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E-MTB

Yeti 160E Long-Term Review

Yeti's race-ready e-mtb is built to go the distance.

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When I first reviewed the Yeti 160E last fall, I’d been on the bike for a couple months. I got a good enough feel for it during that test period to know that I didn’t want to give it back. And since we’re on a mission to publish more long-term reviews around here, I figured I might as well see if Yeti would let me hang onto this beauty for a lot longer. It’s a model that I’m really liking so far. You get more insight into what it’s like to actually own a bike rather than simply ride it around a bit, and I get a built-in excuse for not returning bikes I like when the companies come calling for them.

Yeti 160E

“I’d love to get it back to you, but it looks like we’ve got this one slated for a long term test,” I say. “Let’s circle back in a year or so, shall we?”

That wasn’t going to happen with this bike, though. Too much demand and too little supply—Yeti needed their bike back. So in the end I had to relinquish the trusty E160 after only about 10 months. So what did I learn about the 160E while it was one of my daily drivers?

 


Battery and Range


 

One of the first things I discovered was that the relatively small 630 watt-hour battery isn’t as big of a bummer as I thought it would be—but it is still a bit irritating. I mean, more battery is always better, right? Wouldn’t you want to be able to go for bigger, longer rides? Wouldn’t you want to alleviate the constant, incessant range anxiety that comes along with e-bike riding? Sure, but there’s a very measurable cost associated with more battery capacity: weight.

Yeti specifically chose to use Shimano’s 630Wh battery, even though there were options to run bigger units from alternative sources. One reason was availability. Yeti figured that Shimano batteries would be more readily available at bikes shops. Being able to find batteries would also make traveling overseas with the bike more feasible. The other reason was weight. The 160E was designed to be a race bike, so there was motivation to keep the heft to a minimum. As long as the 630Wh battery provides the bike with sufficient range, I’m all for a lighter setup. So, does it?

Yeti 160E

That’s a pretty difficult question to answer for a number of reasons. Range varies so much based on circumstances like terrain, rider weight, assist mode, and technique, that it’s tough to generate data that’s reliable and useful. Moreover, what counts as “sufficient” will vary from one rider to the next. I’m hesitant to publish actual ride stats, because I don’t anyone to expect a certain range just because I was able to achieve it. But I can’t say nothing, so before I tell you that the bike reliably does 25-mile rides with 5,500 feet of climbing with a comfortable buffer, I’m going to say this: Your results will vary.

With my riding kit and water, I’m about 210 pounds. Most of the climbing I did with this bike consisted of steep singletrack or fire roads. One of the things I love about riding e-bikes is climbing trails that are too steep to ride up on a normal bike. It opens up more routes and tends to keep me off fire roads more of the time. I also toggle between assist modes often in order to save battery. I spend most of my time in the stock trail (middle) mode, then toggle up to boost only when I need it. And when it’s a low-grade climb or flat, I’ll go down to eco mode. I’m also always more conservative with boost mode during the first half of the ride, and I’ll start ripping it more once I know I’m good to go. Doing this will reliably get me the stats I mentioned above without any range anxiety.

Yeti 160E

I also love doing shorter, full-boost rides. Going boost-or-bust will generally net me around 2,500 feet of climbing.

This is all perfectly satisfying to me. Yes, there have been times where I’ve foregone a bigger loop due to range anxiety, but to be honest, it’s not often that I plan rides that are longer than what this bike can handle anyway. I’m more of a three-hou- tour type rider at the moment. I don’t often have the time to stay out all day, so I’m happy with what the Yeti offers for range.

But, everyone has different priorities when it comes to e-bikes. If you’re the type of rider looking to maximize range at all costs, this is not the bike for you. In today’s full-powered e-bike market, 630Wh is just about the lowest on the totem pole. Capacity ain’t everything, but it is something, and with bikes now having options for 900Wh battery packs, we now have the option to opt for much more range.

Yeti 160E

I for one, don’t want the Yeti to be any heavier than it already is. At 51 pounds (with XT Trail pedals) it’s already 3 pounds heavier than the Specialized Levo I’ve been on for the past year. The new Canyon Spectral:ON CFR is lighter still. But neither of those bikes has as much travel as the Yeti, which sports 160mm rear and 170mm up front. Plus, this bike has 29 inch wheels front and back, while the Levo and Spectral both use 27.5-inch hoops out back. My point, before I get too off topic, is that I’d rather the 160E stay the same weight than put more magic lightning juice inside it.

 


Handling and Suspension


 

For more thoughts on ride impressions, I suggest reading my original review here. In this post, I’m basically just going to give an overall opinion of the 160E’s handling and suspension compared to other bikes I’ve ridden, and what I came away thinking after almost a year on it.

