A few months back, GearGuide covered the consumer-direct cycling phenom Bulls Bikes from Germany. They represented one of a growing number of brands — especially European companies — that adopted direct-to-consumer retailing as their entry point into the U.S. market. We gave the Bulls Wild Cup a try and found the buying and riding experiences quite good overall. And the no-middleman pricing allowed the Bulls to hit the market with some compelling value.
One of the other organizations attacking the U.S. market in much the same way is Whyte out of the U.K. But unlike Bulls, Whyte takes aim at the much higher end of the market with a series of alloy and carbon products that start around $2200 for a hardtail and run into the mid-$6000 range for a full suspension carbon kit. We demoed a Whyte T-130 RS recently, from the middle of the company’s lineup, and here’s what we found.
First off, a bit of history. Whyte was founded in the U.K. by a former Formula One suspension designer and some of folks distributing the Marin brand in Europe. Their aim was to build a bike specific to U.K. riding conditions, described on the Whyte European website as “often grim.” Tougher bearing systems, unique seatpost clamps, internal weather-sealed cable routing and other high-end features are evident on Whyte’s bikes as a result of careful engineering.
Giving our demo Whyte T-130 trail bike the once over all those features were very obvious marks of a high-end ride. The other thing that immediately impressed was the quality of the welds on the company’s aluminum frame. No ripple marks where the head tube meets the top and down tube, just a very seamless and uniform structure. No skimping on the component selection either. The T-130 RS (2016 model) came with the RockShox Pike up front, Monarch DebonAir in back, a Reverb Stealth dropper and Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain, all sitting atop a tubeless compatible set of 27.5-inch SRAM wheels and WTB Trail Boss tires. A quality setup all around.
We hit on much of the component selection above, but a few additional bits standout. First, the Shimano XT drivetrain. This 1×11 setup works flawlessly and shifts easily. And because the Whyte T-130 RS employs this 1x drivetrain, the cockpit is amazingly simple. In contrast, for instance, to other manufacturers like Scott that present the rider with multiple shifters, dropper switches, remote lockouts and the like, the Whyte approach and associated cable management is a easy-to-manage art piece.
Frame: 6061 T6 SCR Aluminum
Shocks: 130mm travel RockShox Monarch Debonair RT3 (rear) and 130mm travel RockShox Pike RC (front)
Drivetrain: RaceFace Turbine Clinch crankset, Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain
Brakes: Shimano XT M8000
Weight: 29 lb
As also mentioned above, the build quality, fit and finish on the T-130 is outstanding. Beautifully sculpted welds and the internal cable management system rock the T-130 in a way that’s all too uncommon in the biking world.
Stopping power is provided by Shimano XT brakes with 160mm rotors and single-finger levers. Feel is excellent (although we tend to use two fingers). Stability is enhanced by the Boost 148mm rear end.
A couple of other notes on the buying process. Although technically not a “feature” it’s an important component of the purchase. Whyte provides two options for delivery. The first pickup at their Bay Area demo center located at Fairfax Cyclery just north of San Francisco. They’re a great group of people that’ll tune your bike to perfection and setup the tubeless tires for $100. If you’re out of the Bay Area, you can choose to ship via UPS for free, or Beeline Bikes will deliver the bike and do a basic tune also for free.
Fit is where the Whyte T-130 really shines. The company employs longer top tubes, slacker angles and shorter stems to keep the bike very nimble. We loved how it felt underneath on both climbs and descents. Granted, we didn’t push the Whyte T-130 too terribly hard but found it very confidence inspiring. The steering is quick, the WTB tires provide good grip and the adjustable rear shock and dropper allows for fine tuning the bike as you roll.
We’re sold on the consumer-direct model. After experiencing two top-notch European rides in the last six months that come boxed from the factory, we can see how this approach can work for both manufacturer and consumer. This won’t replace the local bike shop, but for a subset of the population there’s real value. Seek out a demo day or an event like Sea Otter to see the bikes first hand, if that’s what you need to do.
We’re also sold on the Whyte T-130. That machine really delivers. Price-wise, it’s comparable to the Intense Tracer 275 we reviewed earlier this summer. And it comes with just about every bell and whistle including 1×11 transmission, dropper, high-end fork, tubeless-ready tires and much more. Our demo was a 2016 kit and the company made a number of component swaps for 2017. At this writing, Whyte is waiting for their shipments of those new models. They can be pre-ordered here here. Sign up for the Whyte newsletter as they often have promo discounts.