Whyte Kings Cross  £799.00

6/10

Not a bad cyclo-cross-cum-commuter bike but let down by languid handling and underwhelming spec

Weight 10800g   Contact  www.whytebikes.com

by Dave Atkinson   June 25, 2012  

Whyte have been pushing their relaxed geometry across their whole range of bikes for a while now; it works well on trail bikes and it works on their flat bar urban bikes such as the Montpellier too. However, I'm not so sure about the crossers. The slightly languid handling is exacerbated here in the Whyte Kings Cross by the equipment choices, making the whole package feel a bit ordinary. For this kind of money, there are better bikes out there.

The frame and fork are nicely built and finished; it's a 6061 custom drawn Aluminium frame mated with an alloy straight blade fork. The transmission is Sora nine speed gear with an FSA Vero 54/30 compact chainset, and the brakes are Tektro's Lyra mechanical units. Wheel-wise you get Whyte-branded hubs laced to Alex deep scetion rims, and Maxxis Detonator tyres are your contact point with the road or trail. Whyte's own alloy finishing kit makes up most of the rest of the build; it's all pretty dependable stuff. The whole bike weighs in at a repsectable 10.8kg in the 59cm size that we were riding.

Step aboard the Kings Cross and pedal off, and the first thing you'll notice is that slack geometry. It makes the bike quite long (the wheelbase is 1126mm) and it's very relaxed, even compared to the not-exactly-aggressive Specialized Tricross that I swapped for the commute. That handling takes some getting used to, especially on drops; I'm not sure if it's because I expect a flat bar bike to handle a bit like a mountain bike, but it took me a lot longer to get used to the Whyte geometry in this guise. In fact it's even more relaxed than the Montpellier, with a head angle of just 69.3 degrees, almost 3 degrees slacker than the more-usual-for-a-crosser 72.

Even when I was used to it, I'm not convinced it's better than the standard angles for a bike like this. At £799 the Kings Cross is firmly aimed at the leisure and cycle to work market, and people who buy it will no doubt spend some time on trails and paths but in all likelihood they'll spend most of their time on tarmac. The Kings Cross is actually quite an adept off-roader; I took it down some technical trails on its standard road tyres back when it was dry, and had no issues with the handling. Stick it on the road though and it doesn't feel particularly sprightly; it has more of the feel of a tourer than a quick commuter. Changes of direction are a bit sluggish and the bike shares the Montpellier's trait of being rather vague at speed. It's fine on towpaths and fire roads but the geometry doesn't feel better than a standard crosser, just different.

The bike isn't helped by its component choices. Sora shifters are what you get at this kind of price, so it's not as though the Kings Cross is underspecced in the transmission department, but it's always a bit underwhelming. Being a biological freak with huge hands I'm one of the few people that can actually change Sora gears from the drops, but even for me it's a stretch and the huge throw of the lever means you inadvertantly apply the brake when shifting more often than on the more refined groupsets. Functionally it hasn't given me any grief though.

The Tektro Lyra brakes are underwhelming too. I was pretty happy with them when I was testing them on the Carrera Gryphon but that's a bike that costs less than half what you'll pay for the Kings Cross. They're fiddly to set up and you need to squeeze them hard to stop quickly. It's a shame the budget didn't stretch to Avid's BB5s which are much, much better.

All in all, I think the negatives of the geometry and componentry outweigh the positives in this particular bike. That's not to say it's a bad bike: it isn't. You can happily munch miles on it and it's responsive enough to cope with most types of terrain, so if you're looking for an all rounder for a bit of everything the Kings Cross can certainly handle that. However, it's not your only option in the sub-£1000 commuter-cross market, and I don't think that the sub-70-degree frame shape is best suited to this type of machine; it works better with flat bars.

The Kings Cross is competing against bikes such as the Genesis CdF, Boardman CX Team and Specialized Tricross Sport Disc. All three of those are £100 more expensive, but all pack BB5 discs and slightly improved transmission spec. In the case of the Boardman you get SRAM Apex and a carbon fork, which makes the bike look significantly better value although we haven't slung a leg over it. We're currently testing the CdF, so look out for the review of that one. If you want BB5s and a better transmission on the Whyte frame then the Saxon Cross, the next bike up, has Tiagra 10-speed running gear and a Carbon for £999. Certainly, whether it was my money or I was buying on the cycle to work scheme, those component upgrades would more than justify the extra spend.

