GT Zaskar Carbon Comp 9r first ride review

A cross-country reinvention of a classic

It’s been more than 25 years since GT released its original Zaskar and, in that time, it’s morphed from a tough do-it-all hardtail into a cross-country speed machine.

The GT Zaskar Carbon Comp frame

The Zaskar’s carbon frame is great, but doesn’t leave much in the budget for kit
The Zaskar’s carbon frame is great, but doesn’t leave much in the budget for kit

Just as recognisable as the name Zaskar is GT’s classic Triple Triangle frame design, where the seatstays overlap the seat tube and merge with the top tube. 

In this case, the frame is made from carbon-fibre, with a tapered head tube, Boost-spaced 148mm rear end and optional internal routing for Shimano’s electronic Di2 gearing. The gear cable and rear brake hose are routed externally, but held neatly on the underside of the down tube.

Designed to rip up hills as fast as it can descend them, the 29in-wheeled Zaskar’s angles are decidedly focused on cross-country. 

It comes with a 100mm fork, which gives a steep 69.5-degree head angle and 65mm of bottom-bracket drop. Fairly long 440mm chainstays are matched to a longer than average (for a cross-country bike) 462mm reach on the Large size. This equates to an effective top-tube length of 654mm, which gives a slightly more rearward climbing position than other similar bikes, though the 73-degree seat angle stops things feeling too laidback.

The GT Zaskar Carbon Comp kit

For the price, I wasn't impressed by the spec. The air-sprung RockShox Recon Gold fork has a 15mm axle and bar-mounted lockout button but its damping isn’t the most refined and I found I had to run it fairly hard to stop it diving in the rough. 

The Zaskar’s handling isn’t helped by the super-hard Performance compound Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres either. Their low-profile tread makes them zip uphill but descending on anything remotely loose is pretty terrifying. 

The brakes are Shimano’s budget M365s, with long lever blades that give a rather wooden feel, and the 160mm rotors don’t add meat to the stopping power. On the plus side, gear shifts from the mix of XT and SLX kit were flawless, and the single-ring FSA crankset meant I had no concerns about dropping the chain while putting down the power.

The GT Zaskar Carbon Comp ride

Given the Zaskar’s cross-country orientation, it’s no surprise that it excels on flat or uphill singletrack. 

The taut carbon frame transfers all of your effort into the wheels and it accelerates fast, with minimal effort. While it’s stiff, there’s enough compliance built into the rear end that you don’t get shaken to bits, and it’s a rapid and grin-inducing ride on mellow trails.

This Zaskar is certainly a very different beast to its original namesake
This Zaskar is certainly a very different beast to its original namesake

Point the bike into anything a bit steeper and the twitchy head angle, stretched-out riding position and cross-country-focused components will kindly ask you to return to the blue trail. 

That said, the low-slung bottom-bracket gives a nice low centre of gravity and means you can whip the bike around tight trees and carve between turns with ease. If you do this at speed, though, you’ll start to feel the narrow (19mm internal) WTB STP rims flexing.

This Zaskar is a very different beast to its original namesake. While it may not have quite the same razzing potential, it’s still a fast bike. With a few spec upgrades to reduce weight, you could take it cross-country racing with minimal disadvantage.

The GT Zaskar Carbon Comp specifications

  • Frame: FOC carbon-fibre
  • Fork: RockShox Recon Gold TK Solo Air, 100mm (3.9in) travel
  • Rear Mech: Shimano Deore XT M8000
  • Shifter: Shimano SLX M7000
  • Cranks: FSA Gamma Pro MegaExo
  • Cassette: SunRace CS-MS8
  • Wheelset: WTB STP i19 rims on GT All Terra hubs
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Performance 29x2.25in
  • Brakes: Shimano M365, 160mm rotors
  • Bar: GT All Terra, 740mm
  • Stem: GT All Terra, 80mm
  • Seatpost: GT All Terra rigid
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Sport
  • Weight (Large without pedals): 11.89kg (26.23lb) 

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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