2015 GT Sensor X Pro Review

Words Words - Seb Kemp
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date Dec 1, 2014
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The GT Sensor X Pro in all its bottle cage possessing, chainsaw and Cheetos paint glory.

Much like the film technique of the same name, the Sensor X Pro is the result of taking the original (the trail friendly, 130mm-travel Sensor) and cross-processing it with another bike’s finishing solution (a parts spec which includes a 150mm-travel RockShox Pike, RaceFace wide and short cockpit and 1×10 drivetrain with chain retention device). The result is an otherworldly high-contrast bike that is very lively.

I wanted to know more about the genesis of the Sensor, so in the following captions there’s a brief Q & A with Todd Seplavy, GT’s Mountain Bike Product Manager.

NSMB: Why ‘soup up’ a shorter travel (relatively speaking) bike like the Sensor?
Todd Seplavy: It just sorta fit the bill from what some friends were riding, bikes I saw at events (like TransProvence), and out on the trail. Honestly, Hans Rey badgering me for over a year about setting the Sensor up out of the box in the same way he rides it (150mm fork, short stem, knobby tires) also helped get the ball rolling. Reviews of the MY14 Sensors from media honches like you helped push the creation of the X across the line and into reality.

As I explained in my First Impressions of the bike “the Sensor X Pro is a highly tuned version of the standard model. The fork, drivetrain and even the cockpit has been upgraded in a way that will suit riders who love a little va-va-voom.” What GT did was take the 130mm-travel Sensor platform and soup it up with a parts list that would transform a lively, pretty forgiving trail bike into something sportier and more boisterous. Something snazzy for the weekend.

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NSMB: Do you see this bike as a niche bike for a niche subset of riders or do you see it as a sort of enabler, the kind of bike that allows more riders to tackle more terrain?
Todd Seplavy: It’s certainly a type of bike that a lot more riders should be considering, but a lot of riders see themselves as being either a) mellower and saying “I’m never going THAT big” or b) needing “moar-travel” to ride trails that they perceive as “way burly” but really aren’t all that.

It starts at the front with a 150mm-travel RockShox Pike that is bolted into the rider’s hand via RaceFace Respond bar (785mm – hooray for awesome width bars!) and stem (45mm – yay for an appropriate length stem!). These three items mean that now the SensorX Pro has considerably improved steering due to the sturdy and robust chassis of the RockShox fork and the leverage and precision that a stubby stem and ample bar width will allow. Immediately a rider will be placed in a confident and powerful riding position that will allow them to navigate the trail rather than steer the tiller of a bike, and the suspension is able to just do its magic. The result: better handling in all the situations that a modern mountain biker will find themselves in and not just good for ‘yoofs riding like hooligans’.

Seb in his Prince George dinner jacket eating up a rare fast section of North Shore trail.

OK, that’s a sort of vague and whimsical summary of the bike-body geometry matrix, but this is hardly the time and the place to go to specifics. A good starting point for anyone that needs convincing is Chris Porter’s experiments and postulations on this matter.

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NSMB: What inspired the parts spec choices, particularly the cockpit, fork and 1×10?
Todd Seplavy: The fork came from rider and regional feedback – the Pike is a rather good fork. The cockpit we split the line between cost and function. RaceFace bar/stems are quite functional and fits the budget. Same for the KS dropper. 1×10 was driven by the market for the bike, more the riders who want to earn it, as well as by the price-point. We can put on better suspension and brakes, which help most on the trail, rather than overspending on drivetrain which will get smashed or worn out anyways.

Other highlights include the dropper seatpost. The KS LEV Integra is a smooth operator that only required a bit of cable tension fettling from time to time. It allows infinite adjustment of seat height and the head is a simple but very sturdy two-bolt, zero offset system which prevents any unwanted saddle shifting. Overall, it’s a seatpost that vies for top honours in its category.

Where I still had question marks was regarding the 1×10 drivetrain, specifically the 32-tooth chainring paired to a maximum 36-tooth cog on the cassette which made climbs feel more like a test of willpower than usual. The 104mm bolt pattern of the RaceFace Evolve cranks does restrict the size of the chainring, with 30-tooth being the smallest currently on offer (Chromag Sequence X-Sync rings are available in 30-tooth, for example). Of course, with 11-speed drivetrains still being high-end, top dollar items it isn’t going to be possible to spec one on the $4300 Sensor X Pro without compromising somewhere else. For some riders in some areas 32 teeth is going to be too much, likewise, for others maybe it won’t be enough. The solution isn’t easy for companies who want to spec bikes for a universal market but instead it might be up to the customer to tune the chainring size to suit their own specific needs. On a related note, top points for speccing a chain retention system because not all chainrings are made equal and the magic magnets do fade, not that I got to find that out on the Sensor.

NSMB: Who came up with the cable routing and why? TS: Germans…(yes seriously…)

NSMB: Who came up with the cable routing and why?
TS: Germans…(yes seriously…)

My second head scratcher was the cable routing, which is so bizarre and convoluted that it seems to be a puzzle, rather than a sensible solution for slick shifting. I never got around to rerouting but a more sensible routing option would seem to be using the existing bosses and holes but avoid looping under altogether. If I owned this bike I would take the time to remedy this right away.

