The Zaskar LT was launched earlier this year with two pocket-friendly 29er models aimed at trail riders looking for a little more aggression from the classic Zaskar name.
Previous iterations of the Zaskar have ranged from its original do-it-all attitude bikes to the more recent preference for cross-country-style machines.
With ‘LT’ bolted on to the back end of the name, GT has stretched the front triangle, slackened the head angle and bolted on a pair of burly yet budget-friendly forks. This is the pricier Expert version, but for £300 less you can buy the Elite, which has a similar attitude.
GT Zaskar LT Expert frame and suspension details
The Zaskar LT frame is built from alloy and features GT’s signature ‘Triple Triangle’ frame construction. This means that the seatstays shoot straight past the seat tube and plug in to the top tube.
GT terms these ‘floating’ seatstays and claims that they give the bike 50 per cent more vertical compliance than one where the seatstays join the seat and top tube at a more traditional junction.
GT’s signature triple-triangle frame design is back! Russell Burton / Immediate Media
Around the rear axle is a smooth-looking radius from chainstay to seatstay, and the seatstays blend into the kinked top tube to give a touch extra standover height, and a sleek look to the bike.
The bike is built for a 130mm fork (but will accept a 140mm if you prefer) and there’s all the usual ‘mod-cons’ that you might expect: internal cable routing along the down tube, an external bottom bracket (BB) shell, Boost-spaced bolt-thru axles and room for chunky tyres.
The down tube hosts the only pair of bottle cage bosses on the bike.
Wide bar and short stem – a classic trail-combo. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
GT Zaskar LT Expert bike geometry
The Zaskar LT Elite is firmly in the trail bike camp when it comes to its shape.
The numbers, such as head angle and reach, are similar to what I’d expect to see on your average full-suspension trail bike, but given that hardtails tend to be a little shorter in reach, and often have slacker seat angles, it’s good to see GT bringing longer and slacker figures to its hardtail line-up.
The reach, for a size Large (as tested) is 465mm and that’s joined by fairly long 450mm chainstays, a steepish (for a hardtail) 75-degree seat angle and a slack-ish 66-degree head angle.
The slightly less plush feeling 35 fork still feels good thanks to the bulletproof rear end. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
Angles between hardtails and full-suspension bikes aren’t entirely comparable, though, because the bikes behave differently on the trail.
Through impacts, a full-suspension bike’s front and rear suspension will compress. This keeps the bike’s shape relatively stable (at least on a vertical compression), whereas only the fork on a hardtail will compress.
This means the head angle in particular will change more through a given impact than on a full-suspension bike because the bike effectively pivots around the rear axle.
Wide tyres on wide rims give plenty of grip and some comfort. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
As such, there aren’t a huge number of hardtails sporting much more than the 130mm of travel seen here because the changes to the bike’s geometry upon full compression of the fork become fairly substantial.
You’re also able to ‘get away with’ a slacker seat-tube angle because a full-suspension bike will sag into its travel when you sit on it, and sit potentially even deeper into its travel on a steep climb.
Therefore, steeper static seat angles are more advantageous on a full-suspension bike because it’s rare that you’ll actually be sat over the cranks at such a steep angle.
GT Zaskar Expert bike specifications
GT has managed to build the bike to be fairly burly, to mirror the shape of the frame.
The bike is one of (hopefully) more bikes to sport RockShox’ 35 Silver TK fork. This has 130mm travel and a 35mm stanchion chassis, similar to that of a RockShox Pike, but with a simple Solo Air air spring and TurnKey damper, offering a six-position compression adjustment and lock-out.
The bike rolls on a pair of Maxxis Minion tyres: a DHF at the front in a 2.5in Wide Trail width and a 2.4in Wide Trail DHR II at the back. They’re mounted to wide WTB rims built around Formula hubs.
WTB is building a solid reputation around its rims. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
SRAM supplies the drivetrain and it’s a largely NX Eagle group, with a couple of SX items to keep costs in check.
Shimano’s MT410 brakes bring it to a halt with 180mm rotors. Sadly the Shimano levers and SRAM shifter don’t sit too happily on the bars together and are certainly not as ergonomically pleasing as a full Shimano or SRAM setup would be.
Finishing kit comes courtesy of GT and Fabric, and TransX for the dropper.
A dropper is a welcome addition and pretty much expected at this price point. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
GT Zaskar LT Expert ride impressions
I rode the bike on a range of fast and fun trails in the South West of the UK. Predominantly fast and flowing, but I also took the bike down some steeper, rougher tracks.
