Mountain bike technology was advancing at a blistering pace in the mid- to late-1990s. The number of anodized components on the market was at an all-time high, but there was a lot more going on than a bunch of shiny purple parts. In just a few short years, cantilever brakes were quickly replaced by V-brakes, and the widespread acceptance of disc brakes was just around the corner. Front suspension, once decried as being an insult to the purity of the sport, became increasingly common, and companies large and small were trying out a wide range of new full suspension designs, some successful, others not so much.
GT LTS Details
• Wheel size: 26"
• 100mm travel
• Head angle: 69.7°
• 6061 aluminum frame, ti rocker link
• 424.4mm chainstays
• Frame sizes: 14.5", 16", 18", 20"
GT was right there in the mix, and the LTS, which made its racing debut underneath Nico Vouilloz in 1995, soon became one of the most sought-after bikes of that era. Steve Peat, Mike King, Hans Rey; a veritable who's who of mountain biking's greats spent time aboard various iterations of the LTS and the STS, the aluminum-lugged thermoplastic version. Development
The LTS was preceded by the RTS, which had a scant 2.5” of travel that felt like even less, due to the fact that pedaling caused the shock to extend, giving the bike a 'locked-out' feel under power. There were still plenty of skeptics when it came to full-suspension, and the RTS was designed to appeal to the hardtail holdouts. Riders looking for plush, active travel would have to wait.
Given the success of the RTS, when other companies began releasing longer travel options the logical idea was to simply create an RTS with more travel. As Jim Busby Jr., GT's suspension engineer, soon discovered, that was easier said than done.
“Whichever way he approached the kinematics, it just wouldn’t work. To make the rocker larger and to control the anti-squat with 100mm of rear wheel travel proved impossible. The RTS was, for all intents and purposes, over. It could not get past 65 mm of travel without very strange things happening,” says Mark Peterman, who at the time was a product manager working closely with Busby (his current title is Vice President / Asia Sourcing for Cycling Sports Group).
With the RTS off the table, Busby shifted his attention and began working on a new suspension design, one that would be more active, rather than locking out under power. According to Mark Peterman, “If you had never met Jim Jr. at the zenith of his powers, he was like a crazed oracle that would rush into a room, make a pronouncement, and then rush out leaving the rest of us to look at each other and then fake to each other that we knew exactly what he was talking about.
“Later we would sneak into one another’s offices and say in hushed tones, 'Did you really get what Jim was saying?...Dude….I have no idea'... and then we knew we were screwed because ultimately we had to take his revelatory vision and actually commercialize it into a real product that could be sold with confidence at a reasonable price.”
With the help of GT's in-house aluminum welding and CNC capabilities, the LTS began to take shape, morphing from a cobbled-together mule into a much more refined product. The suspension layout is a modified version of a Horst Link design (GT paid Specialized a licensing fee), with the rear pivots located on the chainstay, below the rear axle.
Initially available as a frame only, the first frames had a titanium upper link, and came with a Fox Alps 4 air shock that delivered 4" (100mm) of travel. That shock didn't offer much in the way of adjustability, and GT soon began spec'ing a coil-sprung RockShox on the higher end models, while the more entry-level LTS-3 received an elastomer sprung offering. The LTS picture here, which resides in GT's Connecticut headquarters, has one of the early frames, although the parts spec isn't entirely correct. However, it is a good representation of what a complete bike from that era would have looked like.
Nico Vouilloz piloted an LTS to a World Cup win in Cap d'Ail in 1995, and beat out Shaun Palmer to take home another World Champs victory aboard a thermoplastic version in 1996. **Note: video contains a brief moment of NSFW material in the introduction.
The 1997 LTS took things a step further, and in addition to having two settings that allowed for either 3.7” or 4.7” of travel, it also had a trunion mounted, coil sprung shock that allowed the bottom bracket height to be raised or lowered. 1999 was the final year of the LTS' existence; its replacement was the I-drive, another Jim Busby creation.
The LTS was well received, but the bane of its existence were the bushings used for each of the eight pivots. They were chosen due to their lighter weight, and lower cost, but they ended up causing headaches for shops and customers alike due to the incessant squeaking that developed as they begin to wear. It wasn't long before most major mountain bike manufacturers began adopting sealed cartridge bearings for their pivots, save for a few exceptions, a trend that continues today.
Nearly 25 years have passed since Jim Busby Jr. began working on the LTS, but the basic principles behind the design are still relevant, which isn't the case for many of the other full suspension designs from that era. In fact, take look at 2018's hottest bikes and you'll find a number of models with coil sprung, trunnion mounted shocks, adjustable geometry, and suspension that's designed to remain active while pedaling, a clear indication that the LTS truly was ahead of its time.
