Yes, this enduro hardtail mountain bike from Whyte has top notch spec, but it's the frame where the winning elements really stand out
Now, you are probably thinking, £3.5k for a hardtail and the frame isn’t steel or carbon? Well, we thought the exact same thing when the 909 X arrived and even joked that maybe the X was shorthand for eXpensive.
(It’s not, by the way). But the main question is, is it’s performance worth the price, and does it rank among the best hardtail mountain bikes we’ve tested?
Need to know:
- Bridgeless stays offers stacks of mud clearance, even with the high-volume 2.8in Plus rear tyre
- SRAM’s wireless GX AXS drivestrain, means one less cable to contend with
- The maximum height of Whyte’s Drip.it 150mm post can be adjusted down in 10mm increments to 120mm
- With 130mm travel, the RockShox Pike Ultimate fork maintains more stable geometry
So what exactly does that kinda money get you from the brand that’s synonymous with great british hardtails? In short, you get a seriously cool bike.
Obviously, at this price, the specification is top-notch, and includes a 130mm travel RockShox Pike Ultimate fork and wireless SRAM GX AXS drivetrain, but it’s actually the 909 X’s alloy frame that’s the standout feature here. And it’s the exact same frame Whyte uses on all three models in the 900 series Enduro range. So if £3.5k is too much for you to swallow, you could pick up the 901 for £1,850.
But enough about money, let’s take a closer look at the frame. Features like the bridgeless stays and sealed Get-a-grip seat collar make the 909 X winter friendly while the curved stays out back make it joint friendly.
Yes, the bendy profile of the stays provide a modicum of extra clearance for the high volume 27.5in Plus tyres that the 900 series Enduro hardtails roll on, but the real advantage of the more convoluted approach is that it makes for physically longer stays, not a longer rear end. This in turn makes them easier to flex, and stays that are easier to flex provide a more compliant frame.
Combine the high quality frame with the high volume 2.8in Plus size Maxxis tyres, and the Whyte 909 X offers unparalleled levels of comfort, grip and control.
Now, we’re not talking full suspension levels here, as it’s only the difference between a 2.4in tyre and a 2.8in, which translates to a couple of psi lower pressure in the bigger tyre. But it is a noticeable improvement and it’s really appreciable in rougher trails. It’s also the key reason why we’d like to see more MX hardails at all price points, as fatter rear tyres have real world advantages on hardtails.
Shorter travel forks have obvious advantages on hardtails too, namely that they help limit dramatic swings in geometry, and better match the lack of travel on the rear. So the 130mm RockShox Pike Ultimate is the great choice. And the Ultimate version is packed with features, like bleed ports on the back of the lower legs that make it easy to purge any air that’s been sucked past the seals. It also has Butter Cups, small inserts that sit between the damper and air piston shafts where they attach to the lowers, that help reduce high frequency vibrations.
And it isn’t just the Pike chassis that’s been given a refresh, the Charger damper has been updated to the 3 version and in the opposite leg you now get the Debon Air+ spring, where the air spring has a smaller negative chamber than, say the Lyrik or Zeb, just to give it a more sporty response off the top, which again helps maintain a more stable ride.
RockShox forks have had oversized Torque Cap compatible dropouts for a couple of years now, but we can count the number of bikes that use the interface to boost stiffness on one hand. The Whyte 909 X is one such bike, the front hub making full use of the 31mm interface to shore things up.
Best of all, if you want to use a standard hub to detune stiffness or simply run a different wheel, RockShox supplies bolt-in reducers that make it really easy to locate the smaller hub end caps in the dropouts and ultimately slot the 15mm front axle in.
Whyte matches the cockpit on the 909 X to the wheel size and the fork offset, both of which are unique in this test. The basic idea is that Whyte likes to fit a stem length that’s shorter than the fork offset. So in this instance the fork offset is 38mm and the stem length is 35mm.
That’s the theory. In practice this leads to a more reactive steering response, even with the bigger footprint of the 2.8in Maxxis High Roller II front tyre. Some riders will love that direct connection with the trail, which after all, is part of a hardtail’s appeal. We found that fitting a slightly longer stem calmed the steering response down a touch, which makes it easier to correct mid turn without it feeling overly sluggish and this ultimately allowed us to ride faster and harder. Which is exactly what the 909 X has been designed for.
We’re no stranger to SRAM’s AXS electronic shifting but this is the first time we’ve used it on a hardtail. Obviously it pumps up the price of the 909 X compared to the Shimano equipped bikes in the test, and it’s definitely more of a nice to have, rather than need to have feature. Still it was clear after just one particularly muddy ride that the SRAM chain/cassette/derailleur interface is so much quieter than Shimano’s when contaminated with mud, even when the Shimano equipped bikes have genuine Shimano chains.
Truth be told, on proper off-road trails, you simply can’t ride as fast on a hardtail as you can a full suspension bike, even one with Plus size tyres. So all other things being equal, you don’t need as powerful brakes on a hardtail. As such the SRAM G2 brakes on the Whyte are more than adequate, not least because the rear wheel is in the air half the time. They were also less grabby than the Shimano brakes in this test, which helps with modulation.
Get on the gas and the Whyte isn’t as snappy as the Identiti, but it’s got noticeably more punch than the Nukeproof Scout 290 we tested it against. Part of the delay in getting up to speed is the sluggish freehub engagement, but there’s also no getting around the weight penalty of the heavier Plus size tyres. It’s a compromise that we’re more than happy to accept though given how much speed the 909 X can carry. With the tyres working overtime to smooth out the trail beneath the 27.5in wheels, smaller roots and rocks don’t chip away at your speed to the same degree as on bikes with regular tyres.
On the climbs there’s little separating the Whyte and the Nukeproof. The Whyte is more comfortable, the Nukeproof more stable. Get into axle deep braking bumps however and the fatter tyres and compliant frame of the 909X really take the edge of the impacts. In fact the only downside of the Plus size tyres is that they don’t cut through deep slop as effectively as a 29er with regular tyres, so the Whyte 909 X probably isn’t as good of a pure winter bike as the Nukeproof Scout 290 or even the Whyte 629. Still, if you’re looking for one bike to conquer all trails and it just has to be a hardtail, then Whyte 909 X should be top of your wish list.
Looking for more options? Check out our guide to the best hardtail mountain bikes, each of which has been extensively tested by our in-house bike experts. Don’t forget to pop on the best MTB helmet you can afford – after all, you’ve only got one head.
Who said Plus size tyres were dead? Clearly Whyte doesn’t think so and after testing the 909 X we wholeheartedly agree that they still have a seat at the wheel size table. Not only do the higher volume tyres provide some much needed cushioning, they increase grip and control massively too. And taken with the dialled geometry and finely tuned flex in Whyte’s alloy frame, the 909 X is the closest thing here to riding a soft-tail. Does the high-end build kit with electronic shifting advance things even further? Not really, so the smart money is still on the 905 at £2,099. A more pressing question though is if the 909 X would be even better as a 909 MX? We certainly think so.