Whyte‘s UK design team has always turned out aggressively progressive bikes, but its latest 650b hardtails are proper full-on trail tamers for smoother-riding shock dodgers.
Frame and equipment: components from RockShox, Shimano and Whyte
To cope with its 130mm (5.1in) fork, the 905 has a stout tapered head tube backed up with a long double-barrelled box-section formed from the hydroformed top and down tubes, which then flatten out to brace the big seat tube against twisting. It also has internal cable routing and guides for a dropper seatpost cable.
UK design credentials are underlined with masses of tyre room, mudguard mounts under the down tube and a cunning closed seat clamp. The QR dropouts are simple fixed position pieces rather than the adjustable, bolted units on the top-of-the-range 909. That saves a bit of weight, but it’s still a hefty chassis at almost 2kg.
The RockShox Revelation fork’s tapered steerer and Maxle through-axle keep tracking tight even with a serious power-steering cockpit bolted on top, and the large volume, soft compound Maxxis Ardent front tyre takes that accuracy and authority all the way to the trail in everything but really sloppy conditions. The CrossMark rear is a tough and tenacious speed booster too, and both tyres are spread out and stabilised by the broad Whyte rims.
While the Shimano Deore/SLX gears may seem low-rent they’re functionally fine and the money saved buys a super-reliable Hope Pro 2 EVO rear hub secured with an ultra secure Shimano XT QR skewer.
A decent Whyte saddle and post complete the spec list, but there’s no doubt the 905 is gagging for a dropper post upgrade.
Ride and handling: “no ordinary hardtail”
If a yearning for a dropper post sounds like an odd thing to say in a hardtail review, that’s because this is no ordinary hardtail. It might have 20mm less fork travel than Whyte’s G150 full-suspension gravity bike, but the 905’s head angle is actually half a degree slacker and the bottom bracket almost 40mm lower.
You’re controlling this super-slack, swaggering, self-correcting confidence through the same 70mm stem and 750mm bar too, and the result is an absolutely outrageous amount of chaos-and-carving control up front.
Our test time on the 905 was backed with a constant soundtrack of roaring tyres, scattering gravel and howls of laughter as we pushed the bar lower and lower and picked lairier lines through natural singletrack or trail centre play sessions. Even flat-pedal freeriders who hated the idea of riding a hardtail were soon converted and cackling as they blasted technical descents with the saddle slammed and the fork working overtime.
It was was harder work on smooth climbs but wasl more than responsive enough to keep punching the pace on flowing singletrack. The fast rolling tyres help sustain speed once you’ve cranked it up to combat velocity and it held on to that momentum (and stayed on the trail) better than the other bikes when things got mental.
The 905’s super confident handling can make you over-reach what it’s reasonable to expect a hardtail : Mick Kirkman / Future Publishing
Unlike many ‘hardcore hardtails’, the back end strikes a great balance between power delivery and compliance, making day rides perfectly tolerable. There’s more than enough breathing space in the long front end even with a short stem, and once you’re used to the wandering wheelbarrow feel of the steering on climbs it’ll claw its way up technical scrabbles with the best of them.
The rigid rear end does limit what you can slam it into without popping the rear tube or wrecking the rim, but this is a hardtail test, and if you don’t want to learn to ride around that, then get a twin-springer. Just be prepared to drag another 4kg (9lb) or so around in order to get a similarly confident ride at the same price.
If you’re looking for the most fun possible from a trail hardtail then the Whyte 905 has to be on your shortlist. It’s not that light but it’s still responsive enough to ride all day, tough enough to trade blows with black run trails, and you can’t help but ride it like an absolute hooligan