Margot McGovern finds a commuter that strikes a perfect balance between practicality and style.
When it comes to women’s commuters, most bikes fall into one of two general categories: pretty, vintage-style steeds designed to take in the world at a leisurely pace, and utilitarian hybrids that may not look like much but will get you from A to B no matter what lies between. The vast middle ground between these two categories is ripe for innovation and UK brand Whyte have taken up the challenge.
The Strawberry Hill takes its name from Horace Walpole’s country estate, which inspired one of the first Gothic novels, The Castle of Otranto (1764). Like its namesake, the Strawberry Hill is elegant and stately at first glance, but filled with hidden power.
In the style of vintage-inspired bikes I so admire for their looks, the Strawberry Hill has minimal, tasteful branding and the charcoal palette that’s continued from the frame through the mudguards and chain guard is subtle and sleek. This sense of refinement is carried through the frame’s upright, step-through geometry and internal cable routing. The result is clean and elegant without being prissy or gaudy.
However, Whyte are best known for their mountain bikes, and they’ve bought some of that toughness and technicality to the Strawberry Hill. The fat, Maxxis Roamer 700 x 42c tyres with Kevlar puncture resistance steamroll over almost any terrain—from gravel paths to inner-city tram tracks. The Shimano Altus groupset offers a choice of 27 speeds to make light work of sizable hills and headwinds. This gives the Strawberry Hill great versatility; it’s equally ideal for a leisurely cruise to your local café as it is for exploring gravelled rail trails.
From the first pedal stroke, the Strawberry Hill offered a smooth and comfortable ride. The Shimano Altus shifters allowed for a seamless and simple transition between gears. The Tektro V brakes, which may logically be more at home on a mountain bike than a stylish commuter, had swift stopping power, while the frame’s upright geometry made for a comfortable riding position and maximised visibility. The wide, sweptback handlebars offered controlled and dependable steering, and added to the bike’s solid road presence.
However, the Strawberry Hill is no hulking beast. At 12.6kg, it’s relatively light, thanks largely to the aluminium frame and alloy fork.
However, it’s the added extras that really make the Strawberry Hill something special. With full chain and mudguards, it will keep your clothes clear of splatter, making an ideal winter commuter. The Selle Royal Milo Women’s Fit saddle is firm yet comfortable and particularly suited to longer recreational rides as it won’t give you numb-bum the way many cushy saddles will. The ergonomically shaped grips remain firmly in place and provide a broad, flat hand position. They’re complemented by extra grips on the Tektro brake levers that prevent your fingers slipping in wet weather and provide all-round comfort for your hands. There’s also a bell neatly integrated into the left brake lever, keeping the handlebars clean. The only thing missing (and some riders may challenge me on this point) is a kickstand. The sweptback handlebars and low angle of the top tube make it awkward to lean the bike against walls, parking rails or your leg while you sort yourself out to ride.
Instead of building a bike for a type of riding, Whyte have instead imagined a type of rider and designed a bike to suit her lifestyle. The result is a steed that’s smooth, sleek and capable. If you’re ready to invest in a serious everyday ride, but aren’t willing to compromise on style, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bike more accommodating than the Strawberry Hill.
|Frame||6061 Hydro Formed T6 aluminium, custom drawn, multi butted with custom Whyte dropouts|
|Groupset||Shimano Altus, 9 speed|
|Brakes||Tektro forged V brakes|
|Wheels||Whyte double walled alloy 700c|
|Tyres||Maxxis Roamer, 700 x 42c high air volume with Kevlar puncture guard|
A sleek, everyday bike with monster capabilities.
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