Photos courtesy of GT Bicycles / Jake Hamm
I even had a 9-32 9 speed cassette on there.
any pics? or a description of how you did it?
The company I work for makes recumbents with 20" rear wheels so to get the big top gear needed without resorting to massive 60 tooth chainrings we took the 9-26 shimano capreo cassette and replace some of the larger rings with rings from another cassette.
The Shimano Capreo hub isn't disc compatible and the cassette doesn't fit a standard freehub body so we have a compatible disc hub custom made by Taiwanese hub manufacturer Chosen. I just built one of those hubs into a 26" wheel and voila, you can see the cassette in the second picture. Unfortunately over the best part of 10 years and numerous new computers I don't have any more pictures but you can learn more than any sane person could ever need to know about capreo here: www.sheldonbrown.com/capreo.html
Capreo! And SRAM pretend like XD is something new and clever!
CORRECTION..... Specialized didn't buy the patent until Amp Research decided to get out of manufacturing bicycles around 1998, and part of the reason they sold it to them was because companies like GT refused to pay after they'd been using the horst-link on their bikes for years. Amp didn't have the money for lawyers to enforce the patent properly but well... guess who did... this is also why GT developed the I-drive linkage at about this time period.
I began my transition from BMX to MTBs (after a couple year hiatus from bikes) while in college with a 1992 GT Karakoram (I think a buddy still has that bike...). I knew GT well from my BMX days so it was natural to consider their MTBs at the time. I rode this shit out of that Karakoram at Patapsco State Park while first attending Catonsville Community College and then UofMD.
After graduation and with a decent paying job, I bought a 1994 GT RTS1. What a piece of shit that was as was the Noleen shock. The Mag21 performed well for the day and that's when Syncros was bling. I, too, rode the shit out of that bike at Patapsco and other trails up and down the EC for a couple of years.
When I laid eye on the LTS, I knew I had to have one. I waited until '96 to get a LTS1 and was glad to get the RS rear shock but always regretted not picking-up a '97. The LTS was a huge upgrade from the RTS although I always likes the aesthetics of the RTS better. I rode the LTS for a number of years before losing interest (motos were taking up my time) and selling.
While the bikes are no longer, I did stumble upon my old Ritchey clipless pedals (red) and Nike Poobah clipless shoes and Answer neon gloves while home over the holidays. Much like this article, they brought back found memories of my first foray into MTB.
Thanks for the great article, @mikekazimer! It was another stroll down memory lane.
Just checked. Yup. haha.
I'm turning 38 in few months for real. Jeez... What the heck...lol
Your gt lots looks awesome
Can you imagine a design so stupidly thought out at this point that would hit the linkage & shock?
Hit the GREEN ARROW on this comment if you raced bikes in the 90's and broke a frame...of any kind. Actually, don't. Don't know if Pinkbike's counter will display a # that large.
And was that Scott McLain who broke LTS?
I don't know wtf I'm gonna do with the 150mm/160mm bike I'm building now.
I just remember that I was really young and dreaming about having any of those bike (proflex, GT, Foes, San Adreas, etc) when looking at mtn bike action!!
People say the RTS-1 rode like crap but coming off a Sears Roadmaster "MTB" it was a friggin' Mercedes!
I'm having the damndest time not buying it. I have no use for a BMX bike.
there is one scene at the beginning and another race between two riders at about 40mins, both riding Lts's
I never knew who the stunt riders were though, but the main guy is wearing a GT team shirt, so presumably they were both team riders when it was filmed.
Wtf happened???? Gt sux now! That is hard to say for me....
BTW I raced an LTS in '98 both XC and DH, that was an awesome bike. Desperately in need of modern pro-pedal style damping circuit for climbing due to high level of suspension activity, but really great over bumps and pointed downhill. Shop I worked at during that time did brisk business in LTS bikes and the associated pivot services and rear shock upgrades. I think Strata shock had an application for the trunion mount versions that felt better than the OEM Rock Shox Delux.
Watching that video, it's amazing what those guys were doing on those contraptions. Those guys could ride! To do that same course today would require half the skill thanks to modern suspension and geometry.
Once the BMX/Motorcycle crowd started paying attention, and posting their vids online, more money got infused into the sport, people started pushing the limits, speeds got faster, manufacturers adjusted.
From my recollection the LTS was before Spec bought the design.
GT LTS Vintage 1998 full suspension frame
psst. Not mine. Mr seller can buy me a drink when sold.
Like this one
GT used to make some awesome looking bikes, but the current ones are awful things.
Love these bikes!