When Jon Whyte graduated from engineering Formula 1 Grand Prix-winning car suspension to designing championship-winning full suspension mountain bikes in the 1990s, he was so bemused by how quickly MTB parts wore out in those days, he complained to Shimano. To their credit, Shimano took Jon’s comments so seriously, they sent their people over from Japan to find out how British cyclists managed to waste components so much faster than riders in other countries.
Shimano’s research led them to the conclusion that our typically wet, acid soil is probably the most abrasive terrain on earth for mountain biking. This inspired Jon Whyte to design bikes that can survive and thrive in this country.
The picture above of Whyte’s Quad 2 suspension demonstrates how he went about it. Note how the rear shock’s snug placement, surrounded by frame tubes, effectively shelters it from wheel spray. Check the precision CNC-machined linkages which prevent play and therefore contribute to shock longevity to such a degree, Whyte (uniquely) offer a lifetime guarantee on every pivot bearing of every full suspension bike they produce.
Technology – performance by design
“We see ourselves as a riders’ brand. When we give experienced cyclists a Whyte to try out, they almost always ‘get it’ immediately”
Ian Alexander, Chief Designer, Whyte Bikes
Jon Whyte retired in 2006. He left the company that retains his name in the good hands of his former partner, Ian Alexander, who has taken Whyte’s passion for UK-proof design to the next level.
In particular, Whyte has championed ‘new school’ geometry, specifically designed for UK technical terrain (compare with the majority of MTBs, primarily designed for the long, smooth fire roads most U.S. mountain bikers ride). Whyte’s philosophy of slacker head angles and low centre of gravity inspire total confidence on technical descents. Coupled to long top tubes and short stems the steering is intuitive, totally engaging and never sluggish. If you want to know what else Whyte does to make their bikes so unique, you can read more here.
Whyte aren’t just about mountain bikes. Back around 2005, they hit upon the idea that if you ‘urbanised’ a Whyte hardtail with rigid forks and slick tyres, its long cockpit, its fast handling, its powerful disc brakes and its UK-proof design made it perfect for city cycling. No wonder Whyte are now our fastest-growing supplier of both mountain bikes and commuter/hybrids.
The big question – what sets Whyte apart?
Whyte bike’s chief designer, Ian Alexander, replied ‘We see ourselves as a riders’ brand. When we give experienced cyclists a Whyte to try out, they almost always ‘get it’ immediately. We have always been confident that Whyte bikes offer the best ride in Britain. However, we were especially gratified when we exhibited at the 2010 Eurobike trade show, European cyclists came to our stand and commented that the design and the geometry of Whyte bikes made them equally perfect for the wilds of Slovenia, Scandinavia, Spain, France…They understood that bikes built for UK technical terrain will excel anywhere on Earth.’
Do you ride a Whyte bike? Let us know in the comments below what you think.