All-mountain seems to be the buzzword in the mountain biking industry at the moment. Every manufacturer under the sun has joined the flock and is offering multiple bike models that tick this box. GT is no different, except that it is no newcomer to developing bikes of this type. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that GT was a pioneer in the all-mountain genre. Arguably the standout bike of the mid 90s was the GT carbon STS. This bike was revered for its all-round performance, and was equally capable in both downhill and cross-country. If you are fortunate enough to have owned one, or borrowed one from a mate, you’ll have fond memories of the riding experience; I certainly do. I was therefore quietly excited about the prospect of riding and reviewing one of their latest offerings––the Sanction.
GT currently has two bikes that can be slotted into the all-mountain category: the Sanction and the Force. Both bikes have similar frames, utilising GT’s i-Drive technology and offering 6 inches of travel. The Sanction is the burlier of the two, leaning more toward the freeride end of the spectrum and so, accordingly, has slacker geometry, some additional gusseting around the head tube, and a component spec that is built to put up with a little more abuse. Notably, this model of the Sanction (the only one available in New Zealand) comes with the Truvativ HammerSchmidt as standard, in place of a dual chain ring. The component spec also includes Fox TALAS RC2 forks, Fox DHX Air 5.0 rear shock, Avid Elixir brakes, Gravity Light wheels, a SRAM X9 rear shifter, and is rounded out with quality bars, stem, seat post and saddle.
GT’s patented i-Drive system (now referred to as Independent Drivetrain) has been around for a number of years and its current incarnation is well refined and very effective at eliminating the chain growth and pedal feedback normally associated with high single pivot bikes. The HammerSchmidt seems to be well suited to the i-Drive system, displaying none of the negative traits that have been noticed when coupled with some other suspension types, and offering faultless shifting. On the trail the Sanction pedals well but feels a little sluggish under acceleration. A total weight of 15.45 kg is fairly standard for this genre of bike, but I think the Sanction would benefit from a little dieting, specifically in the wheel department. The Gravity Lights are robust and dependable but at 2.3 kg are probably better suited to a freeride-specific bike. Pedal induced bob is minimal, but switching the pro pedal on does make a noticeable difference and is appreciated for longer climbs. As is the travel adjust on the forks. Despite its generous chainstay length, the Sanction tends to feel light in the front end on steep climbs.
Heading down is somewhat of a surprise as, despite its slack geometry and reasonable weight, the Sanction feels very lively and playful. This bike is great on tight flowing singletrack, and just begs to be popped off roots, small hips and jumps. This trait can probably be attributed to its compact wheelbase, laterally stiff frame, and the fact that it rides high in its travel. These same characteristics, however, mean that the bike starts to feel a little twitchy in fast rough descents. I found that to match the fork to the rear suspension I had to run a little more air and a couple of extra turns of low speed dampening than normal. Once set up the bike felt well balanced and dealt with both the small and big stuff with equal aplomb. The Elixir brakes handled the stopping impeccably and felt smooth and predictable at both the caliper and the lever.
The mid 90s were a fledgling era in the development of all-mountain bikes. With the STS, GT produced a bike that stood out as being something special and definitive for the time. The market is now awash with bikes in this genre, and it is a much harder task to produce a bike that offers something truly special. The Sanction is a good all-round bike, capable of competing with anything that is currently on the market. The combination of the proven i-Drive technology and a quality component spec results in a great value bike that is a lot of fun on the trail. Although the Sanction performs well on all manner of trails I think, given its specific ride characteristics, it is ideally suited to Rotorua style riding––tight flowing trails littered with berms and jumps. If you’re in the market for a bike of this type I suggest test riding a Sanction. LEIF ROY