GT i-drive XCR2000
By MauriceThis is going to be hard to write. Try and try. Ride and ride. And still can’t find much wrong with this i-drive thing. I’ve ridden it a lot, over various types of terrain, and it’s just so well mannered, yet...Oh well.
The massive amount of hype that GT placed on this product when it was first introduced last June caused a lot of confusion among magazine editors, as well as the general public. We were told we would be in for something special, and that it was going to be the best bike ever made. When we laid eyes on the actual product, we laughed! I mean, what the hell is that mess down by the bottom bracket? Huh? Dog bone? Sheesh. Four-bar link? Duhhh. To get my own mind around the situation, I finally came to the conclusion that the suspension design was a unified-rear triangle with a twist.
Unified designs are nice. They shift well, (since all the drivetrain parts move together), and there’s supposed to be very little pedal-actuated movement of the swingarm. But while solving some problems, unified designs have their own inherent problems. One problem with many unified designs is that the bottom bracket and pedals move in relation to the seat. GT’s resident guru, Jim Busby, solved this problem by installing a huge rotating eccentric in the BB shell which is connected to the front triangle by the dog bone. This keeps the pedals under the seat regardless of suspension movement. There’s a lot more to it than that, but there you have my simplistic explanation.
The i-drive line starts with the XCR4000, at $959, and runs to the top-o-the-line carbon fiber STS-XCR1000 at $3999. I rode the XCR2000, which at $1849 bridges the gap between the lower end models and the competitively-lightweight aluminum XCR1000.
The XCR2000 is the most expensive bike of the line to still have a Taiwanese-made frame. Spend $2499, move up to the XCR1000 and you’ll get a much prettier American-welded frame and a bike that can hold it’s own in weight comparisons.
I mention this because the XCR2000 can easily be described as heavy. The Taiwanese frame is heavier than the more expensive American version, and this bike comes with a GT exclusive Marzocchi QR20 fork. All told, this extra-large-sized one weighs in at around 30 lbs. While it’s easy to be critical of this, the price/weight/fun ratio seems to strike a good chord with me.
Fun comes first in front in the form of the Marzocchi QR20 fork. The 20 stands for the 20mm axle much like you might find on a downhill bike, yet with a quick release for easy wheel removal. It may be a bitch to put it onto your fork mount roof rack, but the payback comes in the form of increases in steering precision, control and fun. This front end says Bomber, in more ways than one.
In the rear, even with 4.6" of travel, this new design is much more uphill friendly than GT’s LTS design. This i-drive climbs very, very well. My style is not racer-really-fast climbing, but slow, pick-your-line fun. On hills I’m still reminded of this XL bike’s weight, but this is nothing compared to my own extra girth.
I found the Fox Air Vanilla Float R shock to work well, nice and progressive, once I put enough air into it. While rated at 300 psi maximum, I had to put 350 psi in there to support my 220 pounds. Fortunately, there were no repercussions. But Fox is working on a new shock with a larger air chamber that will allow it to run at lower pressures. This will make it easier to keep air in the shock, and it will just work better.
As for parts, the mix of XT, LX and even STX is good for the average fun hog. I had no problems with it. I simply enjoyed just how well it worked for the money. LX brakes now have the same parallel push mechanism like on the more expensive XT and XTR stuff, but they still have those ugly pads. And then there’s the 9 Speed drivetrain. LX shifters, XT rear derailleur, LX cranks, LX rear hub and STX front derailleur. On a recent 184-mile run of the C&O canal, I was riding a different bike with 8 speeds while dreaming of 9. While pedaling hour after hour down the long, flat canal, one gear was too hard—the next one up was too easy. I have to say not having 9 speeds on that ride kinda sucked. Let me temper that praise by saying you’ve gotta keep an eye on it. Tolerances are closer. And mud has not been an issue for me, personally, but I do hear the grumblings.
Rounding out the parts package, we have an Azonic stem, SDG Belair saddle, Generic seatpost, Dia Compe Aheadset and WTB Enduroraptor tires. Mostly all good stuff.
More good stuff:
Stand-over height is good and low for technical maneuvers.
No squeaks here. While I counted 12 movement points on last year’s LTS and STS bikes, the i-drive really only has one pivot to worry about, and it hasn’t made a peep in over a dozen rides. And the i-drive eccentric doesn’t look like it’s going to make a sound either.
