Review: 2020 GT Sensor Carbon Elite 130mm 29er | Just Press Play

There is a truckload of cool in the personality of the GT brand which largely originates from those dominating performances by legends like Julie Furtado, Nico Vouilloz and Steve Peat on the World Cup circuits.

Through the years GT always signed the biggest names in the sport but they also offered the cutting edge equipment needed to keep their riders on top. From the original LTS suspension system with its Horst-link and trunnion shock, to their magical high pivot / floating bottom bracket I-drive system, to their ‘first-to-carbon’ Fury, GT has always pushed INNOVATION to achieve a refined ride quality.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
The design is absolutely beautiful. It’s not a crazy long bike, not crazy low but is crazy on value.

To the 2020 Sensor then, it’s a 130mm 29er which features contemporary geometry and a rocker activated Horst link suspension system. The frame is mated to a 140mm fork and at a price point of R41 000 should prove to be very popular in South Africa across a broad spectrum of riders.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
The contemporary 130mm 29er is proving to be a bike suitable for all of South Africa’s trails.


THE BIKE

The Sensor Elite has a deliciously shaped carbon front end with alloy stays and rocker. The metallic gold / yellow colour is decidedly au courant and demands attention on the trails. A ‘groove tube’ or recess on the down tube neatly houses the externally routed cables. The external routing enables a clean setup whether you run your brakes front-right or front-left and speeds up wrench time on any servicing or replacement work. The bearings and pivots are LARGER than what you might see on most 130mm bikes and the back section of the bike is very solid looking.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
A wrenches dream! All brake and gear cables are externally housed and sit inside a ‘groove tube’ on the down tube.
SIZES AVAILABLE| XS, Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large
FRAME| 2020 Sensor Carbon 29″, 130mm travel, Tapered Head Tube, Trunnion Shock Mount
FORK| RockShox 35 Gold RL, 140mm, 44mm Offset
SHOCK| RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT, 180x50mm 
BARS| GT Alloy Riser bar, 15mm, 780mm width
STEM| GT Alloy stem, 31.8mm clamp, 40mm length
SHIFTER| SRAM NX Eagle, 1 x 12 sp
SEATPOST|TransX Dropper 31.6, internal routing, 120mm (S,M) and 150mm (L,XL)
SEAT | WTB Silverado Sport
REAR MECH| SRAM NX Eagle, 1 x 12 sp
FRONT TYRE| Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance, 29 x 2.35″, Addix Compound
REAR TYRE| Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance, 29 x 2.35″, Addix Compound
CASSETTE| SRAM PG-1230, 11-50, 12 sp
CRANKSET| Truvativ Descendant 6K DUB, 32t, 170mm (S,M,L) and 175mm (XL)
CHAIN| SRAM NX Eagle 
BRAKES| TRP G-Spec Trail S hydro, 180mm front and rear
RIMS| WTB ST i29 TCS, 32h
HUBS| Formula
ESTIMATED RETAIL| R41 000
Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin

The RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT shock has two compression settings; a very firm mode which is almost a full lockout and an open mode. There are a total of 10 clicks of rebound and I ran it with 6 clicks from the fully closed (or all on) position, with the shock at 160psi.

The Sensor is a 1 X specific design and runs a 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain with SX shifter, NX rear mech, Descendant cranks and 11-50 cassette. I ran 68psi in the short offset, 140mm RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with rebound set at 7 clicks from fully closed.

The grips, bar and stem are in-house from GT whilst the brakes are TRP G-Spec with 180mm rotors front and rear. It’s a pretty comfy WTB Silverado seat with a TranzX 150mm dropper post. Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic 2.35″ Addix compound and Performance line tyres front and rear are a good middle of the road choice in terms of weight and protection for a 130mm bike. If you are going to charge the bike on really rough trails then you might want to go up to a Super Gravity casing which offers a little more protection at lower pressures, conversely switching to a lighter and faster-rolling setup will ‘XC’ the bike up a little.



GEOMETRY

From a fit point of view, the Sensor is on the larger side of things meaning you might need to ‘down-size’ from what you think you are. As always, pay special attention to the reach number before deciding on the right size for you. The large (test bike) with a 470 reach and 480 seat tube is a big machine. As a reference, I am 1.74m tall and would prefer the medium size which is a 445mm reach. While the head angle on this bike is slacker and more contemporary than what you might see on other 130mm travel bikes, the BB height is a little more conservative and in favour of riders who have a particular aversion to pedal-strike induced OTB’s.

LOW SETTING

  • REACH: 395mm (XS), 420mm (SM), 445mm (M), 470mm (L), 495mm (XL)
  • SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 392mm (XS), 400mm (SM), 430mm (M), 480mm (L), 520mm (XL)
  • WHEELBASE: 1141mm (XS), 1166mm (SM), 1194mm (M), 1222mm (L), 1251mm (XL)
  • CHAINSTAY: 435mm
  • HEAD ANGLE: 65,5° degrees
  • SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 76°
  • BOTTOM BRACKET: 349mm
Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
The lower shock mount features a flip-chip which alters BB height by 7.5mm. Throughout the bike, the cables are tucked well out of harm’s way.

