Long Term Review: Saying Goodbye To The Whyte Gisburn
Released a little over a year ago now, the Gisburn entered the 2017 Whyte range as a fresh, vibrant take on the traditional cyclocross bike. Sitting in Whyte’s GX Series, the Gisburn and its cheaper sibling the Friston are built as capable drop-bar bikes designed to handle “on-road, off-road or both in the same ride”. Depending on where you are in the world, you might label these sorts of bikes as ‘All-Road’, ‘Adventure’ or perhaps even ‘Gravel’.
Personally, I like to think of the Gisburn as a cyclocross bike on steroids.
Where We Left Off
Earlier this year, you may recall that I published a mid-term review from my experience of the Whyte Gisburn after a bit over six months. That review would be a good place to start if you want to know more about the various features found on the lime green machine, its unique geometry, and how I got along with the stock setup.
For the most part, I really dug the Gisburn’s stable geometry and confidence-inspiring handling. And being a mountain biker at heart, I particularly gelled with the 48cm wide handlebars and the crotch-grab dropper post. Along with the excellent SRAM Force hydraulic disc brakes and supple 37c WTB Riddler tyres, the Gisburn has helped make the unfamiliar world of drop-bars feel a whole lot more familiar.
Six months later, and I still stand by all of those comments. The Gisburn has been raced in the Yorkshire Cyclocross Series, it’s towed me to and from the office each day on the daily grind, and more recently, it’s been taking me on longer road rides up, over and through the valleys that surround our locale.
For off-road use, the Gisburn pretty much kills any other ‘cross or gravel bike I’ve ridden. It’s an absolute beast on the singletrack, with a level of poise and control that surprises (in a good way) as you’re picking your way down slippery, rutted-out switchbacks and roll-ins. Thanks to the long front centre and slack 70° head angle, it’s got a very sure-footed feel, and with the saddle dropped out of the way, you can really jockey the bike around to let it slip and slide where it needs to go once the tyres have broken traction. It’s the sort of bike that’ll egg you on to try trickier and more ambitious lines – the ones where you’ll get to the bottom, stop, look back up what you’ve just ridden, and shout out “Hell yeah! How the heck did I do that?”.
You might remember that I did have an issue with the stock 100mm travel dropper post. The problem for me was the effective saddle height, which was still too high even with the upper collar on the seatpost slammed down into the frame as far as it would go. To remedy this, Whyte arranged for a shorter 65mm travel post to be sent out. 65mm isn’t a whole lot of drop (I’m running 150mm drop on my current mountain bike), but it still helps to neutralise the riding position so you’re not jacked up over the bars so much on the descents. And what a difference it makes! Be it a long curvaceous road descent, or a steep line in the woods that you’re trying to dial in, having the saddle down out of the way made it feel like I was cheating. I’m seriously looking forward to a time in the future when road bikes start coming with dropper posts as standard.
That said, I found the action of the Speed Up post left a lot to be desired. It does the job, but it isn’t particularly smooth, and it requires a hefty yank to lift it back up after it’s been compressed. Part of this comes down to the internal seatpost wedge system for the Gisburn frame, which requires a decent amount of torque to prevent the seatpost from twisting of slipping. And the more torque being placed on the outer tube of the dropper post, the more constricted the internals are, and the rougher the action.
I commented about the awkwardness of the crotch-grab lever in my original review, and it certainly hasn’t got any easier with time. The stretched out position of the Gisburn means your hand has a long way to travel to get to the lever, so I’d only activate the post once or twice on a ride when I really needed it, and knew I wouldn’t have to adjust it for a while after. It’s definitely more handy than using a quick release collar on the frame, but I can only imagine how many times more effective a lever-activated dropper would be on this bike.
Due to the accrual of more road miles throughout summer, I also went in search of some lighter rolling stock and more bitumen-appropriate tyres for the Gisburn. Those ended up being the Hunt 4Season Gravel Disc wheels, and a pair of WTB Exposure 34c tyres. Set up tubeless at around 40-45psi, the Exposure tyres have been an excellent choice for tackling the hacked-up bitumen that makes up the road network around our home in Calder Valley. They’ve got enough zip for keeping the speedo ticking over on mile-munching missions, with sufficient comfort and traction for smoothing out rougher road surfaces and numbing the impact of surprise potholes.
As for the wheels, they helped to drop a significant amount of weight from the stock WTB Asym i23 setup, and the difference in ride feel was immediately noticeable. Wheels are almost always the best place to upgrade any bike, and in the case of the Hunt 4Season Gravel Disc wheels, they helped inject some extra liveliness and acceleration into the Gisburn. For a full rundown on our experiences with those wheels, check out the full review here.
