The thoroughly redesigned new GT Force Carbon Pro LE is the brand's new 29er enduro race bike with a carbon front end and alloy rear.
The brand new GT Force Carbon Pro LE is a ground-up redesign with high-ish pivot idler LTS suspension delivering 160mm travel. With RockShox Ultimate level suspension giving maximum control and combined with a 170mm Zeb fork with a SuperDeluxe shock. Part of a three model Force Carbon range with prices starting at £3,600 for the Force Carbon Elite.
We expected a wave of new idler suspension designs to hit us for MY2022, the latest of which to wash up on our shoreline is the 2022 GT Force Carbon. Not that you needed an early warning system to see this one coming as Wyn Masters has chosen it as his best mountain bike option for ripping around on one for months.
Designed around 29in wheels, the GT Force is fully intended to be one of the very best enduro mountain bikes. out there. Leading the charge on the Carbon Pro LE is a 170mm travel RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork, the burly fork matched to a RockShox SuperDeluxe Ultimate shock where the new high pivot LTS suspension layout boasts 160mm travel. And that’s vertical rear wheel travel, so the number hasn’t been massaged by any sort of hocus pocus.
Being a four-bar suspension design the specific axle path on the Force isn’t as obvious as on a single pivot. But it’s clear from the layout that it’s not 100% rearward. In fact, it’s much closer to what Trek has done with the latest Session DH bike than, say, the Forbidden Dreadnought. Does that make it a mid-pivot design? Yes, that’s probably a better way to describe it, but it remains to be seen what nomenclature is widely adopted.
Whatever we end up calling it, one of the key advantages of using a 4-bar design like LTS, or the ABP system on the Trek, is that it allows the suspension engineer to reduce the associated level of anti-rise. Less anti-rise simply means the rear suspension will compress less under braking, so it won’t stiffen as much. This in turn helps maintain better traction under braking.
If we take a closer look at the actual axle path on the Force, it’s rearward for the first 90mm of travel, then comes forward slightly for the remaining 70mm. At no point does the axle go forward of the start point, and that’s really what separates it from a more traditional four-bar without an idler. At sag, the chainstay length grows by less than 10mm and even at its most rearward point it’s only around 12mm more rearward than the start point. Now compare that to equivalent size Forbidden Dreadnought, which starts with a 448mm chainstay, grows to 463mm at sag and at bottom out reaches 478mm. Very different approaches.
GT also offers 10mm of chainstay length adjustment, so you have the option to go as short as 435mm or as long as 445mm. I measured the chain stay length in the long setting at 444mm, so pretty much identical to claimed. Not only does this feature give the rider the ability to fine tune the weight distribution of the bike, it allows GT to offer size specific chainstay lengths, where sizes S and M ship in the 435mm setting, L and XL in 445mm setting. It also changes the travel slightly; 161mm in the short setting, 165mm in the long position. GT also uses a press in headset which makes it easy to fit an angleset if you want to tweak the head angle. Not that many riders will want to go slacker than 63.1º, but some may want to steepen it up. Which shows just how far we’ve come in terms of geometry.
And while I’m comparing the Force to the Dreadnought, the GT weighs 15.95kg while the Forbidden is 280g lighter at 15.68kg. Note the Dreadnought has a Double Down casing rear tyre, not EXO+ like on the GT, so the true difference in weight is going to be closer to 0.5kg or 1.1lb for anyone working in freedom units. The GT is also £1,000 cheaper than the Forbidden though, so there’s definitely some scope to put it on a diet with lighter weight components.
Is GT just the latest brand to add to the high-pivot hype? Maybe, but no one can accuse it of jumping on the bandwagon. I still remember riding the GT IT1 (internal transmission) gearbox bike with a high pivot and idler at Sea Otter back in 1998. Boy that dates me! Also the new Force isn’t the first idler rodeo for Luis Arraiz, the current head of suspension development at GT. He’s the man behind the suspension on the current GT Fury DH and if you remember the K-9 DH001S, it was a twin-link suspension design with an idler design that he designed, developed and manufactured. So while the latest GT Force Carbon Pro LE is a brand new design, it’s been in the making for well over two decades.
How it rides
GT has hit upon the Goldilocks effect with the sizing on the new Force. With a 472mm reach on the size L, it’s not too long, not too short… but just right for anyone around 5ft 11in tall. And thanks to the relatively long head tube and 30mm rise bar, you don’t need to run a stack of spacers under the stem, which means you get the full measure of reach.
Make no mistake though, the Force is a big bike. Where the rubber meets the road it has a 1,284mm wheelbase, which is 1mm longer than the size L Forbidden Dreadnought that I rode last month. The weight distribution is very different to the Dreadnought though. With a 444mm chainstay length (long setting) and a less rearward axle path the GT has a much less forward weight bias and a surprisingly normal feel to it. Popping the front end up doesn’t require anything like as much effort, but it still feels easy to keep the contact patch of the front tyre firmly planted on flatter terrain. So even if the Force weren’t an idler design, it’s clear that GT has nailed the fundamentals.
I received the new GT Force Carbon Pro LE a couple of days before the launch, so I’ve only had two rides on it. And don’t be fooled by the golden light in the photos. Yes we managed to swerve the torrential rain, but I wasn’t so lucky during my shake down rides. Two things that really struck about the new Force while slithering through steep, sloopy, rooty turns are that the bike isn’t overly stiff, a common complaint with the old model, and that it felt very well balanced. Two traits that make it feel like a safe place to be in treacherous conditions. The rear suspension is also very stable, but push into it and it’s got plenty of pop in reserve, so the bike masks its weight well. There’s also a good range for adjustment on the RockShox SuperDeluxe Ultimate shock, so lighter riders can be easily accommodated.
And while climbing isn’t really the focus for any enduro bike, no one wants to ride around on a bike that pedals like shit and here the Force delivers too. Climbing traction is impressive, especially given how little pedal induced bob there is and I think that improved traction is a direct result of the reduced pedal kickback associated with the idler design. No doubt the steep 77.8º effective seat tube angle helps with climbing performance, but I get the feeling that it is actually at lower speeds where the idler design really pays dividends.
The new GT Force Carbon Pro LE isn’t such a departure for the norm, even if it’s a massive improvement over the previous version. With the mid-pivot idler design you get the benefits of a slightly rearward axle path and reduced pedal kickback, but the bike is not so radically different that you need to adapt your riding style to suit. More importantly, GT seems to have nailed the fundamentals. The sizing and geometry on the Force are spot on and the shock tune offers a genuinely usable range of adjustment. It’s competitively priced too and it looks bloody cool. Which, let’s face it, is the most important thing.