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2016 GT Sanction Team: Full Review

A Neon Descent Machine

Words by Tim Coleman. Photos by Dave Smith.
March 29th, 2016

Some of you may have seen the first look article on the GT Sanction Team here a few weeks ago. Take a quick scan through that as I cover off the price and build. Since then I’ve been out and about giving the 2016 GT Sanction Team a proper thrashing.

The GT Sanction Team and a fat man.

The GT Sanction Team and a fat man.

Let’s talk sizing; I stand 6’ tall and I like the geometry of the size large on test. Ideally I’d want it a hair longer, but the XL might be too long, so I’d consider running a slightly longer stem. There was a comment in the First Look article regarding the Sanction being another long, low and slack enduro bike. When this came out a few years back it was ahead of the curve, but today, the Sanction sits neatly with the other enduro bikes. I’ve always been squarely in the long, low, slack camp, so I was looking forward to rallying aboard the Sanction.

I think Team Robot (http://theteamrobot.blogspot.ca/2015/10/your-bike-doesnt-fit-bro.html) will approve of the GT Sanction’s sizing. That said the size large felt a touch small for my 6’ tall.

I think Team Robot will approve of the GT Sanction’s sizing. That said the size large felt a touch small for my 6’ tall.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the GT at first. It feels like GT finished most of the design work and then got busy doing other things. Some of the finer details are missing here. The cables fall out of the cable guides, which I fixed with some zip ties. There is no integrated chainstay protector, so some velcro or similar is required to keep the chain slap down to a dull roar. The chain guide runs really close to the main pivot, allowing almost no room for any debris. After some time on the bike, under hard pedalling the tire would rub the lower portion of the chain guide (this didn’t happen at first). This rub appears to be occurring through a combination of some rear end flex and some flex in the iDrive system. The cable routing of the seat post brings the line down alongside the moving shock, another zip tie is required to keep them from rubbing. I think using a regular external routed seat post would have resulted in cleaner routing. All of these niggles are fairly easily solvable, but for a bike of this price it should come dialled. That said, the real meat of the Sanction has held up well. Durability-wise the bearings and pivots still run smooth after many days in variable conditions. I certainly haven’t detected any creaks or groans.

The GT has been a great tool for puddle smashing. Life for the Sanction Team hasn’t been easy, so far it’s still running smooth.

The GT has been a great tool for puddle smashing. Life for the Sanction Team hasn’t been easy, so far it’s still running smooth.

GT claims the Sanction is designed to “Hustle the hills, ravage the descents”. I propose this should say, “Survive the hills, ravage the descents.” The build and geometry on the Sanction Team is clearly aimed at descending prowess, and the ride lived up to my expectations. The GT was capable of climbing the local single track climbs, but it didn’t feel particularly efficient. I found myself calling it a day, when I would normally be going for another lap. I found the iDrive system helped pedalling over rough terrain by minimizing chain growth, but did little to reduce suspension motion when pedaling. With no lock out on the shock, the suspension was constantly moving, even under smooth pedaling, which just seemed to rob efficiency. I never felt like the GT Sanction was horrid on the climbs, I was just always pushing to keep up. A climb switch on the shock would be a welcome addition. While I loved the low bottom bracket when descending, you will be clipping your pedals when climbing on anything remotely technical. I’m going to leave it at that, as I don’t think GT designed the Sanction to be spirited on the ascents.

We tried taking some climbing photos on the Sanction, but they looked lame. There is some uphill at the bottom of this chute. You can jump over the entire uphill portion though, the kind of uphill the Sanction likes most.

We tried taking some climbing photos on the Sanction, but they looked lame. There is some uphill at the bottom of this chute. You can jump over the entire uphill portion though, the kind of uphill the Sanction likes most.

All the hard work on the way up was well worth it though. The GT Sanction came alive when pointed downhill. Minimal chain growth meant putting in quick pedal strokes was easy, and the bike seemed to accelerate well for the effort. The higher-than-normal main pivot paired with the Fox Float X2 resulted in excellent suspension performance over rough terrain. The Sanction seemed to develop grip everywhere. Square bump compliance on the Sanction is also excellent, and it seemed to glide over the notoriously janky North Shore trails. The Fox 36 was supportive, yet communicative when grip was running out. The Fox dampers and Sanction suspension/geometry worked together in harmony and rarely felt overwhelmed. The Sanction has a long wheelbase, which tends to flatten out the trail, but never felt unwieldy. The Sanction was easy to flop into corners, and it carved through bumps with ease. The Fox Float X2 and Sanction combination offered good support at sag, but ramped up nicely to resist big bottom out events. I liked the relatively low bottom bracket when pushing in and out of corners. From fast flowing trails, to steep rooty gnar, I always felt fast and comfortable descending on the Sanction.

