I picked up my new Whyte 19CS last week and have only just got around to taking some photographs of what is undeniably a beautiful bicycle. I’ve not had a super light hardtail for years. The last such racy machine I owned (a Marin Indian Fire Trail) got pinched in London at the end of a very tough year that included riding it across France, Spain and half of Morocco, and then some DH racing when I got back. This was 1998 by the way – turning up to a DH race on a fully rigid aluminium hardtail being considered fairly laughable but not completely insane as it probably would be these days. I came second to last (I think), beaten only by a Frenchman with a pink lycra covered helmet and a huge saddlebag. Anyway, I digress…
The Whyte 19CS is the midrange model in the Whyte carbon HT lineup. I was originally keen to go for the uber-spec XX Works version, but the CS ended up seeming the best option, offering as it does a pretty awesome specification at a more sensible price. Gearing is SRAM X0, brakes are Hayes Stroker Carbon, and contact components are FSA SL-K with a Fizik saddle and seatpost.
I want to use the 19 for fast trail riding and racing. Probably with an emphasis on the former, but we shall see. As such, I’ve already made some changes to the spec. Gone are the 100mm SL-K stem and straight bars – instead I’ve swapped in a 80mm stem and SL-K riser bars. I’m not used to a really racy bars over the front wheel setup, and for trail riding I think the bike will handle better with a wider, shorter reach.
I bought a beautiful pair of Point One Racing Podium flat pedals for the bike – I’m a flat pedal man through and through. However, it’s a thoroughbred race machine and I thought it about time I gave clipless pedals another go, so on went a pair of Crank Bros Eggbeaters. They certainly look nice – whether they end up getting relegated to another bike will depend on my ability to stay attached when required and to detach myself when things go wrong.
As far as the gearing is concerned, I am very tempted to swap the two chainrings for one. Probably a 36 or a 38. On my existing bike I probably spend 95% of the time in the middle ring, and I think the sweet spot for general riding as this bike is currently set up is somewhere in between the chainrings. I can see the front shifter flicking backward and forth unnecessarily. Plus moving to a 1×10 system will drop a fair bit of weight in the process.
The bike came fitted with Conti Race King 2.0 tyres which while being an obvious and high quality choice for a carbon rocket of this caliber are not best suited to the British winter. These have since been swapped over to Panaracer Trailraker 2.1s – not a tyre I’m familiar with, but a well-respected mud performer by all accounts. I’m actually not really used to narrow tyres full stop, so I think it’ll take me a while to get used to the smaller carcass feel. Incidentally, the maiden voyage on the 19 ended up with me pulling half a dozen thorns out of the back tyre, most of which had penetrated the tube as well. Not really the fault of the tyre though – after going off course we ended up pushing along the side of a just trimmed hawthorn hedge bordering a farmer’s field, and all the bikes suffered from multiple punctures afterwards.
The Fulcrum Red Metal 3s look like decent enough wheels, but there’re not super light, so I have been debating getting another pair for race duties. Not sure what yet though – maybe Stans ZTR Crests on Hope Pro III hubs. Or something in carbon? The bike has definite potential for a super light build though – the 19C XX Works is reputedly around 19lb, and I reckon mine (minus chainring, shifter, front mech, with light wheels, tyres, light cassette, etc) should be in the same ballpark. 18lb would be something nice to aim for.
I’ll try to get some action pics up soon, plus some comments on how it rides.