29ers continue to sweep the mountain bike world and the latest to join the movement is Whyte Bikes, which has added a range of three bikes for 2012. We went up to Cannock Chase for the first chance to see and ride the new bikes.
Whyte’s design approach to 29ers
Whyte are keen to not just follow same path as other bike manufacturers, and lead designer Ian Alexander has gone to great lengths to ensure his bikes offer a distinctive Whyte ride with leanings towards trail riding rather than racing.
The three bikes have been two years in development but the final design came about quickly in a nine month period from first drawing to rideable prototype.
“I’ve been thinking about the geometry for a while,” says Ian, and tells us that the chainstay length has been the key point in his research for the optimum numbers for Whyte’s first move into the 29er market.
“Firstly the Chainstay Length I’ve found to be really critical,” continues Ian, “it has such a massive role in the balance of the bike in terms of your (the riders) weight distribution front to rear.
“So by aiming for the same chainstay length as a 26in frame, the balance of the bike can be much more neutral than all most all other 29ers I’ve ridden with very long (445mm+) chainstays. So that and the weight of the wheels is another huge factor that can really be the difference between a great dynamic bike and one that feels like a dead weight.”
Along with the short chainstays, Ian also settled on a slacker head angle. “There are one or two people at 69.5° for a 29er, we’re at 69.25°.”
But the head angle hasn’t been as important as getting the chaintay lengths spot-on. Whyte’s unique adjustable dropouts were a natural fit for the new 29ers, which allow the ability to run 425mm chainstays, with a small degree of adjustment possible.
Running such short chainstays raises obvious clearance issues. “There are some super-tight clearances at this length in relation to the front mech,” Ian adds, “but this short rear allows more length in the front centre which creates the better balance overall.” So it’s a compromise that is happily accommodated.
Finally, we asked Ian if he thinks 29er hardtails will replace 26ers in the next couple of years, or is there space for both to co-exist?
“I don’t see 29’ers replacing 26″ bikes, not really. Riding a demanding trail centre on a 120 fork 26″ bike is pretty unbeatable actually. I don’t really get the idea that a 29’er is a complete size solution, in particular for shorter riders. I think there might be an over-lap around 5’11 ish, and for people who are 6′ and over it does make some sense. I think it likely comes down to your type of riding, and it’s as simple and complicated as that…”
There’s three 29er bikes in the Whyte 2012 range, two made from carbon and an aluminium offering.
Based on the new carbon fibre frame developed for the 20-C race hardtail, the 29er CS (£2599) and 29er C (£1999) has to be one of the best looking 29er hardtails we’ve yet clapped our eyes on.
The frame has been designed for maximum power transfer and comfort, with an intimidating massive bottom bracket junction, huge square profiled downtube and slab sided chainstays.
A Press Fit BB30 has allowed the bottom bracket shell to be as wide as possible, and it’s a similar story with the downtube. Meanwhile the top tube flows seamlessly into the slender seat stays creating a visual link from the tapered head tube to the carbon dropouts
Other standout features include the rear post mount disc mounts located inside the rear triangle on the chainstays, removing the need for the seat stay to bear the braking forces and, as a result, be made thinner and lighter.
The 29er CS gets kitted out with a SRAM XO groupset, Easton XCT-70 wheels, FSA SLK contact points, Avid Elixir 7 brakes and a RockShox SID RLT fork with 15mm bolt-thru axle. The cheaper 29er C gets a SRAM X9/X7, Whyte XC-202 wheels, Avid Elixir 3 brakes and Whyte finishing parts mix.
Costing £1899 the 829 features the same 6061 hydroformed aluminium frame found on the company’s 26in hardtail bikes, first introduced a couple of years ago, but obviously adapted around Whyte’s 29er geometry. The spec will comprise a Fox 32 F29 fork with 100mm of travel with a standard QR axle, Shimano XT/SLX gears and brakes and Whyte’s own XC-202 wheels fitted with WTB Bronson 2.2in tyres.
Finishing components are Whyte branded, including the company’s own aluminium flat bar. It’s 710mm wide with a generous sweep back which at first we didn’t feel that comfortable with, but after an extended ride we grew to quite like it – it would be interesting to swap the bars for some wider low risers. Our medium size test bike (a large is the only other size) sported a 70mm stem and seatpost with 20mm of layback.
We rode the new 829 extensively – watch out for our first ride report later this week…