Going deep, I WAY overshot the landing on this attempt.

Going deep, I WAY overshot the landing on this attempt.

Most disliked part of the build was the KS LEV post. I think I broke my thumb trying to activate the post repeatedly. When the saddle was down the post required a butt tap for the post to rise. After a number of wet rides, the cable seized in the housing and the post no longer functioned. Ultimately I found the post unreliable, not particularly good on the trail and finicky. Next up the brakes. Granted I only had one ride after they were bled, but the bite point on the Shimano XTs was unpredictable once they warmed up. I had a hard time truly attacking the trail with mystery bite point brakes – and they were only somewhat better after the bleed. The e13 upper guide broke right away. I ran the bike without the upper guide for the bulk of the review, and actually had no issues with losing the chain.

All those niggles regarding the build melt away when on a bike like the Sanction, on a trail like this.

All those niggles regarding the build melt away when on a bike like the Sanction, on a trail like this.

Some of the likes I had for the build were the suspension, the wheels and the cockpit. The Fox fork and shock were great. It took some time to get set up but both had sufficient range on all the adjusters for me to find a happy place. The Stans Flow EX rims on DT 350 hubs were flawless over the review period. I liked the fit and feel of the wide Race Face Atlas bars, and the short stem. Surprise of the build were the GT branded grips, which turned out to be great. The High Roller 2 tires in the 2.4” width and sticky compound worked very well around these parts at this time of year. The Shimano drivetrain was excellent and never missed a shift. Overall some well thought out spec from GT.

This is a tricky piece of trail, and I just felt comfy here.

This is a tricky piece of trail, and I just felt comfy here.

Ultimately I enjoyed my time on the GT Sanction Team. As much as it pains me to say this, the GT Sanction Team is a quintessential enduro bike. It will make it to the top of the climb. It won’t be pretty going up, but it’ll be a riot on the way back down. To boot I think the GT Sanction would be a hoot in the bike park. Descending on the GT was wonderful, with great suspension kinematics, excellent dampers, aggressive geometry, and I think it looks fantastic. Where the GT Sanction Team lacked was in some of the build spec, going uphill, and some details on the frame. I did find solutions to most of the idiosyncrasies of the GT Sanction, like the cable guides, the chain slap, tire rubbing the chain guide and the routing of the seat post. Pricing on the GT Sanction Team looks a little steep to me at $6,000 USD. Similarly priced bikes are generally carbon frames, with slightly lesser spec dampers, but otherwise similar builds.

I loved railing through corners on the Sanction.

I loved railing through corners on the Sanction.

The Sanction Team in its element.

The Sanction Team in its element.

If your focus is descending or you’re racing enduros, you will thoroughly enjoy your time on the GT Sanction Team. If you’re looking for a one bike to rule em all, I’d say there are more versatile 160 mm travel bikes on the market. I walk away from the Sanction Team with mixed thoughts; I loved every moment of smashing corners and power wheelies aboard the Sanction, but for me it wasn’t good enough going down to justify the deficiencies elsewhere.


  • DMVancouver

    Do you think a shock with a climb switch would bring the Sanction up to par in versatility?

    • Tim Coleman

      I definitely think it’d help! But it’s hard to say if it would bring it up to par in terms of versatility. I’d need to try it. I love doing bigger rides on my 160 mm trail bike, and I just don’t see myself looking forward to doing that on the GT.

      • AndrewR

        The Sanction was originally specced with a Float X with a remote (by the team obviously as it only came as a frame set). The early review (cannot remember which magazine did it) said that GT/ Dan Atherton had prioritised descending ability in the suspension design which they could reduce the effect of, when climbing, with the remote. They spoke about the remote being useful for switching the suspension quickly even for short flat sections and uphills during a race stage. Sorry cannot find article.

