The early days in UK mountain biking
Back in the day when men were men and sheep were nervous (Mint Sauce) there were less brands and the boys to shake things up were Kona (me – JP) and Marin. Those were the days! What made these two unique was the fact that the UK distributors really pushed those iconic brands before they even got established over the pond. Both brands and their early key dealers all hailed from the windsurfing market.
In the mid nineties Marin (ATB Sales) solicited the help of a suspension designer at Benetton Formula One, Mr John Whyte, to produce a suspension bike to meet the needs of the 90s and, boy, did meet those needs!
Marin dominated the full suspension scene back then and ATB Sales could see that their designs were worth protecting. They created Whyte Bikes and produced the PRST-1. This bike may have pushed suspension design to the limit but it was about as enduring as the Sinclair C-5. Meanwhile Marin full suspension bikes carved a niche into British full suspension bike history. During this period Whyte developed a new product that was to have an even greater and longer lasting impression on the UK mountain bike scene. At the turn of the century I remember discussing this new phenomena with mountain biking guru Steve Worland. He saw the future.
It was the Whyte 19, a trail hard tail that was light and had a 130mm travel fork. It shook up the XC dominated racing world of British mountain biking. 15 years later the world’s bike designers still haven’t cottoned on. Whyte is unique in offering what can only be described as the ultimate hard tail trail bikes with the 901, 905 and 909. The only brands to come close to copying the Whyte design are a collection of small British manufacturers. In 2016 Whyte remains supreme in this all important sector.
Through this bike they established what was to become the benchmark of any modern
Whyte design, a slack head angle and sublime handling, even extending to their road machines.
Sadly, John’s wife passed away and he left the industry. By then the original premise for the Marin/Whyte suspension design was losing its appeal as other more active designs began to gain favour. The fear of suspended bikes had all but disappeared.
We are the Whyte bikes experts!
At that time we opened up and although we were great friends with Whyte (ATB Sales) we were also huge critics. We were a dissenting voice during their metamorphosis from a rather dated and stayed cross country brand into, probably, the best all-round trail range in the UK. At that time we couldn’t figure out why you’d want to design a bike like the Whyte E-120 or Marin Mount Vision when you had bikes like the Whyte 19 and Marin Rocky Ridge in the same line up. Now even their XC race hard tails handle as well as some other trail only bikes.
Along the way we were lucky enough to have many preproduction prototypes to test; adding our feedback to the great work that the design team were producing. Design and innovation never stops but in the last couple of years Whyte, although a small fish in a big pond, have now established themselves as a performance oriented brand dominating the reviews in the British press. Brave enough to go where others do not dare.
Their innovation and design expertise is incorporated in their leisure and urban bikes. Jump on any of the these machines and you will immediately notice the stable and confidence inspiring feel that has filtered down from the more high profile Whyte mountain bikes.
Ask us about Whyte bikes and you’ll notice an air of confidence and enthusiasm that comes from knowing the brand so well. We have shared some of their growing pains but are now enjoying their success as much as they are. The Whyte design team clearly has an unbridled passion for trail riding and that means that their designs will be more than cutting edge and always a few steps ahead of any of the bigger mass market players.
If you want to know more or want to ride a Whyte to see just how good they are, give is a call, e-mail or visit Quest Adventure, we are the Whyte Experts