Some bikes just seem to stand out like a sore thumb. And it would appear that Whyte has developed itself a nasty habit for producing sore thumbs.
As the latest full suspension bike from the UK brand, the S-120 is propped up with 29in wheels and 120mm of travel via the latest iteration of the Quad Link 4 suspension platform. That sees it slotting into the ‘fun XC/lightweight trail bike’ category alongside competitors such as the Specialized Stumpjumper ST, the GT Sensor, and the Merida One-Twenty.
It’s the genuinely contemporary geometry that makes the S-120 stick out though. Using an uber-slack 65.5° head angle along with a reduced fork offset, the front of the S-120 appears to have borrowed from an enduro bike. Reach measurements across the range are yuuuge, and they’re paired to a stubby 40mm stem and 780mm bars. It’s all rather bodacious.
Then you see the suave carbon mainframe. And the lightweight Fox 34 Step-Cast fork. And the…err…’optimistic’ Maxxis Crossmark II rear tyre.
Eh? What the hell kind of bike is this?
Let’s take a closer look and see if we can find out…
“Incredibly confident with a voracious appetite for speed, the S-120 is an exceptionally versatile all-round MTB using our new 120mm 29er Trail platform. Building on the ground-breaking T-129, its superb suspension and technical trail handling redefines what you can expect from a 120mm bike, whether you’re powering up the climbs, shredding the trail or charging the descents.” – Whyte Bikes.
2019 Whyte S-120C Features
- Lightweight full suspension 29er trail bike
- Monocoque carbon mainframe
- Welded alloy Symmetrical SCR back end
- Quad Link 4 suspension design
- 120mm travel front & rear
- Designed for 44mm fork offset
- 65.5° head angle
- 75° effective seat tube angle
- 430mm chainstay length
- Reach: 432mm (S), 456mm (M), 480mm (L), 504mm (XL)
- Max tyre clearance: 29×2.3in
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell w/ISCG 05 chainguide tabs
- Hidden Intergrip seat clamp system
- Claimed frame weight: 2780g (Medium size, including rear shock & hardware)
- Price range: £3,100 – £5,250 / $6,500 – $9,400 AUD
There are currently three models in the S-120 lineup, with the RS shown here sitting in the middle of the bunch. Regardless of the parts strapped onto them, all three bikes are built upon the same carbon/alloy frameset.
The monocoque carbon fibre mainframe is shared with the T-130C, though the welded alloy back end is unique to the S-120. There’s no confirmation yet as to whether we’ll see a cheaper all-alloy frame in the future, but it’s probably given the rest of the Whyte lineup.
You’ll find the usual modern accoutrements including a tapered zero-stack head tube, internal routing through the downtube, rubber armouring in the key danger zones, and a 148x12mm tool-free rear thru-axle.
Keeping the shapely carbon fibre seat tower clean is the clever Intergrip seat clamp system. Instead of a conventional external clamp, the Intergrip uses an internal wedge that locks down the seatpost via a 5mm hex bolt.
And to keep water and dirt from working its way inside the frame and down to the bottom bracket area, a thick rubber ring wraps around the seatpost to help shield the entry point.
Lifetime Bearing Warranty
Like all Whyte full suspension models, the S-120 comes with a lifetime warranty on the main pivot bearings. That means if they do wear out over time, Whyte will actually supply you with fresh ones via your local dealer, free of charge.
To prevent that from happening in the first place, Whyte has spec’d high quality industrial sealed cartridge bearings that are purpose-built for low-rotation applications. These feature full complement ball bearings on the inside for added load support, anodized alloy pivot caps on the outside to act as a weather shield, and a special food-grade grease that sits between the two. We’ll be letting you know what it tastes like shortly.
Reduced Offset Fork
Pushing the boundaries of contemporary frame geometry has become a hallmark of Whyte’s mountain bike designs over the past few years, and the S-120 is no different. Just like the G-170, the S-150 and the T-130, the S-120 also comes with a reduced offset fork.
In the case of the RS model, it’s a lightweight Fox 34 Step-Cast fork that features a 44mm offset, instead of the more often used 51mm offset. Along with that slack head angle, that gives a butt-load of trail (120mm of ‘ground trail’ to be exact) that, in theory, should keep the steady the bike at high speeds.
