GT XCR 5 (08)£900.00

Burly Bikehut bruiser is a winner on paper

BikeRadar score3/5

GT has created some iconic bikes, including some of the best early suspension designs. This five-inch travel version of their i-Drive system is a Halfords Bikehut-only UK special, and isn’t available from regular GT distributors.The upside of this direct dealing is that you get an unbelievably high parts specification for the money. And the downside? Well, let's find out if there is one…

Frame: one for the big fellas only

Unusually, the XCR5 is available only in 18in and 20in sizes, so smaller riders need not apply.

The burly-looking frame has all kinds of hydroforming and variable tube profiles going on. The downtube is gusseted for strength, and there’s another bridging gusset that supports the dropped top tube seatpost junction, designed to give extra standover height and provide extra stiffness. There’s an extended weld area at the head tube, and the whole frame build gives a reassuring air of solidity that’s backed up when you pick it up.

A forged section houses thei-Drive (Independent Drivetrain) dog bone gubbins and the hollowaxle main pivot, all of which can be handily accessed using a Shimano bottom bracket tool. 

The swingarm has reasonable tyre clearance and funky cut-out slots where it joins the shock on one side, and where it bends neatly around the top of the seatstays on the other side. There’s no room for a waterbottle on the frame, although at a push you could mount a light battery on the underside mounts. The front mech’s cable is unusually situated on top of the seatstay and directly in line of crud thrown up by the rear wheel, but it worked okay during our test period.

Ride: smooth out big hits, but…

With five inches of travel and an aggressive appearance, this bike will appeal to riders looking for a hardcore trail bike on a relatively modest budget. The geometry feels poised, with a slight nod to a forward bias due to the steep seat angle. The GTown-brand cockpit set-up was fine, although some people might want to fit a slightly shorter stem on this kind of ride. While standover height is good, the ride felt a bit perched until the bike settled into its sag.

The i-Drive suspension system usually provides plenty of rear traction and a lack of suspension kickback as the pivot moves back and up upon hitting square edges and bumps. In theory, it lets the bike roll smoothly over hits and suck up the landings. However, it wasn’t long before we realised something was wrong. With the correct sag set on the RockShox Ario rear shock, the bike spiked horribly on small compressions, producing a slamming crack that felt like the shock was broken. On bigger hits, though, the shock stroked smoothly as expected, so it was definitely working properly.

It’s not possible to adjust the shock’s compression damping, so the next 48km of our ride proved frustrating and tiring. Fettling the air pressure and rebound damping failed to cure the problem entirely, or introduced noticeable brake jack and an unwanted stodgy feel to a near-34lb bike.

Equipment: Halford's make the money count

The build kit is very good for the money, with the main highlight being the capable RockShox Recon U-turn fork (85-130mm), which totally outperformed the Tora fork fitted to all the other test bikes.

Avid Juicy 3 discs are a popular and competent performer, with nicely modulated power at the lever once properly set-up. The XT Shadow rear mech is another kit highlight, while the Deore transmission is all perfectly usable and worked without complaint.

The rest of the finishing kit is similarly fine and, although the Truvativ Blaze crank won’t set the world alight, it does the job. The WTB speed rims stayed true and the Maxxis Ignitor tyres are a welcome upgrade from last year’s Tiogas. You even get a decent SDG saddle on this cracking value build-up.

Summary

It’s such a pity that the generally superb spec for the cash is let down by the rear shock action. This is possibly the result of an anomalous dog bone and shock combination effect, or just too much low-speed compression damping as standard on the shock.

If the shock problem is sorted and weight isn’t a big problem and you want burly bling on a budget this would be a good buy, but it all hinges on that shock.

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