Video: A Deep Dive on Martin Maes' GT Force

Sep 1, 2021
by Matt Beer  

Martin Maes is always a podium contender in the Enduro World Series with multiple wins and has even won a World Cup Downhill race, but sometimes his bike setups have a few quirks that most people wouldn't consider normal. He's been known to run shorter travel forks, cut-down mud tires on the rear wheel in any conditions, and smaller brake rotors. It would seem that his stature and precision riding can attribute to an original choice of components.

Martin Maes // GT Factory Racing
Age: 24
Hometown: Liege, Belgium
Height: 183 cm / 6'0"
Weight: 70 kg / 155 lbs
Instagram: @martin_maes5

The Belgian enduro wizard has been running Fox suspension and Shimano brakes on his GT bikes for almost a decade, however, he doesn't always jump for the latest and greatest.

Martin has also dabbled with mixed wheel configurations, like this previous generation Force, but is currently running dual 29" wheels, the way the bike was intended to be set up.

Martin Maes GT

Martin Maes GT
Details

Frame: GT Force Carbon (large), 435 mm chainstay setting
Shock: Fox Float X2, 160 mm travel
Fork: Fox Float 36, 160 mm travel
Wheels: Stan's No Tubes EX3 w/ Neo hubs
Tires: Michelin DH22 29" F / Michelin Wild Enduro 29" Front R
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR, 34T chainring, 45-10T cassette
Brakes: Shimano Ice Tech, 180 mm rotors F & R
Cockpit: OneUp Components carbon 35 mm rise bar, and 50 mm length stem.
More info: gtbicycles.com


Martin Maes GT
Martin likes a reactive suspension feel that sits deeper in the sag and uses the full range of travel more frequently. This would mean less compression and rebound damping with a softer, more progressive air spring to give support at the end of the travel, but also more grip on tiny trail bed ripples and roots.

Martin Maes GT
One of those quirks I mentioned is the fact that Martin not only chooses the more forgiving Fox 36 chassis, but also prefers a 160 mm spring length, despite the bike's geometry being designed around a 170 mm fork.

Martin Maes GT
First thing's first - The front wheel is the first thing to contact trail objects. Martin is particular to the front end height and handling.

Martin Maes GT
Martin Maes GT
Martin Maes GT
Martin Maes GT
With a BMX background, Martin likes a higher rise 35 mm bar and short stem, but a 50 mm length leads to more weight on the front wheel and therefore more grip for his body positioning.

Martin Maes GT
The idler has 16 teeth and Maes choose a 34 tooth for La Thuile, but that can vary depending on the race venue. The lack of a lower chain guide roller reduces drag.

Martin Maes GT
Quirky or tactical? A 10-45 tooth cassette pairs with a shorter cage derailleur, mitigating damage.

Martin Maes GT
Martin still prefers the actuation of the Saint levers over the new generation of XTR. He positions the levers at a fairly steep angle around 45 degrees.

Martin Maes GT
180 mm rotors provide enough stopping power when you barely use your brakes. The shorter 435 mm chainstay setting allows the rear wheel to whip around corners.

Martin Maes GT

Martin Maes GT
Michelin rubber is new for the team this year - a DH 22 up front and Wild Enduro Front tread out back.

Martin Maes GT
Martin Maes GT
Although Maes has tested carbon rims, he opts for the softer feel and flex aluminum rims deliver, like the Stan's NoTubes Flow EX3.



