Progress is relentless and for 2021 Whyte has turned up the 29er heat once again with the Whyte G-180. 167mm rear travel married to 180mm RockShox Zeb fork.
The Whyte G-170 was a benchmark long-travel 29er. With slack angles, a ground-hugging BB and plush suspension, it was a formidable enduro race machine. The biggest changes found on the Whyte G-180 though are to the frame itself. Gone is the carbon monocoque front end, replaced instead by a 6061 alloy construction that’s used across the two-bike 29er range.
Whyte G-180 Works 29er V1 review
One bugbear with the G-170 was the lack of standover, which is marginally better on the G-180. It also gets slightly longer 442mm stays to help balance the increased reach. Like the Nukeproof Giga 290, the G-180 isn’t crazy long, the size large sporting a 472mm reach, which could be considered conservative if it weren’t for the 63.8° head angle and 1,272mm wheelbase, the latter identical to the Giga. One final update to the geometry sees a two-degree steeper seat angle that results in a 74.6° effective seat angle at a saddle height of 750mm.
The way the suspension reacts has been modified too. By increasing the anti-squat, the G-180 pedals better than the G-170 and offers a more responsive ride. It also has a higher initial leverage ratio and combined with the more rearward axle path, the G-180 retains the small-bump sensitivity needed to iron out trail chatter and maximise grip. One thing that remains unchanged is that the 337mm BB height keeps the G-180 super low-slung, so the extra support from the rear suspension is welcome as it also helps reduce pedal strikes.
With 180mm travel and a three-way adjustable Charger 2.1 damper, the burly RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork is poised to tackle the biggest lines and it’s also a breeze to adjust. The fork is paired with a RockShox Super Deluxe shock which has a new linear rebound tune, so you can run it faster for extra pop and grip without it bucking on bigger hits. Cracking open the air-can reveals one volume spacer for fine-tuning the spring progression, and thanks to the max travel markings on the shock body, you’ll never be in doubt if you are achieving full travel or not.
Whyte makes a perfectly good trail saddle, so we were somewhat disappointed to see it switch to the less-padded Race version for the G-180. It’s the only complaint in an otherwise faultless build though. The Maxxis EXO+/Double Down casing tyre combo is ideal on a bike with this much travel, the Maxx Grip Maxxis Assegai up front offering stacks of grip while the Maxx Terra Maxxis Minion DHR II out back helps reduce rolling resistance. Whyte has got stopping duties covered too; SRAM Code RSC disc brakes with massive 220/200mm rotors. Adding a spot of bling is the oversized 35mm diameter Race Face Next R Carbon handlebar and Atlas 35mm stem.
There’s a limit to how soft you can run the rear suspension on the G-180 before you start clipping pedals, so the geometry has to regulate your set-up to get you in the sweet spot. Set it too soft and it also makes the G-180 sluggish to respond to hard pedalling efforts, something we also noticed when testing the S-160. So best err on the side of caution when setting the sag. Get it right though, and the G-180 rewards you with a perfectly balanced ride that excels on loose, natural terrain. It doesn’t feel as direct or as solid as the Nukeproof Giga 290 on bike park trails, but there’s a distinct calmness to the ride of the G-180 that could reduce fatigue on longer trails or Alpine race stages. And while we can’t fault the G-180 on the descents, with so much travel, we’d like an even steeper seat angle to push the rider further forward on the climbs. After all, it’s a bike that’s been designed for riders that like to earn their turns.