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.
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
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?
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.
Wheels and tyres
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.
About the tester
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