The Summer Olympics falling on an odd numbered year, England not being miserable at a major football tournament and high pivot trail bikes everywhere you look - two of these may never be repeated, and that's even factoring in that we've only got to wait a year for the soccer World Cup. But the latter, if the new crop 2022 bikes are anything to go by, is a trend in rude health and long set to continue.
The GT Force Carbon is one of those bikes and is something of a spec sheet ticker’s dream. It seems to cater to the current mountain biking zeitgeist with an EWS worthy 160mm of travel via a four-bar linkage paired to a 170mm fork, an idler to enable a medium to high pivot and 29” wheels front and back.
GT Force Carbon Details
• Wheelsize: 29"
• Travel: 160mm
• Carbon front triangle, alloy stays
• 63.5° head angle
• Chainstay length: 445 or 435mm
• Sizes: S-XL
• Price range: $3,800 - $6,000
• Frame only: $3300
You may have seen this bike being ridden during the early part of the season, and that’s not an accident. GT seemed happy to flirt with exposure of the bike through rider’s social media and test events. We’ve even seen it equipped with a dual crown fork.
There are three tiers to the GT Force’s range. The entry level model, the $3,800 Elite
, uses the same frame as its pricier siblings. The spec consists of a RockShox Yari fork, TRP Slate T4 brakes and a SX drivetrain and an own-brand dropper.
Next up is the $5,000 Pro
. This bike has an upgraded NX/GX build, a RockShox Zeb and Super Deluxe, both Select+, matched with SRAM Code R brakes. Many other elements remain the same as the Elite model though, including the wheels and dropper.
The range topping model, the $6,000 Pro LE
gets upgrades across the board. This includes RockShox Ultimate level suspension, SRAM Code RSC brakes and a GX drivetrain, including an XO rear derailleur.
Our Pro LE
model in a size large with a set of control tires (Maxxis DHR2 in a DoubleDown casing and a downhill casing Dissector) weighed 35.77lb or 16.22kg. Let's be frank, that isn’t particularly light. However, it’s a bike meant to be ridden hard and I think it's a reasonable weight for what it is. The 220mm rotor on the front of the Pro and Pro LE models is something of a smoking gun to the bike’s intentions.Frame Details
Speculation was awash as to what this new bike would be called. Was it a successor to the Sanction platform that has disappeared from GT’s range in recent years? Or was it an updated version of the bike that GT’s factory team has been racing? Well, it would be the latter. However, whereas the current Force is all-alloy, the new Force is a semi-carbon affair.
The frame details include all the normal hallmarks of an enduro bike in 2021. There is ribbed chain silencing which, combined with the idler, has been labelled by GT as “ruckus management”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s there to not only keep the bike quiet but also keep the chain on and appropriately tensioned.
The idler is the most obvious part of the new bike, however there are other nice details to look out for. There is 10mm of chainstay adjustment, meaning riders can not only have a size-proportionate rear center but it also gives them the choice to change the character of their ride. The 435 or 445mm options should cover most bases.
There is also internally guided cable routing through the front triangle, but with the exit ports near the seat tube before letting the cables cross externally. There is one on the rider’s right side of the head tube for the dropper post and two on the left side.
Other frame details include an oversized top and head tube junction that is imposing and swollen without looking bulbous or ungainly. It also features “integrated storage”. I like the look of the oversized top tube, which goes all the way from slender to exaggerated, but the fact that you can stuff a tube into a triangle-shaped hole made by the frame's tubing doesn’t feel as integrated as other designs. I’d say “semi-integrated” would be a fairer assessment. The downtube mounted water bottle bosses have enough clearance that you can have a large bottle and the shape of the tube means that there is less chance of a pump rubbing away your paintwork, should you choose to run one on your frame. There is also a threaded BB and Boost spaced hubs.Geometry
We’ve got the progressive frame features but is the geometry able to keep pace? Well, on paper at least, most definitely.
