If you have more than a passing association with the brand, you’ll know that Whyte stands out amongst its peers for its UK-centric take on mountain bikes and progressive geometry. This all-new T-130 aims to bridge the gap between cross country levels of travel and all-mountain intentions, with a burly build, stiff single ring specific back end and decidedly non-cross-country angles.
Frame and equipment: setting out to crack a tough nut
The idea itself is sound. Just because you’ve only got 130mm of travel, why would you want the steep and sketchy angles from a distance orientated bike? Whyte has proved it can be done with its 901 hardtail. That bike took the rulebook for 130mm-forked trail hardtails, chucked it on the ground and them made a nice booter out of it, combining a slack 66.5-degree head angle and lengthy 618mm toptube for a bike that would ride all day but could handle more trouble than a nightclub bouncer.
A stocky head tube houses the rough and tumble ready 130mm Pike fork
So, is this bike the fully sprung version of that? Not quite. It’s actually a full degree steeper at the front and the top tube is considerably shorter, though not short at 594mm.
Disregarding the numbers and looking at the kit gives you a sense that this is still a bike that’s been built for getting into trouble. As ever, Whyte has outdone itself with the kit fitted here, both in terms of almost giving direct-sales brand value for money and a well thought through, cohesive build.
The SRAM camp has definitely been hit hard, with a 130mm travel RockShox Pike RC fork giving super-controlled damping and steering precision up front, Debonair-sleeved Monarch RT3 out back supporting the 130mm of four-bar bounce, plus SRAM X1 drivetrain and Roam 40 wheels (the Roam 50s fitted to the bike pictured are non-standard), and Reverb dropper.
Whyte's four-bar linkage delivers taut and direct feeling bounce
Whyte’s own brand cockpit is also decent, with wide enough but by no means excessive 750mm bars. We wouldn’t mind seeing a shorter than 70mm stem however. It’s all solid and reliable stuff, right down to the tubeless ready, EXO-cased mix and match of Maxxis Ardent rubber up front and Ardent Race out back. So then, the kit is burly, the angles aren’t extreme but they certainly aren’t traditional cross-country. Just what’s going on?
Ride and handling: endless fun, but has its limits
The short answer is fun. With an impressive but not feathery weight of 13.1kg combined with a very taut feeling back end, the T-130 climbs well. Even with a light compression and rebound tune on the Monarch shock, there’s plenty of support, even when out of the saddle, but if you want a plush, ground muting ride, then this isn’t it, and you need to work the bike to maintain traction. Combined with the remarkable level of lateral stiffness Whyte’s achieved by widening the main pivot and eliminating the dropper driveside stay required for multi-ring use, you know precisely what’s happening at the rear, though this stiffness means traction tends to be spat rather than smeared, as with a more pliable rear end.
Push onwards downhill and the combination of supportive suspension at both ends, utterly rigid precision and the slightly shorter top tube and steeper head angle means placing the bike where you want it is big-BMX simple.
It’s almost rude not to flick it about mid air or pop it off the mildest of lips. Take it down a jumpy trail centre run and if you aren’t grinning ear to ear then there’s something badly wrong with you. The only issue comes when you fancy getting a bit lairy and push harder.
If you’re into pinballing down tight, steep and slippery trails then the T-130 will more than satisfy, but for all-out pace and competence, look at the G-150
While the 901 hardtail would positively encourage such behaviour until your ankles gave out, the shorter and steeper stance meant than when we overcooked it on rougher sections, we rapidly found ourselves thrown further forwards than ideal. Don’t get us wrong, you will be going significantly faster than most other 130mm full suspension bikes when this happens, but the forgiving attitude at low to mid speeds can get a bit nasty should you overstep the mark.
All told, the T-130 is a highly entertaining bike that’s sprightly and engaging to ride. The stiffness from the build kit and the well thought out frame is confidence boosting and if you’re into short and flickable handling (by Whyte standards), you are bound to have a blast.
That said, we can’t help feeling that this could have been a ruthless, short travel ripper if Whyte had run with a longer and more relaxed persona. Of course, there is a bike in the range for that, namely the G-150, but it’s here that the classic downfall of short travel, aggro bikes comes into play. For a little more weight, you could have a lot more travel.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.