Whyte T-160 is a brand new addition to their trail bike range. Available in two models; entry-level T-160 S at £2,800 and top-end RS version we have here
While £3.5k doesn’t buy the new Whyte T-160 RS a seat at the higher stakes carbon table, this alloy trail bike boasts modern geometry, 29in wheels and 150mm travel. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking; “Why is it called the T-160 when the frame has 150mm travel?” It’s because Whyte takes the model number from the given fork travel, not the frame, and in this case it’s a 160mm RockShox Lyrik RC.
Whyte T-160 RS need to know
- New 29er trail bike that replaces the Whyte S-150
- Alloy frame with new tubeset, 150mm travel and revised kinematics for more progression
- Two models available, both get 160mm travel suspension forks
- Shape It link offers two stock geometry settings
- RaceFace AC-30 rims and Maxxis tyres make for a solid wheelset
- Available in four frame sizes
To get a better understanding of what the new T-160 is all about, we need to back up a little and take a closer look at the bike it replaces, the S-150. Launched in 2017, the S-150 was something of a hedge against what seemed like ever-changing wheel sizes. As such, the S in the model name stood for Switch, the bike designed to run either 27.5in Plus or 29in wheels. Deep down though, I think Whyte always knew which way the trail bike market was heading as the bike shipped with 29in wheels. Yes, Whyte offered a killer deal on a set of carbon 27.5in Plus wheels that included 2.8in tyres, rotors and tools for changing your cassette for anyone that wanted to easily switch between both options, but only a small percentage of riders cashed in their 27.5in chips. Which is probably a good thing as the low dynamic BB height on the S-150 would have limited pedal clearance with the smaller 27.5in Plus wheels.
To make the Switch concept really work, Whyte would have needed some sort of geometry adjustment to rise and lower the BB height for each wheel size. Which is exactly what the new T-160 has, even though it’s designed exclusively around 29in wheels. Dubbed the Shape It Link, the shock has an asymmetry brass insert in the body eyelet to offer two geometry settings, where the brass insert is keyed with the yoke on one side to stop it rotating. Swapping between the high and low settings involves removing the shock from the forward frame mount and compressing the suspension to gain access to the hex bolt that secures the shock to the extender yoke. With the bolt out you can use the keyed part of the yoke to hold the brass insert, like you would in a vice, then rotate the shock bit by bit to flip the orientation of the insert. It sounds more complicated than it is, and while it won’t give you the fastest pit-stop, it’s a great feature on any
One complaint that we had with the S-150 was that the top tube was a little tall so it’s great that Whyte has improved standover clearance on the new T-160. It has also rejigged the suspension layout slightly, increasing the leverage ratio for extra sensitivity, while upping the progression for more support. In terms of geometry the S-150 was ahead of its time, so it’s hardly surprising that the T-160 isn’t a major leap forward for Whyte, the size L retaining its 480mm reach. Yes, the head angle is now slacker and the chainstay length has grown from 435mm to 440mm, to keep the rider weight centered with associated increase in the front center. The slightly longer rear end also allows Whyte to reinstate the seatstay bridge, which should extend the life of the pivot bearings.
How it rides
I experimented with the T-160 in both geometry settings and instantly preferred how the bike handled in the lower setting. That’s not to say the sub-64° head angle and low 330mm BB height will be for everyone however, which is why the Shape it link is such a great addition. I also played around a lot with the suspension set-up. Running 35 per cent sag on the RockShox Super Deluxe Select + RT gives a very plush suspension response, the trade off being that you do get a lot of unwanted shock movement when you stand up to pedal. Still, it’s a great set-up if your preferred style of trail riding is to spin up fire road climbs to blaze down rough descents. Increasing the pressure in the shock to reduce sag to about 28 per cent makes a big difference to how the S-160 pedals, as it also raises the centre of gravity and the amount of anti-squat. With less sag the bike feels tighter and more responsive, and because Whyte hasn’t made the rear suspension overly progressive, you can still use all of the available travel.
Up front, the 160mm RockShox Lyrik fork is a great match for the rear suspension, but I’m not entirely sold on the adjustment range of the basic RC damper. After performing back-to-back runs on the same trail and doing a full sweep of the compression adjustment, it was clear that anything more than about four clicks from fully open and the fork starts to feel harsh, the front end breaking traction more readily with increased vibration through your hands. In the end, I ran the compression on the Lyrik three clicks from wide-open which allowed me to get good support and maximum traction from the 3C High Roller II front tyre. Paired with the faster rolling Dissector rear tyre, the Whyte T-160 RS gets you to good stuff faster even with its 15.69kg (34.59lb) payload.
Thanks to the slightly longer rear end the T-160 feels perfectly poised for action, its neutral handling and sub 64° head angle allowing you to hunt down faster lines without ever having to second guess how the bike is going to react. It’s got a wide set-up range too, making it an incredibly versatile trail bike. And, given how competitively priced it is for a shop bought bike, I wouldn’t bet against it being odds-on favourite in our 2021 Trail Bike of the Year test.
The Whyte T160-RS thrives where others may falter. Competively-priced trail ripper already in the running for an end-of-year accolade.