The GT looks more expensive than it is – partly because it doesn’t have a budget-giveaway trouser guard on the crankset, partly because of the Kenda Nevegal tyres, but mainly because it just looks like a classy mountain bike. It offers great off-road performance and an excellent spec for the money, too.
Ride & handling: Has the trail manners of a far costlier bike
While the Avalanche isn’t exactly light at 14.3kg (31.6lb), the 2.1in tyres roll efficiently so it doesn't feel cumbersome, whether on or off road. The short head tube, integrated headset and 635mm-wide low-rise bar give the front end an aggressive ride stance.
While the plush 100mm-travel (3.9in) SR Suntour XCM fork is pretty good at taking the knocks, a low (11.5in) bottom bracket makes its presence felt with occasional pedal-to-ground strikes as you’re banking into bumpy corners. It does increase overall stability, though, by lowering the centre of gravity.
The general rough ground handling of the Avalanche is excellent, with the fork only showing its limits when it’s presented with a fast series of hard-edged bumps. Even here, the tyres and neutral handling character help to maintain control in a way that can’t always be taken for granted on a sub-£500 bike.
In short, the overall trail manners of the Avalanche are like those of a far costlier bike. While some of the componentry choices give away its price, we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this bike to anyone on a budget who wants to experience ‘proper’ mountain biking.
Frame: Distinctive triple triangle design – but watch out for that low bottom bracket
We’re happy that GT have stuck with their distinctive triple triangle frame design over the years. Regardless of stiffness and/or comfort benefits, it gives GTs a distinctive look that sets them apart from the rest. The fresh white and red paintjob emphasises the radically flared hydroformed top and down tubes, substantially reinforced behind the head tube.
The seat tube pierces the extended capped top tube and the seat clamp slot faces forward to prevent mud ingress. The straight seatstays and chainstays have loads of mud room around the tyre and there are two sets of bottle cage bosses and rack mounts fitted.
GT have managed to create a shorter (16.5in) back end than most other frames. This is theoretically more efficient for climbing traction because you’re sitting slightly further back over the tyre tread contact patch. It’s hard to notice the difference though.
Equipment: Excellent wheel and tyre setup for a bike at this price plus decent hydraulic discs
The SR Suntour fork is a rival to RockShox’s cheapest Dart models, with a useful lockout that didn’t suffer from the usual trail chatter affliction. Hopefully, clunky rebounds will soon be a thing of the past, but it did rear its ugly head on the XCM when the going got rough on fast descents. Try before you buy – there seem to be inconsistencies in feel between same name forks.
While SRAM get the occasional look-in, you’re normally going to see Shimano Alivio drivetrain parts on sub-£500 bikes. A few manufacturers manage a Deore rear mech upgrade by downgrading elsewhere, often with a cheaper crankset like the SR Suntour one here, or by dropping to Shimano Acera level. Either way, practical function and durability is fairly similar.
The GT was precise in shifting apart from a few chain skips, while everything bedded in on the first ride. This isn’t unusual and can be down to the sticky grease on new chains, cable stretch to the point where the indexing needs readjustments and/or slight imperfections on the edges of new chainring teeth.
Tektro’s Auriga Comp brakes are powerful and fairly well modulated in lever feel, but they take a few bedding-in rides to reach full power. The wheelset was well-built and fairly light. The unbranded hubs are an unknown quantity but Alex DC25 rims are tough enough and Kenda Nevegals are good grippy treads that roll fairly fast too. The 25in low-rise bar felt about right and the WTB Pure V saddle is more comfortable than most.