GT I-Drive 5 Elite - first ride £1099

Uphill suspension ability

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Exclusive to Bikehut stores, this cross-country full-suspension rig excels on climbs, but lacks a bit in singletrack.

Halfords and Bikehut have a line of GT bikes available exclusively through their stores. The I-Drive 5 Elite is their top-of-the-range cross-country bike. It consists of Bikehut’s own component spec hung from GT’s I-Drive 5 frame.

Ride & handling: great climber but flex hinders singletrack agility

The first thing you notice once you climb aboard is the roomy chassis. Even though we had switched the stem for a 65mm number, there was ample room for a great climbing position.

The I-Drive suspension really comes into its own on climbs, with the bike making eager and efficient progress.

Despite the bottom bracket being independent, you really feel as if you have a positive connection with the rear wheel when you stomp on the pedals. The suspension continues to work under hard pedalling, giving great traction in or out of the saddle.

Sadly, the narrow top and down tubes allow for some noticeable torsional flex when honking on the bars, and the bike feels a little nervous on off-camber climbs as a result.

 The Elite doesn’t respond well to attacking technical singletrack trails. The combination of the flexy front triangle and fork adds up to a fairly large delay between steering input and response. Combine that with a neutral head angle and it all makes for fairly uninspiring progress.

On the plus side, the high pivot means the bike carries speed extremely well and is a cinch to manual through dips. It’s also great for snapping out of turns or up a short rise.

Frame: tried & tested suspension

I-Drive certainly isn’t new and – as with most long serving suspension designs – has stood the test of time because it works. I-Drive stands for ‘independent drivetrain’, referring to a floating bottom bracket that’s connected to the front end of the bike via a dog bone link and the rear by a swing link.

As the suspension compresses, there’s a slight rearward movement of the bottom bracket which neutralises virtually all pedal feedback and any pedal-induced chain influence over the rear suspension.

The oversized main pivot is relatively high, giving a significant rearward axle path. Up front, the top and down tubes are oval, narrow profile affairs that make it a bit disconcerting to look down.

The top tube is fairly roomy, running to 585mm (23in) with a steep 73 degree seat angle at one end and a neutral 69 degree head angle at the other.

Equipment: good running gear hindered by controls

The bike is well specced for the price, with a RockShox Revelation 409 up front that matches the Monarch 3.1 shock out back. Avid Juicy 3 brakes offer adequate stopping power, running a sensibly specced 180mm rotor.

But these good components are compromised by the long 105mm stem and narrow but sweeping 640mm (25in) bars, which make it feel like you’re steering a goat out on the trail. We ditched them to test the rest of the bike more effectively.

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