British bike brand Whyte Bikes has been carving itself a solid reputation for several years with progressive bike design, both in terms of geometry but also in several other critical areas to bike design. For 2018, the company has two brand new bikes, the S-150
that you’ve read about previously on PB, but they’ve also been working on another exciting new bike, the G-170.
It replaces the G-160 I reviewed last year
and is aimed firmly at the enduro market. It’s unashamedly a race bike, built on feedback from Whyte's sponsored enduro racers to meet the needs of racing at the top level. It's also Whyte's longest travel carbon frame to date, with 170mm travel at both ends and, yes you guessed it, it's long, slack and low.
Whyte G-170 Details
• Intended use: Enduro
• Rear wheel travel: 170mm
• Fork travel: 170mm
• Wheel size: 27.5’'
• 65º head angle
• 12x148mm rear axle
• Sizes: M/L in Carbon, S/M/L/XL in alloy
• Available in carbon or aluminum
• MSRP: $3,199 - $6499 USD with three models
• Contact: Whyte Bikes
The G-170 has a full carbon frame with space for a bottle cage and is designed around a single-ring drivetrain.
Whyte has built on the solid foundations laid down by its G-160 but evolved and refined every detail. It’s also committed to carbon fiber for the first time on a long travel platform, using the same factory as that make its popular T-130 C. There will also be an aluminum main frame option to provide a cheaper entry-level model. Carbon was chosen because of the weight and stiffness benefits it offers, but there’s no denying there’s an appetite among a large section of the mountain bike consumers that crave carbon, and it ensures Whyte can go head-to-head with the big players in this sector.
A signature feature of Whyte Bikes over the years has been the complete absence of the front derailleur. Whyte is a firm believer in the benefits of single ring drivetrains, with recent advances (most notably by SRAM) providing most of the range of a typical drivetrain configuration, and freeing up the area around the bottom bracket and seat tube to be better used to provide extra stiffness and tire clearance.
There’s also the familiar QUAD 4 suspension design, a four-bar setup with a chainstay pivot and short rocker linkage driving the top tube mounted shock. It’s been revised with a lower profile and collet design with oversized hollow axles to increase stiffness and reduce weight, and oversized high-quality Enduro bearings are used in the main pivots. Whyte has also ensured the suspension is fully compatible with metric air and coil shocks, and there's even space for a water bottle. The rear triangle is made from aluminum and a seat stay bridge increases stiffness. All cables and hoses are fully internally routed, with deep rubber grommets to keep everything in place and prevent rattling.
It's the first time Whyte has offered a long travel carbon fiber mountain bike
There are carryover details from the G-160 that we like, including the integrated seat clamp, which Whyte calls the InterGrip. It enables Whyte to keep the standover height low, and in using a longer travel dropper post up the size range you can choose a bike based on the reach. That’s a good thing because the carbon frame is only being offered in two sizes, medium and large - the alloy frame comes in four sizes from small to XL. There’s a Boost rear axle matched to Boost forks across the range, and tire clearance is massive, capacious enough to accommodate up to 3" tires. Whyte tells us 2.6" tires fit just fine, and it’s also offering a complete Plus wheel package, including wheels, Maxxis High Roller 2.8" tires, sealant, disc rotors and tools to swap the cassette over.
Whyte has specced its own 30mm wide carbon rim on the range-topping Works bike
The G-170 is available in three builds, the G-170 S with an aluminum frame for $3,199 USD, and two carbon models, the G-170C RS at $4,799 and the range-topping $6,499 G-170C Works that we rode and is pictured in this article. That bike gets a RockShox Super Deluxe Debonair shock and Lyrik RCT3 fork combo, Hope Pro 4 hubs on Whyte's own 30mm carbon hookless rims, and a full SRAM X01 Eagle groupset with Maxxis tires, RaceFace bars and stem and Reverb dropper post.Geometry changes
Whyte has had its finger on the rapidly changing geometry button for many years now; it’s a small and nimble company that has managed to keep abreast of the evolving standards more than many of the larger brands. The main focus on the G-170 has been taking feedback from Whyte's sponsored enduro racers to produce a bike that can really compete with the best bikes on the enduro circuit.
There are changes to the geometry to provide a better front to rear balance to boost confidence on very technical terrain. It has tweaked the stack, reach and chainstay lengths to provide a more neutral riding position. The G-170's reach has actually decreased compared to the G-160 in order to help achieve that balance. Reach numbers are as follows: S: 442mm, M: 458mm, L: 479mm, XL: 502mm.
The chainstays are 5mm longer at 430mm, and the 65° head angle is 1° slacker than the old G-160. Whyte sizes its bikes by lengths, so although the carbon G-170 is only offered in two sizes - M and L - there’s generous standover clearance and long dropper posts. The entry-level aluminum G-170 is offered in four sizes. The seat angles are steep, measuring 75.19° on the large and 75.5° on the medium. The geometry chart shows the four sizes that the aluminum framed model is available in, but remember, the carbon version is only offered in M and L. Five Questions with Whyte Designer Ian Alexander
What was the genesis for the development of the new 170?
Like almost all of our design projects, they are usually a continuation of the thinking that went into the bike that the new one is replacing and this is certainly true of the G-170. The work and development that has gone into the G-160 hasn’t stopped since we launched the G-150 in 2013 and a process of riding and testing has inevitably led to a close look at a lot of the areas where we wanted to either improve and do a better job but also at the same time utilise the new developments in rear suspension such as the new generation of metric shocks and new 27.5” tire size developments which are of course not insignificant. Geometry has also evolved as enduro racing has fed-back into our design process.
Geometry has been a clear focus for Whyte over the years, longer and slacker than most production bikes, how much have you pushed the boundaries with this new bike?
