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  1. #1
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    2014 GT Sensor Elite demo bike

    I've been talking about it, and it's finally here. I have no pics so far, sorry. When the rep walked it in I couldn't stop thinking what a sexy beast it is. Without pedals and some dirt on it my large weighed 32lbs 4 oz. Almost exactly 1lb more than the large Giant Trance 3, and we sell the Giant for $600 less. But I am of the opinion that it is easily $600 more bike. The Sensor came with a nice Kore bar and Crank Bros seat post, and the expensive Fizik Tundra 2. And then the Trance is upgrade-able to thru axel, but that is not how the 3 comes. The GT does,and comes with a Rock Shox maxel. The Fox CTD shock is also a step up, but the fork is the same. The Giant and GT both have full Deore groupsets save for the Forumla brakes on the GT. The GT goes full 180s, where the Trance goes with a 160 rear.

    The hubs are GT branded, but seem stout and the bearing feel nice. This bike has been used for a while by another shop, and I did notice the rear hub cones had losened up just a touch. An 18mm cone and adjustable wrench fixed that. The wheels and rotors did need a bit of truing, the rear more so thant he front. But nothing more than I don't see on any other GT, or even Giant. One nice thing was that the stickers on the GT's rims don't go all the way to the edge of the rim and meant I could actually true the stickered part of the rim. I wish Giant would do that to their budget stuff.

    I haven't had time to really ride it. I am 6'2" and 225lbs. I roughly set the saddle height, and used the gauge to set sag. This is where the 2013 26" Sensor and the new one differ. With the old Sensor I think I was ballparked 140psi. In the new one I put 255psi, which is close to what I run in Maestro bikes. I also have 130 in the fork, but haven't checked it. Bike feels good. The cockpit feels right too, unlike my little test spin on the Trance. I thought the 740mm bars would feel ridiculous where I run a 620 on my old skool xc bike now, but it feels good. The fore-aft on the saddle may take some tinkering though. I suspect I may have too much air in the shock, but we'll see.

    I'll try to keep you guys as updated as I can. Feel free to fire away with the questions!

  2. #2
    cowbell
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    When do I get to ride it? You've managed to wrangle this demo bike, now wrangle us some decent weather for decent trail conditions!

  3. #3
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    I've worked one miracle already, and you want another?

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    Haha, so as I only live a 1 mile from the shop, my CX commuter bike is down waiting on a part, and I have the studded tires mounted to the ProFlex due to the weather the Sensor has become my commuter bike. It was funny at the shop the bike felt like I had it set a bit harsh. I backed the rebound off the shock. Then when I got home (I got a lift as it was dark and rainy and the city and county police stations are one block away) made a run to the Dollar General and it felt a bit soft. I did get that big wheel building up momentum feeling on the road. Not as much as a 29er generates, but noticeable.

    I have a "mtb" way to go to work which simply involves some pedestrian paths with some long steps, handicap ramp switch backs, and various allies and side roads. There are regular steps too, but as I have not been on a bike that could make steps this easy to ride, I decided not to push my luck . . . yet. The fork has some plush to it, and even though I haven't left descend mode yet I can't completely say the rear matches that level of plush. However, when out of the saddle the fork is the first to start bouncing, and the biggest culprit. I have yet to dial in the rebound, and this may cause things to firm up and balance out feels wise. There is one or two steep little hills/rises on the generally downward path to work. I took the opportunity to hammer out of the saddle up the ally to get a feel. Meh. Not a total waste of time, but definitely no rewards for the effort. Taking a more relaxed approach I did find a sweet spot of effort and spinning that got me a bit of that magic floating up the hill feeling. But again, this was with the shock in descend mode. I was really looking forward to seeing how this thing worked it's way down the wheelchair switchbacks. Not bad. The bike like to carve into a turn but only if you are moving with a bit of speed. These tight slow turns weren't as bad as I thought they might be, but not as good as I hoped. It felt like the wide bars were the culprit. I wanted to get the bike over on the side of the tire quicker and the 740mm was hampering my efforts. Or maybe not, I later found that someone before me had seriously over tightened the headset. I will double check tomorrow and see if the is a difference. But I am hoping I can find a friend with a 690mm bar they can lend me.

