Inside Line: GT redefines XC with new Helion

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Photos by the author and Dane Cronin, courtesy of GT Bicycles.

There are dozens of cross country bikes on the market, and many of the were developed with racing in mind, then adapted back or watered down for the average trail rider. GT took the opposite approach with the new 110mm Helion. Starting with a more modern, progressive geometry and its proven Angle Optimized Suspension system, it has built a bike that could certainly race on Sunday, but is more at home riding for fun the rest of the week.

The Helion lineup will come to the US this fall with five models starting at just $1,549. We got our first ride on one on the trails surrounding Park City, Utah.

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The heart of the Helion is GT’s AOS suspension system that isolates drivetrain forces from the suspension. If you are familiar with the Sensor and Force models unveiled last year, the Helion uses a very similar design, anchored by the massive PathLink linkage. New this year are the inclusion of expanding axles that work similarly to those found in thru-axle forks. It reduces the number of parts by a third and increases stiffness by 6 percent, according to GT.

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As is the trend these days, the Helion geometry uses a longer top tube paired with a shorter stem and wider handlebars (740mm). The bottom bracket is also lower (12.7 inches) for confident handling. Make no mistake though, this is no trail bike. There is no provision for a dropper seatpost and the riding position is aggressive.

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All Helion models are designed around 27.5 wheels. While many racers still might find 29ers slightly faster, it speaks to the mission of the design that fun and versatility where chosen over outright speed. According to GT, they provide a winder range of sizing options, especially for women and global markets, help increase standover, and allow for shorter chainstays and a lower head tube.

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Geometry

The aluminum and carbon models will share geometry numbers, but note there is no Extra Small model in carbon.

(Click for full-size)

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First ride

We started our ride with the epic Armstrong Trail climb outside of Park City, and AOS suspension keep things comprised and controlled. The Carbon Pro model I rode was equipped with a remote for the Fox CTD fork and shock, but after playing with it a bit, it was largely unnecessary. There is virtually no suspension movement on smooth climbs.

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Once we reached the top the Helion proved itself a fun and surprisingly capable descender. The 110mm of travel will never equal the plush feeling of its larger stablemates, but the long and low geometry made it easy to take the fun line rather than the fast line.

 

 

Models

There are two U.S. models with full carbon frames and swingarms, three aluminum models and a carbon frame-only option.

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Carbon Pro

  • $4,999
  • Fox 32 Factory fork
  • Shimano XT 1×10 group with E13 42t cog
  • XT brakes
  • Stan’s Crest rims with DTSwiss hubs

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Carbon Expert

  • $4,199
  • Rockshox Reba RL fork
  • XT/SLX 2×10 build kit
  • SLX brakes
  • Stan’s rims with sealed bearing hubs

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Expert

  • $3,199
  • Fox 32 Evolution fork
  • XT/SLX 2×10 build kit
  • Deore brakes
  • WTB rims with sealed bearing hubs

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Elite

  • $2,349
  • Rockshox XC32 fork
  • SLX/Deore 2×10 build kit
  • Shimano hydraulic brakes
  • WTB rims with sealed bearing hubs

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Comp

  • $1,549
  • SR Suntour Raidon fork
  • Shimano 3×9 build kit
  • Shimano hydraulic brakes
  • Alex wheels