This review is for the Whyte Clifton 2019, but we will soon be receiving the 2021 model, which boasts a battery range of 75km (46miles) in High, 105km (65miles) in Normal and 150km (93 miles) in Eco; 650b wheels and 47c RoadPlus, WTB Byway tyres. Shop all Whyte Electric bikes here.
Leeds longest-serving mechanic, Ian, turned to an electric bike last year when heart trouble laid him low for a while, and he picked up a 12 year old Kalkhoff with a Panasonic drive system to make the part-time commute and shopping a little easier.
Now thankfully much recovered and back to a full-time role, and often using an acoustic bike again, Ian is looking to upgrade his old Kalkhoff to one of the new generation of high torque e-bikes, one that rides more like the mountain and adventure bikes he loves. So we lent him our demo Whyte Clifton for a few days to see how much easier it made the commute and the daily errands, and then asked him how he got on.
Ian's Whyte Clifton Review
What struck you first about the Whyte?
It’s very light for an e-bike, much lighter than the Kalkhoff at under 20Kg, and it has much, much better acceleration.
What about its looks?
It’s a good looking bike. I prefer non-integrated battery for a more traditional frame and a less bulky down tube, and this helps with the weight. The new Shimano battery is nicely blended into the frame, and just looks like a big bottle. The battery position also helps achieve the kind of ride I like. It’s much better on the downtube than on a rack, affecting weight distribution, or behind the seat tube, lengthening the wheelbase or putting weight up high on the rack.
And how did it ride?
It handled really well, a very stable, confident ride. I used it with panniers the whole time and even fully loaded the handling was unaffected. It’s got much better climbing performance than the old e-bike I had, especially on the off-road section of my commute along the ridge, with loose gravel under the tyres. The smaller wheel size helps with acceleration and the wider tyres offer more grip.
How did you find the range?
I used it almost exclusively in high power mode, with panniers, and after about 25 miles of hilly and stop-start use it still had 40% remaining.
Shimano’s new motor is supposed to be quieter. Was it?
I didn’t really notice the motor noise, so it must have been quiet. To be fair to the old Kalkhoff, it’s probably on a par for noise, but the old Panasonic drive is much less powerful than the 60Nm of the new Shimano system.
Shimano have changed the controls and display for 2019. What did you think of them?
Controls were nice and big for gloved hands and the thumb shift to change mode is excellent, even though I left it in high most of the time. It’s easy to read the display and it’s backlit, which is a nice touch, and it also controls the lights. I liked that the display gave estimated range remaining in each mode; that’s very useful.
What about the non-electric stuff? How were the components?
The brakes are simple but reliable Tektro hydraulics which aren’t fancy but have all the stopping power needed even on steep hills with my Ortlieb panniers full of shopping. The gears can feel a little clunky, despite it being Deore, but this might be down to the motor changing torque when shifting. All the components are dependable workhorse kit. The bike is all aluminium, including the fork, so it is a slightly stiff ride. It benefits from lower tyre pressure, and I would recommend running it tubeless and trying gravel tubeless tyres for the kind of riding I do. The wide MTB rims are tubeless ready and could be paired with tan walled Panaracer Gravel Kings for a fast but grippy ride…
And the contact points?
I found the saddle a bit stiff. Saddles are very personal but I would like something with more give on a stiff aluminium bike. I didn't personally get on with the ergonomic grips andwould change these, but that’s easy to do. The stock pedals are nothing flash but they did the job well with plenty of grip and seem solidly built.
Anything else you didn’t like as much?
Coming from the Kalkhoff I would have preferred a hub gear so I could change at a standstill. The hub gear makes it easy to be in the right gear to get the most from the motor. Like all e-bikes, because of the torque curve of the motor, the Whyte doesn’t like setting off uphill in a high gear. I just needed to get used to thinking ahead and changing down as I slowed as you have to with a derailleur gear.
Would you buy one?
Yes. This would definitely be my choice from Edinburgh Bicycle's current range. It’s very adaptable for a bit more off road use, and it has better handling and a better riding position. It’s much more like the MTBs I am used to, rather than the upright Dutch style of the Kalkhoff. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a lightweight, adaptable, economical, and powerful electric bike.
The new Whyte Clifton 2019 is in stock in all sizes, and you can arrange an extended demo of the large or medium sizes from any of our stores. For female riders, or anyone who prefers a more compact fit, the Whyte Highgate Compact 2019 boasts exactly the same specification and style and is also available to demo.