Competitively priced, reliable and offers a ride quality that few of its rivals can match
Building on the success of their E-150, Whyte have just launched the new Whyte E-160, and it’s even more capable. Bosch Gen 4 motor and Fox 38 fork lead the charge.
It’s not only Whyte’s understated British Racing Green paintwork that gives the E-160 RS a motorsport connection. By concentrating on getting the bike’s centre of mass as low as possible and central as possible, it has followed the most fundamental rule of race car design. And while many manufacturers claim to place this at the top of their priority lists, few have gone as far as Whyte in trying to achieve their goals. By rotating the motor, Whyte has been able to slide the base of the battery alongside, lowering the mass and bringing it closer to the centre of the bike.
Furthermore, it hasn’t compromised the integrity of the frame by cutting a massive aperture in the down tube. Instead, much like the Specialized Turbo Levo, the battery slides in and out through a hole in the base. Unfortunately, getting it in and out is nowhere near as straightforward. Obviously if you have power in your garage/shed or are happy to wheel a muddy bike into the house then you can skip this bit, but if you need to take the battery out to charge, then for the sake of your sanity, read on.
Whyte E-160 RS V1 review
Because the battery shares the down tube with all the cables, and they’re loose inside the frame, they regularly get in the way and either stop the battery from inserting all the way, or prevent it from sliding back out. And because there’s no handle on the end of the battery to pull on, you have to turn the bike upside down and bounce it out on the back wheel. Not easy with a 23kg e-bike. During testing the battery got wedged in the down tube on numerous occasions, we had it drop out onto the ground narrowly missing our toes, and even ended up with the wiring caught in the drivetrain at one point. There are a few simple improvements that could be made to the system to vastly improve the user experience, but as it stands battery accessibility is a huge drawback to Whyte ownership.
The travel on the E-160 has been pumped-up by 10mm over the previous E-150, but the model name actually references the fork travel. Whyte claims it has 155mm out back, but we measured it at 145mm. Did we hold that against the E-160? Not one bit. Whyte has done a brilliant job of tuning the rear suspension, with a lively, poppy feel on small bumps and ripples but stacks of support to hold you up and push against to generate speed and air across natural gaps. It also felt the most composed on wild, high-speed washboard and never flinched when landing big step downs with minimal transitions. In short, it had our backs wherever we rode, at whatever pace we chose to ride at.
Combined with the Fox 38 Performance suspension fork up front, it’s a match made in heaven. Supple, controlled and superbly solid, the 38 allowed us to smash into sections harder than any other bike, but always left us coming out the other side pointing in the direction we wanted. Overall, Whyte has contrived a beautiful symbiotic relationship between the front and rear wheels that simply inspires sky-high confidence.
Although there’s nothing fancy about the parts on the E-160 RS, everything has been chosen carefully with function and durability in mind. The WTB i30 rims remained straight and true throughout the test, despite being absolutely hammered. They’re laced to e-bike specific hubs with double sealed bearings and shod with superb Maxxis Assegai/DHR II tyres with a reinforced Double Down casing out back – exactly the combo we chose as our control tyres.
Four-piston SRAM Code disc brakes get the extra stopping power of a 220mm rotor up front, and the Crankbrothers Highline dropper post gets a clever remote with a ball-and-socket connection that lets you dial in the perfect ergonomic position. Even the Whyte own-brand saddle is a copy of one of our favourite WTB models and the lock-on grips have just the right amount of padding. The only thing missing is an upper guide for the chainring, as we did drop the chain once during testing.
As you may have worked out, we loved riding the Whyte E-160 RS as much as we hated getting the battery in and out to charge. Coming from 29in wheels meant that it took a while to get used to 27.5 again, particularly mid-corner, where the extra stability of the big wheels can be really felt. But once we had tuned-in, the Whyte delivered massive fun when we wanted to mess around, and huge confidence when we wanted to go fast. It might be the heaviest bike on test, but it never felt that way, with the poppy suspension making it easy to get airborne. Once on board, you feel right in the bike and close to the ground, making it easy to correct little slides or make quick direction changes when alternative lines open up.
Throw in the Bosch Performance Line CX motor with its clever overrun and there’s as much fun to be had trying to clean technical climbs as blasting flat-out descents. Not only does the Whyte E-160 RS let you have your cake and eat it, with that big 625Wh battery you can keep stuffing your face all day long.
For those of you with power in your bike storage area, the E-160 RS is guaranteed to supercharge your ride. If not, you’re more likely to blow a fuse. In fact, if it wasn’t for the arduous and nerve-wracking process required to remove and install the battery, the Whyte would easily be a 10/10 bike. It’s in situations like these that we wish we did half marks, because it rides so well that it feels overly harsh to mark the E-160 RS down when it rides so well. But you only need to take one look at the lengths that brands such as Trek have gone to to make the battery easily removable to understand that making an e-bike easy to live with is as important as nailing the ride and handling.With a few improvements the E-160 RS would not only be easier to live with, a perfect 10 rating would be within its reach.