    The jaunt to the chicken place for lunch, a 1/2 mile down the street, was fun. This bike likes to get some air. I found myself looking for lips to catch some air on. I've had Fox Floats on my Proflex for 9 years now. The problem with buying shocks off of ebay for a fork no one ever tunes for (Girvin/Noleen linkage), is that the tuning is off and I have too much rebound. Which means the bike isn't particularly frisky, as I feel it could be. Or so I think anyway. So I don't have a lot of experience being airborne (my wings are by no means clipped though), but this bike felt surprisingly confidence inspiring when I caught my few inches of air. Maybe that's telling, maybe it's not. Maybe the wider bars help with that. We'll see. Either way the lunch commute was fun.

    It got slow so the owner and I set about checking the suspension sag and dialing my seatpost height and saddle fore/aft. Turns out I nailed the pressures, at least for initial set up purposes. At 225lbs 130psi in the fork and 255psi in the shock got me dead in the middle of the 25%-30% sag range. Saddle height I am at 15 dots on the Crank Bros seatpost, and I had to slide the saddle back to the 0 marking in the Tundra 2 saddle rail. The stem has all three spacers below it (so its up all the way) and the handlebar is nicely blocking my view of the hub. The seat is a bit higher higher than the bars, which I know will cause roits in some parts of this website, but I have it set for descent leg extension. I get the impression I'm about as tall as the bike wants for a rider.

    I can ride it and maneuver it at slow speeds as I demonstrated in the shop today (yes it was unusually slow today). The only other thing I may have forgot to mention was that yesterday I did fine the pinch bolts on the Deore crankarm to be very much under torqued. Obviously I fixed that right then. Other than that I am still trying to get used to the Formula brakes. I am coming from Magura hydraulic rim brakes on my personal bike, and Avids and Shimano brakes on the shop bikes, so it'll be an adjustment.

  5. #5
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    OK, I didn't ride her yesterday as I was home with a stomach bug. However, I did take the same route to work today (it was freezing outside) and the steering was MUCH better. So it wasn't the bar width like I thought, but an over-tight headset. It still has a bit of an awkward feel, and I would still like to try a narrower bar just to see. I did have to bring the saddle height up an extra dot too. I had put an extra click of rebound on the fork and it seems more efficient on the climb. The fork still bobs out of the saddle a bit, but it doesn't feel like it's impeding forward movement as much. I am going to start playing with the Trail setting on the shock. I had thought I should adjust rebound to match descend mode for everyday riding, but now I think I'll try tuning it to trail, and then maybe it'll be a bit softer in descend mode. I am only moving one click of rebound at a time, and still have yet to hit a trail. Just urban riding so far. I am hoping to be hitting some trail tomorrow, but it will be at a pedestrian pace and not for very long.


    Went to the convenience store for chips at lunch, just as an excuse to ride the bike today. Hmm, fried chicken and now chips. Don't think this bike is helping my waistline at all. Also, I am pretty sure I need to avoid that car dealership I have to ride by for a while too.

  6. #6
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    Well Cotharyus and a few of the club guys took a parking lot spin on the Sensor today. Cotharyus's first impression is that it is a pig, which I have read before. Another seemed to like it a bit more than the Trance but is waiting until he gets it on the trail. The other said it wasn't his taste for our trails (his current ride is a GF SS) and said that if he was going to go that way he'd go all in with a Trance SX. I'd still like to see a GT Force and Tance SX Advanced go head to head. However all three said they had an awful time getting the front end up. I hadn't really tried to do a wheelie, but my first attempt did fail. But I had been able to get the front end up when jumping off of little 8" curbs so I hadn't worried about it. I had some daylight left when I got home tonight and within one try had the front end coming up no problem. I suspect everyone is getting thrown off by the long front-center and long wheelbase the bike has.

