GT divide their hardtail bikes into ‘XC’ and ‘Trail’ sectors. There’s actually not much to separate them in basic design and function terms but the Zaskars fall into the slightly lighter and nimbler XC category. Three carbon-framed options sit at the top of the range, while the Comp is the middle alu framed offering.
Ride & handling: Lively in all respects
On the trail, the first thing you notice is that this is a more lively bike than a lot of other big-wheelers. Its stiff frame, reasonable weight and steep head angle (72 degrees) have a lot to do with this. Together, they create a more lively ride character than on other 29ers at this price.
The steering feels almost nervous initially, but confidence grows quickly because bigger wheels actually have a slightly dulling effect on steering geometry, adding confidence at both low and high speeds.
Comfort suffers a bit, partly because the saddle is not a particularly comfy one and partly because the geometry setup places you well forward with more weight on your arms.
The upside of this is that it creates a ride posture that helps sustain a powerful pedal action and, as your confidence grows in the handling, the sat-forward posture creates a tendency to work the fork hard.
The Zaskar promotes an aggressive ride stance that should suit riders looking to take part in competitive events, but this doesn’t exclude it from being a great all-rounder.
GT zaskar 9r comp: Steve Behr/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Good gear ratios and controlled suspension
GT have faithfully stuck with their triple triangle frame design roots. If nothing else it makes the mainframe and rear triangle more compact, and presumably stiffer because of that, although with the new generation of hydroformed tube shapes it’s hard to know whether this gives them a real advantage over frame designs from rival brands. But it’s certainly a talking point, and one that comes without obvious downsides.
Mud clearance around the rear tyre and crotch clearance over the top tube are both excellent and, while we rarely have a problem with down tube gear cable routing, the GT’s inner cables run into outers under the bottom bracket, so are prone to down tube spray collecting in the outers.
A few other small details are worth a mention. We like the wraparound quick-release seat clamp and the short tapered (1.125in to 1.5in) head tube and fork steerer, which add extra stability to the front end, making it futureproof and, with its integrated headset, prevent the lanky front end that some big-wheelers suffer from.
The RockShox Recon fork comes with 100mm (3.9in) of plush, well-controlled travel, a cable lockout lever on the bar and a rebound damping adjustment knob under the right-hand leg. The fork is air- rather than coil-sprung so adjustments for rider weight and ride feel preferences are simple, but if you don’t have a shock pump, you’ll need to buy one.
With SRAM’s 11- to 36-tooth 10-speed cassette out back, most riders out there will be happy with the 24/38 rings up front. Running a double up front keeps the chain lines nicely efficient throughout the gear range and, while the cranks are admittedly a fairly low-budget offering, they do come with an integral axle and SRAM’s GXP external bearing bottom bracket setup.
The X5 shifters and front mech and X7 rear mech are relatively low budget for this price point too, but they perform superbly and have probably allowed GT to fit a much better fork than would otherwise have been the case.
The wheels, featuring in-house-brand hubs and decent Alex MD19 rims, are tightly built and relatively light. The Maxxis Aspen 2.1in treads have a low-profile knob design that rolls fast and hooks up well in dry conditions, but slides around a bit in the mud.
Avid’s Elixir 1 brakes are best described simply as adequate, with a well modulated lever feel from new (their long-term durability reputation, however, is not exactly glowing). All the finishing parts are decent in quality and well matched to the character of the bike. The wide, flat handlebar and Easton stem can be either raised or lowered by anything up to 5cm.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.