NSMB: Tires – I had issues with the Continental Mountain Kings that came stock on the Sensor X Pro. Response?
Todd Seplavy: Tires are a choice that is very particular from region to region, and even rider to rider. With that said, I’ll ponder some choices for MY16… trimmed spikes perhaps?" src="/media/original_images/SebKemp_GTSensorX_NSMB_KazYamamura-24.jpgw1600" alt="SebKemp_GTSensorX_NSMB_KazYamamura-24" data-recalc-dims="1" />

That’s the aftermath of a tire casing giving up. (background – the part of the tire on the ground)
NSMB: Tires – I had issues with the Continental Mountain Kings that came stock on the Sensor X Pro. Response?
Todd Seplavy: Tires are a choice that is very particular from region to region, and even rider to rider. With that said, I’ll ponder some choices for MY16… trimmed spikes perhaps?

The third was the tires. I questioned the grip of the Continental Mountain Kings in my First Impression and simply couldn’t spend all the test period with one of these rubbers up front (as Brian Earle pointed out in the comments section, “Life is too short to ride crappy tires”) so I swapped the front tire to a used Schwalbe Magic Mary. Instantly the bike was allowed to run loose like it wanted and could be reigned in when necessary. I was satisfied with leaving a Mountain King on the rear, that is until the casing went twang after an afternoon of light-hearted and heavy-handed riding. This has been reported before but this was my first experience with casing failure. I’ve not had much time on Continental’s Mountain King tires previous to this experience but this now makes me very reluctant to do so again. In my time testing this bike I’d say that the tires would be the only obvious upgrade necessary.

In terms of ride quality the Sensor X is lively and coaxed me into situations that tested my own abilities to keep my shit in a pile. Pardon my French. I think this is a good thing, though. I like a bike that challenges you to try your hardest and lets you make your own mistakes. The Sensor X moves well when given input but also deals with a lot of the little stuff so you don’t have to. Yet again, it’s another mid-travel (I’m talking about the 130-140mm-travel range) bike that has me questioning whether most of us need much more, and perhaps if more people were honest with their abilities, their local trails and their needs then they’d find such bikes are all that they really need, and more.

NSMB: What inspired the choice of color? A Stihl chainsaws perhaps? Todd Seplavy: Bright orange is an “on trend colourway” but the colour choice came from my love of the orange and blue as a Mets fan and New Yorker.

NSMB: What inspired the choice of color? A Stihl chainsaw perhaps?
Todd Seplavy: Bright orange is an “on trend colourway” but the colour choice came from my love of the orange and blue as a Mets fan and New Yorker.

I found the bottom of the suspension quite often on this bike. I’d put this down to having just 130mm of suspension travel in the rear while the rest of the bike lured me into situations that were above the pay grade of the bike; such is the assertiveness of the stout little frame and the parts spec. Or was it some characteristic of the mousetrap and the shock tune? I’m still unsure of the answer but I’ll be handing this bike off to suspension nerd Dave Tolnai for further and more theoretical computations in his forthcoming series of suspension tech pieces for NSMB.com.

I’d characterize (or questionably compare) the Sensor X Pro as somewhat like a hot hatch GTI or XR2i, in that it can do it all even if there might be better suited specifically tailored models. You could certainly drive a Golf GTi car across country, but perhaps a nice plush grand touring vehicle might be more suited to this particular task, in much the same way that the Sensor is more than capable of going on longer, more XC focused expeditions but there’s probably better bikes for this purpose.

The AOS system. High pivot mated to a link to control chain growth, that’s the nuts and bolts of the design.

The AOS system. High pivot mated to a link to control chain growth, that’s the nuts and bolts of the design.

The hot hatch parallel is really due to the fun-factor of the Sensor X Pro. It’s best when the rides are relatively short – two hours and under, probably an afterwork, evening blast or a goon with friends – because in that short time you’ll be seeking to have as much fun as possible and this little bottle rocket lets you do that. It’s a bike that is suited both to boy racers and grown men who need lots of little bouts of accessible thrills.

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When it’s bright orange it just feels right to don the plaid and send a North Shore wooden ladder to a teeny-tiny, flat landing.

Overall, this one can do a lot AND have a lot of fun doing so. The question is what kind of rider are you and what bike is going to complement your riding abilities and the trails you choose to ride.

For more click GT Sensor X Pro.


Can’t have enough hot hatches in our opinion. Is the mid-travel shredder a category we’ll be seeing more of? Seb seems to think we should be.

 

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Comments

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Dec. 2, 2014, 5:55 p.m.

Always excited when I see a Seb article!

Reply

jamie-hamilton
0
Jamie Hamilton  - Dec. 2, 2014, 11:48 a.m.

Yep Sebs the lyrical master, honest! Yep a riders rider - great review!

Reply

Jerry-Rig
0
Jerry Willows  - Dec. 2, 2014, 8:52 a.m.

Seb has the best and most truthful reviews… Chris Porter is gold.

Reply

boomforeal
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boomforeal  - Dec. 2, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

there's some gold in the porter article, thanks for that seb

Reply

hoz
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Hoz  - Dec. 2, 2014, 2:39 a.m.

'Don the Plaid' ….Love it. Enjoyed the review. May shift my view regarding my next build in the 27.5 genre. Keep up the great work Seb - always entertaining!

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