—160mm rear, 170mm front travel
—Designed around high-pivot four-bar suspension with an idler pulley
—The best riding Force in years…or ever?
—Versatile and comfortable
—Cockpit and dropper parts choices are a bit lacking, especially for the price tag
—Performance matches that of more premium competition, but the builds don’t
35.1 (size large)
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When we sat down to start talking about the new GT Force, we found ourselves using words we hadn’t used in years to describe GT’s long standing long-travel enduro bike: versatile, capable, fun.
Admittedly, we had some Force baggage, having ridden the previous version at a group test two years ago, and struggled to find any magic in its overly plush suspension and odd-feeling geometry, despite a frame decked out with high-end parts and a design intention to be an all-out shredder.
But this time around, GT gave the Force the high-pivot treatment, nailed the geometry and everything finally clicked into place. While high-pivot is certainly the design du jour, GT’s historical context makes it feel less bandwagon-y than other brands. The way an idler pulley works harkens to GT’s i-Drive suspension system of yore, which was built around a concept that allowed the bottom bracket to follow the chainline as it grew, mimicking the rearward axle path and eliminating pedal or braking influences. Not too dissimilar to the concept of an idler pulley, as it turns out (and fewer parts required to skin a somewhat-similar cat).
GT’s high-pivot approach is also unique in that it’s incorporated with four-bar suspension; generally high-pivot is paired with single-link bikes.
It all adds up to a superb riding performance—with 160mm of travel, 29-inch wheels, a long wheelbase and long chainstays (1,240mm for a medium or 1,270 in size large, with the flip chip in the short setting and a 435mm chainstay), the Force is predictably stable on high-speed descents, but it also manages to maintains some snappiness in the corners. Those classic high-pivot benefits stand out, like the tendency to mach down the straightaways, and it’s a nice benefit that it doesn’t immediately turn into a loaded big-rig truck on any terrain that isn’t wide-open, fast and straight.
Where we didn’t assume it would be as predictable was climbing, but it became clear right away that the gushiness of past Forces was gone. The suspension felt surprisingly efficient on the uphill portion of our test track, which is largely smooth with a smattering of roots that require a bit more finesse, and some punchy steeps mixed in. The bike maintained its traction in the tech, refusing to get hung up on momentum-sapping roots. This is a 35-pound enduro bike, so it’s no Ibis Exie on the ups, but it’s just pleasant. It never feels like you’re trying to wrangle a big bike up a mountain, as it begs you to just turn around and go down already, or that you’re losing a ton of efficiency along the way. It pedals smoothly and there’s rarely a need to ever plead for more support from the shock’s climb switch. A steep, 78-degree seat angle aids in this feeling, and encourages energy-saving seated climbs.
On the spectrum of high-pivot ride characteristics, the Force fell somewhere between the Norco Range and the Devinci Spartan. Not as unapologetically DH-focused as the Range, but not quite as controlled and supportive as the Spartan.
Overall, the performance of the new Force was one of the biggest surprises of the test—the high-pivot/idler-pulley execution is among the best in this growing category—we just wish GT had invested a bit more in the finish. We tested the highest-end version of the Force, and some of the parts choices fell short for a $6,300 bike.
The house-branded aluminum cockpit has that plucked-from-a-catalog look and feel, and a name-brand dropper post seems appropriate at this price level. Sure, these are parts that are easy to swap and customize to your liking, but it’s kind of a shame that GT came so far on the performance of the Force, then wasn’t able to give it the premium finish it deserves.
Entry Point: We rode the $6,300 Pro LE model, with a RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, SRAM X01 Eagle derailleur and GX shifters, Truvativ Descendent cranks and WTB KOM Trail i30 rims wrapped in Maxxis Assegai rubber front and Minion rear (both with EXO+ casing). You can get the same frame on the $3,800 Carbon Elite build, and the biggest sacrifice is probably the 11-50 cog versus the 11-52 that comes on the Pro LE build, due to the entry-level SX 12-speed drivetrain on this model. The Force isn’t a light bike, and you’ll want that extra granny-gear for the climbs. But the RockShox Yari fork and Super Deluxe Select shock are pretty decent suspension for the money. Here’s where it gets tricky. The $5,100 Carbon Pro model nets you the same suspension as the LE model, just the Select+ version instead of Ultimate, but it also uses an 11-50 cog with a GX derailleur and NX shifters, and largely the same spec otherwise as the Carbon Elite. The Pro does get you SRAM Code R brakes versus the TRP Slate T4s, but if you can’t spring for the top model, the best bet might actually bet to go with the $3,800 Elite model and invest any extra cash into upgrades, like a lighter wheelset.