Video super bike: Dan Atherton’s GT Force LE

Downhill/four cross specialist turns to gravity enduro this season

Dan Atherton’s GT gives him a new hope in the gravity enduro field. Given his love of downhill racing and appreciation of lighter-weight, shorter-travel bikes, it was only ever going to be a matter of time before he was attracted to the blooming gravity enduro scene. That’s the direction the former 4X and DH racer will be going in this year.

No escaping gravity

To start the season, Dan’s riding a stock GT Force LE, although he’ll be working on geometry refinements with GT designer Todd Seplavy when they identify areas to work on throughout the season. Dan is fully aware of just how important getting the geometry right is, and knows exactly what he likes and what direction he wants to take.

His downhill roots certainly shine through when it comes to frame angles. His preference for a slacker head angle means stability is increased on steeper terrain and a lower bottom bracket will help him maintain his cornering prowess thanks to the lower centre of gravity it creates.

This is certainly no bad thing when you consider that Dan’s current race program sees him racing on some of the wildest tracks out there, where a downhill bike wouldn’t exactly be out of its depth. The specifics may well get tweaked depending on the tracks, but both Dan and Todd will know what they’re aiming for as a general setup. It’s the nature of these events that make bike setup and design so important. It’s not all downhill after all!

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Video: Dan Atherton's GT Force LE

The pedalling prowess of the I-Drive system has already become apparent to Dan – he told us how quickly the bike picked up speed when he hits the power hard. The I-Drive system completely isolates the transmission from the working suspension, allowing each to do their own job – and letting Dan hammer the pedals like he would do on his 4X bike!

It’s not just the pedalling response that Dan likes – the Force holds speed well on rough ground. Especially well given its 150mm (5.9in) travel and sprightly feel on the trail, which is partly due to the rearward axle path that resists stalling on square-edged hits. Despite being sponsored by Fox suspension and having access to custom tuning, Dan is running completely stock fork and shock damping settings at the moment – he’s happy with the way the bike feels, which says a lot about the frame design. Of course, he may well have it custom-tuned to suit certain courses further down the line, but right now he’s tearing around on the bike completely stock.

Personal preferences

Dan’s bike setup says a lot about the way he rides. He likes his tyres set up rock hard (up to 45psi), preferring an edge he can really cut into turns, and a tyre that doesn’t squirm and deform. Dan runs his suspension very firm too – preferring to skip over things rather than get bogged down on repeated hits. When you watch him on the trail it makes total sense. He’s not heavy on the bike, but puts it where he wants and pops over stuff that might slow him down. And he looks calm and calculated doing it – he belongs on this type of bike.

Transmission-wise, Dan is running a Shimano XTR drivetrain with a single chainring up front – 34-tooth for most terrain, with an 11-34 block on the back – which also hints at Dan’s riding style and fitness. Most riders using a 1x10 setup would take advantage of the 36-tooth sprocket that Shimano offer.

It’s well known that Dan is phenomenally fit, but when both Rachel and Gee Atherton tell us separately what good shape Dan is in at the moment, it brings a smile to our faces. He’s going to kill it this year on a great-looking bike that we think is made even better by the fact that it will continue to evolve as he does… 

Key features

1 Clutch: Combined with the e*thirteen chainguide, the clutch mechanism on the XTR Shadow Plus mech keeps Dan’s chain tight and tensioned at all times – which means even less chance of the gears skipping, and a quieter bike.

2 I-Drive: The I-drive platform suits Dan’s pedalling prowess perfectly, making sure that all the power he’s generating goes straight into the transmission with no energy-sapping bob.

3 Gear choice: Using a 34-tooth chainring as stock, Dan will have other options for different courses – up to a 38-tooth. An e*thirteen LG1+ chainguide keeps the chain firmly in places and the Taco bash guard ensures his chainring doesn’t get damaged.

4 Atherton Pro kit: Pro worked with the Athertons in making their bars, stems and seatposts. Dan likes the low-rise bar, at full 745mm width, and the 50mm stem. For some races Dan will use the Fox dropper post, and for others he’ll use the Pro.

5 Tyres: Dan likes the tubeless casing, but prefers to run with inner tubes for quicker tyre changes. His main tyre choice is the Rubber Queen, in 2.4 up front, and 2.2 out back – at a firm 45psi! When courses demand it, he’ll be using downhill tyres or cut spikes.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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