Verdict

Not a bad cyclo-cross-cum-commuter bike but let down by languid handling and underwhelming spec

road.cc test report

Make and model: Whyte Kings Cross

Size tested: XL

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame 6061 Hydro Formed T6 Aluminium, Custom Drawn, Multi Butted with Post Mount Disk mount

Fork Straight Bladed Alloy Front Fork, with Eyelets, Post Mount disk mount, Tapered Steerer

Rear Shock N/A

Headset FSA Integrated Road, 1 1/2" lower and 1 1/8" upper Sealed Cartridge Bearings

Rear Hub Whyte Alloy, 32 Hole

Front Hub Whyte Alloy, 28 Hole

Spokes WTB PG 15g, Black Stainless with Brass Nipples

Rims Alex Black Dragon 24, Deep Section, Disk Specific Road, 32 Hole Rear and 28 Front

Tyres Maxxis Detonator, 700 x 28c, Grey, with Puncture Protection

Shift Levers Shimano ST-3400 SORA, 9 Speed

Front Derailleur Shimano FD-3400 SORA, 9 Speed

Rear Derailleur Shimano RD-3400 SORA, 9 Speed

Cassette SRAM PG-950, 11-28, 9 Speed

Chain Shimano HG53, 9 Speed

Crankset FSA Vero Cross, 34-50, 9 Speed, Compact Double

Bottom Bracket FSA Square Taper

Seatpost Whyte 20mm Offset, 27.2mm x 350mm, 2014 Alloy, 2 Bolt Clamp

Saddle Whyte Custom, Triple Panel Design

Bar Whyte Cross, 31.8mm, Compact Style Drop Bar, 440mm Wide

Stem Whyte 6 Deg, 70mm 51, 80mm 53, 90mm 55 & 57

Grips Whyte Anti Slip, Cross Bar Tapes

Brakes Front Tektro Lyra Mech, 160mm Rotor

Brakes Rear Tektro Lyra Mech, 160mm Rotor

Brake Levers Shimano ST-3400 SORA

Pedals Composite with Alloy Cage and Toe Clip

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

"New for 2012 Whyte have applied the Whyte Frame Geometry to the all purpose CX category, designed for commuting longer distances, through your favourite park or down the local Sustrans path, this versatile bike will soak up whatever you throw at it."

Best off road, this one, but realistically most folks will spend most of their time on tarmac.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
7/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Build quality is fine, the frame and fork are made to a high standard.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Fitted me very well.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Not super plush but comfy enough.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

The bike felt plenty stiff enough for the job.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Power transfer is pretty good although the heavy wheels aren't the most responsive.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? A bit sluggish.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

It didn't handle badly but it felt a bit languid, more so than the flat bar Whytes with the same geometry.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
4/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
5/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
6/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
5/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
7/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
6/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? I could have enjoyed it more.

Would you consider buying the bike? Not for me.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? I think I'd probably go for something with BB5s and a more standard geometry.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
6/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 190cm  Weight: 98kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"even compared to the not-exactly-aggressive Specialized Tricross that I swapped for the commute"

That's a very relaxed Cyclocross bike! I've ridden both a Focus Mares cross bike and the Tricross, and the difference in handling is huge. That's not to say one is bad, they are just very, very different. I have to say I can't imagine someone would want a Cyclocross style bike that is even more relaxed than a Tricross.

As a note on value, my Mares was £850 two years ago and came with mostly 105 (except cranks) group.

posted by jackh [105 posts]
25th June 2012 - 9:14

8 Likes

Tried one of these when they visited On Your Bike and found the steering so slow and unresponsive. When I gave my feedback, they said that's what the user would want!

posted by nod [61 posts]
25th June 2012 - 10:32

5 Likes

I've got Lyras brakes and a Sora GS on my Cotic X (another utility crosser Road CC seemed to dislike)and they seem to be extremely competent in doing the two things they have to do - changing gear and stopping me! I had the Lyras recommended to me as they are lighter than BB5s, work better and have a prettier disc rotor!

OK I've never ridden or even seen this bike, so I can't really judge on the rest of the review but I can virtually guarantee that any review of a bike on Road CC with Sora kit will be a bad one. Whilst the changes are sometimes pretty clunky it does what it should do and doesn't F*ck up unlike some of the more expensive and "reliable" GS further up the food chain. I've never got my head round the hatred off the thumb changers and the "difficulty of changing from the drops" - no one seems to find this an issue with Campag!

