I don’t know where to begin. The weather is incredible – we are still riding in short sleeve jerseys! Next year marks 30 years since I have been mountain biking and I have never seen some of the trails in such good condition. And 29ers are quicker.
We are into October and autumn has only just started to nudge summer into just a wonderful memory. The horse chestnut trees and morning mist are the only give away that the seasons are changing. After my last mountain bike ride I thought also that maybe the tide was turning on wheel sizes. Just as summer is refusing to pass so is the 29er. I am not going to pass any final judgements on the 650b or not to be debate as I am sure that I am going to be having a lot of fun on those fast accelerating and quick handling wheels but, yesterday, I was reminded just why I like 29 inch wheels.
I got my Whyte 29 Team and decided to set it up as I want to ride it, it is not just an off the shelf demo although you are welcome to try it, but it is built up for me. I am hoping that it will take me to 9 hours for the South Downs Way amongst other things yet to be decided.
The frame, as with so many Whytes, offers trail bike handling in an XC package. The kit, as standard, comes with a full Shimano XT drive train but with an FSA SL-K UD Carbon 38/24 chainset and XTR rear derailleur, Shimano XT disc brakes, Fox Float 32 Factory 100mm fork, FSA SL-K, UD Carbon seat post and handlebar, Fi’zi:k Tundra II saddle and Whyte X-C-209-C Team Uni-Directional High-Modulus Carbon, 23mm wide, Tubeless Ready wheels with Maxxis Ikon EXO tyres all on Whyte hubs. After the frame design there are two stand out features of this bike that make it a must for me: one the Quest Adventure livery and two, and way more important, the wheel set. Just like a road bike you cannot over emphasise the importance of light, stiff wheels on a 29er. These Whyte hoops are both (more reviews to follow). Weight 10.28kg/22lb 11oz.
I changed the crank, shifters, rear mech, handlebars and saddle. Cranks to Sram OX because the 39/26 has never been too difficult to pedal, shifters because although the general consensus is that Shimano is better I like the positive feel of the top end Sram, handle bars are now USE Atom Flatties because they already had the shifters and brakes on and I wanted to cut 20mm off and, finally, the saddle to a Prologo Nago Evo (well, it did take me the whole of the South Downs Way on it first outing).
The narrower bars and in line seat post are the crucial changes that have turned this mile munching speed machine into and quick handling and chuckable bike nearly as good as the Scott Scale 720 and Whyte 909. Where it beats the 720 is on speed. Yesterday I was feeling tired and wasn’t going for anything other than an enjoyable cruise. Twice I stopped for a chat and even took a rider, unfamiliar with the area, off to show him the lie of the land. Despite the lackadaisical approach and enjoying the sun I got home surprised to see a fast average and some quick climbs. Result! This proves my point from my Scott Scale 720 review that you can buy speed.
I have written about the Whyte 29 many times before but recently I questioned whether it was too long and or too slack. Adjusting my cockpit position has transformed it into what is probably the best bike that I could have for my old school cross-county and single track passion. I did a further easy 14km in the afternoon with Janet and the dog and even at very low speed the 29er was really comfortable. Janet was on the Scott Contessa Scale 720 demo.