GT Zaskar Elite review£1,099.00

Classic name still shines today

BikeRadar score3/5

The Zaskar has been the classic rapid all-rounder in the GT family for decades, and the 2010 Elite won’t disappoint its loyal fans.

It's a naturally rapid and responsive ride, thanks to a surprisingly smooth frame, sticky tyres and inspiringly balanced low weight handling. However, it definitely needs a better fork to become the great long distance trail bike or marathon racer it could be.

Ride & handling: Impressively light, smooth and surefooted ride from this classic all-rounder

With its flat handlebar and skinny, low knob Kenda Karma tyres a lot of trail riders might discount the Zaskar as too racey, but that’d be a big mistake. It’s certainly not rigged for tackling the steepest trails, but if you’re spinning the middle ring through flowing singletrack the balance is spot on.

That flat bar is a full 600mm wide and the Stick-E compound tyres make it surprisingly surefooted even in sketchy conditions. There’s also enough weight forward to really push the pace hard, safe in the knowledge that the back end will step out first in a controllable, saveable slide.

The slim seatpost and extended pencil seatstays suck a lot of sting out of the rear end, which increases traction and control from the relatively narrow tyres. Its impressive comfort levels mean it would be one of our first choices for a proper long day out or marathon.

High speed and rapid altitude gain is obviously the Zaskar’s real hunting zone though. Despite some high reliability (and relatively heavy) equipment choices such as the Shimano Deore hubs, the low overall weight certainly helps when you’re heading skywards.

While the sticky tyres slow you on tarmac, the tackiness and compliance in the rear end really help when trying to clean the crux moves of technical climbs. Lock-on grips are worth the extra weight when you’re trying to wring out extra wattage, too.

Frame & equipment: Spec is low for a £1,000+ bike but frame has serious upgrade potential

There’s certainly no shortage of tube manipulation in the frame, with all sorts of shapes squeezed out of the relatively narrow tubes. GT's trademark triple triangle overlap seat cluster overlap is retained with very narrow stays linking to minimalist 3D dropouts.

Mud clearance is bearable if not massive but the cable routing from top tube to seatstay does look awkward, especially if you slip forwards off the saddle and land on the stops.

The RockShox Tora coil fork is heavy compared with the air versions and the simple TurnKey damping can hold the bike back on faster, rougher descents. We’d upgrade as soon as we could to really exploit the frame’s potential.

The specification is underwhelming considering the £1,100 pricetag but there’s nothing here that doesn’t do the job adequately. Shimano’s officially obsolete Octalink-splined bottom brackets and HollowTech cranks still create a very stiff and reliable pedal platform.

Soft compound tyres are a rare spec choice on a race bike as they naturally roll slower than a less sticky, hard or dual compound tyre in the same tread pattern. Get the GT’s Kenda Karmas off-road, however, and the sluggish feel vanishes  to be replaced with remarkable grip for such low-profile rubber.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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