GT's i-Drive system has been around for eight years now, gradually evolving to become lighter and more reliable. 2006's bikes were the neatest yet, but still retain the essential high traction, smooth-riding floating drive train feel. Impressive kit levels aren't consistent throughout, though.
Although it's arranged around the proven i-Drive mechanism, 2006's 4-inch travel frame is all-new. Slim butted main tubes are gusseted for extra strength with a kinked top tube for standover clearance. GT also uses its 'top tube pierced by seat tube' trick and the seat pipe is also curved to line up with the main pivot above the big ring.
As you'd expect for a light XC bike, the rear subframe is a mix of skinny pipe and thin plate bridges, but there's some really neat detailing. The terminals of the seatstays are little drilled bullets for internal gear cable routing, and the front mech cable gets an additional barrel adjuster where it goes through the seatstay plate. The 3D shock mounts are particularly crisply forged, as are the dropouts and bottom bracket mount that dangles below the rear swingarm.
The use of bottom bracket bearings in the main pivots makes them pretty bombproof as long as you check for tightness regularly, but mud room is limited, even with the 2.1in tyres fitted.
With the heavier duty i-Drive 5.0 taking on 'all mountain' duties, GT has put the 2.0 firmly in the XC camp. Even with the short stem, the long top tube gives loads of stretch for pulling the sky down to meet you. The bottom bracket moves separately to the high mounted swingarm, but while there's no obvious nod on smooth trails, there's still a constant pedal-trail interaction. This gives superb traction feedback without upsetting pedalling rhythm, which makes it an incredible technical climber with a particular penchant for cleaning big slow speed step ups that'll stall other bikes.
It's smooth on the way back down too, with the smoothly progressive shock and backward swing of the high pivot coping very well with big rock strikes. Pedalling and rebound can slap it into the face of subsequent hits though, so remember it's only a light XC bike and be wary of sequential boulders or big rut sections. Trouble is easy to avoid, thanks to super sharp handling from the big bar and short stem. This also makes chucking it round the tight stuff a joy, despite the long top tube and slightly slippery tyres.
While RockShox's Tora fork is good for its price, it gets out of its depth across big hits or single big slams, and it lacks adjustability and adds weight, too.
The rest of the SRAM family kit is great, though. SRAM X-9 gears give positive shifting, while Truvativ Stylo cranks and XR oversize bar and stem are stiff but light. Magura's Louise brakes are sharp but controlled and a lot less dependent on initial care and subsequent maintenance than they used to be, and the WTB/DT wheel pack is good, too. Small knobbed Tioga tyres are fine - if not outstanding - in most conditions and SDG's Bel Air saddle is always a welcome sight. However, while the 'Lock Down' grips stay put, they get very slippery when wet, so your hands might not.
The 2006 2.0 frame is without doubt the best looking and performing XC i-Drive frame GT had made to date. The innovative suspension system combines impressive stability under pedalling with unholy levels of traction and decent DH performance. Sharp, agile handling is also a singletrackers dream, and most of the kit is excellent. Shame then that the fork really doesn't match up to the rest of the package, which leaves overall potential unfulfilled and questionable value.