Whyte 146S review£2,999.00

XC weight long-travel blaster

BikeRadar score4/5

Whyte have always mixed low weight with radical geometry to produce incredibly characterful rides. While structural twist, pedalling bob and suspension ramp-up will put some off the 146S, we reckon most full-on riders will love the get up and go of the helium-light, relatively bargain-priced bike.

Ride & handling: Lively and reactive feel

The rear is very sensitive to pedal and brake inputs, as well as rider position. The leverage of the Quad Link means it rushes through its early travel easily, so leaning back lifts the front wheel without effort – great for drops, ripping out of corners or just playing. 

Stamp on the pedals and the chain pulls the suspension back up, digging the tyre in and forcing the nose down for powerful drive and plenty of front traction.

The low ride height and long wheelbase bolster its go-crazy feel with a surefooted stance. Very low weight, the slack front, a short stem and tyres with most of their grip on the edges encourage aggressive, attacking riding. This is despite that long, shallow swingarm allowing noticeable twist across the rear axle through hard corners and bad cambers.

The 146S is very mobile bike that responds to almost everything you do. So long as you’re off the gas it rolls smoothly over small/medium sized lumps, and carries speed well through typical trails.

Riders who like a neutral bike aren’t going to like the kickback through the pedals as the suspension extends, or its constant and highly noticeable bob as you pedal. The shock also ramps up obviously in resistance as it reaches the end of its travel, which can cause the bike to choke and thump on the biggest hits. 

Lack of ground clearance and that back end twist may further annoy some riders.

There are few bikes as love/hate as this, but despite potential failings from flex to pedal feedback, the 146 is fantastic fun to ride. Shaped like a mini DH bike but light as a cross-country rig, its dramatic reaction to your every move makes it an infectiously enthusiastic – and very usable – play bike.

Frame & equipment: Spot-on cockpit and supporting spec at a strong price

The S model shares the same carbon monocoque main frame and modular dropout swingarm as the 146 Works and 146 X, and it’s a properly light structure. An uninterrupted seat tube means full saddle drop via the broad quick-release clamp lever, and seat-dropper cable guides mean it’s ready for upgrading. 

The radical aspect is the geometry, with a 66-degree static head angle – a downhill-only number just a few years ago – slackened even further by the easy sag of the suspension.

The mid-range Fox 32 fork gets a tapered top and 15mm axle for reasonable steering stiffness, the short stem/wide bar Easton cockpit is a great match and the Easton wheels are light and tubeless ready. That Ardent/CrossMark tyre combo is also hard to beat, though the skinny rear needs plenty of air to stop it popping as the suspension hardens at the end of its stroke.

Whyte 146s: whyte 146s
Whyte 146s: whyte 146s

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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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