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E-MTB

Tested: Yeti 160E

Yeti pulls out all the stops on its purebred, race-inspired e-enduro bike, complete with an all-new e-bike dedicated suspension platform.

Basics

-160mm rear, 170mm front travel
-29-inch wheels
-Shimano EP8 drvie unit
-85Nm torque


Pros

-Efficent pedaling
-Sophisticated feeling suspension
-Excellent geometry for enduro riding and racing
-Long enough range for big days

Cons

-EP8 motor rattles
-Not industry-leading battery capacity
-Expensive


Price

$12,700

Brand

Yeti


Tell me E-MTBs aren’t just for kooks anymore without telling me E-MTBs aren’t just for kooks anymore.

If the Yeti 160E hadn’t been the worst kept secret of 2021, I suspect there’d be folks out there surprised that a core brand like Yeti is releasing an e-bike. But for the growing number of converted e-bike lovers among us, the sentiment is more like, “What took so long?”

What took so long is that the engineering brains at Yeti went ahead and designed an entirely new suspension platform for the 160E. Not because they got bored and wanted to do more math, but because if you take a look at Yeti’s existing platform, Switch Infinity, all the magic happens right where an e-bike motor needs to go. And as much as the cool little Switch Infinity unit looks like it could be a tiny combustion engine, it is in fact, not one.

So a new suspension platform that could work around a motor had to be developed. Yeti calls it Sixfinity. The name comes from the fact that Yeti was chasing a system that’d behave a lot like Swith Infinity, and that it’s a six-bar linkage. It’s not a totally new invention—it’s actually based on what’s called a Stephenson Type I linkage. Felt’s Equalink system was as based on the same principal as well, though they don’t make mountain bikes anymore.

The switch part of Switch Infinity comes from the lower link changing directions during the suspension’s movement. That still happens with Sixfinity as well, and it gives Yeti the ability to control the anti-squat and anti-rise properties throughout the travel range. For instance, the pedaling platform drops off deeper in the travel when pedaling efficiency takes a back seat to bump absorbing.

We really don’t need to dive into the enginerding rabbit hole, though. We don’t need to get into all the charts and graphs that came in the 160E media kit, because what actually matters is what it feels like and how it rides. And that’s actually pretty simple to explain: It rides like a Yeti.

Even though Yeti essentially weakened the pedaling platform in favor of improving traction, it still feels more efficient than plush. If you’ve ever ridden a Switch Infinity bike, you know the feeling. You get this really solid pedaling efficiency that powers through rough stuff without bobbing all over the place. While other bikes can feel more like a smooth luxury sedan soaking up every ripple, Yetis tend to feel more like a taught race car. You feel more of the trail, but they hold up better when being pushed to the edge. It’s become a bit of a Yeti trademark over the years, and it stays 100 percent true to the brand’s race-driven heritage.

To say Yeti is motivated by racing would be an understatement. In fact, it might not be inaccurate to say that, had there not been a way to enter their bike in a racing format, Yeti wouldn’t have made the 160E at all. So perhaps in a way, we can thank the Enduro World Series (EWS) e-bike category for existence of this bike.

We can also thank racing for the fact that the 160E has two 29-inch wheels instead of a mixed-wheel setup, because it’s faster—and we can thank Yeti’s big brains for keeping the chainstays short enough to make the bike handle easily and intuitively. At 446mm, the 160E’s stays are just 4mm longer than the ones on the Specialized Levo, which is a dedicated mixed-wheel setup specifically to keep the rear-end short.

Whether or not those 4mm have more of a negative impact than running a smaller wheel could probably be argued, but in my book, 446mm is still in the acceptably short category, which means the Yeti has the best of both worlds. I do love the Specialized and I think that they made the right choice for them, because in their case a 29-inch wheel would have added somewhere around 10mm to the rear end. I’ll take a small wheel over long stays, but if you can figure out how to do a big wheel and short stays, that seems like the ultimate goal.

Another feature I love about the 160E is the fact that it has flip chips to adjust the leverage rate of the suspension, not the geometry. I’m good with the geo. The 64.5-degree head angle is spot-on for the aggressive terrain the bike is designed for, the steep 78-degree seat angle is great for pedaling even though there’s a motor helping you, and the 480mm reach on the size large is right where it should be for a modern enduro bike. But I’m not always good with the race-inspired, sometimes harsh-feeling signature Yeti rear suspension feel, so it’s awesome that the flip chips allow you to change the leverage rate by 10 percent. The bike comes with the 30% chips installed, but a second set comes with the bike that allow you to run either a firmer, even more efficient 25% leverage rate, or a plusher 35% rate. That one’s for me.

In all, the 160E is a really tight, well-executed package. Yeti really knocked it out of the park for their first e-attempt. The cable management is really well done, right down to moto-style brake routing compatibility and Yeti making its own thermoplastic handlebar that integrates the Shimano E-Tube wire that runs between the remote switch and the display unit. There’s even a drain hole in the lower shock mount well so that water doesn’t collect there, and also a well-integrated mud fender to protect the shock and motor. Other than the annoying rattle coming from the Shimano EP8 motor, the bike is remarkably quiet.

Given the choice between bolt-on drive units, though, I’d still take the Shimano over the others I’ve ridden. It’s not perfect, but for me it still comes in second place behind the Specialized system. I wish it had a bigger-capacity battery than 630 watt-hours, I’d like the motor itself to quit rattling, and I’d like a better user interface and more output levels. The Shimano system doesn’t even give you a readout of remaining battery percentage, it shows this stupid battery icon with five bars. These are all really small details, none of which are deal-breaking, and none of which are Yeti’s doing. Just like basically everyone except Specialized, Yeti is limited a bit when it comes to the power unit and the software that users interface with. But, I do like the Shimano system quite a bit, and there are advantages to using a bolt-on system over the much more expensive proprietary route.

The 160E is a remarkably good e-bike that’s at home on most any terrain. Its 160mm rear, 170mm front travel is obviously best suited for big terrain, but e-bikes tend to do better with more travel, so I wouldn’t recommend against a bike like this for riders on the east coast, for instance. Because it’s so efficient at pedaling, it’s actually very good at picking its way through tight, techy terrain. And it’s balanced well front to back, which allows it descend and jump naturally as well.

Spec-wise, there’s really not much to argue with on this beautiful T1 Turq series build. Some folks might prefer Shimano stoppers over the SRAM Codes, but there seem to be a lot of Code fans out there too. The RockShox Reverb AXS spec is my favorite part of the build, but it’s also worth mentioning the Fox Factory suspension and Maxxis tires with Double Down casing on the back and EXO+ casing up front. And there’s simply no way to argue that Shimano’s 12-speed drivetrain performs better on e-bikes than SRAM’s stuff. It makes cleaner shifts than even a SRAM AXS group does. I’m an enthusiastic fan of the AXS stuff, but when it comes to the actual mechanical chain/cassette interface, Shimano wins.

Of all the e-bikes I’ve ridden, the 160E is my second favorite. I still prefer the Levo for its system integration, user interface, and e-bike specific features, but from a bike chassis, handling, and suspension performance standpoint, the 160E is incredibly hard to beat.