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Whyte are new to the urban bikes game so you might expect them to be doing a bit of learning in the first model year of their C7 (multi terrain) and R7 (road) ranges. There's no feeling that the £1,099 Coniston is half cooked though, it's a versatile all-rounder that's fun to ride and up for the dirt as much as the tarmac. The price might put some people off – specifically the hordes of bike-to-work buyers – and it has to be said that for the kind of riding that you'll be doing on a bike like this, the cheaper Caledonian makes more sense in many ways.
Look at the Coniston from the side and imagine in your mind's eye some chunkier tyres, and it'll look a lot like a 29er, because that's more or less what it is, albeit a slimmed down one. The geometry is certainly MTB inspired rather than road-derived, and as with all the C7 bikes you get a suspension fork up front, in this case a 60mm RST Vogue Pro Air unit. The first one had an air leak but Whyte quickly supplied a replacement.
I am not usually a fan of suspension forks on road bikes, but the RST unit is actually pretty good. For a start, you can lock it out when you don't need it, and it hasn't bumped the overall weight of the bike (11.5kg / 25.4lb) up too much. Unlock it and it tracks pretty well and gives useful cushioning on unsurfaced tracks, though you'll find its limits pretty quickly if you try anything too technical. Coupled with the stiff frame and fairly plump WTB All terrain tyres it gives a lively ride when you're on the beaten track.
Get back on the road and lock the fork down and the Coniston is a well behaved hybrid. The position isn't too sporty and the MTB drivetrain (a Deore/SLX/XT mix with a 48/36/26 chainset) gives a wide enough range of gears for anything you might encounter. There's rack and mudguard eyelets if you want to utility up and plenty of scope to change the big 35mm tyres for something a bit more sporty if you're predominantly going to stay on the blacktop.
Assuming you're not packing so much gear that you need low-riders, it would make a very sensible touring platform. Certainly when I loaded it up with a child and seat, the fairly relaxed steering and long wheelbase made for ideal carrying conditions. The flip side of this is that it's not the most inspiring ride on the road; the Coniston is happy to roll along but doesn't jump forward when you add some effort and is not the fastest to turn, although lighter tyres would certainly make a difference.
Given that it's designed to be able to handle on- and off-road duties there's always going to be a trade-off. On balance the Coniston is better on the paths than the highways and for that reason I'd only consider it if you genuinely do want a bike that's capable of doing both. If you're just going to ride on the road then the fork is unnecessary and the position more upright than you need; you should be looking at Whyte's C7 bikes or another road-specific hybrid.
Transmission duties from the Shimano running gear were performed faultlessly throughout the test. Stopping wasn't quite as good: though the Elixir 3 brakes have plenty of bite they start to fade under prolonged heavy use. My favourite test is a 250m, 25% drop into the town centre and it needed both brakes and a fair old heave on the anchors to keep the speed down. I wasn't ever in any danger of not stopping though.
Okay, so to the money. £1,099 is an odd price for a bike like this, nudging as it does over the magical £1k cycle-to-work limit. That's a shame because it's exactly the sort of beast you might want to get for the commute and various other duties. I'm guessing that those dreaded fluctuations in the currency markets have made it necessary, but it probably means that folks looking for a bike-to-work machine from Whyte will look at the £849 Caledonian or £999 Stirling instead. I'm not saying it's poor value at £1,099 because it isn't, it's about on the money. It's just a missed opportunity, and I suspect that while these new bikes from Whyte will be generally well received – I've enjoyed riding this one – the cheaper Caledonian will outsell the Coniston.
Good quality genuine all-rounder that's easy to ride, pity it's not £100 cheaper...
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Make and model: Whyte Coniston
Size tested: M
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 Custom Whyte Dropouts
Fork RST Vogue Pro Air, 60mm Travel, Hydro Lockout, Rebound Control and Alloy Steerer
Rear Shock N/A
Headset FSA Semi Integrated, 1 1/8" Sealed Cartridge Bearings
Rear Hub SRAM 506 Alloy, Double Sealed Bearing Hub, 32 Hole
Front Hub SRAM 506 Alloy, Double Sealed Bearing Hub, 32 Hole
Spokes DT competition 1.8/1.6/1.8mm, Black Stainless with Brass Nipples
Rims Alex EN-24 700c, 32 Hole with Eyelets
Tyres WTB All Terrain Comp 700 x 35c, Folding with Reflective Sidewall and Puncture Belt
Shift Levers Shimano Deore, 9 Speed
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore, 9 Speed
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT Shadow, 9 Speed
Cassette SRAM PG-950, 11-32, 9 Speed
Chain Shimano HG-53
Crankset Shimano M660 SLX, Hollow Tech II, 48-36-26, 9 Speed
Bottom Bracket Hollow Tech II
Seatpost Whyte 20mm Offset, 30.9mm x 400mm, 2014 Alloy
Saddle Whyte Custom
Bar Whyte High Rise 30mm, 31.8mm, 620mm Wide
Stem Whyte Custom, 70mm S, 80mm M, 90mm L
Grips Whyte Custom Comfort Lock-on
Brakes Front Avid Elixir 3, 160mm Rotor
Brakes Rear Avid Elixir 3, 160mm Rotor
Brake Levers Avid Elixir 3
Pedals VP Full Alloy with 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?
Road meets Trail - our new All Terrain Series is designed to perform faultlessly whether you choose to take the highway or the scenic route through the woods. It's all about choice.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nicely made and finished. Original fork lost air but that's just a manufacturing defect
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 Hydro Formed T6 Aluminium, multi butted frame
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
69° head angle
73.5° seat angle
617mm effective top tube
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fine, though the M is quite a big bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, stable and relaxed
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Generally fine, a bit of flex in the fork
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Nice stiff frame, good power transfer
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not a problem
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Fairly slow
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike is good in a straight line and stable under load and off road. It's not the most agile though
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Big tyres and fork make it a very comfy ride
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Big tyres drag on the tarmac
Wheel/tyre combo is heavy
Not really a design concern
Can't be faulted
Long wheelbase and shallow head tube angle help
Fine but not the most agile
Plenty of gears, just sit back and spin
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
48/36/26 drivetrain is a great compromise for on/off road
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Not bad but it's a fairly heavy setup
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Nice wide bars and controls that come easily to hand
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? I'd probably go for the Caledonian if i wanted an all-purpose bike
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? As above
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Better off road than on, one to consider if you want a genuine all-rounder
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 96kg
I usually ride: whatever I\\\'m testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with Ultegra 6700
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
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.