FORT COLLINS, Colorado (VN) — A bike need not be a race bike to be fast, or, far more importantly, fun. Too often we pigeonhole these machines into a category. Everything these days is slotted into one of more than half a dozen different on-dirt classes, yet all that really matters is that you ride it, and enjoy it.
Yeti Cycles, an industry leader in trail and enduro bikes with its Super Bike (SB) line, has left its ASR cross-country bike untouched for years, and most recently left it off its lineup all together. Now, it’s back.
The new ASR is no white-bread cross country platform. With a carbon fiber frame, a long top tube, and 120mm of front travel and 100mm in the rear, the new ASR Carbon is an all-party mullet (the best kind of mullet); all party in the front AND the back.
The first Yeti ASR was introduced back in 2001. At the time, it’s 100mm of travel had XC racers scratching their heads, but Yeti wanted to build a bike that went downhill as well as it did uphill. It even resorted to a bit of trickery to get the handling it desired while keeping geometry in line with expectations.
“Back then everything had to have a 71-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle or racers wouldn’t ride it,” said Yeti President and co-owner Chris Conroy. “We printed that it was 71/73, but it had a 69-degree head angle. We snuck that in there, and it won a lot of editor’s choice awards. They all loved the way it rode.”
Today, a cross-country bike with 100mm of travel is commonplace. The ASR-c’s 120mm fork is a bit outside the box, but not completely revolutionary. Specialized’s Camber comes in both 110mm and 120mm travel options, and similar to the ASR-c, the Niner JET 9 RDO comes with either a 100mm or 120mm fork option, with 100mm in the back.
Yeti’s approach has always been based on the trails surrounding its Golden, Colorado headquarters, trails full of chunky rocks and tricky lines. “We build bikes based on the terrain that we ride,” Conroy said. “We wanted a little bit longer fork, because of the way it sits in the travel, and most of all, the way it descends.”
Build and Pricing
For now, the ASR Carbon is only available in two complete build options. A frame-only option will be available down the road, but at the moment, buyers will have to choose between two single-ring options. The price jump from the $5,800 XO1 model and the $10,000 XX1 flagship is hefty; much of the price increase is due to the upgrade from Stan’s ZTR Crest wheels to carbon fiber Enve M50s with DT Swiss 240 hubs. The frame, fork, shock, handlebars, stem, and tires are the same on both models.
29” or 27.5”? Yeti likes both
Let’s talk wheel size. For me, anything from 120mm-travel downwards should, in general, be a 29er. The big wheels work great on shorter-travel frames, and that is how this test-sled, a size large ASR, was built. But Yeti has done something relatively unusual with the range: smaller riders get smaller wheels. The small and extra-small ASRs come with 27.5” wheels, while the three larger sizes all come with 29” wheels.
From a geometry standpoint, the difference makes sense, as the smaller wheels can help smaller riders get lower on the front end and improve handling. However, when one considers rollover ability, a smaller rider has less strength and might struggle more with popping the wheels over an obstacle. In that case, smaller riders would want a larger wheel, and not a 27.5”, which in reality is about an inch or less larger than a 26”. Like anything, we encourage you to test it and see what works for you. I can’t speak to how a five-foot-five person rides a bike.
I tested the less expensive ASR Carbon XO1, and found its part spec to be dead-on. It offers excellent bang for each buck. Despite the name, the only parts on the XO1 model that are actually SRAM XO1 are the shifter and the rear derailleur. The crank is an aluminum SRAM X1 unit with a 32-tooth chainring, and the brakes are Shimano XT.
The XX1 model uses a lot more carbon, with Enve M50 wheels, a SRAM XX1 crankset, shifter, and rear derailleur. The XO1 model can be upgraded to come with Enve wheels for an additional $2,300 — which brings the price to $8,100, nearly $2,000 less than the XX1 build.
For an in-depth look at the spec of the $5,800 ASR XO1 take a look through the complete gallery.
Unfortunately, the extra digit in the price tag of the XX1 build still doesn’t include a dropper post. Droppers do not always work for riders with lower seat heights, but we’re a bit flabbergasted that it wasn’t included on this $10,000 bike — based on a quick look at Yeti’s employees’ personal rides, it’s clear that droppers are well loved in Golden.
