GT's Zaskar shouldn't need an introduction for most mountain bikers. After all, this is a bike that has been used to achieve World Cup wins in cross country, downhill, slalom and trials riding disciplines – what other bike can claim that?
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For 2017, the Zaskar is offered in five build kits, two using a repainted version of last year's carbon frame, and three builds using a new-for-2017 frame design. All models use 650b wheels. We took a closer look at the Zaskar Elite 27.5, the range-topping alloy bike. It'll retail for £1,299 (international pricing is TBA)
With 120mm (4.7in) of travel up front and a relatively lightweight build (sadly, we didn't have scales to hand at this launch event), the Zaskar Elite should have no issues with cross-country, while its 1x Shimano XT/SLX transmission and aggressive Schwalbe Magic Mary tyres mean that more aggressive terrain shouldn't be considered out of bounds.
As previously mentioned, the frame is new. Look past the loud day-glow finish and GT's classic triple triangle and you'll find a new C-shaped section above the rear dropout at the rear end. It's a feature that is shared with the company's latest Pantera hardtail, and is said to spread forces more evenly at the back end of the bike into the chainstay and the seatstay, for a more comfortable ride.
Geometry tweaks see a 69.5 degree head angle and 73 degree seat angle along with generously sized front triangles (454mm reach value on a size Large) and 435mm chainstays. The forged bottom bracket area uses a regular, threaded BB and, unlike the bolt-thru dropouts found on the carbon bikes, there's a quick-release rear end.
The Rockshox Recon Gold TK uses a Solo Air damper and features external rebound adjustment plus a PopLoc handlebar-mounted lockout lever. Being the 120mm model means it also benefits from a 15mm axle as well as a tapered steerer.
Back to that transmission for a second, because readers outside of the UK won't be receiving exactly the same build when it comes to this bike. As a matter of fact, GT will spec a double transmission on all of its Zaskar models that are sold outside of the UK. By contrast, only the cheapest Zaskar Comp model will come with a front derailleur in the UK – yep, as far as GT is concerned, the UK really hates shifting up front. At the rear wheel there's a Sunrace 11-42t cassette, which offers the same range as Shimano's dedicated 1x XT part.
WTB ST i23 rims should make for easy tubeless conversion and, although some riders will appreciate the stock 2.35in Schwalbe Magic Mary, we can't help but feel like many will consider them overkill. Non-series Shimano stoppers use 160mm centre-lock rotors in what should be a dependable braking setup. It's also good to see these bikes receive a stubby own-brand stem and matching 740mm handlebar.
It's a feisty comeback from GT's biggest model name, we'll soon be getting one in to have a go so stay tuned for a full review.