Whyte Gisburn review

Gisburn-manWhyte bikes were created to produce full suspension mountain bikes back in the nineties. Of course the staff and designers ride all sorts of bikes and the head designer has raced road and cyclo-cross so he does know what is going on. When he produced Whyte’s first “cross” bike it was criticised for falling outside of the UCI rules for a race bike. It even had a long top tube and short stem! I expect you’ve heard that before with Whyte bikes. What people missed was that it wasn’t a cyclo-cross race bike but a go- anywhere-fun bike. That was a few years ago and well before the super cool and of the moment term “Gravel bike” was coined.

The Whyte Gisburn is, if you want, a “Gravel” bike. We all need categories these days. For me it is a fun machine that I can take anywhere. You can find me on the Downs Link, on the Promenade, jumping logs on singletrack or cruising the lanes of Sussex. And if I retire: “Bike Packing”! Call it Gravel if you want. It is the closest that you can get to combining road and mountain biking.

Maybe I should explain what a gravel bike is, as far as we are concerned. It will have 700c or 650b rims, it will take 40mm or bigger tyres, it will be tubeless, it will have a head angle of 71° or less and will have drop bars which will be wider than a road bikes. It will usually have the mountings for attaching bags and racks. It may even have a dropper seat post.

The Whyte Gisburn ticks all of the boxes. In fact with the new riser 50cm drop handle bar it is a close as you can get to mountain biking without actually being on a mountain bike. This feeling extends to the handling too. The top tube is long, stem short and head  a slack 70° so whilst riding on technical terrain without suspension and with a narrow tyre might not be everyone’s cup of tea, for those that enjoy the challenge, the Gisburn is surefooted and confidence inspiring. I am sure that you have heard that said countless times about Whyte bikes. It is true. There is even a dropper seat post should the going get really tough.

My previous Gisburn was the 2017 version and the new 2019 has gone back to the same 38 tooth front chainring which I feel is better suited to the off road capabilities of the bike. I have never needed more top end hammering on the flat.  In 2018 it had a 40T. It is still using Sram Force 1 x 11 which is all you need and far more efficient and positive than anything that Shimano has available. The Sram Force brakes require the lightest of touches to slow the bike down and the levers have efficient reach adjusters which are needed as you want your hands closed when bouncing down a rough trail without front suspension. The rims are WTB ST i25 TCS, nice and wide. The tyres are WTB Resolute 42mm front and WTB Riddler 37mm. These have been great this autumn but will probably be changed to WTB Nano 40mm to match the slippery conditions of the South Downs. I did a might of sliding yesterday.

If you are looking for all the performance but a lower price you can get the Whyte Friston £1,699 or even opt for the Whyte Glencoe £1,299. The Glencoe has 650b rims with a 47mm tyre and has been aimed at urban riders but I am sure many will be excited by its off road and touring possibilities.

What would I change? I would put a flat drop bar on. The riser is to give you a more upright and comfortable position but I want space for lights (I swap frequently when testing them), a computer and, believe it or not a bell. I need the bell as I often find myself in shared spaces with the Gisburn.

The Whyte gravel bikes come up very big to size so if you ride a 56cm road bike you will need the 54cm. Since writing this I have changed to a 52cm, I am 1.73m and ride a 54cm road bike. The smaller size has transformed the way the bike rides. Its so comfortable and, for me, not too high at the front. As its main purpose for me is off road I left the bars as high as they go but it never felt right and I kep moaning the the Whyte guys about the rider bar. Now that I have lowered the bar the bike is absolutley perfect. I love it

One Comment Add yours

  1. Phil says:

    I’m currently looking at possibly getting the 2020 Gisburn which has the new Shimano GRX 1x groupset. It’d be used a lot for commuting largely but I like the overall idea of its gravel style rather than pure road bike as I can then take the scenic routes home I sometimes do on my MTB. I’m slightly worried about the gearing though for road use! The highest ratio of this old Gisburn as reviewed gives about 105 gear inches (38T+10T), but since the GRX only has an 11-tooth rear, not 10, the highest gear will be about 95 gear inches on the new one (a drop of 10) with its 38T crank, and still only 100 if I swapped the front crank for a 40T, so it plain isn’t “as fast” in top gear. The latest 2020 Friston is still SRAM apex though and has a 40T crank so gets 110 highest ratio. When I consider my Whyte S-150 is about 93 gear inches (a pure off-road machine by comparison, which I can often run highest gear downhill off-road while I’m not remotely aero), it worries me the latest 2020 Gisburn with similar 95 ratio is just “too slow for road” a lot of the time. Any thoughts other than try go out and ride one? (None in stock anywhere near here though). What is a sensible top gear so I don’t just spin out/coast every time I’m going downhill on roads? I’m gonna try more gear comparisons between bikes I can get my hands on, but I’d be curious to know your opinions on this since you mention the 38T/40T comparison on a bike with a smaller 10T rear. I’m pondering if the GRX narrower rear cassette range with it lacking a 10T means for an all-rounder bike one really wants 2x if going GRX, or stick with SRAM for 1x? Obvs there’s also the Wessex One too with 44T crank and 10T rear, but it doesn’t have the same geometry or rack mount points so I was leaning more the Gisburn/Friston direction (Gisburn = nicer bits+dropper, but Friston = 15 gear inches more in top gear!).

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