Compare-O Bottom Line: GT Sensor Carbon Expert’s stellar suspension performance underwhelmed by parts spec

27.5 Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

Is it wrong to say the GT Sensor has a good looking rear end? Whatever the case, we wish the front end matched it.

Where’s the beef?

It would border on understatement to call this bike’s parts spec disappointing. Up front is a 130mm RockShox Sektor SL 32, which frankly was just not up to the task. Think of the muscle head gym rat who only works his upper body, and you get the idea. The Sensor Carbon Expert’s beefed up rear suspension easily drove the front end into submission, causing the fork to dive. Give us a Fox 34 or better yet a RockShox Pike, and this bike would immediately be improved.

There were similar issues with the Formula T1S brakes, which one tester called “downright scary” due to a lack of modulation, while another reported that they were “howling like banshees by the end of the test run.”

There was also plenty of griping about the triple-chainring—“I thought they were dead;” the Fizik Tundra2 saddle—“Ouch, just plain ouch;” the Continental X-King tires—“On a trail bike?” and the WTB alloy wheels—“Flexy and totally inadequate for really pushing this bike hard.”

The easiest solution, if money is not an object, is to jump up to the $7050 Sensor Carbon Pro. But even then you’ll get a bike with a triple chainring and 32mm stanchion Fox fork, which remains underwhelming for a bike that’s screaming for a more balanced and beefy parts spec.

On the upside, we continue to be impressed with the KS Lev dropper post found here, and appreciated the reliability and crispness of the Shimano SLX rapid fire shifters.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Pasta anyone?

Finally we’d be remiss for not mentioning this bike’s cable routing, which at varying times was labeled artistic, confused, or just plain ill-conceived. Bottom line, there’s a lot of twisting and turning, especially underneath the bottom bracket, which leads to both poor shifting performance and increased exposure to the elements—remember, this bike is closer to the ground than most.

If this bike ends up in your garage and you decide to do some work on it, best snap a photo of the routing before taking anything apart, lest you can’t figure how to put it all back together.

Who is this bike for?

After reading all this, you might think our answer would be, no one. And honestly that thought crossed our mind. As one tester put it, “This is proof that a solid frame design can be undone by bad parts spec.”

But GT’s AOS suspension design struck such a positive chord that overall our test crew were willing to look past some of the poor spec and weird cable routing. In a perfect world, we’d love to just buy the frameset (currently not offered on the GT website) then spec it ourselves. Shimano brakes, wider bars, a shorter stem, softer saddle, and a better fork could instantly transform this bike into an all-day expedition machine that could handle all but the most technical and rough downhill problems, and still carry its pilot up hills that would force lesser bikes into push mode.

The Last Word

Props then to GT for coming to market with such a successful suspension redesign. They’ve proven that common perceptions of what works and what doesn’t aren’t always grounded in truth. The high-pivot-point rear suspension easily handled all we could throw at it during our test session, while at the same time delivering a fantastically fun, nimble and playful ride both going up and down. If they can get some of the spec issues sorted out, this rig will immediately leap to the top of our personal trail bike wish list.

The Good
  • Low BB and center of gravity enhance control and steering
  • Minimal pedal bob
  • Reliable Shimano drivetrain
  • Good looks
  • Innovative and effective suspension design
The Bad
  • Potential for pedal strikes
  • Heavy
  • Triple chainring
  • Lower tier fork
  • Flexy wheels
  • Hard to reach shock lever
  • Brakes lack modulation, squeal
  • XC’ish tires
Price and trickle down versions

GT Sensor Carbon Expert as tested: $4880
GT Sensor Carbon Team: $9220
GT Sensor Carbon Pro: $7050
GT Sensor Expert (alloy frame): $3800
GT Sensor Elite (alloy frame): $2820

2014 GT Sensor Carbon Expert Key Specs
  • MSRP: $4880
  • Weight: 28.04-pounds (size large)
  • Wheel size: 27.5 inches
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Color: Raw
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Fork: 130mm RockShox Sektor
  • Rear Travel: 130mm
  • Rear Shock: Fox Float CTD
  • Headset: Orbit C-40-ACB
  • Handlebar: Kore Durox AL6061 bars 740mm
  • Stem: Kore Cubix 80mm
  • Grips: GT Statement Single Lock-on
  • Seatpost: KS Lev Integra dropper post
  • Brakes: Formula T1S with 180mm rotors
  • Brake Levers: Formula T1S
  • Shifters: Shimano SLX Rapid Fire
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano SLX
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus direct mount
  • Cassette: Shimano 10-36
  • Crankset: RaceFace Evolve triple crankset (42/32/22t)
  • Rims: WTB ST i23 TCS 650b
  • Hubs: All Terra High Flange alloy disc hubs
  • Spokes: DT Competition, 1.8/1.6 Stainless, Black
  • Tires: Continental X-King 2.4”ProTection Folding front, Continental X-King 2.2” ProTection Folding rear
  • Bottom bracket type: RaceFace PF30
  • ISCG Tabs: No
  • Chain guide: No
  • Head tube angle: 68.5 degrees
  • Seat tube angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Chainstay length: 17.3 inches
  • Bottom bracket height: 13.2 inches

For more information visit http://www.gtbicycles.com/2014/bikes/mountain/trail-full-suspension/2014-sensor-carbon-expert.

This story is part of Mtbr’s 2014 Enduro Compare-O. Check out our intro story here for all the ground rules and goings ons.

Compare-O Bottom Line: GT Sensor Carbon Expert’s stellar suspension performance underwhelmed by parts spec Gallery
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GT Sensor Bottom Line

Photo by Tyler Frasca.
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GT Sensor Sun

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GT Sensor Climb

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GT Sensor Aired

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GT Sensor

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GT Sensor Rear

Is it wrong to say the GT Sensor has a good looking rear end? Whatever the case, we wish the front end matched it.
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GT Sensor Bottom Line Thumb

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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