GT has been moving forward with somewhat of a rebirth as of late. The iconic brand has returned from the East Coast back to its roots in the land of sun and the never ending riding season – Southern California. This move also coincides with a bit by bit update to their range with new lines and aesthetics as well as throwback graphics as a nod to their early days. I’ve been riding their latest all rounder – the Sensor Carbon Pro LE for some time now and wanted to share my thoughts on the new rig. Read on for the full scoop…
- 29″ wheels
- S, M, L (tested), XL sizing
- 150mm front travel / 140mm rear travel
- Carbon fiber front triangle / Aluminum rear triangle
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Universal Derailleur Hanger
- $5,750 USD
Starting with suspension, GT spec’d flagship RockShox bits throughout. Up front is the Lyrik RC2 with the new Charger 3 damper (high and low speed compression adjustment, single rebound adjustment), Buttercups and bleed valves. I’ve been very impressed with this fork so far and found it a great match for the bike. Out back is a Super Deluxe Ultimate RC2 which also features high and low speed compression and a single rebound damping adjustment, but sees hydraulic bottom out control as a bonus. I really like this shock and will dive deeper into suspension more below.
The cockpit is mostly a mix of in house/budget parts but I had no major complaints with them. I was happy to see a fairly tall 30mm rise bar and a steerer tube that was left with plenty of spacers on it. I prefer a tall front end and far too often I receive bikes that are too low up there. The in house GT grips were surprisingly comfortable and I’m a fan of the single clamp design. They remind me of a slightly firmer ODI Longneck. Lastly, SRAM’s Code RSC brakes have proven their mettle time and again. The externally adjustable reach and contact point are nice touch and a 200mm front / 180mm rear rotor combo is just right for this bike’s duty level.
I have nothing bad to say about the TranzX dropper seatpost. In fact I quite like its actuation and feel. Additionally the fact that you can easily adjust the travel is a great touch. Props to GT for scaling the seatpost travel throughout the size range and spec’ing a nice long 200mm travel on the size Large. Us lanky guys really appreciate that, so other brands, please take note! That said, I absolutely did not get along with the lever. On first inspection it looks like it would be fine but it has all the wrong angles and just doesn’t feel right. Fortunately you could swap to something much superior for about $45.
The Sensor Carbon LE Pro’s drivetrain is a smart mix of components that help get the price down to hit the right target. An XO1 Eagle derailleur keeps the shifting crisp but most of the rest is GX level – and that’s fine but it does weigh a little more than a full X01 drivetrain. Regardless, a 10-52T cassette provides loads of range. For the record, this model ships with a steel 32T chainring. As you can see above I installed a 30T for part of this review to help me cope with some of my more ambitious outings.
The cable routing is very dialed. It runs internally via the headtube with a super tidy exit at the bottom of the down tube secured with a molded plastic fitting and proper hardware. Perhaps what made my inner nerd most happy was the zip tie guides (bottom left).
The protection is what we’ve generally come to expect in the MTB world – a molded rubber guard on the chainstay that wraps more broadly at the critical points and features ridges to keep things quiet. At the bottom of the downtube is a burly rubber guard as well.
The Sensor rolls on WTB KOM i30 wheels which feature an in house front hub and a SRAM rear hub. The wheelset is nothing to write home about as it’s needed a couple of trues and retensions to stay straight, but largely speaking these wheels have been up to the task thus far and get the job done – provided you maintain them properly.
Lastly, the rubber consists of a set of Continental Kryptotal Fr tires. I’ve heard great things about these tires but personally I didn’t have the best experience – however there is some back story. GT’s spec sheet calls for a Kryptotal Fr/Rr combo in the “Enduro” casing with “Soft” rubber. My test bike shipped quite a few weeks before the new Sensor became available to the public and I believe GT was scrambling to get review bikes out. In that scramble my bike ended up with front tires both front and rear, but also featured the thinner “Trail” casings in the harder “Endurance” compound. It didn’t take long for me to put a pretty sizable wobble in the rear tire as a few hard corners had the thinner casing struggling. To be clear this was not the wheel but the tire itself… With that in mind, I think it’s safe to assume that the stock version with a thicker Enduro casing and a Soft compound would very much be up to the task – especially given how much positive chatter I’ve heard about these tires.
