Whyte 29c - first ride

I rolled out of the Forest of Dean car park, packed as it was on our half term visit with mountain bikers of all ages making the most of the unseasonably nice weather, on Whyte’s brand new carbon fibre 29er hardtail, the 29c.

Up and over the first ramp, through the trees and, as I shift into the large chain ring and gently feed in some power, the stiffness of the frame makes itself immediately apparent. The rush of acceleration as I continue to apply power on the opening section of singletrack, as it meanders gently up the slight gradient, is astonishing.  I never failed to be impressed by carbon hardtails, and the Whyte is no exception.

There’s no trace of any of the often cited drawbacks of 29in wheels, it just feels quick and the handling is sharp and razor focused.  That said, by adopting the same 69 degree head angle as on the 829, the British company’s first 29er hardtail, which by 29er standards is on the slack side, it doesn’t feel twitchy and nervous like you might expect such a light and stiff race-ready bike to exhibit.

As we begin to traverse across the hillside and gravity is now on our side, the 29c barrels through the wide open turns and negotiates the berms, their surfaces rippled from so many mountain bikes passing over them, with astounding ability. By pushing the head angle back, Whyte have produced a bike that will appeal to trail riders looking for a fast yet relaxed hardtail. Of course, weight weenie cross country racers will relish in its pure speed, quick turn of acceleration and unrivalled stiffness.

I’ve ridden the 20c, the 26in carbon hardtail upon which the 29c is based, and where I found the smaller wheeled bike unrelenting and harsh on regular trails, the bigger wheels contribute to a ride that is noticeably smoother. It’s still incredibly stiff, you need to tune your riding style and get your head around how to get the best out of the 29c when picking lines and applying power, but it doesn’t beat you up anywhere near as much. For that reason it’s even more suited to trail riding. Long distance endurance events, 24-hour races, short track XC blasts, all situations we reckon the bike will shine.

Specification

We rode the Whyte 29c C, which costs £1,999. That gets you a RockShox Reba RL fork with 100mm of travel, tapered steerer, quick release axle and remote lockout facility.  A mix of X9 and X7 from SRAM dominates the drivetrain, with the exception of the FSA twin-ring chainset providing a 2×10 transmission. A SRAM Press-Fit 30 bottom bracket keeping everything down there stiff. There are Avid Elixir 3 brakes with 180/160mm rotors front and rear.

For the wheels Whyte opted to design their own. The XC-202 features their own design rim which uses 32 spokes front and rear, in an effort to place extra stiffness in the wheels, an common area of concern when upsizing 26in components to 29in. Hubs roll on double sealed cartridge bearings and Continental Race King 2.2in tyres are a fast, if limited for most UK conditions, tyre choice.

Finally, finishing the bike off are Whyte branded components, including the generously wide 700mm flat bar and the 70mm short stem, both smart choices that will please UK mountain bikers. The handling is improved immeasurably by these simple choices that we wish other manufacturers would pay attention.

First ride verdict

Too soon to call a final verdict, but based on our quick spin, we’re hugely impressed. It manages to appeal to our two sides, our lust for cross country racing with a stiff and light build, yet also satisfies our lazier trail riding persona, with its slack, stable and planted yet seriously quick over all terrain feel.

29ers are developing at a rapid rate, and if the Whyte 29c is anything to go by, we’re reaching a point where there’s only advantages to going to the bigger wheels, as any previous ‘issues’ have all but been designed out.

Geometry for the Whyte 29c (based on the 18.5in size)

  • Head angle: 69°
  • Seat angle: 73°
  • Wheelbase: 1130mm
  • Chainstays: 438mm
  • Top tube 24.68in
  • Head tube: 110mm
  • Bottom bracket height: 12in

www.whytebikes.com

  1. paul

    Any idea on the weight?

    1. james dowling

      Hi Paul, put mine on scales complete with pedals and came in at a shade under 23lbs. This was the CS version though.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Paul Janes

        Looking at the 29 cs myself at the moment. I am 5 ft 11 and not sure what size to go for 18.5 or 20.5. any feedback appreciated!

      2. MH

        James, how tall are you? I’m thinking about getting a 29-C but not sure which size. I’m 6 foot with a 35″ inside leg.

