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.
- Brand: Whyte
- Product: E-160 RSX
- Price: £7,999.00
- From: Whyte Bikes
- Reviewed by: Benji for Issue 146
Whyte has deservedly earned a reputation for producing bikes that offer progressive ride handling combined with British practicality and non-frightening price tags. Whyte isn’t a brand that waits on the sidelines to see what the market does. It did good 29er trail bikes before most brands cottoned on. It came out with mixed wheel ‘MX’ bikes similarly swiftly. Whyte was also quickly on board when it came to e-bikes. The E-160 is its latest pedal-assist beast.
Although it’s called the E-160, the frame actually offers 150mm of rear travel. It’s the fork travel that gives the bike model its name. The fork in this instance is a fat legged Fox 38 Performance Elite with Grip2 damper.
Like it or not though, e-bikes are all about the motor. And the battery. Both of these items on the E-160 are full-bore. The motor is a Bosch Performance Line CX offering 85Nm of torque (pretty much as powerful as it gets). The battery is a 750Wh capacity monster. That’s why the downtube is as huge as it is. There’s a whole lotta cells in it.
What the E-160 doesn’t get is a screen. There’s no little display adjacent to the stem or built into the top tube. All you get is the remote panel on the handlebar near the left-hand grip. To be fair, this panel offers all the control you need and more information than you might expect (once you learn what the different colour-changing LEDs mean).
The frame is your basic common or garden full aluminium four-bar. So nothing especially pioneering or eye-catching there. But it’s a set-up that works really well on e-bikes, where the potential pedalling inefficiencies of four-bars are pretty much irrelevant and aspects of traction and predictability are much more important.
The other important things are well covered on this bike. Great brakes. Decent tyres. Capable geometry. Speaking of which, there is a flip chip built into the linkage yoke for geo tweaks: really low BB, or insanely low BB.
I’ll come out straight away and state that an e-bike is most definitely my preferred way of getting through winter. And one with as much muchness as is possible please. Give me all of the assist all of the time. Is an e-bike cheating? No, it’s not. Why is it not cheating? Because cheating implies that mountain biking is a competition and that this competition has rules. Balls to that.
Having said that, full power e-bikes like the Whyte E-160 are almost not like mountain bikes at all. They’re a different sport altogether. Don’t get me wrong, e-bikes are nowhere near the same as motocross bikes. But they are a step to the side of regular mountain bikes. It’s a big part of why I like e-bikes. The Whyte E-160 RSX can go places and do things that regular mountain bikes simply cannot.
This is doubly true in winter. It gives you the ability to ride like Nino Schurter, or Chris Akrigg. Zipping up yet another hill (because ‘why not?’). Clambering up unrideable scrambles. Heading over that uninviting sloggy section (again, ‘why not?’). Despatching significantly more miles in your usual allocated ride time window. The Whyte E-160 is not for doing your usual loop in a quicker time (although it can be used for that if time-pressed), it’s for doing twice as many miles and/or hills in the same amount of time.
Although the Whyte E-160 RSX essentially gives you the combined superpowers of a World Cup cross-country racer and a trials champion, for me the overriding vibe was capital ‘D’ downhill. It’s like a downhill bike that can be happily pedalled around for hours and hours on end. The grip and stability on offer is quite frankly bananas.
Despite being happy to spend all day in the hills, I would caveat this by saying that the Whyte E-160 wasn’t overly fussed by gentler gradients. On mild terrain there’s no getting away from physics and the sheer inertia of all this metal stuff underneath you takes away some zip. You don’t need much of a gradient for the laws of physics to tip back into the bike’s favour, but it’s not a bike I’d recommend if you ride in the shallows.
I feel I need to mention climbs again. Trials-style technical climbing is an aspect of off-road biking that the Whyte E-160 opens up to you. It’s like a whole new world of possibility, opportunity and – heck – entertainment. That 85Nm of torque, the grippy tyres, supple suspension, fairly lengthy chainstays, long reach, steep seat angle… You will find yourself factoring in technical ascents with as much glee and focus as you usually reserve for descents. Uphill downhilling. It’s the future. Eventually you realise it’s also like unlocking another level of route planning. There are fewer no-go zones. You can drop into that valley you usually avoid. Not only is the way out now doable, it’s actively fun!
Oh, a quick note on the flip chip. I found the ‘Low’ mode borderline unrideable. Not only in the sense of pedal strikes, but also it made the bike incredibly hard to unweight/get off the ground.
Whyte E-160 RSX Overall
The Whyte E-160 RSX is a blast to ride. Especially if what you want to do is blast. Blast up improbable angles. Blast down technical tracks. Blast a lunchtime power hour. Blast a whole OS map of riding on a Sunday.
It is a bike wholly unashamed of having fun no matter what the conditions on the ground – or blowing sideways in the air – are. The weight of the bike and its supple suspension are possibly something of a double-edged sword. It lacks a bit of propulsive drive on mild terrain, but this same heft and stability make it extremely calm, composed and capable on every other sort of terrain.
The Whyte E-160 is such a literal horizon expander that it’s like a whole new pastime that sits alongside regular mountain biking. Is it a pastime that’s better than analogue mountain biking? You know, in wintertime, I think that may well be the case.
Whyte E-160 RSX specification
- Frame: 6061-T6 Aluminium, 145mm
- Fork: Fox Float 38 Performance Elite 29 Grip 2 160mm
- Wheels: DT HX 1700 rims, DT Swiss 350 hubs
- Front tyre: Maxxis Assegai WT TR EXO+ 3C MaxxGrip 29 x 2.5in
- Rear tyre: Maxxis Minion DHR II WT Double Down 3C MaxxTerra 29 x 2.4in
- Chainset: RaceFace Aeffect 165mm 36T
- Drivetrain: SRAM GX AXS Eagle 12-speed 10-50T
- Brakes: SRAM Code RSC 220/200mm rotors
- Stem: Whyte Enduro Stem 35, 35mm
- Bars: Whyte Custom 6061 Alloy 35, 800x30mm
- Grips: Whyte Lock-On Enduro
- Seatpost: Crank Brothers HIghline 3 170mm 30.9mm
- Saddle: Fizik Terra Aidon
- Bottom Bracket: ISIS
- Size tested: XL
- Sizes available: M, L, XL
- Weight: 26.5kg (58.4lb)
- Head angle: 64.5°
- Effective seat angle: 75.3°
- Seat tube length: 470mm
- Head tube length: 135mm
- Chainstay: 446mm
- Wheelbase: 1,302mm
- Effective top tube: 672mm
- BB height: 340mm
- Reach: 510mm
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