Words Dean Hersey Photography Chipps
Once upon a not very distant time ago, mountain bikes were easily recognisable and labelled. If they were cars, then short travel hardtail bikes were for the Lycra clad whippets racing cross-country, lightweight and fast, similar to your classic soft-top roadster. Meanwhile, youngsters rolled around in skinny jeans and T shirts on tiny hardtail frames with the one brake and a sole purpose to hit tombstones of dirt. I liken these bikes to the impracticable beach buggy.
Of course we had ‘BIG’ bikes for the speedsters, the monster trucks of mountain bikes, built for racing downhill over any obstacle. With adaptations, downhill race bikes could be tweaked into cliff-dropping freeride weapons capable of jumps that would scare Evel Knievel.
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Then along came the trail bike, the everyday hatchback, for the most part full suspension and extremely capable of all day epics and weekend blitzes around trail centres in relative ease and comfort, a happy medium for the masses. But, with the addition of key items such as dropper posts and 1x drivetrains the frames and components morphed again into what some people might call ‘enduro’ bikes. To the untrained eye, the same outline as a trail bike/hatchback but some what beefed up for stage racing to create a rally car.
They had bigger travel and tweaked geometry, differentiating them from their trail bike cousins and yet they were still lighter than the brutish, burly, park and freeride bikes of yesteryear. Capable of everything from lung-busting alpine transition climbs to ten-minute downhill stages and everything in between.
Now the lines really start to blur. Finally, every mountain bike manufacturer the world over had its own take on the trail, all-mountain and enduro wave of bikes. The end.
Not so fast. So what’s next? Do we really need clearly defined ideas of what we should be riding and on what machinery? I think not. After all, free time is precious, money is tight, and all we really want or need is to ride when we can on what we have. No? Well, kind of, but that isn’t what makes the world go round for everyone. But I believe that being able to pedal around having fun is most important.
That is where these bikes come in. Some may say this type of bike has been around before. But only now can we truly exploit them. All three bikes are from very popular brands in the UK at three different price points. They all boast ample travel, 27.5in wheels, up-to-date sizing and geometry and dropper seatposts meaning they scream ‘fun’, among the world of the, now clichéd, ‘jump further, ride faster and for longer’.
Arguably, on paper, these three bikes may seem ‘too much bike’ for UK enduro racing and far more capable than the old skool freeride, bike park sledges. They are slightly lacking in head angle and travel to be labelled as true downhill race bikes – meaning they are in a kind of uncategorised zone we’ll coin ‘Beyonduro’.
So what sort of a tool are they and if you felt the need, how can you pigeonhole them into a genre of mountain biking? Think of them as Sunday-best bikes, like Sunday cars. These are bikes for that holiday in the mountains, designs that shout ‘bike park shuttling’ and can yet still plod to the top as long as you’re not in a hurry. They’re a special occasion bike you own for the pure fun of using it, and when you own a ‘daily driver’ for vast majority of your local riding, these bikes should bring a smile in every mile, every time they come out.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp
- Price: £2,399.00 (as tested)
- From: Nukeproof
Like many well-established mountain bike manufacturers, Nukeproof can trace its roots back to the ’90s when it was best known for its super-light carbon and aluminium hubs. Unfortunately, Nukeproof Industries struggled with the downturn after the initial boom of the ’90s. Up stepped Northern Irishman Michael Cowan, an avid downhill racer and admirer of the brand. He decided to breathe fresh life into the name and set about acquiring the necessaries. In 2004 the Nukeproof that we know today was born. Fast forward to 2007 when Nukeproof started an initial run of components such as shock springs and wide (even by today’s standards) handlebars for the gravity mountain bike market. This component production coincided with the development of a frame to compete in the infamous Megavalanche race. The three-year development programme resulted in the Mega.
Originally the Mega was based around 150mm of single pivot suspension conceived to tackle all the rough and tough of the mountain race it was named after. The bike was made strong, stiff and was offered at a privateer-friendly price. Now in the fourth generation of the Mega, the bike has some serious pedigree when it comes to racing results. This current model can boast development from three times downhill world champion Sam Hill. This Mega is also the reigning EWS champion under arguably one of the most gifted mountain bike riders of all time at the helm.
