Whyte Bikes is a new brand in the U.S. with a consumer direct model.

Whyte Bikes is a new brand in the U.S. with a consumer direct model (click to enlarge).​

Lowdown: Whyte Saxon Cross Team

Thanks to the advent of disc brakes and tubeless tires, cyclocross bikes are now more capable and comfortable than ever before. This added capability and comfort has also given rise to a new genre of cycling - gravel grinding. While a gravel-specific bike shares almost the same geometry as an "American-style" cyclocross race bike - lower bottom bracket and a slightly slacker head tube angle - gravel bikes differ in that they offer more clearance for tires as wide as 40mm.

But U.K.-based Whyte Bikes has a different idea of what an ideal cyclocross/gravel grinder bike should be, as demonstrated by the Saxon Cross Team. Although Whyte is a household name across the pond, they've been a virtual unknown in the U.S. until last fall when they officially launched their consumer-direct sales model. Featuring a slack 70-degree head tube angle, longer top tube, low bottom bracket height and super short chainstays, the Saxon Cross Team shares more geometry measurements in common with a hardtail mountain bike than a cyclocross bike. Although the numbers look appealing for trail duty, let's see if the numbers actually translate on the trail.

Frame: 6061 Triple Butted AluminumBars: 440mm FSA Gossamer compact
Fork: Straight blade carbon, 100x15mm thru-axleStem/Seatpost: Whyte 90mm alloy / 30.9mm alloy
Sizes: 52, 54, 56, 58cmWheels: Easton ARC 24mm UST, Whyte alloy hubs
Headtube angle: 70 degreesTires: Maxis Mud Wrestler 33mm
Wheelbase: 1055mm (56cm)Axle spacing: 100x15mm front/135mm QR rear
Chainstay length: 415mmWeight: 19 pounds
Drivetrain: SRAM Force 1x (38t/10-42)Price: $2099 (now on sale for $1,679)
Cranks: SRAM Force carbonRating:
4 Stars
4 out of 5 stars
Brakes: SRAM Force hydraulic, rotors 160mm f/r
Stat Box



Pluses



Minuses


  • Stability at speed

  • Thru-axle removable sleeve can be lost

  • Capable descender

  • Heavy

  • Ample tire clearance

  • No rear thru-axle

  • Dropper post compatible, internal cable routing

  • SRAM Double Tap not ideal for trail duty

  • 24mm rims enhance traction and durability

  • Rounded top tube not ideal for shouldering

  • Good parts spec for price

  • Narrow tires

  • Clever top tube-integrated seatpost clamp

  • Seatpost angle adjustment not intuitive

  • Drop bars provide ideal body position for trail riding

  • 1x drivetrain gear range narrow

  • Rack mounts

  • Great value

  • Cyclocross looks with mountain bike capability

Review: Whyte Saxon Cross Team

There is one thing you can definitively say about the 6061 Hydroformed T6 Aluminum Whyte Saxon Cross Team: It's different from any other cyclocross bike I've ridden. But unlike the Whyte PRST-1 mountain bike of 15 years ago that looked completely wrong, the Saxon Cross Team looks completely right. Slack head tube, long top tube, low bottom bracket, short stem, shallow drops, routing for a dropper post, huge tire clearance; the Saxon Cross Team is a cyclocross bike on steroids. Forget gravel grinding, the Saxon Cross Team is made for yet an even newer drop-bar phenomenon called Grinduro; where gravel grinding meets enduro.

Slack head tube, shallow drops, short chainstays, dropper post routing and low bottom bracket make the Saxon Cross Team a trail slayer.

Slack head tube, shallow drops, short chainstays, dropper post routing and low bottom bracket make the Saxon Cross Team a trail slayer (click to enlarge).​

One of the most attractive aspects of Whyte is their increasingly popular consumer-direct sales model, providing buyers with a solid value. The Saxon Cross Team retails for $2,099, but at the time of publishing, the bike was on sale for $1,679. It's an especially good deal when you consider the bike comes with full SRAM Force 1x11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, including carbon fiber cranks and levers.

The Saxon Cross Team weighs in at 19 lbs without pedals.

The Saxon Cross Team weighs a somewhat portly 19 pounds without pedals (click to enlarge).​

Whyte is able to pull off such a great value thanks to combining its consumer-direct model with house brand components including saddle, seatpost, stem and hubs. But what really helps the Saxon Cross Team shine are the 44cm FSA Gossamer shallow drop bars for a nice, semi-upright body position when in the drops, and the 24mm internal width Easton ARC rims that are actually marketed as 29er mountain bike rims. The Easton ARC hoops provide a wider tire profile for better traction and lower tire pressure without rolling the bead under heavy cornering.

Shallow FSA Gossamer drop bars provide a semi-upright position good for trail riding.

Shallow FSA Gossamer drop bars provide a semi-upright position good for trail riding (click to enlarge).​

Ride Impressions

As soon as I swung a leg over the Saxon Cross Team, the slack head tube, long top tube and short stem immediately made this bike feel unlike any other cyclocross bike I have ridden. Make no mistake; this is not the bike you buy if you're looking for a light and quick scalpel for traditional cyclocross racing. The slack front end of the Saxon Cross Team is better suited for aggressive trail riding and long days in the saddle on dirt. But just because it has a slack front end, don't assume this bike is a slow turner; it most definitely can snap around a turn thanks to short 415mm chainstays.

