Whyte 146 Works - First ride review£3,995.00

Superlight trail ripper

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Back in 2003 the radical Whyte 46 was one of the first complete bikes to bring 6in of travel into the ride-all-day, sub-28lb weight category. Eight years later the Whyte 146 employs the latest in technology and geometry thinking to deliver 146mm of confident travel in a sub-26lb package that’s properly cross-country light. 

Not everyone will like the pedal referenced suspension or the noticeable frame twist, but if you want a confidence-boosting descender that  will charge back uphill or swallow a day’s worth of miles as well as most cross-country bikes, the Whyte 146 is an astonishing bike. Even at nearly £4,000 the top-of-the-range Works model is still remarkable value.

Ride & handling: Light yet strong, and great when the terrain gets tough

The Whyte was a real shock at first. This long, low bike has a long, low handlebar and its slack steering angle is made even slacker by the easy sag of the rear shock, putting the front wheel way out ahead of you like it’s been flat dropped out of a plane. There were definitely times on tight climbing turns when we wished it had a travel-adjust fork so that we could shorten it to tighten the turning circle.

There’s noticeable torque twist through the rear end that turns the bike outwards if you mistime your pedal push, and we regularly clattered the low pedals on boulders and roots of rougher trails. That means it’s a bike you need to get to know and work with on technical climbs, but in a straight line, power delivery is phenomenal.

The way the suspension pulls the rear wheel down into the trail under power not only gives a very positive pedal feel for traction, it also increases grip noticeably on surefooted surfaces. As a result while the power-related bob and bounce of the suspension wasn’t popular with every tester, they all commented on its outstanding traction considering the semi-slick  rear tyre.

The sub-26lb weight means that you'll always be competitive on the climbs, whatever you're racing against. The soft, vertical frame and easy sag and comfort of the changing leverage shock also make the 146 an extremely comfortable cruising bike with no worries about tyre clearance or rolling speed from the Maxxis CrossMark at the rear.

After three months of extremely hard use through winter we’ve had no trouble, apart from an initial flooding problem with the wheels that left them loose and desperate for grease. The impressive RockShox Reverb seatpost, and indeed the whole bike, comes into its own when the trail starts pointing down. The slack head and super-long front wheel to bottom bracket stretch give the Whyte massive natural stability, encouraging you to let go of the brakes and fly.

 whyte 146:  whyte 146
whyte 146: whyte 146

While it’s choppy in stop-go pedalling moments the progressive action of the large volume rear shock eats up bigger hits – particularly drops and flat-faced blocks – pretty well. While there’s definite twist and a snaking rather than sharp feel when loaded hard sideways, the low bottom bracket means that it screams through berms and corners with an outstandingly surefooted feel for such a light bike.

The early suspension compression makes it easy to stick down onto the trail physically if that’s what you want, with loads of room for fore and aft weight shift to manage traction and geometry change. That low weight means it’ll pop up and float over anything too rough to handle, and of course when you get to the bottom you just pop the saddle up and leave the bikes you have been harassing all the way down wondering where you’ve vanished to on the climbs.

Frame & equipment: Adjustable Fox shock swallows up big hits and RockShox post is a winner

Whyte have been working with carbon monocoque frames for a while, but the 146 is an all-new chassis. The single-piece layup starts with a big tapered head tube fronting a big headbox and broad curved down tube, complete with moulded receivers for the linkages and head of the shock. Press-fit BB30 bottom bracket bearings squeeze into the oversized bottom bracket area with ISCG tabs on the driveside for a chain device.

There’s an extra support piece across the bottom corner of the frame and the broad curved top tube includes a support fin for the extended seatpost. The swingarm starts in a massive box section ahead of the seat tube before extending back in beefy square section stays to bolt-in modular dropouts. These use the latest screw-through 142x12mm standard, complete with Shimano/Fox axle to match the front fork.

Typically for Whyte’s UK designers there’s masses of mud clearance from the braceless stays, and the front facing seatpost slot is secured with an internal clamp plate linked to the big, hand-friendly ‘spoon’ lever. The Quad Link II suspension bearings are all lifetime warrantied, so Whyte will replace them free if they wear out. Gear and rear brake lines are routed down the underside of the down tube for extra protection from flying rocks, and there are removable P-clips for the seatpost remote cable.

Transmission is ultra-light SRAM XX in a twin ring, oversized BB30 axle format, while Avid Elixir CR brakes provide serious stopping power. The SRAM family also provides the brand new Reverb height adjustable seat post with hydraulic remote control release. A mile-friendly Fizik Gobi saddle sits on top while the low, wide cockpit is Easton’s latest Haven all-mountain gear complete with their top carbon fibre bar.

The wheels are Easton’s beefy-rimmed EA90s, while the  tyres are our favourite hard and fast riding Maxxis Aspen front, CrossMark rear combo. Add the full-carbon frame plus top-of-the-range Fox fork and shock and you’re looking at a real bargain. There’s an equally impressive value (and apparently only half a pound heavier) X9/X0-based 146S for £2,999 too.

carbon frame and bars help shed weight : carbon frame and bars help shed weight
carbon frame and bars help shed weight : carbon frame and bars help shed weight

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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