Whyte’s own brand carbon cross-country/trail wheels are now available aftermarket for an impressively low price. The company told us at their press launch last ‘summer’ that they had spent a long time researching their own wheels during the development of the new 29er bike range, because they couldn’t find suitable sets off the peg.
Our default cynicism for the old cliché ‘our own brand is just as good/better than established names’ got a rapid initial rinsing on the sodden trails of Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, later that day. Compared to the alloy wheels we rode, the carbons were noticeably stiffer and sharper on the same basic chassis, even with sketchier tread tyres.
Six months on and we’ve put literally hundreds (probably over a thousand) of filthy, abusive miles into a set of the new wheels and they’ve done nothing to undermine our impressive initial impressions.
At 1,640g (680g front, 960g rear) they’re 150g heavier than the lightest carbon options, but 150g-plus lighter than most tin wheels. Crucially from an on-trail performance point of view, a lot of that weight is in the steel freehub and generous 28-front, 32-rear spoke lacing, leaving the rim light and meaningfully quick to accelerate. The steel freehub also doesn’t gouge like alloy hubs, and the 16-degree gaps between engagement mean pickup is okay, if not outstanding.
The healthy number of tight-laced spokes mean no wind up or softness however hard you stamp the power through them, and they properly pep up most bikes we’ve fitted them to.
They steer, drift and carve across off camber sections very accurately, which is not something you can say for a lot of lighter or heavier 29er wheels, at any price. They come in the 15mm front, 142x12mm rear format here or a 15mm/135mm Shimano XT QR version (£1,000) so you get the stiffest possible connection to your frame.
Whyte xc-209-c wheels: Future Publishing
Whyte have been using the same basic hub design for a decade without worries, and ours are still silk smooth. Likewise, the CEN-certified (European standard) high-modulus rims, with their 1K protective outer weave, are still unscathed.
Despite regular rim thumps battering down rocky black runs, rubble strewn Dales descents and Lake District pass storming missions, the only criticism is that the 19mm outside, 17mm inside is relatively narrow and pinches tyres over 2.2in width, but that won’t worry most cross-country/trail riders, certainly not for under £1,000.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.