Whyte fits Maverick and RockShox Revelation fork options on its longer-travel E5s and, while there’s a discrepancy between the ride height (the 127mm travel Maverick is 485mm and the 130mm Revelation is 508mm), Whyte says there’s only a slight difference when it comes to the ride. Fitting a 100mm fork to the frame does have a more pronounced effect — it steepens the head angle from 69 to 70.5 degrees and Lowers the bottom bracket height by half an inch. Subsequently the E5’s steering is a little sharper and more of your weight is pitched further forward. When it came to riding steep stuff we found we had to push back a lot further, but it does make climbing out of the saddle a lot easier. All E5s are made from 6061 aluminium tubing. This sees a lot of mani-pulation — the down tube has a triangular profile for example.
Normally this is used because it places the fattest (and stiffest) part of the tube at the outer edge of the main triangle, but Whyte actually uses this shape to create a larger footprint for the shock mount. This mount looks hydroformed, but it’s actually a welded monocoque, similar to those on older Marins.
Linked to the main frame is an elevated carbon swingarm. This is a stiff structure that also offers acres of mud clearance and obviously has zero chainsuck hassles. Bonded to the end are Whyte’s Big Gripper dropouts but we’re not big fans of them on a race bike — we found it takes longer to remove and refit the rear wheel.
Our only other criticism of the frame is the bottle-cage mount on top of the swingarm. It’s an afterthought — the horizontal position means water leaks out of the bottle when riding and we actually lost two bottles in races.
Light weight is a key issue on a marathon bike and the E5 comes up trumps — the frame is 5lb (without shock) and the complete bike here 24lb.
Our test bike came with RockShox Reba World Cup but set in the 85mm travel mode, not 100mm as advertised. We thought something was wrong first time out because the bike felt steep and twitchy. Removing an internal spacer soon reverted the fork to a 100mm and it’s something you can do at home if you get the wrong fork. The Reba has a compression lockout with adjustable threshold (Motion Control) damping. The MC is adjusted by a bar-mounted PushLoc, but we found this tended to stick now and again. Should you forget to unlock it the Reba has a handy ‘blow off’ feature.
Shimano’s new XTR groupset is streets ahead in terms of features and innovation but we’d like to see a retro option — old-school triggers without multi-release. Nearly every tester experienced overshifting with the XTR triggers.
The E5 Race is, and rides like, the lightest here but it’s also the most responsive bike — it genuinely feels quick. The Quad-Link is very active in the first part of the travel so it offers awesome grip on loose technical climbs. Not that it’s poor over rough terrain; it has the ability to soak up some pretty big impacts and the suspension has a bottomless feel, mainly because, with the change in the leverage ratio in the second half of the travel, you can’t actually bottom this bike out.
There’s a caveat to the E5’s performance and it’s the tyres — they offer almost zero traction when it’s wet or slippery. The bike works hard for rear-end grip but the tyres throw it all away, slewing sideways on even the slightest camber. There’s no edge to speak of and the centre knobs are just too low. They’re light, which is why Whyte has specced them, but we wouldn’t even leave the shop with them, they’re that bad.
Of the four bikes here the Whyte is the bike we liked riding the most, mainly because the suspension worked full-time. It’s a very good marathon bike and would make a great short-travel trail bike, or even a medium-travel bike with a fork swap. The reason we’re not giving it a 10 is in the details. Often the difference between a nine and a 10-rated bike are just small details. Like the bottle cage placement (which limits this bike’s XC race potential), poor tyre choice and, to some extent, the flexy fork.
MBR RATING: 9/10