The not-so-minor details
GT Sensor 27.5
GT have just completed the launch of the 2014 GT Sensor and Force 27.5 bikes at Deer Valley, USA. Flow was there to see them unwrapped to the world media, but more importantly, we were there to ride them. After a solid day on the trails these are our first thoughts.
They say first impressions count and the GT Sensor scored high points straight up. When it was wheeled out from behind the big black curtains at the Deer Valley launch, we immediately fell in love with how good the bike looked. The paint, the shape, the angles, and the design all married to make a damn good looking bike. We were also super stoked to see a new bike, not just a re-paint of the previous year’s model.
The 130mm 27.5 (650B) Sensor is, to use GTs words, “designed for the aggressive trail rider, who is out ripping single-track and occasionally testing their racing skills while drinking their way through an 24 hour race. You don’t want to compromise on climbing or descending ability, and want a crisp, efficient pedaling platform.” That is a whole lot of marketing food to consume, but basically we feel it’s a perfect bike for most people’s riding.
GT have gone to great lengths to completely redesign the Sensor for the new wheel size, and compared to the old it’s worlds apart. In fact, the Sensor (and the Force) have been over two years in the making with several iterations of tests bikes being built, ridden, and sent back for re-design. The biggest differences we first noticed are the angles, lengths, and suspension design. The new breed of GTs, including the Sensor, are now lower and slacker (see illustration below). They have also been lengthened in the top tube and come standard with shorter stems (80mm on the sensor). The theory behind both the angles and cockpit changes it to make a more aggressive bike that allows you to sit “within” the bike.
The suspension has also gone through a very substantial change and is now termed Angle Optimised Suspension. The AOS utilises a high single pivot combined with the new GT Path Link. The function of the Path Link in a nutshell: to allow for the use of a high single pivot to achieve a rearward arcing wheelpath, provide the same pedaling performance as the traditional I-Drive, control chain growth, and minimise pedal feedback. We will explain this in more detail when we do a full review, but basically the Path Link moves the bottom bracket in the same rearward direction as the wheel arc, reducing chain growth and feedback normally associated with high pivots.
After being impressed with the physical and technical aspects of the bike, would we be impressed with how it rode? Yes, we were impressed. The first thing we noticed was how stiff the rear of the bike was and how playful it felt. If we were blindfolded we wouldn’t have been able to tell the bike was a 27.5″ as it manualed, cornered, and felt very much like a 26″. Also, we noticed only very minimal pedal feedback and a very active suspension feel.
With most of the bike’s mass very low the Sensor was able to transition between left and right turns very quickly with no feeling of delay in that transition. The FOX front and rear shocks worked well and we liked how the rear ramped up and eliminated hard bottoming out. The Sensor felt quick out of corners and accelerated easily. A good bike for a trail with many, many corners.
Were there any negatives? As we were riding on unfamiliar terrain and had no reference it was too hard to tell if the Sensor’s bigger wheel size made any difference rolling over rocks and roots. The theory does indicate that it should, but only testing on our local trails will answer that question. Also, as the rear of the bike was so stiff, it kind of felt funny to have a 32mm fork matched with the the rear feeling stiffer than the front.
As soon as we get our hands on one in Australia we will give the bike a full test. So far we love it and testing on our local trails will add more to the story.