The Whyte shines on rolling terrain with wide open corners, and it eats small bumps that would otherwise unsettle a 26in wheels.
At Whyte’s 2012 product launch last week at Cannock Chase, we got the chance to put one of the most exciting new bikes through its paces. On a demanding circuit that includes loads of technical singletrack, rough rock gardens, drops, rooty climbs and more, there would be nowhere for the 829 to hide.
Right from the off though it’s an impressive bike. It’s a lot less unsettled through the sort of rough ground that will normally have you out of the saddle on a 26in wheeled hardtail; all those small roots and rocks just vanish under a carpet of velvety smoothness.
It happily tracks through the rougher lines, and doesn’t shy away from being hustled through a rock garden or over steep drops. You can really rip on the 829, the stable steering, tight chainstays and stiff frame combine to disguise the high 28lb overall weight of the bike.
The weight, and the slower spin up speed of the bigger wheels, is really noticeable out of the many tight uphill hairpin turns that characterise the Cannock Chase trail however, but after a few pedal strokes you’re up to speed and it’s then, when the 829 is wound up, does it shift like nothing else out there.
The slacker head angle and shorter chainstays suit the rider who likes to be in charge, rather than a mere passenger, and creates dynamic handling for the rider who likes to have fun and choose the more interesting lines.
A subtle retuning of your riding style is needed with the 829, as with any 29er (it takes me a few turns usually). It’s slower to accelerate from slow speeds, but when rolling it carries speed with much more efficiency than a bike with smaller wheels. So learn to take the smoothest, fastest line through a corner, gentle on the brakes and carry more speed through and out of the corner, and the Whyte is blisteringly fast.
A 29er will always struggle on really tight hairpins, whether climbing or descending. Throw in a few steeps and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster. The Whyte handles such situations better than most 29ers we’ve tested, with the slacker head angle giving you more control, and those compact chainstays bringing the rear wheel right underneath you.
There’s no bolt-through axle on the 100mm RockShox fork, and we noticed a little deflection in some of the rougher corners and braking bumps around Cannock. The wheels are a highlight, they’re Whyte’s own design and they’ve managed to save a little weight by fitting less spokes to the front wheel but keeping 32 in the rear wheel for durability.
The bike will suit both 29er fans and first timers. The handling is well balanced and the steering, well it’s a little lazier, but that suits our style of riding just fine – those coming from slacker 26in trail bikes will find themselves right at home.
Whyte’s debut 29er is an impressive entry to the growing big wheel market, and they’ve really hit the nail on the head with the geometry. Aside from the high weight, the 829 ticks all the boxes.