Whyte 729 100mm XC 29er Hardtail review

Riding the Whyte 729 for a few weeks around the local singletrack of the Isle of Purbeck felt a little like coming home, not in a location sense, but by the quality of the bike ride. The 729 was such an easy bike to get on with in any given situation; it’s a stripped down, no nonsense hardtail that’s built with the changeable British climate in mind. With its slightly longer wheelbase and excellent bar width combination it all helped keep the riding slot-car secure as I railed the corners faster and faster with each run.

Whyte 729 100mm XC hardtail 29er.
Whyte 729 100mm XC hardtail 29er.

But there’s more to the Whyte 729er than an easy ride because along with the latest generation of 29inch bikes, and I know that I’m not alone in thinking this, but it’s not quite as easy to identify the difference between a 29er from a 26inch bike, which is good – and it’s a proportional thing. Now, frame and forks, combined with the right geometry come together for a more aesthetic look. Gone are the awkward looking steerer tube and stem combinations. And let’s face it, looks are important, and the Whyte 729 looks as good on paper, as it does in the flesh.

But it’s not a case of form over function here; the Whyte 729 is a bike handling dream: lightweight and steady underfoot the 729 simply flows through the trails and will keep any trail hungry novice, or experienced rider grinning from ear to ear.

A British box of tricks

‘Progressive geometry’ is how Whyte describe their design ethos with the 729 and it is part of their X-29 performance hardtail series. Whyte have always done things their way, as a bike company they have a history of innovation, they are stylishly British, and they are not afraid to fly the flag for Britain – albeit, a green version.

Following on from this ethos Whyte have based the design of the 729 around their carbon 29C hardtail frame, which although the 729 doesn’t mimic the 29C geometry to the full, the formula works extremely well. Take a proven XC race bike, soften the angles a little, throw in a little more wheelbase stability and away you go – the perfect hardtail trail setup.

Frame

Whyte use the same frame on all there alloy X-29 frames for 2013 and the triple butted 6061 hydro-formed frame is clearly a highly effective heart of the 729er. Extra clearance for mud-shedding, Crud Catcher ready bolts, and a forward facing seat slot are all trademark features for Whyte and denote their commitment to British riding conditions.

Colin's test bike. Aesthetically pleasing, confidence inspiring to ride and a bargain at £1,499.99
Colin’s test bike. Aesthetically pleasing, confidence inspiring to ride and a bargain at £1,499.99

Graphics on the 729 are neatly understated, stylish and proved to be durable. Even after riding the rain soaked abrasive sandy trails of the Isle Purbeck Jurassic coast, a gentle wash down revealed unscathed decals and resilient paintwork – much to my relief.

Finishing kit and components

The all-Whyte finishing kit of saddle, stem, bars, lock-on grips, and seat post are a nice touch and in keeping with the overall look of the bike. The lime green decals and lettering are easy on the eye and don’t detract from the overall appeal of the bike either.

The padding and support on the saddle was firm and friendly (so to speak) even after a good soaking day after day, although the saddle looked a little duller after a permanent layer of abrasive wet sand between saddle and rider had set in each day; but then I think any saddle would have. No problems either from the mix of SRAM X9 and X7 shifters, chainset, chain, and derailleurs, which again, when sourced from the same manufacturer, makes a bike seem more complete, rather than looking like a basket of fruit. The 2 x 10 setup shifted well throughout the course of my loan, aided of course by lashings of chain lube demanded from the continual effects of it persisting down in biblical proportions for days on-end.

Whyte's own parts are on the spec list, but that isn't a bad thing.
Whyte’s own parts are on the spec list, but that isn’t a bad thing.

Avid Elixir 5 Matchmaker’s take care of the braking department. A 160mm rotor brings up the rear with a 170mm up-front. The ergonomics of the levers are fine with plenty of reach adjustment for my smallish hands. Ok, there was a little squealing to be heard in the rain, but I’m not sure if that was me or the brakes as I pushed myself and the 729 even harder on the descents.

