GT Helion 9er first ride review

100mm XC machine with chops for more action

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.

100mm of travel, 29er wheels, and a flat bar – don't be fooled, the helion 9er can rally
100mm of travel, 29er wheels, and a flat bar – don't be fooled, the helion 9er can rally

GT Helion 9er spec overview

  • Carbon main frame, alloy rear end
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 100mm travel
  • Small–X-Large sizes
  • Race Face and Shimano SLX 2x11 drivetrain
  • Includes a Race Face 1x ring

GT Helion 9er ride impression

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. 

GT aos suspension absorbs bumps well and accelerates out of corners nicely
GT aos suspension absorbs bumps well and accelerates out of corners nicely

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.
Bye, bye – the remote lock outs and the pinner racing ralphs would likely be the first swaps if this was my ride
Bye, bye – the remote lock outs and the pinner racing ralphs would likely be the first swaps if this was my ride

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.
Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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