Quad Link 4 Suspension Design
Whyte carries through its Quad Link 4 platform – its own take on a Horst link four-bar suspension design. Compared to the T-129 (the bike the S-120 replaces), the QL4 system on the S-120 adds in an alloy shock extender that connects the tail end of the Fox Float DPS shock to the rocker link.
This is an increasingly popular method for driving the rear shock, which we’ve seen implemented elsewhere on the likes of the Specialized Stumpjumper, Ibis Ripmo, and Cannondale Habit. As well as eliminating the need for one of the shock’s DU bushings, it also allows for a more optimal shock location, which in the case of the S-120, provides room for a bottle cage inside the mainframe.
No Front Derailleurs Allowed
Whyte was an early adopter of 1x specific frames, and its SCR (Single Chain Ring) design carries through to the S-120. Not only has this allowed for a compact 430mm chainstay length, it also means the main pivot can be very wide spaced to improve strength and stiffness through the rear end.
Mud clearance is generous around the 2.2in Crossmark II tyre (particularly through the bridgeless seatstays), though Whyte recommends a maximum width of 2.3in in the rear of the S-120, so don’t be expecting new-school 2.6in tyres to fit here. There’s clearance to run up to a 36t chainring though, which is pretty impressive given just how chunky the chainstay yoke is.
Bike Yoke Revive Dropper Post
Rather than a RockShox Reverb, KS LEV or a no-name dropper post, Whyte decided to spec the excellent Revive dropper from Bike Yoke. This dropper offers a super light action, with a slightly ostentatious return speed and top-out clunk – watch the video at the top of the article for a demonstration that’ll have you laughing nervously.
Thanks to the stubby seat tube length, the Small frame size features 125mm of travel, while the Medium and larger sizes get a whopping 160mm of travel.
Big Reaches, Short Stems
To counter the stretched out top tube, Whyte has spec’d a wee 40mm stem length on every frame size. The alloy stem is Whyte’s own design, with a huge 4-bolt faceplate that’s designed to support broad 31.8mm diameter handlebars.
Speaking of which, you’ll get 780mm hangers on the S-120. The short-stem-wide-bar combo is designed to increase high-speed control and steering response, even with that slack head angle.
Despite the carbon mainframe, Whyte has stuck with a threaded bottom bracket shell – a favoured option for many UK mountain bikers.
The BB in question is a DUB unit from SRAM, which features an adjustable preload collar for taking out any bearing play that may develop over time.
In an interesting move by Whyte, the S-120 (like the S-150) features a new-school disc brake mount at the rear dropouts. This flat-mount style is what you’ll see on modern disc brake road bikes, as well as on certain MTBs like the Cannondale FS-i and Canyon Lux.
It gives it a really clean look without the welded post-style tabs you’d normally have. The brake calliper itself though, a SRAM Guide RS, is no different from normal – it just uses a specific flat-mount adapter. But if mountain bike disc brake callipers ever move to the same flat-mount standard, you might be able to lose the adapter for an even cleaner look.
And here completes the visual tour of our latest test bike, the Whyte S-120C RS. This whip will be put through the grinder over the coming months alongside other short-travel trail bikes we’re currently testing including the Giant Trance 29, Canyon Neuron CF, and Merida One-Twenty.
You can head to the Whyte Bikes website for more information, though if you’ve got any questions for us about the S-120, ask away in the comments section below!
2019 Whyte S-120C RS Specs
- Frame // Monocoque Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Alloy Rear, 120mm Travel
- Fork // Fox 34 Float Rhythm, Performance Series, GRIP Damper, 44mm Offset, 120mm Travel
- Shock // Fox Float DPS, Performance Series, 210x50mm
- Hubs // Whyte Alloy, Double Sealed Bearing, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Race Face AR-27 Offset, 27mm Internal Width, Tubeless Ready, 32h
- Tyres // Maxxis EXO 60tpi Forekaster 2.35in Front & Crossmark II 2.25in Rear
- Crankset // SRAM Stylo 7K, 34t X-Sync 2 Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
- Brakes // SRAM Guide RS, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
- Stem // Whyte Gravity, 40mm Length
- Bars // Whyte 6061 Alloy, 15mm Rise, 780mm Wide
- Grips // Whyte Lock-On
- Seatpost // Bike Yoke Revive, 160mm Travel
- Saddle // Whyte
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Confirmed Weight // 13.35kg / 29.37 lbs
- RRP // £3,499 / $6,500 AUD