It’s been 17 years since GT unveiled its I-Drive suspension in a glam rock-style cloud of dry ice, but it’s still a good way to get a bike up and down techy trails. Especially if you make the bike out of stiff, light carbon fibre, then hang good kit off it.
Frame and equipment: stiff, light and finely detailed
GT calls the latest incarnation of its ‘floating’ bottom bracket system Angle Optimized Suspension, rather than I-Drive, but it does the same job. That job is squeezing the shock between the mainframe and the top of a third, ‘Pathlink’ frame section. The Pathlink carries the cranks, and it pivots in relation to the mainframe and the rear swingarm at the bottom. By doing so it removes a lot of the chain stretch, which in turn means the top of the swingarm can pivot higher than normal on the mainframe without causing excessive pedal feedback.
Impressive value kit comes from raceface, formula and shimano: Russell Burton
Impressive value kit comes from RaceFace, Formula and Shimano
Why does that matter? The higher pivot position lets the back wheel swing up and away from impacts really easily, effectively amplifying the suspension’s ability to handle shocks.
That was a surprise to our testers who hadn’t ridden the system before, and found it rode more like a 150mm bike than a 130mm one when walloping down stuff. Also, all these parts are buried down in the bottom of the bike and, despite the host of joins and moving parts, the frame is impressively stiff from screw-thru Maxle to Maxle.
The top-value SLX front and XT rear gears are direct-mounted for crisp shifting, the clamped bearings are easy to replace and there’s a sag indicator to make setting up the well-hidden shock possible.
SLX front and xt rear gears are direct-mounted for crisp shifting: Russell Burton
SLX front and XT rear gears are direct-mounted for crisp shifting
Ride and handling: traction control
Consistent wheel connection and the backward ‘trapdoor’ swing mean impressively tenacious, reasonably bob-free climbing traction in any of the three rings of the Race Face cranks. Despite the complexity, overall weight is impressively low, even with an internally routed dropper post fitted as standard.
There’s plenty of authoritative steering leverage in the 740mm bars and, while the RockShox Sektor fork might not have the car-park kudos of a Fox, it outperforms every Evolution or Performance-series Fox and is stiffer too.
Fashionistas may gasp, but rockshox’ sektor easily beats budget fox forks for consistent control: Russell Burton
Fashionistas may gasp, but RockShox’ Sektor easily beats budget Fox forks for consistent control
The only trouble is that – again – we wish it was either longer or the head angle was slacker. With its climb-friendly weight – and GT’s own Force offering raked-out geometry and a burlier build – we can see what it was thinking, and indeed the 68.5-degree head works well on tight trails and techy climbs.
However, if GT didn’t want the Sensor hammered as hard as the rear end clearly likes, why has it got wide bars, a dropper post, big rotor Formula Enduro brakes and a 2.4in front tyre?
The good news is that the frame is warranty-safe for a 150mm fork, so if you do want to get fast and loose, all you have to do is remove the spacer on the air spring and you’re there.
This article was originally published as part of What Mountain Bike magazine’s Trail Bike of the year awards. What Mountain Bike is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.