GT's Helion comes into the 2017 model year with bigger wheels and a bit less travel. This carbon 100mm 29er has GT's capable AOS rear suspension, Fox shocks front and rear, and a bit of attitude that belies its spec.
Park City, Utah's Deer Valley resort is relatively diverse, welcoming riders of all abilities with trails suitable for all types of bikes. While riding lift-accessed terrain on a 100mm full-suspension bike might be considered bringing a knife to a gunfight, the XC-oriented GT Helion 9er held its own pretty well.
This short-travel 29er is surprisingly capable and fun. The progressive geometry encourages pushing hard. Out back, GT's AOS rear end took the hits; it's the same suspension found on the brand's enduro rigs, just detuned with less travel. It felt decently stout through head-high berms and tracked admirably.
The Fox 32 Performance fork though felt seriously undergunned. The unique Step-Cast lowers look wild, and certainly drop weight, but don't add stiffness. The chassis flex combined with the lack of compression made me hit the remote to run the squish in the middle setting. This instantly improved the Helion 9er's trail manners, keeping the fork riding higher in its travel, and giving a bit of platform to the suspension front and rear to press against.
Hitting the ground were Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. These tires might be good for purely XC terrain with tacky soil, but on the dry, loose resort slopes, they were scratching for traction, and not confidence-inspiring when being leaned over. A more aggressive tread, at least on the front, would likely do wonders even on most XC tracks. The WTB I23 rims are also on the narrow side with a 23mm internal width and flexed when stuffed into corners or when touching down from a bit of air time, but for general XC duty and narrow rubber, they're an adequate wheelset.
GT Helion 9er price
Pricing for GT's 2017 line has not been finalised as of the writing. We'll update when we have more.
GT Helion 9er vs the competition
As riders, we're extremely lucky to have some amazing short-travel XC whips with surprising trail-ready capability. Pivot's inspiring Mach 429 SL and Kona's Process 111 come to mind, and GT's Helion 9er, with a spec change here and there, is a fine example of the breed, especially when two alloy models are available for affordability. It's a fun bike that can take on some XC action and much more.