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.