GT Force Carbon Pro - first ride review£3,699.00

Carbon-framed six-incher makes a big impression

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GT offers two versions of its six-inch travel platform: the freeride-orientated Sanction and the cross-country-styled Force.

Adamant that snappy-handling cross-country geometry and six inches of travel can live together harmoniously, GT has further committed to the Force by producing a carbon fibre-framed version. Could this mean GT has the ultimate lightweight performance machine?

Ride & handling: tight, stiff & sharp despite long travel

The stiffness of the rear end is evident. Put the hammer down and you can feel power transfer to the back wheel. In fact, the chassis and rear end felt so stiff that lunging at climbs with ProPedal switched on caused the rear wheel to skip out.

Smooth cadence is the key to finding the best traction on the loose stuff, but stand up and stomp when the trail starts flowing again and the Force Pro proves it’s no six-inch slouch, leaping forward with unbridled enthusiasm.

Handling is precise, and the Force Pro feels most at home along swoopy, ribbon-like trails where you can poke the front end around bends and accelerate out of corners, handling like a well balanced knife in the hands of a master chef.

GT’s ID design is particularly effective on sustained seated climbs, where it all but does away with pedal-induced bob, even with the ProPedal platform turned off.

The bike certainly feels light while powering the middle ring on short uphills, letting you appreciate the weight advantage your hard-earned cash has bought you. Stand up and you’ll experience a bit more pedal bob, although it’s less obtrusive than on some suspension designs.

While the top tube length is not as stretched as a full cross-country-orientated machine, the longer stem and steeper frame angles that you’d commonly find on a six-incher help keep the front wheel planted and stop it wandering about the trail.

Drop the TALAS fork to its 110mm setting, slip the chain onto the 34-tooth sprocket and sit back and spin, and you’ll forget you’re climbing a six-inch rig.

The Ritchey bars are wide enough to feel confident on tight switchbacks and rooty descents, but their low (20mm) rise combined with the low stack height of the internal headset doesn’t encourage you to let go on fast, loose descents.

Even with the fork wound out to its full 150mm travel, the Pro’s ride still feels weighted over the front wheel. It’s a good position if you come from a cross-country background and have a tyre up front you can trust, but it probably suits the committing rider rather than the hesitant. Then again, a hesitant rider isn’t going to fork out £3699.

While there is little pedal feedback from rocks, heavy braking renders the rear suspension susceptible to brake jack, giving you the impression that you’ve lost a couple of inches of travel along the way, and making the ride harsher than you’d hope for having half a foot of travel under your cleats.

Frame: organically-shaped carbony goodness

The £3699 Pro uses the aluminium Force frame as a blueprint, but adds the flair associated with carbon moulding. The end result is a smorgasbord of bends and bulges that give the bike an almost organic look, with multi-shaped tubes flowing effortlessly together.

Achievements in aesthetics have been matched in weight reduction, and the carbon chassis shaves a whopping 1.2lb from the weight of the 2008 aluminium frame, making a complete bike a respectable 26.01lb.

The creative possibilities of carbon are evident at the front. The top and down tubes appear pinched to add torsional rigidity where they blend seamlessly into a chunky, slightly convex-bulged head tube.

The rear triangle is exclusively carbon, using square-sectioned chainstays that offer plenty of tyre clearance, and scythe-shaped seatstays that sweep back to complete the swingarm. In fact, the only bits of non-carbon you’ll find on the whole frame are the replaceable dropouts and the shock-mounting hardware.

Cable routing runs inside the down tube, entering and leaving by neat, nipple-like ports, while the seatstay bridge sports an easy-to-reach barrel adjuster for the top pull front mech.

Equipment: XTR anchors hammertime spec

With looks this good, it’s no surprise that GT opted for the grey-black appearance of the Shimano’s flagship XTR drivetrain to complement the Force Pro. Grey cranks, silky-smooth shifting courtesy of the ‘multi-release’ XTR shifters and a carbon-caged Shadow rear mech keep the Force Pro looking as sharp as it functions.

However, the XTR brake levers don’t have the bite-point adjuster of the new Shimano XTs.

The remainder of the bike’s componentry leans more heavily on the ‘hammer-it’ side of the strength/weight balance. Mavic’s Crossmax ST wheels are not as light as its SLRs, but you’ll be hard-pushed to do them damage in a week of Lake District Sundays, while the heavy-duty Kenda Nevegal tyres are nudging downhill territory in looks.

A Fox RP23 rear shock and 32 TALAS fork control are nicely controlled. To help steer you through whatever six inches of travel get you into, GT has fitted the stiffer 15mm through-axle TALAS (although our test bike sported the 9mm drop-out version).

Finishing kit includes a Thomson Elite seat post and stem, Ritchey carbon low-rise bars, Fizik Gobi XM saddle and Crank Brothers Candy pedals.

Verdict: fills its own niche

It seems a bold move by GT to stick loyally to a six-inch travel design that has such acute handling characteristics, when the world around you is slackening off angles. Certainly the steep-angled Force isn’t for everyone; we’re sure that many riders gravitating towards the six-inch travel platform would be more comfortable on the Sanction instead.

However, by introducing the carbon Force Pro, GT has found a niche position for a snappy-handling, lightweight six-inch marathon machine. If you’re coming at the big bouncer market from a cross-country background and already know how to get the best performance out of a bike, then the Force Pro could be for you.

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