    So while I was out practicing wheelies to show off at tomorrow's ride ( ) I rode around my neighborhood riding up and down shorts steps and various things. When I left for work this morning I flipped the shock to the trail mode. I was running late and didn't take the same route I have been, so its not as scientific as I like, but I finally have that float up the hill feeling I was hoping for. And really I was surprised that it didn't really feel any less plush riding over things than in descend mode, but was just magically a more efficient peddler. So here I am goofing around in town and I discover something very surprising. I've never ridden a bike I could pedal up stairs. Now when I say this I mean 2 or three, but it was a surprise none the less. Now I am sure many bikes can pull this trick off, but it was cool non-the-less.

    Before I finish off for today I do want to comment on weight. It seems to me all the bikes in this price rnage and amount of travel are about this weight. I know this bike is 32 lbs, the Trance is 31, apparently the $4000 SB75 weighs 30lbs. I did some checking and the SB75's frame weighs 7.75lbs, where the Sensor is 6.6lbs, SC 5010 6lbs, Bantam 6.87lbs, and I am sure the Trance 27.5 is probably the lightest knowing Giant. These bikes are heavy, all of them. If you want lighter you drop 300-400g in carbon frames and high end components, and add $3000 to the price tag. All of these bikes are heavy. The GT seems to be a tick more than the others though. But I'm not sure what all the ranting about the GT's weight is all about. Like Honda sport bikes, they are heavier but seem to carry their weight better. Just my thoughts.

  7. #7
    cowbell
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    I didn't say I had an awful time getting the front end up. I said it was more difficult than a 2003 Titus Racer X - which is one of the bikes that gave 29ers a reputation about not being able to get the front end up. That said, I want to ride it on trails, and without your cranky sisters pedals on it. Or whatever those horrid things are.


    Of note is the fact that my impression of the trance was the front end came up quite easily, but the flip side of that was that was I had to be very deliberate about moving myself forward when climbing. Almost to the point of compromising MY ability to climb, in order to get the bike to climb. I doubt that's going to be an issue with this bike.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    I didn't say I had an awful time getting the front end up. I said it was more difficult than a 2003 Titus Racer X - which is one of the bikes that gave 29ers a reputation about not being able to get the front end up. That said, I want to ride it on trails, and without your cranky sisters pedals on it. Or whatever those horrid things are.


    Of note is the fact that my impression of the trance was the front end came up quite easily, but the flip side of that was that was I had to be very deliberate about moving myself forward when climbing. Almost to the point of compromising MY ability to climb, in order to get the bike to climb. I doubt that's going to be an issue with this bike.
    My point wasn't to call you out but simply that it seems like not an uncommon first impression. Seems like if you ride it for more than 20 minutes you make the minor adjustments to get the front end up. But then again, that may not be the case for everyone.

    Did a gravel grinder ride today (at a wildlife managment area 7 miles) that turned off onto some steep old fire road type thing that just randomly ends and then you pick up another road that was a long ride uphill, which was also fairly steep. I used the full granny on that thing. Again I have it in trail on the shock. I did play with the rebound last night. I only have one click of slower rebound from full rabbit mode. All the way off bounced a little bit when pedaling but took the edge off of riding off of curbs. At one click, where I have it now, pretty much got rid of the bobbing but made riding off the curb a bit harsher. On the ride today It felt very nice. When I was on a very slight incline spinning the pedals at 80-90prm very easily with little to no load I could feel some slight bobbing. However, anytime I added the least bit of power the bobbing went away. An extra click of rebound would tune that out I think, but I like the balance I have at the moment as I am going pretty slow. That 2.4 in the front sure does float well. I was riding with Cotharyus who was riding his Anthem 29er with a 2.4 Ardent on the front and a 2.4 Conti Mt King on the rear. I have the stock 2.4F/2.2R Conti X Kings (which shed mud really well) and it seemed that I was able to simply roll away from both buddies going down the road. This surprised me as I figured the 29er would roll away from the 27.5. But the Anthem is 4lbs lighter and Cotharyus is at least 15lbs lighter than me, so gravity was on my side for a change. It was a really nice ride. Smooth but not overly plush. Coming from an FS XC bike it was nice. It did climb really well. I probably felt the weight as my ProFlex is 6lbs lighter. But it really did climb well. I wasn't blown away away and I wouldn't say it climbs great. But for 130mm travel bike the power goes to the rear wheel and the suspension keeps the traction really well like you would hope. Out of the pedals you have to use just a bit of technique to keep your weight from causing the the suspension to boing. It still moves but I can't feel it and feels like pretty much everything is going to forward motion. In that in a hardtail everything goes to forward motion. I am of the opinion that a current model year trail bike should climb as good as my 16yr-old XC bike, which oddly enough has about as much rear wheel travel with it's Fox Float I mounted. This bike actually seems too. Also, unlike my single pivot ProFlex, I didn't notice the different sized chainrings having any effect on suspension which was nice. Might not be ideal for an XC race bike (really depends on rider preference) but just right for the relaxed ride I was on today. The hill we went up was a pretty good test. I know I have said this already, but it really does climb well. I have yet to ride it on the same trail I rode the Trance 27.5 and '13 Sensor 26" on, but so far I would say it climbs as well as the '13 Sensor. The GTs always seem to surprise me with how much grip they have considering the tires they come with. The Trances all come with Schwalbe Nobby Nics which I am currently running on the ProFlex, and I know they are good gripping tires, so it makes it hard to judge if the Giants are as good, better, or lesser in traction.