While I appreciated the wide bars on singletrack, the broader stance on the front can get tiresome on longer road rides, especially because the Gisburn already has a stretched-out riding position due to its long top tube (56cm long on the 52cm frame size tested). This is worth noting if you’re looking for a bike to do lots of long and steady road rides on, but then you’re likely better off looking at Whyte’s Wessex disc brake endurance road bikes, or even the new Glencoe road plus bike.
Speaking of road plus, the Gisburn will take ’em. I didn’t get a chance to try it out with a 650B+ wheelset, but apparently you can get up to a 2.0in wide tyre in there without fuss. Clearance for 700c tyres is 40c, and thanks to the shapely bridge-less stays, there’s room for the mud too.
On the note of tyres; the bike I’ve been riding is the 2017 model, which has been tweaked ever so slightly for the 2018 model that you’ll see on the Whyte website. That includes a move up to slightly wider 40c Maxxis Rambler tyres (compared to the 37c WTB Riddlers on our test bike), as well as an increase in bar width to 50cm (up from 48cm). Also new is the addition of a smaller 50cm frame size option.
You may notice in our photos that our test bike is lacking bottle cage bosses on the downtube. That’s because it was a pre-production model that didn’t have them tapped, though it also has the bosses on the seat tube in the wrong position too, with the bottle cage sitting to low. This isn’t a problem on production Gisburn and Friston frames, which have the two bottle cage mounts in the correct location, but it’s worth pointing out just to lay any concerns to rest for the more eagle-eyed readers out there.
Aside from that, the rest of the build kit has been top-notch on the Gisburn. Despite grinding through some pretty awful conditions through winter, the rotors and pads are still in reasonable condition, and I’ve only had to replace the gear cable once after the original gunked up from being put away wet too many times post-racing. The internal routing isn’t too big of a deal, but the rubber grommets do require patience to squeeze in and out of each port as you’re threading new cable outer through. After the same muddy rides, I was experiencing some hefty drag from the drivetrain, which appeared to be a sluggish freehub mechanism. Turned out it was a seized jockey wheel that was causing the drama, and a clean out and rebuild of the cartridge bearing had it spinning again.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- The dropper post feels like cheating on the descents, but the action is cheap and rough
- The seatclamp wedge is a clean design, though it requires a high torque to stop the seatpost slipping, which contributes to the rough action on the dropper post
- WTB Asym i23 rims are a pain in the bum to seat tubeless
Three Things We Loved
- Stable, sure-footed ride quality delivers masses of confidence at all speeds
- The shapely stays offer comfort with gobs of mud clearance
- On-point spec ticks all of the mod-con boxes for the rider who wants versatility
I’ve become quite partial to the versatility and dependability of the Gisburn’s performance – both on the road and off it. As a ‘cross bike, it’s a quick, fun and technically capable machine with loads of mud clearance. As a commuter it’s comfortable, tough and is ready for a pannier rack and a Crud Catcher for the downtube. And as a road bike, it’s got excellent road manners and reliable braking for taking on backcountry roads and unsealed tracks.
The package that Whyte has put together with the Gisburn’s 1x specific alloy frame, carbon fork, thru-axle wheelset and SRAM Force CX1 groupset is a winner. That said, if you’re not so bothered by the dropper post and you can do without some carbon fibre, the Friston will save you £400 and shares the same frame and fork as the Gisburn, albeit with a SRAM Apex 1 groupset and alloy cranks.
For those after a specific tool for doing a specific job, this ain’t the bike for you. But if doing all of it whenever you like sounds more appealing, then it doesn’t get much more fun than doing it on the Whyte Gisburn.
Whyte Gisburn Specifications
- Frame // 6061 T6 Hydro Formed & Multi-Butted Alloy
- Fork // Straight Bladed Carbon, Tapered Alloy Steerer, 15mm Thru-Axle
- Hubs // Alloy Double Sealed Cartridge Bearing, 100x15mm Front & 142x12mm Rear
- Rims // WTB Asym i23, TCS
- Tyres // WTB Riddler 700x37c, DNA Compound, TCS
- Chainset // SRAM Force 1, 38t X-Sync Chainring, 175mm Length
- Rear Mech // SRAM Force 1, 11-Speed
- Front Mech // N/A
- Shifters // SRAM Force 1, 1×11
- Cassette // SRAM PG-1175, 10-42t, 11-Speed
- Brakes // SRAM Force 1 Hydraulic Disc, 160mm Rotors
- Stem // Whyte Custom, 70mm Length
- Bars // Whyte Gravel, 480mm Wide
- Bar Tape // Whyte Anti-Slip
- Seatpost // KS Speed Up Dropper Post, 100mm Travel, 30.9mm Diameter
- Saddle // Whyte Custom
- Size Tested // 52cm
- Sizes available // 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm
- Weight // 21.56lb (9.8kg)
- Price // £1999