When you typically test twenty or more cyclocross bikes annually over the years, you hopefully can be forgiven for thinking that cyclocross bikes have started to converge around a common theme: A carbon frame, disc brakes, thru axles, and a similar geometry, typically dressed with a SRAM single chainring drivetrain. That’s not a bad thing, as bikes, geometry and components have all improved over the years, and there’s a good reason many companies have embraced these common race-proven traits.
A quick look at Whyte Bikes’ Saxon Cross bike might make you think this bike falls into this same category. But beyond its SRAM single chainring crankset, the Saxon Cross breaks the mold. It strays far from today’s norm of cyclocross bikes with a unique geometry and choice of componentry that mixes cyclocross and mountain geometries, and SRAM and Shimano components.
Today we take an in-depth look at our latest test bike from the British Whyte Bikes brand, which is now setting up shop here in the States.
Who is Whyte Bikes?
Whyte Bikes has been a UK brand specializing in mountain bikes for the past 20 years. Whyte also was the UK distributor for Marin Bikes, located in California. So when the opportunity presented itself, former Marin Vice President Jason Faircloth became the distributor for Whyte Bikes in the U.S. with his new company Whyte USA, using a consumer-direct sales model. Only selected models of the mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes will be imported initially, but luckily for our readers, two cyclocross models in the form of the Saxon Cross and Saxon Cross Team, have made the cut. The brand was launched officially at Interbike in Las Vegas in September and we were one of the first in the U.S. to get a Saxon Cross bike to ride and review.
The Saxon Cross is TIG welded of 6061 hydroformed custom butted aluminum alloy. The fork is carbon with a tapered alloy steerer tube.
That the design of the Saxon ‘cross bike is inspired by mountain bikes is quite obvious when one examines the frame specs. First, let’s review the geometry: A 59cm effective top tube with a 9cm stem. That’s a long top tube with a relatively short stem for our 56cm review sample. The tall 175mm headtube that puts the bars up higher without the need for a stack of spacers and the resultant unsupported steerer. Tire clearance with the short 41.5cm chainstays are afforded by a bent seat tube that sets the seatpost at a 73 degree angle. A slack 70 degree headtube angle yielding a long 650mm front center and a long 105.5cm wheelbase. Bottom bracket drop is a medium 6.7cm BB drop.
Another unique feature of the Saxon Cross is the seals on the frame openings. It has a rubber seal around the seatpost, which is held in place by a wedge style clamp instead of a typical clamp. All cable and brake line ports have rubber grommets. Also there are covered ports for e-shifters and even for an internally routed dropper post. The bike appears to be designed to withstand cyclocross elements.
Aside from the double bottle mounts, two screws are found on underside of the down tube for a accessory fender that is not yet available here in the U.S.. Regular fender eyelets are on the rear dropouts and front fork ends.
We’ve seen some interesting Marin cyclocross bikes, equipped with SRAM clutch-based mountain bike derailleurs, and it’s no surprise that with its close relationship to Marin, the Whyte Saxon follows Marin’s lead in mixing road and mountain components.
The Saxon features SRAM Rival 1 Hydro-equipped with wheels built around Whyte branded IS disc hubs using WTB i19 rims and CrossBoss tires already set up tubeless. The drivetrain is mostly SRAM Rival 1 with a 38t SRAM 1 wide/narrow ring on a Rival OCT crank with long 175mm arms. It is paired with the 11-42 Shimano 8000 Deore XT cassette, and shifts a Shimano chain. The cranks use a standard threaded SRAM GXP bottom bracket.
Stopping is accomplished well by the SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic system with 160mm SRAM Centerline rotors both on the front and rear.
The handlebars are FSA Omega compact, but the stem, seatpost and saddle are Whyte branded alloy components. This all lines up to a bike that is 22.5 pounds as equipped, 15.5 without the included wheels. That indicates the wheelset is light, the frame and components are not, but durability and cost were the key for the Saxon Cross base model.
The gearing looks ready for some serious adventure, and the bike appears built to withstand the most extreme adventures, given is burly weight. It’s not light at 22.5 pounds for the full bike, and a whopping 15.5 pounds without the wheels—which is close to a record if you’ve followed our detailed print magazine reviews. But if you’re attracted to this type of bike, with versatile components and a value-oriented spec, you’re most likely not going to be an aspiring weight weenie king.
For $500 more, you can get the Team model, with a slew of upgrades. The model swaps SRAM Rival for Force, and gives you a higher gear via SRAM's 10 tooth cog on its XD-driver based 10-42 cassette. You also get Easton's ARC 24 wheelset, dressed with Maxxis Mud Wrestler 33c tubeless tires. We'd prefer the higher volume and tighter bead of the 35c WTB Cross Boss tires found on the lower model, but tire choice is personal, and you'll wear them out eventually.
Stay tuned as we'll bring you the full review of the Whyte Bikes Saxon cyclocross bike after we cover it in mud and hoist it over barriers. Full photo gallery below the bike specs.
Whyte Bikes USA Saxon Cross Specs:
MSRP: $1599 USD
Frame: TIG welded 6061 Aluminum hydroformed custom butted
Fork: Carbon, Tapered alloy steerer
Shifters: SRAM Rival 1 HydroR
Crankset: SRAM Rival OCT, GXP BB
Derailleurs: SRAM Rival 1 rear long cage
Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 11-42 11-speed
Cockpit: FSA Omega compact bar, Whyte alloy stem 9cm
Seatpost: Whyte alloy 2-bolt
Wheels: WTB i19, 32 spokes X3, Whyte IS disc hubs
Tires: WTB CrossBoss TCS
Brakes: SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic
Weight: 22.5 pounds complete, 15.5 pounds w/o wheels
Warranty: Frame four years if registered
Country of Origin: Taiwan
More info: whyteusa.com