    The one real descent was as I said before some sort of access/fire road thing that was rutted as it was pretty much a fall line, but a bit soft and covered in a good layer of leaves. I followed my buddy on the Anthem down. Having that big ol' tire out front, 130mm of sus in the front, the trail geo, and cockpit made following my friend an uneventful but fun event. The rear tire did squirt out once or twice when crossing the rut, but the front seemed pretty suck. The small creek at the bottom took no more than some faith and releasing the brakes. It was steep enough that I was behind the saddle for the last 1/2 or 1/3 of it. The only issue I had was the saddle. While I find it comfortable enough that I didn't really notice it, it was hard to squeeze past and then back. I guess that is what dropper posts are for, but I'd rather just have a saddle with a narrower back. But all in all, while the descent was steep in places it wasn't technical at all.

    In GT's marketing speak on their website they say, "GT trail bikes are designed for the aggressive Trail Rider who is out ripping singletrack and occasionally testing their racing skills while partying their way through a 24-hour race." When I first started riding this bike I thought no way would I race this thing, even partying through a 24-hour race. Now, I can see that. However I have never ridden in this place before, and I have yet to get this bike on trails I know. I had fun on today's ride. My XC bike is fun when I'm out to rip the trail a new one, crush climbs, and have fun riding the bike on the edge when descending down a techy hill. It is rewarding. This bike is chill fun but seems to be more than ready to get frisky and jump every log jump, drive as hard as you can into tight twisty stuff, and charge the descent, but also just stil back and relax and not have to be completely on top of the bike's hadling. I think I would like a trail bike that's not going to do all the work on the descents but allow me to attack them harder than before. I think this bike might be that bike. But we'll see. There is a lot more riding to be had.

  9. #9
    cowbell
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    No problem, I wasn't under the impression you were calling me out. I just wanted to be clear - the front end will come up, but it's difficult.

    For the rest of the world, I want to be clear. I don't really care about doing wheelies. I interest was in the balance of the bike. When we pulled the bike off the rack it arrived at my place on before we went riding yesterday, I rode it around my place, over an old stump in the yard, and off a little ramp I built to help my son gain some skills. The I was pleasantly surprised that it was very easy to make the bike land of the jump very neutrally, I figure it would be front end heavy off the ramp. But, hey, there you go. My 30 second ride impression. I'll be taking jazclrint a pair of SPD's to put in place of his crank bros pedals at some point so I can put some time in on the bike as well.

