GT’s budget racer has a hydroformed 6061 aluminium frame, carbon fork and interesting componentry. Mechs are the usual (at this price) Shimano 2300 but these are paired with Microshift eight-speed shifters. While this setup shifts faultlessly, we’re not so keen on the shape of the hoods or the lever design. Overall, though, the Series 5 is fast and responsive.
Highs: Excellent weight for the price, great looks and excellent all-round performance
Lows: Minimal mudguard clearance and the Microshift levers take some getting used to
Buy if: You’re looking for a lightweight, fast first road bike.
The Series 5 has shed weight since last year, and at 9.99kg/22lb (without pedals) is among the lighter bikes we’ve tested at this price. This contributes to an excellent turn of speed and very lively acceleration. The compact frame proved comfortable over longer rides too, despite the oversize seatpost – no doubt helped by GT’s ‘biomorphic’ saddle.
While in theory 6000 series aluminium isn’t as strong as 7000 series, in practice you won’t notice any difference and the material has a long, successful history. The frame is extensively hydroformed and very neatly finished, though the hefty weld where the top tube meets the down tube isn’t the prettiest.
The GT’s overall performance is helped by a reasonable set of wheels, and we like the Schwalbe Lugano tyres too, with their excellent file-pattern tread. These are quite modestly priced but offer a good balance of grip, suppleness and speed.
The bike isn’t without its quirks, though. There are mudguard eyes but you’d be hard pressed to fit full-length mudguards, the gap at the rear measuring just 4mm or so. Brakes with a more pronounced arch would squeeze a little more room, but it would still be tight, especially when you consider that the bike already comes with 23mm tyres.
But the GT’s most unusual features are the Microshift eight-speed levers, which are paired with Shimano derailleurs and an FSA Tempo chainset. Shifting is excellent, but the ergonomics of the three separate levers takes some getting used to, especially if you’re wearing thick winter gloves. With a little practice you do get used it, though.
Behind the dedicated brake levers there’s a paddle lever for downshifting the rear mech (upshifting the front mech on the left-hand lever). Above this is a smaller third lever for rear upshifts/front downshifts. It doesn’t take much effort – the lever’s shortness means a nudge by the inside of your index finger will do the job – but the close proximity of the three levers can be a little awkward.
The GT name might have fallen behind some of the opposition recently, but the Series 5 could help resurrect it. It looks good, offers an enviable balance of speed, handling, comfort, performance and weight, and does so at an impressive price.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.