124 Comments

  • 93 3
 What? How does Martin compete at the highest level with that bike? He is doing everything wrong, it's not the stiffest, longest, slackest and most travelest bike. Preposterous. Heresy. Burn the witch.
  • 34 0
 Jack Moir says "Hold my size Large"
  • 21 1
 It's almost as if the top riders know what works for them and don't need all the newest - over hyped stuff.
  • 9 1
 It's the motor, not the bike
  • 13 0
 And his tiny 180 mm rotors provide enough stopping power?
  • 5 0
 @sportstuff: bit no you need 223 rotors from and rear now Wink
  • 5 0
 @ybsurf: to be fair.....a 240lb me needs the big rotors. Martin weighs like 160lb and knows how to properly brake so they are probably fine for him.
  • 2 0
 And 36 over 38
  • 1 0
 @ybsurf: Back to rim brakes, for a 29" rotor - the ultimate.
  • 1 0
 @PauRexs: yeah, but he‘s also riding 160mm, so the 36 is the better choice for that amount of travel. 170/180 i would take the 38.
  • 2 0
 @sportstuff: how can you even stop with 180mm rotors....I bet he's still riding that thing around unable to get off. Lol.
  • 1 0
 @terribleone1982: his weight is still on the light side for his height.
  • 19 1
 Finally a fast pro rider that runs their levers steep! I can now justify my inability to ride flatter levers as "doing what Martin Maes does" instead of "stuck in my ways and unable to adapt". Now if only I could get rid of the arm pump that way too...
  • 3 2
 May I suggest you try Deity Supracush grips? Helped me immensely.
  • 18 0
 Huh? It has to to with bike size compared to rider height. Longer frames means further reach and more upright levers. Martin is tall for the bike he's riding so he'll need the levers down further. Not sure why people say this is a trend when it's just a comfort thing. You ride better when the levers are where you need them.
  • 1 0
 @makripper: that’s insightful - I hadn’t thought of that.
  • 4 0
 I hear raising your levers relieves arm pump Wink
  • 2 0
 @radney: I never get arm pump but I tried them almost all the way up to horizontal. I’ve now settled on a kind of settled on a bit lower. Maybe 20 degrees down from horizontal because I found I like to hang off the levers when doing wheelies, rather than pulling the levers. It was just more natural with the levers down a bit.
  • 1 0
 @radney: I think it helps...had to raise my levers quite a bit on an old bike to clear the top tube after fitting an angleset; felt weird for a bit but found my arms suddenly felt fresher on long descents!
  • 14 1
 "Although Maes has tested carbon rims, he opts for the softer feel and flex aluminum rims deliver, like the Stan's NoTubes Flow EX3."

Holy shit, finally a real reason to choose alloy, not the old crap about being able to fix them easier. Because the same impact that breaks a good carbon rim has already broken an alloy rim beyond "repair". Doesn't matter if you can't bend carbon back because it doesn't bend to begin with.

But choosing it for feel, now that makes sense. Although, that only says something about Stan's carbon vs Stan's alloy. Would be interesting to get Martin's opinion of some other carbon rims that claim to bring the softer alloy feel while keeping the carbon strength.
  • 1 2
 I doubt it’s just about feel
  • 3 0
 This is nothing new lol….
  • 2 0
 or zipp moto wheels (better to get rims only, hubs not great). I also feels like it just flexes away on harsh impacts and does not get damaged and does not damage the tire. weight and comfort of alloy, but no dings and flats. same weight and 4x the cost of alloy though.
  • 1 0
 @Pelmenium: f*ck those rims, the quality at least here in Europe is horrible. I had two pairs, they had holes and sandpaper marks who made the rim not round, more like corners. This should be top notch for the price but it isnt. They even shipped me the wrong color twice, more crap you cant take from a company.
I would not trust this bad QC.
I am my self a QC guy and I would be ashamed of my self if I didn't saw it and get shipped.

