Whyte S-150 S review£2,850.00

Whyte's long-travel big wheeler isn't afraid of going fast

BikeRadar score3.5/5

As with all of Whyte's UK-designed bikes, the S-150 isn't exactly run of the mill when it comes to its geometry. That's because Whyte isn't afraid of pushing the limits and experimenting with different ideas.

  • The Whyte S-150 S is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

Whyte S-150 S frame

The S-150 is designed to use a fork with a shorter offset (42mm rather than the usual 51mm offset found elsewhere). The idea is to help calm the steering by increasing the trail figure (the distance the contact patch of the front tyre sits behind the steering axis) without dulling nimbleness when it matters.

Working alongside that shorter offset to boost stability further is the slack 65.3-degree head angle, 435mm chainstays, a 1212mm wheelbase and a ground-huggingly low 333mm bottom bracket — which is why it specs 170mm cranks to limit strikes. And if you were looking for a bike that'd take a front mech, you better look elsewhere as the S-150 is designed for a single chainring only.

Whyte are a UK-based brand, and it takes the sealing of its pivots seriously
Whyte are a UK-based brand, and it takes the sealing of its pivots seriously

Whyte has, as ever, been quite generous with the reach measurement. My Medium frame boasts a reach of 458.5mm, which is what most brands offer in size Large.

If you're wondering what the 'S' stands for, its 'Switch'. The idea is the S-150 can take 650b wheels with 2.8in tyres and still offer a load of mud clearance.

Though the S-150 comes with 29in wheels as standard, they also offer you the chance to buy a wheelset including Maxxis tyres, SRAM rotors, tyre sealant, a pressure gauge, chain whip and cassette tool/wrench for £599 for the alloy Race Face ARC-35 rim build or £1299 for the carbon Whyte rims built onto Hope Pro4 hubs.

Whyte S-150 S kit

Whyte is one of the first brands to jump on the new Guide T brakes. These use the four-piston Guide calipers as opposed to the two-piston Level calipers currently adorning many bikes with similar intentions around this price.

While they don't feel massively different in terms of lever feel, the Guide Ts are more potent when tackling bigger descents — something my hands can vouch for.

SRAM Guide R brakes are a common sight on bikes at this price point
SRAM Guide R brakes are a common sight on bikes at this price point

Although the S-150 boasts 150mm of rear-wheel travel, Whyte isn't touting it as an all-out enduro bike, but more of an all-round, long-travel trail bike (but more on this later). This explains why the S-150 S comes with the more trail-orientated Revelation fork (which uses a Pike chassis) rather than the Yari (which uses the Lyrik chassis), which you'll be used to seeing on long-travel, enduro-type machines.

Both the S and RS models of the S-150 come with a 760mm bar as standard, though the XL models gets a wider 780mm bar. Some of our testers would like to see the 780mm bar on the size Large too though.

WTB i29 rims give the 2.3in High Roller II front tyre a nice profile. It's a predictable front tyre that works well in many conditions. However, the rear Crossmark II tyre, although deceptively grippy in drier conditions or hard pack surfaces, wouldn't be my first choice as an all-rounder as it struggles in the mud. Still, the lack of drag helps to make the S-150 seriously pacey on flatter sections of trail and climbing less hard going.

The other real highlight here is SRAM's GX Eagle 1x12 transmission, which gives you a massive gear range, though mine didn't behave entirely.

Whyte S-150 S ride impressions

After just a few hundred metres of trail, my chain derailed from the lower jockey wheel in the rear mech, twisting the cage and rendering it unfixable.

This issue is something SRAM has a fix for (a revised lower jockey wheel is now being used) and with a new mech fitted, I had no more transmission issues throughout the rest of the test period.

On another SRAM-related note, I also had to replace the Revelation fork. The original fork, even with the rebound adjuster fully open, felt a little slow and sluggish.

After replacing the fork for a new Revelation, I noted a jump in comfort and performance. The Revelation's Motion Control damper still isn't quite as comfortable as the Charger 2 damper used on the Pike or in fact the Yari, which uses the same damper as the Revelation though still feels better at tackling successive hits.

Whyte has long been proponents of longer frames and shorter stems
Whyte has long been proponents of longer frames and shorter stems

I found the Revelation requires a touch more spring pressure to hold it up in the steeper stuff when compared to the Pike, meaning there's more feedback transmitted through the bars. It still handles the hits well enough though and the chassis feels stiff, which helps to make steering feel precise and accurate.

With those teething troubles out of the way, it was clear from the outset just how surefooted and commanding the S-150's shape and proportions felt on the trail. It's still fun to throw around and popping the front wheel up and over obstacles is easy, but when it counts, the S-150 oozes a stability and calmness through the bars that lets you ride it incredibly fast.

That's not to say it's all rosy though. The fork still transmits more buzz through the bars when compared to pricier Pike equivalent and the rear shock will need some fettling to get it to keep up with just how fast the S-150 wants you to ride.

I added a single volume spacer to the Deluxe shock after a couple of bottom outs too many which seemed to do the trick when tackling big landings and drops. Even then though, when pushing hard, the back end didn't feel quite as supportive or composed when battering through root spreads or successive braking bumps as others, feeling like it'd use its travel up a little too quickly at times.

This may have felt slightly exaggerated due to the imbalance caused by adding additional fork pressure to gain more support up front though, inevitably pushing my weight back further on the bike. Despite this and the fact it is, after all, a trail bike, the S-150 S isn't afraid of going incredibly quickly, even if it isn't quite as plush or as comfy as some of the competition. It's worth spending some time to dull the cable rattle too as it can be quite noticeable on really rough trails.

The SRAM GX Eagle groupset offers a super-wide gear range across its 12 gears
The SRAM GX Eagle groupset offers a super-wide gear range across its 12 gears

Time to focus back on the positives, of which the S-150 has many. Possibly the biggest though is how the S-150 carves a corner. The low bottom bracket and well-centred, aggressive riding position certainly come into their own as you sling the bike through technical switchbacks but it's in the high speed, chattery turns where the S-150 really stands out.

Under power, there's a bit of suspension bob but the shocks low speed compression lever is easy to reach and helps to make things that bit more efficient when tackling long climbs. Open things up on flatter trails and, providing it's not too muddy, you'll certainly appreciate the fast rolling rear tyre. Here, the S-150's speed carrying credentials come to the fore, where pace is well preserved.

Overall then, the foundations of a seriously capable machine are there, even if I'd prefer a touch more support in the rear suspension and a more deeply treaded rear tyre.

Also consider...

If you're in the market for a new enduro bike, long travel trail bike or all-mountain bike, check out our reviews of those we've thoroughly tried and tested.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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