Back in the ’90s, the GT Xizang was highly coveted
by cross-country racers everywhere. Based on the
popular Zaskar’s geometry and using GT’s signature
triple triangle frame design, the Xizang took things one step
further, as it was built from titanium rather than aluminum.
Flash-forward to 2012. GT reintroduced the Xizang as a frame-only option, complete with modern updates,
most notably GT’s take on geometry designed for 29-inch
wheels. While the Xizang is only available as a frameset,
GT wanted to show off its titanium beauty. GT handed the
Xizang off to the highly respected Newbury Park Bicycle Shop in Newbury Park, California, and asked them to build
a one-off, no-holds-barred bike with parts riders in the ’90s
couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Xizang’s cross-country roots run deep, and the modern iteration certainly pays homage to that history. The
Xizang is built for cross-country and trail riders, especially
those who were riding during the original Xizang’s time;
however, the appeal of the Xizang doesn’t depend on the
pull of nostalgia alone. Riders who weren’t lusting after the
original in the ’90s will still appreciate the Xizang’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Xizang’s frame is constructed from 3AL-2.5V
titanium, with a clear-coat finish to show off the perfect
welds. While it sports GT’s classic triple triangle design,
modern features include a tapered head tube, hydroformed
seatstays and chainstays, post mounts for disc brakes, and a
replaceable derailleur hanger.
The frame’s steep, 72-degree head angle and 73-degree
seat tube angle, along with the relatively short 17.5-inch rear end,
make the bike’s cross-country designation clear.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Every component was handpicked by GT to complement
the bike. The merging of modern technology and retro aes-
thetics is definitely impressive. SRAM’s groundbreaking
XX1, 11-speed drivetrain keeps the weight low and cockpit clutter to a minimum. Formula R1 brakes with carbon
levers and braided hoses are jewelry for the Crankbrothers
handlebar. The Thomson Masterpiece seatpost is beautifully
understated. The wheels offer custom-built Reynolds carbon
29er rims with Industry Nine anodized hubs. GT even had
custom colored-matched graphics made for the Xizang by
Complex Ink to tie the frame into the hub and fork stanchion tube colors.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: The rider position is fairly centered over the bike, with a slight weight bias toward the rear. The standover height is tall compared to modern, sloping top tube
designs. Thankfully, the ergonomics aren’t modeled after
those of the ’90s, and the Crankbrothers handlebar and stem
give the cockpit a solid feel.
Cornering: Within one turn on the first trail, we were
amazed by how quickly we could whip the bike around a
180-degree switchback. The front end’s 72-degree head angle
provided a serious dose of low-speed maneuverability.
This quick steering is, however, a double-edged sword. As
you pick up speed, the Xizang becomes twitchy. It took us a
while to get used to how sensitive the bike is to rider input
in fast, sweeping corners. This bike demands finesse.
Climbing: The Xizang remains true to its racing roots. Its impressively light parts spec means instant acceleration
when you put power to the pedals on climbs. GT’s triple
triangle frame aims to increase stiffness, and, along with the
hydroformed rear end, it does just that. While many titanium bikes feel a bit flexible under hard pedaling, the Xizang
is remarkably stiff.
Seated climbing is less inspiring. The same stiffness that
gives the bike impressive acceleration creates a lack of vertical compliance. Though titanium bikes are often known
for their softer ride characteristics, the Xizang’s ride is harsh.
Descending: Ripping down descents, you will be
reminded of a time long ago when it took finely honed
skills to get down the mountain quickly and in one piece.
The bike’s unforgivingly steep front end and quick handling forced us to pay close attention to technique. With
the steep geometry and the saddle elevated to cross-country
height, we found ourselves dreaming of a modern dropper
seatpost more than once.
Braking: Formula’s R1 brakes offer great power and
modulation and are beautiful components in their own
right. With polished-silver levers and calipers, as well as
carbon lever blades, the R1s add some bling to the Xizang.
Our only gripe was with the levers’ ergonomics. We much
prefer Shimano’s or Avid’s lever feel.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Know going in that the ultra-stiff Xizang frame lacks
vertical compliance. We highly recommend focusing on
reducing the harsh ride when choosing components for
your Xizang. Opt for a more forgiving seatpost, such as the
Niner RDO, which will dampen some trail feedback during
seated pedaling. We’d go with larger-volume tires (there is
plenty of room) to add cushioning to the rear end. Finally,
lock-on-style grips in the largest diameter comfortable will
reduce the sensation of jolts and vibrations in your hands
There is no denying the level of craftsmanship that goes
into GT’s new Xizang. With perfect welds and beautifully
hydroformed tubes, the Xizang is a work of art, and an
amazing parts spec ties the whole thing together.
While the Xizang is beautiful to behold, the steep geometry and unforgiving ride mean that it’s not the bike for
everyone. The Xizang will appeal to nostalgic riders who
always yearned for one of these titanium beauties back in the day and who love the idea of building up a revived
piece of mountain bike history with modern amenities.