The Whyte Wessex SE is a lighter, stiffer version of the standard Wessex, which is a disc brake equipped road bike, intended for all round use, throughout the year
Whyte is a UK brand, and the Whyte Wessex is designed and intended to be the consummate all round riding solution to the all to often less than optimal British roads and climate.
With a name taken from the historical county and home of Alfred the Great, the Whyte Wessex may sound old fashioned, however it is anything but. The frame takes a fresh approach to performance road bike design, with provision and clearance for mudguards. Loads of tyre clearance too, with our test bike fitted with 30mm Schwalbe S-One tyres.
Another great design feature is the FSA EVO threaded bottom bracket. As anyone who has experienced the creak of a bb will attest, Press fit bottom brackets and wet, salty British roads don’t really mix, so the inclusion of a threaded bb with external cups is much more practical. Despite the provision for guards and big tyres, the Wessex is not a sit up and beg gravel bike, it features aero tube shapes and geometry similar to many sportive frames with regard to stack and reach.
The Whyte Wessex you see here though is different from the standard version you can currently buy, indicated by the ‘SE’ designation. The SE features a higher spec carbon layup, resulting in a lighter stiffer bike.
Our test bike is fitted with 28mm Schwalbe One tubeless tyres, which when fitted to the wide Zipp rims came out as over 30mm wide. Impressively, because the Zipp 303 DB wheels are 21mm wide internally the wheel tyre integration works well, with no mushrooming of the tyre over the rim, even on wide tyres like these. This is really important, as when the tyre mushrooms, it ruins the aerodynamics of deep rim.
The wheels are Zipp’s new disc brake specific, tubeless, Firecrest 303. Finishing kit is also provided by Zipp. The SRAM Red eTap HRD is a superb groupset that combines cutting edge wireless shifting and superb disc brakes, without a significant weight penalty.
The thin seat stays and girthy tyres result in a comfy ride that is far more enjoyable to ride along imperfect road surfaces than many narrower tyre racing machine. While I was testing the Wessex I found myself smiling lots and this is was also noticed by my regular ride mates. I do a lot of riding in the Chilterns and instead of descending narrow, steep, pot hole and gravel scattered lanes with apprehension, I was revelling and looking forward to these sections of road.
Not just in the wet, but also in the dry, SRAM’s discs give phenomenal control. They also offer great levels of adjustment, allowing you to easily tune the biting point and lever feel, with an simple allen key socket on the top of the hood. The braking power on offer is massive, which means the lever touch only has to be light, something which helps stop your arms get tired.
Despite the wide tyres, the Wessex feels surprisingly quick, with Zipps new wheels being a great match. The geometry results in great handling, however some roadies will want a lower front end.
The robust nature of the design, does mean that this is not a bike for weight weenies though. It may only weigh a mere 7.65kg, but a Cannondale SuperSix with a comparative build would be half a kilo less. Given the choice between a threaded BB and a press fit, I would take the reliability of threaded every time.
I did have an issue with the seat post slipping a couple of times. I suspect that could be resolved once in full production though. The geometry results in great handling, however some roadies will want a lower front end.
Normally we discuss the value of bikes, but at this stage this isn’t possible, as the Whyte Wessex SE is not available yet and doesn’t have an rrp. However, the version you can buy, the Whyte Wessex offers brilliant value.
Although it features a slightly heavier, lower spec frame, it costs £2250 with an Ultegra level spec. SRAM Red eTap HRD has an rrp £2609, while the new Zipp 303 db retail for £1920 a pair. Considering this, you can expect the Whyte Wessex to have a superbike price tag in a build like this.
If you are looking for an all rounder, the Whyte Wessex is a great option. This is a bike you can ride and enjoy all year round. Its been designed to stand up to salt and grime of winter riding with provision for wide tyres, mud guards and a threaded bottom braket. Fancy taking it down some towpaths, fit some wider tyres and you are away. While with the aid of aero tube profiles it doesn’t feel sluggish once you open the taps in summer.