The 2018 Mega can be acquired in either 27.5 or as a 29er. Both wheel sizes share the same component specification across the range. The Comp level alloy framed bikes start at a competitive £2,400. Although the 290 model is only available with a full alloy frame, the 275 model range tops out with the flagship Mega 275c RS at £4,599 that is constructed using a carbon front end mated to the alloy swingarm.
During my introduction to the Mega 275 Comp it became clear this is a serious gravity weapon with some distinctly solid frame design. The bike packs some big attitude, with a geometry inspired by its downhill bike stablemate.
The alloy frames in the Nukeproof range are all constructed by using custom triple butted hydroformed tubes. The one colour choice of the Mega Comp won’t be to everyone’s liking, but the kinked top tube, the frame and shock’s lines paired with neat welding detail, go some way to make up for the paint.
Nukeproof by name, Nukeproof in nature. The bike’s burly appearance is backed up with a wide main pivot bearing to increase stiffness and with Boost front and rear wheel spacing, the theme continues out to the rolling stock.
Previous models of the Mega had complaints about the choice of shock tune. The current bike has quashed these issues by working closely with SRAM to really squeeze the most out of the Horst Link rear design. The 2018 Mega maximises the 165mm of travel from the metric RockShox Deluxe R shock utilising a rocker link mounted cartridge bearing system to further improve sensitivity and reduce friction in the stroke.
So with the Mega growing in travel over the years, the frame’s intentions are upheld with an equally robust and burly spec. The RockShox flavour continues at the front end with the 35mm lowers of the Yari RC fork. While the Yari is a more wallet-friendly option than its brother the Lyrik, it still offers riders 170mm of fork travel, albeit with a somewhat less sophisticated damping from the Motion Control RC unit. The Yari fork also misses out on the convenient, tool-free Maxle QR axle, meaning tyre changing in a rush will be more of a faff. But don’t forget this is, after all, the entry-level spec and this choice of fork helps to keep the build within budget.
Whopping great 800mm width Nukeproof Neutron bars and matching 50mm stem make up the cockpit steering duties. Then to transfer the steering through to the terrain, Nukeproof has chosen 2.3in Maxxis High Roller II 3C rubber with full enduro spec Double Down casing to offer protection, but without the weight penalty of a full dual-ply DH casing. The Maxxis rubber is set up tubeless on a pair of Nukeproof Neutron wheels.
The drivetrain is taken care of by Shimano in the form of an SLX 11-speed Shadow Plus rear mech and shifter combo. The Mega 275 is 1×11 only now, so the stiff, hollow forged 170mm Shimano SLX cranks are wearing a 32T chainring, paired with an 11–42T Shimano SLX cassette out back. Do not fear about dropped chains, the Mega comp comes with a MRP chain guide bolted into the frame’s ISCG 05 mount for race day chain security.
To pull the Mega comp up to a halt Nukeproof is relying upon Shimano Deore stoppers with 203mm front rotor and a 180mm rotor at the rear.
Now, a bike of this ilk is unlikely to be a light weight toffee hammer but more of a bruising sledge hammer with few subtleties. The Mega comp weighed in at a reassuring 33.2lbs/14.91kgs.
- Frame // Mega 275 Alloy 165mm travel
- Fork // RockShox Yari RC Solo Air, 170mm travel
- Shock // RockShox Super Deluxe R
- Hubs // F Novatec D711SB-B15 15x110mm, R Nukeproof 12x148mm Boost
- Rims // Nukeproof Neutron 27.5in
- Tyres // Maxxis High Roller II, 27.5in x 2.3, 3C Maxx Terra
- Chainset // Shimano SLX M6000, 1×11, 170mm, 32T
- Chain Guide // MRP 1x CS, 28–34T, ISCG-05
- Rear Mech // Shimano SLX 11-Speed, Shadow Plus
- Shifters // Shimano SLX
- Cassette // Shimano SLX 11-Speed 11–42T
- Brakes // Shimano Deore M6000, Resin, R180 F203
- Stem // Nukeproof Neutron AM, 50mm
- Bars // Nukeproof Neutron 800mm
- Grips // Nukeproof
- Seatpost // Brand X Ascend, 120mm
- Saddle // Nukeproof Vector AM
- Size Tested // Large
- Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
- Weight // 14.85kg / 33 lbs (without pedals)
With a slack 65° head angle up front, and 75.5° seat angle, the Mega has a low centre of gravity and the bottom bracket sits at 332mm from the ground, nigh on perfect to limit pedal strikes in the rough but offer a stable and balanced ride. The reach on the large size frame I tested was out at 470mm which, paired with the standover height, the 50mm stem and the monstrous bars give a roomy riding position.
