Frame and equipment: an old dog with some new tricks
The original Zaskar was one of the first properly punchy and punishment-proof alloy frames and became an instant classic among hard riders as a result. There's plenty of that DNA left over 20 years later too, including GT’s trademark Triple Triangle design, which extends the seatstays past the seat tube and onto the top tube to increase stiffness.
While there’s still generous clearance for muddy conditions, this creates a firmly power friendly rear end that relishes being kicked into action hard at every possible opportunity.
The Zaskar’s conventional thread-in BB is a durability bonus and the clamp-on front derailleur means it’ll look really clean if you single ring it
The low and aggressive attitude created by the short head tube and long top tube is amplified by the parts pick too. Fast rolling, rounded profile Continental Race Kings and tight 32-spoked 650b wheels are a recipe for immediate acceleration snap and smooth trail speed sustain. The remote lockout-equipped RockShox 30 fork is straight off the race-ready menu too, and the overall weight is relatively low for its price.
Shimano Deore gearing means there are no worries about excessive wear over time and the SLX Shadow Plus rear has a switchable clutch to keep the chain from slapping around too hard.
Unlike cheaper Shimano stoppers the Deore M506 brakes have decent feel too. Just make sure you bed the pads in properly on the road before hitting wet and gritty conditions though or you’ll soon be down to the backing plate.
Ride and handling: fun, but skittish when the going gets rough
Hop onto the Zaskar and you’ll soon be taking any opportunity to get out of the saddle, get the power down and get a proper hard charge going on the trail. While the narrow bars are just about wide enough for acceptable leverage of the neutrally balanced frame, however, another 30 or 40mm of width would definitely increase confidence.
The Zaskar Comp is much happier with race work than rough play
The fork also lets a good deal of flex into the handling. To be fair most bikes at this price range are still using quick release rather than bolt-thru axle forks, but the GT’s lack of commitment when carving harder lines or off cambers was very obvious during testing. The 30mm diameter fork legs twist rather than track under pressure too and the fact there’s no biting edge on the Race King rubber doesn’t help either.
While it’s actually plusher than you would expect for the comparatively high air spring pressures it needs, the rebound also needs careful tuning to stop longer, bigger drop descents becoming an alarmingly bouncy Buckaroo experience.
The soft front also emphasises the very firm rear end on rough ground, and the Zaskar soon reaches its comfortable limit on rougher terrain.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.