Bike Check: Dan Atherton’s GT Force

Words by Damian Breach | Images by Damian Breach

At the GT 2014 launch a month ago Flow sat down with Dan Atherton to talk about the new GT Force, his input into the development of it, and what custom mods he makes to his production bike.

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Dan Atherton is an amazing rider and seeing him ride in the flesh was a shock at how much we sucked at riding.

Dan is one of the top Enduro racers in the world and his knowledge about energy efficiency, bike feel and geometry are all key to his successes. Sometimes it’s not the fastest bike down a hill that can win a race.

What are we looking at here?

It’s the new GT Force.

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Dan had only recently got his own hands on a production bike.

How long have you had it for?

I have had it about 2 months now and even I found it pretty hard to get a hold of a production one.

It’s been a long time coming. We started working on the project about 2-3 years ago. Since then I have had 2 or 3 test mules and I have never had a bike that’s had so much testing put in by the engineers.

Have you raced this one?

My first World Series Enduro race this year was on a prototype that’s a little different from these ones. It’s based on the same suspension platform as the new Fury DH bike but there’s no plans to release that yet.

This is the bike I have been riding a lot at home and doing long training rides with 6-7 enduro stages, which is 5 or 6 hours in the saddle. It’s a bike that saves a lot of energy and that’s key. There may be bikes that descend better than this one but they take a lot of energy to ride and that’s something you have to remember when your looking at a bike. It pedals so well and you can flick it around so easily and it just helps to conserve your energy.

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The Atherton’s have been instrumental in the development of the new range of GT bikes.

Did GT get a lot of feedback from you in the development?

Yeah, they were pretty good. When we (the Atherton’s) came to join GT they were already quite far along in the process of developing the new bike. GT have guys like Eric Carter who had worked on it and it was already a pretty dialled bike. However, there were definitely things that I wanted to change.

From that first test bike, what things did you not like or want changed?

The first thing we noticed was how well the bike pedalled when sitting down. You could feel that drive going into the rear wheel, however when you stood up it had a little “folding” feel to it.  They worked on some pivots and swapped some other things around and it was amazing the difference that it made.

What would you put your name against as your major input into the new bike?

I definitely worked a lot on the geometry with GT. This bike already carries its weight really low anyway but dropping the bottom bracket just a little more added to the cornering characteristics. It corners amazingly. Definitely some improvements on the head angle too. Another big difference is the long front end. Me and Gee have always been about having a long front end on a bike.

That’s an interesting point. More recently, GT have been known for being a little on the short side?

Yeah, that’s something we struggled with when we first came to GT. The bikes were quite short and the bottom brackets quite high, and head angle steep.  I guess that was the way with riding and bikes of the past 6-7 years however with this new generation of GT’s coming out now all have dialled modern geometry.

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Having all the weight down low definitely helps with cornering.

What changes have you made to this production bike?

I am sponsored by Shimano so it’s XTR all around. This bike is definitely aimed at people who will ride up the hills but I am fine with a just a single ring up front (34t) and had a custom chain device added. The new Float-X rear shock is the life and soul of the bike. In fact, the whole FOX RAD program with 34mm air fork, and new Float-X shock balances it out so well. The bike is amazing with a standard shock but put a Float-X on and it’s unbelievable. I also have a FOX seatpost – it’s killer and can’t do without it. I tend to drop it a lot in racing. Sometimes I also run a quick release as well to give me extra adjustment during a race.

I have a 180mm rotor on the front and 160mm on the rear. Something that Steve Peat taught me way back was not to drag the brakes, just be on/off them only when needed. It’s also bit heavier than a standard production bike and is about 31 lbs (14 kg) but I am fine with that.

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It’s only the best that get RAD.

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Shimano XTR for Dan. It works, is light and is proven.

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The Force doesn’t come with ISCG tabs but can be converted for a chain device.

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Must be pretty cool to have your own name on products.

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Interesting that Dan sometimes requires even bigger drops on his seatpost. It speaks volumes for how gnarly the Enduro races must be in Europe.

 

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