Whyte is the only brand to have won Bikeradar’s coveted trail bike of the year award twice. It did it last year with the T-130 and in 2013 with its short-travel 29er, the T-129. But there’s always been a gap in its product line for a longer-travel big-wheeler, and the all-new S-150 fills that role.
With 29” wheels and — you guessed it — 150mm of travel front and rear, the S-150 is aimed at those who want to mix trail centre blasts with all-day epics and even the odd enduro race.
Whyte being Whyte, it’s the geometry that makes this bike stand out from the crowd. The bottom bracket is nice and low at 335mm; the head angle is pretty slack at 65.6 degrees and the reach figures are fairly long for each size, while the seat tubes remain pretty short in order to accommodate long-travel dropper posts or shorter riders.
There are three models in the range: the S-150 S, S-150C RS and the S-150C WORKS.
Prices start at £2,850 for the S model, which uses a full-alloy frame, SRAM GX 12-speed gearing and a Revelation fork.
The top two bikes use a carbon mainframe with an alloy back end, along with a Pike fork and fancier finishing kit. They’ll cost £3,850 and £5,499 respectively and are both sold with 29” wheels, as shown, but can accommodate 27.5” by 2.8” tyres. There’s no geometry adjust, the smaller wheels will simply give you a lower (even lower!) bottom bracket.
The three-strong range offers Medium, Large and XL frames with 459mm, 474mm and 490mm reach figures respectively. That’s pretty roomy. The long frames are teamed with relatively short stems for predictable handling: 40mm in the Small and Medium, 50mm in Large and XL sizes.
The chainstay is fairly short at 435mm, but the overall wheelbase is pretty lengthy. I measured my XL test bike at 1,255mm. I also weighed the top-spec S-150C WORKS model, without pedals, at 13.4Kg in XL.
Custom fit fork
What’s really interesting about the geometry of these bikes is the use of a custom fork offset. Whyte got RockShox to make a special 42mm-offset fork rather than the usual 51mm offset. If you’re not familiar with fork offset, check out this article on the subject — Pushing the limits of fork offset: an experiment
Put simply, fork offset is the distance by which the front axle is placed in front of the steering axis (the line through the centre of the steerer tube). Whyte’s custom fork uses a crown with less forward sweep to shorten the offset.
Whyte has done this to calm the bike’s steering by increasing the amount of trail — trail is the horizontal distance between the steering axis and the contact patch of the front tyre. In some ways, the shorter fork offset makes the bike handle like it has a slacker head angle; it makes the steering calmer and smoother, while keeping the front end less affected by rough terrain.
Unlike a slacker head angle, the short offset makes the bike’s front-centre shorter, not longer, so the long mainframe and short stem are key to making this configuration work.
When I experimented with short fork offset on a bike with a really short front-centre, the balance of the bike was upset because the front-centre of the bike was made even shorter. As it happens, I still preferred the short fork offset on that bike, despite this issue.
Happily, the S-150 doesn’t feel imbalanced at all. In fact, you’d hardly notice that the fork uses a custom offset unless you were able to test it back-to-back with a standard fork — when Whyte send me another test bike I intend to do just that. Watch this space.
All I can say for now is that it feels a little calmer in the rough and less floppy in the turns than a bike with this head angle would usually feel. When I rode the S-150C WORKS at the trail centre in Afan, Wales, from the first few corners the bike felt well-balanced and easy to corner really hard on swoopy flat turns.
The fairly short 435mm chainstay length feels a touch on the short side for my tastes, but the short fork offset brings the front axle a little closer to the hands, while a fairly low, wide bar makes it dead easy to keep the front tyre gripping in flat turns.
If I was going to ride steeper tracks, though, I’d definitely want to fit a higher-rise bar and I’d probably swap the 50mm stem for a 40mm.
The new Pike is a solid performer, with plenty of traction and a stuck-down feel due to the supple initial stroke, and I added a volume spacer to the fork for a little more end-stroke support.
The rear end is similarly supple off the top with a subtle build-up of support. It’s not quite as progressive out the box as the new Scott Genius, but this can also be adjusted to suit individual riders. The bike feels really stiff and responsive under power, yet the suspension remains pretty active and supple even when pedalling. It’s my opinion that the suspension kinematic is a really good compromise between efficiency and sensitivity.
The fairly long reach and stiff front end make out of the saddle climbs feel surprisingly fast and efficient for such a long travel bike. When seated, I would have preferred an even steeper seat angle, but it’s not bad at all here either.
The carbon chassis and wheels deliver a stiff, precise feel in the bends. It really feels like you can tell just what those quality Maxxis tyres are doing underneath you.
Maybe the fork offset has something to do with this as well, but overall I really liked how the bike turns. It feels balanced, predictable and responsive. It’s also dead easy to hop, manoeuvre and manual, without feeling twitchy at speed.
I’m really keen to put much more time in on this bike, but after a day spent riding it I’ve come away impressed. Whyte has done a great job with the suspension, stiffness and geometry. It’s a fast, fun and responsive trail shredder that should suit riders who want a bike that balances agility with stability, and efficiency with comfort.
Whyte S-150 pricing and availability
- S-150C WORKS: £5,499 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- S-150C RS: £3,850 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- S-150 S: £2,850 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Availability for the S-150 is yet to be confirmed.