GT FORCE CARBON PRO LE REVIEW
Review by Drew Rohde
Photos by xxx
The new high pivot GT Force takes a leaf out of the Fury downhill bike’s book, which has been on the high-pivot train since 2018. GT looked to add further downhill capabilities to their Force enduro bike by adopting the same LTS high-pivot four bar suspension design combined with some suitably aggressive enduro-ready geometry. The new GT Force looks to be such an improvement over their outgoing model, but how does it stack up in the world of big hitting enduro mountain bikes? We’ve been putting our GT Force Carbon Pro LE to work over the last 6 months, and it’s time to share our thoughts.
When setting about designing the newest iteration of the Force, GT saw the benefits of the high-pivot movement for their big hitting enduro machine, and so they tweaked the LTS high pivot Horst Link suspension platform from their Fury downhill rig to suit the rigors of enduro riding and racing. GT gives the force 160mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 170mm fork to suspend a pair of 29” wheels. Our Force Carbon Pro also features a carbon frame and a pretty competent spec for the price.
• 160mm High Pivot LTS Suspension
• HTA 63.5
• STA 78 (effective)
• REACH 480 (Large)
• 29” Wheels F/R
Price: $3,800/ £3,650/ €3,999 – $6,300/ £5,500/ €6,099 (Pro LE)
The LTS Horst Link suspension platform isn’t new to GT, first appearing in their range way back in 1995, but the modern-day version is quite different to its original namesake. Nowadays, the LTS systems’ main pivot has shifted upwards to sit above the chainring, with an idler in place to control the pedaling characteristics and minimize the effects of chain growth that accompanies the primarily rearward axle path of high pivot bikes. This axle path elongates the rear end by a maximum of 10mm, but crucially isn’t fully rearward, arcing forwards for the last 70mm of travel to avoid some of the detrimental characteristics that a fully rearward movement can create.
The pedaling support is provided by around 90%-105% anti-squat at SAG in the climbing gears. This number falls off moving down the cassette to improve bump absorption and allow for better pedal mashing in rough terrain. Anti-rise has been bumped up to roughly 65% at sag and drops down to 50% at bottom out, giving more geometry preservation under braking under normal riding, and better suspension recovery when on the brakes through bigger compressions. The overall leverage rate progression sits at roughly 16% which should work best with air sprung shocks, and longer stroke lengths have been used to reduce the leverage ratio throughout the travel and reduce stress on the shock damper.
GT uses internal tube-in-tube cable routing however we think there’s a bit of an oversight not having the cable port openings at the frame filled with a guide to prevent debris/water ingress and prevent the housing from ratting in the frame hole’s opening. Also featured is GT’s Ruckus Management integrated chain guide and custom chainstay and seatstay protectors; and a designated storage area to strap any essential spares and tools into.
There’s an adjustable chip at the dropout, which can be flipped quickly to alter the rear end length and tailor the weight balance and wheelbase to the terrain being ridden, but it means the derailleur hanger isn’t universal, which is certainly a bummer as we’re seeing more SRAM UDH bits being standard spec. Other features include a threaded 73mm BB; Boost148 axle spacing; ISCG-05 mounts to add a bash guard, and space for a large water bottle within the front triangle.
GT added further aggression to the geometry on the Force Carbon to ensure there was no lack of stability for some hard charging. A longer reach has been applied across all sizes, with a range of 430mm to 515mm for the small-XL size range, and our size large coming in at 480mm. This is paired with a high 627mm-654mm stack to give a commanding position on the descents, and seat tubes from 380mm-500mm. Across the size range is a 63.5° head angle, 78° seat tube angle, and 30mm of BB drop. The chainstay length is constant across the size range, though features 10mm of adjustment between 435mm and 445mm, letting each ride tune in their preference. The wheelbase on our large totals a stretched 1,280mm in the longer setting, ensuring there’s no lack of confidence at speed.
GT’s Force Carbon is available in three different build specs, ranging in price from $3,800/ £3,650/ €3,999 for the entry level Elite spec, to the $6,300/ £5,500/ €6,099 Pro LE build tested. The GT Force is also available as a $3,300 frameset spec’d with a Fox Float X2, if you want to build it your own way. All three complete builds come equipped with RockShox suspension front and rear, a SRAM Eagle 12pd drivetrain and burly 4-pot brakes with large rotors. Our GT Force Pro LE specs a RockShox Zeb Ultimate and Super Deluxe Ultimate suspension combo, a SRAM GX/X01 Eagle mechanical drivetrain with Descendant alloy crank, and a pair of SRAM’s Code RSC brakes with 220/200mm rotors. WTB’s KOM i30 rims are laced to a Formula front and SRAM MTH 746 rear hub and wrapped in a Maxxis Assegai/DHR2 EXO+ tire combination. There’s a TransX dropper in 200mm on our Large, and a GT alloy cockpit shod with Fabric grips and saddle.
Let’s start out with some spec and design gripes before moving into the ride performance on the Force. The cable routing holes are oversized to allow for the housing to slide in, however there’s no grommet or other tensioning plug to prevent the cables from bouncing around and rattling, which we think is a bit of an oversight. We also found the X routing behind the seat tube to be a bit interesting and could be a wear-point for those in mucky conditions. We don’t love the feel of the dropper post lever actuation but it’s not quite enough to go beyond us bringing it up as something we wished was better. Also, worth noting is you’re the spoke tension on the WTB wheels as they can settle in quite a bit during those initial rides. We also taco’d a front wheel in a crash that we’re not 100% certain should have taken out an “enduro” wheel the way it did, but it could have just been a perfect storm.
