
According to Yeti’s site, my 178cm height is at the very bottom of the size large’s fit range, but I think that someone with a height of 173cm would fit a large frame comfortably.
- Head angle: 63.5 degrees
- Seat angle: 77 degrees
- Chainstay length: 433mm
- Seat tube length: 450mm
- Top tube length: 621.5mm
- Head tube length: 121.6mm
- Wheelbase: 1,255mm
- Stack height: 609.9mm
- Reach: 480.1mm
Why did I choose this bike?
After spending nearly two years on my 29er Orange Stage 6 I was unsure which wheel size of enduro bike I wanted to ride into 2020 and 2021.
After discounting shorter travel rigs thanks to the terrain I’m going to be most frequently riding, the long travel, small-wheel sender Yeti SB165 became a forerunner pretty early on thanks to its progressive geometry, relative light weight and massive curiosity factor ignited by its cost and Switch Infinity link, plus Yeti’s long-standing reputation for making high-end bikes.
With all of those elements coming together, and my love for riding steep and fast tracks – fuelled by my recent move to the Tweed Valley – the SB165 looked like the perfect choice.
Yeti SB165 custom build initial setup
Building a bike up from scratch can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re missing key tools like a headset press or have ordered slightly incorrect components like a chainring that’s designed for a different chainline than the one your bike specifies.
I was therefore very careful to research the exact parts I needed to make sure the build and subsequent set up process went without a hitch.
I probably should have been a little more realistic with my expectations though, because it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
While getting the majority of the parts to fit was a doddle, including the forks, cranks, wheels, bar and stem and even the dropper post – with a notable mention going to the Yeti’s internal cable routing guides that made feeding the dropper, gear and brake cables simple – a few bits were less ideal.
I mentioned the brakes were particularly tricky to bleed before. I spent around five to seven hours actively purging the hydraulic system of air after trimming the brake hoses to fit the frame and forks.
Even when following TRP’s brake bleed guide to the letter using TRP oil and syringes, I still struggled to get the brakes to feel good.
I tried bleeding them in a multitude of different ways, eventually getting some success with the old-school system of bleeding them by pressurising the lever, opening the caliper bleed port, squeezing the lever then closing the bleed port and finally releasing the lever and topping up the lever reservoir before repeating the process at least 50 times. On each brake.
Now, even though I don’t profess to being the best mechanic in the world, and much prefer hammers over torque wrenches, I’m not totally inept and have been working on my own bikes for 20 years.
With that in mind, I was a little disappointed with how difficult it was to bleed the TRP DH-R EVO brakes, especially considering how easy it is to bleed SRAM’s Code or Guide G2 brakes.
The forks and rear shock have plenty of adjustment – both with external low- and high-speed rebound and compression adjusters – and were pretty easy to get to a point where I was happy. More tweaking is required, but setting a bike up is always going to be an on-going process.
Yeti SB165 custom build ride impressions
It’s safe to say the SB165 revealed itself to be a total bruiser on its first ride.
The 180mm travel Fox 38 fork felt plush and compliant, impressively absorbing rough chattery bumps while providing a solid platform to push against in corners, larger compressions and up takeoffs.
The fork’s composure and confidence is mirrored by the rear end’s Fox DHX2 coil shock, although my initial thoughts are that the stock 425lb spring is a little too soft for my preferences, despite it giving me the correct amount of sag.
The 480mm reach figure gave me plenty of space on the descents and combined with the slack head tube angle and long wheelbase makes the bike feel impressively composed when making progress on steep, technical and fast tracks.
The SB165 certainly comes alive when it’s being fed by gravity and it gobbles up roots, rocks and bumps like they’re non-existent, and swift direction changes and precise line choices are well within the bike’s bounds.
Its suspension makes it feel a little lethargic on flatter sections of trail, but the low weight helps to mitigate this to some extent.
The 77-degree seat tube angle is brilliant on the climbs and it’s easy to forget how much travel it has once the climb lever has been activated and you’re ascending.
Once the TRP DH-R EVO brakes were working, they proved to have enormous amounts of bite and power, feeling considerably more punchy than SRAM’s Code brakes.
The TR12 drivetrain has so far shifted accurately, but chainslap is quite bad. I’m going to address this by tightening up the mech’s clutch and investigate further.
Yeti SB165 custom build upgrades
I’ve got no immediate plans to change the Yeti’s spec, but will be on the hunt for some more winter-specific tyres once the weather closes in.
I’m also going to be testing e*thirteen’s new Vario dropper, so expect to see the OneUp post take a small holiday.
I’d like to investigate different spring rates for the rear shock in the not too distant future, too.
Stay tuned for more updates soon.