THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Due to a last minute delivery, we had all of two days to get any sort of riding in so our first impressions on the new Force Carbon are limited to one long day at Mt. Bachelor Bike Park. Whenever we get a new bike and I am going to be the first to ride it, I typically take it from the box straight to the trail with minimal setup. I’m sort of a ride it and learn it kinda guy. However, GT was kind enough to include a thorough and easy to use recommended suspension setup guide that includes different rider weights and the corresponding air pressure, compression and rebound settings for both the fork and shock. It also gave us a good starting point for suggested volume reducers. With the suspension dialed in to GT’s recommended starting point it was time to hit Mt. Bachelor for a day of laps and filming.
Although I usually prefer to run a shorter bike, I decided to start out with the Force in the long setting for the first lap of the day. The bike felt great out of the gate and GT’s suspension guide offers a near perfect set-up for the Zeb Ultimate and Super Deluxe Ultimate package. The Force ate up much of the rocky terrain with ease, no surprise there. In my limited trail time it seemed that the Force does not play around well in the long setting, it just wants to track around corners as best it can while supplying as much traction as possible. A similar sentiment can be said when hitting jumps in this setting, a good yank is required on some of the less than ideal lips, but the Force will take to the air nicely over when you’ve got a bit more of a lip to pop off.
Unfortunately during this warm up run, as we’ve probably all experienced, I was not riding as attentively as I should have been and ended up smoking a rock coming off of a paver jump resulting in a very dented WTB KOM rim that required some fixing before continuing for the day…rider error on my part.
While our riding buddy Alex fixed the rim, I decided to flip the axle chip to shorten the bike up a bit. The flip is a fairly simple process with only having to flip the non-drive chip, followed by removing the lock screw on the drive side chip and relocating it to the alternative mount and adjusting the brake caliper mounter for the short position. Back up we went and WOW! What a difference 10mm can make. I instantly appreciate the shorter rear end as it turned the bike into an absolute rocket ship on numerous sections of trail. It seemed to pick up tons of speed through hard pack corners while also being more playful and quicker to react. While navigating some slower, tighter corners on one of my favorite trails, Rattlesnake, I felt like I was riding at a notably faster pace than other bikes I’ve been on this year. Boosting jumps and blasting rock gardens were definite highlights of my day on the new GT Force. The way the high-pivot LTS platform is able to swallow impacts and seemingly increase rider speed from pumping G-outs, bumps and even rebounding off landings is quite impressive.
Although the suspension performance, outright speed and fun factor on this bike have me really excited for more, it’s not all perfect, at least not yet. I found that when braking in rock gardens or applying brakes through some of the whooped out corners, the Force felt like it stinkbugged a bit and shifted my body weight forward. This made it feel like the bike was decelerating very quickly and made for some slightly uncomfortable corners. While this could potentially be a lack of time and not having the fork 100% dialed in terms of compression, it felt more like the result of the rear end stiffening up and extending slightly. I look forward to more time on the bike and experimenting with low-speed compression settings on both the shock and fork while also working with GT’s team to get some tips from them.
Switching gears a bit, the new GT Force is a solid pedaler. Even though we were at a bike park there are still some segments of trail that require traversing and there is even a short climb up to the lift, the 4-bar LTS platform does very well. There is minimal pedal bob and it feels like there is almost no power loss from the legs to the wheels, maximizing efficiency. The X01 / GX Eagle is always a solid combo when it comes to the drivetrain, although a nasty crash at the end of the day did end up making this unit’s life quite short. You’ve heard of liquid courage? Well this bike gives Force Courage and as I kept my fingers off the brakes more and more, enjoying the speed and confidence as the bike gobbled up the terrain, I ended up running out of talent after a long day of pushing the envelope.
Overall GT has done a great job with the new Force Carbon. It’s been a while since we’ve been excited about a GT and this bike could definitely do a lot for the brand’s desirability among the hip-crowd. Beyond having that high-pivot look, it has the performance to boot. This bike hauls ass, is super compliant over the chatter, takes big hits well and will have you wanting to push harder. We may suggest GT put a warning label on this bike though…After getting a bit too comfortable and confident at speeds I probably shouldn’t have been riding at in the terribly dry and blown out conditions, my aching body quickly realized this bike can do a lot more than my skills can. We can’t wait to put this bike up against some others in the category and see how it stacks up when the clock is running.
To learn more about the new Force Carbon, visit GTbicycles.com