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Pro bikes, May 6, 2008

Todd Wells' GT Zaskar Carbon

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Photo ©: Luke Webber

Last minute saviour for a US Olympic hopeful

By Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany

SDG stitches these saddles especially for the team.
Photo ©: Luke Webber
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GT's distinctive design cues
Photo ©: Luke Webber
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Likewise, the top tube uses a diamond-shaped profile.
Photo ©: Luke Webber
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Even in carbon, GT still retains the distinctive Triple Triangle frame design.
Photo ©: Luke Webber
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The top tube is no longer pierced
Photo ©: Luke Webber
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To most onlookers at the opening UCI World Cup in Houffalize the GT factory team camp was operating as a well oiled machine, powering US Olympic hopeful Todd Wells to a career-best eleventh place finish on a brand-new GT Zaskar Carbon. However, for both Wells and his teammate, Burry Stander, these bikes were anything but part of the race day plan.

Both riders were originally supposed to race on their familiar aluminum bikes from late 2007 while the new carbon frames waited in the team van until time allowed for a proper build and shake-out period later in the season. However, Saturday morning brought an unpleasant surprise for the GT, Multivan Merida, Scott, and Hope crews as a rash of overnight thefts left many without bikes and other key equipment. Fortunately for GT those new carbon frames were left inexplicably untouched (others were not so lucky) and a manic building process ensued to salvage the weekend. Helped by some friends who had come to spectate for the weekend, team mechanic Mark Maurrisen set forth on a frantic mission sourcing parts from across the expo area.

Both bikes were ready to go by the evening but they were still something of an unknown quantity having never been ridden before. As any mechanic will tell you, this was far from an ideal scenario as cables stretch and new components bed in.

Nevertheless, the team's spirits were lifted just 18 hours later as both riders were racing in the top 20 and Wells later gushed that the untested bike rode "like a dream."

Wells' comments should perhaps come as no surprise as the new carbon frame is essentially a lighter, stiffer and yet more comfortable version of the aluminum bike he previously used. "We wanted to come up with something new and so decided to go with carbon fibre, building a frame that is 1.2 kg for the medium size," said GT's director of product development Mark Peterman when the frame was introduced last summer. "There are frames out there of one kilo but these are strictly race-only. That's a bit restrictive. We wanted to make a frame that epitomised what Zaskar was about - something which was a bit more rough and tumble. A bike that was very stiff but also very predictable. One which was a lot of fun to ride."

In spite of the company's self-professed conservative approach in regards to weight, Wells' extra-large race day special is still a certifiable featherweight with a 9.1kg (20.2lbs) showing at the scales including the fairly standard, but intelligently chosen, build kit. SRAM provides much of the hardware with its X.0 twist shifter, Avid Juicy Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes, new 100mm-travel RockShox SID Team fork and Truvativ Noir crankset upgraded with a BlackBox ceramic bearing bottom bracket. As is the case with many top riders, Wells' pedal of choice is Crankbrothers' ubiquitous Eggbeater 4ti.

Wells was originally supposed to run the new Race Matte Karbon Ti carbon-wrapped stem (with titanium bolts) and Riser Karbon bar from team sponsor KORE but those bits were sadly lost in the theft. Luckily, the team had aluminum backups but we’d expect him to be back on the intended carbon parts in the near future. The rest of the cockpit was filled out by a custom-stitched team-only SDG I-Fly saddle mounted atop an I-Beam seatpost.

All of those components combine to save a lot of weight but the Wells' NoTubes ZTR Race wheelset lops off a huge amount in one big chunk. Stan Koziatek's lightweight tubeless conversion system has revolutionised tyre selection and expectations when it comes to how light mountain bike wheels can be and his latest rim pushes the envelope even further than before. Each hoop weighs around 280g and a complete wheelset is an astonishing 1200g or so. According to Wells, they are durable, too, easily taking a season of World Cup events.

With Wells' old (and, hopefully, now forgotten) team bikes now rolling somewhere around eastern Europe, we can only hope that this new round of bikes will log a little more mileage this time around.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Luke Webber

Full specification

Frame: GT Zaskar Carbon
Size: Size XL
Fork: RockShox SID Team, 100mm

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.9m (6' 2") ; Weight: 77kg (170lb)
Seat tube length, c-t: 545mm
Top tube length: 635mm (horizontal)

Front brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate with 160mm rotor
Rear brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate with 140mm rotor
Brake levers: Avid Juicy Ultimate
Front derailleur: SRAM X-9
Rear derailleur: SRAM X.0
Shift levers: SRAM X.0 twist shifter
Cassette: SRAM PG-990, 11-34T
Chain: SRAM PC-991
Crankset: Truvativ Noir
Bottom bracket: SRAM BlackBox ceramic


Rims: NoTubes ZTR Race
Front hub: American Classic Disc 130
Rear hub: American Classic Disc 225
Spokes: DT Revolution with red alloy nipples
Tyres: Kenda Karma L3R Pro, 26x2.0"

Bars: KORE carbon riser
Stem: KORE Race with titanium bolts
Headset: Cane Creek integrated
Tape/grip: Cork handlebar tape

Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 4ti
Seat post: SDG 951 Micro Carbon MTB
Saddle: SDG I-Fly GT Team Edition
Bottle cages: King Cage titanium
Other accessories: Avid Flak Jacket cables and housing, Genuine Innovations CO2 inflator

Total bike weight: 9.2kg (20.2lb)