Welcome to the new Cross Bike Review!

Manufacturers

GT CX1

Review: GT CX1

Elaine Bothe's picture

Right Out of the Box

4
First Impressions

The GTR CX-1 by GT Bicycles is an exciting bike to see. Covered in a racy red/white/black color scheme with sharp and bold graphics and a hidden GT "Wings" logo on seat tube, this bike begs to fly. A flashy red seat and bar tape finish the look. With a plethora of Easton and SRAM parts, especially the highly visible carbon fiber bladed Easton fork and SRAM Rival shifters, ergo drops on the bars, a radially laced front wheel and smartly routed cables ensure all the boxes on a cyclocross bike shopper's checklist are checked.

All that stuff for the price? Just barely edging itself into our $2000-3000 category, the GT GTR-CX-1 seems too good to be true.

Ease of Assembly

Bling Factor

The GT GTR-CX1 is a head turner. The red on the chainstays cannot be any brighter, the rest of the paint is super sharp, and all the big Easton logos excude raciness and flash. On my test rides, everyone I passed stopped to take a look. The seatpost clamp in a chrome finish also provides a little extra brightwork.

Road Test Ride

3
Climbing

The road test on the GT GTR-CX1 took place on Mt. Tabor and local roads to and from our favorite dirt tracks. I used the CX-1 as it came, with the stock Easton wheels. The knobby Maxxis Mimo tires roll much better on pavement that I thought they would. The Kineseum frame is very stiff for tubes this size, so I don't feel like I'm losing energy. But the CX-1 is a moderately heavy setup so on the road the CX-1 feels somewhat sluggish up the hills.

The CX-1's fork rake, relaxed seat tube angles combined with a long wheelbase, the longest I've ridden thus far, create a slow feel side-to-side as I stood to pump up the hill or sprint.

Plus, since my legs didn't feel particularly weak except while I climbed so I had to get off the bike to check on a hunch. Sure enough, the crankset with its 38 tooth small chainring didn't help my efforts, most 'cross small chainrings have 36 teeth. No wonder I kept hitting the shifter looking for easier gears.

Slick tires and a smaller chainring would undoubtedly improve the CX-1's climbing performance on the road. Fortunately these are very easy changes to make.

Cornering

I expected cornering to be as slow as the GT GTR-CX-1's climb, but it's not. To get all technical, the head tube, at 71.5 degrees is a bit steeper than other cross bikes this size, which give a neutral steering feel without twitchiness. The CX-1 enters corners quickly and with confidence. Once committed, the CX-1 is stable and competent. I wouldn't call the CX-1 nimble, exactly, but there's no quirks and the bike performs well.

Handling

I mentioned the neutral steering, which is actually quicker than I expected for a bike with such a long wheelbase. The GT GTR CX-1 handles descents on the road very well because of the sheer mass and long wheelbase. The Tektro brakes are solid and predictable, neither too weak nor too grabby, though I feel just the tiniest hint of front end shudder under hard braking, coming to a full stop after a fast descent. I'm getting a little squeaking out of the front brake, even on different rims, but the problem may diminish with some brake pad cleaning and use.

Ride Feel

The fit of the CX-1's medium size frame was comfortable with few adjustments, though the effective top tube/stem length actually felt a little on the short side. This provides a comfortable upright riding position but makes it harder for me to get into a full aero race tuck. The handlebars bars are wide enough for good leverage but not too wide. Shorter torso'd people, particularly some women, may find the fit of the GTR-CX-1 more suitable than something with a stretched-out feel.

The stiff aluminum frame and the rigid wheels of the GTR CX-1 transmit a lot of vibration from road surfaces, especially rough ones. The knobby tires also created vibration, which went directly to my sit bones and hands. This didn't affect handling in any way, but would produce fatigue on a long road ride. The bar tape is especially cushy for comfort.

Dirt Test Ride

4
Climbing

The dirt tests spanned our usual haunts, Powell Butte and Forest Park. With such a long wheelbase, long chainstays and the knobby tires the GT GTR CX-1 climbs much better on dirt than on the road, especially when the trail gets technical. All that distance between the wheels provide great traction, though, the not-so-little 38 tooth chainring up front didn't allow me to spin as much as I'd like up a sustained climb up Firelane 3 or through soft dirt or bumpy grass. It was my lack of power, not traction, that was the limiting factor!

Cornering

As with the GT GTR CX-1's cornering on the road, dirt corners are sure, stable and predictable. The neutral steering gave me confidence on both tight downhill switchbacks and gravel sweepers. Swoopy singletrack is a lot of fun with this bike because it feels so stable. I railed through a cyclocross-style practice course with tight corners on bumpy grass, with a smile on my face!

