Whyte E-120 XT review

Whyte have always been a low weight choice, but the new E-120 adds a big dose of authority and aggression to create a real hard riding trail bike, not just a race day special

BikeRadar score5/5

Whyte have always been a low weight choice, but the new E-120 adds a big dose of authority and aggression to create a real hard riding trail bike, not just a race day special.

Frame: Full carbon construction with nice attention to detail

A super deep squared-off down tube and 1.5in bottom race head tube dominates the head end with a flat top tube tapering back before deepening again at the seat tube junction. The swingarm also tapers back from a super deep start to create a lamb chop effect on its way down to the latched Big Gripper dropouts. Short hollow carbon H links complete the full woven construction, with smooth arcs moulded into the frame and lifetime warrantied bearings. 

It runs the same lower leverage and large XV can shock set-up as the Marin Mount Vision. Above the intricate weave is smooth convex detailing, neat cable lines and a lovely broad lever seat quick release.

Ride: Awesomely fast out of corners, floats over rought stuff

While the deep chested, broad backed frame was our first shock, the second came when we realised how light it was (a sub-24lb weight is likely on Race versions). The third shock comes from a combination of the first two. 

While its trail stance is underlined with the authority of a much bigger bike, its 'snap' up to speed is outstanding, and its remarkable mainframe and inline rigidity capitalises on the slight stiffening of the suspension under power to create a rock solid feel for an exhilarating velocity. It'll just hurl itself out of corners - we've dug it out of unsaveable stalls several times. We lost count of the 'crikey we're in the big ring' moments we had too.

A sensitive start to the shock stroke means it can occasionally kick against square edges or spit traction under full power. But the dynamic feel responds well to bodyweight shifts making manuals, drops and 'floating' over rough terrain effortless, even for the most flightless riders. New linkages and shock capacity mean it hoovers up big stuff deeper in the stroke for a 'more speed, less thought' character. 

Handling is straight out of the attacking ride handbook - stable enough to keep it running true through the roughest sections, but with commitment to turns at any speed. Visible flex between the swingarm and seat tube only reveals itself as a twang when you're ripping it sideways - it's certainly within acceptable limits for such a lightweight bike. Bang on race weight, but with real trail authority and a dynamic character, this bike feels like it's supplied with your mate's giblets tied to the seatpost. 

There's definitely a new contender in the 'ultimate trail bike' hot seat.

Equipment: N/A

Our bike is Whyte's preproduction 'confirmation' sample, so it's built with a luxury lash-up selection rather than proper production specs but 'real' bikes won't be that far removed from last year's E5 spec. Framesets will also be available for £1,699.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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