World first: 2002 Whyte JW-2 test - Bike Magic

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World first: 2002 Whyte JW-2 test

Whyte JW-2

From: ATB Sales 01424 753566
29lb (with pedals)
Deore rear mech, Truvativ Firex chainset, Alivio elsewhere.
Brakes: Avid SD-3 V’s (Magura Julie disc upgrade £100 extra).
IRC Notos 1.9″ tyres, on Mavic X221 rims with DT disc ready hubs.
Whyte own brand piping with Ritchey WCS foam grips (Boo) and SDG saddle (Hurrah).

Test Logbook:
Hard climbing, clattery descending, loose rock out to the best bits and back again afternoon above Scar House reservoir in Nidderdale (now the fizzy sheep signs have gone at last).
Quick – as flat out as possible – blast on absolutely treacherous soaking woodsy test singletrack.

The radical looking, innovation loaded Whyte PRST-1 full suspension bike has split opinions since it’s introduction over a year and a half ago.

Whyte are happy to admit that the JW2 is a simplified joining of the same crucial handling and suspension dots as the PRST-1 to bring most of the benefits at a reduced price. For the theory and handling specifics, see our long term test of the PRST-1, but here are the differences between the two.

Most obvious is the use of a tubular front fork assembly rather than the aluminium monocoque of Preston. Obvious not least because they’ve painted it gold. The T-Four fork also uses conventional dropouts rather than the bobbin and latch “Big Grippers” of the PRST-1. The good news is that the tracking and lack of deflection are still brilliant, with the front wheel very predictable even in really treacherous conditions. It also passed the oblique kerb hit test with flying colours, bumping up smoothly at flat angles that’d grind and twist most suspension forks. Hammering through wet rut lines and irregular rock scatters is where the front end excels, totally unflappable and floated even with high tyre pressures in relatively skittery dry weather tyres.

The Stratos-designed X-Fusion coil shock isn’t as small bump supple compared to the low air shock pressure we used on PRST-1, but though it still dived under front wheel braking, bottom out is more progressive and less startling. With suspension weight set back in the frame, and the high bar level imposed by the top linkage swing arc, the front end pops up very easily for clearing obstacles or lobbing over drainage ditches. Compression of the rear suspension also helps whip the front end up, but applying sudden power while you’re up there will force it back down again so prepare to balance your power wheelies. Steep climbs also need a firm downward/backward hand on the bars to stop the front wheel ‘whinnying’ up under maximum power.

The mainframe, bearings and front linkage are the same as PRST-1 with the addition of a grease port on the front ball socket and no soft Fox shock bushings to let play in. This means durability should be increased even over the very low maintenance PRST-1. The swingarm is different though. Instead of the monocoque “over and under” swingarm of PRST-1 with it’s trademark pot belly and massive lateral stiffness, the JW2 gets a simpler “over the top” Marin Y2K style trellis swingarm. Again the Big Grippers are gone, replaced by the neat cowled dropouts and retrofit disc brake mounts we’ve seen on Marin bikes for the past two years. We’d have to say we missed the exceptional stiffness of the PRST-1 rear, but the simpler swingarm is still a responsive back end.

Rear suspension is controlled by a Stratos designed X-Fusion 02R air shock, with full rebound damping. It’s a bit noisier than Fox shocks but they don’t have rebound at this price and it’s otherwise easily adjustable and smooth. As with most higher pivot ‘dig in under power’ swingarms it’s very easy to just jump on and ride, but there is a slight tendency to lever itself upwards slightly and spit rocks out backwards on really steep, loose stalling point climbs.

The spec. is a mix of ever dependable Deore, Truvativ and Whyte own brand kit which worked great (even after we wrapped the rear mech. round a rock and had to bend the replaceable hanger back). We never felt any great loss having only 24 rather than 27 ratios to play with either. The only gripe we have is with the cockpit. Though riser bars seem to be an aesthetic must have, adding extra height to the already high front end does no favours. We’d far rather see a wide sweep flat bar (we’ve also seen Whyte owners with their risers upside down ‘cafe racer’ style). Secondly the lightweight Ritchey WCS foam grips are too hard for the kind of high speed thrash the JW2 begs for, leaving us with buzzing wrists even after shorter rides. Still, if our niggles come down to bar and grip choice then you’ve got to be impressed with how faultlessly the rest of the kit operates.

So, Overall?
The JW2 does an absolutely excellent job of moving most or PRST-1’s attributes down the price range. It’s still a superb bike for charging along rocky, rutted, loose trails, hour after hour without having to worry about what comes next. The faster you go, the smoother the suspension gets and the ‘J-path’ steering can carve you through corners with amazing precision and stability once you get used to it. Massive mud clearance is also retained, while maintenance is reduced even further.

However, like PRST-1 there are issues about excessive fork dive under hard braking into compressions and fork suspension ‘thump’ on slow speed wheelie drops (though the coil shock helps). We’d also rather have a lower, more planted front end for technical climbing.
Our simple rule of thumb is that if you do most of your riding stood up – either mashing the pedals up short sharp climbs or dropping into steep sketchy sections on the brakes – then this is definitely not the bike for you. On the other hand if your a ‘mostly sat down’ rider who likes trails fast and flowing, and wants to float over them with maximum efficiency then the JW2 is an excellent individual option at a very impressive price.


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