A cutting-edge hardtail ripper that put a smile on our face every time we rode it.

MBR Test Winner

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

Whyte 901

Weight:
Weight:

Pros:

  • Attacking every trail

Cons:

  • Ankles and lower back take a beating

Product:

Whyte 901 (2016) review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,199.00
This product is featured in: Best mountain bikes of 2018 and The best trail hardtails.

Key Points

  • Genuinely long, low and slack. Whyte has nailed the numbers on the 901
  • Short stems combine with longer top tubes for a joined up approach to sizing
  • A Maxxis Ardent up front gives you the confidence to lean into turns while the lower-profile Ardent Race on the rear reduces rolling resistance
  • SRAM’s 2×10 drivetrain offers a wide gearing range, while the clutch rear mech helps keep the chain on

Buy now: 2017 model Whyte 901 from Leisure Lakes Bikes for £1,299

This bike really needs no introduction. It’s the trail hardtail against which all others are measured, and for 2016 British brand Whyte has tweaked the winning formula to make it even better.

>>> Click here to find the best trail hardtail

Thankfully, it’s not a wholesale change, and in keeping with other bikes in the Whyte range the frame length has simply crept up by 20mm on all four frame sizes. Which means this year’s size medium is the same length as last year’s large.

Whyte 901 2016 review riding

All of the other vital stats that make the 901 such a great bike remain unchanged. It’s still slack and super-low, which is just how we like it. One small tweak that doesn’t affect that handling, but is an improvement nonetheless, is that the seat tubes have been made shorter to better accommodate dropper posts with more drop.


Watch the winner of our women’s specific Hardtail of the Year – the Whyte 802


One big advantage of having such a low-slung frame is that it’s super-easy to move the bike around unimpeded, making it lithe and nimble through the techie stuff. It also means that we are running close to maximum seatpost extension on the size M for seated climbing.

A set-up which offers the maximum amount of flex and comfort from the seatpost. This simply wouldn’t have been possible if the size M frame didn’t have ample length in the top tube. And with two frame sizes bigger than the one we tested, there’s plenty of headroom for riders who are taller than 5ft 11in.

Smooth quick release almost negates the need for a dropper post (Fowler)

Smooth quick release almost negates the need for a dropper post (Fowler)

Suspension

If you wanted to, you could quite easily fit a longer travel fork to the 901, but we think that would mess up the handling by creating big swings in the geometry as the fork compresses. Also, 130mm doesn’t over-stretch the Sektor’s chassis, so it’s still plenty stiff enough.

We removed the air spring top cap, hoping to fit some Bottomless Tokens to lower the volume and allow us to add support without having to go too high on air pressure, but it didn’t have the necessary thread. In the end we simply added 20psi over the recommended pressure printed on the back of the fork leg to help prop the front end up.

Internal cable routing is bang up to date

Internal cable routing is bang up to date

It still retained good small bump sensitivity, so it wasn’t actually a bad compromise. Also, running the rebound at the open end of the range allowed the fork to sit up higher in the travel.

Components

The 901 doesn’t come with a dropper post, but the quick release is so smooth that, with a little practice, it’s possible to flick open the lever and drop your saddle on the hoof. Also, markings on the back of the post make it just as easy to get the saddle back up to your optimum high for pedalling.

Whyte’s in-house saddle has a nice flat profile, but more importantly, it’s got ample padding, that’s not overly soft, and this really aids comfort.

Because we were running the seatpost at full extension, we pushed the saddle all the way forward on the head of the seatpost, just so we weren’t sat too far behind the BB on the climbs. With that in mind, it would probably be a good idea if the L and XL sizes came with inline posts.

Performance

Every time we test the 901 we’re blown away by how good it is. Everything about it feels right and it makes you want to ride flat-out from the get go. The latest version is no different. It helps too that the 901 is very quiet, thanks to the clutch rear mech and rubberised chainstay protector.

Simple but sexy: curvy seatstays offer decent tyre clearance

Simple but sexy: curvy seatstays offer decent tyre clearance

We’re also surprised that Whyte has had it all its own way for so long. After all, there’s nothing magical or, more importantly, patentable, about what Whyte has done; the 901’s geometry is printed here for all to see.

Buy now: 2017 model Whyte 901 from Leisure Lakes Bikes for £1,299

Given the stellar ride quality of the 901 we’d be very surprised if more manufacturers didn’t follow Whyte’s lead. But for now, the 901 very much remains the hardtail to beat. In fact, the only downside to the 901 having such good handling is that it can get you into trouble faster than you can get yourself out of it.

Whyte 901 2016 review packshot

Verdict

Every once in a while, a bike comes along that defines a category. The Whyte 901 is one such bike; it’s the best trail hardtail bar none. What makes it so good? In a nutshell it’s the geometry. With it’s long, low-slung top tube, the reach feels perfect with the short 50mm stem that comes fitted as standard. The slack steering angle complements the short stem, and combined with the low BB height, the 901 feels sure-footed and confident in every situation. It’s basically got the same angles and attitude as the best 140mm suspension bikes at sag, which means it can be ridden every bit as hard.

Details

Frame:6061-T6 aluminium
Fork:RockShox Sektor Gold RL, 130mm travel
Wheels:Whyte hubs, Whyte Trail rims, Maxxis Ardent/Ardent Race 27.5x2.25/2.2in tyres
Drive train:SRAM S1000 chainset, SRAM GX r-mech and f-mech, X5 shifters
Brakes:Avid DB3, 180/160mm
Components:Whyte
Sizes:S, M, L XL
Weight:12.6kg (27.7lb)
Contact:whytebikes.com
Size tested:M
Head angle:66.9°
Seat angle:72.4°
BB height:302mm
Chainstay:424mm
Front centre:729mm
Wheelbase:1,153mm
Down tube:715mm
Top tube:638mm
Reach:447mm