GT Zaskar Comp review£1,000.00

Naturally aggressive and punchy smooth-terrain steed

BikeRadar score3/5

GT has been involved in mountain bike racing since the early 90s and the latest Zaskar is a naturally rapid – if occasionally rattled – race rather than trail-style hardtail.

    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.

    Fast rolling but sketchy-grip rubber and the poploc remote control fork lockout point to a bike designed for race work rather than rough play, and the rest of the ride backs that up:
    Fast rolling but sketchy-grip rubber and the poploc remote control fork lockout point to a bike designed for race work rather than rough play, and the rest of the ride backs that up:

    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.

    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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