Whyte's new 905 takes a new slant on hardtail geometry. But how does it perform on the trail?
Long, low and slack, the 900 series hardtails from Whyte have set the benchmark for a couple of seasons now. Whyte hasn’t sat on its laurels though, and 2016 sees it literally move everything forward once again.
As such, this year’s size medium bike is the same length as last year’s size large. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same sizing shift that Whyte has implemented on its full-suspension bikes.
Whyte hasn’t simply stretched the frame though. To compensate for the 20mm increase in the reach measurement, it has fitted shorter stems across the board: the size L and XL now get 50mm stems, while the S and M rock stubby 40mm units.
The height of the seat tube has also been reduced on all frame sizes to better accommodate a longer-stroke dropper post and give riders more choice when it comes to fit and sizing. So the S, M, L and XL equate to 16, 17, 18 and 19in seat tubes, which should give all but the tallest of riders the choice of two frame sizes depending on their preference, reach and inside leg measurement.
The final revision to the 905 frame is the addition of Whyte’s Intergrip seat collar, first introduced on its suspension bikes. Not only does this design look sleek, it comes with a rubber boot to help keep dirt and water out of the frame.
Whyte may have tweaked the sizing on the 905 RS, but by far the biggest improvement has been replacing the RockShox Revelation with the new Yari.
It still sports 130mm travel, but with beefy 35mm upper tubes it casts a very similar shadow to the more expensive Pike and feels every bit as stout. Sure, the Yari’s Motion Control damper lacks the sophistication of the Charger unit in the Pike, but you still get rebound and compression adjustment and it’s every bit as smooth, too.
It’s not just the fork on the 905 RS that’s been upgraded. The bike now comes with a KS Cruxi internally routed dropper post. There’s a catch, though, as the 100mm drop simply isn’t enough when more extreme riding is required. So you’ll still need to stop and lower the seatpost in the frame — rather negating the point of having a dropper post to begin with.
Thanks to the streamlined Intergrip clamp, you’ll need to have an Allen key to hand, and to make it even more frustrating, you also need to thread the outer cable through the frame as you do it. Still, being internally routed, it should at least require less maintenance than the Nukeproof post on the Ragley Bigwig. Seatpost issues aside, the specification on the 905 RS is simply standout; the SRAM 1×11 drivetrain is easily the best in class.
At 12.58kg, the Whyte 905 RS is a super light hardtail. More importantly, though, there’s also a lightness to the ride of the bike that’s much more apparent than the scales alone suggest. Maybe it’s the relatively skinny WTB tyres and lightweight wheels, but the 905 RS picks up speed in the blink of an eye.
The trade-off for this more direct power delivery is that it doesn’t feel quite as comfortable, or as capable, as the Orange Crush on the roughest or fastest trails.
It’s still an amazing bike, but the forward shift in geometry that Whyte has introduced for 2016 feels like a step too far, with the knock-on effect that the front end on the medium size bike now feels too low — even with all of the spacers stacked up underneath the stubby stem.
On the old 905 we always felt that we were in the perfect position, ready to take on whatever appeared around the next corner. Perhaps an even shorter stem and higher-rise bar would bring the Whyte back to its former glory, but for now the Orange Crush is the new top dog in the trail hardtail category.
With the addition of the RockShox Yari, a SRAM GX 1x11 drivetrain and a KS dropper post, the 2016 Whyte 905 RS is easily the best-dressed version to date. Given the 905’s pedigree it could have walked it then, but changes to the sizing mean that the 905 RS now feels too low at the front, and less balanced than last year’s bike. It’s still a great package, and if the Orange Crush hadn’t overtaken it in terms of performance, the 905 RS would still be sat in pole position.