Words & Images: Robin Moore
I’ve been pedaling the GT Sensor Carbon Elite around my local trails in Cape Town, riding everything from snappy XCO type trails to longer marathon type terrain, to slightly faster and rougher enduro type trails – here’s my take.
GT is known for offering cyclists a big bang for their buck and this Sensor is GT’s trail series 29er is no different with the Elite slotting in as the entry of their carbon fleet at an extremely competitive R41 000. The Elite is a solidly spec’d bike that seems to have the perfect combination of features, quality and price making it a great all-rounder.
A super-durable and playful trail bike designed for the aggressive trail rider, and built around a new take on
GT’s iconic LTS design, the GT Sensor is a 130mm, 29- inch trail bike for the rider that wants to ride fast and focus on the fun of it.
GT was one of the earliest adopters of Horst-link in mountain bikes with its LTS (linkage tuned suspension) system back in the mid-90s, but had phased this out in favor of I-Drive. Now LTS is back with GT claiming reduced weight and improved reliability as key reasons for this move. It’s a really well-balanced suspension
that feels more generous than the listed 130mm of rear travel, giving you the confidence to smash through most obstacles and terrain without losing power to pedal bob on the climbs. Modern slack geometry (66˚ head tube angle, 77˚ seat angle) pushes the front out on descents, and you back in the saddle on climbs. The bike is also equipped with a rather cool flip chip on the rear, which alters the head and seat angles by half a degree and the bottom bracket height by about 6mm. According to GT, reliability was a key design consideration.
The Sensor Elite sports a carbon front triangle and uses an alloy rear triangle, which GT claims is done for better longevity. Double-row pivot bearings are used throughout, along with a threaded bottom bracket again in order to improve reliability and serviceability. Cable routing is external only for easier servicing, and is routed down a neat groove above the down tube. GT have also left enough room in the front triangle to mount a bottle cage, for those shorter rides which don’t require a hydration pack.
The Sensor is a 1X specific design and runs a 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain with SX shifter, NX rear derailleur, Descendant cranks, with a 32T chain ring and 11-50 cassette. Plenty of gears to grind up
technical terrain. The drivetrain is pretty bomb proof. The base-level SRAM Eagle drivetrain combo selected is not as sharp, crisp and as light as the top-level SRAM groupsets, but it is extremely reliable and never skipped a beat.
The front fork is a 140mm RockShox 35 Gold RL fork. The rear shock is a RockShox Deluxe Select+, with a two-position lever. It’s either in ‘open’ mode or ‘locked out.
The grips, bar and stem are in-house from GT, as well as the 120mm dropper post. Set-up was super easy with the post. Its return was quick and consistent, and I never had an issue with it, although it is a very light
action on the remote.
The Sensor was trimmed with Kenda Regolith Pro TR 2.35” on the front and Kenda Booster PRO SCT 2.35” on the rear. While these are different to what you will find on the original spec, they were a great choice for
my local trails and my type of riding, making the bike a little lighter and faster rolling. While some may want
something a little more aggressive for more gnarly trails and conditions.
A mentionable note must be made to the upgraded Zero Two Carbon Trail Wheelset (R16900 RRP) which I
tested on the Sensor as well. The wheels were incredibly stiff, nice and wide and definitely a lighter option to the original specced WTB ST i29 alloy wheelset.
Brakes are TRP G-Spec with 180mm rotors front and rear, with plenty of stopping power on the descents.
While it took me a one or two rides to get used to the feel and modulation of these brakes, they performed
extremely well on long descents.
Climbing – The Sensor was a delight to climb, ascending like an angel up rough trail. Steep rough climbs? No problem. I was amazed how easy the Sensor made technical features.
Descending – The Sensor really does rip on the downhills. Quick, agile, stiff when you need it. As a rider you feel centered on the bike, making it easy to flick it where you want it to go, especially on steeper, more technical descents. On less technical descents, those long, fast descents where you want to let loose, I found the Sensor felt less secure, leaving me a little on edge at time but this was more than likely because I was on a large frame when I usually ride a medium.
The 130mm 29er GT Sensor is a budget-friendly and very capable all-rounder which is a lot of fun to ride. If you’re a rider looking to upgrade from a hardtail or riders used to shorter rear travel, you will absolutely love how the Sensor climbs without losing power. And when you get to the top, you’ll be ready to tackle most trails confidently (undoubtedly faster than you’d expect!). While it’s no enduro race machine and it’s not a lightweight XC rocket, the Sensor sits right in the middle – on the trail! For most trail riders, the Sensor will satisfy all their needs, from all-day rides, to fun and flowy trails, and would take on a shorter stage race with ease. The GT Sensor is a modern-day trail bike engineered to go fast, get loose and have fun.