Bike Test: Mountain Bikes For Winter

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Mountain Bikes for Winter AKA whatever gets you through the shite. Benji leads the test team through the winter murk in order to find the ‘perfect’ winter mountain bike.

The concept of having a ‘winter bike’ is something that’s much more prevalent in road bikes than mountain biking. In fact it’s pretty much taken as read that any experienced road cyclist has a specific winter bike. A bike that’s less fragile than the road bike they use for the other three seasons of the year. On the road, winter bikes are where the fanciness takes a back seat and practicality takes over. The rim-braked, skimpy-rubbered, carbon-framed blingmobiles go into storage. Out come the metal bikes with disc brakes, tough tyres and (mandatory for some clubs) mudguards.

Is there such a winter bike scene in mountain biking? Specifically within UK mountain biking?

There is, but it’s nowhere near as de facto as on the road scene. Mountain bikes get a hard time for four seasons of the year in the UK so a winter bike is arguably something of an anathema.

We racked our collective brains as to what we’d have as our winter mountain bikes. Ultimately we came up with three general styles.

A super-stripped-down anti-techno bike for self-flagellation fun (Sonder Frontier Deore Rigid). A reliable playbike full-susser for playing under cover in slippery slope woodlands (Orange Switch 6 Factory). And a weather-agnostic e-bike for just carrying on as if it were summer (Whyte E-160 RSX).

Come at us winter! We got you beat.

Orange Switch 6 Factory

Price: £6,600.00 / From: Orange Bikes / Tested by: Amanda and Rhys

“If you want a ‘play bike’ for mucking about on steep wooded slopes it makes sense to go to West Yorkshire. Specifically you go to Halifax and you go to the Orange bike factory.”

Sonder Frontier Deore Rigid

Price: £999.00 / From: Alpkit / Tested by: Benji

“Sonder Bikes is Alpkit’s bike department. Unlike a lot of chain store bike brands (Carrera, Pinnacle, Rockrider and so on), the use of a different brand name doesn’t feel here like it’s intended to deceive or distract people from the fact that Sonder bikes are own-brand Alpkit bikes. It’s more to do with starting afresh with a dedicated design team.”

Whyte E-160 RSX

Price: £7,999.00 / From: Whyte Bikes / Tested by: Benji

“Whyte Bikes has come an awful long way since the actual days when Mr Whyte was involved. From pioneering mega-complex multi-link machines with non-telescopic suspension forks (the PRST-1) through to the normal-but-well-executed bikes of today.”


A verdict in this test is tricky. It’s less of a head-to-head shootout and more of an exploration of the differing ways of coping with the challenges of winter mountain biking. What are the challenges of winter mountain biking? Well, it’s the weather isn’t it?

More specifically, it’s the wetness. Coldness isn’t so much of an issue. Coldness when cycling can be quite nice in fact. Certainly, the cold is something that can be totally and successfully dealt with by the right clothing choices. Wetness though. That is a real problem.

When the trails are wet, they are hard. Not literally. They’re actually soft. And slippery. And slow. And draggy. And sketchy.

The Sonder Frontier Deore Rigid deals with these problems arguably by running away from them. It’s a gravel bike with riser bars. And, as such, it’s a great bike. It’s possibly not a great mountain bike, but we’re fine with that.

The other bike here that’s possibly not even a mountain bike either is the Whyte E-160 RSX. It is one of the most e-bikey e-bikes we’ve yet experienced. It’s like a whole new type of vehicle. It’s still much closer to a bicycle than a motorbike, but the on-tap ability to become some sort of Nino-Akrigg-Vouilloz hybrid super-athlete is amazing. Being able to execute your usual summer-only epics in the height (depth?) of winter is laugh-out-loud exhilarating. What’s more, come summertime, just imagine the insanely long and altitude-stuffed monster routes you can get up to with that big battery and the assist levels dropped down a bit.

Which leaves us with the Orange Switch 6 Factory. In a weird way, it’s a bit like a combination of the Sonder and the Whyte. The Orange can be used to hide away from your usual dry weather trails, like the Sonder can. It can be used like a mini downhill bike doing multiple laps of your not-so-friendly neighbourhood woodland playpark, like the Whyte can. Perhaps where the Orange has the edge is the effect it will have on your riding for the rest of the year. The incredible levels of feel on offer from the Switch 6 Factory really help you gauge what’s happening underneath you on seriously sketchy and slippery tracks. You become a better rider. And that’s something that’s useful all year round.

While you’re here…

Story tags

Review Info

Brand: Orange, Sonder, Whyte
Product: Switch 6, Frontier Deore, E-160
From: Orange, Sonder, Whyte
Price: £999 - £7999
Tested: by Benji, Amanda, Rhys for

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Bike Test: Mountain Bikes For Winter
  • john_l
    Free Member

    Link for the Switch isn’t working

    Full Member

    Fixed now 🙂

    Free Member

    Link for Sonder isn’t working takes to switch lol

    Full Member

    All links fixed now. Hopefully! Soz.

    Free Member

    No bother @Ben_Haworth we all make mistakes mate 🙂

    Full Member

    There’s something fundamentally wrong with this article. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it might have something to do with tyre width.

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