Whyte Wessex road bike

Think you've seen the ideal all-round road bike? Not until now, you haven't...

Put simply, the Whyte Wessex is a bike that’s had us redefining our own conceptions of an ‘all-rounder’.

Sure, we’ve seen bikes that match an endurance geometry with racy responsiveness and no short amount of prodigious speed, or race-ready bikes fitted with the latest and greatest ride-softening innovations, but the Whyte Wessex is quite possibly the king of them all, with no stone left unturned in its goal for the perfect ‘four season’ bike.

Let’s start with Whyte’s own marketing spiel, where they claim the Wessex is “conceived to be the perfect 21st Century British road bike and designed from the outset to excel in all conditions, [proving] once and for all that you no longer have to sacrifice speed and award-winning performance for everyday reliability.” That’s quite a claim, so where’s the evidence?

The frame, which has been specifically designed to mirror a full-bore road bike in terms of shape and geometry, has been constructed with a serious amount of thought towards the British winter rider. This means you’ll spot acres of clearance – enough for 30c tyres, plus space for Whyte’s own mudguard system – or 33c rubber if mudguards just aren’t your thing.

The mudguard system is integrated too with dedicated eyelets installed in the frame, with Whyte’s own proprietary system taking a lot of the finger-pinching fuss out of installation. It’s not like they’re an eyesore, either – they’re concealed underneath small rubber seals when not in use, and are completely in-keeping with the svelte looks that naturally come from the internal cable routing.

That, plus a uni-directional carbon layup, results in a frame that looks and responds with the vigour and verve of a more stripped-down road bike stallion, yet has the creature comforts of, well, a cyclo-cross or adventure bike.

It even appears eminently purposeful in a road-race sort of way, managing to retain a comparatively short headtube length thanks to clever integration between the fork crown, downtube and headtube, yet all the while can roll on tyres at home in the 40-50psi range. The result? A quick and sharp ride, that simply glides over rutted terrain. Whether you’re heading for the hills or searching out gravel roads, the Wessex is at home.

RCUK100 - Whyte Wessex road bike

The reality is the enormous tyre clearance wouldn’t be realistic without the use of disc brakes, which naturally free up space for the 30-33c tyres. With a Shimano BR-805 hydraulic setup with 160mm rotors installed to suit the slightly bulkier (and real-world) rider, stopping power and modulation in all conditions is assured, while the ability to ride up inclines that take your fancy on a bike tipping the scales at 8.8kg is simple enough with an 11-32 cassette matched to a compact chainset.

The parts that complete the drivetrain fluctuate, but none are sub-standard. The Wessex features a mix of Shimano Ultegra and 105 components, and matches this to an FSA Gossamer Pro chainset. Knowing as we do that Ultegra and 105 are closely matched in terms of outright shifting performance (the rear derailleur is Ultegra, while the front is 105 spec), you’ll never look down and think you’re missing out, while the FSA chainset fitted to the FSA EVO-8681 bottom bracket is much the same story versus a 105 equivalent: stiff and efficient.

Comfort is boosted by a 27.2mm seatpost of Whyte’s own design fastened by a tidy integrated clamp, while the compact handlebar is easy to grip under Whyte’s own anti-slip bar tape – it’s plusher and, importantly, tackier than most yet doesn’t manage to rub your skin away even under the repeated onslaught of potholes and – dare we say it – cobbles. The saddle is also Whyte’s own design, custom made for the wide-ranging demands of the Wessex rider.

RCUK100 - Whyte Wessex road bike
RCUK100 - Whyte Wessex road bike

Whyte Wessex

Interestingly though, it’s the wheelset that confounds the most. Here we have a road bike that isn’t particularly light overall at 8.8kg (before you’ve added any common paraphernalia) yet responds like one that could be significantly lighter. And it’s at the doorstep of excellent Easton AR-21 hoops that this ability must be laid.

Given no need for a brake track, their shallow rim depth, quality alloy double-sealed cartridge bearing hubs and the native ability to run tubeless, the rotational weight is kept low enough that even the relatively vast volume of 30c tyres can’t drag it down. Those tyres are Schwalbe’s excellent, gravel-ready S-One rubber, which roll among the smoothest on the market even with their grip-enhancing nibbed tread pattern. Acceleration is excellent while you still get a tyre capable of mixing it off-road.

Which is just as well, because we’ve got some seriously epic riding to do.



Selected for The RCUK 100 2017

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