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Hardtail VS Full Suspension for £1500

10:25 18th December 2013 by Dave Jaquin
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Whyte 905 hardtail VS Boardman FS Pro

Choose your weapon, Steve Jones takes us through these two options.

BOARDMAN FS PRO 650B VS WHYTE 905

£1500 (OR THEREABOUTS)

Similar in weight, geometry and intended use, with solid and reliable
component packages the Boardman and Whyte hit the shops at around
about £1500 give or take a moment of banter. Which do you choose?
Out of the box both bikes require little alteration – the odd stem here and there
and a swap out for winter rubber, both bikes are designed around general duty
trail riding with angles that allow for a bit more rowdiness should the mood take.
Highlights? The Boardman comes shod with Mavic rims, Rockshox Revelation
fork and Monarch RT damper, Sram X9 and an Elixir 7 brakeset. The Whyte
meanwhile has the similarly faultless Revelation, Deore brakes, SLX gearing and
a Race Face crank. It’s a great 750mm bar and grip combo’ too.
So which way do you go? If its got wheels I’ll ride it but some first thoughts:-

WHYTE 905

FOR – In a time of king size talk on ‘evolved hardtail geometry’ welcome to the
future. Designed for the 130mm fork (no more or less) it matters less about the
wheels than the angles. You cannot fail to appreciate Whyte’s impressive take
on trail bike numbers in the 905, for it’s a measured contribution to modern
hardtails – the 905 offers excellent sizing and a ride characteristic that works its
magic off a low bottom bracket and sizeable wheelbase.

If you’re buying hardtail buy the right bike such as the 905 and avoid getting
wrapped up in the generalizations that ‘hardtails rule.’ In the right environment
the Whyte 905 will take on a full suspension bike – such places will be hard
packed berms linked by smooth singletrack. The Whyte’s long front end, lowish
standover and super low bottom bracket encourages charging, offers high-speed
stability and poise in lower speed tech sections. Because you’ll be standing up
more often a hardtail will also toughen you up too. As an evolution on hardtail
design it walks the walk and really is a benchmark. Therefore if you are less
concerned with the precious misinformation than performance then the Whyte
905 should be one of your first points of contact.

AGAINST – Its been a while since I got involved with hardtail bikes, I still fail to
understand the disconnect between front and rear and the contradiction that
such a bike works over your senses. They certainly need understanding with
regard riding technique. Don’t think you can load up a corner or pick up over
roots and rocks in the same way you can a full suspension bike. Your arms are
dealing with the grip being offered from the front end searching and probing into
the dirt whilst your legs are so busy absorbing and doing the job of a damper
that grip becomes secondary. You’re getting beaten to shit and all the skills you
have learned on a full suspension have to be re-calibrated. You hear some people
talking that hardtails are good for your skills. I think they are a totally different
skill set.

BOARDMAN

FOR – The Boardman came as a bit of a surprise. The package for a full
suspension bike is impressive at this price and certainly puts itself in the game
against direct sales bikes with similar components and taller prices. Like the 905
it too has a low bottom bracket (around 13”) which enables better cornering
poise, and the angles, although roughly about average for a bike of this travel
are weighted more towards aggro than sitting around pedalling. The simple four
bar design always offers an understandable ride characteristic and unlike the
hardtail you can load up corners, pick and place a full suspension bike avoiding
obstacles on the trail that would otherwise slow you up. It also offers more
grip than a hardtail which is especially important from October until April. The
Revelation is real performer and the shock tune seems correct. It’s a good bike
for certain.

AGAINST – Its still only 130mm travel and for not a hell of a lot more money
you can upgrade to a 150mm direct sales bike at around about £2000. But then
like the hardtail that’s another story. The 700mm bar and 70mm stem had to go
and also add price to a bike that’s a shade more money than the 905 should your
salesman prove tricky. The tyres are also pretty skinny for hitting rock at speed.
In terms of sizing the Whyte is much more in tune and is far better suited to a
rider around the 6’ mark. The Whyte is also available in and XL – the Boardman
does not.

VERDICT

We’ll be taking these bikes out over the holidays on a variety of terrain to
evaluate the performance and reliability. In the meantime we’re interested
to hear your thoughts!

Photos: Ben Winder

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