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Whyte 146 X - first ride

15:17 24th August 2011 by David Arthur @davearthur
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Whyte 146 X  - £4999.99

Whyte’s range-topping 146 X continues the company’s quest for long travel bikes light enough to ride all day.

They company has come a long way since the 46, the first true all-day 6in trail bike shattered all the rules. It was way ahead of its time. Now, the new 146 makes use of the latest carbon fibre and suspension technology to deliver a 25lb bike that is properly capable in all circumstances.

Cutting edge frame technology

Whyte have come a long way in the past decade, but one thing remains constant: they were ahead of the curve when it came to long-travel all-round bikes, making 6in lightweight bikes before anyone else.

The 146 X is seriously light for a bike with this much travel and capability. It owes it lack of weight to an all-carbon monocoque frame. A press-fit BB30 bottom bracket and tapered head tube combine to boost tracking stiffness and the bolt-through rear axle prevents the rear wheel deflecting under hard cornering.

ISCG tabs around the bottom bracket suggest versatility, and Whyte have made full use of them, speccing an e*thirteen XCX chain guide and single ring setup. Along with a 10-speed cassette it’s the ideal setup for the kind of riding this bike allows. A RockShox Reverb dropper seatpost is a natural companion for this bike and makes it clear the style of rider and riding this bike is squarely aimed at.

Two short linkages arranged inside the front triangle signal Whyte’s Quad 2 suspension platform, with a Fox RP23 tucked away inside the frame. Huge levels of traction making climbing even the steepest ascents a breeze and the suspension is controlled right trough the stroke, with little bob when pedalling along flats and a progressive action that ramps up nicely towards the end of the travel range.

Top draw components

At first glance the £5000 price tag is enough to make you wince, but look a little closer and it’s clear that somehow Whyte have squeezed an impressive specification out of the available budget. Up front is a Kashima coated 150mm Fox 32 Float 150 RCL FIT fork paired with a Fox RP23 shock, with XV 2 Sleeve and the Easton Haven Carbon tubeless-ready wheels are impressive. The top draw theme continues with Shimano XTR, Avid Elixir XX World Cup brakes, Reverb seatpost, and Easton finishing parts. You’ll be hard pressed to find many bikes that offer so much for the cash.

The Kashima coating on the forks and rear shock improve small bump sensitivity immeasurably, giving a fantastic supple feel all the way through the suspension travel. The Easton wheels are a highlight, their low weight adding to the sensational turn of speed the 146 X is capable of, and they’re bonkers stiff as well. The RP23 shock has a custom tune with the XV 2 sleeve giving it extra volume for a plush feel.

Whyte has gone down the 1×10 route, fitting a Shimano XTR 11-36t cassette and e*thirteen XCX single ring crank paired with a LG1+ chainguide and a 34t ring fitted. Whyte tell us they decided to do this because they noticed that most people are going down this route when setting up trail bikes, so decided to offer it straight off.

It’s s smart move. There’s a wide enough spread of gears for most typical UK trails, and the chain guide kept the chain securely on at all times, not once did we experience a dropped chain, and it did so with minimal noise too.

Tyres are tubeless-ready Maxxis Crossmark on the back and an Ardent front, which really shows that the Whyte designers have put a little of thought it into speccing parts that most people would actually fit themselves.

Performance is faultless

From the first pedal strokes through the singletrack at Cannock Chase, we felt a connection with the 146 X. Combined with the generously wide 711mm Easton bar and short 70mm stem, we felt right at home. The suspension is predictable and compliant, offering no surprises other than a hugely planted feel through the rough.

Its response is immediate, rewarding and playful. Its low weight laughs at climbs, and the suspension is firm enough in such circumstances that you’ll be hard-pressed to climb any quicker on a traditional cross-country short travel full suspension bike. It flies up the climbs, in the saddle and out of the saddle.

Yet when you want to let the bike loose on a descent it engages you, allowing you to press on with real conviction. Its handling is wonderfully balanced, meaning you can place the bike wherever you want on the trail; pick off apex after apex. It feels long and low, we clipped the pedals a few times, but ensure it’s so stable when the speed rises which combined with the slack 66 degree headangle opens up all sorts of trail possibilities. This bike knows no limits.

There’s very little to dislike and lots to like about Whyte’s new 146 X. Yes it’s a lot of money but you get a lot of bike in return for your hard earned. It’s one of the best riding bikes we’ve ever ridden, even based on a limited first ride, but its all-round capabilities and ability to be pressed into any sort of riding you desire is evident from the moment you roll out of the car park and onto the trail.

Verdict

A few contenders are vying for the title of the true all-round do-it-all bike, and we think the Whyte 146 X is right at the front of the queue. The best trail bike of 2012? Quite possibly.

www.whytebikes.com

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