GT Pantera Expert first ride review£1,400.00

Smooth, lively ride with frame and kit frustrations

GT’s Pantera uses plus-size tyres to amp up the float and fun. While the narrow handlebar and weak brakes can be replaced, the American brand has missed a trick by not providing internal routing for a future dropper post upgrade.

Specifications

  • Frame: Hydroformed 6061-T6 aluminium
  • Fork: RockShox Revelation RL, 120mm (4.7in) travel
  • Cranks: Shimano SLX with FSA Comet
  • Rear Mech: Shimano Deore XT
  • Cassette: SunRace CSMS8 cassette e*thirteen TRSr chain guide (1x11)
  • Wheelset: All Terra DB-X40 rims on All Terra Boost hubs
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Performance 27.5x2.8in
  • Brakes: Shimano M365, 160mm rotors
  • Bar: All Terra, 710mm
  • Stems: All Terra, 70mm
  • Seatpost: All Terra rigid
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado
  • Weight: 13.16kg (29.01lb), large size without pedals

There’s a lot to like about the Pantera frame. The front end is low so the 2.8in tyres don’t raise the bar too high (as long as you remove the generous stack of stem spacers), and the 455mm reach on the large size gives plenty of breathing space and decent stability in the mainframe. 

With a 440mm back end to give plenty of room around the big rear tyre, the GT is naturally grounded and grippy rather than a manualling maniac. 

The 68.5-degree head angle is designed to keep the steering keen despite the extra tyre bulk, rather than throwing the front wheel way ahead for maximum aggro attitude.

GT’s decision to spec a RockShox Revelation fork makes sense

The versatile nature of the Pantera is underlined by its full set of rear rack mounts. Its Shimano shifting is kept sharp by a direct-mount rear mech at the end of completely sealed cables that are bolt-clamped under the down tube for easy switching. 

While hot-and-hard speed fiends will be pleased to see two sets of bottle cage bosses, we think riders attracted to the added grip and flow of plus bikes would much rather be able to fit an internally routed dropper post, but with no cable/hose exit point that’s not an option. (You could still fit an external dropper, though.)

The components

GT’s decision to spec a RockShox Revelation fork, not the Yari we see on a lot of bikes in this category, makes sense, because it’s lighter and still stiff enough to handle 120mm of travel on a responsive rather than radical hardtail. 

The FSA cranks get a smaller than average chainring to offset the larger tyre diameter but the 2.8in Schwalbe Rocket Ron rubber is fast-rolling anyway. 

An e*thirteen upper guide provides some extra chain security
An e*thirteen upper guide provides some extra chain security

We’d prefer a bigger bar for ‘power steering’ control, and the cheap, wooden-feeling Shimano brakes would definitely benefit from a larger front rotor, if not a complete upgrade to something more powerful and communicative.

The ride

If it sounds like we’re being slightly harsh at a price point where things are rarely perfect, it’s because the basic ride of the Pantera is excellent and it deserves to fulfil its potential.

The tyres blow up nice and fat and floated on the 40mm rims, and while the ‘Performance’ rubber compound is super-slippery in the wet, they roll very quickly, especially on the kind of rooty, rubbly and rippled terrain that makes up most natural trails. 

GT’s ‘Triple Triangle’ frame design underlines that, with a similarly smooth but swift character that loves to be raced between the trees and doesn’t mind an extended climb or the occasional drop either.

The basic ride of the Pantera is excellent
The basic ride of the Pantera is excellent

With a 740/750mm bar and shorter stem swapped in, the Pantera feels on point for steep, techy climbing or swift dispatch of swerving singletrack to make the most of that plus tyre float and speed sustain. 

It definitely needs at least a bigger brake rotor for confident descending, though, and we lost count of the number of times we waved our thumb hopefully at where we wanted a remote dropper post lever to be.

Early verdict

The GT Pantera Expert is an enjoyable XC/trail hardtail that needs a bigger bar, better brakes and internal dropper compatibility.

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

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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