Ian and Andy from UK innovator Whyte make for without doubt one of the keenest and most pro-active designer and brand manager teams in the business. Ever since the brand launched with the radical PRST-1 linkage fork bike 15 years ago they’ve seen their relatively small, UK only situation as a strength not a weakness.
They don’t have to think of a bigger global or even European market so can properly focus on the latest trends and vital touches for British riding. They also keep us constantly in the loop on their latest developments so it’s no surprise that their significantly evolved G-150 is one of the first 2015 bikes we got to ride.
They were already early into the 650b wheel fray with the G-150 last year, and Whyte’s trademark slack and low geometry and spot-on component selection made it a potentially standout machine. On the trail though, significant twist between front and rear end really choked its suspension performance so it never felt as surefooted and secure as it should have done. That made the words “It’s 25 percent stiffer” from designer Ian when he showed us the main pivot of the new bike even more significant.
Frame and equipment: single-minded approach
With even single figure increases in frame stiffness being a big deal for most frame manufacturers this shows two things: a) the old frame was definitely very flexible and b) Whyte has done something very significant. It’s easy to see the biggest difference too.
A redesigned shock mount aims to move lateral load from the Monarch unit
The previously narrow main pivot stance has been widened by 20 percent on the SCR frame because it’s now a totally single ring specific design. That means there’s no need for a big seat tube offset to make room for the front derailleur and the super-short chainstays are now symmetrical, with a big increase in size for the driveside section. There’s a new stiffer mainframe tubeset tying the front end to the tauter rear end.
Going 1x11 also reduces overall weight, simply by removing a lot of components from the equation. That means the alloy Whyte isn’t far off a lot of more expensive carbon bikes in terms of mass.
All the mod cons, including Stealth internal routing, are present on the frame
Ride and handling: G is for Gravity
Like all Whyte bikes we’ve ever ridden it pedals well too, with enough stability in mid-compression mode to stamp hard without it sucking up your effort. The top spec triple compound High Roller II rubber also rolls better than it looks like it will. The long front end means plenty of breathing space on climbs too so it’s fine for DIY gravity days without an uplift or heading out across the hills for wild thrills.
That’s not to say the Whyte is an instantly easy bike to ride straight from the shop. That long front end combined with the super-slack 66.5-degree steering angle does mean you’ll need to swing it the long way round on switchbacks. If you’re not used to a slack bike, the way it wanders on climbs can be irritating at first.
Point it downhill though and the numbers really start to add up. If you’re muscling it through sections at slow speed or driving hard through random ruts, roots and rocks there’s still some flex through the relatively light frame – particularly the unbraced seatstays and skinny shock linkage – compared with heavier category leaders. Let it run though and the front end naturally self corrects, the frame finds the path of least resistance and it’ll hook and hold a tighter line than you’d first expect.
RockShox’ Pike rounds out a SRAM dominated build kit
The RockShox Pike totally deserves its reputation as the benchmark enduro category fork, with an outstanding amount of control right across the range. Chewing gum-style stiction across small bump chatter? Corner-boosting confidence of super-stable mid-stroke damping? Slap-free catch and fast recovery of seriously big hits whether they come singly or so fast you’re just hanging on and hoping? Whatever questions you ask, Pike’s Rapid Return Charger damper has the answers.
The rear wheel also immediately feels a lot more planted through hard carving turns than the 2014 bike. We had some initial problems with the rear shock, but stripping down the extra volume air sleeve revealed it had been supplied with a full set of volume reducer rings. Pulling those out immediately created the baby bottom smooth stroke Whyte intended. This kept the back end glued to the ground over small stuff but sucked up cascades of successive drops, boulders or big single hits with seamless control.
The short back end makes it really easy to manual and get dynamic with your riding, encouraging you to properly get stuck in rather than sit there as a passenger. Steering balance is also spot on at speed with tons of traction feedback through the super-stiff 35mm bars. Really aggressive riders may want to add a couple of volume reducers back into the shock or run the mid-compression mode even on descents to stop the relatively linear back end squishing too deep if you really drive it through corners.
It’s worth investing some time and tuning knowhow to get the G-150’s rear end dialled to deliver its full potential
As you’d hope from a Works model the supporting componentry is ideal for pushing the G-150 to its maximum potential. The SRAM Rail wheels have proved seriously bombproof yet responsively light in standalone tests and repeat that impressive performance here. The High Roller tyres maximize grip in a wide range of trail conditions to underline the naturally agile and aggressive character with a seriously surefooted trail connection.
The new Avid Guide RSC brakes also put a fantastic amount of impressively consistent control and plenty of power at your fingertips. The RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost and Fizik Gobi XM saddle are proven multiple award winning choices too. Whyte’s part of the bargain is also impressive, with generous tyre clearance, a new totally sealed seatpost clamp and lifetime warrantied pivot bearings all making it ideal for the kind of all-weather hammer its addictive riding character is likely to encourage.
Get this G-150's suspension set up right and its handling balance and outstanding kit selection is an absolute blast to unleash on your local trails or take a top three place in the world’s most mental mountain bike race, the Megavalanche.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.