2015 GT Helion Carbon Expert

Bodin

GMBC
My mates have been drinking the 27.5 Kool Aid for a couple of years and I jumped on one recently and rode a couple of unexpected PRs (and really liked it), so it kind of put my much-loved 2013 Trek Fuel EX9 (the last of Trek's 26ers) on death row. I was also hating the fact that I race XC on a 29er hardtail and trail rode on a 26er dually and really struggled to adjust my technique between the different wheel sizes.

So I saw this advertised for an absolute steal (thank you BikeForce Richmond) and couldn't resist. Also should mention that I'd had one of the original iDrives back in the early 2000s and have been wanting another GT ever since... it was really heavy (which was why I sold it), but rode absolutely beautifully; totally planted. It's also a brand with tons of MTB history and for stupid emotional reasons, I just love riding a GT. Makes me feel like a kid again.

Stock (taken outside the shop on purchase day):




Now (after a few changes):



Changes: 1X with 32t oval chainring / XT cassette (was HG61) / SL-K seatpost (was RaceFace) / ESI grips (were stock lock-ons) / XT shifter (was SLX and I can't live without multi-release) / Phenom Pro saddle (was originally a Fizik Tundra, but I made BikeForce change that arse-breaker to a WTB Silverado... and then I changed the seat anyway...) / Bontrager XR2 tyres (were Conti X-Kings, which felt a little thin in the sidewall for a tubeless conversion - the XR2s are a favourite on my local You Yangs trails. They just work and I'm sticking with them)

Planned: Matching SL-K bar and stem are already on their way :nerd: / I'll definitely go XT 11-speed with an 11-42 cassette, as my 41-year-old legs are not enjoying pushing 32f/36r up longer climbs, oval ring or not / possibly might go a Monarch XX rear shock and get the "full-sprint" hydraulic front & rear lockout, which would be a very expensive upgrade, but I really like the remote lockouts for XC racing, always use both at the same time and it would be killer convenience to just have 1 button that did both. Besides that, I don't think Fox could have made an uglier remote lock-out if they'd tried.


The Helion is different in many ways to the Fuel, especially not having a dropper post (which I really miss), so it's not a fair comparison, but here's a few thoughts:

- 27.5 wheels work for me. I'm riding good times on long segments that I've ridden and raced a million times (even though I'm not fit right now) and I just like the way the bike rides. The turn in to corners is excellent - much less washy than 26 and the centre of gravity is much better than 29. And I'm saying this having ridden the exact same tyres (Bontrager XR2) on all 3 bikes, so I think the comparison is fair. I'm hitting apexes much better.

- Long top tube, short stem (80mm), wide bars (740mm) also work for me. The handling is brilliant. Although, I'm not looking forward to going to places where there's more squeezing between trees. I used to run narrower bars on my DH bike back in the day and I know I've got some bruised knuckles in my future...

- The GT suspension is taking some time to get used to (I've only had 3 rides). You can really feel the bike lengthen under compression. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing (haven't noticed any downside like slow turning or anything), but it's just really noticeable after the ABP/Full-Floater suspension on the Fuel, which always felt really compact. I reckon it's just something I'll get used to. And before you ask: no, I can't feel the cranks moving backwards and forwards. I couldn't on the original iDrive either. It's a really clever design.

- Bigger wheels *don't* feel like more suspension. The Fuel was 130mm, the Helion is 110mm. On rough stuff, I know clearly that I'm on a shorter-travel bike. It's still really stable (possibly because of the backwards moving rear suspension lengthening the bike), but it doesn't quite eat gnarl like the Trek did. I'm ok with this. I know the Helion is geared more towards XC than Trail. It's why I bought it. Keep in mind, though, that I'm not descending as well as I can due to the lack of a dropper post, which would let me move around and flow a bit more on rough downhills. With that and a proper suspension tune (which is desperately needed), I reckon I'll be descending pretty close to how I did on the Fuel, but just not quite bombing as much reckless abandon as I did on the Fuel.

- Do I notice any difference between carbon (Helion) and alloy (Fuel)? Nope. I have no idea what difference it makes. Both bikes are roughly the same weight and feel roughly the same to ride. I've been told that carbon wheels are where you really notice the difference to alloy, but my budget's never going to stretch that far, so I'll never know.

- Did it make me want to sell my other bikes? 50% yes. I'm struggling to sell the 29er (XTC Advanced SL), because it's always going to be lighter, better-rolling and faster... and for XC racing, that rules. But the Trek had to go, because I needed to move away from 26" wheels. The Helion's 27.5" wheels just feel better in every condition, possibly except jumping, which is not (and will never be) a priority for me. The only way I can quantify the perceived improvement is by saying that I had a really off day today (physically felt crap), but set some Strava PRs on some long climbing segments that I've previously raced on my 29er. It was a huge surprise, but the evidence is that this is a really quick bike. Added to that, I love riding it, so absolutely no buyer's regret at this time.

- Conclusion: This is an excellent bike for an XC rider who likes rougher trails. I'm looking forward to getting a proper suspension tune, maybe a dropper post and exploring its full potential in places like the You Yangs, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Anglesea, Forrest, etc. Think it's going to become a favourite.

Thanks for reading! :thumb:
 

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The Reverend

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Nice looking bike there. And it's always difficult to decide on when to make the jump to 650b (I'm yet to do so myself). Sounds like you've landed the right rig for you.
I used to love GT BMX bikes when Eddie Fiola used to ride them!
 

