Confusingly, you won’t find this bike in GT’s 2009 catalogue – because it’s available exclusively from Halfords stores in the UK. It’s also called one thing on the frame (XCR Five) and another thing in the store (i-Drive XCR). Don’t let that put you off, though, because it has a lot going for it.
Although it’s not the best climber or mile-muncher, it’s hard not to like the i-Drive XCR. It comes with a great value spec, including decent stop-and-go kit and air shocks front and rear, but best of all it’s just huge fun to ride.
Ride & handling: Supple rear end and unusually competent air fork make for sure-footed descending
There’s something about the GT that sets it apart from the crowd of do-everything 120mm bikes. This isn’t a bike that’s trying to be the lightest, fastest, most efficient machine from A to B. Weighing in at a relatively portly 32lb, that’s probably a good thing.
What the GT does do – very well indeed – is fun. Point it down a rocky chute, let the brakes off and find yourself at the bottom in no time at all and wearing a very big grin.
A well-matched fork and rear end work well in tandem to deliver seemingly bottomless rock-sucking ability. It’s not quite a junior freerider – it’s not burly enough for that – but cashing in gravity credits is certainly where it’s most at home.
Earning those credits takes a little more work, thanks in part to the i-Drive XCR’s slightly overweight build. But it’s surprisingly adept on the kind of technical climbs that can unsettle tauter full-sussers, the i-Drive system giving the rear wheel an impressive ground-hugging ability which almost – but not quite – makes up for the tyres’ lacklustre grip in the wet.
The wide handlebar stance and short cockpit don’t encourage out-of-the-saddle efforts uphill – and that’s just as well, because the complete lack of compression damping or lockout on the fork makes for a wallowy, bouncy front end that’s distracting at best. Big gear mashers, consider yourselves warned.
Frame: Heavy and won’t win any prizes for its looks, but i-Drive suspension works well
Although GT long ago moved the i-Drive mechanism out of the oversized bottom bracket shell into the open, it still flummoxes a lot of people. Here’s how it works.
The swingarm rotates around a large pivot at the bottom of the down tube and drives the shock directly, much like a standard single pivot swingarm bike. The bottom bracket sits in its own housing, which is connected to a large pivot on the swingarm via a short linkage and anchored to the underside of the down tube with a dog-legged I-beam tether.
The linkage and tether combine to move the bottom bracket housing very slightly rearwards as the suspension moves through its travel, minimising pedal feedback in the process. It’s hard to describe, but it works well.
i-Drive bikes have never been front-runners in the looks department. The i-Drive XCR is no exception, with a utilitarian appearance that you’ll either love or hate. Everything’s there for a reason, though, from the old-skool welded gusset at the head tube junction – which reinforces this vulnerable area to protect it against damage from hard impacts – to the radically oversized hollow main pivot bearing.
Equipment: Decent fork and shock, and there's still room in the budget for Avid discs
Fox’s reliable Float RP2 air shock sits between the swingarm and down tube, giving the i-Drive XCR a highly tunable rear end. The efficiency of the i-Drive system means GT have been able to spec a shock with little compression damping built in, and the ProPedal lever allows you to switch this on or off.
It’s air holding up the front, too, in the form of a RockShox Recon fork. There’s no compression damping adjustment or lockout here, but it is possible to tweak rebound damping.
With air springs front and rear eating into the budget, the GT’s Shimano Deore/ SLX transmission and Avid Juicy Three hydraulic disc brake setup looks impressive – and the mostly own-branded finishing kit is all good, too.
Our only gripe is the tyres, which offer fast-rolling performance in the dry but little in the way of usable grip when things get wet and slimy.