August 4, 2011
Jon Woodhouse reports:
A lot can happen in ten years. When Whyte released their first bike, the PRST-1, back in 2001 it would be an understatement to say it was a departure from the norm. From the ‘Plus Four’ linkage fork, the robot-welded monocoque frame to the proto-QR thru-axle ‘Big Gripper’ dropouts out the back, it certainly wasn’t the work of people that were afraid to try new things. Aesthetically it wasn’t a looker but it was soon followed up with the 46, which arguably pointed the future direction ‘trail bikes’ would take, with long travel for relatively low mass.
Whyte 146 gets tricked out ‘X’ model
So, fast forward ten years and this, the 146 X, is what Whyte reckon is the epitome of the modern trail bike. The X uses the same carbon fibre monocoque frame and Quad Link 2 multi link suspension giving 146mm of rear wheel travel as before but they’ve gone beserk with the shiny bits from the parts bin.
As well as a custom tuned, extra-high volume, Kashima coated Fox RP23 shock at the rear and similarly golden and slippy ‘Factory’ spec 32 Floats, you get an Easton Carbon Haven wheelset and bars, a Rock Shox Reverb post, SRAM XX brakes and the latest XTR Shadow Plus mech and shifters for a 1×10 drivetrain with Hive cranks and E.13 chaindevice. The tubeless Maxxis Crossmark rear/Ardent front combo also points towards someone having specced the bike as if it were their own personal bike – a really well thought out package.
A quid shy of five grand is no small sum of money for a bike, but some fag packet calculations of how much the parts on the bike would cost make it look like masochistically good value.
As you’d expect, the weight is very reasonable too, a claimed 24lbs for a bike that boasts a smidgen shy of six inches of travel. We didn’t get chance to ride it but we’ve been liking the long, slack and low cockpit of the current generation of Whyte bikes and on paper this looks no different.
As ever the nice little design features we’ve come to expect are present; forward facing seatclamp with neat retention tab and comfy QR lever, press-fit 30mm BB shell, future-proof interchangeable dropouts (the 146 X comes as standard with a 142×12 setup), there’s a lifetime warranty on the pivot bearings and the shock is hidden away from muck, although the essential controls are easy enough to get at.
There are more affordable versions of the 146 available should seeing ‘five grand’ make you spit tea all over your computer, starting with the SRAM X9 equipped 146 S for £2,999 and the 146 Works at £3,999, all using Fox suspension and the same carbon frame.
Whyte T-120 loses 670g
The less aggressively orientated T-120 has also had a bit of a refresh for this year. The geometry is exactly the same and it shares all of the UK-friendly features and nice design touches as it’s bigger brother but they’ve managed to drop 680g from the frame weight. The bike now sports a 30.9mm seatpost for greater compatibility with dropper posts. As before, there is 120mm of rear wheel travel but they’ve moved to a high volume air can on the Rock Shox Monarch shock to improve the feeling at the end of the stroke.
Whyte get big wheels with 29-C and 829 hardtails
The big news is that Whyte have created their first 29″ wheeled bikes. Speaking with designer Ian it’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into these frames – specifically in trying to maintain the handling feel you’d expect from a smaller wheeled bike. Having to fit a larger diameter wheel inevitably means a longer rear end, but they’ve done a bit of trickery to try and keep the length increases that negatively impact the handling to a bare minimum and offer decent mud clearance.
Front mech compatibility has also become the bane of big wheeled bike designers lives – the mech needs to be in a specific place to ensure decent shifting, but having that fixed point also limits how far forward the rear wheel can be without running into clearance issues.
The choice has usually limited designers to having a back end much longer than they’d prefer or having terrible clearance, but by using a Direct Mount front mech hung back from the seattube Whyte have been able to get the length of stay they desire and there’s enough room for proper British summer mud rather than clearance fit only for dust.
The 829 is the 29er variant of the X-8 aluminium framed hardtail range and they’ve kept it long, low and, at 69°, the tapered headtube is relatively slack. As with the other bikes, it’s designed to be run with a short stem and comes specced with decently wide bars too.
The back end uses the adjustable dropouts seen on the Whyte long travel trail hardtails, so you can run the rear wheel further out if you’re running high volume tyres or need extra mud clearance or run it tight if you want to keep the handling as snappy as possible. We’re rather looking forward to getting out on one.
If you’re after something a little lighter and more racy then there are a pair of carbon fibre framed bikes to pick from: the Whyte 29-CS and the 29-C. Using carbon fibre has meant they’ve been able to accurately design in flex and stiffness where they want it, with delicate seatstays for a comfortable ride but deep chainstays to prevent any back end flex. The geometry isn’t designed to be stereotypically race-bike twitchy however, taking it’s cues from their trail bikes and featuring 15mm thru axle forks on both models. Again there’s a tapered steerer up front and UK-friendly complete gear cable outers. The rear brake mount in particular is rather tidy, the post mount nestling inbetween the stays.
Whyte 19 Steel and Ti hardtails get bigger headtubes
The popular range of 120mm forked 19 hardtails have been around for a while now but they’ve updated the 19 Steel and 19 Ti frames with a 44mm ID headtube for compatibility with whichever fork standard you prefer. Call us tarts but we’re quite liking the colour matching going on with the 19 Steel – the matte frame finish goes rather well with the orange detailing on the adjustable dropouts, fork and stem.
Whyte get ‘cross – Saxon Cross
News of the Whyte ‘cross bike has been floating about the interwebs for a while now but if you’re into such things, here’s the finished item. Called the Saxon Cross (we presume it’s not in tribute to the Barnsley metallers) it runs much slacker angles (69.3° head angle) than your usual cyclocross rig. It’s also designed to run with disk brakes and has post mounts on both frame and tapered, bladed, carbon fibre forks. The aluminium frame has loads of mud clearance and as you’d expect plenty of thought has gone into weather proofing it, with the unbroken gear and brake cable outers running across the top of the top tube, making shouldering the bike less painful.
Two slick tyred versions are available too, the Charing Cross and the Kings Cross. If you find standard road bikes too twitchy and limiting or it’s a shock going back to rim brakes after having ones that work then these could be excellent commuter options.
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