Choosing My 29er Mountain Bike
This year I used the Cycle to Work initiative to get a new bike - a scheme introduced by the UK Government under its Green Transport Plan, to encourage people to cycle to work by offering a tax benefit when buying a new bike. Now I'm not a pure roadie, so this time I didn't fancy getting a dedicated road bike. My cycling passion lies off road; I prefer the trails away from noisy road traffic. I was looking to replace my Orange Prestige circa '91, a fantastic steel framed mountain bike that has never failed me in 22 years! I was really interested in the new breed of 29ers - Mountain Bikes with larger 29 inch diameter wheels for easier rolling over rough and smooth terrain!
2013 Whyte 529
Frame 6061 Hydro Formed T6 Aluminium, Custom Drawn, Multi Butted with Post Mount Dropouts
Fork RockShox XC 28, 100mm Travel, Adjustable Rebound, Turn Key Lockout
Headset FSA No. 10 Caged Bearings
Rear Hub Alloy, Double Sealed Bearing Hub, 32 Hole
Front Hub Alloy, Double Sealed Bearing Hub, 32 Hole
Spokes WTB 15g, Black Stainless with Brass Nipples
Rims Whyte XC-29, 32 Hole
Tyres Maxxis IKON 60TPI, 29"x 2.2", Folding
Shift Levers Shimano Acera, 9 Speed
Front Derailleur Shimano Acera, 9 Speed
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore RD-M592 Shadow
Cassette Shimano HG-20, 11-34, 9 Speed
Chain KMC X9, 9 Speed
Crankset Shimano M391, 44-32-22, 9 Speed
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB-ES25 Square Taper
Seatpost Whyte 20mm Offset, 30.9mm x 400mm, 6061 Alloy, 2 Bolt Clamp
Saddle Whyte Custom
Bar Whyte Flat 29er 6061 Bar, 31.8mm, 700mm Wide
Stem Whyte Custom, 70mm S, 70mm M, 80mm L
Grips Whyte Custom Lock-on
Brakes Front Tektro Draco 2, 160mm rotor
Brakes Rear Tektro Draco 2, 160mm rotor
Brake Levers Tektro Draco 2
Pedals VP Composite with Alloy Cage and Toe Clip
Having looked at all the big manufacturers I narrowed my choice to 3 models; the Specialized Carve, Trek Cobia and the Whyte 529. All these are aluminium frames and are similarly priced; the Specialized looked good and had a good component specification, the Trek was my least favourite in looks but had a superior Rockshox Recon Air suspension fork, and then there was the Whyte; which in my opinion had serious looks and, according to my local bike shop, a very good frame!
After much comparing and testing at my local bike shop, I chose the Whyte 529 - mainly because the UK designed frame felt that little bit better, and is built for UK conditions in mind - good mud clearances and attention to detail. Sometimes small things matter, like the seat clamp having the slot facing forward to prevent mud from the back wheel getting into the frame, and Crud Catcher fixings on the downtube (yes, defending against the wet and mud is a big factor here in the UK!).
Slow Start Due To Harsh Weather
(aka - excuses)!
I've had the bike for almost 5 months now, and after a slow start due to the unusually snowy weather, I've been getting out on it more and more. It is a very substantial looking bike which belies the fact it is quite light at a quoted 12.98Kg (28.6lbs). When you sit on it for the first time it feels strange as the wheels are noticeably bigger than a standard mountain bike having 26" wheels, however after a few minutes this begins to feel normal and what then strikes you is how fast the bike feels!
I'm 5'10 tall and usually ride a 19" mountain bike frame, but with the 29ers I tried, including this one, the medium (18") was plenty big enough. The big wheels roll freely when riding on the road and the Maxxis Ikon tyres are great at absorbing the bumps of my local crumbling roads, so my 16 mile each way commute to and from work is reasonably fast (dependent on my energy levels) and good fun.
How Well Does It Perform?
The 3x9 Shimano gear setup feels solid but crisp and has a good range, so I'm equally happy going downhill in the top gear doing 40mph+ as powering grinding uphill in the lower gears! The only change I made from new was to have a new set of Shimano M540 SPD pedals fitted. I've ridden using them for 22 years on my previous bike, and couldn't go back to conventional pedals now. I love the confidence being clipped in gives me, with the reassurance I can unclip easily if I need to bail in an emergency!
Whilst it feels smooth and solid on my local roads, as you'd expect it really excels when you take it off-road! There are some good trails local to me, some are technical, others more recreational, and this 29ermountain bike just inspires confidence in all situations. The frame is really stiff but still feels lively, and the longer you ride the more you want to ride this bike! Through mud or skimming over loose chippings, the big wheels and the ruggedness of the bike as a whole helpyou stay on two wheels. The frame geometry makes you feel very much part of the bike, a good balanced riding position that is comfortable but still feels dynamic and lively.
The gear changes are crisp and accurate, my only niggle being that the distance to push the thumb lever of the Rapidfire gear shifters can feel a bit long and unnatural compared to my (very) old Deore LX equivalent of my old bike. I've already adjusted the position of the shifters a couple of times, and this has made a difference, but long-term I might swap the shifters for higher specification ones such as DEORE or above.
Would I Recommend the Whyte 529?
When I chose the Whyte 529 it was clear to me that the bigger wheels would be an advantage for my two riding environments; Good free rolling on-road for my work commute and the ability to smooth out the trail and give better traction whilst in play mode on the trails. I'm very happy with this bike on both those counts. It is a well built and nicely finished off bike, and the components give it an all-round quality feel, smooth and accurate gears, powerful and controllable hydraulic disc brakes, a frame that is comfortable, lively and stiff, and an agile suspension fork. It looks the business and handles very well.
If I was to change anything I think I would look at upgrading the gear shifters and adding some stubby bar ends to give an extra hand position. This is the same frame used on all the Whyte hardtail 29ers except the Carbon Fibre model, so over time as parts get upgraded you could get the weight down further; the Whyte 729 weighs in at only 11.52kg (25.4lbs)!
Am I happy with my choice? Yes I am! I think it is a good balance of value and specification, and has already given me hours of fun riding. Although the brand was new to me, I like it, the design and build quality are really good, and it looks more individual than the Trek or the Specialized. I'd rate it a 9 out of 10 for my needs and riding style; upgrade the shifters and I'd give it 10!
If you have a weight fetish and need the lightest bike, you could go for one of it's more expensive incarnations such as the Whyte 729. But unless you're a pro racer battling for a podium place - when you're covered in mud, hurtling down the trail, grinning like a loon, will you really be worried about a few extra grams?
Your comments about my Review of 2013 Whyte 529 Hardtail 29er Mountain Bike are welcome.
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