The Whyte looks nice and also it has a great spec, but is it up to it ?
- We love getting a reverb stealth dropper.
- We hate that the suspension is not perfectly balanced.
In the T129S’s second year of production, Whyte has tweaked the suspension, spec and cable routing, but has it done enough to get the perfect 10 rating that eluded it last year? The price has crept up by £200 too, which won’t help.
The middle bike in Whyte’s T129 range, the S version, has almost everything you need on a good 120mm-travel trail bike, including a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, 750mm handlebar and relatively lightweight wheels. It’s a great package and the only component that we changed on the size large test bike, other than fitting our control tyres, was the stem.
Up-sizing to the large frame (we tested a medium last year) and fitting a shorter 70mm stem offered a great fit, and kept the sizing in line with the other bikes on test.
Unfortunately, it’s the largest of the three available frame sizes, so if you’re 6ft 1in or taller, then the large T129S is probably going to be a little on the small side for you. That’s a real shame, as it’s easily one of the best bikes in this category.
It’s also worth pointing out that while the T129S is the second heaviest bike in test, it’s the only one of the group that’s carrying the extra weight of a dropper post.
The Quad 4 linkage on the back of the T129S still pumps out 120mm of travel, but thanks to the new Rapid Recovery rebound circuit in the Monarch RT3 shock, the rear suspension now feels more lively. The shock tune is still not 100 per cent though, as the rear suspension still feels slightly out of balance with the fork. We removed some of the volume spacers from the shock’s air can, and even though this made it easier to achieve full travel, the rear suspension still seemed to ramp up a lot earlier than the fork. Maybe it is this extra firmness around the sag position on the rear suspension that makes the bike pedal so efficiently.
Up front, the Reba fork delivered a smooth, composed action with plenty of cornering traction, but there was a mysterious high-frequency harshness to the ride that left our hands and arms aching on the longest descents.
We suspect that the vibration is actually coming from the rear suspension, not the fork, as we had no such issues with the Reba fitted to the Specialized.
The 36/22t chainrings on the SRAM chainset are slightly smaller than last year, but we’d like to see an even smaller outer ring, as, more often than not, we had to drop down into the granny ring just to get one gear lower and keep our legs spinning effectively on the climbs.
Also, the chain derailed frequently and closer-ratio chainrings could help fix that. The shift action itself is very positive with the latest SRAM X9 shifters, and the Type 2 rear mech really helps reduce chain-slap.
The Whyte T129S is a blisteringly fast bike and such tremedously good fun to ride. It pedals efficiently, climbs effortlessly and carries speed on flat, relatively smooth trails better than any other bike in this test. It’s also more lively and playful than ever, thanks to the new shock tune combined with the ultra-short chainstays. Factor in the generous build kit that gives direct sales brands like Canyon a run for their money, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular bike.
But the Whyte T129S isn’t completely without fault. The suspension is still a little lacking and much as we love the Monarch RT3 rear shock, it’s still a little too hard when combined with Whyte’s Quad 4 suspension linkage, even with the lightest compression tune. It’s almost as if the bike’s suspension and overall stiffness can’t quite match its attitude and geometry.
So, while we could ride the Whyte almost as quickly as the new Specialized Camber Evo, we didn’t feel anything like as comfortable or confident doing so. The end result is that the Specialized pips it to the finishing post.
The Whyte T129S is a great package. The spec is first rate, the geometry is bang on and the suspension is OK. And that is the only problem: the rear suspension still isn’t perfect. If Whyte could manage to unlock the final five per cent of performance from its Quad 4 suspension linkage and eliminate the high frequency harshness that causes arm pump on the roughest descents, Specialized would have a real fight on its hands for the 120mm 29er title. Until then, Whyte is going to have to settle for second best and another nine rating.