Monday, December 17, 2018

A Yeti Beti Tale

It's interesting that over the years of riding bicycles what I find enjoyable has a sort of ebb and flow to it. There are times when I want to ride only on paved roads and push as hard as I can, or only ride roads at a leisurely pace; and then there are stretches when I want to avoid roads traveled by motorists as much as possible and seek out dirt, gravel and other pathways to ride more regularly. This year has been kind of a mixed bag for me, having done a fair amount of paved road riding, but also seeking out off-the-paved-surfaces possibilities too.

Over the past winter, I ended up selling my fat tire bike during my "everything must go" phase. It wasn't that I didn't like it, but we haven't seen any significant snow here for a few years, and I am not a big fan of driving somewhere to ride (at least not on a regular basis). I had intended to use this bike as a mountain bike as well, so it made sense to keep it, but it was on the heavy side to use for that purpose, so it ended up sitting around far more than I wanted.

Then one day I got on a kick searching for Yeti mountain bikes. I wasn't really looking for a mountain bike - I have a sketchy past with mountain biking - but I was finding myself riding mildly rougher terrain, and wanting to do so, which was causing me to think a mountain bike might not be entirely unreasonable. I have been particularly drawn to Yeti because it's a local company, and I have appreciated that they've listened to the women who race and ride their bikes and then modified appropriately to make the Yeti Beti line.

It was all a passing fancy sort of thought though - nothing seriously would come from it. But, once the thought was in my head, I wanted to try out some different manufacturers bikes. Finding bikes to test was more of a challenge than I expected. Rocky Mountain was doing demos at a local bike shop, but I managed to miss out on that due to some miscommunication. We tried a couple of shops in Denver, but it's fairly difficult to find a shop that carries smaller mountain bikes, and I have grown weary of having to buy before I can try. I knew that I could demo a Yeti at their home location in Golden, Colorado, but the time frames for testing were making it challenging to get there and deep down I knew that I would never plunk down the money for a new Yeti.

As Sam and I sat talking one afternoon, he reminded me that we know someone who owns a Yeti and is about my height, and she might even be willing to let me test it. A quick message was sent off and after some back and forth I was informed that she had sold the Yeti but that she was in the process of trying to sell a Trek mountain bike that she would be happy to let me test.
2012 Trek Lush carbon mountain bike
Sam thought it couldn't hurt to try out her Trek and at least it would give me an idea of sizing and even what I may or may not like about it, so we took our friend up on the offer to let me test out her carbon Lush. After riding it around the neighborhood, it seemed nice enough, but I wasn't really able to test it on anything other than cement. She offered to let us take it home. "Ride it as long as you like and if you like it, then we can talk," was her statement.

It's hard to say no to an offer like that. A test ride for as long as I desire? That just doesn't happen. The Trek was super fun to ride and I even fussed with changing handlebars and saddle to make it something that I would want to regularly ride. Maybe it was all of the rigid steel I'd been used to riding, but something about the full suspension, carbon frame was speaking to me. It was a strange feeling for someone who is used to more classic looking and riding steel bicycles, I confess.

During the process of riding the Trek, Sam and I spotted a Yeti frame online that happened to be for sale by a local. It was an incredibly good deal, but it was a frame-only sale and it was still more than I really wanted to spend to test out my interest in mountain biking. I kind of kept an eye on it but noticed about a week or two later that the frame had sold. I figured someone had got themselves a great deal and I moved on with life, enjoying the Trek.

Unbeknownst to me, Sam had bought the Yeti frame and was setting it aside to give me as a birthday/anniversary gift. To my surprise and delight, Sam hauled out a Yeti Beti SB5... while I was in absolute shock. It's something that honestly neither of us would ever splurge to buy new, but since the frame was a year old (and the deal of the century) and the parts could be sourced at bargain/sale prices, it made something that would never happen into a reality.

I was physically shaking when I realized what was in front of me. And then, I became a bit terrified which caused a whole different type of shaking. What if I didn't like the bike? What if it didn't ride the way I expected? I didn't want to seem ungrateful, but even at a great price, I knew this was not an inexpensive gift!

As if reading my mind, Sam stated, "I figured, even if you end up not liking it, we can always sell it as a whole bike and at least break even - or maybe even make a few bucks."  That seemed to put my mind at ease and I felt as though I could try out this new-to-me mountain bike without the pressure of anything else looming in the background.

For anyone who has read here for a longer amount of time, you are well aware that mountain biking is not really in my wheelhouse. I've had some terrifying mountain bike rides that have kept me from ever really wanting to be on a mountain bike - even on tame terrain. But, the fat tire bike that had been sold off did help get me over many of my fears and while I still wouldn't claim to be the bravest individual when it comes to rocky surfaces, I have become a little more confident with at least giving these types of rides a chance before running away crying like a scared little girl.

What exactly is on this mountain bike? Though it's not a stock build, it has many of the parts that are found on the SB5s: Yeti Beti SB5 Turq frame, Rockshox Recon Silver fork (Sam has a personal aversion to Fox forks, and I have no personal opinion on the matter, so thus the Rockshox), a mix of SRAM Eagle GX and XO1 drivetrain, and two different wheels (because we had one and weren't concerned about having a matching set) - a WTB rear wheel and a DT Swiss front.  I know a lot of people love their trigger shifters, but this build has a twist shifter -- and I have to say, I really like it. Because of my hand/wrist issues, I think having the twist is easier and even if my hand isn't feeling great, I can still shift easily/smoothly.