Geometry and the evolution of it with the G-170 have been very much about the feedback we’ve been downloading from our race team riders, chief among whom is Sam Shucksmith who has had a key role in the engineering of the G-170 as both a Whyte design engineer and a Whyte-Sram Enduro team riders. We've tried to refine the front-rear balance of this bike with some adjustments to the length of the chainstay and the front length (front centre length) but also in conjunction with a change in the dynamic ride height of the bike. The static ride height is actually the same as the old bike so it's been brought about by a larger leverage ratio at the start of the stroke (generating more rear wheel travel) inducing the ride-height to be lower at sag by 5mm which has enabled us to run 170mm cranks instead of 175mm. Overall the new bike runs and feels much lower but with the rebalancing of the rider's center of mass, the new bike gives G-170 riders a big step in that all important centralized front-rear balance.
The previous 160 had an aluminum frame, why the move to carbon for the 170?
Carbon composites give us a great opportunity at engineering a chassis that cannot be achieved with isotropic materials like aluminum alloy. The inherent advantage of composites means we can accommodate the massive structural considerations of a long 170mm fork and the forces that such a big fork can transmit into the chassis, but at the same time allow us to easily create shapes, spaces and clearances to accommodate the usually contentious issue in full suspension bike design of giving provision for the humble 750ml water bottle… which actually turns out to be an incredibly important issue for a lot of riders and yet seemingly dismissed out of hand by a surprisingly large number of bike brands. The aesthetics and design opportunities presented with a moulded frame allow us to explore a truly contemporary and modern frame shape and design which just isn’t possible with alloy tubes and when that’s coupled with the amazing properties of carbon composite materials allows us to make a frame that is incredibly strong first and foremost, but also presents us with the opportunity to lose weight over the equivalent aluminum version.
You’ve kept the same basic suspension layout, but refined the linkage design - what have you aimed to achieve with the suspension on the new bike?
We wanted more set-up choices for both our Whyte-SRAM team but also the enduro customers wanting to buy a bike that they could evolve not just one set-up but have a bike that they could change and develop across a long and varied season of racing. One area where the old G-160 didn't offer this range of setting up potential was in its leverage ratio which was very linear indeed at around 2.5:1 falling slightly to 2.65:1 and whilst we could get a good air-shock set-up with very minimal damping required, with the new G-170 we needed to be able to offer compatibility with the latest metric coil shocks as well, and that of course means adding in significant progression into the leverage ratio to account for the totally linear spring rate of a coil spring. The G-170 kinematic is a big step in this regard and this, of course, means that our team riders and by extension all our customers are at a great advantage when it comes to the variations in set-up opportunities.
You’ve also launched the S150 29er, with 29er wheels back in fashion again, how do you see the two bikes sitting alongside each other rim the range? Basically, how does a customer choose the right bike and wheel size for their riding?
I think you make a choice between trail bike and enduro bike... the S-150 has a foot in Enduro racing thanks to its shape, its spec, its kinematics that works with both air and coil shock set-ups as described above and not least, the hugely stable steering geometry that we have engendered with the reduced offset 150mm 29” RockSox Pike fork, but the G-170 is very much the tool for the more extreme EWS style tracks in so far as it has a big range of adjustments in suspension and chassis set-ups.
Whyte Bikes held the launch for its new G-170 at Afan in South Wales, an area teeming with trails of various grades of technicality, providing the idea opportunity to put the new bike through its paces. To give us more time assessing the new bikes descending prowess, we had the luxury of an uplift thanks to Afan Forest Safaris
, meaning we could shuttle more runs and hopefully gain a greater insight into the G-170.
Although not the most in-depth ride, it was enough to form some good first impressions. The most immediate and obvious impression was how different it felt in handling compared to the G-160 I tested last year. The G-160 was a formidable bike, long and slack, but I never felt it really came to life unless its front wheel was pitched down seriously steep terrain, and a lot of body language was needed to shape it through turns. The G-170 feels more nimble, lighter on its tires and more engaging to quick direction changes, necessary on one of the black graded trails we rode. There's more agility at lower speeds as well, the steering is light and the front wheel is much easier to pop and manual compared to the reluctance of the old G-160, the front wheel of which was tricky to get off the ground. There’s more precision in how it moves around the trail and flows from one corner to another than I ever really felt with the G-160. It’s a much more playful bike.
Playful is all very well, but a bike built for enduro racing needs to be fast, to track the ground at speed and handle itself on blind technical trails. While it’s nimble at low speeds, it’s stable and reassuringly planted at higher speeds, allowing you to really let loose, helped by the longer chainstays. There's more progression in the suspension, and this extra support lends the bike better composure and pace through the rough, and it's supple on the smooth bumps and ramps up nicely to soak up the bigger impacts.
The G-170 certainly lived up to expectations - hitting a black graded trail for the very first time, with sharp corners, drops, deep chutes, sudden light changes and unsighted roots, the G-170 put in a commanding position to not only get through the trail smoothly and cleaning, but attack the corners and sections with better line of sight. I rode the top-end Works version with some every nice kit and the weight savings and stiffness from the carbon frame and Whyte’s own 30mm wide carbon rims inject some serious agility into how the bike lets you tackle technical trails. It also feels efficient on the pedalling sections of the trail, with plenty of support from the RockShox Super Deluxe Debonair shock in the middle setting.
A few runs aren’t enough to form a conclusive verdict - I’d love to spend more time exploring the G-170’s potential - but it’s clear from my time on the new bike that Whyte has built on the solid foundations of the old G-160 but improved it in many ways. It’ll suit the requirements of any top level enduro racer competing on the big stage, but I’m willing to bet it’ll also suit almost anyone in the market for a long travel trail/park bike.