Bike Check: EWS Racer Gilles Franck's GT Force is Painted to Replicate a 1997 GT LTS

Apr 30, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  

Gilles Franck is a Belgian EWS racer who recently built up a custom GT Force that is painted to replicate a 1997 GT LTS. Over the last few years, Gilles had a successful stint in the U21s, finishing consistently in the top 10 in 2020, and will be moving up to the big leagues for 2021. We caught up with him with a few questions about his racing and to learn all about the new bike.

How did you get into racing?

I’ve started riding in Patric Maes’ mtb school at 12 after playing basketball during my childhood. After a few years of just having fun on my bike, going racing was an obvious choice. Then I followed the process to race my first EWS in 2017. Many destinations, trails and dream results later… Here we are!

What are your race plans this year?

After a satisfying 2020 season with a 4th place in U21. I am as motivated as ever before to do well in my first-year elite and racing all the EWS rounds.

Gilles Franck
Age: 20
Home: Belgium
Height: 181 cm / 5'11"
Weight: 82 kg / 181 lbs
Instagram: @gilles_fra

Gilles has the 27.5 bike set up as a 27.5 / 29 mullet.

How did you come up with the idea for this bike?

I have been riding with Martin Maes’ ex bikes since 2017. For this season however, I was going to get my first new bike in long time. And as I already had a similar looking bike last year, I decided to make this new one special.

Why did you choose the 1997 GT LTS?

It is a mythic bike from GT, the colours are matching perfectly with my Michelin tires and in a time where retro becomes fashion again, I had to make this one!

Frame: GT Force Team size L
Shock: Fox Float X2 2020; 210psi w/ 2 tokens, HSR 12, LSR 13, HSC 15, LSC 17
Fork: Fox 36 Factory Grip 2 2021; 95psi w/ 3 tokens, HSR 6, LSR 6, HSC 5, LSC 10
Wheels: Stan's Notubes EX3 27.5" rear / MK3 29" front
Hubs: Stan's NEO
Tires: Michelin DH34 rear / DH22 front
Tire inserts: PTN
Chainring: Shimano XTR 32t
Cranks: Shimano XTR 170mm
Cassette: Shimano XT 10-45
Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Shifter: Shimano XTR
Brakes: Shimano Saint
Rotors: Galfer 203x1.8
Brake pads: Galfer E-bike
Seatpost: Fox Transfer 150mm
Cockpit: Raceface 6C 780mm / rise 35mm
Stem: Atlas 50mm stem
Headset: FSA
Tool: OneUp EDC tool
Grips: Fabric FunGuy
Pedals: Shimano Saint
More info: GT Bicycles

What was your favorite part of the build process?

The drawing is always the most exciting part because I have the shape of the bike in front of me and I’m like “OK now everything is possible.” Then I also really like when everything is ready on the workbench and the build starts… Every detail must be thought of!

Gilles' friend did the paint work, but Gilles plans to learn how because he says this won't be his last project.

It's a very pleasant surprise when tire labels perfectly complement a bike's color scheme.

The inspiration for this bike, the LTS-5, shared some basic characteristics with today's bikes and built a foundation for the suspension designs we have today.

A light yellow Fox 36 ties the bike together so nicely and contributes to the retro look.

Anything else about the story that you would like to share?

Fun fact, it was a race against time to get it on time before leaving for a riding trip in Madeira. I had the idea quite a long time ago but getting parts during a bike scarcity is an adventure itself. I got the last part the day before flying, gave a call to my friend Thomas Theunissen who was free that evening and made some banger shots! Then it was time to unbuild it to fit in the bike bag.

We look forward to following along as Gilles takes on the EWS this season. It's great to see a modern bike pay homage to its roots.

A 1997 GT LTS.

Learn more about the original 1995 LTS here.


  • 63 2
 How can you even race EWS without a Fox 38? He's doomed!
  • 6 34
flag dobiept (Apr 30, 2021 at 10:35) (Below Threshold)
 Sarcasm or serious... interested to know your thoughts
  • 25 0
 @dobiept: Oh he's serious, all right.
  • 3 0
 He's got the power of cub scouts.
  • 14 0
 "...but getting parts during a bike scarcity is an adventure itself."
At this point he's lucky he doesn't have to ride that original RST.
  • 18 1
 awesome color scheme! love it... that said,I couldn't locate an image of a 1997 GT LTS that matched, it looks like most were brushed aluminum. There was a 1999 prototype Y frame GT that was the same blue but not sure that was ever raced or available. Any back story on this particular color?
  • 3 0
 The only ones I remember being similar were the budget models like this:
  • 1 0
 @warntz: thanks for the link! my google image search only brings up the brushed aluminum version. Wonder if it was a color variant not available in the States
  • 6 0
 You want to look for a GT LTS-5 from 1997.