With the first feel of the bike’s contact points I was disappointed. I found the grips were brutally thin and the Nukeproof saddle too square and hard. You’d need to be Chuck Norris to ride it with no gloves or padded short liner. The Brand X dropper post worked well during the test period, although I would have preferred more of a drop than the 120mm on offer. I liked the under bar (shifter type) lever ergonomics, but the action didn’t feel the most refined.
Once I was used to these crucial but somewhat minor (and easy to swap out) details I could concentrate on how the bike felt. On tight, natural trails you could feel the 33lbs mass of the bike resulting in a heavy laboured feel in the corners, particularly on flatter trails at slower speeds. But the Mega wasn’t meant to go slow… Once on some more substantial terrain and over some bike park laps, the geometry all began to make sense.
The wheelbase of the size large Mega is a smidge over 1226mm and gave me the feeling of a bike that’s well balanced, managing big trail features with ease. It’s a good mix of a stable length without losing any of the agility. Picking and holding lines is a major attribute of the Nukeproof. I found it hard to get the bike out of shape and this inspired confidence to keep charging. Pairing this geometry to the stiff 35mm legged fork and frame chassis meant you could really stamp on the pedals coming out of corners with lots of snap and feedback.
I found the High Roller II tyres to be the best on test for all-out grip and protection from the rougher type of terrain this bike is focused on. No punctures or issues to report and I have been dropping the pressures from my base 23 psi front and 27 psi rear to see what I could get away with.
The Deluxe R rear shock was a breeze to set up. I ran the Mega with 30% sag and liked to wind the rebound damping fully open. I found the forks slightly more difficult to dial into the perfect setting compared to the other bikes in this test. Running the RockShox Yari forks at 30% sag left them feeling harsh and not overly sensitive at the start of the stroke. I put this down to a less sophisticated damper than the Lyrik installed on the other test bikes. When the Yari was pushed into full speed chattery trail sections during back-to-back tests the Yari struggled noticeably compared to the Charger damper equipped Lyrik. Lighter riders will want to try removing the volume token to improve sensitivity and eke out the last of the 170mm fork travel.
I did come unstuck and scared myself on numerous occasions at the least opportune moments due to the Shimano Deore brakes pulling to the bar and requiring a pump before they really started to bite. I tried to rectify this with some attempts to bleed the units to improve the feel but to no avail.
The bike didn’t feel the best in test at climbing; I put this down to the choice of gear ratio and the weight. The Mega Comp is less of a spinner and more of a smasher when it comes to pointing it up the hill. This understandably results in bob from the rear shock and with no lockout it’s something you just have to suffer if you don’t have the luxury of a shuttle or a chairlift.
Nukeproof has certainly delivered with the 2018 Mega. In my opinion the sizing and geometry is near perfect. The bike offers great balance and the support in the fast stuff and corners is rewarding.
The build for the money is impressive. Offering RockShox suspension, great tyres, a dropper post and reliable Shimano SLX drivetrain for this build is great.
The Mega will be most at home on holiday in the Alps for a week or two; just keep in mind the limitations of the Deore brakes and you’ll have the most fun, even if you’re not Sam Hill at the races.
Santa Cruz Nomad Alloy S
- Price: £4,299.00 (as tested)
- From: Santa Cruz
You will need to roll the clocks back to 2005 to find the first iteration of the Nomad, roughly about the same time as the birth of what we now all call enduro. The Nomad had travel in abundance, even bigger attitude and was made from aluminium.