Flow-Rider

Wheel size expert
Sweet bike, GT seems to set a frame up for good body position and they feel great. With the GT suspensions, it takes quite a bit of fiddling to tune, the link seems to really work the shock and you lose a lot of pedal efficiency if they are too soft. The frames on GTs are really nice, it's just the price package when you compare them with other bikes on the markets and it's hard to get a hold of what you want without waiting for months with a pre order. I think you will see the popularity grow in the future.
 

Bodin

GMBC
Agree with the comment regarding the shock pressure. I stopped about 2/3 of the way through my ride and bumped the pressure up by more than 10% over what I started with and it definitely improved the ride.

Regarding the price, it was an absolutely killer deal. I probably wouldn't have looked at it if it was RRP. It was just right place, right time and I'm happy.
 

Flow-Rider

Wheel size expert
Regarding the price, it was an absolutely killer deal. I probably wouldn't have looked at it if it was RRP. It was just right place, right time and I'm happy.
Yeah, you bought the run out model. I previously almost bought a Helion elite but I ended up getting a good deal on a carbon frame and swopped all my hardtail gear onto it. Already have a bike for XC duties but I'm tossing up between a Sensor carbon pro or a Force. Most of the shops around Brisbane don't even have demo stock and when they do get stock, it's very limited. I would look into seeing if a Vorsprung corset fits on the shock and in the hole.
 

Lukespook

Likes Bikes
Nice Helion - they area great ride - I have a Sensor, but often feel a Helion may have suited my riding more.
Not saying you should do it, but I did see on an mtb forum, where someone had converted their Helion to a 29er with reasonable results.
I would highly recommend running a full length outer rear derailleur cable from the lower downtube onto the side of the frame near the chainring to the internal cable route of the rear swingarm.
I find the cable runs more direct/straighter that way than the original under the frame spaghetti cabling route - I don't know why GT designers did it the way they did - I don't know what they were thinking ?
 
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Nerf Herder

Wheel size expert
I have a similar GT yearning ...

I don't think I'll ever buy a white bike again ... But the red and white looks nice now anyway :nerd:
 

Bodin

GMBC
Not saying you should do it, but I did see on an mtb forum, where someone had converted their Helion to a 29er with reasonable results.
Already have a 29er and bought this specifically because it's 27.5. I think bigger wheels might add the "tractor factor" that you get with a 29er dually, but would take away the fun factor I like with smaller wheels. The 27.5 wheels are a definite improvement over the 26 wheels I had on the Trek, so happy not to mess with what's already a great bike.

I would highly recommend running a full length outer rear derailleur cable from the lower downtube onto the side of the frame near the chainring to the internal cable route of the rear swingarm.
I find the cable runs more direct/straighter that way than the original under the frame spaghetti cabling route - I don't know why GT designers did it the way they did - I don't know what they were thinking ?
I thought of this too when I was switching out the rear shifter from SLX to XT. But in my experience so far, the 3 right angles that the cabling takes on its way to the rear mech doesn't seem to be impacting shifting performance as much as I thought it might; it's perfectly acceptable, so I'll keep it as it is unless it becomes a problem, which it isn't right now. I also like the way it's hidden from view - for a bike that has a LOT of cables, it's a pretty neat system as it is.
 

Knuckles

Burner
Well... I can't fault it so far. Is 26 dead? To me, yes, but there are plenty of religions around the world insisting that reincarnations are worth the wait.
All good, riding the zombie apocalypse is cheap, which is a religion to a devine tight arse such as myself. Not to mention a better look for a rider of smurfish proportions.

The GT love is there for me, had an idrive Force, which may or may not still be kicking around with a previous poster. Currently, and slowly, piecing together a DHi as well.
 

Flow-Rider

Wheel size expert
All good, riding the zombie apocalypse is cheap, which is a religion to a devine tight arse such as myself. Not to mention a better look for a rider of smurfish proportions.

The GT love is there for me, had an idrive Force, which may or may not still be kicking around with a previous poster. Currently, and slowly, piecing together a DHi as well.
Still alive.

GT alive.JPG
 

poita

Likes Dirt
Bit late to the party here, but I guess you've got a few more KMs under the belt. Big question in my mind, with Strava PRs being bandied around, is will you dump the 29er XC bike and race the "objectively" faster bike....?
 

Bodin

GMBC
Bit late to the party here, but I guess you've got a few more KMs under the belt. Big question in my mind, with Strava PRs being bandied around, is will you dump the 29er XC bike and race the "objectively" faster bike....?
I can't make up my mind, but that's mainly because I haven't done a lot of racing recently. So I'm hanging on to the XTC for the time being, but mainly because it's a 10kg race-worthy bike that I got for a great deal and I wouldn't gain a lot from selling it, other than a relatively small amount of money and a little extra room in my garage.

If I hypothetically *had* to sell either bike today, I'd keep the Helion and sell the XTC, but only because it's the more flexible bike. I rode the Helion a couple of weeks ago at Castlemaine and yesterday on every trail at the You Yangs and, while it's not (and never will be) "race light" like the XTC, it handles everything beautifully. I love it.

Also - I need to update the photos. I got the FSA SL-K stem and bar and also changed to the new XT 11-speed. Both upgrades have been totally sweet. All I need now is a dropper post and it'll settle in as a 12.5kg XC/Marathon/Trail bike that's capable and fast on everything other than genuine gravity riding.
 
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