Whyte 905 £1499

For racing and ripping

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Whyte have significantly expanded their hardtail range for 2010 with the introduction of both a steel 19 Trail and a new 901 introductory model. The 905 is still a superb blend of technical tenacity and race responsiveness – and it’s faster than ever for this year.

If we had one criticism of the 2009 Whyte 905, it was about the speed-eating Panaracer Cinder tractor tyres – and they’ve been replaced with much lighter Maxxis Aspens. The result is even faster, fresher yet still outstandingly technically surefooted, which keeps this bike firmly at the top of our favourites list.

Ride: Light weight and hardcore handling angles are an unusual mix, but they work brilliantly

Minimal rolling resistance and significantly lower weight push the 2010 905's already impressive race and distance-covering credentials even further ahead of the competition – we’d have no qualms about lining the Whyte up alongside dedicated 100mm cross-country bikes on race day.

What sets it apart from those bikes, though, is what it’ll do at the point where racers are wondering if they should get off and walk. With the massively stiff RockShox Reba Maxle fork set at a relaxed and naturally stable angle, you can push the 905 right down the throat of trail trouble.

Add useful leverage from the broad Easton bars and this is not a bike that takes any crap. Even heading into the most random rooty/rocky sections, you can be pretty sure you’ll come out exactly where you want to.

While it looks a bit weird at first, the new upturned stem gives a slightly easier lift to the front end if you find that your best option is to manual or hop the bike completely over the chaos. It does lighten the load on the front wheel slightly on climbs and corners, but then you can’t load the Aspens as aggressively as the previous Cinders anyway.

Frame: Maximum rigidity in stamp-and-go power terms, but enough flux for fine traction

The only frame change for 2010 is the addition of Crud Catcher mounts on the down tube, but that’s fine by us. The integrated headset gives potential to drop the bars racer low, while the curved and flared down tube and subtly shaped top tube share a lengthened weld joint for extra strength.

There’s a small buttress gusset ahead of the extended seatpost and Whyte’s unique cam closure stops any spray getting into the frame from the rear wheel. Elaborately shaped chainstays reduce sting without diluting drive and there’s loads of tyre clearance. While the 905 and 901 don’t get the adjustable dropouts of the 19 range, they’re still neat CNC-machined eye candy.

This leaves only the lack of XL/XXL sizes plus the loose brake hose loop below the single seatstay guide as our only grumbles. Full credit to Whyte for only adding £30 to the price this year though, as most bikes have got significantly more expensive.

Equipment: Superbly stiff and capable fork, plus rapid rubber

Like the frame, the 905 build kit is almost completely unchanged from the bike that was What Mountain Bike magazine's favourite trail hardtail for 2009.

The one major change is immediately obvious though, with the new Aspen tyres adding several gears' worth of free speed compared with the previous Cinder rubber. Despite their very low profile, near semi-slick tread and plenty of bald areas, they’re a much harder tyre to spin and shake loose than you’d expect.

We’d probably stick a Minion or an Ardent on the front for winter, but on three-season singletrack or manmade trails the Aspens are great. They add plenty of depth and volume to flatter the already well-tuned tubeset too, making this a smooth bike here despite only having 120mm travel at the front.

In terms of supporting cast, the Shimano SLX transmission and Hayes Stroker Trail brakes are as reliably solid as you’ll get – and the previous carbon levers were more about pimp than performance anyway. Even the monochrome Easton logos sync better with the rest of the bike than the previous yellow decals.

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