The Nomad version 1 sported 165mm travel, with 26 inch wheels and had a curvaceous hydroformed alloy frame. It was billed as somewhat of a mini downhill bike, but it was more than that. The bike was arguably one of the first big mountain enduro bikes. It was immensely popular with consumers and turned up to race anything from big mountain enduro races in the Alps to mini downhill races here at home in the UK. The original Nomad pedalled so well with its VPP suspension you were able to ‘winch and plummet’ all day.
So now the Santa Cruz Nomad is in its fourth version. The carbon fibre chassis version of this Nomad has been about for a year now. This alloy version we had on test was released more recently. The alloy models share the same geometry, sizing and lines as the more expensive sibling.
This bike radically differs visually from the three previous Nomad models. Gone is the previous shock linkage design and instead the Nomad has borrowed the lower mounted linkage design from its race-winning big brother, the V10. The bike is now longer, slacker and more progressive than before. The travel has grown too, up from 165mm to 170mm.
But where does it leave the godfather of enduro bikes? With the bike looking more like a mini V10 and all the Santa Cruz enduro race team (it’s a big gang) choosing to ride the Hightower LT 29er for EWS racing over the past season or so, is the Nomad all dressed up with nowhere to go? Has the Nomad Alloy got too big for its roots and toppled over?
The Santa Cruz Nomad Alloy is available in two builds, and either Tan or Ink (the dark blue tested here). Santa Cruz offers the Nomad in an impressive full range of sizes from XS right up to XL. The bike has grown in comparison to the previous model. The reach on the current size M is what would have been the L in the older iteration.
Prices for the cheapest Alloy R build start at £3,599 and then £4,299 for the Nomad Alloy S. As mentioned above, the bike is identical in geometry and sizing to the carbon versions. The carbon fibre frame prices start at the same price as the Alloy S and go right on through to an eye-watering £6,799 for the top spec CC equipped with SRAM XX1 Eagle. The carbon frame is also available to women in the form of the Juliana Strega in sizes XS, S and M.
The Ink paint on the test bike we have is high quality and the glossy finish looks like it could take a knock or two. The rest of the frame finish is extremely well thought out with all external cable routing (apart from the stealth dropper obviously) making life easier for when maintenance is due. The frame features a threaded BB shell, a bottle cage mount and the bottom linkage is embellished with grease ports to guide fresh grease directly to the bearings to prolong their life.
As expected, the new frame takes advantage of Boost hub spacing. Surprisingly there is only clearance for 2.5in tyres in the frame, so no plus size tyres for this pony. The shock housing on the other hand will accommodate all the metric modern shocks from the main suspension manufacturers. Although the Alloy S test bike has a RockShox Super Deluxe R air shock, a coil will fit.
I’ve briefly mentioned that the Nomad has had its geometry and sizing altered. I failed to mention that the bike features an adjustable linkage labelled as high and low. The shock will need to be removed to flip the chip so it’s not exactly a trailside swap. The change will adjust the BB height +/-5mm between 339mm (low) and 344mm (high). So that should read ‘low’ and ‘lower’?
Other official figures include either a 65° or 64.6° slack head angle (for perspective the current V10 DH bike has head angle of 64°) and a seat-up climbing friendly 74.5° or 74.1° seat tube angle.
On the front, we have the identical fork to the Whyte G170C RS – the 170mm travel RockShox Lyrik RC with the critically acclaimed Charger damper, which completes the RockShox suspension alliance front and rear.
The SRAM parts theme continues with 12-speed Eagle GX drivetrain and 150mm Reverb seatpost as the Whyte. However, the Santa Cruz has full downhill spec Code brakes compared to the less powerful Guide units on the G170.
The hoops come set up tubeless and are 30mm-wide e*thirteen TRS rims, laced to noisy Novatec hubs. The rubber is again of the Maxxis flavour with Minion DHF and DHR front and rear respectively.
