Whyte’s entry level 429 Tail Hardtail is one of the best budget mountain bikes you can buy, especially if easy speed and smooth flow is what you’re after. There’s some decent componentry on it for the money too – particularly when you consider it comes from proper shops not an online store. There are some obvious upgrades to make though and sizing options and tire space are potential limitations.
Design and geometry
To keep the complete bike price under £1000 Whyte use an older frame for the 429 than the 529 and 629 bikes. The main structural difference are the open dropouts for the rear wheel rather than a 12mm bolt through axle. Something we’d have been shocked about at this price a couple of years ago, but is now a default downgrade.
Even though the curved and swerved, and rear chain stays don’t have a cross brace, tire space is limited, so you’ll be doing well to squeeze 2.4in rubber in. Because it comes with a rigid post, that you might want to lower regularly for saddle clearance rather than a remote controlled dropper seatpost, you get a conventional quick-release seat collar rather than the rubber sealed setup of the Whyte 529 and 629.
You still get twin bolts for a ‘Crud Catcher’ spray guard under the downtube, even though I don’t think I’ve seen one being used this century. Crucially you do get a tapered head tube though, making the frame ideal for fork upgrades – which definitely isn’t guaranteed at this price. Gear cable/rear brake house routing runs inside the down tube before popping out at the BBX bottom bracket to run externally under the chainstays. There’s routing for an internal dropper post cable/hose too. The chainstay also gets a slim rubber protector which protects paint and quietens chain slap, although I’d suggest you fit something fatter if you’re riding rough trails regularly.
The older 429 frame gets less aggressive geometry than the 529 and 629, but the 67-degree head angle actually suits the overall vibe of the bike. Reach is reasonable at 463mm (size large), but the kinked seat tube is a little slack by the latest standards at 74 degrees effective. The seat tube is long at 495mm, which limits the scope for fitting a longer stroke dropper seat post or upsizing to the next frame up if you want more stretch. The 429 only comes in medium, large and extra large sizes too, although you can get a small frame size in the 27.5in wheeled and £49.99 cheaper, but otherwise identical 605 Trail.
Components and build
Whyte can always be relied upon to deliver a really clever mix of kit informed by proper ride testing, not just picking on price. On the 429 that includes a Shimano Deore rear mech with an optional ‘clutch damper’ to reduce chain bounce. You also get a two-piece own brand chainset with external bearing bottom bracket – rather than the much heavier and flexier square taper cartridge bottom bracket and separate crank arms that bikes like the Kona Mahuna use at this price.
You even get Whyte’s own fat enduro grips for chubby hand comfort. That’s not really necessary though as the coil-spring in the RockShox Judy TK fork is very soft and plush. The Turn Key damper has a compression lever for climbs and a rebound control for return stroke control though. While the steel legs are skinny and you get an open QR wheel connection, the steerer tube is alloy and tapered to make the most of the frame. The Tektro brakes get a 180mm rotor to amp up their otherwise limited power. The fast rolling Maxxis ForeKaster front and barely there tread of the Reckon Race rear tire spec shows Whyte are prioritising easy speed and day to day efficiency over maximum grip and control. At 25mm, the internal rims are narrow compared to most modern trail wheels too.
Ride, handling and performance
As is often the case the tires dominate initial impressions of the 429. Compared to the Vitus Sentier with its chunky soft compound front tire, the Whyte is at least a gear – if not two – faster. That’s most obvious on road or smoother tracks, but even on the trail your effort is getting you further and accelerating you more quickly. That’s despite the Whyte actually weighing around 600g more than the Vitus. The Forekaster front tyre still grips reasonably well too, especially in wetter or loamy conditions. The almost slick Rekon Race rear definitely needs braking and power application care in wetter/looser situations though, especially as the Tektro brakes are numb and low on modulation and power. You can expect it to slide out a lot sooner than the rear in corners. Obviously you can swap tires to something grippier if you don’t like the sound of that, but I actually found the fitted set suited the overall vibe of the bike really well.
