THE SELL: Durable rig that loves going down.
THE TEST: The slack head-tube angle and Rockshox Sektor Solo Air through-axle fork made a six-foot drop feel like going off a simple curb, while the chunky hydro-formed aluminum frame and burly pivots didn't so much as wince after weeks of bombing technical downhills. We've always liked GT's Independent Drivetrain—it isolates the bottom bracket from both rear triangles for travel that's virtually immune to pedal feedback—and it's as efficient as ever for a six-inch all-mountain ride. Even the workmanlike SRAM X7 components felt right: "Tough but not a fortune to replace when you crash," as one tester put it.
THE VERDICT: Time to get a full-face helmet and body armor. 31.4 lbs; gtbicycles.com
More mountain-bike companies are switching to through-axle front-ends, which use a thicker, hollow hub axle that screws into the fork for increased rigidity and steering accuracy.