So why are you reading this review? You’re either bored, or you are actually thinking, “is this bike for me?” If you’re of the latter then that’s always a tough question to answer. Whether a bike is for you is determined by many factors including riding style, riding preferences, and the terrain in which you will most commonly ride. If you are more playful, like aggressive angles, and ride a more mixed trail type then the Whyte T129 S may be for you.
As a snapshot we think the Whyte T129 S is a silent achiever that really makes a bold statement in 29er design. It’s not beating its marketing chest to yell that fact at you, but after a month or riding this rig we’ve found it to be one of the most playful and fun trail bikes we’ve ridden. It’s not a XC racing machine, and it can’t take the huge hits, but if you like to ride somewhere in the middle of those extremes then this bike is a winner.
The T129 S is a recent move into the 29er market for Whyte and as a company with a history of some very aggressive and worthy 26” bikes the move to big wheels called for some wholesale changes. In order for Whyte to produce a 29” bike with their trademark aggressive style a new suspension platform was needed. Enter the Quad 4; similar to the 4 Bar Specialized FSR design, Whyte have produced a package that meets their design specifications of being compact, stiff and weather proof (something of a trademark feature for Whyte).
The entire frame is made from 6061 T6 aluminium with a tapered head tube and 142mm dropouts. The top tube looks a little thinner than most big-tubed modern bikes but the big welds and solid feel of the frame certainty discounted any concern about frame strength we had. If anything, the frame may be a little over engineered but gram counting wasn’t a goal of the T129 S.
The whole bike weighs 13.4 kg (sans pedals) and whilst that’s not a featherweight, for a 120mm bike it’s still very respectable. As always you have to consider price and purpose when thinking of the grams and the T129 S satisfies the balance of those two elements well.
The geometry is a real showpiece of the bike. At only 120mm of travel you would think it’s more designed for and XC/Endurance type rider but with a slack head angle (68 degrees), short chainstays and mid range bottom bracket height (343mm) it’s more suited as a more aggressive trail riding machine. The only angle on the spec sheet that was against this is the seat tube, which at 73 degress pitches you more forward for increased pedalling efficiency so you don’t feel like you’re ploughing a field when riding.
We recall fondly how the interwebs went crazy when the Specialized Enduro 29er hit the market, with class changing geometry and a chest beating chainstay length of 430mm. The T129 S too should be shouting loud and hard as it comes in just 1mm longer at 431mm. This short chainstay was immediately noticeable as manualing and tight cornering were very much not 29er-like. The downside to a short chainstay can be less stability at high speeds and matched with the slightly floppy wheels we did notice a little of this.
Overall the frame build and design is top quality and much thought has been placed into making the bike durable. The colours on also stood out from the crowd and the turquoise splashes are a nice touch to give it that bling look.
Choosing spec on a bike has to be one of the harder jobs in the cycling industry. Not only do you have to think about form and function but you also have to think about price point. No bike in this price range is going to be perfect, and nor should it, and the Whyte team has done a pretty good job on spec to meet their design brief.
The T129 S is mid-level in the range and the spec highlighted the design intentions of the bike. Wide bars, dropper post, clutch deraillier, all matched with the geo that shouts “trail”. For the price we think the Whyte is a good purchase. Standard is a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper, X9 clutch derailleur, 120mm RockShox Reba fork (with 15mm axle), 750mm wide bars, and a great mix of strong parts.
The wheels were probably the only let down exhibiting too much flex. The axle and hubs were nice and big, and well matched with the WTB rims and double-butted spokes, so we expected them to be a little better. It’s not that they aren’t a decent set of hoops, but when considering the type of aggressive riding the bike is designed for, they didn’t match the strength and abilities of the rest of the bike. That being said, they’d probably last a good year of flogging and then you will have saved enough for a wheel upgrade.
The tyres were also not that well matched to the bike. At 2.2″ (front and rear) we thought they were a little too narrow. We swapped the front for something a little wider and also converted to the rims to tubeless. The WTB Nano 2.2 that we left on the rear held up well despite out reservations. Still, maybe a 2.3″ would be a little better.
To use one word – great. As expected the bike was playful and easy as (cold pork) pie to manual and pump through the terrain. It climbed well, but on the steepest of steeps it was a little hard to keep the front end down and some extreme body language was needed. That’s common trait of a 29er but the shorter chainstays does add to it.
It did take a little while to get the suspension right and we ended up running a little less pressure than normal. The forks were initially a little firm but did soften up after a while and quite possibly a quick disassemble and lube would have made them more buttery. The rear end took us by surprise and we ended up running about 35% sag to get better small bump compliance. Initially we thought that would be too soft and make the bike bobble and bottom out but none of that was noticeable.
The downhill and jumping performance was excellent, when the super short chainstays and slack head angle come into play. On the rhythm sections and berms of Stromlo Forest Park the bike was quick to respond to body language changes and the dropper post added to the ability to keep low on the frame.
The only real let down was the wheels (yes, we know we have mentioned it before). The frame and pivots are all super stiff and feel strong, however that strength then exaggerated the lack of stiffness in the wheel set. When we pushed it hard through a corner or picked a rough line through a rock garden we did notice some wobble in the wheels.
Overall this bike was great to ride, strong, and of course, funful.
What makes it better than others or makes it the bike for you? (That’s probably the question that got you all the way to the bottom of the page.) It has to be the geometry. The Whyte delivers the confidence of a longer travel bike with the agility of a 120mm frame; it’s the kind of bike that backs up the notion that good angles are better than longer travel. If you’re a rider who likes to jump around a little, corner hard and be more playful then this bike is for you.
Also, if you’re still on the fence as a 26″ rider this is probably one of the better bikes to make the leap over to the dark side.
Rider Weight: 72 Kgs
Proving Grounds: Stromlo Forest Park, Bruce Ridge
Adjustments: Tubeless, new front tyre, stem flipped.