The updated GT Force was introduced in 2018, where we saw the brand ditch its I-Drive platform, a unique but complicated system, in favour of a ‘Horst link’ and a return to the LTS badge – a symbol that still holds a special status in mountain biking (for those who remember it).
The Force was only available with 27.5in wheels then, but with the release of the Force 29, GT has brought a big wheeled sibling into its enduro stable.
The layout of the bike is the same as the Force, but the geometry and suspension kinematics have been revised for the bigger wheels.
The Force has seen great success in the hands of GT Factory Racing riders Martin Maes and Noga Korem on the EWS stage, with Maes riding this new 29in-wheeled version in the enduro Trophy of Nations.
It’s great to see GT, a brand with such a strong racing heritage, competing back at the top of the sport, but does this make for a bike that’s usable by mere mortals?
GT Force 29 frame details
GT has taken the route of robust reliability with the Force 29 frame, making both the front and rear triangles from aluminium on all bikes in the range with 150mm of travel and Boost hub spacing. It comes in four sizes, from small to extra-large, and looking at the geometry charts the Force 29 should accommodate most rider heights.
The 29er Force shares the same basic layout as the 650b bike, but the suspension kinematics and geometry have been fettled to accommodate the bigger wheels. Anti-squat has been increased, as has the leverage rate.
A flip-chip can be used to alter the Force 29’s geometry. In the ‘low’ setting, it has a 64.6-degree head angle and 76.5-degree seat angle, with a bottom bracket (BB) drop of 27mm (the BB height stands at 349mm).
Reach values jump up in 25mm steps, from 420mm on the small to 495mm on the XL. In the ‘high’ position, the head and seat angles are steepened by 0.6 degrees and the BB is raised by 7mm, adding 6mm to the reach.
GT hasn’t taken the plunge to offer internal cable routing, but while it might lack the sophistication of some expensive carbon frames, it does make maintenance a shed load easier – and as nice as internal cable routing looks, it never made us faster riders.
The bike comes with a threaded BSA 73mm bottom bracket shell and ISCG05 mounts, a tapered head tube from 1 1/2in to 1 1/8in, and plenty of tyre clearance – everything you’d expect from a modern enduro bike. There’s also space to fit a bottle cage, which while it’s a small detail, always receives bonus points.
The rocker link bolts to the frame using a LockR pivot, which uses an oversized axle and expanding collets at each end. The principle is, when tightened, the collets expand and lock inside the rocker, providing a torsionally stiffer link between the rear stays and main frame.
The Force 29 also uses a 185 x 55mm metric shock with a Trunnion mount, which helps lower friction to reduce breakaway force. The chainstay protector doesn’t offer the most coverage, but it should keep the worst of any chainslap at bay.
GT Force 29 Expert suspension
GT has tried to keep the ride feel and performance of the Force 29 similar to the Force, but a few small changes were needed.
“Due to the bigger wheels and increase in rotational mass and inertia, the anti-squat was increased to maintain the same pedalling behaviour,” Luis Arraiz told me, one of the designers of the GT Force.
Even with the increased anti-squat, the Force 29 still has an anti-squat value below 100 per cent across the entire cassette range. While this is relatively low, which means the bike will bob when pedalling, GT has opted for this to help with climbing traction and to minimise pedal kickback, which should make the suspension feel supple.
The Force 29 leverage rate is progressive through the whole travel, and GT has increased the progression by 1.2 per cent over the Force. I was told this was to better handle bike park duties and to offer more compatibility with coil shocks.
The Force 29 comes with a useful ‘recommended sag’ sticker next to the shock. The recommended percentages range from 23 to 28 per cent, which are slightly lower than some recommendations, but as the Force 29 has a progressive linkage ratio, the sag percentage at the shock will be lower than the true sag at the rear wheel.
The Force 29’s anti-rise (how much the bike ‘sinks’ down from rear braking forces) has been kept the same as the Force at 40 per cent at the sag point. That is relatively low, meaning that the Force 29 doesn’t use up its travel under hard braking too readily. GT says this allows the suspension to remain supple when dropping the anchors because the initial part of the travel is the softest.
GT Force 29 Expert specifications
Considering that GT is a shopfloor rather than direct-sales brand, you get some decent branded parts for your money, with only the seatpost, stem and grips branded GT, although there are compromises.
Fox takes care of the suspension with a Performance-level 36 Float fork with its GRIP damper, which is a great fork, and the Fox Float DPX2 shock on the rear is no slouch
The SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain gives you plenty of gear range, but instead of going with SRAM brakes to match the gears, the Force 29 Expert uses TRP’s G-Spec Trail brakes with big 203mm and 180mm rotors front and rear.
What is impressive is that the Force 29 Expert comes with Stans Flow S1 wheels. While not the brand’s top-end wheelset, it is a great addition to a bike at this price point. Even the bar and saddle are branded components, from Spank and Fabric respectively.
Another point GT has got spot on is the tyres. Tubeless ready right from the off, the mix of Maxxis Minion DHF and DHRII using a 3C compound and EXO+ casing is a brilliant spec choice from GT. It sometimes seems that tyres can be overlooked by other brands to help keep the price and weight down.
The dropper post is a sticking point because I feel the 120mm drop on the medium is too short. The size small comes with the same 120mm drop, whereas the large and extra-large sizes get 150mm.
