With the introduction of their two new trail bikes, the Force and the Sensor, GT has made a calculated move by targeting the sweet spot of today’s most desirable and usable mountain bike genres. The Sensor is a 130mm front and rear travel 29’er, a bike that is ideal for almost anyone that isn’t focused primarily on the gravity assisted side of the sport. The combination of over five inches of travel, wagon wheels, and long, slack geometry results in a bike that can essentially handle anything you throw at it while maintaining a fun attitude all around.
The other market segment that GT has eyed up is the burgeoning enduro scene. The Force is a direct shot at that, and hits the nail squarely on the head. While many brands are pushing bike geometry to wild extremes and running suspension numbers that used to be reserved for freeride bikes, the engineers at GT have wisely taken a more prudent approach for both of their new trail bikes. The result is two bicycles that better cater to the vast majority of riders, while offering the best of what is out there today.
We’ll focus on the Force today. Let’s take a quick look at some of the important numbers and specs on the this frame:
- Lifetime warranty on carbon and alloy frames
- 160mm (6.3”) fork, 150mm (5.9”) rear travel
- 27.5” wheels
- 65° to 65.5° headtube angle (low/high geo setting)
- Steep 75.5° to 76° seat-tube angle for a forward, comfortable seating position
- Long reach numbers across all frame sizes for aggressive handling
- Frame available with carbon front triangle, $1,899
- Alloy completes available starting at $2,499
- Threaded bottom brackets on both carbon and alloy frames
- Water bottle fits in front triangle of all frame sizes
I see the Force as a distillation of all the wild and wondrous enduro creations out there. GT picked and chose the best of what they saw in the last four years of the enduro craze and crafted it all into one of the most well rounded bikes of its class. Let’s break it down.
LTS = Linkage Tuned Suspension
With LTS, GT has ditched the I-Drive design and gone back to one of their most successful configurations, a variation of a four bar linkage. It’s sensible that GT has gone with this design; it works well for numerous other bikes, it can be easily modified to fit the needs of a given bike model, and it is something that GT themselves have experience with.
They’ve tuned the 150mm platform to be consistently progressive throughout the wheel travel, avoiding a sharp ramp-up which can result in a harsh feel. GT recommends setting their LTS bikes up at 25% sag, slightly less than what a lot of other manufacturers run on their four bar designs. This makes for a good amount of support when in the saddle, and offers a pedaling platform with a lively demeanor. It also helps the bike retain a healthy amount of mid stroke support, although less than what I feel on my aggro Transition Patrol. The suspension seemed more willing to give on the Force, and at slower speeds, which made for a very comfortable ride, even when I was pushing it.
The shock was easy to set up, and felt good right off the bat; I didn’t need to add any volume reducers to keep from bottoming out on big hits - something I made sure to seek out on my trip to Retallack. That has not been true for ANY other bike that I’ve owned in the last few years, regardless of the brand or suspension design. I imagine the 25% sag plays a role in that. I also need to point out that it’s always worthwhile to take some time tinkering with your suspension; it can make all the difference.
In my opinion, 150mm (just under six inches) of rear travel is the sweet spot for a bike in this category. The vast majority of us are not pushing our bikes hard enough to merit more than that, and the detriments that come with a ton of wheel travel can outweigh the benefits. This bike feels snappier and more precise than many of its longer travel brethren, easier to preload and pop at a moment's notice. I also attribute some of the bike’s decisive handling to the frame’s stiffness. The beefy carbon front triangle is mated to very stout stays, and results in a laterally stiff ride.
A number of in-vogue bikes are pushing head tube angles below the 65° mark. Several brands have been playing with reduced offset forks, short stems, and extremely long reach numbers. This can lead to a bike that feels sluggish and cumbersome on all but the steepest trails and fastest corners, and that in my opinion is probably not appropriate for most trails.
The 65° head angle (65.5° in the high position) of the Force gives it a stance that will take on any terrain you are bold enough to point it down, but is not so slack that your bike becomes a floppy school bus on meandering trails.