It was the bottom of the line LTS with Alivio and STX drivetrain, an RST fork and literally, an elastomer donut in the rear. Original retail about $750 or the same as the Judy fork on the STS.
  • 5 0
 @timbud: Gilles needs to match the stem length with the one in your pic if he really wants to go retro.

I do love the build though, and I have some sort of nostaligia towards GT and Diamondback.
  • 1 0
 LOL it’s only yellow cuz that 97 LTS had a RockShox Judy SL on it which was yellow. Sick color still and love the look of that og Judy
  • 1 0
 Edit: I see the article has been updated w/ more info on the original (image and link).
  • 4 0

That catalogue was the first bike catalogue I ever got my hands on. Pure smut!

STS-DH and Zazkar LE kept me up at night!
  • 15 0
 I miss yellow forks. True story: I painted my bedroom Judy yellow back in 1996. It was horrendous.
  • 2 0
 I still have a jar of Judy Butter circa ‘98...never understood why the jar was red.
  • 6 1
 Just another example that there is always more than one solution to a problem. In today's episode: "how to match your tires logo to the rest of your bike".
- sharpie the logo with a black marker;
- choose other tires;
- repaint the rest of the bike to a matching scheme;
  • 8 1
 No chain guide. Even if you think you'll never need one... when racing... isn't it worth the extra 20 grams?
  • 2 0
 This guy ride so smooth that he don’t need a chainguide
  • 6 0
 I just saw his Instagram and I can only say you one thing ,GO CHECK ITTTT @gillesfranck
  • 2 1
 Stop it lol
  • 1 0
 I had a '97-98 Mongoose Amplifier in Blue/Yellow like that. I associated the yellow with a RS Judy, elastomer and state-of-the-art at the time. It was a fun bike, until if destroyed my L. leg on it....
and yeah, it had a 100mm Thomsen stem, too.
  • 3 0
 I can't remember a singe 90's LTS that wasn't polished alloy. Except Andy Barlows, his was red.
  • 2 0
 Hype article. GT’s colours are blue and yellow. Hardly a surprise that they would use the same colours again.
  • 2 0
 My dumbass just thought he had taken the yellow alloy rear end off the 2019 Force Elite and put it on the carbon frame
  • 3 0
 Love the Mountaineer colors. Makes my liver hurt just looking at it.
  • 3 0
 Petition to have more fork colours, red and orange started to be boring!
  • 7 0
 Don't be scared, grab that rattle can.
  • 7 0
 @RonSauce: *sam pilgrim intensifies*
  • 1 0
 Yeah it was the lowest LTS of the lot if i remember. I was 16 at the time and it wad the inly one that was possibly obtainable. Cool though and I wish I owned it
  • 2 3
 If he wanted a retro LTS look he should have gone for either red forks, raw carbon frame sliver swing arm or black forks and silver frame.

But I suppose that wouldn’t match the little sticker on his tyres.

So doesn’t that make this a Michelin themed bike?
  • 2 0
 Best upcoming Belgian rider, he's gonna be a legend.
  • 3 0
 27.5 Mullet =D
  • 3 1
 Oh Man I wanted a GT sooooo bad at 13!!!
  • 1 0
 You’ve not missed much with the LTS - I had one for a few years back in the late 90’s/very early 2000’s and whilst I had fun with it at the time, the back end was laughably flexy. It ate bushings at a rapid rate too, probably as a result of all of the stress on them from constant twisting!
  • 2 0
 Guess I have the color scheme of my next bike.
  • 3 1
 that is the first bike that the Michelin patches looks acceptable on
  • 1 0
 Just looks like everyones warrantied rear triangles during Covid. (mismatched thanks to shortages)
  • 1 0
 OOOOh Banana split, fox 36. It rhymes.
  • 2 1
 That's a good looking bike!
  • 2 0
 Beauty !
  • 2 0
 That looks sooo sick!
  • 1 0
 Needs more elastomers. At least replicate the shit low-end model, c'mon.
  • 1 0
 There was a whole article on elastomers a few weeks ago in grips, stems, handlebars. Me thinks he should incorporate at least one.
  • 1 0
 Bravo @gilles_fra, quel magnifique boulot ! Congrats mate ! ;-)
  • 1 0
 Brian lopes flashback memories
  • 1 0
 I can't believe this news
  • 1 0
 need polished stem or kashima stem to match..... and chrome rims too!!!
  • 1 0
 Wow that is a great looking bike.
  • 1 0
 That's so nice!
  • 1 0
 Which ones the new one?
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