Setting up the bike was fairly easy, but getting the right balance of pressure and tyre stability took a bit of experimentation.
As mentioned, the combination of a Shimano brake lever and SRAM shifter didn’t sit particularly well on the bar.
The bike came in at 14.4kg on my scales.
Even though there’s no give at the back end, the Zaskar LT encourages you to let rip. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
GT Zaskar LT Expert climbing performance
With no rear suspension to worry about, power transfer from the cranks to the rear wheel is as direct as you’d expect.
With a 75-degree seat angle, you’re nicely placed over the cranks, enabling a comfortable pedalling position that lets your legs deliver all their power.
The 637mm top tube and 780mm bars mean there’s plenty of space over the bike, helping keep your chest open and breathing easy. It’s certainly not a cramped feeling bike.
This allows you to easily move around over the bike, aiding control on more technical climbs where you might need to shift weight forward and back to provide more grip, or more precise steering on steeper sections.
The rear tyre does offer plenty of grip, especially when pressures are set fairly low, however at this point drag is high, especially on smooth climbs where it’s very noticeable.
Raise the pressures and you’ll roll faster, but the tyre is more likely to spit dirt out the back, especially in dry, dusty conditions.
Without rear suspension to offer that little extra grip, you need to be mindful of balancing traction, comfort and drag.
SRAM’s NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The SX/NX drivetrain provides a decent 11-50t range, which gives few excuses on even steep pitches.
Shifting is decent for the money, but a Shimano Deore setup would, in my experience, be a touch smoother under power.
GT Zaskar LT Expert descending performance
With a long reach, slack head-angle, tough forks and wide tyres you’d expect the Zaskar LT to be confident on the descents, and assuming you’ve set fork and tyre pressures up well, you’d be right.
With plenty of bike in front of you, it’s possible to weight the wide bars into the grippy 2.5in wide tyre, and push into the dirt to provide buckets of grip and cornering confidence.
At just over 320mm (static), the BB is fairly low too, so you can drop your heels to further lower your mass and help the bike engage the tyre’s shoulder tread in a turn.
Low slung geometry and voluminous tyres mean plenty of cornering traction. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
It’s a similar story on straighter, faster tracks. The long front, paired with a long rear-end gives the bike plenty of stability, so the only real limit is how much you can grip on to the bars.
There’s no way of avoiding the harshness of a hardtail’s back-end, though. The 2.4in tyre on a wide rim gives plenty of volume, but there’s only so much rubber can do.
Likewise, even if the Triple Triangle design does give 50 per cent more compliance, it’s only 50 per cent more of not-very-much, so don’t expect a sofa-like ride.
Up front, the RockShox 35 does a reasonable job. In the car park the basic damper, and what feels like lots of friction, means it’s not a smooth-feeling fork, but when riding, any harshness or lack of subtlety is lost when the rear end of the bike is smacking through the bumps.
The lockout is handy on climbs, but largely I left the fork alone. There’s enough progression through it that I wasn’t banging off its bump stops on every landing, and while ‘better’ forks tend to offer smoother travel and more support, there aren’t a huge number of bikes at this end of the market with a fork that offers such a stout and capable chassis.
The Power Spine crank doesn’t use the more ‘normal’ external bearing bottom bracket design. Russell Burton / Immediate Media
To make the most out of it, you’ve got to drop those heels, push through the chatter and aim for those smoother lines. And, when you manage that, the bike rewards you with a lot of smiles, as well as relatively high levels of control and confidence.
The Shimano brakes aren’t super-spangly models, but once bedded in they did the job well with the 180mm rotors front and rear.
Likewise, the SRAM drivetrain remains reliable and quiet even when you’re pounding through rough terrain.
GT Zaskar LT Expert bottom line
GT has done a great job of building a pocket-friendly bike that’ll appeal to those who want a more aggressive bike.
The parts package is decent (considering GT’s non-direct-sale model, which inherently leads to higher prices for the kit), but I’d still like a non-mix-and-match brake/shifter combo, and perhaps a ‘proper’ externally bottom bracketed crankset.
The only thing I’d say about the pricing of the bike is that at £1,300 you’d have to be fairly dedicated to hardtails to look past the full-suspension offerings (in the UK at least) for the money.
However, GT has clearly put thought in to a lot of its purchasing decisions; a well-shaped frame deserves a stout set of forks to help you make the most of the shape and this is only bolstered by chunky, grippy tyres.
You’re not going to love all-day rides on this bike – it’s either draggy or harsh – but for bombing through the woods, it’s a heck of a ride.