- Frame // Nomad Alloy 170mm travel
- Fork // RockShox Lyrik RC, 170mm travel
- Shock // RockShox Super Deluxe R
- Hubs // F Novatec D641 15x110mm R Novatec D642 12x148mm (XD)
- Rims // E13 TRS 30mm 32h
- Tyres // F Maxxis Minion DHF 3C 27.5 x 2.5in, R Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5 x 2.4in
- Chainset // SRAM GX Eagle 32tT
- Chain Guide// E13 TRS + 1x Guide ISCG05
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM XG1275 Eagle – 12-Speed, 10–50T
- Brakes // SRAM Code R F 180mm, R 180mm
- Stem // Race Face Aeffect R – 50mm
- Bars // Race Face Aeffect R – 35x780mm, 20mm Rise
- Grips // Santa Cruz Palmdale
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth – 31.6x170mm (L-XL)
- Saddle // WTB Volt Race
- Size Tested // L
- Sizes available // XS, S, M, L, XL
- Weight // 14.29kg / 31.1lbs (without pedals)
The size of the bike felt as long in the reach as the numbers denote on paper. Add this to the 800mm bars and 50mm stem of the Race Face Aeffect R cockpit, it culminated in an attacking riding position.
Although I did struggle to get my 5ft 10in off the back and over the rear hub in the steep, the Nomad did get me into and out of trouble countless times while lapping the bike park. The low-slung frame design paired with the low seat tube and top tube offers some serious clearance when things do get wild and offers plenty of space to quickly move your body position to try to keep up.
The lack of any shock lockout on the RockShox Super Deluxe R really denotes the bike’s intentions. Despite that, the bike climbs better than you would believe, proving that it’s more than a mini DH bike. I put this down to the VPP suspension design, the seat tube angle and the faultless 12-speed SRAM Eagle GX dinner plate-sized cassette. There is no mistaking the Nomad is not a cross-country or trail bike, but there is an element of pedal efficiency like a diesel plodder rather than a sports car when the seat is up and you find the terrain heads skywards.
The build is bombproof and built to last, even when riding downhill tracks in the bike park. The now standard Santa Cruz lifetime frame and bearing warranty backs up the package further. Interestingly the bike weighed in at a smidge over 31lbs. But it didn’t feel overly weighty; the frame and wheels felt stiff and this offered a degree of pop and playfulness that was missing from other bikes on test. This is no sloth on the trails; it flounces a decent level of agility and didn’t feel too cumbersome especially when pointed downhill. It possesses a turn of speed and a beautiful feel when on the limit of grip. It is a bike that renders the phrase ‘if only I had a bigger bike I’d have given that line a go’ null and void.
On the trail, the Nomad is graced with masses of mid-stroke feedback and the shock felt progressive and ramped up nicely once pushed on deep in the biggest of trail obstacles. The Super Deluxe R gave a excellent amount of small bump sensitivity. I ran it with 30% sag and just three clicks of rebound damping on; after experimenting over a long day in the bike park, I settled on the high geometry setting. Now it’s been nearly four years since I have ridden a full-blown World Cup-ready downhill bike but the Nomad bike really does have a downhill bike ride characteristic to it and is very sure of itself while it goes about its business.
The SRAM Code R brakes are serious bits of kit. It took time to adjust to the power of the four pot numbers. Early on I found myself braking far too soon when riding my familiar local trails; eventually after a few runs I learnt I could sail on past my old braking markers. It did take a while to adjust to the power and the modulation of the Codes though, causing me to attempt to skid my way through the rear tyre in a day.
The Nomad comes as the complete well-rounded package allowing riders to literally swing a leg over the low-slung frame and push to the limit. I stress in most cases it will be the limit of the rider and definitely not the bike’s. The Santa Cruz begs you to go big and ploughs through the rough with ease, with a bottomless feel that’s as close to a downhill bike as you can get with 170mm of travel.
If you are looking for a bike to take on big days out in the gnarliest of terrains, the Nomad Alloy does it with ease.