That’s primarily because the front fork with it’s soft coil-spring (rather than a more expensive and pressure adjustable air-spring), skinny legs and QR spindle wheel attachment is actually flexy enough to feel vague on the road. Once you start diving into tight turns and/or braking hard down slopes, it gets nervous even before the intermediate front tire does making upgrading to grippier rubber likely to be overkill. That makes the fork an obvious candidate for upgrading as soon as possible, just don’t forget that (being QR rather and through-axle) you’ll need a new front wheel to go with it. While we’re talking upgrades, while the current seatpost slides easily and smoothly thanks to the frame quality, a dropper post should definitely be on the list for more dynamic riding. So if there’s any way you can stretch your budget towards the Whyte 529 at £1699, I definitely would.
I don’t want to get on a downer about the 429 though as it’s still a really fun, fast and enjoyable bike to ride. The short stem works really well with the short offset fork geometry and the 760mm bars feel secure without being so wide they’re a menace in tight trees or traffic. That means you can really get your groove on through the singletrack or use the easy speed, climbing and acceleration to have a proper blast keeping up with gravel bikes on a fast one, or staying fresh on a big hill epic.
Even with a small volume rear tire, the smoothness of the extensively shaped Whyte frame is really obvious in a properly floated ride. The fact the tires come tubeless as standard is a big plus in increasing the plush and survival chances on rough rocky sections. While it bottoms out easily if you slam it hard, the coil-sprung Judy fork is smoother than most air forks at this price and likely to stay that way for longer too. The quietness of having a clutch on the rear mech, chainstay protection and secured internal cable routing makes a big difference in the sense of smoothness and calm compared to a rattle can like Trek’s Roscoe too. Shimano drivetrain equipment is always a durability plus as well, even if the SunRace cassette isn’t the smoothest shift or widest set of ratios. The tires help a lot with not needing super low gears anyway. Old school cup and cone bearings in the wheels mean you can actually adjust them for wear or refresh the grease inside over time, but also means you do need to watch for the wobble start in the first place. The fact you’re getting it from a proper dealer not delivered from online means you’ll have someone to talk through setup, maintenance and servicing with though and is a significant part of the package value that’s easy to overlook when comparing online prices.
Whyte’s 429 doesn’t have the tire grip or fork confidence to go piling into every trail situation like a hooligan. There are tire room, QR wheel hub and upsizing/post clearance issues with the older frame too. But if you want a really smooth, inspiringly fast and efficient bike for more cross-country rather than enduro-style trail rides and the blue/red rather than black/rad end of the bike park spectrum, then it’s possibly one of the best all-round packages available from your local dealer rather than an online seller. There’s real durability strength in depth in the fork, gears and hubs too, so you can expect the excellent trail engagement and enjoyment that Whyte have a totally deserved reputation to last longer than most bikes at this price too.
Tech specs: Whyte 429 Trail Hardtail
- Discipline: XC/Trail
- Price: £999.99
- Head angle: 67 degrees
- Frame material: Hydroformed T6 heat treated 6061 alloy
- Fork: RockShox Judy Silver TK coil, 120mm travel, 42mm offset
- Size: M, L (tested), XL
- Weight: 14.15kg
- Wheel size: 29in
- Gears: Shimano Deore 5020 SGS 10-speed rear mech and Deore 4010 shifter
- Drivetrain: Whyte forged two-piece 32 tooth chainset with external bearing bottom bracket. SunRace CSMS2 11-46 tooth 10 speed cassette and SunRace chain
- Brakes: Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors
- Tires: Maxxis Forekaster 29 x 2.35in front and Rekon Race 29 x 2.25in
- Wheels: Whyte Trail 25 tubeless rims with plain gauge spokes and double sealed hubs
- Bar and stem: Whyte 760 x 31.8mm alloy riser bar and 45mm stem
- Seatpost: Whyte alloy 400 x 30.9mm
- Saddle: Whyte Custom saddle