Whyte 19 Trail Steel - First ride £1599

Classic steel looks meet modern touches

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

With a gorgeous frame, sorted angles, loads of gears, massive brakes and a penchant for going ludicrously fast, there's not much to fault this steel incarnation of Whyte's famous 19 – although there are definitely lighter options out there at this price.

Ride & handling: Classic steel feel – snappy with an underlying trace of suppleness.

With the longer of its three wheelbase settings engaged, the Whyte’s head angle sits at 67.7 degrees. The feel is miles away from the cross-country whippetry of a carbon fibre race bike – the 19 wants to go quickly but it entertains along the way too.

It’s the definition of how a quality steel frame should feel, snappy with an underlying trace of suppleness. Power transfer is good too – it digs in up climbs and spins up to speed nicely thanks to the shallow centre tread on the Maxxis Aspens.

These are fantastic all-conditions tyres and give the 19’s aggro angles something to hold onto in the corners. The power of the Avid Elixir 5 brakes can take you by surprise on your first few outings, but you soon get used to them and begin to trust in their monumental power to leave braking to the last minute.

The Whyte is a lesson in trail manners. Within metres of the first descent you forget that you’re on a hardtail and get on with caning it. You can get properly over the front wheel on descents – we’d be more than happy lining up on the start line of our next enduro race on it.

Frame & equipment: Adjustable geometry and decent finishing kit

If you’re going to build a bike out of steel, then it may as well be the best steel you can find. The Reynolds 631 badge is a seal of approval and the skinny-tubed 19 is a thing of beauty. It has a host of reassuringly modern touches, including a BB30 bottom bracket and gorgeous dropouts.

The CNC machined dropout plates look amazing. They also let you adjust the 19’s chainstay length between 415 and 435mm, via three settings. We preferred the longest setting because it provided a slightly longer and more stable wheelbase and dropped the bottom bracket height slightly too.

Fox’s 32 ALPS RL fork takes care of suspension duties. It has 120mm (4.7in) of travel and setup is straightforward. The 10-speed incarnation of Shimano’s workhorse SLX groupset is phenomenal. Shifting is crisp, clean, and with a triple chainring up front, the combinations feel endless.

The Avid brakes have a decent, progressive feel and are extremely powerful on a full build weighing in at 12.7kg (28lb) – with pedals. The spec is rounded off by a rear Hope Pro II hub. Our only gripe was the horribly shaped Truvativ Stylo Race bar and stem, which we soon ditched.

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