  10. #10
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    Some random thoughts. If you ride this bike with pants you'll need two pant-leg straps as the air nozzle/valve thingy on the shock will snag your left pant leg too. The sag gauge is really the only way to check sag as I see no way of getting a micrometer in there. However, the pointer is only stuck on with double-sided tape. An enthusiastic bungee cord managed to knock it off. I stuck it back on and all seems well, but I'm nervous about it. The wide bars are screwing with my riding style in tight stuff as I like to stick me knee out a bit more. Keeping my knee tucked in a bit more and adjusting does work though. Also, I can't fit the bike through doorways because of the handlebars. I rent a room and my bikes live with me. It's really annoying. I think I need to bring the saddle back some more. I just hope it doesn't make getting behind the saddle harder. It makes me understand why I might be a fan of steep seatube angles. This thing will turn hard. Goofing around in my buddies yard I thought I'd get a little frisky and try a tight turn with some speed. Took me by surprise enough I yelped a little. I have not felt the need yet to check the front tire pressure, but I did notice the rear is a little low today. That's all I can think of today.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    No problem, I wasn't under the impression you were calling me out. I just wanted to be clear - the front end will come up, but it's difficult.

    For the rest of the world, I want to be clear. I don't really care about doing wheelies. I interest was in the balance of the bike. When we pulled the bike off the rack it arrived at my place on before we went riding yesterday, I rode it around my place, over an old stump in the yard, and off a little ramp I built to help my son gain some skills. The I was pleasantly surprised that it was very easy to make the bike land of the jump very neutrally, I figure it would be front end heavy off the ramp. But, hey, there you go. My 30 second ride impression. I'll be taking jazclrint a pair of SPD's to put in place of his crank bros pedals at some point so I can put some time in on the bike as well.
    Interesting take. I have found that happens sometimes. A bike is pretty difficult to manual/wheelie and when going off a jump it just kind of floats. Wonder why that is?

  12. #12
    cowbell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atl-Biker View Post
    Interesting take. I have found that happens sometimes. A bike is pretty difficult to manual/wheelie and when going off a jump it just kind of floats. Wonder why that is?
    I don't ever recall this happening with a 26er, but I've had it happen quite a bit with 29ers. The issue there was chain stay length making manuals hard, but centered rider weight making it behave quite well in the air. The shocker with this is that it's so hard to get the front end up - I was thinking, smaller wheels, it should be "easy" right? But it isn't. So in that one aspect, maybe I can call "it feels like a 29er" on this bike? Remains to be seen what happens with other aspects of it's performance for me.

  13. #13
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    No insights today as it was a blustery ride to work. Other than, my efforts to be unbiased are being challenged by just how good this thing looks in my room.

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    The day after the gravel grinder I rode to the ATM (a 3 mile trip) and used the "climb" setting on the shock for the bike lane. Doesn't completely lock the suspension out, and actually I would have preferred it firmer while on the pavement in the big ring. Also, this bike sits higher off the ground than my ProFlex. It's lead to some awkward moments when trying to come to a stop.

    The next day I came down sick and I missed a beautiful day for riding last Sunday, as well as a few days of work. I finally rode through my ADA switchbacks on the way to work today in trail mode. Not sure I even miss descend mode even with curb hopping an all. The bike had that floating feeling going up the hills on the way to work the way it didn't in descend. And when I got a bit excited to finally be back on the bike and put some power down going up the hill it seemed to respond better than I thought it would. Then down through the switchbacks it wanted another gear and seemed to want to accelerate through the short straights like my other bikes (CX and XCFS). The wide bars were throwing me off still, but as I have become accustomed wth the bike I think that was the most aggressive and probably fastest I have hustled that bike thorough that stuff. The bike is noticeably stable at speed, at least on the road (down hill past the county and city Police stations while speeding, hehe).

    I buddy has lent me his old alum handlebar off of his Anthem. It is a Giant Contact 690mm with 19mm of rise. I am going to see how I like it. It can't hurt, and as everything is bolt on, it's not much of a chore to swap bars. I also think I need to go to a 90mm stem, but we'll see.

    Trails have been closed a lot with all the freeze-thaw we've been getting. I am trying to make plans to ride this weekend. I won't be able to ride hard as I am still healing from being sick, but it'll be nice to get the bike on trails I know well for a change. That gravel grinder with it's DH excursion has me really excited to get it on the trail. I really want to get it out to Lock 4 and launch it off everything in sight. Oh well. That's all I have for now.

    Did I mention it looks good sitting in my room? Even my landlady comments on how nice it is. That's all for now.

