UK-based Whyte might be better known for multi-award-winning, genre-defining mountain bikes but its head designer, Ian Alexander, is an ex-elite category road racer with an attitude to testing and riding that’s as gritty and hardcore as the Spring Classics. It’s the mix of this attitude, the latest road biking trends and Whyte’s practical innovation that make the new Wessex such a significant bike.
While it’s been enjoyably versatile over summer, we noticed that the worse the conditions got the better the Wessex felt. The classic road race ride position creates a proper fighting stance for taking the weather on the chin.
The stipple tread 32mm Schwalbe S-One tubeless tyres on 21mm rims at 75psi, plus taut frame feedback via the 12mm thru-axles front and rear, create a planted feel that takes potholes, sticks, field wash and other road ride perils in its stride. They also let you make maximum use of the Ultegra disc brakes with power-boosting 160mm rotors at either end.
That’s handy, as it’s got a habit of carrying serious cruising and descending speed without you even realising. This was perfectly illustrated on wet, leafy and dark Yorkshire Dales roads while testing lights in the early hours.
Casually clocking one of my fastest descents on a segment I’ve ridden countless times got me to the split entrance (the classic triangular village green thing) to my next turn quicker than I was expecting.
On most other bikes I’d have just let it run and then done the 120-degree second turn. On the Wessex I ignored the wet leaves, hauled on the anchors, pointed my knee, sighted the exit and didn’t even come close to brushing the kerb or soiling my seat pad.
Mudguards, fat tyres, chunky rims and disc brakes mean a hefty 9.13kg weight, but direct power delivery means it’s no slouch on the climbs once you’ve got the wheel weight turning.
The smooth wheels and semi-aero frame hoover up rough or smooth road miles easily. With the option to fit tyre and frame-hugging full-width mudguards, plus carefully sealed internal seatpost clamp and cable/disc hoses it as mechanically weatherproof as its handling.
If you’re feeling flush Whyte has a 7.6kg Ltd Edition Wessex with a 200g lighter frame and fork, SRAM Red eTap and Easton EC-90 SL Disc wheels for £6000, and to be honest the promise of that frame as a future build project is the only reason we’re sending the standard Wessex back.