To verify my findings have spoken to everyone I have spotted who runs them and surprisingly everyone have had defects on them. Some of them even had to glue it with epoxy to get it tubeless , what the actual f*ck?
  • 2 0
 I think you're missing the point a bit. Yes, most alloy rims are more compliant than most carbon rims. But the other benefit is not about them being repairable, but rather that they will dent in severe impact and that 'give' in the rim is what saves your tyre from slicing - which is what happens upon impact with many carbon rims. Yes, you can run inserts, but they add weight and are a pain in the arse, especially if you do get a flat trail side. Lifetime warranties on carbon rims don't help when they crack and you're ten miles from your vehicle.
  • 1 0
 @Hellchops: Well to not slice a tire with AL rims you need thick walls and a really thick tire. I certainty would not trust anything below DH for MAXXIS and nothing below Super Gravity for Schwalbe.
I mean I cut a EXO+ in half yesterday by a minor impact I did not even felt. With my Rock Razor and Super Trail I have never even had that problem for that spot.
  • 2 0
 @Hellchops: Well put, Hellchops. If carbon rims were the shit, everyone in the EWS would use them. As it goes, hardly anyone does. A lot lower uptake than in DH where one big smack on any rim is going to end your chances of success anyway, making a catastrophic failure on a carbon rim less of an issue.
  • 1 0
 @Serpentras: there are various options to prevent punctures/tyre cuts: high pressure, tubeless, inserts or heavier duty casings. There's no one size fits all. At 60kg on a Hightower 2 with 160 Lyrik and Cascade link - racing enduro in the UK, I run Flow rims, Maxxis DH casing tyres and no inserts at 18/20psi (fr/rr) or 20/22 if it's really rocky. This works well for me. I used to run DD on the rear and EXO on the front, but I feel more confident on the DH casings all around.
  • 1 0
 @Hellchops: true but I talk about just the rim. I never chopped a tire with my carbon rims. But I chopped a lot with AL. If you look at the rim, the walls are more then twice as thick. That's always better to not cut anything. I had cuts without crumbling AL rims.
So I don't agree with you from my experience.
I stick to super gravity because the tires from Schwalbe damping way better then MAXXIS does.
  • 12 0
 Is the only reason these racers run an x2 because they can get them rebuilt/replaced on the fly? I have maybe 500 miles on my 2020 x2 (bought in late 2020, when they went on sale as new models came out) and it’s already blown and needs a rebuild. It’s insane how little longevity I got out of that shock.

It was awesome until it wasn’t and I fear having to put $200 into it every damn 7-8 months.
  • 1 0
 Offers a lot of configurability as well. I love my X2 and how much I can tinker with it's compression and rebound in the highs and lows. That's probably why a lot of enduro riders rock them for that so they can switch them up based on conditions.

Also, isn't finding service kits for the X2 right now a bitch. Frown
  • 4 0
 I find the biggest problem on the X2 to be the need for very specific and overpriced tools just to do basic service, while other shocks require no tools at all.
  • 3 0
 My 2021 X2 (yes the brand new model) failed after 7 months of usage. But it failed fatally. The outer stanchion cracked. Not even kidding. Shock is not repairableSmile ))
  • 3 0
 @c-radicallis: Park Tool HCW5 and done for a basic air can service
  • 1 0
 Yeah you must love how the adjustments don’t do anything to right lol @captbennett:
  • 5 0
 @c-radicallis: There is a gentleman on e-bay if you type in X2 fox rebuild tools. He has made all the tools and clamps for the X2 shock and a couple of others as well. here is his site hope it helps. www.ebay.com/itm/2021-Fox-X2-Float-Inner-Air-Vise-Clamp-Seal-head-Wrench-Base-Valve-Sockets-for/264998658660
  • 2 0
 @embi: I've heard of this happening to a couple people and don't think it's the shock's fault. It sounds like with trunnions a lot of lateral force from the rear wheel gets transmitted directly to the shock. IMO the frame needs to be stiffer and/or better aligned or a trunnion just isn't a good solution on mtb's.
  • 1 0
 @embi: Damn that sucks. Sounds more a like frame problem then shock problem tho. You should prolly put some spherical bearings on if you're planning on keeping that frame.
  • 1 0
 @gfmullet80: Thanks mate. I already knew about that guy, but it's still quite expensive for someone earning a average wage in Portugal, and ultimately would only pay off i were to start servicing other people's shocks.
  • 1 0
 @mtbandskiforlife: Correct. The proper solution for shock eyelets would be spherical bearings, but proper solutions and good engineering are not allowed in our industry, soo we just gotta just keep buying shit, and then buy extra shit whenever stuff breaks, and keep the cycle going.
  • 2 0
 @c-radicallis: I mean, the shock itself is expensive…he linked you a $75 toolkit lol.
  • 1 0
 @nvranka: Yeah, but the shipping ain't free ahah.

