Mountain biking has come a long way in the past few decades. I doubt those early pioneers ever imagined the shape mountain biking would be in today when they were packing their coaster brakes with grease ready for another run down the mountain.
Until recently, mountain bikes were, handily for many, categorised by the amount of suspension travel they had, but in the past few years the boundary lines have become increasingly blurred. Today, many are realising that geometry is a far more important criteria for deciding the style of riding any given bike is shaped for.
The Distortion, new from GT for 2011, is a good example of this, bending the traditional pigeonholing of bikes. The tough low-slung aluminium frame uses the Independent Drive platform to deliver just 112mm of travel, matched up front with a lengthy (in comparison) 140mm Fox F32 fork. To some it might seem a confusion of travel; surely it should have a 140mm out back too? This, then, kind of makes the Distortion is difficult to define.
Part of the reason for this disparity in travel is in the trend for short rear travel full-sussers in slopestyle events, where huge travel isn’t really necessary. Instead, a slacker headangle, low bottom bracket, long top tube and increased standover are important ingredients. The Distortion ticks all these boxes. The frame is built tough, there’s a tapered head tube to stiffen up the front of the frame and gussets on the top and down tube, and out back is a bolt-through 135mm Maxle.
But here’s the thing. Don’t write it off just as a slopestyle bike for those riders with massive balls. It’s actually perfectly suited to the kind of riding that we find here in the UK, from messing around in the woods on the locally built dirt jumps, to some short track downhill and even short XC jaunts with some added jumps and drops thrown into the mix, it’s an appealing addition to the GT range. A short travel bike that isn’t XC orientated.
Riding it around the Les Deux Alpes resort backed this up. Although I wasn’t throwing down any 40 footers, it proved an absolute blast on the downhills. With the slack head angle and low bottom bracket height you could really nail it through the bermed corners, getting right behind the handlebars and putting the front wheel precisely where you wanted it.
And despite having ‘just’ 112mm of travel, I never noticed it bottoming out or reacting harshly to the rather savage braking bumps encountered on the downhill track. If anything, the forks were holding the bike back on this terrain, running out of travel all too quickly and getting a bit flexy when pushed hard into a corner, squirming during heavy front braking, only feeling out of depth on terrain that realty requires a full-on downhill bike like the Fury. Which is testament to how sorted the Distortion is.
Not only does it get the hill with maximum thrills, it also pedals up them admirably too. The suspension is controlled and tight when pedalling in and out of the saddle and it felt perfectly comfortable spinning along the flat trails and climbs.
All the components backed up the Distortions intentions, with a chunky pair of Maxxis Minion DH tyres, Crank Brothers Joplin dropper seatpost, Formula R1 brakes, Race Face Atlas AM cranks and a SRAM X9 2×9 transmission. On the scales, with my heavy old SPD pedals, and the weight was around the 30lb mark.
The downside? There are no current plans to bring the Distortion into the UK, only being available in the US for now. But there’s no reason why that couldn’t change if GT feel there is enough desire amongst the UK community to make it worth bringing the Distortion into the country.