The G-150 enduro bike might seem the obvious Whyte for our annual Trail Bike of the Year test, but having ridden both it was the T-129, the 2013 TBOTY winner that made our shortlist – and very nearly pulled off the first double win.
Frame and equipment: burlier than your average short-travel 29er
Whyte made a bike that was worthy of winning back in 2013, but the company hasn’t rested on its laurels. The new T-129, which we first rode in October, gets altered tubing, some super-smooth details but most importantly it’s now designed entirely around a single ring drivetrain – meaning the back end is significantly stiffer. That makes it even more fast and furious big-wheeled fun.
The SCR (that's Single Chain Ring) frame makes big stiffness gains
The SCR (Single Chain Ring) specific frame niftily exploits the extra clearance gained by losing the front derailleur and inner chainring by using a 20 percent wider main pivot and symmetrical chainstays for a 24 percent stiffness increase at the point the rear wheel contacts the trail.
While most brands fit a skinny 32mm-legged fork to their low-mid travel 29ers to save weight, Whyte’s backed up the burly rear end with a 120mm travel, 35mm leg Pike RC. Add 750mm bars, 40mm stem and Stealth routed Reverb dropper and this isn’t your average short travel 29er.
Ride and handling: a well-mannered blast on all but the gnarliest trails
What makes it truly stand out is the way it interacts with the trail. Whyte was one of the first companies to apply the longer, lower, slacker geometry ethos to 29ers and the T-129 SCR gets the benefit of its latest handling evolution. The superbly balanced poise could teach a lot of 650b bikes how to hook into corners, slot the tightest most technical lines or hit sketchy enduro shortcuts with accuracy and authority.
Even on the tightest, steepest switchback sections of our test trails the Whyte was never more than a dropped shoulder and top tube knee nudge away from dropping into the belly of the berm before setting up for the next neck straining apex. Stiff frame and fork mean heavy braking doesn’t fold the SRAM Roam 40 wheels underneath at slow speeds, while tubeless setup as standard means high traction low pressures without pinch flat paranoia.
On everything but truly hardcore descents, the superbly versatile T-129 held its head high in longer-travel company
While it’s the finely balanced slow speed manners of the T-129 SCR that are the biggest difference to floppier 29ers, the Whyte comes into its own when the trail opens out and you can let it run. Light wheels, fast tyres and low overall weight mean the bigger diameter doesn’t dull acceleration and the Whyte starts to pick up speed quicker than burlier 650b bikes as soon as you’re off the brakes. The faster you go, the more the shallower contact angle of the tubeless tyres means the Whyte skims over stuff smaller wheeled bikes choke on.
The stiffness, supple damping and slack angle of the Pike means the front end stays controlled through rougher trail segments while the Factory-spec Kashima coated rear shock adds extensive adjustment too – though you need to tweak it right to keep the back wheel from slapping around and losing traction well before the front end gets freaked out. The short back end also severely restricts tyre clearance to the point where even the semi-slick 2.1in CrossMark was clogging with mud.
Inevitably there were points on the steepest, big hit sections of descents where the Whyte couldn’t match the longer travel bikes we were riding alongside it. But if you want serious technical trail capability, big grin fun and effortless speed with a totally weak link-free spec, this is a properly outstanding ‘exploro’ option.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.