Not expensive if you get a 15% discount on a Cube bike, which was already cheap to begin with, and was the last bike in stock Wink
  • 12 1
 Has anyone else has terrible luck with the stands hubs? I had 2 rear neo hubs just completely grenade internally I am convinced they are terrible.
  • 6 1
 Unfortunately common on those
  • 3 1
 Yes absolute piece of sheet.
  • 2 1
 I think I went through 3 before getting some DT Swiss 350s, haven't had a problem since.
  • 2 1
 Yep they are garbage
  • 22 0
 @justinroehlk , @stormracing , @hhaaiirryy , @flattymatty , @bigbrett , totally understand, but if anybody has roasted Neo hubs around, you might want to hang on to them. The all new hubs are almost here, were tested on bloated e-bikes, have some industrial-strength backward-compatible parts and Enduro bearings, and we'll be replacing warrantied Neo parts with the new stuff as those new parts arrive.
  • 4 0
 I never understood how a stiffer fork(Zeb/3Cool tracks better in the rough stuff, but a stiffer wheel(usually carbon) tracks worse in the rough. Anybody care to enlighten me?
  • 4 0
 Fork flex stops it moving through it's travel smoothly due to binding between the stantions and the lowers bushings. For wheels, think of the flex/softness being like the bikes suspension having some horizontal travel.
  • 1 0
 @panaphonic: boxxer and lyric use the same stanchion diameter so the bushing binding must be similar between the stanchions and fork lowers. Haven't heard anybody state that the boxxer lowers bind up on the stanchions.

Everything I have heard or read about the 38mm chassis's is that because they are stiffer they deflect less, allowing a rider to stay on their line, not stiffness leading to more suppleness.

That's why it doesn't make sense that a fork stiffness can lead to better tracking but wheel stiffness can be a detriment to it
  • 5 0
 It's nice to see a racer saying I know what I like.
  • 4 0
 Reduced fork to 160mm to get lower front end... ... then fits high rise bars
  • 2 0
 I was wondering the same.. what gains does he get then?
  • 2 0
 @Zmagas: lower bb
  • 1 0
 @Crossmaxx: Assuming 20% sag, that's 8mm difference at front, ~=3mm at BB.

If Maes wanted just a lower BB, couldn't the team make something, or use offset bushings rather than reduce fork travel. There are many good reasons to reduce fork travel, but getting the desired BB height doesn't seem like one of them.