HIGH SETTING

  • REACH: 400mm (XS), 425mm (SM), 450mm (M), 475mm (L), 500mm (XL)
  • SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 392mm (XS), 400mm (SM), 430mm (M), 480mm (L), 520mm (XL)
  • WHEELBASE: 1140mm (XS), 1165mm (SM), 1193mm (M), 1221mm (L), 1250mm (XL)
  • CHAINSTAY: 434mm
  • HEAD ANGLE: 66° degrees
  • SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 76.4°
  • BOTTOM BRACKET: 356.5mm

Incidentally, the geometry of the Sensor makes it more versatile in that it will easily cope with a 27.5 rear wheel in a MULLET setup. With the flip-chip in the high position, the 27.5 rear wheel puts the BB height at 342mm which is about perfect. It’s a little surprising to me that GT don’t seem to make much noise about this hidden bonus to the Sensor to be honest. I think it’s a huge selling point for riders who prefer a certain feel on the bike and have an aversion to rear-wheel butt-buzzing. Nevertheless, no harm no foul here, just more versatility on option.



TECH TALK



THE RIDE

For this test I rode the bike on the trails of Table Mountain, in Jonkershoek and in Tokai which together provided a mix of natural and sculpted trails, with everything from thick sand to hardpack terrain with a fair share of janky rock lines, booters and cambers.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
The Sensor is a comfortable, relaxed and easy bike to ride.

The steeper seat angle and zero offset seatpost make a difference on seated climbs and keeps things trucking on this Sensor. It probably doesn’t climb just as well as the spritely Cannondale Habit which I tested earlier in the year but is not far off it at all. My hips seem a bit further forward on the Sensor than on most mid-travel bikes I have ridden lately and it just feels like it’s easier to engage the muscle groups required to climb. For out of the saddle efforts it rolls more efficiently with the shock in the firm setting but on rough climbs, I kept the shock in the open setting and rolled through things.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
Out of the saddle stomping is most efficient with the shock in the firm setting.

The size large frame is a tad too big for me yet the bike still felt poppy and playful on flow lines with jumps and berms. 130mm is not a ton of travel for the trails I tested on but in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I needed much more travel, if at all. Once up to speed the Sensor carries the momentum and keeps speed nicely. It’s a remarkably fun bike to ride.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
It’s a fun bike in the turns, especially with a mullet setup.

In terms of the suspension performance, there is absolutely no blowing through the rear travel even on big hits. The quality of small bump performance (both front and back) is not what you will get at a bike that is double the price with say a Charger 2.1 damper, but the damping is still very capable. Switching to a bigger casing tyre will improve the small bump feel and corner grip.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
Big reach and big head angle numbers mean you have a lot of wheelbase under you and that all adds up to a stable ride which is most evident at speed.

The build kit, in general, is what I call no-nonsense. What I mean by that is everything works. The base-level SRAM Eagle drivetrain combo selected is not as sharp and snappy as XX1 but they are very reliable and never skipped a beat. The dropper-post lever-feel and actuation of the post itself is good. The TRP brakes needed a couple runs to bed in which was my bad as I never doused them in water before riding, but after 20 minutes of riding were biting like a terrier.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
Out of the box the Sensor is a ‘ready to play’ bike and there is no throw-away part on the build kit.

As far as mulleting the bike goes. Of course I tried it! Of course I loved it. Look, some riders just prefer 29ers and they are fast that way and that is perfect. When playing I do like to huck a little and at my height the smaller rear wheel is a little safer when hucking and a little more fun in the turns. The hidden bonus with this Sensor is that the bike works perfectly well as a 29F/29R combo or as a 29F/27.5R combo.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
It squats in then pops out of turns without much effort.

The Sensor does not have a premium build kit that you will find at the R100k+ price point, but it delivers truckloads of FUN ON THE TRAIL without punching a hole in your wallet. I think it is going to be popular in South Africa. Its appeal will likely extend across a broad range of riders like those moving away from marathon racing, those looking to explore trails, shred with mates, race Enduro and ex-DH racers looking for a shorter travel bike to shred on. Its PLAYFUL NATURE will appeal to the new school of riders coming into the sport purely to shred. The Sensor will cope with some of the gravity days at Vuurberg in the Cape, Giba Gorge in Durbs and other smoother runs across the country. It is also suited to shorter riders who haven’t moved to 29er bikes but now have the option of switching the rear back to a 27.5er if they don’t like the feel of a big wheel on the back.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin
The Sensor wants to play on the ups and the downs.


THE TAKEOUT

GT position this bike as an aggressive trail bike and whilst part of me agrees with that I think justice is best served by not pigeon-holing the Sensor into the shreddy crowd. The good ground clearance, grip and lack of pedal feedback translates into a bike that is capable of taking on tricky techy climbs too. As a package, the 130mm 29er GT Sensor is a budget-friendly and very capable all-rounder which is a lot of fun to ride.

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch - 4 December - GT Sensor Elite Bike Network photoshoot with Myles Kelsey. Photo by Gary Perkin

| IMAGES: Gary Perkin | LOCATION: Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch |


5 Comments

  1. That’s a very decent price for a carbon bike with those components! Any idea what the weight of the bike is?

    • Hi Jacques, we didn’t get an actual weight on it but it is coming back to us for some more riding so we will weigh it then. My guess is about 2.5kg up on a carbon down country rig but on par with other 130mm bikes in this price point which is around 15kg.

  2. This looks great! But will it be ok for a sixty year old like me is the question… ☺

    • Hi Brian, I believe the answer is ‘why wouldn’t it ben?’
      The relaxed geometry makes the bike more capable and safer for all riders. Where do you ride regularly?

  3. Cool. Saw it at my LBS today. Looks solid and really nice!


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