Designed along similar lines to the Ribble CGR, the Whyte Wessex bills itself as an ‘ideal contemporary British road bike’. In practice, that means 30c tires, a durable groupset, hydraulic disc brakes and mudguards. It all looks and feels decidedly reassuring.
There’s an alertness to the Wessex which adds a sizeable dollop of fun to the initial miles, just as soon as we’ve sorted out the mudguards. Although easy to tweak they’re fit byway of knurled barrel adjusters, a bump in the road saw one of the structural spokes ping free of the guard and rattle alarmingly on a high-speed downhill run. Once adjusted, it stayed put for the duration of the ride.
On the road
It goes to show what fantastic weather we’ve so far been blessed with this year, that we’ve not had to trouble a set of mudguards since January. However, if you don’t need them, they’re easily removed, and you’ll save having to work around the toe overlap we experienced when U-turning after overshooting a turning on our test route.
We were enjoying a rare mile or two of flat tarmac at the time, so were no doubt distracted… And it’s on these kinds of roads where the Wessex rewards your inputs the most. Level and lightly rolling tarmac (even that of dubious quality) is its spiritual home. On inclines, especially those steep enough to get you out of the saddle, there’s an almost grudging willingness to do your bidding.
There is a wider spread of gears on the Whyte than on the Ribble, and power transfer is similarly good, but it just doesn’t want to climb as much as the CGR. Odd, especially considering the fact that the Whyte’s front end is more direct and rigid. It loves a descent, though, carving through turns will a greater eagerness than the Ribble, while packing just as impressive stopping power and finely-metered control through the levers.
We’ve touched upon the characteristics of the front end already, but be aware that this is a bike that can handle most kinds of road riding you ask of it. The 72.5° head angle puts steering slap-bang in the ‘direct but not alarmingly so’ camp, allowing for an engaging ride on bone-dry summer lanes, while cosseting the rider when the going gets damp.
The 30c rubber wrapped around those Easton rims is very good indeed. The Schwalbe tires feature uniform tread from shoulder to shoulder, and with 65psi in them, the tubeless arrangement provides supple feedback from the road at the same time as creating a satisfyingly wide contact patch to make cornering a fuss-free affair, no matter what the conditions.
As with the Ribble, we fired the Wessex down a local dirt track, too, to evaluate whether this bike’s versatility extended to off-piste adventuring. It was here that the tires really showed themselves to be capable of rolling over both tarmac and hard-packed dirt and grit.
Probably an idea to take those mudguards off before you go bouncing down your nearest bridleway, though! In brief, the Wessex is a bike you could mess about on at the weekend, complete a century ride on, commute on… do pretty much everything you like on, with the possible exception of an Alpine ascent. But, given that this is a machine built with Britain in mind, you’re not going to find anything that steep on these shores anyway.
The Whyte’s ‘uni-directional multi-monocoque’ carbon frame differs from that of the Ribble by virtue of its more level toptube, and therefore a higher stand over height. The front end is relatively tall for our size 52 frame, with a 145 mm headtube made higher by a number of spacers, which can always be moved southward to accommodate a tighter crouch should you need to tweak your position.
The downtube, while oversized, is more ‘aero’ in its profile, while tapered carbon forks aim to take buzz out of the road. The rear triangle is closer to what we’d call ‘conventional’, with slender seatstays jutting toward a thru-axle fitment at the rear wheel.
The chainstays are 10 mm shorter than those of the CGR, all helping to shave millimeters off the wheelbase, which we measured at 998 mm-just under the magical meter, and slightly more sprightly as a result. The cabling is internally routed, and kept well out of the way of grit, water and other nonsense thrown up from the road. The mudguards fitted to our test bike are a $45 bolt-on, but the frame has integral mounts front and rear should you wish to fit a pair of guards you already have in the shed.
There’s actually quite a mix of components on display here, which detracts slightly from an otherwise excellent bike. Although the effect of this cost-saving exercise is rarely felt in practice, we can’t help but think the package would look more ‘complete’ with an Ultegra chainset. As it is, we’re looking at Ultegra shifters and hydraulic brakes, a 105-level 50/34 chainset, a 105 front derailleur and Ultegra rear mech working on an 11-32105 cassette.
Whyte’s own-brand alloy finishing kit supplied the necessities, with a set of 420mm diameter handlebars and 100mm stem providing the cockpit components. A 27.2 mm diameter alloy seatpost aims to keep vibes to a minimum, while even Whyte’s own saddle sits at its top. More cushioned than most, it’s a fine place to rest your rump for a good few hours.
Easton’s tubeless-ready AR-24 rims are laced to hubs featuring sealed cartridge bearings by way of 28 DT Swiss spokes at each end. Fitted to the rims are Schwalbe G-ONE Speed tires, in 30c diameter, set up tubelessly. These were particularly comfortable, taking the shock out of the worst of road imperfections. Crucially, they didn’t leak any sealant, either, as has been the case with a number of tubeless set-ups that we’ve recently tested.
Frame: Whyte carbon frame and forks
Groupset: Shimano 105
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic discs
Chainset: Shimano 105,50/34
Cassette: Shimano 105,11-32
Bars: Whyte Road, alloy
Stem: Whyte Road, alloy
Saddle: Whyte Custom Road
Seatpost: Whyte 2014, alloy
Wheels: Easton AR-24
Tires: Schwalbe G-ONE Speed, 700×30
|Size tested: 52||Chainstays (C): 425 mm|
|Weight: 9.32 kg||Head angle (HA): 72.5°|
|Top tube (TT): 540 mm||Seat angle (SA): 74°|
|Seat tube (ST): 520 mm||Wheelbase (WB): 998 mm|
|Stacks (S): 567 mm||BB drop (BB): 72 mm|
|Reach (R): 377 mm|