      • Jonathan Harris

        Morgan and I may have mentioned that on here when we did the first look at the frame a couple of years back. http://nsmb.com/2015-gt-sanction-165mm-enduro-platform/

  • Raphael Ometto

    Hi Tim , have you found any problem with the dogbone ? i have a Sanction and the bushings had gone in less than a month.

    • Tim Coleman

      Hey Raphael, I didn’t have any issues with the dogbone on the frame I rode. I started getting a touch more play in the BB, partly due to a little more play in the dogbone bushings, which in part lead to the rear tire / chain guide contact. What was the failure with the bushings in your frame; seizing, axial play or radial play?

      • Raphael Ometto

        hey Tim , the bushings got worn and developed a big play. i don´t know if it was because of the wet weather that we faced for about six months with heavy rains or if it was because it was mounted without grease.
        holding the bashguard and move it back and foward was the way i found it.
        i have more friends that faced the same problem with it, so i decided to change the bushing sistem and made it with bearings. i´m trying it in my bike and in a bike´s friend. the initial part of the shock got very smooth after this change. let´s see it in a long term durability !!

        thanks for your help

      • Tim Coleman

        Raphael, it looks like the frame I’m on is just starting to develop the play you’re talking about. Under high chain load the bottom of the chain guide is starting to touch the side knobs of the rear tire. Problem with bushings is once that play starts to develop it will increase at an exponential rate.

        That looks like a great solution you made, and thank you for posting here. Have you contacted GT with your issues? If your solution is proving better than the original design, I’m sure they’d love to hear it.

      • Raphael Ometto

        i sent an email for them asking if there was a solution for this problem but they didn´t answer me.
        i will try to send another email and let´s see if they can tell something.
        thank you for attention Tim !!

      • Ron Chang

        Wow, that is an amazing solution! Mine has developed play and I have only had it since December(very rainy/snowy rides). Would you consider selling one, even without the grease port, for the right price for your troubles?

      • Raphael Ometto

        Hey Ron , you would be impressed how smooth it got after changing bushings to bearings! i had the same situation with mine, about a month it got worn and with play.
        i could make one for you for sure, the only problem it´s that i´m far from you. i´m in brazil ! where are you ?!

      • Ron Chang

        I would be glad to pay shipping to Seattle, Washington state if it prevents me from having to replace the stock one every few months. I’d pay beforehand, too! It looks like you have the best solution!

      • Raphael Ometto

        Ron i will check what i have to do to send it to you and then we talk later !!

      • Steve Gudmundson

        Raphael, I would also be interested in your dogbone solution. I haven’t developed any play in mine yet, but I would like to have it since you said it improves the smoothness vs. the original bushings. I probably don’t need the grease port as I’m in Utah and its pretty dry here. I’d happily pay you for your time + materials + shipping. Thanks, it looks like a perfect solution!

      • Raphael Ometto

        Hey Steve, i will start to produce more units and as i finish it i will get in touch to see how could i send it to you!
        thanks

      • Craig Lindsey

        Hi Raphael, any chance you’re producing these dogbones? I’d love to upgrade to your design if possible.

      • Raphael Ometto

        Hi Craig! I had finished 4 units ! I could send it too you !

      • Craig Lindsey

        Excellent! PayPal would be the best way to handle payment, I’d just need your associated email. How much for one of your dogbones shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA?

      • Raphael Ometto
      • Mike P

        Hi Raphael, if possible I would love to get one too, I’ll email you.

        Thanks
        Mike

      • Raphael Ometto

        Hi Mike , I’ll be waiting for your mail!!

        Thanks

        Raphael

      • Mike P

        Any chance you can post a picture of that fix?

        Thanks
        Mike

      • Raphael Ometto

        do you mean the axle ?!

      • Mike P

        If i’m understanding this properly: the bearing replacement for the dog bone bushings? Are they not standard bearings? I have only a couple of rides on mine but would like to get ahead of it if it is indeed a known issue.
        Thanks
        Mike

      • Raphael Ometto

        yes Mike , i replaced it because it´s a known issue , soon or later it will fail. to prevent the sooner fail you could open it and put grease to help. especially if you ride wet trails!!
        the bearings are standard, but i had to do another dogbone to fit the bearing inside. between the axles it got 1,5 mm bigger than the original. i´d also made new axles with steel to hold the bearings because i think the original ones wouldn´t be strong enough.
        hope i helped! good rides!
        Rapha

      • Mike P

        You sir are a legend, thank you so much Raphael for this great information and coming up with a fix! This is my second GT Sanction, I had the previous model years back, loved the bike but never had much luck with GT customer service.

