Whyte does it again with the exceptional 629 V4 hardtail
Whyte’s reputation for producing the best trail and enduro bikes is second to none. This UK brand’s design team doesn’t seem to sit still, constantly refining dimensions, geometry, and specs. And it’s not just the latest e-bikes and long travel rigs getting the attention – Whyte still wants to build the best hardtails as well.
With no XC race bikes in its line up now, Whyte’s aluminium trail 29ers are the brand’s only hardtail offering in this wheel size. They sit alongside the much revered and test-winning 900 series bikes, which run 27.5in wheels and 2.8in rubber. And with Whyte making a shift from defining its bikes by model years, the latest evolution of the 629 is marked as V4 (dictating Version 4). There are two bikes using this frame platform – both SRAM and RockShox equipped, where the 629 tested here is the range-topping model.
The V4 frame has had some genuinely useful refinements to its sorted predecessor, and fork travel remains the same at 120mm. Seat tubes have been shortened on all three frame sizes (by a whopping 50mm on the XL), allowing for longer stroke droppers while increasing standover clearance. There’s also improved clearance between the stays that allows for tyres up to 2.6in wide.
Sizing and geometry are areas which Whyte spends plenty of time on and the 629 certainly is the outlier for a 120mm travel hardtail. Sure, the 64.5º head angle paired with a short 44mm offset fork crown is now a common sight, but the long 450mm chainstays and 1,285mm wheelbase certainly aren’t. Yes, the size XL is long – in every way – with a 505mm reach matched to a stubby 35mm stem. Factor in the low 300mm bottom bracket height and you really do feel centred and sitting in the bike.
With only 120mm travel you could misread this hardtail’s intentions, but the 629 is a carefully curated blend of numbers when it comes to suspension and geometry. The RockShox 35 Gold RL fork, with its 35mm stanchions and DebonAir spring means business, especially when it partners up with Whyte’s thinking on frame layout and sizing.
There’s enough travel to soak up medium sized hits and the fork’s stout stature helps the bike stay on track, resisting deflections in tight chewed up turns. Torque Caps on the front hub help boost stiffness too. Would a longer travel fork make it even better? We’re not convinced and may even lose some of the bike’s magic.
There’s nothing remarkable about the transmission, it’s tried and tested, albeit heavy, SRAM NX Eagle, with a 12 speed 11-50T cassette and 32T chainring. Whyte has considered ground clearance though and fitted shorter 170mm cranks arms to work with the low BB height.
The Whyte is the only bike on test with four-piston brakes (the cheaper 529 has them too), SRAM’s Guide T dishing out plenty of modulation and power. As a result, stopping distances were noticeably shorter than on the other three bikes.
Whyte has not fitted huge rubber to this 29er, opting instead for a 3C compound 2.3in Maxxis High Roller up front paired to a faster rolling 2.35in Forekaster out back – so if you want increased cushioning or pedal clearance, bigger volume tyres are an easy addition.
Take a quick spin round a parking lot and you might not instantly ‘get’ the Whyte 629, especially if you’re coming from a smaller bike. Show it some trails, be they man-made or off piste, and everything makes instant sense, as the Whyte dishing out a truly impressive performance.
The combination of a low bottom bracket, long reach and lengthy chainstays really do keep you centred on the bike, giving you bucket loads of confidence. So whether you’re weaving through rooty singletrack or crashing down rock gardens, the Whyte always carries speed and remains calm and composed. The 35mm stem and short offset fork are a sweet combination, giving calm yet precise steering control, which just encourages you to ride harder in every situation.
Point the Whyte 629 up a greasy root-riddled climb, down a steep sketchy chute, or into a series of sweeping trail centre berms and it never feels fazed or confused. Slamming the 170mm dropper and using all the space the long reach gives, allowed us steer the bike into terrain we wouldn’t normally take a 120mm hardtail – and with ample braking power we were always in control and at ease. On longer rides, the combination of the compliant ride quality and comfortable grips and saddle meant we didn’t get battered either, even though there’s plenty of scope for larger volume tyres to further smooth things out. The Whyte 629 V4 really impressed us, and in many ways it mirrors its stablemate, the 905, in setting new hardtail standards, this time for 29ers. Ultimately the Whyte 629 V4 is balanced, composed, stable and precise, and whether you’re a relative beginner, or an experienced trail rider, you’ll instantly become addicted to its ways…