Review - GT SENSOR CARBON EXPERT

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Well, here’s all kinds of interesting. A 130mm travel 29er trail bike from GT, built around a modern set of numbers and without any of the polarising monkey-motion suspension systems we’ve seen from GT in the past.

That’s right, there’s no floating BB or modified unified rear triangle going on here. The passing of the patent on the Horst link has allowed GT’s design team to revive Linkage Tuned Suspension (LTS). Back in 1995, the GT LTS was right at the leading edge of suspension bike development. Featuring a Horst-linked 4-bar design and a trunnion mounted shock, it was a standout in an era packed with countless inferior concepts. GT’s LTS and its successor, the thermoplastic STS, were piloted by legends like Nico Vouilloz, Steve Peat and Hans Rey.

Now LTS is back and right at the heart of what we have here: a classic 4-bar, Horst-linked, rocker-actuated layout pushing a trunnion mounted shock. It’s lighter, cleaner, simple and proven. Combined with a head tube angle of 65.5 degrees, a seat tube at 76 degrees, 470mm reach on the large size frame, and with a maroon/tan colourway complemented by skinwall tyres, I was keen to get this thing built up and out on the trail.

The Sensor’s chunky carbon front end features another revival of a classic GT innovation, the Groove Tube. This moulded channel in the top of the down tube allows all the cabling to be routed externally, without the fuss of internal routing, yet keeping a clean look. The lower shock mount features a flip chip that allows you to raise or lower the bottom bracket by 6mm and alter the head tube angle by a half degree, and the down tube has integrated protection against rock strikes. Between your feet there’s a removable ISCG guide and a threaded bottom bracket shell. And yes, you can fit a water bottle in the frame.

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A welded linkage joins the carbon front triangle to an aluminium rear section that features plenty of tyre clearance and double row bearings at the pivots, which should keep everything smooth and solid. Disappointingly, the 435mm chainstays are naked, lacking any integrated protection. Sure, you can always wrap an old tube around them, but it seems an oversight on a bike that’s priced at over $6.5k.

Suspension-wise there’s a 35mm stanchioned RockShox Revelation RC Debonair with the Charger damper up front, and out the back, a trunnion mount RockShox Deluxe RT3.

The drivetrain is the flawless SRAM GX Eagle which turns a set of Stan’s Flow rims laced to unbranded hubs. Both hoops are clad in 2.35” Schwalbe Nobby Nics in the Speedgrip compound. The rest of the finishing kit is pretty standard at the price point, and includes a very comfortable Fabric saddle atop a KS LEV Si post actuated by the Southpaw lever. The Avid Level brakes don’t feature quite the sensitivity of their twin piston brethren, but work happily enough with their 180 mm rotors. A 35mm stem clamps the 780mm low rise GT-branded bar with some pleasantly soft yet rather skinny lock-on grips.

Climbing aboard for the first time was something of a surprise. The cockpit feels decidedly shorter than the numbers would have you expect. The steep seat angle, combined with the in-line seat clamp, low rise bar, short stem, and low stack all combine to place the bar very low, even with all the spacers under the stem. With the bar feeling very close, we pushed the seat right back on its rails to help compensate, but the position took some getting used to, especially with the seat at full height.

Out on the trail however, the bike climbs very well, even in rooty, rocky and technical situations. Traditionally, slack angled bikes aren’t supposed to do that, but it’s certainly not the case here. Dropping the seat a little on flowing trails or right out of the way for descents, I immediately felt more at home and able to take advantage of the bike’s potential.

The suspension feel is firm yet supple under power, and at the recommended 25% sag, I rarely used the pedal platform setting, leaving the shock in ‘open’ the majority of the time. Once up to speed, the Sensor is a singletrack demon and it excels in flowing terrain. The big carbon tubes and chunky linkage give a feeling of solidity which means the Sensor loves being thrown into a linked series of berms. It’s stable and predictable, allowing you to carry speed through corners and into technical sections with confidence. The rear suspension is progressive and supportive and happy to indulge you when you get out of the saddle and to clear short climbs or chase down your mate up ahead.

The Revelation fork might share the 35mm chassis of the Pike, but it doesn’t quite match its stablemate’s performance. It took me a while to get the fork to match the supple yet firm feel of the rear end. I had to fit the maximum number of spacers and add more air and compression than I expected to get the fork feeling propped up enough and not regularly blow through the travel. Once that balance was achieved, the bike had a taut feeling that encouraged speed, which sometimes caught me out. The slack head angle and big wheels allow you to confidently motor into situations you might not attack with quite such abandon on other 130mm bikes. You’ll certainly feel it through the fork when you do, and you’ll further be alerted to it by the chain clanking on the naked stays. But comfort is one thing and control another, and the Sensor really is a great deal of fun in flowing singletrack. I reckon the bike could happily cope with a longer fork and 2.6” rubber to become a more capable machine.

In short, the updated Sensor is fast and efficient, yet provides a solid platform for fun when things get twisty. The riding position may take a little getting used to and if it were my own bike, I’d fit a bar with more rise than the stock offering, along with a fatter set of grips. I’d also be tempted to throw on some bigger rubber; there’s plenty of room for it and as it’s not a cross-country race bike, why ever not? Maybe check what’s around in 29 x 2.6” with a skinwall so you don’t spoil the look.