Whyte’s affordable 605 hardtail might not break the bank, but when it comes to on-trail performance it blows most rivals out of the water thanks to a frame sporting bang-up-to-date geometry and well-chosen components.
The British brand has always been known for pushing the boat out when it comes to the design of their bikes, being a major driver of the long reach, low bottom bracket and slack head angle revolution in frame geometry. While many high-end bike brands have a similarly modern approach to geometry, Whyte is one of all too few that apply it to their entry level bike range.
Modern geometry makes for great handling
Whyte-605-099.jpg, by Russell Burton
On paper, the 605 looks like most other hardtails at this price. It’s got a 100mm travel fork up from, an aluminium frame and 650b wheels, but the devil really is in the detail. Despite the short travel, the frame sports a head angle of 68.5º, a figure more commonly associated with trail bikes with travel around the 130-140mm mark. The reach - the distance between the bottom bracket and the head tube, measured horizontally - is also much greater than usual, at 465mm of a Large frame. That means that when the going gets steep, you’re less likely to be pitched over the front of the bike and the handling is much calmer when the speed starts to pick up. It also means that you can move about on top of the bike much more, meaning that you have much more scope to adjust your weight balance without fear of falling off the back or going over the front. Chuck in a short 60mm stem and 700mm handlebar and the results are impressive, whether you’re a novice rider or highly experienced.
Whyte-605-101.jpg, by Russell Burton
The bike is stable without feeling sluggish or slow and that allows you to push the speeds and gradient much more than would feel comfortable otherwise. It’s a bike that encourages you to experiment with the edges of traction without punishing you when you do overstep the mark. After a quick lap on my usual trail centre loop, it was so confidence inspiring that I quickly left that behind to throw the 605 down stuff that usually has much more expensive machines struggling.
Not without flaw
Whyte-605-102.jpg, by Russell Burton
Okay, being pushed that hard does definitely highlight some weak points in the spec. The lightly treaded WTB Beeline 2.2” tyres are fine on hardpacked trails and are surprisingly adept on natural terrain, as long as it’s bone dry. Add a bit of moisture into the mix and they’re still reasonable on a trail centre surface but they’re bloody lethal in roots and mud. That’s a criticism that can be levelled at many bikes at this price, but on the Whyte you feel it all the more keenly as the chassis could happily cope with so much more. Even fitting a more aggressive front tyre would help, as the bike is quite happy to hang the tail out without the front end trying to tuck under and boot you off.
Whyte-605-107.jpg, by Russell Burton
Upping the speed and the roughness also highlights flex in the skinny legged, quick-release axle RockShox XC30 fork. At moderate speeds, it’s not enough to get you second guessing where you’ll be pointing out of corners but stick it into a cross-cambered rocky section at pace and you’ll feel the front wheel pointing in directions you don’t expect or want. To be fair, the damping does a noble job of hanging on in there, but the Whyte’s willing chassis does tend to egg you on until it has no choice but surrender. While I’m grumbling, the fork also uses a coil rather than air spring, meaning that if you’re too far either way of the expected weight range then you’ll have to put in a new coil rather than adding a few psi with a pump.
Despite the weak point of the fork, it’s noticeable that the multi-butted, hydroformed frame does a very impressive job of muting as many bumps as possible. Thanks to all the cleverly shaped tubing and stays, it doesn’t beat you up in the way a cheap aluminium frame can often do. There are plenty of neat features too. Internal cable routing can often divide opinion, but the Whyte aims to ease the main bugbear of fiddly cable fitting with a large exit hole at the bottom bracket, making fishing them out much easier. You also get Whyte’s unique quick-release seat clamp that uses an extra large lever and internal wedge to make securing the saddle a doddle. It’s not quite a dropper post (though one can be fitted) but it makes whizzing your saddle up and down quick and easy.
A solid selection of components
Whyte-605-103.jpg, by Russell Burton
Elsewhere, there’s a solidly performing roster of components. Tektro Auriga brakes do a respectable enough job. They’re not exactly laden with feedback and feel more wooden than Shimano’s comparable offering but the 160mm rotors still haul you up without too much fuss. The 9-speed Shimano Acera/Alivio drivetrain won’t get anyone abuzz with excitement but there’s a decent 11-34T spread on the cassette and it snicks up and down the block without fuss and I didn’t have too many issues with dropping the chain despite the lack of clutch on the mech. Up front, the 40-30-22T triple chainset works well though that big ring will take a fair beating should you choose to ride log-infested off-piste trails. The square taper bottom bracket probably won’t take really serious abuse without complaint - making sure the bolts don’t work lose is the key here. Given that you wouldn’t push most of the Whyte’s rivals to the point that those complaints would be an issue, it feels a bit unfair to mention them, but it’s testament to how confident the bike made me feel.
Whyte-605-106.jpg, by Russell Burton
At 13.2kg for the large frame, the 605 is a respectable weight despite the budget-conscious bits. I’m guessing a lot of that is down to the quality frame, though the WTB SX-19 rims probably help here too.
All in all the Whyte 605 is hugely impressive for the money. Yes, you can buy bikes at this price point that come with much better bits bolted to them, the bendy coil sprung fork and lightly treaded tyres being the ones you might feel most keenly, the latter especially in the winter. However, if you’re looking at as the bike as a complete package then it’s bloody hard to beat. In fact, I’ve ridden bikes that cost significantly more that have felt nowhere near as well sorted. If you want a bike that’s going to allow you to push your riding onwards, boost your confidence both uphill and down and you aren’t fussed about what’s written on the components then the Whyte is a superb machine - and not just by the standards of ‘budget’ bikes.