In a nutshell, Yeti nailed the suspension feel of this bike. It has a uniquely efficient and stable ride characteristic to it that most e-bikes just don’t have. It has more travel than the bikes I mentioned above, but both of those have a more plush, cloud-like ride feel to them (I’m referencing the previous generation Spectral:ON here. I have not ridden the new one yet). The 160E provides traction without any vagueness in a way that allows me to have an acute sense of where the bike is.

I wound up using the flip chips—which, rather than adjust geometry, make the suspension more or less progressive—to make the suspension more plush and linear, and it still feels more progressive and supportive than the Levo. The big rear wheel enables me to carry more speed through rough stuff than I can on the Levo. If I were racing, I’d choose the Yeti.

And even with how quick it is in a straight line, the 160E bobs and weaves really well. It’s easy to load the suspension and get a nice strong pop to use for changing direction, and the rear wheel isn’t so far back that I lose track of where it is.

But, it’s definitely more of a handful than the Levo. And the Spectral:ON, with its super-short chainstays, makes for an extremely playful ride compared to the Yeti. This bike is all about getting down to the business of speed. During the time I had it, it became my go-to on rides where I needed an extra level of security. It’s poppy and maneuverable enough to still be super fun, but for rides with tighter, more technical trails, or if I just wanted to goof around, it wasn’t the bike I’d reach for. Also, the small rear wheel on the Levo makes it better suited on steep and deep loamers like those found in Washington and British Columbia, while the Yeti outpaces the Levo on the high-speed chunk found in the Sierra and Rocky Mountains.

 


Reliability


 

I’ll just get my biggest gripe out of the way right now, because after this it’s pretty much all praise. What I dislike the most about the 160E is the Shimano EP8 motor. Specifically, the incessant rattling sound it makes when descending. It’s really annoying and makes me enjoy riding the bike less. I’ve been told that there’s a fix for this issue, but I’ve not yet heard of someone having it repaired. This isn’t a Yeti problem, per se—I currently have three other EP8-equipped e-bikes, all of which rattle—but it’s not a small problem either, for me anyway. Unless I could secure a fix for the rattle, there’s not a chance I would part with my own dough for a bike equipped with one of these motors. Clearly, most people don’t feel as strongly as I do about this issue, because a ton of EP8 bikes are being sold. But, the 160E is otherwise so smooth, so quiet, and so put together, that the rattling motor really seems to stand out. I love the way this bike rides, but that’d be a deal breaker for me.

That is a bummer because if I were getting ready to plunk down 13 grand for a new whip, it’d be the only thing about this amazing bike to cause any hesitation. The parts spec is nearly perfect, with a smart mix of Shimano and SRAM. Shimano drivetrain components provide the best shifting experience money can buy, the RockShox Reverb ASX wireless dropper post is leagues ahead of anything else, and SRAM Code brakes are fan favorites. I didn’t have a problem with a single component during the 10 months I had the bike. It’s as simple as that. The Fox 38 fork and Float X2 shock have survived without any issues as well. The shock holding up is a particularly good sign. Some frame designs put a lot of side-loading on shocks, causing them to fail at higher rates, but the 160E’s layout design protects the shock from these forces. It’s definitely something to consider since many e-bikes still come with shocks that were designed for non-motorized bikes.

All of the pivots held up perfectly as well. I put a tool on them after a couple months of riding it just to check the torques, and they were all still snugged up just fine. There wasn’t a single piece of loose hardware on the bike for the whole test period, which tells me that both design and assembly were done right. Results often vary from one frame to the next, but generally speaking, if there’s a protocol for a pivot bolt to have thread locker applied during assembly, there’s a good chance most frames will have it off the line.

The battery armor held up to my abuse just fine, and I actually like the way the battery is installed under the downtube rather than being slid into the frame itself. Aside from the battery swapping benefits, I dig the design for durability and serviceability because the guard is replaceable if needed, and it’s nice not having to worry about paint getting destroyed.

 


Final Thoughts


 

Yeti did an amazing job on this bike. For the company’s first attempt at an e-bike, they really knocked it out of the park on handling, build quality, and durability. I’d love to see them take some weight off, although it’s tough to be too critical on that front because the 160E has more travel than every e-bike I know of that’s lighter. And, I have a couple that have less travel and are heavier. But, I’d love to see a bike like this come in under 50 pounds.

I’m blown away with how well the 160E rides, though. The learning curve basically only consisted of recalibrating my braking because my entry speeds were constantly higher on this bike. For long-travel e-bike, it’s surprisingly natural and easy-riding. Add to that an absolutely dialed suspension platform, and rugged, reliable frame design, and the 160E is no-doubt one of the best e-bikes there is right now.