Whyte 905 review

The 905’s still pushing the aggro hardtail boundaries

BikeRadar score4/5

The new Whyte 905 has some neat practical features and equally sorted trail kit, but the stiff rear means it can struggle to carry speed on rough trails.

The overhauled 900 series frame gets a Boost rear end, Whyte’s unique ‘Intergrip’ seatpost clamp embedded in the top tube and user-friendly ‘BBX’ cable routing for its gears and internal dropper post. All four sizes have a very long reach to match their low bottom brackets and slack head angles. Masses of mud room means even 2.8in tyres fitted in with room to spare.

Whyte’s UK-based design team has done a great job of equipping the 905 for aggressive trail riding. The RockShox Yari fork prioritises confident control over weight, the own-brand cockpit follows suit and you get a 120mm dropper post with intuitive under-bar lever as standard.

SRAM’s excellent GX provides wide-range 1x11 shifting and the broad rims underline high-volume WTB tyres, with ‘High Grip’ rubber up front. That does make for a heavy set-up that’s hard to get rolling, though.

The stiff, supple RockShox Yari fork is a great partner for the Whyte’s progressive geometry and high-control cockpit
The stiff, supple RockShox Yari fork is a great partner for the Whyte’s progressive geometry and high-control cockpit

Spot on geometry

Whyte’s 900 series bikes have been the benchmark hardcore hardtails for years for a reason. In terms of pushing hard on the trail, the geometry is spot on, starting with the long-reach top tube that leads up to the stumpy stem and broad bar. The slack head angle throws the front wheel way out ahead so that it naturally self-centres rather than tucking under if you plough into trouble. Alternatively, you can trip up the stable steering and use that front-end stability to scythe the front tyre round corners.

The thick-walled 35mm legs of the Yari fork keep the wheel locked on line, while the long negative spring means smooth small-bump traction for a non-plus hardtail. While the long wheelbase sets up a stable baseline to the handling, the short back-end means the 905 can be flicked and whipped through technical sections.

The GX transmission and taut rear-end put power through directly from foot to forest too, and the SRAM Level brakes are sharp in feel and feedback. Even the thin grips give a precise connection through to the front tyre’s contact patch.

The 2.4in WTB tyres are big for 650b rubber but there’s room to go even bigger for smooth speed sustain
The 2.4in WTB tyres are big for 650b rubber but there’s room to go even bigger for smooth speed sustain

Upgrade the rubber

While the 29mm (external) rims take the 650b tyres out to 59mm wide, the broad-spaced Boost frame feels stiff vertically as well as under power. The rougher the trail gets, the more obvious that becomes, to the point where the bike starts jolting and choking. At this point you could say, “well, of course it does, it’s a hardtail”, and you’d be right. As 650b alloy hardtails go, the Whyte is on par in terms of back-end punishment and its ability to roll over trouble. But compared to similar 29er and plus bikes, it just can’t compete and it soon feels fatiguingly rough through the grips and pedals.

The ‘Light’ carcass of the tyres means they haven’t got the strength to keep stable at low pressures, so you can’t deflate too far to smooth out the ride without risking crumpling a tyre or pinch-flatting. While it’s great for ripping round trails as recklessly as you dare, the High Grip front tyre adds drag on smoother trails, and despite its narrow rims the wheels are a bit heavy. Combined with the fairly hefty overall weight, this makes the 905 feel surprisingly slow and robs it of the more enthusiastic responsiveness and pick-up that you’d expect as a trade-off for the firmer, lumpier ride.

On the bright side, while it’s not lively under its own power, the enduro bike geometry and big-hit control of the fork make it a ripper on the descents if you’ve got the skill to keep the belligerent back end and relatively fragile tyres out of trouble. Apart from a possible change to tougher rubber, there’s also nothing obvious you need to upgrade.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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