I wonder if he likes the increase in reach (he is also running a long 50mm stem).
  • 2 0
 In the pictures he also runs a ~10mm spacer under the stem...
  • 2 0
 Surprised that I don't see this pedigree'd bike out on the trails more often. I want to get one but would love to hear a non-sponsored opinion on them from a rider directly.
  • 2 0
 Current generation has been pretty good to me, had a 27.5 and now a 29 muleted and liked both. Stack is a bit low I think but is higher on the Force Carbon so it should really be all good. Latest Fury is also a great bike so if the Force Carbon is a mix of both those bikes it should be great.
  • 5 1
 What's the total bike weight?
  • 3 0
 Interesting to see the Dh casing on the front and the enduro casing out back.
  • 7 0
 It's probably the team-only DH casing Wild Enduro. They're not available to the public, but lots of the Michelin-sponsored enduro guys have been using them for years. Sam Hill, for instance.
  • 4 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: Well yes they Arena
It's the racing line
  • 1 0
 They share the same casing and compound, only difference being thread pattern and bead
  • 1 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: at least in Europe those have been available since April or may
  • 1 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: they actually are available to buy if you can find them they are Magix x dh rubber on a folding bead tire.
  • 7 4
 Sick.. now all it needs is a motor Jk dont beat me up
  • 11 1
 With a 34 chainring and a 10-45 cassette he doesn't need a motor I guess.
  • 8 32
flag FloridaHasMTBToo (Sep 1, 2021 at 9:29) (Below Threshold)
 @ybsurf: he needs his roids.
  • 3 0
 180 rotors front and rear. Kind of make my 203/180 overkill on my bike
  • 16 1
 Maes is 155 lbs though. Just because he uses 180mm rotors doesn't mean someone larger (especially if they're newer and drag their brakes) won't benefit from larger rotors.
  • 10 0
 Nah, we're mere mortals. Maes only really needs them after crossing the finish line.
  • 1 0
 Don't need big rotors if you don't use the brakes.
  • 1 0
 @jeremy3220: I weight the same so I should be good
  • 1 0
 In my old bike enduro I was running SLX 2 pot brakes 203/180 no problem. Shimano Saint are very powerful,so being light I see why he does not need bigger rotors.
  • 2 0
 @homerjm: He probably does it for the modulation.
  • 1 0
 @iliveonnitro: No brakes and roids...
  • 2 0
 Hmmmm... Interesting.... A Michelin Enduro front on the rear. That's my new winter combo this year.
  • 2 0
 Can confirm that, works perfectly!
  • 1 0
 I'm going to take my front off the rack in the garage and try is as a rear tire. Goodness knows the Michelin enduro rear tire was one of my least favorite tires, ever.
  • 3 0
 the tread on those tires ohh my
  • 1 0
 What is the reasoning of some companies to not produce carbon chainstays? Is that simply due to cost because it's more complicated (pivots, forces,...)?
  • 5 0
 Yes cheaper to produce. More durable to chain slap and impacts. Cheaper to replace. Minimal gains in weight and stiffness for a part that is only a fraction of the overall structure of the bike.
  • 2 0
 Smaller part, less benefit gained.

