Ride Impression: Yeti ARC Carbon 29″er- by Grannygear
[Note: This is a ride impression, not a full review and as such we will need to take into consideration that the set-up of suspension and bike fit may not have been optimized as it would have been during a longer review period. Just for perspective's sake, etc. Editors.]
At Sea Otter 2103, Yeti showed the two new carbon 29″ers…the SB95c 120mm FS and the ARC Carbon hard tail. Beauty! Then I heard that the Yeti Demo van was going to be back at my local backyard trails and they would have a selection of the latest goods with them. Well, it can be quite a while before a ‘little guy’ like us can get a real test opportunity on a bike(s) this hot as the competition is fierce and the supply is limited, so I suited up and signed on the dotted line to get on a couple of demo samples.
To begin with, I had to deal with a less than full selection of sizes. In the Yeti ARC Carbon hard tail I only had a Medium to ride. Hmmm…not the best, although the saving grace is that Yeti builds with a long top tube. The Medium with the seat slid back on the barely offset Thomson post and a tweak or two to the bars/stem gave me a compressed but OK fit. I would ride a LG in this bike if I had the choice. I did end up with the seat post extended about a half inch above the warning mark.
The naked carbon look is not as purty to my eyes as the turquoise version, but it still it has nice lines brought about in shaped carbon tubes.
Hefting the XTR equipped ARC was pretty easy. Light bike. No scale, but it was competitive. Maxxis Ikon 2.2s, DT Swiss wheels, Fox fork, WTB saddle, carbon Easton bars…good to go. I barely got down the open fire road and my impression was that it was a firm ride. But I have been spoiled by 27.2 carbon or Ti seat posts lately and that oversize aluminim Thomson, even at beyond max extension, was hardly giving at all. Ok. Get on the pedals hard and it just takes off. I can look down at the bottom bracket area and see barely ANY deflection or wind-up in the seat/chain stays. You just shoot forward. Out of the saddle is the same. Zoom zoom.
I can look ahead at the front axle and see that it is out ahead a bit more than you would expect for such a small frame, owing to the moderate 70° HT angle no doubt. That feels very good to me; very ‘momma bear’…not too quick, not too slow. The trails I selected are the same ones I rode the Ibis Ripley on. I did that mostly to compare the SB95c to the Ripley, but it will do for the ARC as well. The trails are pretty tight in places with loose dirt and small stumps in awkward places like at the apex of a turn, so you need a bike that can turn well or you will sample some Yucca plants. Add in some high ‘G’ compression dips and rocks and it is a good place to get a feel for a bike under moderate to slow trail speeds and if the bike cannot turn well, you will find out here.
Dropping into the first of two trails, I am once again reminded that the ARC is not a smoothie. No soft tail here. I am feeling every bump in the trail through the back end of the bike and I stopped a couple of times to drop the tire pressure a bit. At the end of the ride I measured the rear tire pressure at 23.5psi and it still did not feel that compliant, but at least it was not kicking up on sharp impacts. I am running a set of 2.2 Ikons on another carbon hard tail (the Specialized Stumpy SS) at 26-28psi and it is not harsh like this, but that Stumpy is the nicest riding carbon frame I have been on yet. To keep perspective though, the Stumpy has a lot more twist/flex in the frame compared to the ARC. However, the handling of the Yeti ARC was making me very happy. Loved, loved, loved the way it steered down the trail. That ‘momma bear’ 70° front end and short 17″ chain stays allowed me to drive the bike around a corner with the back wheel right under my hips and the front wheel keeping it right on track. What is it about Colorado bike companies that seem to have a certain trail feel (thinking of Spot Brand too)? Maybe it is the trail conditions they ride, but it feels pretty good to me in So Cal as well.
Back at the demo tent I reflected on the ARC. Yes, I wish I had a longer bike that was more my size but it was not tragic and it did not interfere with the impression as far as I am concerned. I absolutely loved the steering. I wish all my hard tail 29″ers drove down the trail like this. I was not a fan of the ride quality but I have been spoiled by carbon that does more for taking the sting out of the trail than this bike does. Even the oversize tubes in my Lynskey Ti frame ride nicer than this and pedal almost as briskly. The Stumpy absolutely kills it for ride compliance although it is not nearly as stout pedaling a frame and yet the Stumpy does not feel any slower by it.
I would ride this bike with something like a Niner RDO carbon seat post (with the decent flex even in an over size post diameter), a WTB Pure V saddle for some extra padding and width, and the highest volume rear tire I could stuff in there running at the lowest pressure that kept it off the rocks. I cannot help but think that there could be some more ‘give’ engineered into the frame that is not there now. I would not change a thing about the handling though. That part Yeti nailed.