Have you ever considered you might be over-biked? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a dig at your mad skills, far from it, people who live in glass houses and all that…
It’s just that I’ve spent quite a while over summer riding this Whyte T130-C and it’s definitely got me thinking. At a time when anything less than a super slacked-out head angled, near vertical seat angled 180mm travel #endurobeast barely raises a comment on the internet, are we all riding too much bike?
The idea of a bike that doesn’t ride like its numbers has been around for a while and as advances in design and geometry continue to progress, I have to ask myself, do we really need all that travel to ride in a progressive way?
Whyte think not, and having lived with the T130 for a while now, I’m increasingly inclined to agree.
At a glance, the T130 is a regular looking 130mm travel trail bike, with a carbon front end and an alloy rear that uses a Horst-linked 4 bar suspension configuration. It’s a good looking steed, even in its “look at me” citrus green paint job. So far, so ordinary, but beyond the familiar silhouette, there are quite a few interesting things going on.
UK based Whyte have been building long frames with slack head angles for a lot longer than most manufacturers. The leading edge of this trend may have been pushed further over the last couple of years by certain other brands, but this frame is certainly right on trend. It’s not out there radical, but it’s certainly progressive and distinctly contemporary.
Starting at the front, the head tube angle is 65.5, which is significantly slacker than a lot of bikes in this travel category. The reach on our large frame is 480mm. Combined with a moderate (by contemporary standards) seat tube angle of 75 degrees that equates to a very roomy cockpit with an effective top tube length of 640mm. The chainstays measure in at 430mm, the BB sits at 330mm and the overall wheelbase is 1222. Compared with a couple of other bikes the potential buyer might compare it to such as Specialized’s Stumpjumper ST or Santa Cruz’s 5010, it’s significantly longer and slacker. It’s longer even than the Transition Scout, which is probably the closest bike I can think of in terms of both attitude and approach.
Coming from the UK, Whyte’s design team are used to riding in the grinding paste that covers bikes through the British winter. And summer. As a consequence, a great deal of effort has gone into the frame’s details, with the intention of keeping it durable and creak-free. All the pivot bearings are protected with dust caps and come with a lifetime warranty. Wear them out, and Whyte will replace them free of charge. The internally routed cables have rubber grommets to help keep dirt out and Whyte’s integrated Intergrip seat clamp is specifically designed to keep muck from entering the seat tube. There’s even a rubber collar that sits on the seatpost to help.
The bottom bracket is threaded and there are ISCG chain guide mounts down there too. Thirsty riders will be pleased to note that there’s also room for the largest of waterbottles. The downtube has a rubber rock protector and there’s also protection along the chainstay.
This T130-C comes with a 140mm travel Rockshox Pike RC fitted up front. And here’s where things get more interesting. Whyte have been quietly tinkering with reduced fork offsets for some time now. Whilst reduced offset is all the rage, Whyte have been using the concept since 2017 and integrated it firmly into their design philosophy. This fork uses a 37mm offset instead of a more regular 44-46mm crown. The objective of this change is to increase the trail measurement which, allows the rider the stability benefits of a slack head tube angle and long frame, whilst simultaneously retaining manoeuvrability and helping to create greater grip and cornering control.
Whyte’s Quad Link 4 design is a classic Horst-linked 4 bar set up with clevis style pivots at the chainstay pivot and the yoke which drives a Rock Shox Deluxe RT Debonair shock to deliver 130mm of travel at the rear wheel. It’s been tuned with the intention of making the most of the modest travel number and is reasonably supple off the top yet progressive through the stroke to control harsh bottom outs. We set the bike up with approximately 20% sag in the fork and around 27% sag in the rear.
The rest of the kit
The Whyte branded bar is a comfortable shape and wide enough at 780mm. This is clamped firmly by a 35mm stem. The Whyte branded saddle is supported by an internally routed KS LEV Integra post which has a great little thumb lever and worked perfectly throughout the test period.