Whyte G170C RS
- Price: £3,799.00 (as tested)
- From: Whyte Bikes
Whyte bikes has been cleaning up with awards and accolades from the mountain bike press just lately. But this is not a new phase it’s going through: the first bike was a hit nearly 20 years ago. Whyte can also boast of testing bikes in the tough and often grim conditions right here in the UK, meaning they have been developed with details that matter to us serious riders right here in ol’ Blighty, rather than bikes that may never see rain or mud during their R&D phase. The design team has a unique skill set with backgrounds from elite level bike racing, world championship sailing and Formula 1.
The Whyte theory of bike design is to treat the frame as a complete system. This system is made up of the suspension kinematics, the frame layout, chassis geometry and finally key design features (more of those later) to keep the pedals turning even in the harshest conditions.
So what do we have here? An EWS gravity stage stampeding bike, with long travel in a range that is available in both aluminium and carbon fibre flavours. This model is the burliest bike that Whyte produces; it replaces the G160 model in the range (which had replaced the G150 before that). It should be considered as an evolution or a tweak of the 160 rather than a radically different new design. As the G160 was already a great bike, one we enjoyed riding in the past, it makes no sense to try to fix something that wasn’t broken.
The Whyte G170 is available in three build options starting at £2,399 for the G170S and topping out at £5,499 for the G170C Works. Importantly, all three models share the same geometry.
Our test bike is the mid-range G170C RS, size large, and uses a combination of monocoque carbon fibre for the main frame, while the back end is alloy. The matt black paint and bright blue and orange decals look great and in my opinion this is the best colour scheme in the range.
The bike has a no-nonsense look and is poised for action, with its 65° head angle and 170mm travel. Its BB is really low, the lowest of the three bikes on test with a bottom bracket height of 330mm (10mm lower than the G160 this bike replaces). Whyte has chosen to stretch the chainstay length out, albeit only 5mm to 430mm, bucking the current trend of other manufactures of going as short as possible. This was done to offer the rider improved front and rear weight distribution and enhance the bike’s balance.
The rear suspension design is also slightly reworked from previous bikes. It still remains a Horst Link system in the form of the Quad 4 platform from Whyte. Whyte has tweaked the leverage curve and the bike utilises a metric shock, in this case a RockShox Deluxe RT3. The RockShox shock is married up to the Quad 4 suspension out back and uses tough sealed bearings that are packed with carefully selected grease before they are hidden behind low-profile anodised caps. Whyte then backs all this up with a lifetime warranty. Reassuring if you ride in all conditions.
The rear triangle is a symmetrical SCR number with huge tyre clearance and 148mm Boost dropouts. The frame will take up to 3.0in ‘Plus’ tyres so you can squeeze in wide, high-volume monster truck tyres or run a conventional size tyre and have plenty of mud clearance. The bike is consistently well thought out and continues with features including a weatherproof seat clamp system, carefully sealed internal cable routing to reduce water ingress into the frame and a threaded bottom bracket shell.
Up front, the carbon main frame houses the shock neatly tucked up underneath the top tube to allow access to the controls. This also grants the choice of a big piggyback shock upgrade later and allows room for a bottle cage and ample space for a full-size bottle.
The fork is a RockShox Lyrik RC with a 170mm travel matching the rear. It comes equipped with the Charge damper with rebound and compression adjustment. Slotted into this chassis is a pair of WTB STs i29 rims set up tubeless with Maxxis rubber. Interestingly Whyte elected to run a 2.4in Highroller II on the front with 3C Maxx Terra compound and an optimistic 2.3in Minion SS semi-slick on the bike. (Did it see the long range weather forecast for summer 2018, we wonder?)
Braking and drivetrain duties are taken care of by SRAM’s powerful Guide R four-pot stoppers with 12-speed SRAM Eagle GX on the power delivery. It is no surprise that the bike is 1x only as Whyte was early to commit to single ring technology in all its mountain bikes with its SCR design. Although the frame has an ISCG 05 mount there is no chain guide fitted out of the box. A 150mm RockShox Reverb dropper seatpost completes the SRAM/RockShox package.
The cockpit items have been developed by Whyte to further enhance the geometry of the bike with a custom shaped 780mm bar and a super short 40mm stem. All this together amounts to a complete bike weight of 31.5lbs/14.12kg.
