The GT Sensor Expert has lost sight of its trail remit and isn't capable enough to justify its extra weight.
- With five frame sizes to choose from, you’re guaranteed a perfect fit
- Front-end stiffness and steering precision is boosted by the 15mm lowers and tapered steerer on the Fox 34 Float fork
- Naked stays make for an unnecessarily noisy ride
- Shimano Deore brakes with 180mm rotors offer supreme stopping power
The GT Sensor Expert is the highest specced alloy version of the Sensor and it sits squarely in the middle of a five strong range — only two carbon bikes exist above it.
Regardless of the frame material used, all Sensor models get 130mm of travel thanks to GT’s latest Angle Optimized Suspension (AOS) design. It’s a complex looking system, where the BB floats on the lower portion of the Path Link to help reduce some of the chain growth that goes hand-in-hand with an elevated main pivot and rearward axle path.
We suspect it’s a heavy design too, as the size large Sensor Expert weighed in at 14.7kg (32.5lb).
Last year, some models of GT Sensor came with 130mm forks while others rocked 150mm versions. This year, GT has split the difference, and all Sensors now get 140mm of travel up front — that’s 10mm more than on the rear.
It’s great to see a beefier Fox 34 fork on the GT, it definitely complements the overall ‘bigger is better’ vibe that GT has going on. The action of the Fox fork is super smooth and controlled, but you need to be careful when setting the rebound, because just a couple of clicks is enough to go from way too slow to just right.
We found it best to err on the side of caution, and run it a little faster than usual, as you don’t want the rebound damping holding the fork down.
With the rear shock obscured by the frame, it’s impossible to set the sag directly from the shock. Fortunately, GT Sensor Expert provides a sag indicator on the Path Link to take the guesswork out of it, but it’s small, hard to read and we’re not convinced of its accuracy.
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Initial set-up issues were compounded by the gear cable housing touching the shock body and interfering with the O-ring, leading to dodgy readings for sag and travel.
Initially, GT’s in-house All Terra 100mm dropper post wouldn’t stay up. Next ride,
it wouldn’t stay down. We eventually worked out that it’s pretty sensitive to cable routing, which was constantly changing as we raised and lowered the post with the seatpost QR — had the post offered 125mm of drop, there wouldn’t have been a need to lower it further.
Once working properly, there’s quite a bit of spring force to overcome in order to drop the saddle down, and lighter riders may need to give it a bump, rather than simply sit on the saddle.
With an oversized 35mm bar and stem, and beefy 2.4in Maxxis Ardent tyre up front, the GT felt every bit a stout as its weight suggested. It’s not the most dynamic bike, however, and the extra poundage definitely makes you feel more lethargic on the climbs. In fact, preload the suspension to pop the bike or flick it around a corner, and the GT can start to feel like a bit of a lump.
The GT Sensor Expert also has something of a split personality. On smooth flowing trails it feels super stable; almost glued to the ground. The rear suspension counters any rearward weight shift, which in turn keeps the front tyre loaded for supreme cornering traction. In these instances the GT Sensor would spread its wings and fly.
Point it down anything steep, however, and we found it hard to hold a line and keep the GT on track. In fact, we had more than a couple of close shaves on the Sensor.
We’re not sure if these were due to the way the rear suspension reacts under heavy braking, or the fact that the rider’s body position changes relative to the Path Link, making the semi-independent rear suspension even less effective. Either way, the Sensor Expert never really felt like the supremely capable 130mm bike it should be.
Decked out with a more gravity focus, it was instantly evident that the GT Sensor Expert has lost sight of its trail remit. And given that it was mostly on steeper terrain where the 130mm travel Path Link rear suspension struggled, GT has inadvertently highlighted the Sensor’s main weakness rather than playing to its strengths. Which are, regardless of gear selection, that the Sensor feels really direct when you stomp on the pedals, with no unwanted suspension wallow when cranking hard on fast, flowing trails. Sadly, it’s simply not rounded enough to be a great trail bike, nor capable enough to justify its extra weight.