Same name, very different game. GT’s 2014 Sensor appears to be a big step into the future, when compared to the 2013 model of the same name.
What GT has aimed to do is build upon their Independent Drive system which we’ve known for many years, and improve on it. And with the new bigger (but not that much bigger) 650B wheels and a wild looking carbon frame thrown in the mix, the 2014 Sensor gives you a real sense that GT have stepped it up, reaffirming their heritage rich reputation, big time.
At the heart of the GT is a fresh new approach to mountain biking’s age-old challenge of reducing the impact that your pedalling forces have on the rear suspension. Gone is GT’s long serving Independent Drive, and in comes the Angle Optimised Suspension design, all new for 2014. The suspension pivots around a very high pivot point above the chain rings, but the bottom bracket is housed in a separate part of the frame, the Path Link.
A high pivot gives great suspension traits when it comes to bump absorption, but there are negative impacts on the chain tension, with feedback through the pedals as the suspension compresses. Enter the Path Link. When the rear suspension begins to compress, the Path Link moves the bottom bracket in the same rearward direction as the wheel will travel, in an arc, reducing chain growth and therefore the feedback typically associated with high pivot suspension designs.
It may sound like epic time wasting mumbo jumbo to some people, or really quite confusing, but in theory it all should make for plush suspension with good efficiency and a minimum of pedal feedback. Take a look at the video below of the linkage in action to help your head around what moves what, and why.
One thing that really struck us when first laid eyes on the Sensor, was the frame shape. It is chunkier than a fluorescent shoed boot camp instructor on Bondi Beach, with massive carbon tubes and shapes all over it, and its widely spaced pivots mean business. It is as stiff as it looks; we were quite baffled as to how such a tight and lowly slung rear triangle could feel so solid when we grabbed the rear end and wrenched it side to side – there was hardly any flex at all. The linkages are also quite meaty, with big axles and cartridge bearings adding to the very stiff construction.
The gear and brake cables are externally routed. In our mind if external cable routing is done as well as it is done here, we’d often prefer this to internal cabling. It’s neat, unobtrusive, quick and easy to work on and it also acts as a protective shield from debris impacting on the underside of the frame. Cable clamps fix the cables to the frame, keeping the bike quite free from zip ties, which is a nice change.
Triple chain rings? How odd. To cater for the booming European market (they love triple rings up there) GT have specced the Sensor with a triple ring crank set. To suit our tastes, we’d go for a double or single ring setup. But saying that it has been so long since we rode in such a low gear, it was actually quite good to knock it down to the low range gears and spin up steep inclines rather than yanking on the bars, out of the saddle gnashing teeth and groaning.
It looks like GT took a part from each brand when dressing up the frame. Making up the components is a real mixed bag from e*Thirteen, Formula, Shimano and RaceFace. Where we are used to seeing either Shimano or SRAM front to back on stock bikes these days, this looks more like someone’s custom ride than standard spec. Everything came together well though, but the handlebars were a little cluttered with a RockShox adjustable seatpost lever, Shimano shifter and Formula brake lever taking up a lot of real estate on the bars.
Our test bike had a bit of a hydraulic meltdown before we got it, with the brakes and seat post spewing juice everywhere during transit, so we had to borrow an older pair of Formula RO brakes, and live with the post not adjusting, ah well. That’s hydraulics for you.
The wheels were a real standout, fast rolling, light and super duper stiff but the freehub was so insanely loud it became a bit of an issue. It was hard to hear anyone talking to you, unless you were pedalling. Some people like loud rear hubs, we don’t mind them either, but in this case it was pretty intense! Pack some headphones if you plan to go for a quiet relaxing ride on these hoops.
The Sensor Team Carbon is the top of the line, and with a price tag to reflect that. Check out the GT website though for more model options, the carbon ones start at $4880, which is very fair.
Yes, it has 650B wheels – but wait a second – does it actually have 27.5” wheels? Well the graphics on the frame state both to help alleviate any stress caused by confusion. Haha!
The 2013 Sensor has 26” wheels; did we notice a difference with the bigger wheels? We forgot all about it in fact, as the whole bike rode superbly well in all areas and without a 26” bike on hand to compare it too we just focused on the bike, not the wheel size. Maybe we should have said the 650B wheels gave the bike great rolling, traction, etc etc but let’s just think of it as a whole new bike incorporating the new wheels instead. The Sensor rolled along great, and exhibited great traction.
Our test bike came to us as a large, which fitted some of our testers fine, but with the latest ‘long top tube and short stem’ trend, it was a big bike to rip around on. We are fans of the way modern bikes are coming out with longer front ends, as it gives you a lot more room to get rowdy and muscle the bike around, coupled with a short stem the grips don’t feel out of reach and the steering is rapid and responsive. The GT has totally dialled numbers.
For a 130mm travel bike, the geometry felt more like a bigger all mountain rig than a typical 130mm dually, with a very long and low feeling figure. This will appeal to the more experienced rider nicely, one that can pump and play with the trail and terrain more. The geometry of the bike lets you ride it hard, but with only 130mm of travel you are never feeling too isolated from terra firma. There really was a lot of stability on hand, and that coupled with such a stiff frame and wheels, it was pretty easy to be comfortable when the wheels were wound up fast.
Rolling the 650B wheels into the rougher trails, we noticed that the bike dealt with square edge impacts really very well, so maybe GT are onto something here with the super high main pivot point after all. And stomping on the pedals, the suspension firmed up just the right amount, so as not to soak up any of your energy into the shock.
We expected to feel the bottom bracket moving forwards and backwards as you ride, as you can actually see it moving when bouncing up and down. But, unlike the Mongoose and GT’s of yesteryear, we couldn’t notice it. Perhaps on the larger travel GT Force you may feel it.
FOX Suspension’s premium offerings handle the bumps, the fork felt amazingly supple and supportive, and matched the rear shock’s wide range of adjustability perfectly. Testament to the frame’s great suspension efficiency, we spent most of the time with the rear shock set to the open Descend mode, for a super supple and sensitive ride.
We all have a soft spot for GT as a brand, but we feel like they lost their way for a little bit over the last few years, we are happy to see that it looks like they have found their footing and are killing it with their latest models for 2014. The GT Force is another one we are eager to try out, at 150mm travel it’s got our name on it.
Our experience abord the Sensor was a great one, it is a fast rolling and efficient bike to ride. Not super mushy or comfortable when plodding about the trails, it’s more of a ‘get up and hammer hard’ type of bike with great geometry that allows you to really let the brakes off and pound it into the rough bits and drift around corners. There really is a lot to love about this guy.