The Whyte 905’s position as the benchmark progressive hardtail was put in doubt last year, but even more radical geometry and the best plus tyres in the business put it right back at the cutting edge.
Whyte 905 frame
A tall head tube and deep triangular top tube give impressive front end accuracy. The big down tube is extensively shaped, with cables routed internally through sealed rubber plugs.
Wide-splayed tubular chainstays and ‘keyhole’ seatstays offer generous clearance for 27.5×2.8in tyres (but should you want to fit 29in wheels, space is extremely limited).
Whyte 905 kit
The Revelation RC fork is a dedicated 650b+ (not 29in) fork and gets a custom 42mm (rather than 46mm) offset too. Gears are 11-speed SRAM GX, but the cranks are from the Eagle family so they get the latest X-SYNC 2 chainring, along with broad 170mm arms.
The SRAM Level brakes feel okay but are less powerful than Guides, particularly with the 180/160mm rotor setup you get on every 905 apart from the XL. Whyte’s own cable-operated dropper has a 150mm stroke and a neat — if wobbly — under-bar remote.
It’s the tough and grippy yet super-smooth plus-tyres (a triple-compound Maxxis High Roller II 2.8in up front and dual-compound Rekon at the rear) on WTB i35 rims that are the most obvious change for 2018, though.
Whyte uses a 650b RockShox Revelation RC fork with colour-matched graphics and custom 42mm offset Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
Whyte 905 ride impressions
It’s a good job the tyres are so brilliant, because the 905 wants to work them harder than ever. Reach remains the same for 2018, but the head angle is much slacker, at 65 degrees, and the bike is 5mm lower and 20mm longer in the wheelbase. It does however have a custom fork offset.
This increases the bike’s stability, so the Whyte naturally stays on line when things get sketchy. It also gives a lighter feel at the bar, because the mass of the fork and front brake is nearer to the steering centre line.
Together with the outstanding grip of the tyres — particularly under braking — that potentially creates a surefooted front end, which lets you power-dive into the steepest descents or loosest situations with total confidence. I say ‘potentially’ because the 760mm bar and 50mm stem of the large size (the XL gets a 780mm) don’t always have the leverage needed to override that extra stability, so it can feel a bit clumsy and hard work.
Fitting the 35mm stem and 780mm bar from the Sonder Transmitter, which was also on test, made a massive difference, giving me the muscle to put the wheel exactly where I wanted and the speed to micro-tweak lines and hold ragged-edge traction.
While the outstanding aspect of the 905 is its handling, the rest of the ride is excellent too
The extra trail also increases flop into corners, so the 905 drops in deeper and more aggressively, engaging the excellent edge grip of the High Roller II and emphasising body movement. Suddenly you’re riding with the ‘lower, harder and faster’ caricature cornering style you always wished you had, and the tyres are roaring and drifting with delight as you blitz down the trail.
At that point you’ll wish for the bigger brake rotors of the XL, because the speeds the Whyte encourages are off the hook for a hardtail.
While the outstanding aspect of the 905 is its handling, the rest of the ride is excellent too. That X-SYNC 2 chainring makes a tangible difference to how smooth the drivetrain feels, and I never missed not having a 50t crawler cog.
The tyres and elaborately shaped frame tubes create a great balance of accuracy and efficient power transfer, while still floating over the worst hammer to keep your back and legs alive on long days.
It’s light and lively enough to respond enthusiastically to any effort too, making it happy to blast along singletrack or hunt down the next radical trail all day long.