For the record I love my Cotic, reminds me of when I first started mountain biking with a steel rock hopper with stiff forks. Whilst I guess some new crossers may stink as there's now a lot of them about, there seems to be a bit of a general backlash in the press against utility cross bikes at the moment, especially those from smaller producers - Very glad I wasn't put off by the Road CC review. I do really like Road CC but I’ve been a bit disappointed that some of the more recent reviews as they are starting to drift towards bike snobbery. My impression was not helped when I met a reviewer who thought Mavic Ksyriums were "pretty agricultural" when the most expensive wheels I've ever owned were Aksiums.

That’s said Dave A’s review of the Jamis Quest was pretty accurate (bnt I’ve got one of them too and he liked it!).

posted by daveherb13 [41 posts]
25th June 2012 - 12:37

7 Likes

may i respond?

Quote:
I had the Lyras recommended to me as they are lighter than BB5s, work better and have a prettier disc rotor

the lyras are not, in my experience, better than BB5s. I've used at least three bikes running either system, and i'd go for the BB5s every time: better overall power and modulation, easier to set up and stay set up for longer. your mileage may vary, as they say. but i like to think i've ridden enough of them to make an informed choice.

Quote:
I can virtually guarantee that any review of a bike on Road CC with Sora kit will be a bad one

Sora's not really the issue here. It's what you get on most bikes at this price point, and functionally it's fine. The thumb release is smaller, and in a different position to, the Campag one which is more easily accessible from the drops, although it's still not perfect. Your experience may be that it's hardier than more expensive groupsets but it's not mine, I've had shifters from pretty much every groupset go south on me and sora is no exception

My main issue with the Whyte is that the geometry of the frame doesn't marry well to the intended use of the bike. Rob's recent review of the Raleigh Sojourn was also a mediocre review of a Sora bike, that was more down to the overall weight and the fact that Sora wasn't particularly good spec on a £1,200 bike.

Quote:
I do really like Road CC but I’ve been a bit disappointed that some of the more recent reviews as they are starting to drift towards bike snobbery

The Carrera Gryphon (linked in the review above) got an 8/10 score; that's for a £369 hybrid bike from Halfords. One of our bikes of the year last year was the £259 Vitus Vee-1. It's not about snobbery for us. We call 'em like we see 'em.

Quote:
there seems to be a bit of a general backlash in the press against utility cross bikes at the moment, especially those from smaller producers

i wouldn't say that. the cotic x didn't do that well because it didn't live up to cotic's claim that you could commute *and* race on it; jo's a racer and it just didn't stack up as a race bike. whyte don't market the king's cross as a cyclocross race bike but ironically i found the geometry betted suited to the trails (although i doubt it'd be ideal for a tight cx circuit; i didn't race it) even though a bike at this price is going to spend nearly all of its time on tarmac, a fact that whyte acknowledge with the spec package. it's not an orchestrated backlash; at least not from us. It's two reviews of cx 'inspired' bikes. Others, including the Trek Portland and the Giant TCX2, have fared better.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7472 posts]
25th June 2012 - 13:34

5 Likes

Sorry that my comments seem to have caused offense but it was based on my experiance and perception. I haven't seen all reviews on the website but the ones I've read recently were what I based my opinion on. Maybe I'm just an idiot that knows nothing, as I'm not a professional cyclist or jounalist but I think I know what I like and what worked for me. I am dyslexic so maybe my english was just clumsy.

I thought I'd try to share my view as thats what I thought the idea of Road CC was. If that's offended anyone I'm sorry and won't bother posting again. (I did like your Jamis review by the way)

posted by daveherb13 [41 posts]
25th June 2012 - 15:53

5 Likes

please don't think I'm offended or i'm being defensive, because i'm not on either count. i'm just responding is all. you're welcome to share your view and we'd always encourage that. what i've written above is *my* view. i'm entitled to that too, right? Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7472 posts]
25th June 2012 - 16:15

7 Likes

Of course you are, its just that I wasn't really expecting the hair dryer treatment on my comments and felt a bit bruised - maybe I'm being over sensitive but I've been reading Road CC for a few years now and I haven't really seen a response like this from you. Maybe that's just my perception as I can't say I've read everyone of your posts.

If you'd have asked why I thought what I did then that may have helped.

posted by daveherb13 [41 posts]
26th June 2012 - 10:59

6 Likes

Honestly Dave, Dave wasn't giving you the hairdryer treatment, we do often respond to commments in reviews - the comment section is there for everyone to comment, even us. And we do take on board what people say. On bike snobbery, not just us, but I'd say the majority of bike journalists are brand neutral - as to what we test, well that partly comes down to what people will give us, as for what we say - well some top end bikes really are good value when you consider the work that goes in to them, while some lower end bikes aren't… and of course vice versa.