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    Let me start today with a random thought. The stock RD is a clutch derailleur. I have yet to turn it on. More importantly, I have yet to feel I need to turn it on. Hopefully hitting the trail this weekend, so that may change.

    Now about handle bars. I like the narrower bar! First off, I can actually wheel the bike trough doorways again making leaving for work and coming home a fair bit easier. Second, as I built up speed on the road and made the first right hand turn, it was just so natural feeling, and not awkward or forced like before. I can say it didn't feel as confident at higher lean angles, but I think I was going faster and may actually have been leaned over further anyway. The narrower bar does feel less cool though. Chucking it hard into my ADA swichbacks I no longer would catch me knee on the end of the bar in the tight 180 turns. Overall the steering feels smoother and more natural to me. this helped in the ADA switchbacks, but I could then feel that some of the issue was the big front wheel and slack headtube angle, and having to flop it over a bit. That's right I said 68.5 was slack. What of it. The point being that half of what I was feeling was simply the bike's geo, so the 740mm bar can't take all the blame. Now the stock Kore bar has gradients on the end to help you cut the bar to 730, 720, 710, or 700mm. If it was my bike I would probably cut the bar down to 720mm and see how that felt. I still need to find a 90mm stem to borrow and see where that puts me. Everyone and their uncle likes 50mm stems right now, and if you put that short a stem on it you'll need a wider bar to slow the steering back down. But there isn't any riding that you need a 50mm stem and 760+mm bars around here. A half way descent climbing position will gain you much more dividends. Not that that stops anyone in this area form buying AM bikes, short stems, and stupid wide handlebars just to ride the a 20 second descent. [sigh]

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    Finally got the Sensor on the trail, but because of the weird freeze/thaw going on I would hit soft spots on the trail slowing the bike down. I am still running the narrower bar. The bike flicked through the tight stuff and handles the switchbacks with no worries at all. I even cleaned one awkward corner the best to date. The trail goes around a tree while going up and then down a small hill. This is the second time I have experienced the front of the bike just grab and rip around with supreme confidence. Me likey. The front 2.4 sure does kind of have a marshmellow feel. It climbed quite well as I have come to expect. Buy which I mean pedaled well. It was definitely plusher than my ProFlex as expected, but the rear end felt much more consistent than the old Sensor 4.0 that was plush and then felt like it got much firmer at a certain point. It wasn't as plush as the the Trance 27.5 I rode BUT I had the GT in Trail, and the Trance 3 I rode didn't even have a lockout, much less any kind of platform. I think the new Trance 27.5 needs a platform unlike the old Meastro bikes. Also, the guy who's bike I borrowed weighted about 30lbs less than I. Someday I'll go back and flick the switch to descend and see how it feels. But the trails were so soft I just went home before I did any more damage. I rode the 5 miles to and from the trail. I put the shock in climb and set then played with the compression knob and ended up setting it half way to lock out. It was firm but it pedaled right along. It didn't want to fly down the road like my Proflex, but playing with my riding position I found that had a lot more to do with riding position than anything else.

    All in all I feel this is definitely a better bike for this area (Nashville, TN area) as I could rail through quick turns through trees at speed like my XC bike, and it climbed very well, and shows signs that if you push it hard down hill the bike will respond. I don't think it is super plush like a Maestro suspension, but I prefer a firmer feel anyway. When just putting long it is plenty plush. My personal bikes have to have two things: quick handling and and really good climbing ability. In a trail bike I want a bike that can also be ridden at a relaxed pace, handle jumps and drops without voiding warranty, and handle rough downward trending trails on the rare occasion I ride one. This bike fits that bill so far.

  17. #17
    cowbell
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    I can't believe you rode my freaking trail yesterday. You slob. Just for that, next time you do trail work with me on your day off, you're swinging a digging tool, not just helping with layout. Un-freaking believable. *mutters*

    ....you know I'm just giving you a hard time, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    I can't believe you rode my freaking trail yesterday. You slob. Just for that, next time you do trail work with me on your day off, you're swinging a digging tool, not just helping with layout. Un-freaking believable. *mutters*

    ....you know I'm just giving you a hard time, right?
    I was worried for a minute there.

