GT Helion Carbon Expert review£3,000.00

Burlier than the average cross-country rig

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The Helion is billed as an “aggressive cross-country bike” courtesy of some burlier spec choices and lower, slacker and longer than average (for XC) geometry. Sounds good, right? We hit the hills to see how it behaved.

At the Helion’s heart sits GT’s Independent Drivetrain Angle Optimised Suspension system with its high main pivot and meaty Path Link. This rocker arm compresses the shock, houses the BB – in theory helping to isolate pedalling forces – and connects the front and rear triangles.

Classy spec sheet

Fox’s latest DPS rear shock – albeit in cheaper Performance, not top-end Factory, guise – burrows its way through the split seat tube of the carbon front triangle. A bar-mounted remote lets you toggle through its three modes and control the 110mm (4.3in) of rear travel. Cables are routed externally, with things getting a little busy above the BB area.

GT’s floating bb ‘aos’ design is meant to isolate the suspension from pedalling forces: gt’s floating bb ‘aos’ design is meant to isolate the suspension from pedalling forces
GT’s floating bb ‘aos’ design is meant to isolate the suspension from pedalling forces: gt’s floating bb ‘aos’ design is meant to isolate the suspension from pedalling forces

GT’s floating BB ‘AOS’ design is meant to isolate the suspension from pedalling forces

Our medium frame had a 69.5-degree head angle, 606mm effective top tube and 440mm chainstays, and the BB stood 330mm off of the floor.

Related: Which is faster: hardtail or full-suspension?

Everything on the Helion Carbon Expert is top-notch stuff – just as it should be at this price. GT has included Shimano’s latest 2x11 XT transmission complete with 11-42t cassette. At 13.3kg (29.4lb), you’ll be glad of the wide gear spread, especially if you have a lot of miles in your legs already.

With just 110mm of rear travel and a carbon mainframe you’d expect the Helion to be a touch lighter than 13.3kg. Fortunately, the impressively stiff frame and the bar-mounted remote that lets you lock out the rear suspension mean that the GT is more efficient than its weight would suggest when it comes to putting the power down through the pedals.

Singletrack slayer

With the shock’s low-speed compression damping in ‘open’ mode, the Helion will claw up the face of any technical climb, with plenty of rear wheel traction and without excessive suspension bob, even at slower speeds.

The helion lights up on technical singletrack: the helion lights up on technical singletrack
The helion lights up on technical singletrack: the helion lights up on technical singletrack

The Helion lights up on technical singletrack

Technical singletrack is where the GT really comes to life though. The wide bar and relatively short stem help make for lively, accurate steering, while the well balanced, supple suspension delivers predictable handling and more grip than expected from the low-profile tyres. Increase the speeds further and it becomes obvious just how capable the frame is.

The Helion’s rear suspension deals with the big hits impressively well, with just enough progression and control that you’ll throw it into far nastier situations than would normally be wise with this amount of travel. But it’s in these situations where the frame’s capabilities overshadow its components, which are more XC focused. Slap on a shorter stem, more aggressive front tyre and stiffer fork and the Helion would be a right ripper.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Rob Weaver

Technical Editor-in-Chief, Tech Hub, UK
Rob started riding mountain bikes seriously in 1993 racing cross-country, though he quickly moved to downhill where he competed all over the world. He now spends most of his time riding trail bikes up and down hills. Occasionally he'll jump into an enduro race.
  • Age: 36
  • Height: 172cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Natural trails where the loam fills my shoes on each and every turn
  • Beer of Choice: Guinness

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