The 63.5° head angle and 78° effective seat tube angle are certainly in the right ballpark. Couple those to the adjustable, and appropriately long chainstays and 480mm of reach for a large and you can see that GT are certainly holding the ideals of progressive geometry close to their hearts.
In fact, the reach numbers are one of the less radical areas of the bike. Yes, it’s amply large but a lot of the bike seems to be making a statement about what a slack and stable enduro bike can handle. The reaches of 430, 455, 480 or 515mm depending on the size are long but not outrageously so. I think a 480mm reach for a large is a nice blend that will satisfy those that are curious about progressive geometry without burning the fingers of the more conservative or cautious.
The bike uses a maximum axle to crown height of 591mm. The equipped 170mm Zeb has an axle to crown of 586. Interestingly enough, going to a 190mm Boxxer would only put you 1mm over this threshold. Obviously, you’d never ever think of doing that, not even in your darkest and most sordid fantasies but it is interesting...
The bike uses a relatively middle-of-the-road seat tube length of 380, 410, 445, and 500mm, for small, medium, large and XL respectively. The jump between the large and XL may well have some nearly-XL riders concerned though.
There is also the generous stack height of 627, 636, 645 and 654mm, again respective to size. It’s good to have, and I found that it put me in a very healthy window of usable range. That said, my point and shoot style of riding is less about finesse and more about smashing.Suspension Design
The suspension on the GT uses a four-bar linkage in conjunction with a medium to high pivot and idler. The idea of this system is to enable the rear wheel to move in a rearward direction for a significant part of its travel. The idler wheel is there to separate suspension forces from the drivetrain. As you can imagine, as the distance grows between the rear axle and the BB the chain will come under tension. However, by installing an idler, which itself has a near-fixed distance to both the BB and rear axle, you can manage to negate the problem.
The adjustable chainstay length will of course change the travel and kinematics slightly. That said, I think it’s a great option to have and it’s great to see brands like GT offering real and useful adjustments. I would imagine that it’s not a purely selfless act, and making just the single sized rear triangle helped keep costs down.
While all the bikes come with air shocks, GT say that the bike is also well suited to coil.
As you can see in the graph, the bike progresses through over half of its travel before it moves anything other than rearward.
The anti squat value on the new Force Carbon is generally higher than the previous version, or at least in the gears where it really counts. Anti-squat relates to how much the suspension compresses due to load transfer when you accelerate. The higher the value the more the bike will want to extend under driving forces. This will tend to mean that the bike pedals better.
Likewise, the anti-rise value is also higher. The lower the value of anti rise the more the bike will extend under braking, keeping braking and suspension forces separate. As the value approaches over 100% the bike will begin to squat into its stroke when our mass begins to transfer when we use the brake. GT feel an increased value of around 60-70% is a good compromise of active braking and suspension feel.
The leverage ratio of the new bike is very different. It’s initially quite regressive before it levels off as it approaches sag. From there on in its progressive through to the end of the stroke in a linear fashion.ModelsForce Carbon Pro LE / $6,000 USDForce Carbon Pro / $5,000 USD Force Carbon Elite / $3,800 USD
As soon as you get on the GT Force one thing becomes apparent - this thing feels most comfortable at high speeds and being ridden with little sympathy. Getting off the brakes is as joyful as it is exciting. The bike handles the rough stuff with aplomb and is a great example of what a slack and long bike with a high stack can achieve. It feels like a well proportioned bike that is happy to be ridden and ridden hard.
That said, when you lean the bike it doesn’t turn like an oil tanker doing a three point turn in the Suez canal and I look forward to an elongated period of testing on this bike at Sun Peaks. What isn’t up for debate, however, is just how well this bike tracks when off the brakes. It just follows the terrain in a way that would leave most other enduro bikes envious.
My weight feels centered, both on climbs and descents. The bike feels like good, old fashioned no nonsense fun, even if that comes in a very
This bike isn’t the lightest but it pedals reasonably and I’m very excited to see how it will stack up against other bikes in this year's Summer Field Test. It’s not the only idler equipped bike and I can’t wait to take it toe-to-toe with the new Norco Range