    Finally! A picture for you all. Both my digital camera and phone have died, and I had deleted Dell's annoying webcam program so I had to find another one. It's been a process to say the least.

    2014 GT Sensor Elite demo bike-sensor.jpg

  19. #19
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    So, I got to take a spin on the Sensor today. A little background on me before I start in on the feedback on the bike, so that you know where I'm coming from. I started mountain biking around 86, my first mountain bike was effectively a beach cruiser with a 10 speed (2x5) conversion on it. It weighed about 40 pounds. I've progressed through several bikes since then, all of them XC bikes, most of them hard tails, and I was completely sold on 29er's the first time I sat on one 12 years ago. Being 6'4" ish it was the first time since I was 14 or 15 the proportions on a bike had felt right to me. I am a self described old school, east coast XC fanatic. I do ride bigger, steeper things, and occasionally hit some real mountains, and I am actually in the market for something that has almost nothing in common with my current ride, a Giant Anthem 29er. It's converted to 1x, tubeless, a tweak here and there. It weighs in around 28 lbs. I want something that is slacker, longer travel, and more playful. As such, it wasn't just a lark that put me on this bike. That said...

    It was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey this morning. The ground was good and saturated by recent rains, froze tight, and then had a bit of a dusting of snow on top of it. Perfect conditions to evaluate a bike. I took a lap of my most local back yard sort of trails on my Anthem first - just to get a feel for things again. Although I mostly tend to ride these trails twice a week during the spring summer and fall, it's been...a couple months, since I rode on them at this point for a lot of reasons, but I've still got a pile of miles on them. There were no surprises on my bike, everything felt just like it should.

    The sensor is my second ride on a 27.5 bike. The previous ride was a Trance 3, which would likely have worked out better for me if it had shocks on it with platform control. One jazclrnt said he didn't think the Trance was as fun as the Sensor. I would argue it was about as fun - just in different ways. For those looking for a short answer to a long review - this may be the right bike for people in my neck of the woods looking for a relaxed trail bike that they can play on. It climbs better than the Trance, but isn't quite as enthusiastic descending. For those looking for more detailed thoughts, read on.

    Out of the parking lot, I hit a little section of trail we call the "Drop Down" - which switches back down the side of a hill and drops down a hollow, spitting you out at the bottom of the park. There are some good sized roots, sharp sudden, short sections of hill dropping down, and a punchy little climb, none of the switchbacks are tight, but the second one drops you onto a slightly washed out steep down, across a little creek, sweeps back up the side of the hill, drops back down, and sweeps up the other side of the hill and over a little bridge that you have to get the wheel up on some to ride ride. It's a fun little section of trail. The first thing I noticed was that it was very easy to get behind the seat on this bike - it happened without really thinking about it. it lent a great deal of confidence on the steep sections. Sadly, in spite of all that, it was still harder than it should have been to get the front wheel up when I got to the little bridge. The bike did roll well down the next section of the hill, and soaked right on through some rooted drops a couple inches in size that make...sort of set of steps going down through a mild turn. Anyone who has ridden this park, will tell you this trail is a great way to start a ride.

    Now I'm going to pull back, and pick my first nit. The punchy little climb was the first place I really felt the weight. The bike didn't hold speed up the roots on the climb the way my bike does, but the bike pedaled like it was heavier too. And the 3x front setup? I'm not real sure about it. But one thing I can tell you I'm completely against is those stupid Shimano shifters. Because the brake levers can't really be mounted outside the shifters, the brakes were a bit awkward to hold on to, and the shifters where awkward to get to. So...heavy, and shifters suck. Onwards and upwards.

    From there, it's a short pedal on a slight uphill flat section to the next loop, with a pretty washed out creek crossing along the way - which presented no problem at all. The bike just kind of soaked everything up. The next section of climb has some mild grade with some medium tight switchbacks, then it steepens up with some rolling stuff there, then drops back down the hill to a bridge. Cross that and up into a tight, steep climbing turn....where the slack head angle, and relaxed feel of the bike showed its colors and bit back. The bike started to push wide, I hammered a little harder, and pulled it back in, then the front end came up. Fortunately, I was straightening things out when that happened, so I just kept the hammer down and leaned further forward. Up and over and around the hill....

