The Flow team reviews the GT Force
Receiving a wholesale redesign for 2022, the GT Force is one of the newest bikes on the market to go down the high pivot rabbit hole. It’s an exciting and very on-trend move for a brand that has been treading water for the past few years with relatively by-the-books frame and suspension designs. And having spent the past couple of months putting the Force to the test, we can confidently say this bike is a huge leap in the right direction. As we found out though, it won’t be for everyone, and it’s certainly not without its flaws.
Watch our video review of the GT Force here:
Thanks to the long wheelbase, raked-out head angle and high front end, the Force possesses a huge amount of stability that ensures you feel planted and very much in control when things get sketchy or fast. Or better yet, both.
An overview of the GT Force
The latest GT Force has been gifted with an all-new frame and suspension design, employing a beefy carbon mainframe that’s paired to a welded alloy sub-frame.
Travel has lifted slightly over the old model. There’s now 160mm at the rear, and that’s matched to a 170mm fork. Like many other dedicated enduro race bikes, the Force is rolling on 29in wheels exclusively.
It’s certainly a tough-looking rig thanks to its aggressive tyres, big fork and 63.5° head angle. And while it is pitched for enduro racing, the Force wouldn’t look out of place shuttling the bikepark and bombing full-blown downhill trails.
House of the High Pivot
Of course the big talking point with the new GT Force is its high pivot suspension design and that idler pulley.
Following in the footsteps of the Fury downhill bike, the Force is built around an elevated main pivot that sits 110mm north of the BB. This provides a more rearward axle path, but it’s pretty minimal — the rear wheel only moves back around 10mm in total. Indeed the moderate pivot height and the four-bar LTS layout means that the axle traces a more vertical trajectory than some other high pivot designs out there.
Even still, GT’s engineers have employed an idler pulley to control chain growth and fine-tune the Force’s anti-squat levels. In the lowest gear, there’s just over 100% anti-squat at sag. That figure drops off radically as you click through the cassette, with anti-squat sitting at just 35% in the highest gear.
GT Force price & specs
There are three GT Force models available in Australia for 2022, all of which make use of the same carbon and alloy frame. Prices start at a competitive $5,499 AUD for the GT Force Carbon Elite, and go up to $7,999 AUD for the GT Force Carbon Pro LE.
The bike we’ve been testing is the Goldilocks model that sits right in the middle; the GT Force Carbon Pro.
2022 GT Force Carbon Pro
- Frame | Carbon Mainframe & Alloy Rear, High Pivot LTS Suspension Design, 160mm Travel
- Fork | RockShox ZEB Select+, 44mm Offset, 170mm Travel
- Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, 230x65mm
- Wheels | Formula Hubs & WTB ST i29 Alloy Rims, 29mm Internal Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Assegai EXO+ 3C MaxxTerra 2.5in Front & Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C MaxxTerra 2.4in Rear
- Drivetrain | SRAM GX/NX Eagle 1×12 w/Truvativ Descendent 32T Crankset & 11-50T Cassette
- Brakes | SRAM Code R w/220mm Front & 200mm Rear Rotors
- Bar | GT Alloy Riser Bar, 30mm Rise, 780mm Width
- Stem | GT Alloy, 35mm Length
- Grips | Fabric Funguy
- Seatpost | GT DropKick, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (M), 170mm (L-XL)
- Saddle | Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport
- Confirmed Weight | 16.24kg
- RRP | $6,799 AUD
It’s an easy bike to trust in high stakes situations, delivering a big confidence boost for less skilled riders, while allowing more advanced pilots to reach flat-out DH speeds.
GT Force sizing & geometry
We’ve had several testers aboard our Medium-sized GT Force Carbon Pro, with rider heights ranging from 174-178cm.
It’s quite a big-boned bike thanks to its ample 455mm reach measurement and the tall front end. The stack certainly isn’t shy at 636mm, and that’s amplified by the 30m rise handlebars. Most testers lowered the stem either as far as it would go, or fitted just a single headset spacer beneath it.
