A Bike Ready for Many Peaks
Karakoram line of 29er aluminum hardtails is named after the Karakoram mountain range that borders Pakistan, India and China. This range is known for the highest concentration of mountain peaks over five miles tall found anywhere on earth. It is GT’s lofty goal to reach as many riding peaks with the Karakoram bike line as the mountain range has.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
GT offers four Karakoram models—from our test bike, the top-of-the-line 1.0, to the ultra-affordable 4.0 at a suggested retail of $525. All four models share the same frame. The 4.0 is great if you’re a rank beginner who plans on bike-path riding and some off-road excursions, but by the time you get to the 1.0, you are buying into a serious hardtail trailbike. The 1.0 has what it takes to stand up to pun- ishing trail-riding conditions. It is also for riders who want to experience a 29er but are not ready to break the bank to do so.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Longtime riders will smile when looking at the Karakoram’s profile. GT still uses their Triple Triangle frame design that separates a GT hardtail from any other bike on the trail. The frame itself is made from hydro- formed aluminum tubes that are internally butted, and the bottom bracket shell, head tube and dropouts are forged. GT’s replaceable rear-derailleur hanger appears more stout than in previous designs, and the frame offers plenty of mounting points for water-bottle cages, fenders and racks.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Shimano XT rear derailleur is a pleasant surprise on a bike at this price point, as are the Maxxis Aspen tires, WTB Pure V saddle and KMC chain. It is the little touches that make the Karakoram 1.0 eye-catching. The graphics on the frame, grips, saddle, fork, quick-release seat clamp and steerer tube spacers are color-coordinated for a very custom look.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: The RockShox fork uses a coil spring and offers an external preload adjustment. Additional external fork adjustments include rebound and Turn-Key lockout. The rebound adjustment offers a very limited range. We set it at nearly full-slow rebound. The WTB Super V saddle is pure heaven for trail riding. It offers a perfect blend of comfort and support.
On the trail: The large-size Karakoram 1.0 has a longish top tube that puts the rider in an aggressive trail-riding position. Cable and hose management keep everything out of the rider’s way, and frame tubes and stays are shaped to offer plenty of contact- free clearance. While we seldom use fork lockout features, we made an exception with the Karakoram 1.0. The Turn-Key Lockout offers a fairly low blow-off threshold, delivering a firm ride until the front wheel encounters rocks or ruts.
Cornering: GT joins the club of frame builders who understand 29-inch wheels. The Karakoram 1.0 is light and balanced when cornering. A bit of countersteering arcs the bike into fast corners where the tires offer plenty of bite and no surprises. A low bottom-bracket height accentuates a 29er’s best trick; think slot-car connection to the trail. Braking into corners is powerful and predictable.
Descending: Use the big wheels to soak up trail chatter, stay out of the saddle and bend your elbows. The Karakoram 1.0 flows along a descent without making a racket and as smoothly as any hardtail you’ll ride. Again, the brakes and tires are up for pushing the pace, and you can drop the saddle a few inches using the quick-release clamp if you are riding an extended downhill section. What surprised us was that many crewers left the fork’s Turn-Key Lockout on for descents. While the ride is not as plush, many liked the more balanced feel of a firmer fork with the hardtail frame. This may not be for everyone, but it is worth trying.
Climbing: The Karakoram 1.0 gives you a wide-range 3x10 drivetrain, so there are plenty of options to get the bike up any climb. The Karakoram 1.0 allows the rider to climb in or out of the saddle, because this bike simply hooks up. The generous cockpit encourages the rider to stay in the saddle with elbows bent and torso low for tempoed efforts to the top of any climb.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
We already mentioned our tip for leaving the fork’s Turn-Key lockout on more often. Other than that, GT doesn’t give you much to do on their Karakoram 1.0. OK, you can shop around for a nice set of clipless pedals (Shimano XT pedals will set you back less than $100), and converting the wheels/tires to tubeless would be a sensible upgrade.
You could consider upgrading the fork to an air-sprung model to save some weight and gain some external adjustments, but there is no need to rush out and upgrade anything hanging off the Karakoram 1.0.
The Karakoram 1.0 hits a lot of peaks. GT delivers a great hardtail trailbike that a rider can buy and ride for the next five years without upgrading or spending a lot of time on maintenance. It is a simple 29er trailbike that gets it done right.
Click the link for more info on GT Bicycles
This test was republished from our June 2012 issue, to subscribe to MBA
, click here.