By Mike Rose
There are two things I want to tell you about this bike. Firstly that it is the best bike I have ever owned, and secondly that I am not worthy of it. I don’t want to come across all ‘look at my bike’, because the truth is, if I didn’t work for this magazine I would never be able to afford to buy this bike, it is like a ‘dream machine’. I dread to think how much it would all cost if you added it all up. I try and act all sheepishly when people start looking at it. I mean, come on…carbon Yeti frame, Shimano XTR dripping off it everywhere, RockShox Reverb seat post…it is so good that it makes me feel a little sick sometimes. But I’m stoked (can I say that) of course as well.
Anyway, we first came across the ASR 5 over a year ago now. It was a bike that I hadn’t really given much attention to, thinking it as too XC and lightweight for what I wanted in a bike. Stu (King) from Yeti UK brought us an ali version of it for a spin around. Even though it was the wrong size for me (a medium) I could immediately tell that during the initial ‘ride around the car park’ test that it had good angles, was lightening fast, and just felt right. You should never judge a book by its cover, but it looked right too, and during that first very un–mountainbike tarmac spin things all dropped into place. But the question was, would it feel the same the next size up (a large) and would it feel the same in carbon? I needed to find out.
To cut a long story short, a large carbon ASR winged its way from Yeti HQ in Colorado. Now I’m no tech head, and I’d not really given the design of the frame much thought, so I was a little shocked at first when I was told that, “there is no pivot on the rear end, the carbon chainstay/seatstay flexes”. Whoa! A little searching around and I read that there was, “engineered flex in the chainstays”. As I said, I’m no tech head, but this did strike me as a little odd on a 5” travel bike, but everyone I spoke to assured me it was OK, there was no need to panic, and of course Yeti know what they are doing. It was meant to be like that.
Of course when the frame arrived it didn’t have the same tight, low looks of a medium (size). “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it is how it rides that matters”. Well OK, but I’d still rather ride a bike that does both. That’s not to say that the larger size was ugly, far from it, it is just that it has the ‘curse’ of all bigger frames, the old seat tube/top tube junction (seat tower). Not a massive problem, but I sometimes wish I was 5’ 6” and not 6’ 2” (not really)! Actually I should just say that the Large is a ‘big large’ so the XL must be pretty massive (check before you buy).
So to the details: the Yeti ASR is a 5” lightweight trail bike (4.75lbs/2.1kg carbon for the frame), 67º head angle, bottom bracket height 333mm (13 ¼”), wheelbase 1116mm (45 1/8”), chainstay 430mm (17”) and stand over 740mm (29 ¼”). It is all beautifully manufactured, flowing lines, carbon weave, titanium hardware, has a tapered headtube and has interchangeable dropouts that allow you either to run a standard 135mm QR or 142mm x 12mm axle. All very 21st century.
I was building it up to suit the riding that I do around here. What we are talking about are four minute descents, sometimes with a bit of root and rock thrown in, mainly flowy forest stuff, but varied…and of course you have to pedal back up. Typical (if there is such a thing) UK kind of riding really. I don’t think I’d want to take this bike on all–day, week long alpine assaults. It is capable, and I’m sure it could take it, but in my eyes that’s not what this bike is about (or any 5” bike really).
Out on the trail I feel comfy and at home, but not in a lazy way. It fits me perfectly. Everything is in the right place. The simple single pivot with rocker suspension design does more than enough. Active and sharp, not bogged down in any way. The frame originally came fitted with a specifically tuned Fox RP23 (Yeti and Fox work very closely together). I had no problems at all with this shock, but (recently/mid Nov) the guys at RockShox were in the area and were keen for me to try out their Monarch Plus, so why not. I started off running it softer than I had with the Fox, but slowly firmed it up over the day. I ended up with 180psi in it, and the bike was feeling different, but in a good way. I need more time with this set–up to fully comment really.
The ASR 5 has blistering speed, it is tight and stiff, it’s precise and accurate, it floats as it climbs, goes along the flat with ease and descends confidently, with no quirks at all…but this bike is straining at the leash, it just wants to take off. It seems to accelerate all on its own…it is dynamite. Yeti go as far as to call it their ‘cheater bike’ because it climbs and descends so well. The lightness of the complete build was a little unnerving at first, but I got used to it.