So let’s go take a look at how we got on with the Whyte G170C RS.
- Frame // Carbon/Alloy, 170mm travel
- Fork // RockShox Lyrik, RC, 170mm travel
- Shock // RockShox Deluxe RT3
- Hubs // F Alloy, 15mm X 110mm Axle, 32 Hole. R Whyte, 12mm X 148mm Boost 32 Hole
- Rims // WTB STs i29 Rims
- Tyres // F Maxxis High Roller II TR, 27.5 x 2.4in, R Maxxis Minion SS, 27.5 x 2.3in
- Chainset // SRAM Descendant Carbon Eagle 32T, 12-Speed
- Rear Mech // RAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle
- Cassette // SRAM XG-1275 Eagle 10–50T, 12-Speed
- Brakes // SRAM Guide R, 4 Pots, R 180mm, F 200mm Rotor
- Stem // Whyte Gravity Stem, 40mm
- Bars // Whyte Custom Alloy 6061, 35mm Bar Bore, 15mm Rise, 780mm Wide
- Grips // Whyte Lock-on V Grip
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm, 30.9mm
- Saddle // Whyte Custom Dual Density
- Size Tested // L
- Sizes available // M, L
- Weight // 14.12kg / 31.5lbs (without pedals)
The first thing you notice is how well this bike pedals, even with the shock left wide open. Despite how steep the climbs were I never needed to flick the lockout lever on – this can be credited to the huge SRAM gear ratio and the steep seat tube angle – to the point I would have said the bike felt considerably lighter than the scales proved.
The wide, sure-footed alloy swingarm still offered some welcomed flex, adding to the grip and the feel of the bike rather than being overly harsh and uncomfortable.
I set the sag at 30% and ran the rebound of the custom-tuned shock with five clicks from open. While the Deluxe RT3 offered plenty of support when climbing with the seat up, I would love to unlock this bike’s full potential with a piggyback or coil shock. The more aggressive rider would surely welcome the trade-off in weight for the opportunity to really open the G170 up in high-speed sections with no regard to safety, just brutish bulldozing even in rough multiple hits.
The bike possesses a need to gallop and wants to go everywhere with the afterburners on. This is a very fast bike that carries speed well and is akin to how a modern 29er designed for a similar genre of riding feels, despite the smaller wheels. While the BB is comparatively low (9mm lower than the low setting on the Nomad), you soon learn to make some adjustments to how you get on the pedals in more technical climbs. Combined with the fact that Whyte has slid some 170mm carbon SRAM Descendant cranks into the G170’s long wheelbase, this bike offers the rider lots of confidence to push on when descending. Although this bike is no limousine in the turns with its geometry and shortish back end, there is a noticeable absence of any ‘pop’ and playfulness. This requires the rider to get their kicks from charging fast rather than through a flickable riding style.
The bike almost feels awkward when gently coasting around a flat car park and slower speeds felt alien until the Whyte snapped into its stride. It is incredible how different the bar and stem felt compared to the other two bikes and what else I’ve been used to riding lately. The short cockpit and roomy top tube length give this bike a feeling of being inside the bike rather than nervously perched on top. I was impressed with how stable and balanced it felt, with almost perfect front and rear weight distribution and, credit where credit is due, the bars, short stem and sizing really work.
The composed inspiring ride continued with the brake power and feel that I have come to expect from the SRAM four piston stoppers. In Wales I did have to adjust how hard to pull these on when I really needed to scrub speed off due to the combination of semi-slick rear tyre and some slick damp rocks and roots under the wheel. This is a easy swap for a wetter days riding or a season change.
So what is there to not like? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the semi-slick rear tyre choice out of the box will want to be swapped out if you are a sane human being and taking delivery outside of the British summer time, otherwise expect business out front and a party at the back.
I did also experience a lot of hose rattle around the headset. To remedy this I would try some cable tidies or some carefully placed heat shrink to bind them together.
