Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Evolution of Species - GT RTS

WHAT A HEAP OF SHIT. That was my very reaction when I completed my first downhill stretch of dirt on board this rebuilt GT RTS. Hard to believe this design was, by all accounts, the absolute cutting edge in dual suspension design back in early 90s. In fact, it was so good it managed to bag numerous gold medals by the likes of Nicolas Vouillez, Julie Furtado & Walter Braendli at MTB World DH Championship in 1992 & 1993.

WIDELY REGARDED AS THE WORLD'S FIRST competitive production downhill bike, it was also no less a capable XC racer, although any XC racer worth his salt would never considered racing a dual suspension bike. Before the advent of platform damping (heck this thing doesn't even come with a rebound adjustment - front or back!), it was one of the few dual suspended MTB that could be pedaled up a hill as efficiently as a hardtail MTB, while still being able to tear down a hillside with added speed and control. Paired with then the finest available suspension fork, the Rock Shox Mag 21 custom built for GT RTS, the Noleen coil damper, it provided a massive 48mm (1.8”) of travel at front and 56mm (2.2”) at rear. Because quality suspension dampers in the market didn't really exist back then, the GT RTS had an ingenious mechanical lock out designed into it, meaning the suspension only worked when you're coasting or charging along, but as soon as you put power down, the suspension locks out and bike would climb & accelerate like a hardtail. Absolutely ridiculous by today's standards but it was the best pedalling suspended bike back then, as most other dual suspension bikes couldn't climb any hill without flexing or bobbing like a power line in a windy day.

THE KIND OF DOWNHILL EQUIPMENT that was considered high performance back in 1990s, is a complete joke by today's standard. Take the WTB Velociraptor tires - hailed as one of the best mountain bike tire made, IT exemplified what people considered race worthy in the pioneering days of downhilling. By changing the rotational direction of the tire, it would become either a downhill tire or XC racing rubber simply by changing the way a tire spins. Burning through the dry dirt tracks on my regular trails, these tires grips like chalks on black board and feels like they were made of timber. Brakes - what brakes? This bike's been around for 2 years before V-brakes were invented and disc brakes only existed if you rode a motocycle. Trying to pull up in a hurry was definitely a case of 5-finger white knuckle affair, none of this one-finger operated hydraulic disc brakes that you and I take for granted nowadays.

TODAY, WE CAN CHOOSE FROM bikes with advanced designs such as FSR, DW-Link, Maestro, VPP, I-Drive and so forth, all of them enabling us to go faster on knarlier terrain with less effort. We get to ride better bikes today thanks to early pioneering bikes such as GT RTS - it's success in racing changed people's mind about suspension bikes which no longer had to be needlessly heavy, unreliable and flexy, and its eventual widespread acceptance by the racers worldwide was instrumental in kicking off the progression of MTB designs. Mountain bikes have come a long way since the formative years of the 90s, and we all ride a better bike today thanks to likes of the GT RTS.

As a final point, the GT RTS also hold a special spot with me, as I had one in 1994 - took me working 3 years for $5 an hour in a bike shop to afford one. It was my very first proper GT MTB, and this was the bike which ignited my passion GT bikes that lasted to present day.

*Update* Well well well. Shortly after this bike was restored to former glory, the bike suffered a terminal crack on the rocker linkage which extended right to the bottom bracket shell. Quality control and frame construction just isn't the same in 1992. Time to rebuild another one - if I can ever find another replacement frame.


Quentin Gran Torino said...

Very nice that you wrote a testament for this magnificent bike!I'm from the Netherlands btw..
I owned a RTS1 for 3 years and guess what? It cracked at the frame where the suspension was mounted ( the plate at the left side that was)
I even did some serious Downhill with it! Back in 1993 that was. Because GT didn't have RTS frames left I got A GT LTS2 back from them.
A real nice bike, more DH Worthy then his ancestor.. Love your story. I've bookmarked it...

Heriyanto Family said...

i have new one GT RTS, but the rear suspension was not good anymore. and i need the new one suspension. any suggest for me to find that rear suspension, or the best ide to change model that


Andrew Liu said...

Hi Tq,
Try contacting Noleen directly, I believe the can either service or sell you a shock.
Good luck.