GT’s Zaskar has a proud heritage. It was the go-to hardtail for more aggressive riding in the 1990s, and has continued to evolve ever since. This latest version doesn’t look too dissimilar to one from 30 years ago, although the stretched-out sizing, bigger wheels and relaxed head angle mean it rides very differently.
GT Zaskar LT Elite frame
The Zaskar is built around GT’s ubiquitous ‘triple triangle’ design. It wouldn’t be a Zaskar if it didn’t sport GT’s familiar ‘triple triangle’ design. On this new version, the seatstays are decoupled from the seat tube to give a ‘floating’ connection between seatpost (and therefore saddle) and rear axle; the theory, presumably, being that fewer vibrations are transferred to the rider when the back tyre hits a bump. This effect is most isolating when seated, but it also smooths out the ride while standing up downhill or pedalling over rough ground.
GT Zaskar LT Elite geometry
|Seat angle (degrees)||75||75||75||75|
|Head angle (degrees)||66||66||66||66|
|Seat tube (mm)||400||440||480||520|
|Top tube (mm)||592.6||615||637.4||659.9|
|Head tube (mm)||105||115||125||135|
|Fork offset (mm)||51||51||51||51|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||55||55||55||55|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||323||323||323||323|
The geometry is contemporary, and includes a longer, more stable wheelbase than on other similar bikes. There’s a slacker head angle, which stops the steering feeling twitchy at speed, and a more upright seat tube angle to keep the saddle over the cranks up steep climbs for good power transfer. GT has nailed the numbers for an all-round hardtail and it rides very naturally. It’s also gone with sensible standards, including a less creak-prone threaded bottom bracket and the improved wheel stiffness permitted by a Boost 148mm axle. Unfortunately, the internally routed cables rattle noisily when riding and the sound is infuriating, especially when combined with the chain hitting the seatstay, which lacks any noise-damping protection.
GT Zaskar LT Elite kit details
The names Tektro and SR Suntour may not be as familiar as the likes of RockShox, Shimano or Fox. However, both firms have been around for years and make decent kit. The GT’s Suntour Zeron fork has 130mm of travel and a supple coil spring that makes it great at tracking the ground for extra grip and comfort. Its lack of adjustment (relative to an air-sprung fork, where you can tweak the pressure to suit different riders) rings alarm bells, but actually, it works really well. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the Tektro Gemini SL brakes. With small rotors, they lack power and feel, and aren’t a match for the brand’s pricier TRP kit.
SRAM’s 12-speed SX Eagle drivetrain is a bit clunky and underwhelming, although it drives wheels with Shimano hubs and WTB ST i30 rims that leave little to complain about. My test bike had WTB Trail Boss tyres, too, instead of the listed WTB Breakouts, and these worked well in a range of conditions. The Zaskar is more expensive than some rivals, but it has a dropper post – a ride-transforming component that allows you to attack in tricky sections without feeling inhibited by the saddle.
GT Zaskar LT Elite ride impressions
The Zaskar is bags of fun to ride, and its frame and suspension inspire confidence. With more suspension and a way better-damped frame than its rivals, the Zaskar is a seriously smooth operator. Displaying quiet confidence, it ticks off serious trails and challenging steeper sections. It’s a lot of fun to ride, with good balance and tons of grip from the front tyre. GT’s floating seatstays also seem to be a winner, since there’s good pedalling comfort when seated, even over seriously choppy terrain.
The noise from the Zaskar’s frame quickly became annoying. One thing that isn’t quiet, sadly, is the Zaskar frame. Even with the supple coil fork, it’s distractingly rattly on descents and has an intermittent pingy metallic sound that niggles when rolling along singletrack, due to the aforementioned cabling and chain-slap issues – things GT should have sorted out. The extra noise may be explained partly by the fact I was happy to go twice as fast downhill on the Zaskar as other hardtails I was testing, thanks to the longer reach delivering a really stable base to balance from.
The slacker head angle places the front tyre way out in front, too, for an assured steering feel that’s never twitchy or nervous and helps boost rider confidence. The cranks can feel a bit twisty under the leverage of big pedals, but even with more fork bounce and a hefty 15.9kg all-in weight, this rig is no slouch when it comes to getting about between the descents, and excels on jumps, too. The steep seat tube gives a hips-forward saddle position with good ergonomics for climbing, and there’s plenty of fizz and zing when stomping on the pedals to reach the next fun bit.
GT Zaskar LT Elite bottom line
The GT Zaskar LT Elite is a great-handling hardtail that’s enormous fun and rewards you with a seriously smooth, confidence-inspiring ride. The Suntour Zeron fork and WTB Trail Boss tyres are solid spec choices, and the presence of a dropper post scores points over rival bikes. However, a noisy frame and internal cable-routing issues prevent the Zaskar from earning a higher rating.