        Also, what do you think the disadvantages of a slacker head angle are? Just wondering why most other 29ers have a much steeper angle.

        Cheers

      3. JAMES

        HI. IM 5’8 SO NOT VERY TALL. TOOK THE BIKE FOR A GOOD 2 HOUR RIDE ROUND OUR LOCAL TRACK AT WOBURN. GREAT AT THE TECHNICAL STUFF AND PLENTY QUICK ENOUGH ON THE FLATS ETC. THE SLACKER HEAD ANGLE MAKES THE TECHNICAL STUFF EASIER WITHOUT LOSING SPEED. IN SUMMARY A DO IT ALL BIKE. A COUPLE OF STEEPER DECENTS AND THE 26′ GUYS I WAS WITH WERE STRUGGLING ,WHERE THE WHYTE ROLLED OVER EVERYTHING IN ITS WAY. YOU WILL ONLY NEED THE ONE BIKE (UNLESS A DOWNHILL PERSON) HOPE THIS HELPS?

  2. james dowling

    I have recently taken delivery of the Whyte cs in an 18.5 size. Stunning looking and goes like an express train up or downhill. with the 69′ head angle it’s also a joy on the technical stuff. I’ve ridden about 150 miles so far on it and have only praise for this ” do it all” 29 er, which is also quick enough to race.

    Only niggles are the tyres “2.2 continential xkings” are near impossible to seal as tubeless. Also the bike was meant to come with x0 shifters and instead got x9. Emailed Whyte 2 weeks ago and heard nothing!!!!!

  3. chris-m

    @ James. Don’t go through Whyte themselves, go through their Dealer – the shop you bought it from. If it’s meant to come with X.O shifters, then it’s up to the shop to sort it for you! Imagine just how many emails they must get from enquiries about their bikes, etc. Must be lots, plus not many companies like to be contacted by the public (besides the odd question) as they’re used to dealing with the LBS.

    Lovely bike by the way!!

    P.S. Leave your wheels lying on top of a bin (for e.g.) and flip it over periodically. Some tyres (especially) tubeless ready) take a while to seal as it needs the sealant to make it seal properly (unlike UST). It takes time and is worth getting it right. Failing that, use more sealant. Good luck!

    1. james dowling

      Thanks Chris for the tip on tyres. I’ll give it a go.
      Regards to thes shifters, i went back to the dealer who put the blame on Whyte and said that in small print it does say “the spec can differ from printed version” they also told me they had spoken to Whyte who said there was nothing they could do. Just annoying.

      thanks

      James

  4. chris-m

    That sounds a little unfair to you, James. I suppose that’s the way it goes with bicycle companies cutting costs and changing specifications as budgets change. Bonus being that the X.9 shifters do work well, thankfully.
    Have fun and if the shifters do bug you, perhaps you could buy some and flog the others on eBay? Maybe.

  5. Mark

    How’s the gear ratio on this bike? Is there enough at both ends to climb steep and enough not to run out of pedal power when flat out?
    Thanks

    1. james dowling

      Hi Mark. I have the same gear set up on my Carbon stumpy and the Whyte. The stumpy has a 26 small ring as oppose a 27 on the whyte. No problem getting up short steep rooty climbs, in fact the Whyte climbs superbly. The 39 ring is more than enough and havent been wanting yet. Most guys i ride with have 3 x 10 and a 42/44 big ring and i can honestly say that on flat fast trail (or road when have to) the big tyres more than compensate.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Mark

        Thanks for that James, mine is due Tuesday week and that was my only worry, that flat out on a fire road I may run out of gears.
        Enjoy yours, I can’t wait.

  6. The Sid

    Recentlt taken delivery of a Whyte 29cd and I’m very impressed with it – timing on a set loop it’s around 10% faster up/along/down compared with my 26″ Trek. One gripe is the X9 shifters which have a major and very basic design flaw in that there is no space to easily move your thumb between the paddles on the rear shifter – there is no space – so difficults to quickly change up and down on the right hand side without making major hand movements. I’ve been riding for 20+ years and never come across a design that’s so poor. Bike will be in the shop for a 6 week service shortly and this junk will be getting replaced – it’s JUST SO BASIC SRAM

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