Whyte have a well deserved reputation for making cutting-edge bikes. The 905 still sets the standard for extremely fast, fun and technically capable trail hardtails for those who are prepared to invest in their best interests.
Ride & handling: Fantastic mix of race speed and radical handling
It’s a mark of how good the 905's handling is that riding the tyres well past their limit became an infectious part of the testing. In fact, the Whyte coined a ‘forget the brakes and ride the dice’ mantra that we surfed right through the winter months with surprisingly successful, mostly upright results.
The slack head angle and stiff frame, big bar, tight tracking fork and relatively short (each frame size gets a different length) stem all sync together beautifully whether you’re slamming the bars towards the ground to rail a berm or surfing a double wheeled drift on off-camber clay.
The leverage gives a lightness of touch for immediate, immaculate traction catching adjustments but there’s nothing fragile about the way the Whyte holds onto a line with acute authority. Consistent damping control and wide range of adjustment means you’ll very rarely feel short-changed by what the 120mm-travel fork can cope with either.
The speed the Maxxis Aspen tyres inject into the mix is phenomenal, too. You can blast the Whyte up to warp speed whenever the trail lets you get a handful of hard pedal strokes in. The big PF30 bottom bracket, oversized crank axle and muscular rear end mean every degree of determined crank rotation is ripped straight to the rear tyre without dilution or hesitation.
The long saddle helps you slide forward and offset the wandering tendency of the front end on steep climbs. Add low weight, excellent power transfer and terrain-moulding traction from the fat tyres, and the 905 will match most race bikes for climbing prowess.
The payback to all this accuracy and punchy kick is a noticeably firm ride from the rear end, which can build into a staccato hammer on really rough trails. The Fizik Gobi saddle and fat tyres give enough respite to make it rideable all day though, and if you want a smoother-rolling ride with similar – if more grounded – handling, there’s always Whyte’s new 829 29er option.
Frame: Lightweight, with superbly balanced geometry
The 905 frameset doesn’t change for 2012 but then there’s nothing that really needs changing. Okay, so the rear disc brake mount isn’t the most modern post mount standard, but that only adds a small extra bracket and potentially a bit more setup faffing if you ever need to remove it. Otherwise the short stack head tube is compatible with tapered forks and the big press-fit bottom bracket shell will work with the oversize axle BB30 system.
Snaking S-stays with hydroformed flattened sections in the centre leave plenty of tyre room, and there’s a Crud Catcher mount on the curved down tube. Even with two sets of bottle cages the seatpost drops fairly low and the large quick-release seat lever uses a push wedge system to keep it sealed from wheel spray.
Equipment: Light but tough componentry, including tight but controlled RockShox Reba fork
The Whyte's SRAM X9/X7 2x10 transmission features a massive 36-tooth rear sprocket for the steepest climbs. There's a good quality SRAM 1050 chain rather than a sneaky downgrade joining it all together too. The super-light, SID-based RockShox Reba RL fork only has 120mm (4.7in) of travel but it’s surprisingly capable, with tapered top and screw tips to maximise accuracy.
The Mavic rims are built up with quality DT Comp spokes onto an own-brand front hub, but the rear hub shows the level of detail Whyte go to. The Hope Evo disc hub with its distinctive loud ticking freewheel is already a longevity bonus, and Whyte have reserved the only Shimano spec on the bike for a fantastically secure yet smooth to use Deore XT rear skewer.
Whyte’s own-brand finishing kit is excellent this year too. The bar and stem are a great shape, the lock-on grips include bar protector plugs and the seatpost is an unashamed copy of Fizik’s excellent Cyrano seat stick. The money saved on a copy means you get a proper Fizik Gobi saddle where it really matters – under your arse.
The Maxxis Aspen tyres are best suited to dry summer trails rather than winter. That said, the grippy compound and terrain-moulding capacity of the large volume carcass mean you’ll be shocked at what they’ll find traction on as long as it’s clean and wet rather than sloppy.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.