Alas, the only way to add a dropper is to add $350 to the price tag. A Thomson Covert dropper post can be added to either model of the ASR for that sum. That $350 is still $100 less than what a Thomson Covert or a RockShox Reverb Stealth costs at retail, but for the budget-minded it might be a stretch.
I have to applaud Yeti for not creating its own house-branded components, and instead spec’ing brands that most of us would actually want to ride. A 70mm Thomson stem, post, and wide carbon fiber Easton handlebars are exactly what I want to ride, and aside from installing a Thomson Covert, I tested the bike in its stock setup, which is rare these days.
On the Trail
I’ve logged about 50 miles on the ASR Carbon XO1, and almost exclusively on my home turf. Trails that I can — and, unfortunately, sometimes have — descended in the dark.
The ASR climbs just as well as any trail bike with 120mm of travel. Of course, with only 100mm of travel it seems unfair to compare it directly to longer-travel trail bikes, but one trip down your favorite descent and you’ll realize what the Yeti ASR is: an enduro-minded cross-country bike. You know, a mountain bike.
“Like everything in our line, the ASR had lots of input from our Enduro World Series team,” said Conroy. “So, it’s slacker, lower, and longer than everything else in the category.”
It’s not particularly sprightly climbing uphill relative to the best climbers on the market, bikes like the Specialized Epic or Cannondale Scalpel, but it gets you up the climb. Once to the top, it goes downhill brilliantly. At a weeknight cross-country race I found myself opening up my gap on the descent each lap. Even without a dropper post, the ASR still feels low and aggressive. The bottom bracket is low, but not so low that pedal strikes became an issue.
The bottle cages are well-placed. Too often, full-suspension bikes seem to forget about bottle cages all-together, but Yeti has a cage inside the main triangle and on the underside of the down tube. That makes it easy to ride for hours without having to carry a pack. In all my testing, the only time I did carry a pack was on the ride that I shot the photos for this review.
The Fox 32 fork is adequate, and if I’d not been exposed to the RockShox RS-1, I’d say the Fox 32 would be the best fork for this bike. But after hours of riding the ASR and the RS-1, I’d say that the ASR is an ideal candidate for an RS-1 upgrade. The RS-1’s stiffness would only improve the ASR’s descending pedigree.
Of course, this is akin to wondering how the surf-n-turf would of tasted after I’ve already eaten half of my Kobe strip steak. The ASR is great as-is, and only the snobbiest of riders would think to upgrade. So unless you find yourself wanting to drop an additional two grand on your ASR for a slight improvement in front-end stiffness and descending abilities, the Fox 32 will treat you fine.
Super steep climbs are the ASR’s Achilles heal, and that’s obviously by design. The head angle and long top tube don’t do it any favors here. It’s not built for straight up and straight down trails. It goes uphill respectably, and descends like a bike with much more travel than its cumulative 220mm. But If I lived and rode in a flatter region, say my previous home outside of St. Louis, Missouri, the ASR would not be the bike for me.
It’s the kind of bike I would want to ride all day. For a one-bike stable, without any aspirations to race cross-country or downhill at the Pro-Elite levels, this bike will work for most any ride. It would be a tight race between the ASR, the Santa Cruz 5010c, and the Niner RIP 9 RDO for that one spot in the garage. All three of these bikes are fun and while they have a bit more travel, long climbs aren’t out of the question.
If the ASR came stock with a dropper post, I’d be on the edge of calling its spec perfect. Out of the box you might want to switch the tires depending on personal preferences, but otherwise, the ASR is spot-on. At $5,800 it’s a bit more expensive than comparable Specialized Camber models, though the Yeti sports name brand components like Thomson and Easton. The ASR is also a bit less expensive than the comparative Santa Cruz 5010c, even when you tack on the additional coin for the dropper post upgrade.
This bike isn’t going to be your go-to rig if you’re racing ProXCT events or if you want to try your hand at the Enduro World Series. But could it limp through both of those, and still be a blast to ride every other day of the year?
Retail price: $5,800 as tested + $350 for Thomson Covert Dropper Post upgrade
What we like: SRAM one-by drivetrain, Shimano brakes, and a bike that’s fun going down, but not too much for an all-day excursion
What we don’t: a bit pricier than similarly spec’d bikes, and dropper post only increases that cost