The tidy cockpit utilises the SRAM Matchmaker to keep the cockpit neat but the RockShox Reverb ergonomics would have been improved for me by the under bar shifter-style trigger (perfecting the fit for my freakishly small hands) rather than the push-button lever supplied.
Don’t get sucked into thinking this is a wallowy family saloon car, built for the odd jaunt to the trail centres. The G170C RS is aimed squarely at the full-blown, fire-breathing EWS racer. Its balance, poise and composure at speed coupled with its sure-footed turn-in spells out a bloody fast bike, designed for modern big mountain days between the tapes.
So there we have it, three bikes that can all boast a whopping 170mm of travel. All three machines are incredible and very capable in the toughest terrain. Seemingly split across three price brackets with a spec that reflects their prices. So do you get what you pay for? Do these bikes linger in a subgenre beyond the realms of enduro? Or are they just examples of how the modern era of stage racing and the demands of the tracks are altering how the bikes ride and look?
The Whyte G170C RS with its carbon/alloy mix occupies a middle ground in this test in terms of price and also between this new breed of surgically precise 29er enduro race bikes and the slightly too svelte and lightweight 150mm race bikes from past years. The G170 is a straight-line freight train backed up with some newly found extra travel and suspension progression to give support when the going gets tough. I really enjoyed riding the bike and in my opinion it’s a bike for anyone attempting to race stages blind. Superb for the budding privateer racer. With no top-level medals to add to its mantelpiece just yet, surely it’s only a matter of time for this all-weather weapon?
Next up we have the chassis that is the most winningest (there, I said it…) on the world enduro stage of the three here on test. The Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp, while not exactly cheap, offers riders on a tighter budget an incredible frame with geometry to match that of Sam Hill’s bike. The Mega 275 Comp offers riders a world-beating frame design with all the mod cons to take on many a descent or a climb and everything in between. The performance of this bike, with its geometry that is truly unlocked once it is pointing down and its spec, really surprised me. At almost half the price of the Nomad this is a very capable bike, but it would require some crucial upgrades for me to feel most comfortable while onboard. It does miss the ease of the 12-speed SRAM Eagle treatment of the other two bikes for days with the longest of climbs.
Of course Santa Cruz seems to have been the brand to ride over the past few years, with a strong reputation across all genres of the sport. And it isn’t the end of the good stuff – Santa Cruz can’t seem to put a foot wrong with its bike builds and VPP designs.
The Nomad Alloy S is no different. It’s a sure-footed, fun bike that packs a punch for the downhill and yet can truly be pedalled back up to repeat all day. It really carries a ticket to get out of jail free when you get carried away with excitement. I do feel the Nomad Alloy differentiates itself from the Whyte or the Nukeproof to some degree. The others are raced; they feel more like race bikes and slightly less fun orientated. The Nomad is more about doubling sections, getting airborne and having fun in the mountains and bike parks. That’s not to say that it isn’t a blindingly fast bicycle, just more of a 170mm downhill bike that can pedal along and upwards.
The Nukeproof and the Whyte represent a modern longer legged full-blown enduro race bike. For me these bikes are ‘enduro 2018’ and maybe not completely beyond it.
For that reason, the standout bike for this ‘Beyonduro’ test is the Santa Cruz Nomad Alloy. It is a bike that has outgrown the enduro label and is now off making its own fun path beyond the world of labels and genres.
It would make the perfect second bike for the trips to the mountains, the bike for ‘best’ or the ‘Sunday sports car’. When you’re at home in the UK, or just during the winter months, you could ride a less expensive trail bike or hardtail for the majority of the trail centres or weekend rides with mates. Of course you could still race enduro with it, but I feel that very much misses the point with this bike.
The question is, could you afford to own a luxury such as a Nomad and only ride it a few weeks of the year on trips away to the big mountains, in the same way you might own some top-notch snowboard gear? The bike was so much fun I know I would be out on it every week regardless. Surely that’s why Santa Cruz offers the alloy version as it is somewhat less expensive and you could always choose the less expensive Nomad Alloy R build. Still offering an impressive spec, on paper it will offer an extremely close match in terms of performance, and perhaps more importantly just as much fun, but for £700 less.