I’ve been focusing on men’s bicycles in all of my reviews – pretty much because I am a man myself – but I haven’t forgotten about the fairer sex. When I got in the GT Laguna, I had planned on just having my significant other ride it and keep a running commentary on how it was, then I was going to just translate that here to an actual review – however a strange thing happened while we were doing that. From her gushing over how nice the Laguna was, I really wanted to try it out myself. So we have a nice little spot where we ride and no one else is ever there that we went to, and I let my masculinity fade and rode this women’s bike for a while; the following review is based on the combined thoughts of the two of us.
For starters if you don’t know the history of GT bicycles, it’s pretty interesting. The company was founded by Gary Turner – who is basically the father of the current day BMX racing bike. In 1974 Gary was one of the first to design a racing bicycle, and you can still see his spirit of innovating speed in the current GT line, including the Laguna (which is more of a mountain bike). There is a certain feel you get when you are on the GT Laguna – the only way to describe it is that you feel like you could race the world and win (which would explain why my significant other always was challenging me to see who could go faster). From what I’ve heard from other riders, all GT bikes give you this same feeling – while other manufacturers might razzle dazzle you with odd looks and crazy features, the Laguna definitely doesn’t need any of that.
The base design and paint job says “women’s” just as much as the frame does. The model I received was black with light green highlights (the other color option is gloss white with purple highlights, pictures included here) – those highlights just happened to be floral in nature. It made my girl very happy (and she tried a lot of bikes prior to this and was never satisfied), because the design wasn’t (in her words now) “girly, but it was womanly”. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I do know I thought it looked pretty refined and sophisticated. The frame is a ladies version of GT’s popular “Triple Triangle” design, which is supposed to add stiffness, response, and durability over other frames. The frame on the Laguna is also only aluminum and not carbon fiber, but really for the price it would have been absurd to think that they could put carbon fiber on it.
Speaking of price – that is a real big point here, and one of the main reason to choose a Laguna over other brands. Most mountain bikes that offer the level of sophistication and comfort that you find here would normally run a minimum of $1,500 (and upward of $2,500 with some manufacturers), but GT manages to put this bike out for a MSRP of only $385. Most people who know anything about bikes would probably blow the Laguna off as not being a “real” competitor because of such a low price, but all it takes is one ride to see how wrong they would be.
Comfort is always an issue with my girl and bicycles – when she gave birth to my youngest step-daughter, she broke her tailbone so riding for a long time becomes painful. On every other bike she has ridden she can only go for about an hour before needing to take a break because of growing pain in that region – but on the Laguna I was able to put in a few four hour rides before having to break – a noticeably huge improvement. Even when we did have to break, so was ready to go again in much less time than before, resulting in us riding for longer distances than we could have on other bikes. Maybe it isn’t so much of a big deal to other people, but when you have someone who gets pain from doing things like cycling you look for any way you can to help them.
The biggest issue I had with the Laguna was the relatively low travel of the front suspension. While an average mountain bike has around 110 mm of travel (and the average on all other GT mountain bikes is 113 mm), the Laguna only has a paltry 63 mm of front travel. I know suspension isn’t an exact science when it comes to distance of travel vs. type of bike, but to me that is more in line with a street bike. When I ride a mountain bike I expect to have enough travel to overcome a wide variety of rocks and bumps. My girl, who does ride less than me, didn’t have any complaints though – so I guess that’s more of a personal preference thing. I just can’t imagine it would add a considerable price hike to the bike to raise that travel even another 20 mm just to make it a little more accommodating. As it stands though, the suspension is good enough that I didn’t feel anything when riding on the pavement in our little secluded area – but when I took it off road I definitely did notice some of the larger obstacles.
The Bottom Line: If you are a woman (or know a woman) who likes to ride, and want to upgrade to a great bike without dropping a few grand – this is the choice for you. While not the best “mountain bike” per se, it is definitely the best bicycle for the cost that I have had the privilege of reviewing.
You can pick up a GT Laguna from any local dealer (use their site to find one) for a MSRP of $385 (though most probably have it a little lower)