When GT introduced the Sensor last year it had a lukewarm reception. But since then it’s lost weight and had a handling makeover to make it a useful all-rounder. With high-traction suspension courtesy of a Fox rear shock, the Sensor 2.0 is a decent trail machine for the price, but the basic fork chokes its true potential.
Ride & handling: Lighter and smoother for 2011; a decent day ride all-rounder
While rear shocks on most bikes at this price can be tuned to an acceptable performance with patience and skill, the Sensor's Fox Float RP is in a different league in terms of smoothness and consistent control over all sizes of impact. It’s particularly noticeable on the small chatter bumps and ripples that rattle the GT's price rivals, and even with a skinny, almost bald rear tyre, traction is clearly better.
The way the swingarm moves without much pedal reference also really helps the Sensor suck up square-edged rocks, roots and steps. The back end copes with big stuff better than you’d expect of a 120mm-travel (4.7in) bike. The front end is helped by the tall stem, which means you can pick the front wheel up over trouble more easily.
When you have no option but to tackle stuff head on, the basic Turn Key damping of the RockShox Recon Gold fork lets it down, with rebound inconsistencies and compression spiking being a real brake on the potential in belligerent terrain. At least the rest of the bike makes getting a better fork a worthwhile upgrade. Handling and ride position all give good technical trail potential. They’re not radical in any way, just well balanced, predictable and helpful, however hard you’re riding.
While there’s a slight rubber chain sensation from the I-Drive suspension system when you’re torquing hard, the ProPedal platform damping lever is enough to stiffen it up on smooth climbs. The Sensor isn't light but the overall weight is bearable when the trail goes up or the ride lasts all day. In fact, the fast rolling tyres, smoothness and traction all make this a surprisingly accomplished climber, particularly on more rugged technical trails.
Frame: Very smooth, high traction rear suspension system with a proper Fox shock
The distinctive frame starts with a ring-reinforced head tube for a conventional external bearing headset, but that’s about the only conventional thing on the whole chassis. Normal tube diameter logic is reversed with a very big tapered hexagonal top tube but a narrow hexagonal down tube. The top tube also follows a shallow S-curve back to the banana-shaped seat tube that penetrates it.
Below this is the I-Drive suspension, a system that’s been around in various forms for 14 years now. The rear subframe uses all sorts of multi-shaped stays and cross members, plus pocketed dropout sections, and attaches to the mainframe on oversized bearings. These are held in place by pinch bolts under polished alloy ‘cine-reel’ covers. Similar broad stance clamp pivots then connect the separate hanging bottom bracket with the I-Drive linkage, connecting it right back to the mainframe.
The complexity of all these pivots inevitably means some flex, but not as much as you might expect. Metal clips also keep the convoluted cable routing tucked in nicely. The banana-shaped seat tube stops you dropping the seat post far unless you chop it, and there’s limited tyre clearance at the rear. The only bottle cage is right where all the crud flying off the front wheel goes too, so you’ll need a CamelBak or strong stomach to stay hydrated.
Equipment: Our favourite speed tyres and a well shaped cockpit
The Sensor's spec is a little disappointing for the money; you can get this kind of kit on bikes costing £100 less. The alloy stanchions of the Recon Gold fork save a bit of weight but you still only get the basic Turn Key damping internals. The mixed Shimano/ SRAM transmission gives you 20 gears from the double chainset though, and it all works together very smoothly.
Maxxis Aspen tyres are fast rolling, super-light summer favourites. They also reduce the potential for mud to jam the rear wheel, although they’re seriously sketchy at this time of year. The 700mm-wide CrankBrothers bar and mid-length Syncros high rise stem set up a confident cockpit for controlling them though.