GT's Avalanche has been a front runner among £500 bikes for years but this year it stands head and shoulders above others we've ridden. It's even turned some of our test team off top dollar bikes, so what exactly have GT done to create this excitement?
The chassis has been evolving for a while, and now exudes a real subtlety that's markedly different from many 'use the biggest tube possible as a logo billboard' bikes that clog up the mid market.
The integrated Aheadset headtube gets discreet reinforcing around top and bottom edges and there's a similarly understated leaf gusset under the throat of the down tube. Contrary to standard practice, the mid-sized down tube is no fatter than the top tube with both getting teardrop to flat oval shaping to combine vertical front strength with horizontal pedalling stiffness. Main tubes are butted for localised strength/stiffness too.
The rear stays are skinny for an alloy frame, with subtle tapers to neat hollow knuckled dropouts that ape the replaceable ones on GT's full suspension bikes. GT retain their trademark Triple Triangle overlapped seatstay design too, with tidy welding where the seat tube extends through the top tube.
Any structural advantage is a moot point, but it does mean the cables flow through very smoothly. Twin bottle cage bosses complete a well thought-out frame.
The great frame already gives the Avalanche a clear advantage but GT have also backed it up with superb value kit right through to the last detail. The Suntour X100 fork impressed riders used to suspension that costs more than the whole bike. There's no adjustment beyond a lockout lever for road work, but spot on spring rate, decent damping and no top or bottom out bluntness meant we didn't need to tweak.
Truvativ cranks are a mid-price stalwart, but the LX/Deore gearpack is great for the money, with a noticeably crisp, more upmarket feel than similar bikes at the price. Kevlar coloured Jagwire cables match the gilt frame panels and add to the clean shifting feel.
The Tektro disc brakes are impressively controlled too, with proper self-adjusting pad wear making them worry-free weather beaters. The finishing kit is all good gear, with extra wide bar leverage appreciated almost as much as the 'Grip firmly at both ends for best performance' instructions etched on the the bar!
That sort of fun attitude is written right into the character of the bike too, making it an instantly and universally enjoyable ride throughout our test team.
The fork feels way better than we expected for this price. It's controlled and consistent throughout the stroke and hasn't seized up after three rides like all budget forks did until recently.
The frame is particularly peachy. The combination of slim rear stays and mid-sized down tube is outstandingly smooth, while the beefier top tube keeps things in line and under control. You can get a bit of rear disc rub if you really pile the pressure on through corners or on climbs, but you never feel you're wasting power or losing precision. The lack of chatter and steep seat angle keeping the nose down helps traction when you're charging up climbs too. There are frames costing more than this bike that feel less cultured.
Weight distribution and overall balance are great too. Some riders might want to chop the wide bars down, but the extra power-assisted leverage helps you feel sure-footed when things start to kick-off under your front wheel.
The steep seat angle pitches in again to nail the front wheel through loose turns and it'll lift or hop either end easily for quick line changes or danger dodging. Add consistent, controlled brakes, faultless shifting plus competent all round tyres and basically it does everything you want it to do, when you want it to, in exactly the way you wanted to.
- Superb, subtle feeling, beautifully balanced frame
- The most complete £500 bike we've ever ridden
- At this price, nothing