The cynics out there might say, “he’s only saying all this because he has been given one”, but no. Read any review from a variety of the mountain bike press and they will all agree, the ASR 5 is an amazing bit of kit. It manages to balance liveliness with stability, active and gripping suspension with a ‘real’ feel of the trail. It is lithe and responsive, yet the headangle allows for some serious down(hill) time…just don’t let go of the brakes (joke)!
I built it up with the best products I could get my hands on…it deserved it after all. And it was never my aim to make this bike super light, it just kind of happened, one thing followed another. I know it might sound ridiculous, but there was pretty much a full Shimano XTR groupset waiting to go on it: wheels, brakes, chainset, shifter, mech, cassette and chain…so of course it all went on. Things have changed since that first build, mainly because we need to get products tested for the mag. Suspension (as mentioned) was changed and a different set of wheels were put on (Mavic Crossmax ST)…the XTR’s didn’t miss a beat by the way. Of course with all these quality products onboard the bike did end up super light, at 25.6lbs (11.6kg) becoming the lightest full–suspension mountainbike that I have ever owned.
I’m not going to go through every product here (we need to save them for future Hammered’s), but one thing I should mention is that I wanted to go 1×10 with the gearing on it. It wasn’t a problem, there are no ISCG tabs, but that was no bad thing. The combination of an upper e.thirteen XCX front chainguide (locked in place on the bottom bracket shell) and Shimano’s brilliant XTR Shadow Plus derailleur (which stops the rear mech flapping around) has meant perfect shifting, little noise and (most importantly) not a single dropped chain. The future is now.
The low’ish 13 ¼” bottom bracket has also been mentioned by some in reviews, but this is of course one of the reasons that the bike handles so well. Some people may have to adjust their pedalling technique, but I opted for slightly shorter cranks (170mm) than I normally use and have had no problems with it. Shorter cranks aren’t really necessary, but I think it helps…psychologically anyway!
Now time for a little journalistic integrity. Earlier in the year I had an almighty crash on this bike. I knocked myself out on a local track riding in to work. I have no idea what happened, but what resulted was a broken frame. Now I want you to read this slowly…I did not crash because the frame broke, this was rider error all the way. Also the frame was crushed (not snapped) in a very odd place, the seat tower (tube between the seat tube and top tube). This was not a frame failure. As I have no recollection of the crash and I can only speculate that the bike flew through the air and hit a tree or rock bang on this part of the bike. Nothing else was damaged. A freak accident, but a broken bike. What would have happened with an aluminium version of the frame? I don’t know. I guess a massive dent or possibly a big hole. Remember though, all bikes will break if you hit them hard enough. Yeti UK (Silverfish) informed me that under the circumstances this would be classed as a crash replacement, and they would offer the broken part (the front triangle in this case) at a reduced rate (this is not something that every bike company will offer). It was a reminder that it is a dangerous old game that we play.
But don’t let that put you off. What Yeti have created here is a flying machine. When designing a bike there is a fine line, a balance point, in getting the combination of easy climber and great descender together in one package. Could this be it? Well it is not far off. One final thing. I don’t think I could never do this bike justice, it is capable of far greater things than I will be ever able to show it. Do 5” bikes get any better? I’ve not ridden enough of them to tell you, but the ASR5 C ticks all the boxes for me and will be my first choice of bike for a long time to come.Price: ASR 5 C (carbon) £2199.00 (Colours: Black/White or Black/Turquoise) ASR 5 A (Ali) £1599.00 (Colours: Black, White or Turquoise)
Silverfish 01752 843 882 www.silverfish-uk.com
|Fork||RockShox Revelation RLT (140mm)|
|Stem||Thomson Elite X4|
|Grips||Renthal Kevlar (glued and wired) or ODI Troy Lee Designs Lock–On|
|Bars||Easton Havoc Carbon (750mm)|
|Shifter||Shimano XTR 10 speed|
|Derailleur||Shimano XTR Shadow Plus|
|Brakes||Shimano XTR Trail|
|Ring||Renthal SR4 34 tooth|
|Chain Guide||e.thirteen XCX|
|Cassette||Shimano XTR 11–36|
|Chain||Shimano XTR 10 speed|
|Pedals||DMR Vault with Ti axle|
|Wheelset||Mavic Crossmax ST QR/20mm(formally Shimano XTR, 15mm front, QR rear)|
|Tyres||Maxxis LUST High Roller 2.3 F and Larsen/Crossmark R (Summer), currently trying Bontrager’s Mud XR/Maxxis Medusa (Winter), tubeless with Stan’s sealant|
|Extras||Mucky Nutz Bender Fender 2.1|