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The Zaskar flew uphill, directing every watt of power directly to the wheels. (Photo: Michael Darter)
A capable climber, the Zaskar felt equally impressive on the descents. The carbon frame is remarkably stiff, and I never noticed any play. The pivots are often the weak link in frame stiffness, but the Independent Drive’s clamshell design and oversize pivots prevented any flex. The bike held a line extremely well, even when pushing through rough, rutted, blown-out corners that maxed the 100mm of travel.
The Zaskar replaces the longstanding GT Marathon, and is targeted at endurance and marathon riders. Its frame angles are pretty steep, but inline with many short-travel cross-country bikes. The one exception is the 5.6-inch headtube, which is significantly taller than some comparable models (the headtube on Giant’s Anthem X Advanced is 4.1 inches high). That puts riders in a more upright position, which can reduce strain on your back during all-day rides. But it also makes it more difficult to balance your weight over the front wheel—though swapping to a negative-rise stem provides an easy fix. Our mid-priced Pro model costs $5,500, but less expensive models use the same frame and start at $3,500. The top-of-the-line Team version runs $8,800. Just pay attention to the fit: Zaskar Carbon 100 9r only comes in three frame sizes.
Although our test bike was not set up with tubeless wheels, the Easton EA70 XCT hoops are tubeless ready and I’ve had good luck running the Maxxis Aspen tires without tubes in the past. The Easton wheels are tough too. I recently spent months testing a pair on a longer-travel trail bike and they withstood multiple beatings. The Carbon pro also comes with matching blue and black Formula R1 brakes. They provided great power, and a good comfortable feel, but sounded chirpy at times. Shimano’s XT drivetrain is a smooth-shifting workhorse and didn’t skip a beat. The Pro model comes with the Shadow Plus rear derailleur with a one-way clutch that reduces chain slap and helps prevent dropped chains.
The all-carbon rear triangle features post-style brake mounts. (Photo: Michael Darter)
There was just one component I took issue with, and it’s a minor flaw: The design on the suspension pivots and headset preload cap resembles the adaptors for old 45rpm, 7-inch records. It’s a stylish touch, but the outer edges of the cap are sharp and potentially could slice a knee or elbow, if you’re not careful. GT, however, says new models will come with caps that have dull edges.
Like any good XC bike, the Zaskar Carbon 100 9r Pro is great at eating miles of singletrack. Our size-large test bike weighed 25.1 pounds complete and the frame comes in at 5.6 pounds (claimed with shock, headset, seat clamp, rear axle, size medium). That’s slightly more than some pure racers—the 100mm-travel Cannondale Scalpel frame weighs about a pound less—but it’s not far off the mark, and is competitive with other endurance-style bikes. If you only want to race cross-country, there are lighter options. But if you are eying up stage races or marathon events, or if you simply enjoy long rides on your local trails, the Zaskar could be ideal. Give one a test ride—it just might surprise you.
WEIGHT: 25.1 lb.
SIZES: M, L (tested), XL
FRAME: F.O.C. Ultra Speed Blend Carbon Frame; 100mm-travel Independent Drivetrain; Fox Float CTD BV Adjust shock
FORK: Fox 32 Float 29 CTD FIT QR15, 100mm travel
COMPONENT HIGHLIGHTS: Shimano XT shifters, derailleurs, cranks, cassette; Formula R1s brakes; Easton EA70 XCT wheels; Maxxis Aspen, 29"x2.1" tires; CrankBrothers Cobalt 3 Riser bar, seatpost; Fizik Tundra2 saddle