Whyte has made a couple of changes to the 46 since we last tested it. It’s done away with the adjustable gate and three travel options — the bike is now a dedicated 150mm at the rear. Whyte has also slackened the head angle to 67.4 degrees and trimmed the chainstays to 17in. A geometry-adjust feature has also been incorporated in the forward link underneath the down tube. This is identical to the one on the Marin Rage and has two bolt positions that allow you to choose either a low or high bottom bracket and slack or steep frame angles. A full list of geometry is on Whyte’s website for both settings but some of the stated figures didn’t tally up with our measurements.
As ever, we have a gripe with the Big Grippers. These are Whyte’s unique rear dropouts, which feature a stubby axle bolted to the hub and secured by a clamp that opens by twisting a small lever. The system is stiff but the levers are fiddly, plus the right side on our test bike got in the way of the cable on the SRAM derailleur.
Cable routing could be better — where the rear derailleur and rear brake cables cross the seat tube, they bulge out every time the suspension compresses.
Our test bike is fitted with a Fox Talas II 36 RC2 but for a £100 supplement buyers can opt for the Maverick DUC triple clamp, the fork fitted to the original 46. The Fox 36 has three travel settings — 100, 130 and 160mm — operated by a lever on the crown. It’s a tall fork but it’s also super-stiff with a 20mm thru-axle.
Unlike the Whyte E5 the 46 still runs the old quad system with the links joined to the down tube and seat tube. It’s not as compact as the new system but the pivot bearings still come with a lifetime warranty.
At 30.75lb the 46 is bang in the middle of our six bikes weight-wise but one of the reasons for this is the lightweight 480g Panaracer Razor tyres. We’ve heard reviewers elsewhere rate them, but the more we ride them the more we think they’re totally unsuitable for trail riding. It says 2.35in on the sidewall but they’re undersized and more like 2in. A lack of reinforced side and central braking knobs combined with a round profile and hard compound mean they’re a bit sketchy when it’s loose and offer zero grip over roots and wet rocks. The flimsy sidewalls also pinch flat too easily — we had four rear wheel flats on this bike.
Whyte’s branded seatpost looks out of place on this bike, because it’s just too cheap. Its lower clamp also binds on the quill and to release it we either had to lever it out with a screwdriver or hit it with a big rock. The Thomson X4 stem is in a different league but it’s too long at 100mm. At least Whyte has got a good 27in wide handlebar in the form of an Easton Monkey Lite.
In the low setting with the Panaracer tyres fitted we measured the bottom bracket on the Whyte 46 at 14.75in. With the supposedly smaller 2.25in Michelins, it was a quarter inch higher. After moving the link to the high bottom bracket/steeper angles setting we then measured the bottom bracket at a whopping 15.5in. Even downhill bikes aren’t this tall. We can understand Whyte’s thinking, a high bottom bracket means you can stay on the gas through rock gardens, but the added height raises the centre of gravity and creates a perched, nervous feeling when descending. To try and reduce the height and get the bike to sit lower for our downhill runs at Cwmcarn we increased the sag to about 50 per cent of the shock stroke. This set-up didn’t work for general trail riding.
For general hacking the Whyte 46 carries speed very well and, while it pitches forward slightly over jumps, it feels compliant.
Generally a six-inch bike should be faster downhill than a five-inch bike because if it’s not, why bother hauling all the extra weight up the climbs? If we compare the 46 to its stablemate, the highly-rated E5, we find the latter is an inch lower, has only slightly steeper angles and while it isn’t as quick downhill, it’s not far behind.
So if you’re after a long-travel trail bike the Whyte 46 is an option, but if you want to go ripping then look elsewhere because there’s no easy fix for the 46. It may seem like welding a few tubes in different places would sort it but unfortunately, on this bike, things aren’t that easy.
MBR RATING: 7/10