Compact, capable and completely free of flowery graphics, the Whyte 802 takes top honours in Janet Coulson’s women’s specific test
Unlike other bikes in the hardtail of the year test, the Whyte 802 Compact is not described the as a women-specific model. Instead, it’s a bike with more compact geometry that’s available in smaller sizes to suit ‘riders with shorter proportions’. That there is a woman riding the bike in the photos on the Whyte website, however, says a lot about the target market.
We had to cut down the seat post due to bottle cage bosses intruding into the seat tube – something that Whyte could easily manage without, as there probably isn’t enough space in the compact frame for a second bottle cage anyway.
Being air sprung, the 100mm RockShox XC30 fork was very easy to set up for lighter riders, and it felt smooth and controlled from the off. One small aside, that’s applicable to all RockShox air-sprung forks, is that while it’s great having the handy recommended pressure settings printed on the back of the fork, if you weigh less than 63kg you’ll be off the scale. If like us you find yourself in this situation, just keep dropping the pressure in 5psi increments below the lowest recommendation until you find a set up that’s comfortable and allows you to use most of the available travel. At 56kg we ended up running 80psi.
Immediately, the cockpit felt sorted. The grips were nice and slim with proper lock-on collars to prevent them from spinning on the handlebar when wet. At 680mm, the bar itself is a decent width, too, and the short 60mm stem felt a good match for the frame proportions. With the same Tektro brakes as the Specialized Jett, we struggled once again to get the perfect lever position, but given that there was no shortage of stopping power, it wasn’t really a deal breaker.
Once set up to our liking, the Whyte simply flew. And being lighter than the Pinnacle Ramin 3 and Specialized Jett proved a big advantage on the climbs. It also made the bike really easy to throw around and, combined with the slightly smaller wheels, the Whyte offered confidence-inspiring responsiveness on tight, twisty singletrack.
Thanks to the more generous sizing, the Whyte was stable at speed, too. Confidence was boosted further by the supportive, but active, 100mm travel RockShox fork, leading to increasing levels of trust as we let the brakes off on berms, steeps and drops.
With our weight centred on the bike, we could relax hitting small jumps without the fear of slightly nose-heavy landings as we experienced on the, otherwise rapid, Pinnacle Ramin 3W. Indeed, the spring in the Whyte’s step had us grinning and enthused every ride, whipping round berms, darting across rooty sections and blasting off drops, 100% confident in the bike beneath us.
When choosing a hardtail, or indeed any bike, sizing, weight and good suspension are the key points to focus on. So while the other bikes in the test had their perks, the Whyte combined all the elements better than the rest. Furthermore, the Whyte 802 Compact offers the more experienced rider an engaging, fun ride, while still being able to inspire confidence in the new rider. It’s definitely a bike that can grow with you as your skills and appetite for adventure blossom. Best of all, there isn’t a single floral graphic in sight.