      • Raphael Ometto

        hey Mike , sorry for the late answer! thank you so much for your words , i´m really happy for helping everyone who needs it !! i´m checking what i have to do to send it for another countries and asap i´ll tell you how we can do this.
        thanks

      • Mike P

        Ok that’s great, absolutely no rush on my end, my bike has not had any problems so far after only a few rides.

      • Raphael Ometto

        axle

      • SimonTac

        Hi Rapael. How is your modification holding up. I’d also love to be added to the list of Sanction owners happy (and actually hoping you’ll say yes ) to purchase your design. Looks like a serious contender for home fabricated beneficial modification of the year! I’m in to buy one – and pay your time, shipping, materials, etc.
        Thanks
        Simon

      • Raphael Ometto

        hey SimonTac,sorry for the late answer. thanks for your appreciation. it´s holding strong and quiet !!! i´m using it for about a month and it hasn´t developed any play or noise yet. i´m finishing a par of new aluminum axles to substitute the first one´s that were made with steel 4340 , i decided to use steel to garantee that it should be strong enough to hold the Idrive. but the problem that i´m facing is the superficial corrosion.
        i think that this week i will install the new axles and i should use it for more two weeks at least, than i will be able to tell you if it will hold on!
        answering for the friends that asked to buy this solution, i have a friend that has a paypall account , i think it´s the safest way for who is buying/selling. in any way, if someone has a better way to purchase it i´m open to find a better solution.
        cheers!

  • boomforeal

    hey tim did you ever sort out why the sanction felt shorter than your personal bike? i’ve always wondered how accurate published reach numbers actually are, and whether it really is (half of) the be-all of out-of-the-saddle fit

    great review by the way, engaging and thorough

    • Tim Coleman

      Thanks! Reach question: The advertised measurements checked out against my tape measure. So I think the shorter feeling reach is due to two factors. One the head angle on my personal bike is slacker, even with a 7 mm shorter reach, it has a 1 mm longer front center. Two seat angle on the GT is steeper, so the top tube length is significantly shorter on the GT. While this doesn’t impact the reach, the feeling as you sit on the bike gives the notion of a shorter cockpit, and I did notice the saddle was a touch further forward when descending.

      • boomforeal

        interesting. i reviewed the 650b range for nsmb when it first came out and similarly found it to feel really long, despite the middling range number

      • Tim Coleman

        Were you on a large or XL Range? The Large GT Sanction Team and my XL Range feel quite similar. Both are running short 35 mm stems, and I’m a hair over 6′ tall.

      • boomforeal

        i’m 6’2″, was on a large, and it felt too long with the stock 70mm stem. not very enduro i know… but then neither am i

      • Tim Coleman

        To each their own! I had a 50 mm stem on a large Range and liked the fit. However I’m liking the sizing on this Large GT Sanction / XL Range with the 35 mm shorty stem a lot more.

  • Great photos as usual, Dave!

  • Tehllama42

    Brilliant photos – and a proper review.

  • Nice job hitting the big gapper on BD!

    • Tim Coleman

      Cheers! The take off is getting a bit sketchy. You can see in the photo the top is crumbling and the angle is mellowing out. Full throttle required.

  • jasper

    I have the exact same problem with my KS Lev post. The RockShox Reverb functions great, while it functions for about 2-3 months. I think the Reverb is the less toxic dropper post choice for Shore riding.

  • Ron Chang

    Hey Tim, thanks for the review. I’m curious what your LSC setting ended up with on the Float X2. I built up a Sanction Team frame and I had to put in more spacers to prevent bottoming(after HSC adjustments). I tend to run high LSC on my other bikes, but on the Sanction I kept turning down the LSC nearly all the way just get small bump compliance. On big hits, it was excellent, though.

    • Tim Coleman

      Hey Ron. I too usually run with relatively high LSC. I remember it took a little while to get the settings on the shock to my taste, but I’m not sure where I wound up. So I’ll check my settings on the bike from front to back this evening and post up the results.

