THE WHYTE STUFF
Mountain Bike Rider|February 2022
We hit the trails with elite downhiller turned bike designer Sam Shucksmith, the engineering muscle behind Whyte’s acclaimed machines
Jamie Darlow

Most of us like reading those stories about young, unnoticed or rejected athletes that go on to make it big. The bigger, the better. Like American footballer Tom Brady who was famously picked second to last in the NFL Draft but went on to win the Superbowl seven times and earn $270 million. There’s something brilliant and human about sticking it in the face of the naysayers... like that English teacher who said you’d never write a sentence coherent-like.

The story in reverse though is far more interesting, and far rarer. Athletes who could have competed at the highest level, but chose to step back from it. Athletes who decided for various reasons – ethically, emotionally, physically – that their chosen sport wouldn’t be their profession or how they earn their keep. Athletes like Sam Shucksmith.

Picked for the British squad to race downhill as a junior, Sam found himself aged 17 racing World Cups in Maribor and Schladming and competing with one of the strongest generations of young riders. OK, so this isn’t the NFL, Sam isn’t in the same league (or sport, for that matter) as Brady, but the competition was stiff: Sam’s cohort on the GB squad consisted of Josh Bryceland, Sam Dale, Joe Smith and Ruaridh Cunningham, two of which – Josh and Ruaridh – would later go on to become world champions. “It wasn’t easy,” Sam says.

Despite that competition, he’d done pretty well at a national level. He finished fifth overall in the NPS downhill series in 2007, winning one race at Caersws as a junior. It was a long way from racing at Penshurst Bike Park in Kent, where Sam started out as a kid racing alongside his older brother, Phil.

“He was the reason I got into it, he’s six years older than me,” Sam says. “I used to go out when I was really young on a little hardtail. The first race I did was at PORC – I got the train from Redhill – on my brother’s downhill bike. I must have been 14 or 15. I rode there at the other end from the station, it felt like a long way on a downhill bike.”

Whether he won or lost that race is long forgotten, but what began was a lifelong love of bikes, and racing them too. Sam is now a bike designer at Whyte Bikes, responsible for award-winning machines like the G170, a bike that won our Editor’s Choice award in 2018 and scored full marks in every grouptest it entered, as well as newer bikes like the S150 and the brand’s e-bikes too. That continues right up to the present day, with the bike Sam’s riding on the day we meet up with him – a G180 29.

“It’s good to be out with other riders, but I’m pretty used to riding on my own,” Sam tells us. Not many people want to ride the same track eight times in one day, testing out a myriad of components in the thirst for perfection, I add. “They don’t want to spend half an hour in between runs swapping out a shock either,” Sam agrees.

FROM DH TO DESIGN

We’ve come to the Forest of Dean to see first hand where Whyte’s award winners are crafted, although today it’s simple stuff like trying out the latest RockShox Super Deluxe to figure out how it rides on an existing bike. True to his word, it’s half an hour in an off the-beaten-track layby between runs, as Sam pulls his bike apart on what must be the most dilapidated workstand I’ve ever seen.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDERView All

MIDSOMMAR NIGHT'S DREAM

Åre in northern Sweden is Scandinavia's mountain biking hub. With one of the largest bike parks in Europe, adventurous trail riding and vibrant bike culture, this little mountain town is a bike destination to put on your bucket list

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

SKEM TRAILS

Thanks to Tawd Valley MTB Trails there’s now a lot more to Lancashire’s Skelmersdale than Sixties’ urban sprawl

5 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

THANK YOU, MOUNTAIN BIKING

Mountain biking sometimes plays rough, but ultimately it gives us more than it takes, moulding us into skilful, resourceful, and ultimately happy people… albeit with some scars to back up the memories

9 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

HIGH-PIVOT IDLER ENDURO BIKES RADICAL RIPPERS

DH racers have been getting busy on idler bikes for years but does the design translate to enduro? We test two machines from Forbidden and GT

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

STEPPING IT UP

Spring is here and conditions are (hopefully) getting drier; time to take your riding to the next level by tackling more technical trails

7 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

LAKELAND MUST-RIDES

The South Lakes offers real mountains, trails that range from mellow to hairy, Instagram-friendly views, and pubs and tea shops galore. What more do you want?

2 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

First rides

SWINGING A LEG OVER WHAT'S HOT THIS MONTH

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

5 BIKES YOU'VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF

Global supply chains may be struggling but there are plenty of smaller brands striving to get their products onto the trails. Here are five upstarts with new models in the works

4 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

PART 6: LOWER BACK

If lower back pain is the bane of your life, strength training could be the antidote

6 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
April 2022

TESTING TIMES

We've come a long way from the boneshakers of the '80s and the wacky creations of the '90s; Guy Kestevan charts the last 25 years of mountain bike tech. "I were right about that saddle though"

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
April 2022
RELATED STORIES

CHARACTER STUDY: Dominic Zamprogna (Dante, GH)

Actors Otter Insight Into their Alter Egos

7 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
May 16, 2022

Annadata Suraksha Abhiyaan

A tailor-made insurance initiative to financially secure farmers and growers against farming risks.

2 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
May 2022

Tracy Flick for Principal

Tom Perrotta's '90s antihero returns.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
June 2022

OnePlus 10 Pro: Three reasons to get it (and one reason why most people won't)

With the 10 Pro, OnePlus continues down a tricky path.

6 mins read
PCWorld
May 2022

Bans Off Our Bodies

MoveOn and Abortion Access activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on May 3 after the leak of a draft opinion overturning the Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

1 min read
Newsweek
May 20 - 27, 2022 (Double Issue)

ALL PLAY, NO WORK

Dip into the laid-back vibes at this Palm Springs, CA, getaway.

2 mins read
HGTV Magazine
June 2022

HEAD GAMES!

Army numbskulls face conspiracy rap after pal’s severed noggin washes up on beach

2 mins read
Globe
May 09, 2022

Bottom-Fishing Can Be Scary

In a rough year for stocks, it’s tempting to try to grab bargains now. Just be careful

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 09, 2022

NCIS: Los Angeles

Sunday, May 8, 9/8c, CBS

2 mins read
TV Guide Magazine
April 25 - May 08, 2022

This AI Program Can Draw Impressive Images of Whatever You Tell It to

The DALL-E 2 program can churn out both realistic and creative images from a mere text description. But the OpenAI lab is well aware the technology could be easily abused.

2 mins read
PC Magazine
May 2022