Whyte Bikes isn’t well known outside of the UK but the company has a deep history in the mountain bike world. The design team was formed in 1994 by John Whyte, an ex-Formula 1 designer with the Benetton team that helped Michael Schumacher win a World Championship or two. The company hit the big time by licensing their suspension design to Marin, winning several national titles in the process. In those days, full suspension was still so young that this was a big deal.
Whyte started putting names on frames in the early 2000’s with some distinctive suspension designs, the PRST-1 being a case in point. These bikes were popular in the UK for a time. More recently the design has become more conventional and the emphasis has centered on handling. The UK press have raved over their hardtails and Steve Jones at Dirt, a tough critic to win over, seems keen on Whyte bikes.
Whyte is trying to make inroads this side of the Atlantic with the range being launched here and also picking up redneck-ripper Ben Cruz to show what their bikes can do on the Enduro stage. The range of bikes covers most bases with a 160mm travel machine down to the much-praised hardtails. I opted to test the T-130C RS, their 5″ (130mm) travel carbon-framed machine.
The geometry for the Whyte T-130C RS is pretty aggressive for a 5″ travel bike. One interesting thing to note is how Whyte tweaks the seat angle for every size. The rear stays are really tucked up under the rider at 16.5″ long and on my Large frame, the top tube is a generous 24.8″. The head tube is quite stumpy which gives options for slamming the stem if that’s your thing. I am actually running some spacers under the stem as I’m right at the top of the recommended height for the large frame at 6″2″.
The frame has some striking matte orange paint applied to it. It looks good right now but time will tell how the paint attracts mud. Overall the frame looks pretty smart and has some interesting features that make it distinct. Something that’s important for a smaller brand looking to attract riders from other more established brands.
The Whyte T-130C RS retails for $4,699 USD and shares the same frame as the top of the range T-130C Works at $5,999 USD. It’s a pretty competitive price but if your budget doesn’t run that deep, for $1000 USD less you can get the aluminum-framed T-130 RS with a Shimano XT-based build for $3,699 USD. Rounding out the range the T-130 S with a SRAM GX based build for $2,999 USD. Both of the aluminum-framed bikes appear to be really good value.
With a solid looking build and some promising numbers on the geometry chart, I’m pretty keen to get the Whyte T-130C RS out into the wild and throw it down some of my favourite runs. Even with ‘just’ 5″ of travel the numbers are shouting for shenanigans. Potentially it will also be a fun bike on mellower rides when I’m looking for those little hits and transfers that can make a tame trail fun.
Can the ex-pat cut it on the local terrain or will it have to stop for tea and biscuits to compose itself? Thoughts below.