It must be quite cool to be Jon Whyte. Not only does he design bikes for Marin but he’s got his very own high-end brand to play with too, letting him gather a selection of envelopes and then push them in interesting directions.
The big news from Whyte for 2005 is the new 19 hardtail. You might think it’s hard to do much that’s new and interesting with a hardtail and, well, you’d be largely right. But the 19 is all about details, being packed with neat ideas from front to back. We’ve had a glimpse at pictures of the frame before, but this is the first time we’ve seen a complete bike (albeit a not-really-ridable prototype) in the flesh.
Like the 46, the 19 is designed around a Maverick fork. This time it’s the new 125mm travel single crown SC unit. It shares the upside-down configuration, 24mm axle and ski-binder axle clamps with the 150mm DUC, and weighs in at 3.5lb. The lockdown feature shortens the fork to 80mm of travel for steep ascents. And it looks great.
At the opposite end is Whyte’s funky adjustable modular dropout. The frame can be run with gears or as a singlespeed depending on which dropout you run. Either way, the swinging dropout design lets you adjust the chainstay length. In singlespeed mode that’s essential to let you tension the chain, while in geared mode you can tune the handling by choosing how long you want the stays to be. Gradations and indents help you keep both sides the same, and the disc mount keeps itself aligned automagically.
Between the two ends is an array of other neat but subtle features. Every tube on the frame (it’s made of AN6 aluminium) has been extensively manipulated, with the chainstays going from vertical ovals at the front to a squarish section in the middle and vaguely round at the back. The idea is to strike a balance between light weight, stiffness and clearance all the way along. The seatstays swoop in and out in a similar fashion.
Neat open-ended gussets adorn the front end and all the cables run under the top tube in near-continuous runs – there’s just an open bit of cable down the seatstay to the rear mech. The bike looks great and (especially in one-geared form) weighs nowt. Choose from a frame/fork/headset/hub package at £995 or a complete XT/Hope Mono Mini/Easton bike at £1,995.
The much-loved 46 returns for another run of 500 bikes for 2005, complete with a few tweaks here and there. The swingarm’s now got pressed-in panels that are said to improve stiffness, while the top tube’s been dropped by an inch and a half for better standover height. A new gusset at the seat cluster maintains strength, and there’s a bit of extra material down at the bottom bracket. The spec remains pretty much the same except that the bars are now oversized carbon items, and the price is unchanged at £2,700.
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A new add-on for owners of new or existing 46s is the Alpine Link. It’s a 7mm longer replacement for the lower link on the Quad suspension system which makes the suspension travel fractionally more linear and, more importantly, lowers the bottom bracket and slackens the angles for better stability at speed. Just the job if you’re off on a lift-assisted jaunt somewhere, although in the UK you’ll be generally better served with the standard steeper setup.