Indeed the geometry on the Force is very much on-trend. The 30mm BB drop integrates you nicely into the cockpit, and the steep 78° seat angle helps to centralise you between the wheel axles, delivering a fantastic climbing position. A seat angle that steep would normally be a recipe for sore hands while riding along flatter trails, but the high front end provides a comfortable perch without pushing too much weight onto your wrists.
Also fantastic to see is the adjustable dropout system, which offers Short and Long positions. Our test bike came set from the factory in the Short position to produce a 435mm rear centre length, and that’s where we left it. Large and XL frames will be shipped in the Long position, which extends the rear centre length to 445mm. It’s not as sophisticated as the scaled sizing used on the Cannondale Jekyll or Norco Range, but we dig that the flip chip gives riders the opportunity to tune the handling of the Force to suit their riding style and terrain.
While the geometry felt great from the get-go, it did take us a few rides to get the suspension set up properly on the GT Force, which was very unbalanced out of the box.
For a start, the RockShox ZEB was supplied with three Bottomless Tokens. This led to a harsh, awkwardly tall and pingy feel compared to the linear rear suspension performance. We’re not sure if production bikes will come setup from the factory this way, but if your fork is feeling stiff and you’re struggling to use more than 70% of the travel, we’d recommend checking.
Removing all of the fork’s Bottomless Tokens made an enormous difference for our 70-75kg test riders, improving small-bump sensitivity and overall comfort, while allowing us to get more weight onto the front wheel. Even with zero volume spacers, the ZEB’s progressive DebonAir spring design still offers great mid-stroke support.
As for the rear shock, the Force comes with a sticker indicating a recommended sag range of 15.3-18.4mm. Confusingly, the anodised gradients on the shock stanchion measure sag percentage, not millimetres.
We started at the higher end of the sag range, which delivered a very plush and grounded feel on the trail. While traction was amazing, the Force wasn’t particularly lively and felt too glued to the terrain. The overly soft rear upset our weight balance, making it difficult to get enough pressure through the tall cockpit and onto the front tyre.
In addition to removing the fork’s volume spacers, the solution was to increase shock pressure to hit 25% sag. This change made all the difference, lifting the rear and providing a more balanced dynamic ride height with the ZEB up front. Having spoken with GT since, it turns out that 25% sag is actually what the designers recommend. Perhaps best to ignore that sticker then.
GT Force weight
Confirmed weight for our GT Force Carbon Pro test bike is 16.24kg, weighed without pedals and with the stock tyres setup tubeless.
It’s one of the heavier bikes we’ve tested, though it’s still nearly a kilo lighter than the Norco Range C2. Bear in mind the Range is fitted with a coil shock and Maxxis DoubleDown tyres. In comparison, the Force gets an air shock and EXO+ tyre casings.
Given how hard you can ride this bike however, we’d much prefer to see GT spec tougher DoubleDown tyres as standard. Alternatively, Force owners would do well to fit a CushCore insert or similar to provide additional rim and tyre protection. We did that for the rear wheel on our test bike, and set pressures at 22psi up front and 25psi our back.
What does the GT Force do well?
Throughout testing the GT Force Carbon Pro has proven to be at its very best when gravity is on its side. This is a wickedly fast bike on the descents.
There’s a reassuring solidity to the chunky carbon front end, complemented by the ZEB with its monstrous 38mm upper tubes. And thanks to the long wheelbase, raked-out head angle and high front end, the Force possesses a huge amount of stability that ensures you feel planted and very much in control when things get sketchy or fast. Or better yet, both.
A big part of this is the impressive square-edge compliance from the high(ish) pivot suspension. The rear wheel promptly gets out of the way when you’re smashing across toothy rock gardens, both smoothing out the chunder and allowing you to accelerate through it. Indeed the way the Force carries momentum through chunky sections is quite incredible.
Even still, the Force doesn’t require an Evil Knieval jumpsuit to get the most out of it. Once we had the suspension setup properly, it didn’t take long for all of our testers to comfortable going fast. It’s an easy bike to trust in high stakes situations, delivering a big confidence boost for less skilled riders, while allowing more advanced pilots to reach flat-out DH speeds.
