Similar in many respects to its famous brother the Zaskar, the Avalanche Comp 2018 is an accomplished entry level mountain bike. Budget conscious bikes fall into the $500-$1000 price bracket and the Avalanche is priced center field, neither the cheapest nor the most expensive. So, what does the Avalanche do to make it worthy of your hard-earned money?
The Avalanche is a hardtail mountain bike, one with no rear suspension (other than the rider’s legs!) and this is to be expected at this price. Just because it doesn’t have rear suspension it doesn’t make it a bad bike. There are, of course, pros and cons to being hardtail, the main con being that you tire more quickly as your legs are doing more work. The flip side is that you get so much more feedback from the trail. This can improve your overall riding ability as you learn how to point, control and position your bike on the route more proficiently.
Looking for a cheaper MTB, under $500? Try the Diamondback Sorrento hardtail
The Avalanche sports a high-grade 6061-T6 aluminum Triple Triangle frame which features an ultimate tensile strength from 290 MPa (42,000 psi) and a yield strength upwards of 240 MPa (35,000 psi) – which means that you have a strong frame that can handle impacts, twists and turns without risk of deforming. It does result in the mtb weighing a shade under 15 kg making it not particularly light but it’s far from being the heaviest in its class. The unique Triple Triangle frame design is distinctive in looks and imparts benefits of stiffness and stability too.
Sizes, Rims and Tires
Five frame sizes are available, extra small, small, medium, large and extra large. The XS and S come with 27.5” rims as standard and the L and XL feature trail-devouring 29” rims. The medium frame can be bought with either size rim. The All Terra Cypher tires are a pleasantly supple 2.1” wide 30 TPI that are excellent performers in most conditions and weathers. For enduro racing you would need to change up but these are ideal for road and cross country trails. This mtb is aimed squarely at the cross-country market so it’s a bit harsh to comment on its suitability for the extreme side of the sport.
Fork and suspension
The Avalanche comes fitted with the SR Suntour XCM-HLO fork which has a full 100 mm of travel to accommodate bumpy terrain. On a climb you can simply flick a switch to activate the hydraulic lockout so that you can concentrate on the wheels, not the suspension. The bottom bracket is situated potentially too low at 11.5” posing a risk of the pedals hitting the ground on seriously undulating ground. However, there is an upside to the bracket position – it increases stability by lowering the bike’s center of gravity.
This bike doesn’t scrimp on the stopping power either. The front and rear brakes are the Shimano BR-M315 hydraulic discs with 160 mm Rotor SM-RT26s. These high performing brakes always review well, having a great heritage of being the go-to component for entry level bikes. If you need a little extra stopping power then we would recommend switching out the rear rotor for the larger 180 mm version. A 200 mm version is available too should you really want to max this bike’s stopping ability.
The GT Avalanche features Shimano Acera front derailleur, Deore rear derailleur and Alivio shifters paired with a Sunrace CS-M98 11-36T 3×9 cassette. This moderately heavier set up may be noticeable to the more experienced riders but for those starting out, the triple crankshaft cassette allows for a better range of gears that is ideal for very hilly areas or long, steep road climbs. The rear derailleur is a bit low and subject to quite a few knocks but it’s surprisingly robust and shrugs off most impacts with ease.
The 116-link KMC X99 chain is a good performer on a bike at this level and can last anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 miles depending on usage. With good care, this durable chain isn’t too susceptible to chain stretch although it can skip a couple of links from time to time when ran at speed. The term ‘chain stretch’ is a bit of a misnomer; the chain links don’t actually deform, it’s the bushes or bearings that wear which cause the chain as a whole to lose form.
The riding experience
The 2018 Avalanche’s geometry and set up of an integrated headset, short head tube and 635 mm low-rise bar makes the rider stand proud and gives you a stance that looks like you mean business. When you do use the saddle – a rare occasion – the WTB Pure V saddle is one of the more comfortable ones on the market. Although it’s pleasant to ride it’s not just a bike for riding casually. It tracks well and goes into corners, berms and over roots confidently without melodrama. The short back-end of only 16.5” positions you more tightly over the rear wheel giving you a slight, but noticeable, improvement to your traction when climbing steeper gradients. The only time this mtb reveals its less expensive credentials is when you push it to the limits on really rapidly changing surfaces or steep drops.
The GT Avalanche Comp is one of those mountain bikes that you really need in your trail-conquering armory. It’s supremely user-friendly and the stock mtb requires very little in the way of setting up. It’s one of those bikes that is almost designed to be treated roughly and to be subjected to collisions that are common among beginners or the more adventurous/careless (delete as appropriate). The Avalanche just keeps getting up for more!
The manufacturer’s component choice is a considered blend of good quality and affordability that makes for a reliable and robust performer in the majority of environments. If you are in the market for a well-thought-out entry-level option that looks and behaves like a much more expensive mountain bike then the GT Avalanche Comp is for you.