On-One Whippet review£999.00

Affordable carbon speed machine

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Over the past decade or so, UK-based On-One have forged themselves a reputation for building no-nonsense bikes and selling them at no-nonsense prices. The Whippet is the company’s carbon fibre take on their popular aluminium Scandal frameset, built for outright cross-country speed. 

With a frame weighing barely over 3lb (1.4kg) and currently available as a complete bike at a wallet-friendly £1,099 (the £100 cheaper version tested here was a pre-production build with a RockShox Reba fork instead of a SID Race), it brings race-ready carbon to the masses. It's surprisingly comfortable, too, which should appeal to anyone seriously into endurance racing.

Ride & handling: Carbon ride quality adds noticeable comfort to a bike that’s also efficiently rigid

Some bikes keep their true character hidden until you’ve put a few miles under their tyres. Not the Whippet. Whippet by name, whippet by nature. It’s obvious the moment you sling a leg over it that this is not a bike for pootling about on. The unusually long top tube and low, straight handlebar pull the Whippet’s rider into the powerful flat back stance long favoured by racers.

If you’re used to the shorter, more upright and generally more laidback feel that’s become popular over the last few years as cross-country racing has lost its stranglehold on bike design, it’ll come as a shock to you. But if you really want to cover the ground quickly, it’s exactly the right approach. With the rider’s weight centred between front and rear wheels, the Whippet provides a torsionally rigid pedalling platform that responds with gratifying alacrity to rider input.

The long reach to the bars makes it easy to bring powerful lower back muscles into play for big gear mashing, although it also means the front wheel is not as flickable as some. Not that that will matter, because a bike like this is all about carving a smooth, sinuous curve down the trail rather than bouncing from obstacle to obstacle. The Whippet leaves no room for excuses at the end of a ride.

Remarkably, all this speed comes without a comfort penalty. In fact, the opposite is true. On-One have succeeded in making the most of carbon’s reputation for vibration absorption, giving the Whippet a ride that’s almost spookily smooth in comparison with the aluminium-framed competition. Although it’s not really a bike for messing about in the woods, for riders interested in day-long speed – including endurance racers – the Whippet is an affordable and very tempting option.

On-One whippet: on-one whippet
On-One whippet: on-one whippet

Frame:Proven geometry delivers the goods when it’s time to put the hammer down

Although it’s based on the tried-and-tested Scandal’s geometry, a cursory glance at the Whippet’s curiously flared and bulged plumbing is all you need to tell you that this frame is designed from the ground up to be built from the black stuff. The great advantage that carbon has over metal is that it can be sculpted, layered and generally honed into whatever specific shape, diameter or thickness of frame tube is required at any particular point.

On-One’s chief designer Steve Olsen has taken this characteristic and run with it, giving the Whippet’s frame a series of organic shapes that only reveal their complexity when you take the time to explore them thoroughly. The curious-looking ‘power bulges’ on seatstays and chainstays – which you can only see by looking inside the stays – are claimed to increase lateral and torsional rigidity without sacrificing comfort.

Our pre-production test bike has a few wrinkles that’ll be taken care of by the time you read this. The gloss black finish of our sample will be matt on production bikes, the zip-tie cable guide attachments will be replaced by clip-on guides and the seat tube will be modified to allow 200mm of seatpost height adjustment. In common with the Scandal, the Whippet will handle up to 100mm (3.9in) of suspension fork up front.

Equipment: Quality kit selection, although a few key upgrades could take weight even lower

Getting a fully equipped carbon bike out of the door for around £1,000 is a feat in itself, but On-One have managed to avoid any obvious cost-cutting gaffes. Our test bike's tried-and-tested RockShox Reba offers easy adjustability and a lockout switch for eliminating bob on climbs and sprints. The production bike comes with a lighter 100mm RockShox SID Race. Racers might quibble over the lack of a bar-mounted lockout but, frankly, at this price that’s just nit-picking.

Flat carbon FSA bars match the bike’s image and complement the frame, while an own-brand saddle and stem shave enough pennies to make room for Shimano’s excellent SLX hydraulic disc brakes and transmission.  The featherweight frame makes the all-up weight of 24.5lb (11.1kg) look a tad high, but upgrades in a couple of key areas could easily bring the Whippet down to below 24lb.

A complete carbon bike for under a grand is impressive in itself – slx and xt transmission components are a bonus: a complete carbon bike for under a grand is impressive in itself – slx and xt transmission components are a bonus
A complete carbon bike for under a grand is impressive in itself – slx and xt transmission components are a bonus: a complete carbon bike for under a grand is impressive in itself – slx and xt transmission components are a bonus

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