GT has taken cues from a small handful of other brands and has opted for a steep seat-tube angle on the Force, creating a bike that doesn’t feel as long as it is. This also benefits taller riders because their weight doesn’t get pushed back over the rear wheel when the dropper post is fully extended.
Combine that with reach and wheelbase numbers comparable with the Santa Cruz Nomad, and it’s obvious that this is not a bike to scoff at when things get gnarly. So much so, in fact, that at the 2018 Crankworx Whistler Enduro World Series race, two GT Factory Team racers won medals aboard the new Force, with Martin Maes taking gold in Pro Men, and Noga Korem taking bronze in Pro Women.
The Force is replete with a number of well thought out design features, but I wanted to hit one first and foremost.
Although the name is a bit silly, the “Groove Tubes” on GT’s new bikes are a phenomenal idea, allowing for externally routed cables and hoses while maintaining a clean, refined aesthetic.
For those of you who work on your own bikes, this is a huge boon in ease of maintenance. For those of you who don’t, your shop mechanic will thank you for it. Easy access to the cables and hoses doesn’t seem like a big deal until it is; some of my most frustrating experiences with with bike maintenance have resulted from internally routed cables.
Another benefit of this design is that, unlike in many internally routed frames, the housing is securely cinched down so there is no noise from it rattling around in your downtube. The cable cinch doubles as a water bottle mount, which will fit a full size bottle on frames sized medium and larger (small bottle fits on small frames).
The bike has a high and a low geometry setting, which you can change in less than a minute by removing the lower shock bolt, flipping a small chip upside down, and re-installing. This will change your head angle by +/-¾ of a degree, and +/- 6mm in BB height adjustment without affecting the bike’s leverage ratio and spring rate.
Quality AND price? What gives?
In this case, nothing. GT is a well established company. Over decades of bicycle development and manufacturing they’ve developed strong relationships and connections with OEM suppliers, allowing them to put together affordable part specs. The combination of alloy rear/carbon front triangles and cost reducing, simplified designs have allowed them to sell the new Force and Sensor for prices that compete with the big direct-to-consumer brands such as YT, Canyon, and Commencal.
Chances are you know Fanatik Bike Co. because of our custom builds - these individually tailored bikes cater to exactly what you want out of your chosen ride. We’ve loaded the Force frame into our Custom Bike Builder tool so that you can build your dream bike up exactly how you want it for around $1,000 less than most other competing carbon bikes. Alternately, we are also stocking GT’s full line of complete builds, which include two ready to rally alloy models that are under $3000. Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights of each build:
- Full aluminum frame
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Rock Shox Revelation Charger fork, which uses similar technology to Fox's GRIP2 forks
- Trunnion mounted RockShox Super Deluxe R Debonair shock
- New Schwalbe Hans Dampf Tires
- SRAM NX 11sp drivetrain
- Dropper post that correlates to each frame size
- 180/203mm rotors
- Full aluminum frame
- Rock Shox Yari RC Charger fork, larger chassis than the Revelation makes it stiffer for more aggressive riding.
- Rock Shox Super Deluxe R Coil - good small bump sensitivity, plush ride.
- SRAM NX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain
- RaceFace Chester handlebars and stem
- New Schwalbe Hans Dampf Tires
- Carbon front triangle frame, featuring Groove Tubes
- Rock Shox Pike RC Charger Fork
- Schwalbe Magic Mary Tires
- SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain
- Fabric Scoop saddle
- SRAM Guide RS Brakes with 180/200mm rotors
- Fox 36 Float FIT4 Evol Factory fork
- Fox Float DPX2 Factory rear shock
- KS Lev Carbon
- Fabric Scoop Saddle
- Stan’s Flow MK3 rims
- SRAM GX/X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Includes headset
- Removable ISCG'05 tabs
- Groove Tube cable routing
- Water bottle capacity