GT Avalanche Review
With the Avalanche range, GT has produced several hardtail bikes aimed at the discerning MTB enthusiast who knows what they want. Ranging from Sport and Comp to Elite and Expert, they cover all levels of quality and budget.
Avalanche bikes are popular around the world, with the iconic GT triple-triangle frame design immediately recognizable to most cyclists. The bikes represent good value-for-money but aren’t particularly specialized in any area of mountain biking, rather providing an all-round trail riding experience.
Sport, the most affordable Avalanche build, comes with the standard 6061 aluminum frame and a simple SR Suntour fork with 100mm of travel. On the drivetrain, you get a mix of fairly decent Shimano Altus and Alivio parts, mixed with a 9-speed Sunrace cassette and a 2x crank, providing a total of 18 gears.
Tektro provides mid-range M275 hydraulic disc brakes which are a bit heavy but responsive and reliable when you need them to be. They have fitted to a set of 29” or 27.5″ WTB rims and 2.25″ Ranger Comp tires which offer good traction and handle well in all conditions.
The SR Suntour fork is probably the biggest downside on this bike and you’ll probably want to upgrade it after awhile. The cheap coil-sprung fork is heavy, slow to rebound, and constantly leaks oil.
The Avalanche Comp features GT’s signature 6061 aluminum frame with triple triangle design, internal cable routing, and space for 27.5 or 29″ tires. You also get routing for a dropper seat post and Boost 141 forged drop-outs with disc brake mounts.
The main feature here is the 1×10 Shimano Deore groupset that includes a 32T crank and 11-42 Sunrace cassette. Deore is one of Shimano’s better quality MTB groupsets, often found on bikes of a higher price than the Avalanche Comp. The Deore drivetrain is supported by Shimano’s trusted MT200 hydraulic disc brake and hub combination, which are decent components for a bike in this price range.
On the wheels are a pair of WTB SX19 rims wrapped in WTB Ranger Comp tires which feature a DNA Compound for increased traction. Together they are a formidable pair that make a great wheelset. Unfortunately, the SR Suntour fork is a bit of a letdown on this bike, with only 100mm of travel and subpar performance at best. Like most cheap coil sprung forks, its heavy, slow to respond, and often leaks oil.
There are some decent upgrades on the Elite version of GT’s Avalanche hardtail MTB. Most notably, the air-sprung SR Suntour XCR-RL fork is far superior to the cheaper, coil spring versions. It doesn’t leak oil, has excellent responsiveness, and a full 120mm of travel.
Another nice improvement is the 11-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain which is a bit lighter than Deore and achieves smoother shifting. It’s not the full groupset though, as it’s paired with a Prowheel 30T crankset and 11-42T Sunrace cassette.
For brakes, GT has kept with Shimano’s very popular MT200 hydraulic discs, which are often found on higher-priced mountain bikes. The brakes use much of the technology found on better quality sets but is manufactured in a more affordable way to provide excellent value for money.
At over 33lbs (15kg), we feel this version of the GT Avalanche is a bit heavy for a mountain bike named in the Elite category. Considering the increase in price, we would have liked to have seen some more weight savings offered by the frame, fork, or other components.
The Expert is GT’s top-of-the-range Avalanche hardtail and offers the biggest step up in both parts and price. Although it maintains the same frame, almost every other component has been upgraded significantly. Most notably, the RockShox Recon RL fork is the kind of component usually seen on professional-level MTBs. It’s a top-quality air-sprung fork with quick, smooth reactions and a seamless glide. Its inclusion here adds loads of value to the bike.
The 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain is another impressive upgrade that separates the Avalanche Expert from its entry-level siblings. Amateur competitive riders have trusted SRAM’s SX Eagle drivetrain for years based on its proven durability and precise gearing.
GT has stuck with Shimano for the brakes, with a minor upgrade to its MT400 hydraulic system. The brakes feel relatively similar to the MT200 set but are built from slightly more durable and lighter materials. The Expert comes at quite a high price considering it’s part of GT’s ‘affordable’ Avalanche hardtail range. Although the components are of high quality, you might be able to find similar hardtails with a better frame in the same price range.
Sizes & Buying Options
XXS – 4’10” – 5’2″
XS – 5’1″ – 5’6″
S – 5’5″ – 5’9″
M – 5’8″ – 6’0″
L – 5’11” – 6’3″
XL – 6’2″ – 6’5″
GT’s Avalanche range covers quite a considerable spectrum of quality and price. The cheaper Sport and Comp models feature a few entry-level components that would probably not satisfy experienced cyclists. These models would likely suffer some mechanical problems if they were used for anything other than light trail riding. If you are looking for a cheap-and-cheerful trail bike for some recreational weekend riding then the Sport or Comp would be a good choice. Anything more serious than that and you’ll want to upgrade.
The Elite offers the best value-for-money in GT’s Avalanche range, as it provides a decent fork and drivetrain at an affordable price. It’s an enjoyable bike to ride with tough components that can handle the abuses of rough mountain biking. While the Expert is an impressive build that features high-quality components, we wonder if it has possibly out-priced itself. The increase means it’s no longer in the low budget range and wealthier buyers may consider paying slightly more for a carbon framed bike.