Handling

Again, very similar to the CX-1's road manners, this bike's handling characteristics are highly competent. Downhills with a few rocks and roots are a hoot however, as long as they're not too bumpy. The brakes have as good a feel on dirt as tthey do on the road, and I could fly down hills knowing that coming to a stop at the end wasn't going to be an issue..

Ride Feel

The vibrations transmitting through the GT GTR CX-1's frame from bumpy gravel roads are disappointing. For a short ride or a race, it's not a problem, but for a long gravel road ride or fast gravel road descents, the vibrations may make it hard to see your line through a corner. The bike holds its line quite well, but when your eyeballs are shaking, it's hard to tell where you are going.

Trainer Test Ride

3
Ride Feel

The GT GTR CX-1 frame shows no sign of flex, but the vibrations coming through the frame are dramatic and annoying. I'd throw the CX-1 on a trainer for a 'cross race warmup, but long winter trainer rides would be hard to endure. Fortunately the frame has fender eyelets so you could ride outside in the winter instead.

Race Test Ride

0

I did not race the GT GTR CX-1.

We Liked

I especially like how the GT GTR CX-1 looks and its paint job, it's very racy. I also liked the good parts for the money, offering a chance to upgrade as needed instead of needing to spend more money right away.

I like how the steering feels sportier than I thought the CX-1 would, which gives the bike versaitlity and balances the long wheelbase. While the CX-1 doesn't handle like a Formula 1 race car, neither does it turn like a semi truck. It's a good mix for a lot of riding potential.

And I like the versatility of the CX-1. I think the basic package is well designed for someone who can afford a decent bike who wants to do many things well enough for fun, if not world-class performance, or for someone starting out in 'cross racing who doesn't want to grow out of a bike in a year.

We Didn't Like

I did not like the 38 tooth chainring on the hills, either dirt or on the road. Even with a lighter set of wheels the gearing was hard to pedal. On other bikes, I have a 38 for road racing, but the combination of that plus the GT GTR CX-1's weight, long wheelbase and chainstay length, for me, made the CX-1 feel sluggish.

I also did not like the saddle, though this will likely be a boilerplate statement from me since I'm picky that way.

Some people might not like the lack of a flattened top tube designed for easier carrying, but personally I find the flat spot usually isn't in the right spot anyway. I had no problems with carrying the CX-1. And a proper shoulder carry isn't very comfortable no matter how flat the tube is.

Upgrades

Immediately, swap out the 38 tooth chainring for a 36. Don't leave the bikeshop without one. You will instantly have a lot more fun on the GT GTR CX-1, especially if you live someplace with a hill of any size. You'll ride more, get stronger and you can always put the big one back on if you need it. And you'll impress more people by going up hills faster than by having a monstrous small chainring.

And yank that heavy saddle for something else. I replaced it with my go-to favorite, a women's specific Specialized Jett saddle and the bike weighed more than a third of a pound less. Plus I avoided sore spots from the cruel (to me) wedge shape of the stock GTR saddle.

Other upgrades I'd recommend would only be as parts wear out. While the parts are not high end, they are good quality and perform well enough. Cyclocross is hard on parts, especially derailliers, chains, brakes, wheels, headsets and bottom brakets, so just buy better parts as they need to be replaced.

You could always have another lighter set of wheels if you want to race this bike, either cyclocross or on the road. Train and commute on the Easton EA50SLX set, and save up for something else. I tried a set of Mavic R-Sys wheels reviewed elsewhere on our website and they make the GT GTR CX-1 a lot more fun across the board.

Of course additional carbon fiber in the stem, handlebars, and seat post would likely dampen some of the vibrations coming through the frame, but you'd be better off having fun riding the CX-1 into the ground and saving your pennies for a different bike.

The Final Say

The GTR CX-1 earns 3 cowbells out of the box, but that's not to say it can't be a fun, worthwhile bike. With a few easy modifications, the CX-1 would improve its score and be a good all-arounder for someone who wants to race cyclocross occasionally, ride year round on a variety of surfaces, commute in style and only own one bike for it all.

For plain value this bike ranks highly, though it's unfortunate GT couldn't reduce the MSRP by just $30 to notch it in under $2000! For that price, it's light, the parts are good as is and are easily upgradeable as they wear out. In the $2000-$3000 category the CX-1 faces tough competition, but the stiff frame is good enough quality if you don't mind the vibrations. if it suits you, the GT GTR CX-1 would be a good platform for reasonable upgrades.

Share this Review