Propulsion comes courtesy of the ubiquitous GX Eagle which should be expected at this price point and the machine rolls on Whyte branded hubs laced to Race Face AR30 rims. The hubs are secured with a Maxle at the fork and a thru-axle behind whilst the rims give a great shape to the Maxxis tires.
The front wheel is wrapped in a very grippy 2.6” High Roller II in the excellent 3C compound . At the rear is a fast rolling but less grippy 2.6” Rekon. Both use the Exo sidewall construction.
Hauling the rig to a halt are Avid Guide RS brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear.
So how does it go?
This bike is a lot of fun. And that’s the reason I posted the question at the start. Do you really need all that travel to ride hard, or can geometry and attitude make for a bike that’s just as fun and much more efficient over a wide variety of terrain you’d expect the typical trail rider to be hitting?
Uphill, it’s quickly apparent that this isn’t a downcountry whip and it doesn’t climb like one – but that’s definitely not it’s intended purpose. The cockpit is roomy without being crazy long or requiring the pilot to slide forward on steep sections. It might not have the pep that a lighter, shorter, steeper bike might deliver, but the progressive suspension ensures that it feels pretty tight and efficient in a way that longer travel bikes do not. I rarely found myself reaching for the Deluxe’s cheater switch except during longer fireroad drags. Interestingly I found that tight uphill switchbacks were dispatched with unexpected ease.
Point the bike the other way and it’s surprising just how capable a bike with a 140mm fork and 130mm out the back can be. With the rider positioned over the fork, the Whyte delivers an exceptional level grip from the front wheel, helped by the 2.6” Maxxis rubber. There’s less grip from the rear tyre and whilst there’ll be those who love the drifty feel, there’ll be others that would prefer something with a little more muscle.
Otherwise it’s a very stable feeling bike, but without the monster truck feel that longer travel bikes with similar geometry give. There’s a playful nature that’s never lethargic and it’s happy to be thrown through tank-slapping s-bends with abandon. The steering requires just the lightest touch and is very forgiving of mid-corner corrections and miscalculations. Speed is quickly attained and easily maintained – at our local bike park the Whyte could happily hang with a crew riding much longer travel bikes the majority of the time. Heading into gnar and rock gardens at speed quickly reminds you that the travel available is more limited than on an enduro-style sled, but with geometry that’s slacker and longer than a number of bigger travel machines, the bike stays stable and sure footed. The big attitude/limited travel approach does mean you can find yourself caught out – like the time I came up a little short on a jump and found myself bucked OTB where a longer travel machine might have just sucked it up, but largely, this bike is up to take on challenges and might let you throw down a few cheques you weren’t sure you could cash.
There’s some discussion about whether short offset is really required with 27.5 inch wheels, but in this package, it makes for an interesting and engaging combination of stability and agility that is riotous fun in most trail riding scenarios.
Who’s it for?
If you like to ride hard, look for interesting lines and enjoy getting your knee close too, but not into the dirt; don’t regularly ride uplift assisted terrain and consider climbing to be an essential if not your favourite part of your ride, this bike is well worth considering. If you’re committed to all day enduro type riding, it’s not going to have the travel to help you manage the inevitable fatigue that sets in. But for those of us whose riding consists of an hour or two of shredding singletrack it will be an eye-opening and rewarding ride.
I really enjoyed how the mild mannered, relatively efficient way it got me to the top, contrasted with its ability to descend so confidently and attack lines that a 130mm bike shouldn’t. The front wheel grip through corners is outstanding and the suspension feel is sporting yet comfortable and compliments the bike’s aggressive nature well.
Not much actually. Whilst the grips were comfortable, they were a little thin for my personal tastes. I’d also be tempted to add a larger rotor to the front brake and in the hard packed, dry conditions we’ve been experiencing this summer, a rear tire with a little more bite, but all in all, this is a strong package for trail riders looking for something that can handle some aggro riding and rufty-tufty terrain.
I had to give it back.