Bicycling (South Africa)

GT Avalanche Elite

R13 500,


What? An entry-level alloy hardtail is your mountain bike of the year? Of course it is! This kind of bike is the gateway drug to what will probably become a lifelong passion.

The GT – and similar models from Momsen, Titan Racing and Signal – sold out within weeks of the lockdown restrictio­ns lifting. The alloy 29er has become the symbol of a cycling boom in South Africa that shows little sign of abating.

No other beginner bike is as versatile, as easy to ride and as capable as a 29er mountain bike. The big wheels roll over obstacles and take you far with minimal effort, and the upright riding position and low stand-over height result in a bike that isn’t intimidati­ng to newbies.

A few things set the GT apart from its competitor­s in the same price bracket. The first is the frame design: the head tube angle is relatively slack at 67.5°, which improves handling, especially when paired with a short stem and wide bars; and the seat stays are ‘floating’ – they’re not connected to the seat tube, which provides some flex at the back for better traction and comfort.

The second thing is the quality of the Shimano components. The 11-speed SLX drivetrain is durable and smooth, and having only one chain ring in front gives you less to think about when you’re riding: you can focus on the trail instead of not dropping your chain.

Other cool details include internal cable routing, hydraulic disc brakes and a 120mm Suntour XCR fork with air suspension and adjustable rebound. Many bikes in the same price category come with a 100mm fork – the extra travel here makes all the difference to confidence and handling. You can hit bigger bumps, tackle steeper downhills, and have more fun.

There have been incredible developmen­ts in mountain biking over the past 12 months, and superb new models have been launched by all the major manufactur­ers (and by some smaller companies).

But this is the bike that will outlive all the passing fads; the one that you’ll keep in your garage, either for your kids to ride one day or to turn into a custom monster-cross machine when the gateway drug has done its job and your life is full of other, more fancy bikes.

It’s simple, it’s strong, and it can do anything. Put your name down if you missed out on stock earlier in the year. – Jon Minster

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