A quick once over of the numbers revealed geometry that I personally would opt for on my own bike. A 480mm reach and 440mm chainstays is dead on perfect for a size Large in my opinion. All of the other critical figures check out wonderfully as well. That said, it would be nice to see size scaled geometry as the front center : rear center ratios aren’t consistent throughout the lineup. As one could imagine, a 430mm reach and 440mm chainstay on the size small doesn’t have the same proportionality as my size Large did. It’s worth considering that doing so drives up manufacturing process costs substantially and GT places a heavy emphasis on value so it’s understandable that this wasn’t part of the final equation. Regardless, most of the numbers here are spot on and lend themselves to great handling both on the climbs and on the descents.
On the trail
Starting with setup this bike calls for a 25% sag percentage. That’s a smidge lower than the average bike, which I’d ballpark at around 30%. In any case I set the suspension up accordingly and headed out to the trails. As it turns out I had enough bottom outs to scratch my head a bit…I emailed my contact at GT to see what they call for in terms of volume reducers, or whether it should use the progressive or linear air can. Oddly there was just one volume reducer in the rear shock – which had the linear air can the Sensor calls for – but it is spec’d for 3 volume reducers. I happened to have two extra reducers laying around so I popped them in. At that point everything simply clicked and the suspension performed perfectly. Much like the tire situation, this can be chalked up to typical pre-release media sample struggles.
This new model takes the groundwork laid down by the last Sensor but refines things and buffs them out in great many ways. The last model was a worth all rounder and this is no different but it’s more dialed, lightweight and quiet/ One aspect that has gone by the wayside is adjustable geometry as GT no longer includes a flip chip in the lower shock eyelet. Because the geometry was so spot on I think that’s a fairly forgivable decision, but I generally prefer more options over less.
In any case GT offered some insight as for that choice from their perspective, which I appreciated. Basically, most riders they surveyed took a “set it and forget it” approach and didn’t change positions more than once. They also pointed out that a flip chip requires wider lower shock tabs, which inhibits compatibility with larger air cans and makes coil spring swaps difficult as you have to remove the shock hardware to swap springs, whereas the 20mm hardware they spec’d doesn’t bung that up. Fair play!
OK, so enough of the nerd stuff – let’s discuss how this bike actually rode on the trails. Starting with climbing, I found the Sensor to be extremely peppy. While a 77º seat tube angle puts you in a comfortable and upright position, this bike also rides high in its travel and is very responsive to pedal input, wasting no energy. I think attributing that characteristic to a low-ish sag percentage would be ignorant at best. My findings are that it actually is more of a consequence of the Sensor’s kinematics and general disposition. On multiple long grinds I got to the top of a trail and went to unlock the rear shock only to find that it had never occurred to me to lock it in the first place. Typically if I’m on a long climb and I feel any movement down there, I reach for that lockout lever without hesitation. The takeaway is that there is a very firm pedaling platform to push off of and this bike climbs extremely well.
While this makes the bike very well rounded and highly capable on the ascents, it does mean that it’s not exactly a masher that you recklessly rally through anything without a care in the world. It has more of a refined feel and doesn’t really beg to get thrashed. This also means that when it comes to descending it has quite a bit of pop and loves being in the air. It’s the bike that has you looking for bonus lines to jump over rough terrain, rather than plow through it. That’s not to say that it exhibited a rough ride or held me back in any way…I’m simply parsing out how it rode and where it stands on the lively to masher spectrum as I like to call it.
As far as any other on trail manners are concerned, GT has a great choice of spec on this model and thus provides a really good value to the consumer. Flagship brakes and suspension mixed with a proven drivetrain are a great starting point. That in combination with being dead quiet and boasting a sturdy demeanor made for a distraction free ride that allowed me to focus on the trail ahead. I didn’t notice any sort of pitfalls in terms of the Sensor’s feel in the corners or when I was heavy on the brakes. It’s a very peppy but calm bike that doesn’t really have any particular mannerisms that are screaming out, and I consider that a good thing. Over the course of the few months that I rode this bike there were no issues with any of the hardware or bearings and I found all of the frame’s features to be extremely well thought out. I was particularly impressed with the cable routing and if I’m honest I am over the moon for the low profile zip tie guides. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?
At the end of the day the new Sensor is a highly capable trail bike that hits all the right marks and I think GT offers a solid value proposition here. Top end brakes and suspension, a long travel dropper and a brilliantly thought out frame at the heart of it all has won me over. The fact that my main point of contention is the dropper seatpost lever, which is a very low cost part to swap, speaks volumes. Sure the wheels could be a little tougher but they aren’t bad by any means. As stated prior, the Sensor’s disposition leans in the peppy and agile direction more than it does the “smash” direction, but it’s definitely a confident rig that’s up for anything. All told, it seems GT is headed in the right direction.