Even before the Plus trend wave hit the industry, Stevens were already producing bikes that were tailored to meet the wide-ranging demands of riders – largely based on rider height. The Stevens Whaka ES with 27.5” wheels is intended for small to regular-sized riders (with 16”-20” frames), while the 29” is available for taller riders, with the choice between an 18” or a 22” frame. Now the Whaka ES 27.5+ poses another alternative. So which one are we supposed to buy?
The Models in Detail
On paper, all three of the Whaka ES models look very similar, but it’s another story once you get the trio on the trails. The ES+ doesn’t just visually stand out from the other two but rides like a whole other bike.
Back in 2014, Stevens launched the Whaka ES in two versions: one with 27.5” wheels and the other with 29” hoops. Then this spring, the Hamburg-based company introduced a fine-tuned version of these as well as a plus-size option, which they deliberately gave a different colourway to the other models. According to Stevens, the differences between the models were too vast to justify the same colourways.
Handling of the Stevens Whaka ES
They weren’t exaggerating either! Both the black and green models are rapid to accelerate, with the 29er a little less sprightly. The red Plus version, however, needs a little more leg power to get going, which is largely due to the extra 1.5 kg from the wheels (seeing as the rest of the spec reads pretty much the same). Once you’ve got this rolling mass going, the stability is high and speed can be gained – although as it tips the scales at a hefty 15.45 kg, any long climbs are likely to turn into a grueling grind. The 27.5” and 29er showed their climbing skills, and convinced our test crew with their comfy position and great suspension which aced the downhills. Their rear ends were responsive, efficient at dishing up travel, and had decent end progression. However, the Plus version wasn’t received quite as well, with our test crew complaining of too much damping from both the fork and the rear suspension. Some of this was transferred straight to the rider and led to masses of arm pump – the plus-size tyres, while acclaimed for ironing out trail chatter, were putty on the trails and couldn’t stop this.
Get the Whaka ES+ dipping into a descent and the 3.0” tyres will just ease over any trail obstacles, virtually transforming any root sections into a flow trail. But while it’s so smooth and stable to ride, it does take a bit of wrenching at the bars to steer. This is in marked contrast to the 27.5” model, which is one of the most precise and lively handlers we’ve ridden. However, it just doesn’t have the reserves when the terrain gets technical, and thus you’ve got no real choice but to slow down. The 29er proved to be the test crew’s favourite for that sort of riding, as it was still super agile. yet the bigger wheels had great roll-over characteristics – essentially rendering this 29er bike the standout favourite for all the riders in the test crew.
The Bikes in Detail
Which bike is for who?
Whaka ES 27,5″: A ‘home trail hero’ who mainly rides fairly mellow trails with swooping corners – this bike loves a rapid change of direction.
Whaka ES 29″: The Whaka ES 29” is ideal for riders looking to explore and cover long distances without necessarily hoping to break any records.
Whaka ES 27.5+: This Plus bike didn’t really manage to convince any of our test crew of its merit, so we’d recommend the 29er above the other models.
Summing up the trio of Stevens bike is fairly simple: the majority of the test crew found the Whaka ES 29” to be the best and comfiest bike. Smaller riders with and those who crave an agile bike would also be satisfied with the 27.5” bike. Unfortunately, the Plus bike didn’t strike us as worthy of day-to-day trail riding or long rides.
For more information visit the STEVENS website
This article is part of our group test: The Duel of the Tyre Sizes: 27.5+ vs. 27.5″ and 29er Bikes
Don’t miss the other bikes from the test:
SCOTT Genius 900 Tuned vs. Genius 700 Tuned Plus in Comparison
Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650b vs. 6Fattie in Comparison
Words & Photos:: Christoph Bayer
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