The ride

I loved it. The more I rode the 729 the more I realised what Whyte are about – they put a great deal of thought into their design work and after all, aesthetics aside, isn’t it the ride that counts? In a straight line I felt the bike could almost ride itself, and the front end came up easily with a slight tug on the bars and a push with the pedals; even with the 70mm stem fitted upside down, the effect was the same, just the slightly racier position pushing my weight forward; but that only helped the front wheel grip to aid the rock-steady steering even further.

The long, rocky descent of Godlingston Hill (a perennial Purbeck favourite) can be sketchy at the best of times, but in the wet it can be a little scary at speed if you take your eye off the line. The 729er paid no attention to my worries and carried me down with ease. The combination of big wheels, Maxxis Icon 2.2in tyres paired with the 729’s long wheelbase, simply ignored the smaller rocks and steps to let me carry the speed over the bigger stuff without hesitation.

The frame is good looking and well balanced making the bike fast and fun to ride.
The frame is good looking and well balanced making the bike fast and fun to ride.

At the bottom, I simply turned around and rode the bike back to the gate to start again – I’d never been inclined to do that before; especially in the rain. The climb back up over the loose rocks was as sure-footed as the descent, nothing skittish, and even the tall front end (a 29er trait) behaved well. I must make a point here that the stem was in its racier, inverted position for this little exercise; reassuring to know that I had this much control on the descent, and nicely positioned with a weight bias to the front on the climb.

The 100mm RockShox REBA RLs performed faultlessly during the test, and were nicely bedded in by the time I’d got my hands on the bike. At an SRP of £1,499 the 729 is a bargain, made even better with the inclusion of the REBAs. Whyte are getting the spec’ right at the areas that matter most – frame, forks, and their own XC 209 double sealed wheelset which continued to run smoothly and tracked incredibly well throughout. The oversized QR on the front wheel helped keep flex to a minimum here and, as previously mentioned, front wheel tracking and steering was spot on. The sum of all the main parts of the 729er make this bike so easy to get on with.

Verdict

The 729er is low-maintenance in the sense of getting on with, and it’s certainly fun to be with – even when pushed. Easy on the eye and reliable, the Whyte 729 makes for an altogether easy relationship and incredible value for money. A marriage made in heaven, maybe?!

Price: £1,499.99
More information on spec and geometry: Whyte 729
Distributed by: ATB Sales 01424 753566

What Whyte say about the 729 100mm XC bike:

We’ve brought our progressive geometry ideas to these new for 2013 XC 29” hardtails. Aesthetically closely mirroring the design of the Carbon 29C frames,  the development of the new X-29 frame has resulted in a more confidence inspiring 29er geometry for a performance hardtail. Simply put it means a faster and a more fun ride experience.

The X-29 geometry is based on the ground breaking 29-C frame. The unique Whyte combination of XC speed, Trail bike handling and all-day comfort bring some thing very special to the 29er movement.

These frames bristle with UK design features, such as extra mud clearance for all-weather usability, forward facing seat slot to keep rear wheel spray out of the frame, continuous outers for improved cable life and crud-catcher mounts on the downtube to keep the grit out of your teeth.

  1. Matt

    Is it really incredible value? Against the Canyon Grand Canyon AL 29 7.9 at £1,119 and with a better fork, it doesn’t seem that incredible to me…. .

  2. chris-m

    That’s hardly a like for like brand though, Matt. They do purely Internet based bikes, whereas Whyte deal with the consumer through their dealer network. So, Canyon deal directly with the customer – which has positive and negative sides, i.e. you can’t walk into a Canyon shop if you have problems.
    .
    Canyon are hardly the perfect brand. They use simple frames with good kit – so they appear better value. Their frames aren’t the best designed ones out there. Not that Whyte are perfect, but Internet based companies aren’t the be-all and end-all.

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