Fast and fun in equal measure
With cutting-edge sizing and geometry the G-170 S slices straight through the marketing BS. OK, so the G-170 still has its fair share of acronyms and initializations, and it’s even sporting an on-trend reduced offset fork, the frame geometry designed specifically around it. But it’s actually the super low BB height and painstakingly tuned rear suspension that make the G-170 such a formidable race bike. It what puts you “in” rather than “on” the Whyte, and that added sense of security allows you to ride faster and take more chances, without ever feeling like you’re in over your head. As such, it may take some time for your current limits to catch up with those of the G-170.
The new Whyte G-170 S is smooth, composed and balanced. It is easy to set-up and even easier to ride flat-out. A full-blown gravity focused race weapon.
Launched just earlier this year, the G-170 is Whyte’s response to the ever-increasing demands of gravity-fuelled enduro racing. As the name suggests, it’s got 170mm of suspension muscle, where the S model is the entry point to a three-strong range.
Sculpted from 6061-T6 aluminium, the frame on the G-170 S shares the same progressive geometry and suspension layout as the more expensive moulded carbon bikes in the line.
Whyte G-170 S
It’s got Boost dropout spacing front and rear with clearance for up to 2.8in tyres. And while that may sound like overkill, the G-170 S would probably benefit from 2.6in tyres to help elevate the ground hugging 322mm BB height (measured with our 2.4/2.3in Maxxis High Roller II control tyres fitted).
Whyte pioneered the 1x frame design with its SCR (single chain ring) design, but the G-170 S also benefits from SCS (Symmetrical Chain Stays) an the stiffness benefits of the the wider pivot stance that goes with them. And if you want the added security of a chain device, the frame sports ISCG 05 mounts on the BB shell for fitting one.
The latest geometry tweak that Whyte has introduced doesn’t show up on the geometry chart, but take a look at the spec on the back of the 170mm travel Yari RC fork and you’ll notice it has less fork offset. 42mm Vs 46mm. It’s a subtle difference, a refinement rather than a wholesale change, but it has the similar effect as slackening the head angle a touch without increasing steering flop.
On the rear, Whyte uses the latest Metric RockShox Deluxe R shock size, where a shock yoke similar to that found on the Specialized Enduro and Orbea Rallon eliminates the lower shock bushing for increased sensitivity. It doesn’t sound like it would make a big difference, but the improvement in small bump sensitivity and grip is noticeable. All it needs now is an asymmetric insert in the shock eyelet for adjusting the BB height for all of the different tyre sizes the frame can accommodate.
Both of our entry-level enduro bikes have great cockpit layouts, but in terms of contact points Whyte wins hands down – the thicker grips and extra padding in the saddle providing some additional isolation and comfort from high-frequency trail vibrations.
When it comes to the drivetrain, you have staunch SRAM and Shimano supporters, but both 11-speed options here have 11- 42t cassettes and the offer the same gear range and slick shifting. Whyte however, fits a slightly smaller 30t chain ring so it has lower overall gearing, and is probably better suited to the fitness level of the riders typically buying these bikes.
At MBR we love bikes with low BB heights. But we also appreciate that they aren’t for everyone. So if you pedal more than you pump, and get your heart rate racing on steep technical climbs rather than fast hairy descents, the Whyte G-170 S probably isn’t the bike for you.
With that cleared up, the G-170 S is an amazing enduro bike for the money. The suspension is superbly tuned so it’s a breeze to set up. Simply set the sag to about 30per cent and rebound to three or four clicks from full open and you’re good to go.
Given that it has 170mm of travel at both ends it doesn’t bob much under power, so you can ride it up hill too. What’s more surprising though is that it can be ridden every bit as fast as the £6K 29ers that make up the other half of this test.
Sure, you take more a beating as the RC damper in the Yari fork lack the sophistication of the pricier a RockShox Charger RCT3 units, but it doesn’t seem to slow you down any. You need to be mindful of pedal clearance at all times though, which is why we recommend higher volume tyres to raise it up a little.
What’s new for 2019?
“When it comes to bombing descents, either with an uplift or under your own steam, the G-170 is our bike of choice. And for 2019 we wanted to make it even more capable at doing just that. So we upping the fork travel to 180mm to help iron out bumps and reduce fatigue. We also shortened the fork offset to give calmer and more confident steering. The final touch was to increase the rear centre measurement maintain balanced cornering traction from a neutral riding position.” Sam Shucksmith, Lead Suspension Bike Designer, Whyte Bikes.
Whyte has produced some amazing bikes of late, but it has always struggled to nail its longer travel G-series models. Not any more. The new G-170 S is smooth, composed and balanced. It is easy to set-up and even easier to ride flat-out, but it still pedals well enough that you don’t feel like your lugging a 170mm anchor up every climb. Make no mistake though, it’s not some long-legged trail bike, it’s a full-blown gravity focused race weapon. A word of caution though, the ultra-low BB is a double-edged sword, that cuts both ways.