Looking for that perfect ride to make the 2018 season the best ever has lead me on a wild goose chase through a maze of jack of all trades master of none frames. Most of the XC bikes such as the Niner RKT, Cannondale Scalpel, and Scott Spark RC are a lean towards purpose built race machines with steep headtube angles, low bottom brackets, and almost fragile construction built to shave off every last gram. A curious niche has evolved in the 100mm -120mm range which encompasses the Yeti Sb4.5, Niner Jet 9 RDO, Pivot Mach 429, and many others. Tipping the scales between 5.5 lbs – 6lbs, this new shortish travel niche is neither enduro nor xc / endurance race ready and seems to be more a less a curiosity for some of us who favor terrain specific builds.
There have been reports highlighting the competitive nature of industry’s attempt to try and market to repeat customers with 29ers, 27.5ers, fat bikes, plus bikes, or “upgrades” such as boost in order to maintain sales since millennials have not embraced mountain biking nearly as much as expected or predicted in sales forecasts. One logical conclusion is buying a mountain bike is an expensive proposition especially for new graduates who have been socked with college debt. Dropping $7000.00 on a new mountain bike presents a mighty challenge and dropping $7000.00 for several bikes quickly passes the cost of many passenger cars. The technology that has launched this sport forward might also be responsible for holding back further advancement as consumers look for just one bike to do it all.
With Yeti discontinuing the ASR, I had hoped the SB4.5 might be a serious replacement for heading out the door and logging miles on rougher terrain. Unfortunately the listed weight of 5.28lbs fell short of the actual 5.87 lbs on my alpine scale for the medium Turq frame. My 2018 build will be the first to feature 1×12 Sram Eagle, so not having the front derailer aka derailleur is far from a deal breaker, however the single water bottle cage on the bottom side of the downtube presents hydration issues on those packless rides. PF92 bottom brackets also solve a non-existent problem and leave many of us looking for solutions to solve the solution to the non-existent problem. Sending the deer running and driving your riding buddies insane, Press Fit invites creaking, poor fitting, and in extreme cases, damage to the shell. From an engineering perspective, Press Fit does not consider standardization such a torque requirements. Anyone with a headset press can in theory introduce compressive failure since headset presses do not have compression gauges. Not that anyone has actually cracked their shell with a headset press, but a proper standard such as 5 n-m torque has not been assigned by most manufactures. My other gripe with press fit revolves around thermal contraction or expansion. Here in Arizona, my Niner Air 9 carbon with a press fit BB seems to become extra creaky on hot days. Though minor issues, the sum of compromises presents me with a frame that would actually dictate how I ride instead of serving as a tool to improve my current riding style or make that riding style more fun. This same philosophy seems to be echoed in lower bottom bracket trends, where riders are held responsible for pedal strikes and no blame shall ever be passed onto the geometry. Swapping 175mm to 170mm cranks is yet another solution to a non-existent problem. Of course, most riders would agree some of those old school 14 in + bottom brackets produced terribly misbehaved trail bikes.
After much anticipation and excitement, I’m spending a Saturday boxing the frame and initiating a return instead of building in the shade with my Park Tool Apron and a cold beer. When you are spending $3400.00 for a frame, the compromises should be few if any. On order for next week is an ASR Turq that will require parting out and rebuilding as a 1×12 Eagle XX. I’m sure Yeti has thoroughly conducted their market research before releasing the SB4.5, however in my opinion keeping the ASR and jumping to the SB5 without a step in between would seem more logical. Still the Switch Infinity is the only suspension design I have ever ridden without pedal bob, so having an xc-ish bike with SI might be quite appealing to certain riders.