Still needs a lower BB height and a dedicated frame design to deliver its full potential
The GT Sensor Carbon Pro is the top-end bike in 130mm-travel 29er Sensor range. And it bears more than a passing resemblance to the 150mm Force that rolled to EWS success last year on both 27.5in wheels front and rear, as well as with a 29in wheel up front.
In fact, the Sensor and Force have a lot more in common than GT’s revitalized LTS suspension layout and flip-chip geometry adjustment. Take the carbon front ends that shun internal cable routing in favour of a recessed cable channel. Yes, they look identical. The alloy rear ends are similar too, and even though both bikes have different wheel sizes, the chainstay lengths are the same.
Coincidence? We don’t think so. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover the same eye-to-eye length shocks, where it’s actually the 5mm shorter shock stroke on the Sensor that accounts for it having 20mm less travel than the Force.
GT is not the only brand to use shared frame components across different platforms – the e-bike stays on the Cube Stereo 150 are proof in point – so why are we making such a big deal about it here? It’s because at 348mm, the BB height on the Sensor is sky high, and that’s in the low geometry setting. On dual-purpose designs with 29in and 27.5 Plus wheels, you can just about get away with it, but the jump from 27.5in to 29in is simply too big to bridge with a flip-chip alone.
Claimed travel on the Sensor is 130mm, and given that we measured it just one millimetre shy, that’s well within the margin of error of our basic measuring system. In addition to the three-position compression lever, the Elite level Float DPX2 shock gives you the ability to fine-tune the low-speed compression damping, as it does on the Cube’s Factory-level shock.
For 2020, GT has also tweaked the base shock tune to give a more supportive ride. So the Sensor now pedals more efficiently and offers more support when climbing. It’s a really big improvement, and somewhat negates the need for the three-position compression lever.
And it’s a similar story up front. By bucking the trend for the less expensive Grip 36 suspension fork and opting for the more expensive Grip FIT4, the Sensor has noticeably more low-speed support and control, which in turn makes the bike feel more stable. Combine this with improvements to the rear shock and it helps offset some of the negative handling effects of the higher BB.
Last year’s Sensor had an Addix Speedgrip compound Schwalbe front tyre. It has since been replaced by a 2.35in Magic Mary in the Addix Soft compound, and the ride of the Sensor has been transformed. In fact, it’s arguably one of the best winter tyres we’ve tested. To keep the tempo high, the rear Speedgrip Nobby Nic remains, so it’s a good compromise for a trail bike.
We also moaned about handlebar width, or lack of it. So it’s great to see the vibration-damping 780mm Spank Oozy Vibrocore making an appearance on the Carbon Pro. All that’s missing now are better grips, as the rock-hard GT lock-ons negated any advantage provided by the Vibrocore bar.
Straight-line speed on the GT Sensor Carbon Pro is second to none and the 130mm rear end works in perfect balance with the 140mm fork. It’s a good thing then, that the four-piston SRAM G2 disc brakes feel reassuringly solid. And that’s probably because SRAM’s factory bleed is still intact, thanks to the external cable routing of the Sensor frame.
Get the GT into situations that require a more dynamic riding style, however, and the elevated BB height makes you feel less confident to push this bike’s limits. The lofty riding position offers a great view over hedgerows, but it also makes the bike feel much shorter than the 470mm reach measurement suggests.
One year on from the model’s flawed debut, the 2020 Sensor gets a wider bar, grippy front tyre, stiffer 36 fork and firmer shock tune better suited to a 130mm-travel trail bike. And while GT is certainly moving in the right direction, the Sensor is hamstrung by the overly tall BB height. So while the superior support from the 36 FIT4 fork and Elite level DPX2 shock go a long way to mitigate the negative effects of the jacked-up riding position, the Sensor still needs a lower BB height and a dedicated frame design to deliver its full potential.