Whyte’s E-120 bike has been a popular epic-shrinker for a couple of years. Our test team was firmly split between lovers and the less enthusiastic though.
If you want a lightweight, fast-accelerating bike that interacts and responds to your every movement and helps you attack every part of the trail, then the Whyte could be perfect. The tidal suspension feel, rear end flex and wandering wheels are definite downsides though.
Ride & handling: Hard driving and responsive, this is a scruff-of-the-neck singletracker
Press the pedals and you’ll feel a rock solid pushback through the E-120’s frame as the reactive Quad-Link suspension stiffens dramatically. Add the sub-25lb weight and this bike has phenomenal acceleration snap in a straight line.
Initially high leverage suspension and the slack seat angle make for an instant wheelie machine that loves to lift and launch, and the broad bar and easy suspension squat mean you can shove it right into the belly of turns as you strain your neck round looking for the exit.
The aggressive Maxxis High Roller tyres and a 15mm screw-through axle Fox fork sharpen its cornering bite even further. While super responsive, naturally aggressive and rider reactive is exactly what some of our testers love, there are some downsides.
The constant ebb and flow of the suspension and backlash from the chain interrupts pedal rhythm and reduces small-bump traction and comfort when going hard. The E-120 also bounces very badly in the granny ring, which makes finding the awkwardly placed ProPedal platform damping lever essential on climbs.
Brutal ramp-up at the end of the shock stroke and skinny tyres also extract a high toll in rear inner tubes. The skinny Hope wheels at the end of the very long (it effectively starts in the centre of the mainframe space) swingarm lead to serious wheel flop.
The Whyte doesn’t ghost shift, but we definitely had to go easy in off-camber or corner exit situations to stop the back end shearing off line. It’s a small niggle, but operating the latch-and-toggle rear wheel removal system quickly is an acquired skill.
Frame: Seriously stiff chassis with great attention to detail
The mainframe is a seriously stiff monocoque section starting with a tall integrated head tube that leads into a massive down tube that also carries the carbon fibre linkages. The single-piece swingarm tapers to the unique quick-release bobbing Big Gripper dropouts out back.
The full-length seat tube with unique slot sealing closure clamp allows full seatpost drop, there’s huge mud clearance and titanium bolts secure lifetime warrantied suspension bearings. The level of layup detailing is astonishing.
The suspension layout means the only bottle cage mount is out of reach underneath the bike, so it’s only really useful for holding a lights battery.