Whyte introduced its T-130 range in 2014 but, weirdly, while it had radically stretched the slack geometry in its G-150 gravity bikes and 900 series trail hardtails, the 130s were shorter and steeper.
Long enough, at last
Compared with other brands, they were still pretty rad for 130mm bikes, but they weren’t as progressive as their Whyte stablemates and we thought it had missed a trick. That meant we were delighted to see Whyte’s freakishly long and slack front end geometry nosing the SRAM front wheel out of Whyte’s van long before the rest of the T-130 when we hooked up with the British company on Yorkshire's Ilkley Moor for an exclusive preview of its 2016 range.
After wowing testers when our sister title Mountain Biking UK put it to the test, our other stablemate What Mountain Bike has now awarded the T-130 its Trail Bike of the Year for 2016.
The head angle stops the steering from wandering
As well as getting longer and slacker, Whyte has gone wider. Not with plus-sized tyres – it’s tried them and isn’t yet convinced yet – but with 110mm front and 148mm rear Boost axle compatibility. The RS and S (£2299) models get the single-ring SCR frameset with a wider main pivot and shorter symmetrical chainstays for a big step-up in rear end stiffness.
There’s still a bit of twist getting in through the unbraced seatstays and short linkages, but overall rear-end feel is still snappy and accurate enough to hack across roots or surf a rear-end slide right to the edge of the trail.
The T-130 RS features Shimano’s new XT gearing
Basically neutral four-bar suspension means you can tune the generously long stroke Monarch DebonAir rear shock to taste. It isn’t as naturally plush as some twin-linkage 130/140mm set-ups we’ve ridden, and the RT3 damper can occasionally be caught out by a sudden big slap from a flat-faced rock, but the payback is utterly predictable ground-hugging grip without any morale-sapping or feedback-fudging softness – and we were continually impressed with what the fast-rolling WTB Trail Boss TCS tubeless tyres stayed connected to.
Direct drive from the cunning Race Face combo of 30mm axle crank in an easy-to-service external bearing bottom bracket means the T-130 feels much lighter on the trail than its actual 13kg+ weight. The relatively firm rear end and 67-degree head angle means the steering doesn’t wander off too much when you’re crawling up at stalling speed and the super short 420mm back end helps it to hop up steps or to manual back off them with casual ease despite the long front.
That meant it was equally keen to charge straight, slabby grunts or surprise clean the super-techy, sudden boulder singletrack top-outs on the high moorland.
You can tune the long rear shock to your taste
As much as it cruises and climbs really well, the revised geometry, the chopped down 130mm Pike fork, the big 750mm bar and the short, wide-mouth stem really come into their own when you’re ripping spurts of roost up from the back wheel to take as much speed as possible into the next technical section. By throwing the front end out and dropping the BB super low, Whyte has made the T-130 carve turns as well as – if not better than – a lot of 29ers.
Tighter Boost wheels, a shorter rear end and a lack of mid-stroke wallow from the rear shock (plus the fact it’s only 130mm, so there’s limited geometry change potential anyway) mean you’re working with much clearer feedback too. Its ability to make split second disaster dodges without upsetting overall balance or throwing you far off-line keeps you on the offensive even on the most ragged, bike-blind off-piste descents.
In fact, it positively demands you hit the hardest lines possible just for kicks.
The T-130 RS corners superbly and goads you into taking the hardest lines on brutal descents
The long-stroke shock means more damping oil to circulate and soak up heat, so it’ll stay consistent and controlled for as long as you can keep the Whyte pinned. Our long term Whyte bikes have been bomber tough too and all bearings get a lifetime warranty as well.
As well as being ahead of the curve on full-gas handling and relentless reliability, Whyte’s spec levels are healthy value right through the line too. This RS model gets Shimano’s excellent new XT gearing with a 30mm axle Race Face Turbine crank and Pike fork to maximise its punchy potential.
The £2299 T-130 S uses the same frame, cockpit and Reverb post but is actually smoother thanks to a simpler but more open-tuned rear shock. It comes with the skinnier, twangier Revelation fork with SRAM’s new GX 1x11 transmission.
But the real highlight might be the brand new carbon-framed T-130C RS with Pike/SRAM X.0/Roam 40 for only £3599, so look out for a first ride of that as soon as production frames arrive.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.