Two Wheels, One Love: A 2015 GT Sensor X Pro Review

Two Wheels, One Love: A 2015 GT Sensor X Pro Review

By: Aran Eversman

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It was around 400’ of vertical elevation into the opening climb on my 2015 GT Sensor X Pro that I began to ponder why exactly I had spent my every last penny on this new steed. I wrote it off as a birthday gift to myself (it’s on April 8th): There I was, pushing a bicycle built for someone well beyond my skill level of Barney up a stair-stepped climb with middle-aged hikers ahead and behind me, matching my sluggish pace step-for-step.  It was about that time that I realized my first rookie mistake: In my blind excitement to ride this fluorescent all-mountain killer, I left my helmet in the truck. “Shit…it’s either go back and do this all over again, or pack it in for an easier trail” I thought to myself, unsure of the answer when I dropped the post and flipped the shock into Descend.  I’m a motocross journalist and cinematographer by day and the owner of a little place called the Grindstone Compound, so the concept of manual labor isn’t exactly hardwired in our DNA as we walk up climbs like this with a blip of the throttle on our fourty-some horsepower fire-breathing steeds. I was beat already, and barely past the one-third mile mark.

Wait, What?

A quick blast over the ground I had just covered sent any worry so far out of my mind it seemed a bad dream you can’t quite remember…”Was I really just thinking that”?! Even though I was running this thing with flat pedals, no socks on my feet and suspension setup for a dude 30 pounds heavier than me, it didn’t matter. For an instant I was Gee Atherton, flowing down the techie section that I just fought my way up like a boss. I didn’t have to think about what the bike was doing under me, I just borrowed some line selection skills from my moto memory bank and let the bike do the work. The looser I stayed, the better she worked under me. By the time I reached the truck I was working on an unfamiliar kind of high that had me grinning ear to ear and chatting up anyone in sight. As someone who has habitually cut corners with craigslist fixer-uppers in exchange for the latest tech, I suddenly realized the err in my ways. “If you’re going to do something, do it right” I decided, and this beautiful bicycle was a shining reminder of that kind of decision making in action.

Now, was I really shredding the trail like I was on GT Factory Racing? No, actually I was probably going slow as hell.  But it didn’t matter, because the bike gave me the confidence to push a little harder and let it hang out a bit more. Where I might have scrubbed the brakes on a lesser steed, I opted to carry the front end over technical sections with confidence because I knew the bike (and brakes) could handle any error in my technique.

Hippie Hype Songs for the SoCal Suck

Just a few minutes before this I was in my Tacoma withDispatch – The General at full volume, a battle-anthem for my hippie heart as I headed for a completely unknown trial in the heart of Escondido, California: The Elfin Forest Reserve, I decided would be my christening ride.  I picked it based loosely on some interesting singletrack.com reviews despite a very clear warning that this wasn’t a beginner trail. This one was gonna kick the shit out of me before I earned any reward, but I was sure that the farther out I went, the less chance of encountering anyone I had. My secret and driving mission was just to find a corner of the SoCal suck that wasn’t crawling with people, traffic and big box stores. 

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I’l admit, my renewed affinity for cycling is really a biproduct of a soul-searching mission that brought me down the rabbit hole of the meditative arts. Maybe unlocking the next level of performance, whether a racer, filmer or writer lies not in the almighty dollar but in the mind itself; a conduit to accessing the universal energy that allows us to do amazing things. Cycling fills my craving for rad gearand the notion of propelling myself down the trail with only the sound of the soil and the wind in my hair soothing my need to find the edge and just hang off the side.

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Dirtbikes will always be my first love, but there was something about her that just started to feel too, “Been there, done that”. I wanted to keep a hand in the mix but branch out, and cycling seemed like the perfect blend of body, mind and flow state to feed my action sports addiction.

For the past 2 years I have kept in touch with my friend Bill Rudell from GT Bicycles, pinging him whenever I had a little cash in my pocket to see if he had any test bikes back from the mags I might be able to pick up for a song and a little spit shine. A few weeks ago, I was in luck: Opportunity struck and he had an unmolested SensorX Pro with my name on it, still with a hefty price tag but I could just swing it. The last time I was doing a lot of cycling is when I was slanging bikes and skis at Mountain Outfitters in West Bend, WI back in high school so this was a much-needed investment. And needless to say, technology has evolved long beyond the days of my old Giant NRS.

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This isn’t exactly a technical review, but here’s my experience on the 2015 GT Sensor X Pro: I fell in love with bikes today and it was due to a healthy mix
of GT steeze, perfect weather and work-for-reward trail conditions. Equipped with an e-thirteen direct mount single chainring up front and XT Shadow derailleur 10 with SLX controls, I found myself to be working the entire gear range without a whole lot of need on either side of it despite 15 degree grades up and down and dogshit slippery shale to make things interesting. In total I covered about 14 miles and 5,300 vertical on terrain that showcased what you’d expect from the best of SoCal riding (I think): tight switchbacks, sizable stair steps, some fast, flowy sections, rutted fire roads, oasis vistas and a little sand to boot. I covered the gamut of suspension settings, from locked out to full descend mode. At both ends of the spectrum I was floored – this thing has a tractable snap when locked out but with a flip of the seat post trigger and lockout levers on the Pike Fork (another huge upgrade to the standard Sensor lineup) and Fox Float, I never found the bottom of the stroke nor a hit she couldn’t handle. I’m no expert but from all of the research I did before I settled on this girl, it’s the Sensor setup in straight purist form. Hell yes.

Running with Scissors

Ever seen the movie Running with Scissors with Will Ferrell as the novelist that realizes his novel-in-progress is also dictating his life-in-progress? I had this happen to me around mile 7: the spark hit to write this piece, a quick blurb about how intuitive the bike handles and predictable it’s handling….And just then I pushed the front end in a sandy flat corner at speed. I bailed in time and landed on my feet, since I had literally been writing the section in my mind it was almost as if I knew it was coming.

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Needing a quick little break to get my legs back under me I headed up to Lake Hodges Overlook, the final outpost on an epic loop. I only saw one other rider all day, this cat named Tim who also stopped at the overlook to catch the fresh breeze and killer view. We parted ways and I headed back to cash in on all that climbing I had done in first hour and a half.

The way down was ethereal – I was in the zone and even though my new friend Tim caught me on the way down, it didn’t matter. I had all the style of Martin Maes today…and in just a few days I’ll be back in my Southern Oregon hideout shedding the forbidden loams of the Illinois Valley.  Motorcycles, Mountain Bikes…it doesn’t matter. It’s the perfect days and breakthrough moments that put these two-wheeled sports in our veins for life.