Lifetime Fitness

The Yeti 160E Is a Rip-Roaring, Race-Specific Electric Mountain Bike

I’ve tested a lot of e-bikes, and it’s been fun to ride them, but I never considered adding one to my quiver until I rode the Yeti 160E. When Yeti set out to build the 160E, the brand’s first e-bike, they weren’t satisfied with slapping a battery and motor on an existing frame and trying to retrofit their Switch Infinity suspension around those parts. The race-driven company wanted to build a bike to go as fast as possible with the same feel as the rest of its line, giving riders the best possible experience up and downhill. So, they started by developing a new six-bar suspension platform called Sixfinity, paired it with Shimano’s Steps battery and motor, added a Turq carbon frame, and the Yeti 160E was born.

The Specs: What Makes the Yeti 160E Stand out From the Pack

The 29-inch wheel 160mm rear travel, 170mm front travel bike is the first pedal-assist enduro bike I’ve ridden with instantly responsive handling, and power delivery so smooth I barely felt the assist engaging and disengaging. The new suspension design let Yeti keep chainstays short, the headtube slack, and the seat angle close to the geometry of the brand’s premier pedal enduro bike, the SB150. The 64.5-degree head angle, 78-degree seat tube, and 446mm chainstays are nearly identical. The geometry and finely tuned antisquat and antirise made the ride lively, thrilling, and so much fun.

The bike has clearance for a 2.6-inch tire clearance in the rear. Custom guards protect the frame, and the fork clears the downtube on all sizes. A rear mud fender protects motor and linkage. A shock drainage port lets water and mud out. All sizes are water bottle compatible with superb standover.

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Better Performance With Sixfinity and a Flip Chip

Similar to Yeti’s Switch Infinity linkage, Sixfinity switches direction as a rider gets deeper into this bike’s travel, giving it Yeti’s signature “bottomless suspension” feel while accommodating the weight and speed that comes with a motor and battery. It’s quiet, and the power delivery is smooth. This bike had none of the jerky, surgy power of other e-bikes I’ve ridden, and when I stopped pedaling, the power didn’t keep my wheels engaged.

Yeti’s team honed in on kinematics, too. When you’re pedaling an e-MTB versus a traditional pedal bike, you use a greater range of gears climbing; you sit down more; and an e-MTB bike is typically a lot heavier than a pedal enduro bike. So Yeti recalibrated antisquat and antirise to give the bike consistent, predictable performance regardless of what gear you’re in. It doesn’t bounce, it doesn’t dive, and its low center of gravity provides an extra boost of confidence in the most technical terrain.

Close-up of the Yeti 160E flip chip.

Close-up of the Yeti 160E flip chip.
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Because Yeti knows its fans like to tinker, they added a flip chip so you can pick your ride feel. The 30 percent stock position lends a well-balanced ride. When you want a more efficient feel with greater terrain feedback, flip the chip to the 25 percent position. For a plusher feel with more pop, flip the chip to the 35 percent position, which will also be ideal if you swap the shock the bike comes with for a coil.

Yeti tested this bike to downhill standards, and riders who are keen to run it with a double crown fork can. Jared Graves and Jubal Davis are racing EWS-E (an e-bike extension of the Enduro World Series) aboard the 160E. EWS-E racing rules limit power output to 25Km/h, so the pedaling efficiency of Sixfinity suspension should give Yeti riders an advantage when they’re pedaling above the power limits.

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The 160E comes with Shimano’s slowest charger and takes around 12 hours to go from 0 to 100 percent. That’s not a downfall, per se. Yeti chose the slowest charger to give the bike maximum charge cycles, but Shimano also sells faster chargers if you want to go that route.

Man riding electric mountain bike in full helmet and goggles

The Yeti 160E is remarkable responsive and playful.
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Take Note, There’s a Learning Curve for the Yeti 160E

The biggest learning curve on this bike wasn’t downhill, it was up. Three modes—eco, tour, and boost—let you decide how much assist you want on climbs and descents. It might take a few rides to figure out how to best navigate twisting, rock-littered trail at higher speeds, not to mention with the torque of a batter and motor supplementing your legs.

You’ll go farther faster on this bike, but don’t think it’s a free ride. When you pedal the 160E, you’re moving a heavy bike around, concentrating non-stop, and covering a lot of ground. I always come back tired, and sometime sore in new places because I’ve just done four days of riding in one.

If you plan to ride pavement, rail trails, or want a commuter, don’t buy this bike. It’s tuned for singletrack shredding. If you’re an avid rider but weren’t convinced that pedal assist could ever meet your standards, this bike will change your mind.

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[Available in S-XL in two builds, C-1 Turq ($10,100), and T-1 Turq. ($12,700); yeticycles.com]

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