Here’s a quick real-life review of the Whyte Suffolk, 2014 model, as owned by cycling friend Barry who has a naturally brisk pace. It is a decent, mid-priced bicycle that could be described as an all-rounder, a practical, sensible machine. It’s arguably a little more than that as it is aimed at the commuter who wants a brisk ride. “Brisk” is open to interpretation and the ability of the individual cyclist; you’ll need to read a little further to know what I’m referring to here!
The Whyte Suffolk itself
The Whyte Suffolk is very much a contemporary, modern bicycle in its appearance, design and price (RRP is £1199). As with all bicycles, the heart of it is the frame. The Suffolk has an aluminium alloy frame, helpfully with mudguard and rack fixing points. The forks are carbon and help with weight and ride quality. Seems a nice neatly made frame, as you would expect these days and for the price.
So far as components are concerned, these follow the current drift towards disc brakes appearing on road bikes. You could argue this is a mere trend, a whim, perhaps a gimmick or the next “must have” feature promoted by bike manufacturers to keep the market moving forward. This particular set up uses a conventional cable running from the lever, down to the disc calliper where the actuator is hydraulic. Nevertheless there are a number of advantages such as all-weather performance, less dependence on a perfectly true wheel rim and the actual braking performance. The wheels themselves are Whyte branded R-7 and finished in black.
The drive chain is a bit of a mixture with Shimano 105 shifters working with a 105 rear mech and a Tiagra front mech. The chain set is FSA. The cluster and chain is also Tiagra. The ratios are sensible with a rear 10 speed cluster of 11-30T and a 50-34T compact chainset gives a useful spread of gear ratios.
The ride the bicycle is used for
Barry and I both live in Dunstable and by coincidence we both work at different places in Stevenage, about 18-22 miles away. The hills are mostly undulating with no steep or long climbs on the mostly minor roads. Both of us cycle to Stevenage in our commute, probably Barry more than myself (often I need to turn up at meetings elsewhere looking and smelling fairly presentable). We are fortunate in having a number of different routes which are all viable; I always try to take a different route home. Barry has equipped his Suffolk with mudguards and a rear rack for carrying a pannier bag.
While I like to cycle on my own as a way of reflecting and de-stressing myself, I do like the occasional blast with Barry. I always feel as if I’ve had a good work-out when I’m trying to keep up with him – I think he enjoys this! I certainly get a good work-out as I huff and puff trying to keep up with him (not always so easy, I can tell you).
While we were cycling I remember remarking it was just as well I am not superstitious. “Why?” he asked.
I reminded Barry that “something” often seems to happen when we cycle together. Once I had two puncturers on one ride (he says it was something to do with my worn-out, paper-thin tyres!). And then there was that icey mishap on Christmas Day…. thankfully nothing happened on this ride, so we probably trust each other again now!
I had a go on Barry’s Suffolk, that meant Barry was on mine. This was not something he seemed to enjoy…. “the back-end is controlling the bike, Doug!” followed by “Ooooo it feels a bit weird but at least the saddle doesn’t squeak”. Talk about being generous! I could tell Barry was keen to swap back; and so we did. I said it was a case of what we get used to. Barry agreed (sort of) but still thought mine was a bit weird, which it might be but I still love it. He’s very at home on his Suffolk.
The real life bit
The quick ride on Barry’s Whyte Suffolk was quite impressive. A no-nonsense solid ride which seemed responsive in terms of translating effort into going forward and responsive also in terms of the steering and handling. Barry, needless-to-say, likes it and it’s clear it really suits him. This is in terms of fit and because it’s designed for the purpose he got it for.
The gears, as you’d expect, work in a silky way and the Shimano 105 shifters have the added advantage of a concealed cable run for both brakes and gears, keeping things neat. The saddle had an irritating squeak but seemed to be the right shape and design, though firmer than what I’m used to.
Barry reported a broken spoke when the bicycle was still fairly new. Probably no big deal unless it becomes a regular issue or with rims going out of true; the spokes at 15g are fairly light. The disc brakes are powerful as you’d expect but they need quite a lot of lever/cable travel before they bite. On one level this is a miss-match of brands and components in a developing disc brake market and yet it is straight forward getting used to it.
So it seems a reasonably fast bike, quite nimble and well liked by Barry; I do concede it is faster than my old-fashioned steel frame Thorn Audax. Barry is always faster than me and not just because of the bike he rides! Seriously though, it is an illustration of why choosing the right bicycle is important along side getting the fit right as he looked very comfortable on it. This will make all the difference in terms of comfort, efficiency and general enjoyment – and a strong argument for buying from a LBS which would take the time and trouble to get it set-up correctly and make any on-going adjustments. Some will swap saddles, handlebars, stems etc free-of-charge to get it right.
I asked Barry if there’s anything he’d change, anything that doesn’t work too well. The brakes seem the most obvious (but not to actually change them) in terms of getting the cable travel issue resolved and he likes the look of the forthcoming 2015 model with an 11 speed cluster. Otherwise it’s fine. Fine if you like a grey bike, with mostly black bits on: this is a contemporary look which includes a matt finish.
If you are a “Barry” type cyclist, does this help at all? You want a fast, practical, contemporary bike? Not bad at all.