All of the grip
The suspension does well to absorb a wide range of impact energy, remaining accessible and responsive throughout the travel. It’s not quite as gooey as the Specialized Enduro, but it does a fantastic job of isolating most of the trail chatter from your feet, allowing you to plough through the rocks like they’re not even there.
We were able to use all 160mm comfortably, with only the nastiest flat drops resulting in full bottom-out. The linkage only delivers 12.5% progression in total, so it’s on the linear side. Compare that to the Enduro for example, which has 25% progression.
The RockShox Super Deluxe comes fitted with two Bottomless Tokens inside, and that proved to be a good match for our natural and raw test trails. However, there’s room to fit up to 4.5 Bottomless Tokens in the air can, which bigger and more bodacious riders, and those sessioning bikepark jumps, will no doubt want to consider.
On rugged singletrack, the active suspension delivers masses of grip, keeping both wheels firmly connected to the ground. The tyre combo is also superb, the Assegai up front being particularly unwavering through the corners, even when the trail surface is littered with loose rocks and deep braking ruts.
With all that grip on tap, the Force delivers excellent cornering performance. In the short position, the back end is quite compact for a 160mm travel 29er. This no doubt helps with carving turns, and it prevents the Force from feeling like a total barge unless you’re on the tightest of trails.
The other contributing factor is GT’s restrained approach to the high pivot concept, with the Force really being more of a mid pivot design. In fact, the main pivot is actually lower than what GT used on the 2014 Force with its AOS suspension design and floating BB. That bike was a proper high pivot design, with a more dramatic rearward axle path compared to this new version. To combat chain growth, it famously employed a much more complicated linkage, which was an evolution of the earlier i-Drive design. Fast-forward to this new Force, and the use of an idler essentially does away with the need for the floating BB.
While the mid pivot platform doesn’t swallow boulders quite like the Norco Range, GT’s less radical approach has resulted in a more neutral ride feel. There’s less wheelbase extension, which improves handling response and provides a more predictable feel when loading up the bike into a turn.
The Force generally defied expectations with how well it rides on slower tech trails. Sure it’s a lot of bike, but it doesn’t feel that awkward on less extreme terrain, and it didn’t require a radical adjustment to our riding style – even for testers coming off much shorter travel trail bikes.
What does it struggle with?
The GT Force does feel like a lot of bike on the climbs though. At over 16kg, there’s a lot of mass to get moving, and it requires a lot of energy input from the rider to accelerate on any trail that has a remotely upwards slope.
It’s plenty comfortable thanks to the steep seat angle and high front end, and there’s also minimal bob from the rear suspension. In fact, we felt no need to engage the shock’s climb switch when riding off-road.
The Force has also proved to be remarkably proficient on technical climbing features, and arguably more composed than many of the shorter travel trail bikes we’ve been testing lately. There’s an insane amount of traction on offer through the active suspension design and the Minion DHR II tyre. There’s minimal hangup from the rear wheel, and as long as we had the energy, the Force would rock-crawl its way up some pretty horrendous sections of trail.
You’ll burn through some serious calories in those moments though, which largely boils down to the overall weight, the heavy wheels and the aggressive tyre choice. The gearing is also quite tall due to the 32T chainring and 11-50T cassette. Those who like to spin rather than mash will want to consider fitting a smaller chainring to save their knees.
Not helping things, the idler is quite noisy in every gear but the top two. It’s noticeably louder than the Cannondale Jekyll, which we believe is down to the different chainline between the two bikes (the Jekyll uses an offset rear hub to straighten up the chainline). On the Force, the chain ends up on a pretty aggressive angle when you’re in the 50T sprocket on the cassette, which can only be bad for drivetrain wear. It is quieter than an e-Bike motor though.
The 150mm dropper post also limits your ability to move around the cockpit, as the steep seat angle means the saddle is in a more prominent position when the post is fully compressed. There have been many occasions where we’ve pushed the dropper lever to check the post was all the way down, as the saddle was still getting in the way. To improve freedom of movement on the descents, we’d like to see a 170mm dropper as standard on the Medium size.
