Right now, the cyclocross bike is in the biggest state of flux since its inception. What was a specific type of bike previously governed by very strict rules is now beginning to evolve and adapt to the times. Components are changing, with the introduction of UCI-approved disc brakes warranting new frames, new forks and new wheels.
Geometry is also evolving fast, as seen with bikes such as Cannondale’s latest Super-X race bike. No longer are riders forced to contend with overly aggressive road-style riding positions and cantilever brakes, and as such, the growing capability of modern CX bikes is seeing the way people ride them grow too.
A bike we previewed back in July, the 2017 Whyte Gisburn is a terrific example of this modern progression. It’s a new-school cyclocross bike that packs in slack geometry inspired by its mountain bike brethren, along with a wide-range 1×11 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes and thru-axles.
The riding position is broad and stable, with huge 500mm wide drop bars and a short stem mirroring the latest setups on Whyte’s hardtail mountain bikes. It also features 37c wide rubber and masses of tyre clearance, making it thoroughly non-UCI approved. But rather than build a bike bound by strict UCI laws for racing, Whyte decided to set off on their own path to see just how fun and capable they could make the Gisburn.
With that in mind, we have just received a Whyte Gisburn longterm test bike to put it through its paces over this coming winter season. And as a mountain biker with minimal experience on cyclocross bikes, I stuck my hand up to be the primary candidate for testing Whyte’s new-school approach with the Gisburn. Lets have a closer look at some of the detail that’s gone into this colourful and intriguing, genre-bending machine.
“Our G-X bikes are versatility defined. On road, off road or both in the same ride, our uniquely capable, effortlessly comfortable yet efficiently fast Friston and Gisburn bikes set a new standard for any-ride all-rounders. In fact we’ve pushed the off road boundaries of drop bar bikes so far we’ve had to make our own components such as a 500mm wide bar and 15mm through-axle carbon fork to keep up. That’s because our MTB inspired, relaxed head angle, stretched top tube geometry and even a dropper post as standard on the Gisburn will keep you in control way beyond what most 700c bikes can cope with.” – Whyte Bikes
- Frame: 6061 Hydroformed T6 Alloy w/142x12mm Dropouts
- Fork: Straigh Blade Carbon w/Alloy Tapered Steerer Tube & QR15 Thru-Axle
- Wheels: WTB Asym i23 TCS Rims w/Sealed Bearing Alloy Disc Hubs
- Tyres: WTB Riddler 700x37c TCS
- Drivetrain: SRAM Force CX-1 1×11
- Brakes: SRAM Force Hydraulic Disc w/160mm Rotors
- Cockpit: Whyte Gravel 48cm Bars & 70mm Alloy Stem
- Seatpost: KS Speed UP w/100mm Drop
- RRP: £1899
Ok, so the first thing that caught my eye about the Gisburn was the dropper seatpost. Labelled as a ‘Speed Up’ model by KS, the Gisburn’s dropper post is activated by a small lever located underneath the nose of the saddle. Get your Michael Jackson impersonation on with a one-handed crotch grab…
…and the post can be lowered instantly by up to 100mm. Without a remote like you’d normally have on a mountain bike, the lever-activated dropper post isn’t likely something you’ll be using for every corner and every single undulation on the trail. Instead, it looks like a more useful tool for using once or twice on a cyclcross racecourse (non-UCI approved of course), or just for long downhill sections where getting the saddle out of the way makes descending that much easier to negotiate. Either way, I’m very keen to see how this goes off-road.
Underneath the dropper seatpost is an interesting arrangement for keeping the post secure in the frame. Rather than use a traditional split down the back of the seat tube with an external collar clamping down on the seat post, Whyte has employed their ‘Inter Grip’ system, which uses an internal wedge to clamp the seat post.
With no split in the frame, there’s no open window for mud and water to migrate inside the frame. To help further shield the Gisburn’s insides, Whyte has added a rubber condom to the top of the seat tube that provides an extra barrier against contamination.
The Gisburn frame and fork have been designed with masses of tyre and mud clearance in mind. Shapely S-bend seat stays curve around the tyres, with a bridge-less design that gives the back end a little more ‘spring’ for riding rougher tracks and roads.
The Gisburn comes stock with WTB rubber that is listed at 37c wide. However, there’s room to fit up to 40c tyres in the back end if you so choose. Also of interest is that Whyte claim the Gisburn can take 27.5in mountain bike wheels as well, though I’m not exactly sure how wide you’ll be able to go. Stay tuned on that one, as I’ll be testing plenty of tyre theory on the Gisburn longterm test bike…
As for the front end, there’s loads of clearance in the Whyte Carbon fork. We’ll have to try out some wider options to see how big we can go, but at least 40c should be possible.
As for the tyres themselves, the WTB Riddler tread pattern definitely looks more ‘gravel’ than ‘muddy CX’. But with sufficient volume and WTB’s grippy dual rubber compound, it should be a nice and versatile option for a mix of commuting, bridle path exploring and trail riding.
The tyres are also tubeless compatible, and our test bike came setup as such out of the box. Being WTB branded, the tyres and rims feature the TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) design, which makes them easy to run with liquid sealant inside so you can ditch the inner tubes.
Further mountain bike touches on the Whyte Gisburn include the front and rear thru-axles. The Carbon fork up front features a 100x15mm QR axle to lock down the straight-blade carbon legs, along with a flat-mount disc brake to tuck the calliper in nice and neatly.
The design is mirrored for the rear dropouts, which elect for a 142x12mm thru-axle and a tidy flat-mount rear disc brake calliper that sits inside the rear triangle. Also of note are the necessary eyelets for fitting pannier racks and mudguards to the Gisburn.
Despite the modern-ness elsewhere, Whyte has stuck with an English threaded bottom bracket shell on the Gisburn, with external BB cups threading into the frame for easy installation and removal. SRAM has supplied its carbon-armed Force cranks for the Gisburn, but with a standard 24mm GXP spindle rather than the BB30 system used on some other bikes.
A SRAM 1×11 drivetrain takes care of shifting duties, and keeps the Gisburn frameset looking very clean indeed. Without any provision for a front derailleur, the Gisburn makes its intentions clear from the outset, and I like that.
Will the 11-42t cassette provide enough range though? That’s a very good question indeed, and one my knees are interested to find the answer to. Out of the box the Gisburn is equipped with a 38t chainring, so there is scope to go smaller if need be.
With SRAM hydraulic disc brake callipers, you need SRAM levers on the other end of the hoses. Sleek carbon lever blades aboard the Force CX-1 brake hoods, with only the right hand unit featuring a shift paddle.
Echoing the cockpit setup on the hardtail range, Whyte’s Gisburn is equipped with massive 48cm wide drop bars and a stubby little 70mm stem, all in the name of increasing descending stability.
The stem measures up at 70mm on our 52cm test bike. However, the 54cm size comes with an 80mm stem, and the 56 & 58cm frame sizes come with a 90mm stem length.
Keeping the frame lines clean, the Gisburn runs internal cable routing, with rubber ports along the downtube capturing the rear derailleur cable and the rear hydraulic hose. The fork also uses internal routing for the front brake, with SRAM Connectamajig’s allowing for easy dismantling of the hoses when it comes time to pack the bike for travel.
The Gisburn is most certainly an interesting bike on paper, and it’s even more intriguing in the flesh. I am very keen to see how it handles on the trail, and I’ll also be using it for a mixture of commuting and cyclocross racing to see how the unique geometry and frame features cope with everyday demands. Stay tuned…