Years seem to have flown by since the last time a BMX rooted brand made the decision to do an official product launch. Nowadays it seems the norm to have a “coming soon” announcement followed by the product hitting the market. It would not be far-fetched to say product launches, at least in the BMX racing world, are dead. Perhaps it is the age of social media where you can have a hit with your audience in a matter of seconds. Clearly, we have seen a stop to the beloved product launch.
Turns out, there still may be a small pulse in the life of these branded media and industry events. This past week, GT Bicycles converged upon Whitney Mesa BMX with their entire crew. Media and industry hotshots were graced with invites. So what called for this event? The official product launch of the brand’s 2018 Speed Series of bikes. Unfortunately, the state of BMX racing and the flooded market of bikes may have some of you grumbling, “who cares, it is just another bike.” Little did we know, GT flipped the book from their previous line and have created something totally new for the iconic brand.
Before diving into the gravy of the bikes, I want to hit on the event itself. GT really put on one hell of an event. For me, it showed what many top brands could be doing when launching a new product. Luckily I had the pleasure to be around for the setup and see a more behind the scenes look. Being a creative, visual impact is huge for me. If it is not visually impressive, it becomes difficult to be excited. The first of that came with the display stands GT had custom branded for the launch. The so-called “scorpion” stands looked as you would expect, a stinging scorpion tail. This time though, that tail would be equipped with a fluorescent green GT speed series – each stand sporting their own size. Of course, the coloring on the new speed series bikes were immediate attention grabbers.
While the visuals were on point, the next big draw was the catering provided by GT. Anyone down with cooked to order Mexican street food, track-side? Without a doubt that was a major hit. Not to mention the copious amounts of fresh adult beverages. Really you felt like you were at an MTB launch party than BMX, but either way, GT was crushing it so far. And what better setting than under the lights at Whitney Mesa BMX?
I have been lucky enough to travel the country and visit more tracks than most can expect to visit in a lifetime. Whitney Mesa, however, was not on that list. Vegas has always had it right with putting together solid facilities. This, however, seemed to a crowned jewel. Stadium lights lit up every aspect and made it the perfect background for the event. Even better, team riders Jonas Harmon, Sophia Foresta, and Dougie Butcher were on hand. These guys took a few hot laps to show just what the new speed series bikes could do. They handled everything these top riders could throw at them. Stable cornering, stiff response, and supple forgiveness when needed – the speed series so far has checked all the boxes. One would hope so considering the amount of time that went into revamping it with countless hours of input from their riders.
After everyone had arrived and mingled for just a bit, it was time to show the bikes and go over the line. Leading the presentation was GT’s head honcho of BMX, Ben Ward. This man is living proof that the passion of BMX can lead you to one hell of a career. With GT, there has always been a rich and deep history to their story. Ben is the man that truly made it come to life as he presented the new line. With the legend Gary Turner in attendance, the nerves had to be unreal. With grace and style, Ben nailed it. The amount of passion in his presentation was unlike any other I have seen. He did an exceptional job of diving into every little detail of change, and then turned right around and had spot-on answers as to why the changes were made.
As it concluded, we were all free to get up close and personal with the bikes and pick the brains of the GT staff and team about these new classy and bright purebreds. I for one was a little bit start struck since not only GT himself was there, but also Hans “No Way” Rey was in the house! With music flowing and the grill sizzling, the good times were rolling. Plus, GT also built a killer version of corn-hole where participants tossed a frame while trying to make it in. So now let’s take a look at what the new GT line has in store.
For GT, it was time to give the 2018 race line a bold new look. We already touched on the fluorescent paint job that really brings life to the frame, but take a look at what else changed. Well for starters, you won’t see a carbon bike in the lineup. Each of the bikes features a frame made of 6061-T6 AL, alloy formed and butted speed metal tubing complete with a CNC and forged Quick Change Dropout System (smaller frames feature reverse dropouts). Per the brand, their frame alone is the lightest on the market with their newly designed bike.
Another major change that is sure to appease the masses is the price point. In previous years you were looking at a tag piercing the $1500 line. For anyone trying to get on a complete, it was hard to justify stretching your pocketbook for a race ready machine. Of which, you would still find yourself swapping parts to make it truly unique to you and your riding style. For 2018, their pro and higher bikes are easing your wallet at a price of $1,149.99. This puts them right in line with their biggest competitor in the BMX complete market – the Chase Element. Smaller frames for the little rippers will keep it under the 1K mark and offer a ton of quality for what I consider a reasonable price point.
The design definitely continues with GT’s love of smooth curves. While the overall shape of the frame is fairly standard within the brand’s scope, their little details really make it feel like a unique bike. One main point is the intricate filigree style impressions along the top tube. The second is a cool six-speed shifter logo gracing the seat stay. Little details such as these can go a long way to make a bike aesthetically pleasing. And let’s be honest, we all want our bikes to look badass.
No bike is complete without having a solid range of components. For those just starting out, it is not much of a worry. Mid-level guys are now throwing on a few upgraded parts. When you reach the top level of racing, chances are you have the nicest items you can buy. What GT did with their new speed series is find that happy medium. Solid parts that would make some of the top guys happy, while still maintaining some mid-level components that can appease to everyone.
First, the new bikes sport the BOX carbon 20mm fork. Attached is a 20mm GT speed series sealed hub laced to a speed series aero double wall rim which is wrapped in Tioga Powerblock tires. The same is used for the back, except the hub is a standard 3/8th cassette. It features six pawls, four sealed bearings, and 72 points of engagement. BOX also sports their echelon seat/post combo.
Promax components are used for their QR clamp, brake lever, brake arms, and impact stem. Decent options that help keep the bike price friendly while maintaining good performance.
Lastly, GT house branded items finish it out – minus a KMC chain. The good news on that side is GT has always produced decent mid-grade components. It certainly helps put the finishing touches on what is a bike that many can take to the track straight from the showroom.
The final countdown…
There is no better way to put it than the blatant fact that GT put together one epic evening of pure BMX bliss. They did the industry a solid by producing a product launch that truly shows what the BMX industry has the potential to do. Get people stoked on what is coming and launch it by having an event that takes the stoke to an entirely new level.
GT clearly hit it out of the park with every aspect of this. The launch event was top notch, the bikes are an extremely wicked value while producing solid performance, and the GT brand is proving that they are still all in with BMX and its future. Watch out, these guys are back on track to be one of the top brands in the racing industry once again.
Check out the complete 2018 speed series at gtbicycles.com.