Taking the World’s First Race Specific e-MTB Further

By Berne Broudy


Riding Shimano EP8 mountain bike Yeti ebike


The Yeti 160E is an e-MTB evolved. It is a purpose-built, thoroughbred racer designed from the ground up around Shimano's EP8 platform. The bike's 160mm of rear travel uses an all-new six-bar suspension designed specifically for EP8's compact and powerful motor. And it's this combo that yields a smooth, familiar trail feel for the roughest tracks with the world's first race-specific e-MTB.


“When we started working on e-bikes, we looked at all systems,” said Peter “Stretch” Zawistowski, Yeti’s Director of Engineering. “We wanted to make sure we were achieving ideal geometry and kinematics, building a bike that will win races and ride like the rest of the bikes in our line.


yeti e160 mtb


But it’s a long way from CAD drawings and conference room debates to actually producing a race machine for the rowdy tracks of the Swiss Alps and the Scottish Lowlands. To accomplish this, Yeti started the design process by building the bike around Shimano’s EP8 motor. This race machine wasn’t just going to be a retrofit–it, but rather, it would be a whole new design. The result was an all-new six-bar linkage explicitly built to maximize the benefits of the all-new EP8 motor. 


The Right Stuff: The EP8 System

Starting with Shimano's innovative EP8 platform was an obvious choice for Yeti. "A battery takes up a lot of real estate where we used to be able to put a pivot," said Stretch. "The bigger the motor, the harder it is to package suspension and to achieve the desired geometry. Shimano gave us the space we needed to design the system we wanted and to keep the bike's chainstays short.” To get the perfect combo of compact design and world-class performance, Yeti chose the 630wH battery. 


High torque, excellent ride feel, and smooth power delivery also made EP8 the obvious choice for this high-end e-MTB race bike. "Shimano's Trail mode has a natural feel to it," said Stretch. "STEPS tuning makes an e-MTB feel like a mountain bike–it has the power we were looking for, we can tune the system to our preferences, and the battery can be removed quickly, which is key for racers.”


Shimano EP* drive unit on Yeti emtb


And finally, Shimano’s worldwide support network made STEPS the only choice. “Whatever needs of the end consumer, there is strong infrastructure worldwide to take care of riders,” said Thornberry. 


With the EP8 in hand, Stretch and his team set out to design suspension that worked in harmony with Shimano’s battery and motor. 


Six Bars of Squish: E-MTB Specific Suspension

Most mountain bikes and e-MTBs use a four-bar suspension system. For the 160E, Yeti opted for a six-bar design called Sixfinity. Like Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension, the Sixfinity lower linkage changes direction part of the way through its travel to give the suspension a bottomless feel. 


Shimano EP8 Drive Unit


E-MTB suspension systems behave differently than their acoustic counterparts because the battery and motor generally sit where a pivot would be. This can change the angles and leverage ratios, which yields a slightly different feel than riders are used to.   With a six-bar linkage, Yeti put pivot points in new areas away from the battery and motor to achieve the same kinematics and same ride quality as in their acoustic SB150 enduro bike. To get that ride feel, Yeti had to rethink the anti-squat and anti-rise curves for the 160E. An e-MTB accelerates faster, and climbing doesn't rely as heavily on the lowest gears of the cassette. With the nature of accelerations and increased speed changes, there's a lot more force on the suspension during pedaling bursts and hard braking. 


To counter those forces and keep the ride balanced, efficient, and fun, Yeti tuned the 160E to have a nice flat anti-squat band, one that's lower than on a traditional bike. This tune helps prevent bobbing while pedaling uphill. Due to the greater mass of an e-MTB, Yeti also tuned the anti-rise to a lower magnitude than found on their traditional bikes. This stabilizes the rear wheel and gives the rider more traction and more comfort. 


Yeti lets riders control the feel of the bike with a flippable chip to adjust the leverage rate. It ranges from 35 percent for a plush ride that ramps up to 25 percent for a racy and consistent ride. The middle 30 percent setting offers the best of both worlds. Flipping the chip doesn't affect the bike's geometry. It only changes the feel and leverage rate while minimally changing the travel by 2mm. 


Yeti E-160 E-mtb


The 160E is around 49 pounds, but it certainly doesn’t track and bog like the similarly massed DH sleds of old. Though Yeti wasn’t going for light, they were going for fast.  So while the bike certainly packs some pounds, it's light-footed on the trail. And while Yeti ramped up the spring rate to keep it poppy and playful, the bike's linear, progressive curve gives the bike a consistent and predictable feel on the trail. 


The Ride: The Familiar Feels

“Our goal was to look with a fresh set of eyes,” said Stretch. “It wasn’t worth making an e-MTB unless we could make it better.”


The 160E maintains the same aggressive angles as the SB150 with a 64.5-degree head angle, a 78-degree seat tube angle (which is a degree steeper than the SB150), and 446mm chainstays. The seat tube is uninterrupted for a full-length dropper post, and the bike can run up to a 2.6-inch tire in the rear. It ships with a 170mm Fox 38 fork, but it's been tested to downhill standards, so it can run a dual crown fork. That's right, leave your trucks parked at the trailhead - the era of self-shuttling DH laps is upon us. 


Riding eMTB's Yeti mountain bikes


While the specs and overall design are impressive, the 160E is a remarkable ride. Out on the trails, it has the feel of the beloved SB150, with superb steering, stability, and pop. The bike's lower center of gravity and extra weight give it a secure and planted feel over the roughest tracks while maintaining more traction on power climbs. On technical uphills, it steers precisely and accelerates naturally in harmony with each pedal stroke. For those looking to go further, longer, and faster on the burliest tracks or riders who just want a boost to keep up with their buds, the redesigned Yeti 160E is the perfectly evolved e-MTB. 


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