The Force has been redesigned for 2014 based on a heap of input from GT’s team riders – including Dan Atherton – and brought on to 650b wheels. The ‘X’ in the name of this UK-only model means it’s set up for harder riding, so we took it straight out for a hammering.
Frame and equipment: more utility than luxury
The new Force frame is made up of a carbon monocoque front triangle, carbon seat- and chainstays, and a forged alloy linkage for GT’s Independent Drivetrain suspension setup, which delivers 150mm (5.9in) of travel. The tapered head tube and 142x12mm rear axle ensure things remain nice and stiff.
GT has clearly spent a large lump of the budget on the burly carbon frame
It’s clear that a large chunk of that £3,499 price tag has been spent on the frame, and not necessarily on the kit hung from it. While the Float X shock out back is in keeping with what you’d expect for this sort of cash, it’s Fox’s cheaper open bath (rather than FIT cartridge) damped 34 fork that’s on suspension duty up front.
WTB rims laced to All-Terra hubs make for a bombproof, if a little weighty, wheelset. The double-and-bash Race Face Evolve cranks are stiff and dependable, but do add more unwanted weight. The full Shimano SLX transmission is built to last and does the job well. We had difficulty setting up the KS LEV Integra dropper post because the cable kept detaching – a problem KS has now fixed with a revised mechanism, so it shouldn’t be an issue on production bikes. Once dialled in, it worked fine.
Ride and handling: confidence at speed
Luckily the Force X’s 15kg (33.1lb) heft isn’t too noticeable on the trail, and even in the granny ring, the rear suspension feels more taut under power than previous incarnations of GT’s i-Drive system, unless you’re stomping the pedals at low speeds in the lowest gear.
The 600mm top tube on our medium bike offered plenty of space to move around in, giving plenty of confidence on fast sections of trail. The relatively steep 67.5-degree head angle coupled with the poorly damped fork made things feel nervous occasionally though. Adding more than the recommended pressure to the fork’s air spring to prevent it blowing through its travel and leaving it in its ‘trail’ setting full-time did help things, and we learned to live with it.
The Force X is mostly a pleasure at high speed, though its relatively steep angles and so-so fork make for occasional nerves
The Float X shock matched with the high pivot location translates to a confidence-inspiring ride at speed. Square edged compressions are handled well, without any rear end choking. Set with 30 per cent sag, we did find the rear suspension slightly too linear in the ‘descend’ setting, so we ended up compromising by running the shock in the lightest ‘trail’ setting all of the time.
Even with that linear feel, the Force still climbed like a goat, to the point where the double-ring crankset left us a little confused – given that the Force X is aimed towards enduro racers and harder riders, we think it’d be better off with a single ring and chain guide.