Some nits to pick:
As the suspension travels, the front derailleur moves in relation to the chainrings. Under certain circumstances, this can cause shifting problems.
As for fit, while the GT riser handlebars were nice and wide (thank-you-very-much), the seatpost was too short. While this may work for a large percentage of riders, it wouldn’t hurt to put a little more tubing on the end of the seatpost. If a post is really too long, you or your shop could take the time to cut some off.
As for my final impressions, I am impressed! This design does a lot of stuff really well.
Contact: GT, 2001 East Dyer Rd., Santa Anna, CA 92705. 800.RIDEAGT or www.gtbicycles.com.
The i-drive...well...at first I thought that I was gonna be able to rocket up hills because of all the hype. And I thought it would be totally easy to set up, you know...just line up the dot. And then I found that it didn't seem to climb much better than my LTS (not much), and they were saying "well you have to sit on the bike, line the dot up a little under the mark"...I was like - "what the...you guys said I could just line up the dot!" Marketing Hype. I was kind of disappointed. But I kept riding it, using a SID Dual crown dual air fork, and a Fox Vanilla rear shock, and I really began to like it. It rides SWEET! Totally plush for small bumps (I feel like I'm on a road bike on a velodrome!) and it takes big hits well too. So I'm kind of like you. I expected a LOT from the hype, didn't get it, but now really like the bike. Better than any other full suspension. I've got a feeling that Busby is a genius. You should do a good interview with him. He's a good guy. And I haven't ridden a rigid rear bike since '95. Maybe I should try that again, just for grins. Maybe put a RockShox post on it.
The i-drive bike is a pretty cool bike. At first I thought it was too soft and sluggish on the climbs and what GT calls the "modified four bar linkage" seemed no more effective at isolating pedaling forces than anything else I've ridden that I consider fully active. After some time riding with the stock Fox Vanilla Float shock, I got it working better with basically higher pressure and started to feel more comfortable climbing with it.
You would think that going to a higher spring rate is just trying to reduce the travel of the suspension, since this is what most people do when they have a hard time pedaling with an active suspension. This bike should NOT be set up too soft because the longish 4.5" travel is more than enough for most XC riding. But mostly it's because the suspension travel has a very good progressive rate. This means the suspension can be set stiffer for the low end of it's travel. That minimizes bobbing and over-activeness, but will not limit the high end suspension effectiveness either. It's amazing that this bike is so active from the low to high end of it's travel and still takes the big hits really well, and I have not come close to bottoming out this suspension.
Being an active suspension design, (more so than what most other companies would tell you about their bikes) it still climbs pretty well. I believe that physically it's impossible to have a truly active suspension that climbs as well as a hardtail and does not bob to some degree under pedaling and body weight loads. Even so, this design has balanced out these conflicting problems very well and does it better than anything else so far. I think that it's not that the i-drive is supposed to eliminate bobbing, or make the bike climb easier for someone who is used to riding a hardtail, it's the suspension efficiency in most conditions that makes it work.
A problem that's really not related to the suspension is that my "medium" size XCR1000 has too short a top tube. I think it's about 22.4" or so effectively, as it changes in relation to the fork length. (I noticed that this bike rides much better with a 100mm travel fork.) This is short for a bike of this size. The guys at GT tell me this is a nominal length based on the industry average.
Maybe the average for all bikes, but a high performance bike that should be ridden hard, extreme and fast needs a longer top tube. Basically I feel like I'm fighting to keep the front end from bouncing around too much on high speed rough singletrack. Also on the steep descents and ledgy drop ins, I fight from getting pitched over the bars. Regardless, I've gotten used to it more or less and lately feel pretty comfortable riding it. Regardless, I still feel more at home on my VooDoo Canzo FS with its 23" TT.
Another factor is that the frame is about 6-1/2 lbs. (I don't care about complete bike weights, meaningless, when parts are subjective.) It's not quite a XC bike, but what they've called a "dual sport." (Who buys a bike for racing these days anyway??) They are working on getting things lighter with the eccentric parts in particular. So far all the pivots seem durable and the suspension mechanism has been trouble free.
For it's first year and considering what an amazing engineering project the i-drive was to produce, it's an amazing bike that I'm stoked to ride.
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