The Zaskar's carbon fibre frame is almost disguised by its love/hate white-with-red-details finish but it gives tangible ride advantages over a similarly equipped aluminium chassis. It’s not easy to build a 29er as light as a same-budget 26er and there are times when the 9R Expert's 10.98kg (24.2lb) weight is noticeable on climbs. However, its smoother rolling advantages make up for that.
Ride & handling: Smooth riding big-wheeler than looks and feels superb
The large wheels plus the long wheelbase combine with a bottom bracket centre that’s 2.25in below the wheel centres to give the Zaskar 9R a ride feel that puts a major emphasis on conﬁdence-enhancing stability.
This conspires with the supple and nicely controlled action of the RockShox Reba fork, the comfy roll of the tyres and a nearly silent freewheel to produce a stealthy ride personality that’s a pleasure when added to the outright speed of a race bike.
The long top tube promotes an efﬁcient ride posture and although climbing and out-of-corners acceleration isn’t as lively as a typical race-ready 26er, the softer roll and superb stability makes for an easier, faster and more comfortable ride everywhere else.
We’ve ridden better equipped and slightly lighter 26ers than this at around the same price, but after a selection of rides of various distances on differing terrain, we came to the conclusion that the all-round performance of the 9R Expert is better than that of a similarly equipped 26er.
It’s not as lively, or as nippy on singletrack, but the added comfort and smooth roll make it an easy bike to ride on almost any type of terrain, and that often translates into extra speed.
Frame & equipment: Classic GT triple triangle design; finishing kit fits the bill
The triple triangle part of the frame design, a token nod to GT’s history, allows for big mud clearance between the seatstays and extra bracing rigidity for the rear triangle and top tube. Variously shaped frame sections also add stiffness to assist in acceleration, often a weakness in big wheelers.
The advantage of carbon is that you can use layering and shaping to build in resistance to twist and ﬂex while relying on the big circumference and volume of the tyres to add roll comfort. The tapered head tube is short, keeping the front end low while stiffening and future-prooﬁng.
Internal gear cables are a mixed blessing; they look tidy but ﬁtting new cables is ﬁddly. A 39/26-tooth crankset and 10-speed cassette offer gear ratios that are wide enough for any terrain and Formula RX brakes are superb. DT’s X470 rimmed wheels and Maxxis Aspen tyres are built for speed, but the big volume of the tyres adds comfort too.
We liked CrankBrothers’ 26.5in ﬂat bar but their Cobalt seatpost clamp kept tilting until we tightened its hex bolt far tighter than recommended torque pressure. The slimline WTB saddle, soft compound lock-on grips and Syncros stem all ﬁt the bill.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.