    A playful run down to a power line, dropping off the power line and across a ditch, another climbing turn, but I put it behind me smoothly if not a little widely. From there it's a fairly good climb up to the top of the hill...where I felt the weight again. And every root on the trail. Now, it's been a while since I was on a 26" bike for comparison. But this 27.5 doesn't deal with roots the way my 29er does. Period. Ahem. So it's a fun down hill run with some rooty turns to cross a creek on a bridge. The bike was a shining bright little bit of awesome going down this hill and through the turns - stable, smooth, and well hooked up.

    The next bit was really the most intense climb. By this time, I had adjusted to the bike well enough that I can honestly say I knew what to expect, and had no issues with the climb. Comparatively speaking it's not as easy as my Anthem, but that's not really the thing. I cruised out, across a flat, and onto a fast flat section of single track. Speed was pretty easy there, the handling was predictable, and it was as fun as it should be, even though the experience was different from what I expect from riding XC bikes. Still, it wasn't so foreign as to be unfamiliar or awkward.

    The next section of trail is a long down hill from the highest point in the park, back to the bottom of the park. Only three things stuck out here. First, it was fun. Second, in spite of that, I never developed the confidence I have on my XC bikes, or that I instantly had on the Trance I rode though this area as well. It BEGGED to be hurled in the turns as hard as you could. Third, the rocks. There's a clump of rocks you can drop off, ride through, or go around. As per my norms, I rode off them. This is by far the biggest hit on the ride. The suspension on this thing was set up for jazclrnt, who has about 10 lbs on me, so it was close enough, never felt harsh...in fact, on the whole, the ride was pretty plush - but coming off this, it just ate it up. In fact, it sort of begged for more. If I wasn't racing sections of trail where the sun was shining thawing out on me, I'd have gone back and tried it again.

    On the whole, this bike sets apart from anything else I've ridden. It's not as aggressively down hill oriented as the Trance, but it's certainly no XC bike. It's also not the bike I would spend money on. I'd say, based on best guesses, that the Force would be more the degree of separation I want from my Anthem. That said, on the whole, I'll repeat that it's probably a great bike for this area for the average person. I don't need something as aggressive as the Force for this area, here it would be relegated to jumping duties and days when I feel like I'll bust if I don't hit the drops on the local trails that are too big for the Anthem. What I really want it for is so I can do more than just survive trails like Wolf Ridge - I want to get something I can let it hang out on on trails like that.

    I'll answer questions anyone has, if they have any.

  20. #20
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    For the record, I didn't think the Trance 27.5 was fun on those trails. If I had a long "burly" descend it's be awesome. But I'm just not sure how I'd get to the top. I'm not one for shuttles.

    As for cornering, I while I too felt the Trance likes fast downward corners more than the Sensor (even if the Trance gave ME vague to no feedback starting the corner), I wonder how much had to do with that the Sensor came with Conti X-Kings, and the Trance had the more aggressive Nobby Nics.

  21. #21
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    The Trance was fun. Going down. It would be ok for a long grind up to a massive descent, but it's not a bike for rolling terrain.

    I'm not sure how much the tires had to do with it. The Trance to me felt like it was screaming "I won't do it!" unless you threw it into the turn with everything you had. The Sensor was more....laid back? Yeah. It seemed to just want to cruise through the tight down hill turns, pretty neutral. I wouldn't view my statement regarding it's enthusiasm on turns as a negative, I would take it for what it is. The Trance begged for balls to the wall. The sensor seemed fine with "meh" - maybe I was more meh because my hands were freezing and I wasn't fond of the cockpit? But the bike didn't feel diminished for it - while the Trance would have.

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    Oh, OK. Cool. Actually glad I asked. One thing that popped into my mind is as I have lived with the bike a while I don't seem to behaving as much an issue getting the front wheel up and onto/over things. But I am wondering where my ProFlex has long chainstays and the Fork tuning isn't right, if I'm just used to that.

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