    • Tim Coleman

      Hey Ron, so I checked my shock and fork settings last night. I’m 185 lbs / 84 kg. All damper settings from fully closed

      Fork Fox 36 Float RC2:
      Air Pressure: 90 psig
      Low speed compression: 17 clicks out
      High speed compression: 19 clicks out
      Rebound: 10 clicks out

      Shock Float X2:
      Air pressure: 225 psig (I believe there is 1 volume spacer, but not confirmed)
      Low speed compression: 18 clicks out
      High speed compression: 19 clicks out
      Low speed rebound: 17 clicks out
      High speed rebound: 17 clicks out

      I’m running significantly more pressure than Fox’s suggestion in the 36, but slightly less damping.
      http://www.ridefox.com/2016/dl/bike/605-00-137-revC.pdf

      I’m running a little less damping than Fox suggests for the Float X2 based on the air pressure.
      http://www.ridefox.com/2016/dl/bike/605-00-141-FLOAT%20X2%20Tuning%20Guide-JD.pdf

  • Luke Tilt

    Hi Tim, im currently in the middle of deciding between this and the Giant Reign advanced 1 and was wondering whether you had tested both and could give a comparison. Also sizing wise, im 6’2, if I went for the Sanction do you think id be better off with the XL?

    • Tim Coleman

      Hey Luke, I’ve had a couple short rides on the Giant Reign Advanced, and from the limited ride time I have had, it’s a bike I really enjoyed riding. That said I haven’t spent the time on the Reign to be able to get one fully setup and understand the bikes limits or quirks ( but I’d like to :), hint hint Giant ). I’d say the Sanction is the more capable descender and comes spec’d with the arguably nicer, longer travel fork, the more DH oriented Float X2 shock, and heavier duty wheels. I feel the Sanction Team is a focused enduro racer, it’s a border line DH bike. On the other hand the Reign will be a little more versatile, pedal a little easier, is a carbon frame, slightly lighter duty build, will have less frame quirks, with a cheaper asking price, but it’s probably not quiet as comfy as the Sanction smashing down a rough trail.

      Size wise, it comes down to preference, ride location, and riding style. Boomforeal above was commenting on how he felt the Range was too long for his taste and he’s your height at 6’2″. In contrast, I’m 6′, but really like the XL Range. The XL Range is similar in sizing to the Large Sanction and the Large Reign. If I were 2 inches taller, I’d spring for the XL Reign or XL Sanction, but then again I like long bikes.

    • Mike P

      I am 6’2″ and have the 2016 Sanction, i’d say it fits perfect.
      I also haven’t experienced the chainguide or cable housing issues that Tim discussed. I did build it from frame up though. I have a lever only KS Supernatural so i havent had any dropper cable issues either. Loving it so far, its going to be my logging roads, shuttle and WBP bike.

      • Mike P

        I meant to say i have the XL

  • Leonie Pendleton

    So reading some of the comment on here has been a great help . Having nightmares with this bike at the moment . Have added a photo as to what’s going on . GT are conveniently not replying to me whatsoever , through all forms of contact. I’m now harrasing them on Instagram / Facebook etc … Insta lpen80

    • Mike P

      Sorry to hear of your problems, I’ve had mine for a couple of months now and have had no issues with the frame yet. I’m hoping it stays that way. I had the last iteration of the Sanction also and remember not being impressed with GT customer service, hopefully they come through for you.

      • Leonie Pendleton

        Hoping so ! I’ve messaged them again today via all forms of Twitter / Facebook / insta . Someone has messaged me to say they have a contact at GT so he’s going to try and help us too .

      • Mike P

        Did you end up getting a resolution from GT?

  • Jason Donnellan

    quite honestly do not know why GT have spec’d this bike with the X2, it’s seems to me that the bobbing that happens without a couple of firmer shock settings has tipped this review to end as does about “deficiencies elsewhere” reading the article the main deficiency was the climbing. Other reviews note the bob in open but then pay credit to its competent climbing in the firmer modes. GT team has commented how the Sanction was intended to be used with a switchable rear shock.

    I bought the GT Sanction Team frame set on Tuesday and sold the X2 on Wednesday

    • Mike P

      I have the X2 and love it but i don’t do any technical climbing on it. The new X2’s are going to have a climb switch on them and you can also upgrade the older ones, thats something I”ll do when it’s due a service.