Whyte World

MBR TEST ULTIMATE TRAIL BIKES – Whyte E5 XT

by on Jun.14, 2007, under Whyte Reviews

The E5 is very much a bike of two halves. Up front it uses an M6 Magnesium-enriched 6000 series alloy where the top and down tubes are hydroformed and the swingarm cradle is a welded alloy monocoque.

 

On the rear, Whyte uses carbon – fibre to construct a monocoque swingarm where the alloy dropouts and pivot housings are bonded in. All in, the swingarm weighs 620g and while this keeps the overall weight of the bike down, it also reduces unsprung mass, making the suspension more effective. 

But is it strong enough? Well, while Whyte had some early teething problems they seem to have been ironed out as we’ve tried breaking the swingarm – both on and off the bike – with plenty of sideways landings and by actually standing on it – all to no avail! 

To further reduce weight the four bolts in the links that connect the swingarm to the frame are titanium, as are the studs in the Big Gripper rear drop outs. 

With the ultra-stiff carbon swingarm you have to ask if the Big Gripper dropouts actually serve any purpose other than making it harder to get the rear wheel out – especially when we had one of them undo accidentally while passing the bike through a stile at Afan. 

It there was one thing that Jon Whyte obsessed over it was weatherproofing and all pivot bearings were very well sealed and come with a lifetime guarantee, which also covers the modified shock bushing. 

Suspension 

The E5 was the first bike from the Whyte/Marin stable to sport the Quad 11 suspension design. It’s a four-bar design where only four bolts hold the one-piece carbon swingarm to the front triangle. These four bolts also secure the shock and this neat bit of patent-protected packaging reduces component parts, weight and things that can go wrong. One disadvantage of this approach is the shock is very tucked away and it’s quite hard to reach the dials on the Fox RP3 shock. The flipside is that the shock is very well protected from debris. 

Components 

We’re big fans of

Easton components and it’s great to see top end kit on production bikes but we have some issues with those chosen for the E5. 

Firstly the oversized Monkey Lite XC handlebar has way too much upsweep and we had to roll it back too far to get a sensible position. We’d have much preferred an

Easton bar with the classic 8 degree backsweep and 4 degree upsweep.
 

Additionally, the EC70 seatpost has too much layback for the relatively slack 70 degree seat angle on the E5 so we had to run the Fizik Nisene saddle pushed fully forward to achieve a comfortable pedalling position. 

Whyte always make an effort to spec British components and the E5 sports hubs and brakes from Hope. 

Performance 

The Rockshox Revelation fork on the E5 XT improved damping performance and steering precision no end over the SC32 Maverick units but the stiffer fork also highlights that the aluminium front end is not as stiff as the carbon rear. 

Climbing traction is excellent on the E5 but it has a slight tendency to wallow in its travel. Compressions that the Stumpjumper doesn’t give a second thought about send the suspension on the E5 deep into its travel, slowing the bike in the process. 

So while the linear nature of the suspension gives the E5 the illusion of long travel, we’re convinced the bike would be even faster with a more progressive suspension set-up. This would also make it easier to pump the bike through sections where pedal clearance is limited, as the downward force of your legs wouldn’t be sapped by the supple suspension. 

Geometry-wise the E5 shares the shortest wheelbase with the Iron Horse so it feels nimble on tighter trails. But it also sports a slacker head angle than the MKIII so it is noticeably more confident with gravity working in your favour. 

Verdict 

There is no doubt that the Whyte E5 XT is a very good bike. It’s stiff, responsive and a lot of fun to ride – but for the E5 to be a great bike, or even the ultimate trail bike, Whyte need to adjust the compression ratio so the suspension is more progressive in mid stroke. Yes, we are being ultra critical but – at this level – it’s what makes the difference between a 9 and a 10 rating.

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