It would be fair to say that the Zaskar name has one of the longest lines of history, development and evolution of any bike that’s still in production to this day. Dating back to 1991, you’d hope that the original bike’s raucous mojo is still flowing through the most recent iteration.
GT Zaskar Alloy Comp frame
Constructed from an alloy that GT called Speed Metal, this iteration of the Zaskar features the iconic triple triangle that has been synonymous with GT bikes from the very start.
The frame has external cable routing for all cables and there’s no provision for an internally-routed dropper, if you ever wish to upgrade.
The rear wheel is fixed in place using a quick-release system rather than any form of thru-axle, Boost or otherwise. There’s a front-mech mount on the seat tube, but the bike is supplied with a 1x gearing set up.
The head tube is of the tapered variety and while my test bike runs on 29in wheels, there is a 650b model with the same spec available.
The bike’s XC-orientated 69.5-degree head angle feels slightly at odds with a 462mm reach, 1,162mm wheelbase and 440mm chainstays. Although the head angle screams XC, the rest of the bike’s geometry is considerably more trail-focussed.
Add in the 307mm bottom bracket height and the Zaskar looks like it should be pretty handy out in the hills. That’s just as well, because GT claims the Zaskar should handle everything you can throw its way and make you rethink what a hardtail can do.
The Zaskar has two bottle cage mounting points, one on the seat tube and one on the down tube. Unfortunately, the seat tube bosses interfered with how far the seatpost can be inserted, so if you need your post to be long, but dropped out of the way on the descents, you might struggle to slam it far enough down for your tastes. I didn’t have an issue with maximum and minimum insertion during the testing period though.
Aesthetically speaking, it’s got sleek lines that, when combined with the low bottom bracket, give the bike a fast-looking shape that should translate to on-trail competence.
GT Zaskar Alloy Comp kit
Much like the Cannondale Cujo, GT has managed to spec an 11-speed Shimano XT rear mech that’s mated to an SLX shifter and an 11-46 11-speed Sunrace cassette.
This is a move that has to be applauded at this price point. And you’re also rewarded with the fantastically supple Recon RL fork that has 100mm of travel and a remote lockout system.
The Barzo tyres offer more than enough grip to rail corners. Steve Behr
GT has specced WTB ST i21 tubeless-ready wheels, which have a relatively narrow 21mm internal width, laced onto Formula hubs. It’s specced with fairly aggressive 2.25in-wide Vittoria Barzo tyres.
Shimano’s BR-M446 calipers use 160mm rotors and are paired with BL-M445 levers that have rather long lever blades. You’re treated to FSA Gamma Pro cranks with a narrow-wide 34t chainring and FSA external bearing bottom bracket.
The bike’s finishing kit features a range of own-brand parts that include 760mm wide bars, a 7-degree rise stem, grips and standard seatpost. It has a WTB Silverado Sport saddle for your rear end though.
GT Zaskar Alloy Comp ride impressions
The Zaskar surprised me, being somewhat of a dark house. I was less than convinced that it was going to ride in a calm, composed and trail-focussed way – given the relative steepness of its head angle – but the reality on the trail was a little different.
It wasn’t especially difficult to push the bike up to its limits where it can get pretty rough and rowdy in a relatively short space of time. To top it off, the bike’s limits were much further down the road of ‘loose’ than I was expecting, which meant the bike was much more capable at riding harder and faster than I’d anticipated.
This is down to the bike’s geometry. Despite the seemingly steep 69.5-degree head angle, the longer reach, adequate wheelbase and longer chainstays equate to a roomy and controlled ride.
There’s plenty of space to move your body around and the longer geometry numbers help the bike to remain more stable in precarious situations.
Add these elements together and the bike’s more than capable of packing a harder punch than its head angle would suggest. The steeper head angle certainly helps to keep the bike nimble enough on the flatter, pickier trails too, which works well with the longer reach.
There are a few spec elements that stand out right away – there’s the obvious omission of a dropper post, which even on an XC-biased bike, would be nice to see – and Cannondale has proven that it’s entirely feasible for a bike of this price and similar spec to include one.
The length of the lever blades is, quite simply, too long! Steve Behr
The brake levers are particularly long too. If you’ve got long fingers or don’t mind running your levers a long way inboard on your bars, then the lever blade length poses less of an issue, but the bike’s shifter and fork lockout lever needed swapping around with the levers to make everything fit as it should.
This makes setting up the controls frustrating and I’m unsure why levers would need to be quite this long in the first place because the brakes weren’t lacking in power, and due to their length you end up pulling the levers halfway along the blade anyway.
The brake pads also rattled badly in the calipers over rough ground, which was incredibly off-putting.
The Recon fork is a top performer for the price. Steve Behr
Despite there only being 100mm of travel on offer the Recon RL fork handles the bumps with impressive proficiency.
Couple that with the 29in wheels, lengthy reach and wheelbase numbers and it means you’re not spending as much energy keeping the bike on-line.
It’s possible to overwhelm the fork (and the bike as a whole) though, especially if you’re going particularly quickly into rough terrain.
The bigger wheels and stretched-out geometry make climbing a breeze. There’s a remote lockout lever to prevent any unwanted fork bob on the climbs, although I found this to be entirely redundant in use.
The Zaskar has a snappy, light feel, so when you put the power down, you really can feel the bike surging forward. This surge is felt both on steeper climbs and on flatter, rougher sections, with the big wheels helping to smooth things out and sustain momentum, whereas smaller-hooped bikes can tend to stutter and stall a little more frequently.
The 11-46 cassette has a huge rang of gears. Steve Behr
The XT-SLX based drivetrain was faultless and the bike refused to drop a chain, no matter how many times I backpedalled in rough sections.
The tyres also surprised me too. I was concerned that the aggressive tread and fairly hard rubber compound would make me feel like Bambi on ice as soon as the trails were wet, but they offered plenty of bite and I preferred the way they gripped compared to the broader tyres, such as on the Cannondale Cujo.
Although it has XC-biased geometry, the Zaskar still likes to ride fast and hard. Steve Behr
Overall, I found the bike was easy to hold speed with, especially when ridden aggressively.
It does feel like it has a real split personality and it’d be nice to see GT commit to full-on XC racer or gnarly trail shredder, rather than hover between the two disciplines as it currently does.
GT Zaskar Alloy Comp geometry (L)
Head angle: 69.5 degrees
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Top tube: 63.1cm
Seat tube: 48.3cm
Bottom bracket height: 30.7cm
For a little more
GT Zaskar Carbon Comp
Spend an extra £700 and you’ll get the same frame in carbon and a Sektor fork, but the rest of the spec remains fairly unchanged.
For a little less
GT Avalanche Expert 29
For £100 less the Zaskar’s little sibling, the Avalanche, is within reach. This particular model has a RockShox Recon fork but doesn’t have a dropper post.