The all-new GT Zaskar 100 takes the place of GT’s Marathon line, but
that doesn’t tell the entire story. While it will handle all the chores that
the Marathons set out to accomplish, this little rocket has its sights set on a
larger target. And it bucks the big wheel trend by sticking to 26-inch wheels.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This is a cross-country race bike that will be right at home in
endurance events and on all but the most technical singletrack.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Zaskar 100 uses a carbon fiber frame and swingarm. (GT calls their
carbon fiber “Force Optimized Carbon Ultra.”) It has a tapered head tube, with
a downtube and top tube that take full advantage of this increased surface area
by bulging to 3 inches at the junction. GT uses the redesigned Independent
Drivetrain Suspension System with a forged linkage and easily serviced pivot
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Zaskar 100 Expert has the look and feel of a bike that was assembled
from the frame out by a bike nut. Each component was picked for its individual
merits, not because it was part of a group. There are Shimano and SRAM
drivetrain components. Fox and RockShox are tapped for the suspension system.
FSA, WTB, Syncros, Maxxis, DT Swiss, Crankbrothers and Formula were all invited
to the Zaskar party. Finally, although the parts come from several sources, the
red/white color coordination is spot on, right down to the seatpost clamp and
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ergonomics: There is no doubt GT intends the Zaskar 100 Expert for serious
hammering. The top tube is long, even for this large-size frame. This means the
rider is positioned in an aggressive, flat-backed position from the get-go. The
WTB Silverado proves a racing saddle doesn’t have to inflict pain. The GT
lock-on grips feel great, and the tool-free brake-lever reach is convenient.
Set shock and fork sag at 20 percent and you are ready to go.
Moving out: Aside from the top tube being long, the thing is massively wide. Not so
wide of GT’s Marathon line, but that doesn’t that it gets in the way of your
legs, but wide enough to obscure the front tire. It takes a little getting used
to. What doesn’t take getting used to is the way this bike accelerates. You
still can’t beat 26-inch wheels for acceleration from a dead stop. Add to this
a frame that is as rigid as they come and you get a rocket blast-off when you
drop the hammer, but stay in the saddle to keep the rear tire hooked up. We had
good results with the shock in the open or ProPedal setting, thanks to GT’s
Independent Drivetrain Suspension System. This is a great-pedaling bike.
Climbing: Again, stay in the saddle with your torso low and push one gear larger
than you feel is comfortable. This lightweight bike really scampers up climbs
like a fleet-footed animal. Out-of-the-saddle efforts caused the rear tire to
lose traction on everything but tacky surfaces. Stay in the saddle and you
won’t believe how fast the top of the climb arrives.
is the kind of quick-
handling package that
you expect from a
performance cross-country bike. The bike will change course with the
slightest rider input, so don’t be afraid to change your line at will. The
tires that roll so well when hammering along and on climbs bite the trail way
better than their minimal tread suggests. Go ahead and push them in the
corners. You’ll be stoked with the results.
Descending: The Zaskar 100 Expert is predictable and sure-footed on the downhills
(due to the rigid frame, nice tires and quality suspension), but you will never
be tricked into thinking there is more than 3.9 inches of travel. It does a
great job of managing that travel, but it is still up to the rider to pick
intelligent lines and use the bike’s light weight to loft it over obstacles as
often as possible. The weak link here is the fork’s 9-millimeter axle.
Braking: The brakes are great, although they did get a bit noisy when hot. GT
gives you a 7-inch rotor up front and a sixer in the back, and both work well.
The unexpected: The Zaskar blew us away when we encountered the unexpected. When you
round a corner and find a short, steep uphill or low step-up, don’t worry about
shifting. Just apply a good kick to the pedals and let the bike jam up the
climb or hop over the lip. It is amazing how this bike just jumps forward.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
We had the rear hub go south during the first six hours of operation.
The freehub’s internal pawls were not fully engaging, and the drivetrain would
jump under pedaling pressure. The hub was replaced under the bike’s warranty.
Converting the wheels and tires to tubeless would be a logical (and
inexpensive) upgrade. A more expensive upgrade would be a fork with a
15-millimeter thru-axle. Finally, the Zaskar frame only holds one water bottle
cage positioned under the top tube. We’d skip that altogether (unless you’ll
use it to hold a headlight battery) and go for a seatpost-mounted cage.
There is no doubt that 29ers are getting all the attention, but they are
not for everyone. The Zaskar 100 Expert proves there is still life left in the
26-inch wheels. This bike is a rocket that rewards its rider for every effort.
It is intended for racing, but is versatile enough to serve as a lightweight,
fast, single- track weapon. If you have been pedaling too much bike around your
trails (as most of us do), the GT Zaskar 100 Expert will take you to a new
Reprinted from the January 2012 issue. Like us on Facebook