Interesting project on at the moment on behalf the design team for Whyte Bikes. Ian (who works on product design there) and I go back a long way and given my boundless enthusiasm for cyclocross (and what younger people might call ‘experience’), I’m starting to test a bit of a new venture for them. Whyte are an English brand famous for their mountain bike range, but wanted to get into the cyclocross market. Their new frame – currently a prototype – is highly immersed in that. It’s radically mountainbike, actually – in many ways. Certainly an interesting prospect.
I’ve only just built it up, but to the trained eye, it’s immediately apparent that this is no ordinary cyclocross bike. Disc brakes are predictable in many ways given the MTB heritage of Whyte and last year’s UCI announcement that disc brakes will be allowed in Cyclocross, but some of the other aspects of the design are – to a conservative old cyclocrosser – a little shocking.
Firstly, the geometry. Those forks come out of the front of the bike at such an angle that a comfortable and very forgiving ride is guaranteed. Obviously this comes with some compromise to the out-and-out racer, but given that about 70% of the UK cyclocross bike market is for leisure riders who may occasionally race, this is an adept and well thought-out move.
Then there’s the detail… the top-tube, full-length cables, the pulley adapter for bottom-pull front mechs, 1.5″ to 1.125″ tapered headset… and the littler things like front-facing clamp on the seat tube to keep the mess out.
It’s certainly well thought out… and if it rides as sturdily as it looks like it should, it could well spark a period of blurring between two schools of frame design.
Full test rides to follow – and some new ‘proper’ tubular cyclocross wheels still being built rather than the make-do clinchers, then I need to feed back to Ian, but I’ve already promised to ride this in this year’s 3 peaks cyclocross, where it’s certainly going to be a different ride to last year’s bikes. (It has two brakes for a start).
Browse photos here or slideshow below