While we’re on the note of downsides, some riders will be disappointed by the lack of any mullet compatibility. The dropout flip chip only adjusts the rear centre length, and there are no other flip chips to accommodate the change in BB height when changing to a smaller 27.5in rear wheel. This sees the Force going down a similar route to other dedicated 29er enduro race bikes like the Jekyll, Range and Enduro, and it’s worth bearing in mind for any mullet-curious riders out there.
Component highs & lows
With its carbon front end, stout RockShox ZEB fork and powerful SRAM Code brakes, the GT Force Carbon Pro looks to be decent value on paper. However, there are some notable flies in the ointment.
For a start, the stock wheels are unlikely to keep up with the rest of the bike in the long term. Made up of Formula hubs and WTB rims, the wheels are heavy at 2,320g for the pair (confirmed). They’re somewhat soft and sluggish, with considerable lag from the 21pt freehub mechanism. Combined with the heavy NX Eagle cassette, the rear hub makes quite the racket when you’re thumping down a rocky descent.
Numerous spokes have come loose throughout the test period, and the rear wheel already has a decent hop in it. Tougher tyres and tubeless inserts will mitigate potential trail damage, but Force owners will need to get familiar with a spoke key and thread prep. If this were our bike, we’d be squirrelling away some extra cash for a future wheelset upgrade.
Speaking of upgrades, the rear freehub uses an old-school Shimano HG spline to support the 11-50T cassette. This means you’ll need a new freehub body if you want to fit a lighter SRAM or Shimano cassette.
In addition to being too short, the dropper post is sticky and slow in its action. The remote lever lacks adjustability, and the paddle is sharp and pointy. It does the job, but there are much better droppers out there.
The cable routing on the GT Force also leaves a lot to be desired. There is no provision to clamp down the cables where they enter and exit the oversized frame ports, resulting in an irritating amount of rattling. We’ve also discovered some frame rub where the rear brake hose and derailleur cable cross over just behind the seat tube, and there’s noticeable wear on the cable and brake hose themselves too. While this isn’t unsolvable for Force owners, it’s really disappointing to encounter such an issue in the first place on a bike costing north of $6K.
On the plus side, the frame itself is plenty solid, with a heap of armouring underneath the downtube and through the driveside chainstay and seatstay. And while it may be a bit heavier, we’re happy to see GT use alloy tubes for the back end, which typically cops a lot of scrapes and impacts.
The ability to fit a full-size bottle was appreciated, and it’s also great to see a threaded BB. We never dropped a chain throughout testing, though some riders may wish to take advantage of the ISCG tabs for fitting a lower bash plate. On the note of the drivetrain, since the Force doesn’t have an obscenely rearward axle path, you only need a standard length chain (some high pivot bikes require two chains).
The new GT Force is an absolute brute of a bike that yearns for the hardest and fastest descents you dare take it down. It excels on the chunkiest of terrain, where the high pivot suspension design and slacked-out geometry allow it to carry serious momentum, while the high front end ensures you feel secure and planted at warp speeds.
The hefty weight and aggressive rubber means this isn’t a bike for everyday trail rides. It climbs comfortably, and it’s surprisingly adept on technical features, but it requires a lot of energy from your legs in the process. This isn’t the bike we’d be reaching for to tackle a 40km alpine epic with 2,000m of climbing.
And while value for money is decent on the GT Force Carbon Pro we’ve been testing, it hasn’t been without its flaws. The wheels are cheap, the dropper post could be a lot better, and the cable routing is problematic. It’s also important to take your time to setup the suspension properly, as our test bike felt totally out of whack to begin with.
That doesn’t stop the Force from being a very fast and confidence-inspiring enduro bike though. The brakes are powerful, the fork lends a load of confidence up front, and the tyre combo is excellent. The suspension generates loads of grip and stability when you’re straight-lining through a gnarly rock garden or ripping through blown-out corners, and since the main pivot isn’t crazy high, weight distribution feels natural and predictable. We also love the adjustable dropouts, which allows riders to fine-tune the rear centre length for their riding style and terrain.
It may not be the all-rounder that its predecessors once were, but for gravity-focussed riders and competitive enduro types who value technical high-speed descending above all else, there’s very little that will get in the way of the GT Force.