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Jon Whyte leaves ATB Sales

The Jon Whyte Timeline

1984 Aerospace engineer Jon Whyte joins the F1 world as a designer

1994 As a senior suspension designer he helps the Benetton team and Michael Schumacher to their first of his world championships.

1996 Jon joins ATB Sales’s design team and develops its first full suspension system, featuring on a Marin bike

1996 Paul Lasenby wins his first XC national points series race with Jon’s system – the first ever win at this level on a full suspension bike.

1997 Lasenby sweeps all before him to win the National XC Championship on the FRS Mount Vision. Every year since, a suspension bike designed by Jon has won a major championship

2003 Jon develops the Quad Link system>

2004 Jon designs and develops the Mezzo folding bike

2005 Jon brings out the second version of his Quad Link system, launched in the Whyte E5

2006 Discovers freeride, and the Quad Link II Marin Quake is launched. Shaums March wins the Masters DH World Championships on it

2006 Sept – Schumacher announces his retirement from F1, Jon Whyte leaves ATB Sales

Towards the end of last week, we got an email from Jon Whyte, the designer responsible for Marin’s full suspension bikes as well as the ones that bear his name:

…I wanted you to be one of the first people I tell that as of today I am no longer employed by ATB Sales ltd.

And then a little while later, a press release from ATB Sales entitled “Jon Whyte Retires From Cycle Trade”:

Jon Whyte – father of the full-suspension mountain bike – has retired from the cycle industry. The 50-year-old engineering guru has hung up his trusty pedal spanner and is moving on after eleven years in the bike trade.

It’s certainly no exaggeration to say that Jon is largely responsible for the popularity of full suspension bikes. The original Marin Mount Vision was the first FS bike to be notably successful in XC racing, an area that at the time was dominated by hardtails. The subsequent range of variously-travelled single-pivot bikes were hugely popular, being reasonably priced, reliable and effective. Having lured XC riders on to full suspension, the B-17 made long travel a workable option for trail riders too – at the time, 6in was considered DH-only travel, but the B-17 combined it with reasonable weight and the ability to pedal. It kind of accidentally became a favourite amongst DHers and freeriders on a budget, even though it wasn’t really designed with that in mind – it was about the cheapest way to get your hands on a 6in travel bike, though…

The lightweight, long-travel theme was one that Jon returned to with the acclaimed Whyte 46, a 30lb-ish bike with 6in of travel at both ends that blazed a trail for things like the Santa Cruz Nomad, Scott Ransom and Specialized Enduro SL.

So what happens now? Well, on the ATB Sales side, it’s largely business as usual. Ian Alexander, who’s been working alongside Jon for the last few years, takes over design duties – the curvy lines of the forthcoming 2007 Mount Vision are his, and an indication of things to come. ATB Sales owns the various patents and intellectual property, and also the Whyte brand name, so there’ll still be Whyte bikes.

Ross Patterson, ATB’s sales and marketing director said: “We wish Jon every happiness in his retirement. It has been a great decade and we have enjoyed working with such a consummate professional for all this time. It is a fond farewell to Jon after a fantastic partnership… His legacy continues with the ATB design team at our UK R&D facility and there are exciting developments ahead.”

And Jon? He doesn’t consider himself to have “retired”. “I have a number of plans for my future,” he says, “that include doing more ultra distance events throughout the world and also setting up my own innovative design company.”

And bikes? There’ll definitely be more bicycle-related stuff from Jon at some point, but he’s taking a bit of time off from matters bicycular for the next few months. Watch this space…

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