The author riding Clear Creek Trail near Carson City, NV. Photo by Rick Gunn -  soulcycler.com

The author riding Clear Creek Trail near Carson City, NV (click to enlarge). Photo by Rick Gunn -
soulcycler.com

I took the Saxon Cross Team on a number of trail rides, including a ride up Peavine Mountain near Reno that is generally too rocky and loose for most cyclocross bikes. On steep uphill sections, the slack front end definitely required a little more weight shift to keep the front wheel from coming off the ground, but once pointed downhill, the bike was entirely comfortable carving singletrack normally reserved for mountain bikes.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Saxon Cross Team review »



Slack head tube angle prevents any sort of annoying toe overlap.

Slack head tube angle prevents toe overlap (click to enlarge).​

The slack head tube also revealed another advantage over traditional cyclocross bikes - no toe overlap with the front wheel. I have gunboats for feet and like to run my cleats mid-foot, but still never came close to overlapping my toe with the front wheel. Another advantage to a 70-degree head tube angle is that the Saxon Cross Team is extremely stable at high speed and would make a terrific touring bike over rough terrain, especially with its low bottom bracket height. The frame is equipped with eyelets for front and rear racks, two downtube mounts for a front fender. And even with a full load, the Saxon Cross Team would be much more stable at speed than a traditional cyclocross bike.

Removable thru axle nut is easy to lose, would be better if it was bonded into the fork.

The removable thru-axle nut is easy to lose. We'd prefer it to be bonded into the fork (click to enlarge).​

I was a little concerned that the Saxon Cross Team's aluminum frame was going to rattle the molars out of my skull on the rocky Peavine downhill, but I was pleasantly surprised. The wide, tubeless-ready Easton hoops allowed me to run less than 50 psi in the tires, drastically improving ride quality.

Saddle angle adjustment cam is a PITA.

The saddle angle adjustment cam is a pain in the butt (click to enlarge).​

Niggles with the Saxon Cross Team include the threaded side of the thru axle fork that's actually a removable sleeve instead of being bonded in - an essential piece that can be easily lost in transit. Also, the house-brand seatpost has a funky turn-dial cam that makes adjusting the saddle angle more of a pain than it should be. The flat top tube with curved bottom side seems counterintuitive for shouldering, but really, this bike isn't made for shouldering, especially considering it weighs in at a somewhat hefty 19 pounds without pedals.

Although it performs well, 1x systems don't provide enough gear range for on and off-road duty.

Although it performs well, we don't feel that 1x systems don't provide enough gear range for on and off-road duty (click to enlarge).​

As far as the SRAM drivetrain goes, I've got a few issues. Firstly, for trail duty, I don't like the Double Tap shifting system. On the road, you've got a lot more time to think about shifts, so the deliberate extra swing of the shift lever to downshift is no big deal. But when you're on the trail, hurried shifts are far more frequent, which results in more missed shifts because of the Double Tap design. It's especially annoying when you're grunting uphill, reach for an extra downshift, hit a bump, and accidentally upshift. With Shimano's STI two-lever design, that never happens.

Secondly, a bike like the Saxon Cross Team has such a wide range of usability from trail bike to touring bike, and for this range of use, I found the 1x11 drivetrain with 38t chainring and 10-42 cassette to be limited. 1x11 makes perfect sense for cyclocross racing on a closed course. But when you need a bike that can climb steep pitches off-road and hammer at 35+ mph downhill on road, the adequate range of gears simply wasn't there for me. Having to swap front chainrings all the time depending on where you'll be riding is a hassle. If I were buying this bike, I'd prefer a Shimano 2x system. On the other hand, I really like the SRAM hydro disc brakes, which worked incredibly well.

Tons of tire and mud clearance (left). Full speed ahead (right) on Clear Creek Trail. Photo by Rick Gunn -  soulcycler.com

Tons of tire and mud clearance for going full throttle on the Clear Creek Trail (click to enlarge). Photo by Rick Gunn - soulcycler.com

Also, for a bike with such massive amounts of tire clearance and Easton hoops that are 24mm wide, I'm confused as to why Whyte spec'd this bike with 33mm Maxxis Mud Wrestler tires. This bike has internal cable routing for a dropper post, so why skimp on tire girth? It would be like buying a 140mm trail bike with pinner 2.0" tires. Slap some 40mm bad boys on there and fully embrace this bike's trail capability.

Bottom Line

The Saxon Cross Team is a blast to ride. After having participated in the inaugural Grinduro last fall, I have a pretty good idea of what the ideal Grinduro bike is, and the Saxon Cross Team fits perfectly. Although it's a little on the heavy side, the Saxon Cross Team is an extremely trail-eager cyclocross bike. Although it can easily be raced, this isn't the ideal bike for the hard-charging cyclocross racer. The Saxon Cross team is made for those seeking a killer deal on a capable, durable, do-it-all drop bar adventure bike.

For more information visit www.whyteusa.bike