Just to add my two penn'orth on the brake question - I bought some Tektro Lyras for my Roadrat and found them a real fiddle to set up and to keep properly adjusted - the pads wore really fast too. Final straw came when I was going coming in to a corner off a descent on a wet commute in to work and I suddenly realised that a few months in they were probably worse than the V-brakes that I'd decided to replace in exactly the same spot on a rainy day a few months before. So I bought a set of Avid BB7s, transformed the braking performance superb brakes for a commuter bike.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4154 posts]
26th June 2012 - 13:45

5 Likes

Thanks - I guess I wasn't focused enough in my criticism so it came over as unreasonable. My underlying issue really was with the review of the Cotic X, which despite what Dave said about the reviewer and Cotic's blurb, didn't reflect on a what I find to be a pretty good bike. Others do too (See Cyclist no1 review). Ok it probably wouldn't be the choice for a very serious cross racer but as a "sporty" utility bike it seems to do pretty well. I would race it if I didn't find everything to do with road bike racing in the South West utterly impenetrable and terrifying. Would be good for the HONC?

Well so far so good with my Tektro's - BB7s clearly are a better brake than either and maybe I should have stumped up an extra £40, but given what I've seen on websites, and what the guys at the LBS said there's not much between Lyra's and BB5's - they seem to suffer from different faults but both have weaknesses.

posted by daveherb13 [41 posts]
26th June 2012 - 14:57

10 Likes

The main points of this review (geometry and value) are incorrect. The geometry is perfect for weaving in and out of traffic, and the cross brakes with double leavers help further - they've saved me more than once! Also, there's no bike at the same price point offering significantly better speck.

However... its certainly not perfect.
Tyres - they puncture frequently. To the extent that i've now spent £44 replacing them. Why on earth were such thin and flimsy tyres equiped on a high mileage fast commuter?
Brakes - as stated in the review, they're really not up to much. My single speed fitted with value rim breaks is better...

Otherwise its excellent, i use it for commuting and as a winter trainer and its taken me well over 2k miles in the last 9 months with no issues (other than mentioned above). However, in retrospect i wish i'd bought its more expensive sister bike the Charring Cross which comes with better brakes and a more comfortable carbon fork.

Simon

posted by surfingsimon [3 posts]
14th April 2013 - 20:00

5 Likes

Update to the above:
Thought I'd come back as this is the top google hit for the bike, have owned it for 18months or so now.
I've just spent £30 replacing the chain and rear dérailleur after the rear mech hanger snapped for no apparent reason.
It (again) bent the rear wheel which I've now trued countless times, and I weigh only 66kg - that just shouldn't happen!
And finally, as part of the repair process, I took the saddle off and somehow managed to sheer the seat-post clamp bolt thread! WTF!?
Overall, my comments above stand, I actually quite like this bike. But if you're a high mileage user, and particularly if its a winter training bike, then look elsewhere: the fundamentals are strong but Whyte cut too many corners on part quality, it adds up to a frustrating long-term ownership experience.

posted by surfingsimon [3 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 23:26

2 Likes

road.cc reviews

Latest reviews

4/10
£75.99
November 26, 2014
9/10
£7999.00
November 26, 2014
7/10
£59.99
November 25, 2014
9/10
£39.99
November 25, 2014
8/10
£34.99
November 24, 2014
9/10
£5800.00
November 23, 2014
7/10
£30.00
November 23, 2014
5/10
£120.00
November 22, 2014
7/10
£37.99
November 22, 2014
5/10
£25.00
November 20, 2014
9/10
£40.00
November 20, 2014
9/10
£130.00
November 19, 2014
7/10
£3999.99
November 19, 2014
7/10
£119.95
November 18, 2014
8/10
£5.99
November 18, 2014
8/10
£23.00
November 17, 2014
7/10
£22.99
November 17, 2014
7/10
£2999.96
November 16, 2014
8/10
£21.99
November 16, 2014
7/10
£51.99
November 15, 2014
7/10
£5.99
November 15, 2014
8/10
£29.99
November 14, 2014
7/10
£19.99
November 14, 2014
9/10
£14.99
November 13, 2014
8/10
£180.00
November 13, 2014
5/10
£99.99
November 12, 2014
7/10
£599.99
November 12, 2014
8/10
£29.99
November 11, 2014
9/10
£70.00
November 11, 2014
7/10
£149.99
November 10, 2014
8/10
£45.00
November 10, 2014
9/10
£1124.99
November 9, 2014
8/10
£28.00
November 9, 2014
 
1