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Finding myself with a couple of spare days off work to fill I
took the opportunity to borrow a Whyte PRST-1 from Brian Rourke Cycles in Stoke-on-Trent
(many thanks guys).
Before I get into the review I thought I’d just tell you about my riding, that way
it may help to explain some of my comments about the Whyte bike. I ride both on-
and off-road on a road bike and a hard tail mountain bike. I don’t own a car so
a lot of my off roading also involves on-road (and sometimes some reasonable distances
at that) to get to the dirt. I’m an occasional trailquester, potential enduro event,
cross-country rider. By my definition I’m a ‘freerider’.
So back to the Whyte. Looks wise – I think it’s okay, having been cycling for 15
years I can vividly remember some of the contraptions that have been released in
that time as state of the art (arse?) MTB’s. Some certainly make Preston look mainstream
and none of them had real function as a reason for their oddity.
How does it ride? Well being as I weigh 200lb and the guy in the shop weighs about
160lb it was soft to say the least. Only having the bike for two days I just slowed
the damping to stop the worst of the pogo-ing and off I went.
What can I say? Off-road this bike is the business. The woods where I was riding
were damp to very muddy. The Preston gave the confidence to go for stuff I’d be
dubious of on my own bike. The suspension really works to find extra traction.
The only thing letting the side down were the Notos tyres and I’m sure on a hardtail
you’d be off on these treads where the Preston finds a lot of grip. I found that
after my first rather timid run my second run through the woods had me going faster
than my skills could keep up with. Again the ability of the bike far outshone mine
and let me get away with things that I never have before. As well as dropping down
fast singletrack the suspension also pays dividends on climbing. Again monster traction
allowed me to get much further up a bank that I have yet to conquer on any bike,
due to ultimate gripping power. On another hill a lapse of concentration found me
headed for a good sized step up. My Pace elastomer MXCD’s wouldn’t have got me over
it, Preston’s front fork is so supple though it rode it without a twitch. Very impressive.
As for weight it’s certainly lighter than it looks – maybe a kilo more than my hardtail.
In action though it was never felt. The only time it was felt was due to the awkward
frame shape making the weight more apparent – something to consider if you do a lot
of hike-a-bike sections.
As I have said it’s a REAL off road machine. Bad points? I felt that I wanted to
sit further back. On level sections I found I was sitting right on the back of the
saddle. This may be due to saddle position of the guy who rides it, plus I’m not
used to the short stem and wide and high riser position. I ride with 23" flats
in a 120mm 5o stem with a good 20mm of spacers fitted. So I usually ride highish
but long. The Monkey Lite bar definitely had me feeling like I was back on a Chopper.
Good control I have to admit – apart from climbing. As I mentioned earlier I almost
got to the top of a bank that I have never done before. This was due to the phenomenal
grip afforded by the Preston. But why did I fail? The short, high position. The
front wheel was so light that I was wandering all over and eventually totally lifted
the front wheel. So the grip that is being greatly enhanced I feel is to some extent
counteracted by the ride position. Still a different stem/bar-ends/change of seating
position could solve this to make the Preston the ultimate OFF road bike. And here
is another of my slight niggles with the Preston – my type of riding. On the road
it’s a total pig. Admittedly it was set much softer than if it was my own bike.
Even so it really is very hard work on tarmac. Short stretches are bearable but
there is no way I would want to ride for more than 20 minutes at a time on a Preston
on the road – maybe there is a place for lock-out after all?
As a total package though for off roading it’s got to be 9/10. Suberb engineering
and designed in the UK to boot (if only we could build them over here too!)
By the way the girlfriend had a ride on it too and was totally sold. She says it
gave her total confidence that she has never felt on her rigid Rockhopper. She even
confessed that she could now see why someone would pay £2K for a bike if it was this