On the trail we were pleased with the GT Force overall. It doesn’t scream MUST BUY, however it does a good job at what it’s intended to do, which is charge down trails at speed. It’s not intended to climb like an XC bike, and it certainly does not, but it’s capable of getting you back to the top if you’re willing to put in the work for a high pivot bike’s benefit. From a comfort perspective, the steep seat tube angle and 480mm reach on our size large were dialed and made for a comfortable seated position, however the perceived drag from the idler pulley and the noise are something to note for those who’ve not ridden a high pivot bike before. Also, the 35-pound weight, while still three pounds lighter than the Norco Range, is noticeable while trying to accelerate quickly or maintain speed on longer climbs.
Some of our first rides on the GT Force Pro Carbon were in the bike park, and so our downhill time aboard the bike was certainly plentiful. Overall, the bike felt pretty good out of the box, but we found ourselves tinkering with the suspension the more we started riding it. As speeds increased, we struggled trying to balance a harsh off-the-top feel with bottoming out too often. We eventually found a happy medium but left the test feeling that the GT Force has more of a racer-tune than a comfort tune. If you’re looking to go fast and deal with some chatter and stiffness, then you’ll get used to the feel the Force offers. If you want a soft and supple feel that’s a bit more comfortable, perhaps the Cannondale Jekyll would be a better high pivot option.
Once we got the suspension set up, we could focus on letting the GT Force show us what it liked best, and that was steep trails with some bigger, more spaced-out hits. This bike definitely likes going fast and will let you charge the trails with confidence. We love reaches in the 475mm region, and think the geometry gives the bike a long enough feel to be stable without feeling like a tranquilized racehorse on slower, tighter trails.
When it comes to getting the Force airborne, the suspension feels lively and lets the bike launch into orbit rather well. Its stability is also noted in the air and makes it a good option for those who want a stable and predictable wingman.
Like other high pivot bikes we’ve ridden, it’s worth noting that the lengthening rear end isn’t without its drawbacks. As with any design out there, the pros and cons will dictate which bike is best for you and your terrain, so we’d recommend taking that into account. For example, we have lots of slower speed, technical drops off of rocks with uneven terrain. We noticed on all our high pivot bikes that the front end would drop suddenly after taking off the lip as the rear wheel would enter a crack or hole in the rock. The front end would continue moving forward but the rear wheel would essentially stay in the crack as the wheelbase grew before releasing and moving upward in its arch. That momentary stall was enough to shift body weight forward and drop that front wheel. It made our slow, 5-6-foot drops go from casual, every day features to “Oh crap.” It’s not necessarily a deal breaker as your technique can go some ways to adjusting for it, but is one example of a negative trait that is worth examining.
The Wolf’s Last Word
When it comes to the GT Force Carbon Pro LE, there’s no doubt it’s a major improvement in GT’s line up and a bike we were stoked to hit the trails with. In our opinion though, the brand image and spec don’t quite have us thinking $6,300 is what we’d want to spend on this bike personally. When other, “cooler” brands are offering carbon bikes with similar (or better) specs for prices in the $5,500 range that ride pretty dang well, it’s hard to find a compelling reason to suggest this bike over those.
From a performance perspective, GT have delivered on their claims of making an enduro bike for big hitters and gravity hogs as the Force Carbon Pro charges hard and thoroughly enjoys steep and rowdy descents. It’s not the best climber due to its weight and high pivot suspension but isn’t afraid of a long climb if your legs aren’t. It’s on par with other high pivot enduro rigs in the climbing department and may be a bit more lively and playful than others when it comes to descending and bopping about the trail. It has a slightly stiffer platform and race-feel suspension tune that can be a bit tiring if you’re looking for plush and comfy but will also urge you to push harder and faster if you’re looking at racing the clock.
Price: $6,300/ £5,500/ €6,099 (Pro LE Tested)
GT FORCE CARBON PRO LE SPECIFICATIONS
Frame: Carbon Fiber | 160mm High-pivot LTS | Force Idler Guide
Fork: RockShox ZEB Ultimate, 170mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 220/200
Handlebar: GT Alloy Riser Bar, 780mm, 30mm Rise
Headset: FSA No.57
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport
Seatpost: Tranz X +Rad 31.6mm, Adjustable Height (S – 150mm, M – 170mm, L/XL – 200mm)
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle; 12s
Stem: GT Alloy
Wheelset: WTB KOM Trail i30 rims; Formula/Sram MTH 746 hubs; 110/148
Front Tire: Maxxis Assegai, 29 x 2.5″, 3C MaxxTerra, EXO+ Casing
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II, 29 x 2.4″, 3C MaxxTerra, EXO+ Casing
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Dub GXP Threaded
Cassette: SRAM XG 1275; 10-52T
Cranks: SRAM Descendant 7k, DUB, 32T
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12spd
A step in the right direction
Fast and fun
Stability at speed
Some spec/finish oversights
High pivot drawbacks
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