In the front triangle, there is more room to really optimize strength to weight and flex to stiffness in various areas. Chainstays and seatstays are relatively small parts that really only need to do one thing: locate the pivots and/or axle. Not a whole lot of flex zones or whatnot to tune with fancy carbon magic. Just needs to be a stiff tube with pivots at/near the end (and a dropout on the seatstay on a horst-link). Sure, it could be done with a crazy optimized layup to shave some grams, but that comes at a cost that might not be worth it in some situations.
  • 1 0
 @Trudeez: Although I've seen a pretty consistent 250-350g weight savings on the same frame with carbon vs aluminum rear triangle.
  • 2 0
 I wish my Enduro had an alloy rear end… and an alloy front end.
The only downside would be that I could no longer refer to it as “The F-35 of bicycles”
  • 2 1
 @jaame: do f-35’s crack that often?!
  • 2 0
 lack of engineering expertise, being a Dorel-directed company Smile
  • 1 0
 @Solorider13: it’s more in reference to the looks, price and performance
  • 1 0
 @mm732: Cannondale had flex carbon stays for a good amount of years now. I think like @jaame an alloy rear end would be less fragile if you crash the bike. I owned the last 27.5 inch Jekyll model and it came stock with a carbon linkage for the shock and alloy rear end,that piece was ridiculously light thermoplastic/cf reinforced injected in a mold.Compared to the Enduro link it is full alloy,it weight like 10 times more.
Cannondale and GT bikes are cheaper than many other brands,you could get a very good equipped 5000 6000 bucks bike nearly the top of the range for the brand. My Enduro was 5000 at it is the lowest model,Sram shit parts everywhere. My NX rear mech is so bouncy I´m worry it could break the CF rear end of the bike hahahaha .
The Enduro need a carbon fiber rear end,it has so many links it would weight a ton if made all from alloy.
  • 2 0
 @homerjm: They do it on the demo. For me it's just because the Enduro has a reputation for cracking and mine is out of warranty. With alloy I would have the peace of mind that first it's less likely to crack if I drop it on a rock or something, and second if it cracks I can have it welded back together 20 mins walk from my house. I would have to make serious investments of time and money to get a carbon one fixed.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: Would they heat treat it after welding as well ? I've heard of a couple people having good luck with some of the carbon frame repair shops although of course that involves packing and sending and waiting. Not arguing that rear triangle is more likely to get damaged and harder to repair, one reason I bought a Scott Ransom 910 instead of the 900.
  • 1 0
 @jaame: You cannot fully repair an alloy frame,so that thing you said you can weld any frame in 20 mins it is not very realistic. Alloy is heat treated,if you weld it,it would need a new tempering process for the entire frame,something it is not viable. Carbon bikes could be more fragile but it could be fix no problem if the broken thing is not extreme.
It is easy to scratch the rear end,or hit some rocks. I sold my old bike to a noob and he almost destroyed the frame with a rock. It is a carbon fiber front end bike,so it was repaired and now it is like brand new again
  • 2 0
 @homerjm: yeah no I meant there is an ally welder 20 mins from my house, but no carbon repair places nearby.
A mate of mine cracked his frame on the seat tube/top tube junction and had it welded up. He rode that frame for a couple of years after that and it wasn’t heat treated again. Not best practice perhaps, but good enough in most cases I would guess. It could be a wrong guess but.
  • 1 0
 @homerjm: all true. i don't know that they do carbon in an enduro application. at the end of the day, im sure its a pricepoint strategy.
  • 1 0
 That One Up tool is not correctly engaged in the stem, he might loose it during bike transport or so. Talking from experience here!
  • 2 0
 Surprised to see the inner tube up there and not attached close to the BB for better centered weight distribution...
  • 1 0
 I love that a pro is sharing the rationale behind their set up! Good luck and thanks Martin!
  • 2 0
 Why does it say Icw tech brakes? You mean saints with rt-86 rotors?
  • 1 0
 Pretty sure most Shimano enduro riders run 10-45 casette with mid cage derailleur. Not really unique.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, someone like MattP76 should have a word with the MX boys, they've been doing it wrong since the 60's...bloody fads !!!
  • 1 0
 Who fished the cables for this thing?
  • 1 0
 His mechanic needs to cut those zipties on the fender flush cmon
  • 1 0
 I wish the bike weight was posted.
  • 1 0
 its enduro, its not that important.
  • 1 0
 "Just a bottle of water that i put here" hahahhahahaha
  • 1 0
 I'm a Firm believer of Flex. Too. Maybe
  • 1 0
 First thing's first
  • 1 0
 How long are the cranks?
  • 1 0
 Excellent !
  • 8 9
 See the stupid Mullet fad is fading.
  • 10 4
 I hope you fade soon too.
  • 3 1
 then hopefully high pivot next.
  • 1 3
 @nozes: I will when the Mullet fad stops. I'll do you a deal.
  • 2 3
 @noideamtber: That one I don't agree with. High pivots are a great idea to improve suspension performance. Unlike Mullets which are just a fad and improve nothing.
  • 2 0
 Got a mullet.. love it.. chin up
  • 1 0
 @MattP76: your a fad
  • 1 0
 @Dini2k: you're
  • 1 0
 @MattP76: yellow saracen
  • 1 0
 @Dini2k: Saracen. Capital, full stop.
  • 1 0
 @MattP76: They are awesome on DH bikes as proven, they are nowhere on EWS for a reason. The same riders on High pivot now will not improve their placings on the new bikes, certain bikes like the cannondale might because they are made theirs properly an not extended the bike to winnebago wheelbase
  • 2 3
 Does the bike come with steroid holder?
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