You could be forgiven for thinking Whyte Bikes are new on the scene as they don’t seem to get a whole lot of press coverage, but I remember drooling over a revolutionary Whyte PRST-4 with a four-bar linkage fork back in Morzine circa 2000, and they continue to have a huge cult following in the UK where they were born.
Whyte Bikes now have a distributor in New Zealand. This is their latest offering and it’s one hell of a trail bike. This very modern large 29er I tested has a longish reach of 474mm, a slack 65.6 head angle, and a steepish seat tube of 74.5 degrees and 470mm long (not the 457.2 advertised). But what sets this bike on a pedestal is the 42mm fork offset generally saved for bikes in the much slacker head angle camp. The BB is just low enough and the chainstays are reasonably short. Travel at both ends is 150mm.
It’s a very strong looking carbon mainframe with a symmetrical alloy rear end. Pivots are very beefy and are covered by a UK-weather-inspired sealed cap. The shock is driven by a tough-looking clevis and there’s a Horst link level with and close to the back axle. There’s also an internal seatpost clamp with integrated rubber boot to keep the crap out of the frame and away from the dropper internals.
As is usual, I’m not going into the parts build; all we should be worried about is how the frame rides. But the component spec is spot on, with a 40mm stem to suit the fork offset, a 150mm dropper, and 29mm WTB rims. My only gripe was a 760mm bar, but that’s pretty standard, just not for my manly shoulder width.
What does it ride like? Pretty darn good. Great, in fact. I instantly felt at home and I didn’t have to think about how I was riding at all. On the ups it requires a flick of the compression lever as it’s reasonably active and the steering feels light at slow speeds. Mash the pedals on the flat and it responds well and sits in the middle of the responsive bike handling chart in my head.
But point it down and it comes alive without bringing any fear into the mix. The geo is spot on for all speeds, and this bike is deceptively quick. What this means is you’re actually going faster than you think; I overcooked every trail feature on my first and favourite test run which should have scared me shitless but instead had me grinning and slightly baffled.
Whyte seem to have hit the holy grail for a bike that does everything well. It stays planted with awesome front wheel traction, corners on rails, has a lively feel with strong mid/end stroke support (at 28% sag) and offers no surprises in all terrain types. I rode some seriously steep tech and threw it sideways while overshooting jumps and it just laughed at me.
It inspires confidence to go faster but still behaves like a trail bike, unlike the bulldozer feel of some long slack 29ers so popular right now, and I reckon it could do admirably as your one and only bike. Chuck a 160 or even 170mm conversion into the fork and things might just get super rad. I’d love to give that a go.
Who is this bike for? Anyone who wants a long travel 29er that behaves like a trail bike, especially if you’re a big, strong rider.
The good: nimble for a long travel 29er, strong but not too stiff, good for shitty conditions, great all-rounder, threaded BB shell, mid height of BB means minimal pedal strikes.
The bad: seat tube is a tad long for those who want to try a size up or a 170mm dropper.
The ugly: absolutely nothing.
Whyte are currently running a bunch of demo days around the country so plenty of options to get take one for a spin, or to learn more find them at https://www.facebook.com/WhyteBikesNZ/ or on their website; https://whyte.bike/