There’s no shame in buying the most beautiful bike that you can find, but if you have aspirations above and beyond community racing, the commute to work, or the park, it doesn’t hurt to know a little about the technology and effort that goes into the construction of your new pride and joy. The perfect bicycle provides the rider with a combination of aesthetics, performance, and safety features such as brakes and suspension systems. As such, choosing the right bike is one of the most important decisions that the amateur rider will make. The purpose of this guide is to examine the technology and features offered by GT Bicycles, and to establish whether the high price tag attached to their flagship models is justified, ensuring that you don’t bite the dust before your new wheels touch the road.
American conglomerate GT Bicycles was founded in 1979 with the sole purpose of creating high quality bicycles and innovative cycle technology. The firm was started by a welding engineer and a bike shop owner, and consumed a number of other companies before arriving at its current state. GT manufactures four different types of bicycles: BMX (encompassing both aggressive ‘Vert’ styles and racing types), road and mountain bikes, and a series of cycles designed especially for women. The company is an active sponsor of several riders and was well represented at the recent Beijing Olympics. GT riders Mike Day (USA) and Jill Kintner (Australia) were awarded silver and bronze medals respectively in the debuting bicycle motocross event. The GT mountain bike racing team was also present at the Games but fared badly achieving only a 14th place finish.
Fundamental to the appeal of GT’s bicycles is the frame, favoured throughout the world for its super-strong design and creative pressure distribution system. The aptly named Force Optimized frame is built from a single piece of metal, ensuring the lowest chance of failing from malfunctioning joints or construction imperfections. Beneath the surface, the frame is strengthened by a lattice of carbon fibres designed to defeat every bump and shock that the rider might come across. GT has clearly put a lot of effort into understanding race pressures and frame construction, and while the science involved may be beyond the vast majority of riders, the popularity of the company speaks volumes about both the technology involved in their bikes and their overall performance.
GT Bicycles has developed a number of original technologies since its inauguration in the late seventies and is especially proud of the steps it has taken to ensure their bikes are comfortable and safe for women to ride. The GTw range of bikes were created with the female body shape in mind and are flush with features that counteract the pressures associated with road and mountain biking. Female riders have shorter arms and legs, and a shallower pelvis that rests at a different angle on a conventional seat. As a consequence, women may find riding a bike designed for men uncomfortable or painful. The GTw bikes have a taller head tube (the tube that attaches the seat to the bicycle) and a steeper seat angle to ensure that their female riders can enjoy cycling as much as their male counterparts.
BMX is a varied discipline and it is important to choose the correct bike from the ones on offer. Street and freestyle bikes usually have pegs on the wheels to facilitate tricks and have smoother tyres to increase grip over concrete surfaces. Racing bikes are more of a peculiar hybrid between mountain bikes and conventional BMX types, and feature more pronounced tyre treads. This type of BMX is much more specialised and does not always have a front brake which may make them more dangerous for children or casual riders.
GT manufactures very pretty BMX bikes, often of a rather minimalistic design but with a touch of kitschy colour. The 2008 Zone model, for example, has bright blue handlebars and pedals. Featuring some of the most affordable bicycles in the GT catalogue (the Air model costs around £2101) the BMX range also includes a set of children’s bicycles complete with stabilisers, woven baskets and handlebar tassels. GT’s frame technology comes as standard on all their BMX bikes. On the down side, the GTw range (see above) features only road and mountain bikes despite the fact that the company sponsors female BMX riders in competition. Considering how many different types of bikes are available for men the range seems a little lacking as a consequence.
GT Bicycles is built upon almost thirty years of competition victories and a string of excellent riders, and their super-strong mountain bikes will have professionals foaming at the mouth. Unfortunately, the downhill ranges can be very expensive indeed and will only appeal to professional riders or those willing to part with a few thousand pounds for the privilege of riding such a high quality bike. All of GT’s full suspension bikes come bundled with a piece of technology charged with reducing the chance of pedal feedback (the loss of pedal momentum after a change in the terrain). Whether the casual rider is willing to hand over an extra thousand pounds for a few more bells and whistles is another question altogether. The GT Force range, for example, peaks at £1,999. GT clearly does not manufacture mountain bikes for the rider on a budget, with even the entry-level downhill models costing around £300. Fortunately, the hybrid bikes (designed for fitness or commuting) can be found for just over £200 and will appeal to the vast majority of casual riders.
GT Bicycles has something for all riders but quality and style rise in tandem with cost. The attention that the company has paid to children and women is admirable but not uncommon, and prospective buyers may find a better range of female-orientated cycles at another supplier. Attention to detail and a conscious effort to make their bikes as innovative as possible is what really sets the company aside from the competition but the enormous price tag on their mountain bikes may not warrant a second glance from the vast majority of riders. GT Bicycles only has one official supplier in the UK (based in Poole, Dorset) but are readily available online.
1Prices quoted are from online retailers based in the UK.