Whyte S-120C RS first ride review

Whyte’s new shorter-travel 29er is a radical ripper if you like your XC riding properly extreme

If you want a proper pinner that charges enduro-hard on descents but is still efficient enough to hold its own in a marathon XC situation, Whyte’s new 120mm 29er literally stretches what you can expect from a short-travel bike.

Whyte S-120C RS frame

To keep development costs down, Whyte uses the same frame on its S-120 and T-130 bikes. All models have an aluminium rear end too, but the carbon mainframe saves a significant 650g over the alloy equivalent.

The radically-stretched reach (480mm on the large) is 5mm longer than on Whyte’s S-150 enduro bike and the head angle is equally slack, at 65.5 degrees. While sections such as the top tube are slimmer, the stays and pivot points are properly chunky.

At 2,600g without shock, the frame is relatively heavy compared to other 120mm trail/race options such as Scott’s Spark or Intense’s Sniper.

Whyte’s ‘Intergrip’ seat clamp looks neat and keeps spray out
Whyte’s ‘Intergrip’ seat clamp looks neat and keeps spray out

Whyte will replace the big pivot bearings for free if they wear out, the internal cable/hose entry and exit points are neatly sealed, and the seatpost is clamped internally with a rubber grommet to keep spray out of the frame.

The SRAM DUB bottom bracket (BB) is a screw-in unit that’ll be easy to eventually replace, and there’s room for a full-size bottle and 29x2.5in or 27.5x2.8in tyres.

Whyte S-120C RS kit

While the frame is weighty, the cutaway legs of the Fox 34 Step-Cast fork save significant grams without any obvious accuracy compromises. The DPS shock out back matches its 120mm of travel and three-way compression damping adjustment.

You get BikeYoke’s excellent Revive dropper as standard, and the whole package is really well-priced for a shop-bought/supported bike

With 32 single-gauge spokes on 27mm-wide Race Face rims, the wheels are sturdy rather than speedy, but the rear hub hooks up fast. The 2.3in Maxxis Forekaster and 2.25in CrossMark II tyres are an excellent choice for fast all-weather riding.

There’s a 34t chainring on the Truvativ Stylo cranks to speed up the 12-speed SRAM Eagle gearing and the GX shifters are noticeably more refined in feel than NX.

While 180/160mm rotors save a bit of weight from the SRAM Guide brakes at the expense of ultimate power, modulation is excellent. Whyte’s own 40mm stem and 780mm bar are spot on for techy trail handling, but some testers found the grips too fat.

You get BikeYoke’s excellent Revive dropper as standard, and the whole package is really well-priced for a shop-bought/supported bike. Overall weight is okay for a trail bike, if not exactly podium optimised.

Whyte S-120C RS ride impressions

There’s no trace of twist or twang. That means you can make the most of the geometry to push the bike really hard into turns or charge through rock and root spreads
There’s no trace of twist or twang. That means you can make the most of the geometry to push the bike really hard into turns or charge through rock and root spreads

The versatility and velocity of the S-120 mean it easily outrides the scales in everyday use. Unlike on a lot of lighter 120mm frames, there’s no trace of twist or twang from either end. That means you can make the most of the long-reach geometry and slack head angle to push the bike really hard into turns or charge through rock and root spreads.

While you can feel flex through the cutaway tips of the SC fork if you really wrench the big 780mm bar around, control from the ‘GRIP’ damper is consistently impressive.

Whyte has used a shorter shock than on the old T-129 to alter the leverage ratio and progression, for more supple traction but firmer mid-stroke support and drive. The one time I raced the S-120 — in the six-hour Steve Worland cup at Bristol Bikefest — I ended up leaving the damper in ‘open’ mode, to carry speed better and reduce fatigue.

On such a tech and speed-hungry bike, you inevitably find yourself in situations where you might want more travel, and the equivalent-priced S-150 is only 700g heavier. That’s balanced by the fact that, on the S-120, there’s less pitch and handling change under braking and weight shifts. This means you can push harder and get a more visceral reward on less seismic segments.

Illustrating just how versatile this bike is, not only did I win the solo category in Bristol (with lighter wheels) and smash out some climbing KOMs on Strava, quashing my initial weight concerns, but it also took the flat-out descents of the ’Ard Moors Enduro in its stride (albeit with tougher tyres on).

It hasn’t flinched, mechanically, during several months’ hard use hosting other testing components either, putting it right up there in the rankings for naturally fast yet feisty trail riding, all year round.

Whyte S-120C RS specifications

It may have the same 120mm of travel as the old T-129, but Whyte’s new 29er is longer, slacker and has tons more tyre clearance
It may have the same 120mm of travel as the old T-129, but Whyte’s new 29er is longer, slacker and has tons more tyre clearance

  • Sizes: S, M, L*, XL (*tested)
  • Frame: Carbon fibre mainframe, aluminium rear end, 120mm / 4.7in travel
  • Fork: Fox 34 SC Float Performance, 120mm / 4.7in travel
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL LV
  • Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Mech: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Cranks: Truvativ Stylo 7K Eagle cranks (1x12)
  • Wheelset: Race Face AR27 rims on Whyte hubs
  • Tyres: Maxxis Forekaster EXO DC 29x2.3in (f) and Maxxis CrossMark II EXO DC 29x2.25in (r)
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RS, 180/160mm rotors
  • Bar: Whyte low-rise, 780mm
  • Stem: Whyte, 40mm
  • Seatpost: BikeYoke Revive 160mm dropper
  • Saddle: Whyte
  • Weight: 13.67kg / 30lb, large size without pedals

Whyte S-120C RS geometry

  • Head angle: 65.6 degrees
  • Seat angle: 75 degrees
  • Top tube: 640mm / 25.2in
  • Seat tube: 457.2mm / 18in
  • Standover: 808mm / 31.81in
  • Wheelbase: 1,227mm / 48.31in
  • Chainstay: 430mm / 16.93in
  • Stack: 627mm / 24.69in
  • Reach: 480mm / 18.9in

Whyte S-120C RS early verdict

Hefty for its travel, but combines superb tech trail handling with easy velocity in a top-value package.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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