The latest carbon ﬁbre incarnation of GT’s cornerstone bike is here, and it has no problems keeping up with the new kids on the cross-country whippet block.
Ride & handling: Cross-country whippetry of the highest order
Throw a leg over the Zaskar and you’ll instantly realise the bike’s racing snake credentials. The low front end and narrow, ﬂat bars pitch you forward and straight into the engine room. The steering is lightning fast from the off and doesn’t take any prisoners once the speed picks up.
The pedalling efﬁciency is staggering – the Zaskar leaps out of slow turns and munches its way up climbs. The back end is stiff and can jump up and bite you now and again but that’s an essential part of the Zaskar’s charm – you learn how to go fast on it. Like driving on ice, it’s a balancing act between deft steering inputs and keeping the momentum rolling.
The Kenda Karma rubber offers decent communication and solid all-round grip while the RockShox Recon Race fork is superb. Under heavy braking the Zaskar tends to ‘stand up’ thanks to that steep head angle but the Recon remains surefooted and keeps the front-end planted in the trail.
There’s a deﬁnite groove that the Zaskar likes to be ridden in, and if you keep things smooth and precise, it’s eerily fast. Push a bit harder and it gets a bit squirmy but in a really controllable way. You always know where the Zaskar is at – it offers a level of communication that you don’t normally associate with this sort of bike.
Some bikes in this bracket suffer from ‘for race only’ syndrome but the GT is a bit more talented than that. Okay, so it may be just a tad too frenetic for relaxing all-day epics but that’s not what the Zaskar is about. This is a race bike that’ll bring a smile to your face too.
Frame: Carbon rehash of GT classic
The classic Zaskar triple triangle design lives on in full carbon glory. There aren’t many prettier cross-country bikes that we’ve seen! The head tube angle is a steepish 71 degrees, although the GT does feel slacker on the trail. Our size large came with a lengthy 24.3in top tube and 16.5in chainstays. The combo results in a really stable platform. That back end is super-stiff though – the GT doesn’t do ‘twang’ so be prepared to get those leg-based shock absorbers working.
Equipment: Smart speccing for raceheads
At the heart of the Expert is Shimano’s SLX groupset. It might not be earth shatteringly light but it all comes together exceptionally well. The shifting isn’t as immediate as some of its prestige stablemates but it is accurate and can handle emergency dump shifts with ease.
The brakes offer consistent feel and more than enough power to stop the lithe Zaskar. But we felt that the narrow ﬂat Ritchey bars limited the GT’s ambitions. Scrap them for something with a bit more width and rise and you reignite the Zaskar’s old school thrashability. The speccing of a Fizik Gobi XM saddle is inspired and spares your behind from carbon abuse.