So I went to France at the end of last month to check out GT Bikes' 2011 offerings and their revised brand direction. It was a trip that held a few firsts for me. My first time in Europe, my first time at an actual bike company's official press camp, and it would turn out to be the first time I've ever ridden a GT that actually fit me. So I had these grand plans about shooting a whole bunch of photos and dropping some pretty exclusive content from the launch, but that didn't happen. Well, because riding for five days straight aboard brand new GTs on some pretty cool French trails takes its toll on you, as does eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in fancy restaurants. The fact that GT also had two full time photographers on hand to capture everything kinda added to my lack of shooting as well. And it's not often that I get to ride without a camera bag and when I do get the chance to leave my gear in the hotel room I leap at it. Anyway that's enough of that, you want to see bikes. Some of you have probably already seen them anyway on other websites so I'll just give you a bit of a low down on my picks from the new range.
Now I was going to drop all these funky bike photos with the French Alps in the background but not all the bikes we rode were production spec, so if you just imagine a pool and the Alps in the back of the rest of the pictures then you can pretend you were there with me.
So first up the venerable Sanction has had to shed a few grams around the waist and the Fox DHX 5.0 is gone, replaced with the ever popular Fox RP23 custom tuned for GT by Fox. The Sanction also gets some visual love (actually the entire range does) and the hideous graphics from last year are gone in favour of some pretty snazzy and resolved graphics and a colour matched component spec. But I guess the real standout element for the Sanction (and GT on a whole), is that GT's new MTB product manager Todd Seplavy actually rides bikes and the real world build options on these bikes are pretty much spot on. GT call it INDY spec. I call it knowing what's going on, but KWGO doesn't make a word. With that said the Sanction 1.0 has a pretty sick build. Fox 36 Float RLC FIT forks up front, Race Face SixC 725mm carbon bars and Race Face Atlas cranks in a 2x9 setup with a chain guide! Then there's the colour matched WTB saddle and Crank Brothers Joplin 4. With all this you actually have a bulletproof all mountain rig that's ready to shred out of the shop door.
The Sanction 2.0 features a slightly subdued colour scheme but still a pretty solid build. The fork is swapped out for a coil RockShox Lyrik and the rear shock is a plain Float R. A mixture of Shimano and Sram X7 parts handle the drivetrain and a Race Face Evolve stem matched to a 710mm Gravity bar keep you straight. GT has also moved to Formula brakes on a lot of the bikes for 2011 and both Sanctions feature powerful Formula R1X's.
GT's ever popular Force has stuck around for another season and received the most radical visual makeover of the entire GT range (as you can see). The three Force Carbons look absolutely stunning and the three aluminium models, while not as bold, also look pretty sharp. For those that don't know, the Force sports the same 150mm of travel as the Sanction, but in a snappier and more XC-oriented package; 32mm forks, no bash ring and only 150mm up front signal this bike's less aggressive tendencies but make no mistake, this sled can kill it and is more than capable out on the trail.
Check out the build specs for the Force range below.
Now the biggest hit of the launch would have to be GT's new model the Distortion. Andrew Cho and Tyler McCaul have been rocking prototypes of these on slopestyle courses for a while now, but it's finally reached us, albeit in a configuration aimed less at slopestyle riders and more at all-round MTB park use. It looks kinda like a Sanction but it only has 114mm of travel out the back and 140mm up front. It's seriously fun to ride, is super responsive and easy as pie to pump and whip over and around stuff. I can't jump but I'm sure it eats those up as well. There's just two models; a 1.0 and a 2.0.
And then there was my favourite bike from the whole launch. GT's Sensor 29er Pro. Now the Sensor range is pretty big (seven bikes in total) but I paid no attention to anything anyone said about the other bikes, apart from the fact that there is a pretty sweet women's 120mm travel Sensor 26" wheel bike. The Sensor range does kind of look like it hasn't had the attention the other bikes in the GT lineup have had for 2011, but after riding the 9er I'm happy to say I don't care. I don't want to start sounding like Seb either but after riding this thing my life may have just changed. You see I thought that I hated 29er's. I'd never ridden one, I'd just decided I hated them. They look stupid, especially when short people ride them, and I still believe that with the exception of Seb, people under 6 foot should be banned from 29" wheels on a pure aesthetic level. So anyway the Sensor 29er has a pretty basic build kit: a Fox F29 Fork featuring rebound adjust and lockout, a Float RL rear shock, again featuring rebound adjust and lockout, an X7/X9 2X10 setup, Avid Elixir 5 brakes and a Crank Brothers non-adjustable height seatpost and bar. On the trail this thing just begs to be ridden fast; the 120mm is more than enough travel and I found there wasn't much I couldn't ride on this than what I could ride on a GT Ruckus, and I actually found myself coming back to this bike for multiple rides. Actually I didn't really ride much else after.
Check the Sensor 29er Pro spec sheet here. NZ RRP $4999
There were tonnes of other bikes at the launch. Obviously the Carbon Fury was there, both the World Cup and Team models that you see under Mick Hannah and Marc Beaumont.
The Ruckus DJ proves that GT can actually make a DJ bike that looks the part. You may even see this bad boy at Gorge Road rubbing tyres with Black Markets.
And then there is this thing; the LaBomba which is basically a Mick Hannah-inspired Dual Slalom and Pump Track bike. I did get a chance to take this for a spin (albeit on a crap pump track) but it was fast and super nimble.
Oh and then there was this bad boy for all you Henry Van Ashe wannabes.