Although Sam is known here as an endurance mountain bike racer, regularly racing in 50-100+ mile events, I definitely do not fall into that category. If I complete a 10-15 mile mountain bike ride, that is "long distance" for me. I don't know why, but mountain biking has just never been something I've been able to do for any sort of distance. It's not just the terrain, but being on a mountain bike tends to do me in quickly. I can ride mileage on a road bike, but settling in for that length of time on a mountain bike has just never appealed to me, nor been possible as my body simply fatigues very early on.
For the first test ride on the Yeti, Sam came along so that he could adjust things for me if needed/wanted. I hadn't ridden the bike yet, other than down the street at home just to make sure nothing felt strange, so when we set out I expected that we were only going to ride at most 10-15 miles (and that would only be the case if things were going well). Instead, we ended up riding just shy of 30 miles. Score one for the Yeti.

I was surprised by how comfortable I was on the bike, honestly. I'm not sure that I've ever had an experience quite like it on a mountain bike (and there have been many attempts over the years to turn me into a mountain biker). I was a little fatigued when we arrived home, but the saddle wasn't quite adjusted to my liking and I'm sure I was death gripping the bars a bit just being on a new-to-me bike. Still, I had fun!
The next couple of rides were solo adventures in the mid-20ish mile range, but they were pleasant as well. By that third ride, I'd managed to add just over 2 mph to my average speed too, which was pretty shocking (but exciting).

What I was noticing early on was that I really like the 1x12 gearing. The simplicity of having just one front ring and only needing a rear shifter was fantastic. Plus, the gear ratios seem to be a good fit for my body. Having a 10-50 tooth on the rear pretty much gives me what I need with a 32t crank. I have yet to find a hill I can't climb, so that says something, I think... and even when that day comes (because it will - I certainly haven't been on the steepest terrain possible yet), I'll just get off the bike and walk. Truthfully, I have more of an issue with spinning out downhill than I do with climbing gears, but that just keeps down hill speeds in check.

It's strange to be so giddy over this type of bicycle, particularly as it's been several months now and I don't tend to be visually drawn to the modern shapes and forms of carbon, but I really do get excited about riding this little lady! Oh, I'm definitely not of the stock that this type of bike was meant for, but I've tried to reassure myself that just because I'm not out shredding, doesn't mean I can't enjoy this bike. And it is a sweet ride. Plus, I feel a little like a bad-ass riding it - even if I really am far from that descriptor.

I've now had the opportunity to ride this Yeti on several rides over the past months and it has yet to disappoint. There are times when I'm tired and not quite up to par, but it's always fun to ride -- even when I'm not at my best. There have been some modifications as I've continued to ride it -- the handlebars were way too wide for me and needed to be cut down (more than once) to get to an appropriate width for my body. We also switched out the short 50mm stem for a 70mm, which helped both a bit with handling and positioning (I do realize most mtbs have short stems, but the slightly longer one seemed to help in this situation). I'm even trying out a non-leather saddle currently - something I've not done in several years on any bike (I do love my leather saddles). While the leather rides nicely on this bike, I worry about it getting muddy and wet frequently, so I think a synthetic might wear better over time.

This bike came into my life at a time when I was adrift in a sea of road-bike hunting, and not having settled on any particular one (and having sold off any incarnation of road bikes I'd had), actually allowed me a lot of focused time to ride the Yeti, which was a blessing in disguise. Had I owned a road bike, I doubt that I would've realized just how much fun this bike really is to ride. I've even taken it on solo, mainly-road rides when we've had cold/icy days, just because it was comfortable and fun to use. Though it doesn't allow for typical road speeds, sometimes enjoying the ride and having the ability to veer off into dirt or gravel, just makes it that much better.

There are days when I've wondered if this is a short-term infatuation or something that will last. It's partially why I've waited a bit to write about the Yeti. It's as though I keep waiting to go on a ride and decide that I no longer like this bike because, typically, that is what would happen with me and any mountain bike. But, I keep waiting and that ride or day has yet to materialize.

A few days ago, I took the bike on a more technical ride and realized I have a long way to go when it comes to conquering my trepidation with certain terrain; however, I also didn't have a complete meltdown when obstacles were presented, as would've happened in the past, and instead dismounted and walked through the area to a place where I felt comfortable to get on and ride again. I think this speaks a great deal to the bike's abilities (and what it's given to me). I know it is capable of far tougher riding than it's been put through to date, but it has also inspired confidence in the rider that hasn't been present on any mountain bike in the past.  Every time I ride, I become a little more bold with tackling something I never would have in the past; and for that, I am so grateful.

Perhaps this same journey could have happened on any modern mountain bike. After all, I am not so foolish as to think this is the only bike that would've been able to bring about more courage over rougher paths, but it is the tool that has taken me there and I have enjoyed every (sometimes overly challenging) minute of it. And honestly, if a bike can put a smile on my face even after I'm physically spent, I know it's a keeper... and this, my friends, is what I believe will be a keeper.

5 comments:

  1. A keeper — whoo hoo! This bike looks nothing at all like the aesthetic I associate with you, but if beauty is in function, then this one is gorgeous.

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    1. Kendra,

      It is not at all what I would call "my taste" in bicycles either as far as aesthetics are concerned, but when something works, it's hard to deny it.

      Hope you are enjoying the holiday season and have been able to get in a few rides. :)

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    2. Hey - I’m sometimes on a recumbent trike, so the “if it works” school of thought is very much in line with my thinking. Enjoy!

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  2. GE - I'm glad to see you're open to new experiences! With all the changes to cycling, in either equipment and accessories, it would be easy to dismiss an option by looks alone. Owning a comfortable mountain bike will open up a lot more riding miles away from automobiles - a primary motivator that I've heard about time and again from road riders that switch to mountain biking.

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    Replies
    1. It's been a lot of fun, Annie... and, you are so right. Dismissing an option purely based on looks would be a shame, especially in this instance.

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