GT Force 29 Expert geometry (Low setting)
- Sizes (*tested): S, M*, L, XL
- Seat angle: 76.6 degrees
- Head angle: 64.6 degrees
- Chainstay: 44.2cm / 17.4in
- Seat tube: 44cm / 17.32in
- Top tube: 59.4cm / 23.39in
- Head tube: 11cm / 4.33in
- Bottom bracket height: 34.9cm / 13.74in
- Bottom bracket drop: 2.7cm / 1.06in
- Wheelbase: 1,226mm / 48.27in
- Stack: 61.5cm / 24.21in
- Reach: 44.5cm / 17.52in
It’s no surprise the Force 29 has some modern geometry figures that should help you rip the descents and climb back up in comfort.
The 64.6-degree head angle isn’t revolutionary, but it’s pretty spot-on for a versatile 29in-wheeled enduro bike. What is a touch more contemporary is the steep 77-degree effective seat tube angle, which should sit you over the bottom bracket nicely for an efficient climbing position.
The reach values jump up in 25mm increments from 425mm on the size small to 500mm on the extra-large, which offers a good range in sensible steps.
What’s also good to see it that the seat tubes are a sensible length, neither too short or tall. Starting at 420mm and increasing to 480mm over the four sizes, this leaves plenty of space for a long dropper post.
The 442mm chainstay length should offer good stability for both climbing and descending, while still allowing the bike to be agile enough through tighter sections of trail.
Last but not least, the 349mm bottom bracket height should offer a ride that promotes good cornering characteristics, but without too much fear of constantly catching your pedals. (Note: these figures are for the flip chip’s ‘low’ setting. I don’t have the numbers for the ‘high’ setting, although I have heard the bottom bracket is 6mm higher).
GT Force 29 Expert ride impressions
I was fortunate enough to have the bike delivered to the office, so have been able to test the GT Force 29 Expert on tracks I know around south wales and southern England.
GT makes it clear that this bike is built to be thrown down rough and rowdy trails and ridden back to the top again, and the Force 29’s frame and suspension handle this approach well.
Its race-inspired geometry strikes a good balance between stability when speed picks up and the ability to negotiate tighter, slower sections of trail.
The rear suspension has good progression and takes big hits in its stride. It’s pretty supple at the beginning of the stroke, so I used the low-speed compression lever for extended pedalling.
The fork and shock complemented each other well, which gave the bike a balanced ride and meant I could get comfortable quickly.
The 150mm travel from the rear-end never felt under-gunned either when matched to the 170mm of travel of the fork. With the shock is in its open mode, the rear end is pretty active, but there’s a good amount of progression which helps keep the back-end from blowing through its travel.
This suppleness does mean the bike bobs when pedalling, and I quickly flicked between the shock’s medium and firm modes for any extended pedalling. It does offer traction and comfort when pedalling over rough ground, though.
On the trail I found the Fox Performance 36 fork and its 170mm of travel, controlled by the older GRIP damper, to be a great fork for a bike of this price. It provides enough performance for all but the fastest racers, where the newer GRIP 2 outshines it.
It kept its composer on bigger hits, while still offering a supple ride without wasting travel by diving under hard braking.
One of the biggest highlights of the Force 29 is the ride-/race-ready tyres (tubeless ready too), which mean you can get straight on the trail without having to worry about them holding you back.
The Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II combination are a reliable choice, and the newer EXO+ casing is good to see. It’s one upgrade you won’t urgently need to buy.
What holds the bike back a bit is the 125mm own-brand dropper, which I found I couldn’t get low enough out of the way when descending. I can’t complain about the operation or performance though, I just couldn’t drop it out the way as much as I wanted to. That’s an extra cost to think about, because I would replace it.
Geometry wise, GT has struck a great balance between stability and agility. I kept the bike in its low setting and the 442mm chainstays allowed the bike to be manoeuvrable but still keep the rear-end stable along off cambers, roots and fast trails.
The 64.6-degree head angle also means it never feels like you’re in danger of going over the bars – even when the trail gets steep. The weight distribution on the medium Force 29 (which changes in other sizes), between the 445mm reach and 442mm chainstays, means it’s easy to get your weight balanced, and allowed me to find plenty of grip.
The steep 77-degree effective seat tube does put you in a comfortable climbing position, which is good, because one of the only drawbacks of the Force 29 is its hefty weight. At 16.03kg in a size medium with no pedals it’s not going to claim any Strava climbing PBs.
The rest of the kit on the bike does a good job, and while it might not possess the flashiest kit out there, it lets you tackle anything with confidence.
The gears didn’t falter during my time on them, but it’s good to keep a check on the jockey wheels because I have found them to come loose.
The TRP brakes have a plastic feel at the lever, but in the dry, summer conditions, I couldn’t complain about their performance for the price, but they were disappointing in the wet.
GT Force 29 overall
This is perhaps where the Force 29 Expert really shines; for £2,799 / $3,700 you get a bike that will put a smile on your face as big as any ‘boutique’ bike can, and it will keep up with anything double its price too.
If you’re a weight-weenie or top-flight racer, then sure, this bike has its drawbacks, but if you’re looking for something with great performance that’s got the essentials dialled (geometry, suspension), and much more, then you can’t go far wrong. Plus, it makes a great platform from which to upgrade.
A well-priced enduro bike that has the essentials dialled if weight isn’t your number one priority.
GT Force 29 range and pricing at a glance
GT Force 29 PRO
- £3,699 / $4,700 / €4,999
GT Force 29 EXPERT
- £2,799 / $3,700 / €3,299
GT Force 29 ELITE
- £2,499 / $2,750 / €2,899
|Price||GBP £2799.00USD $3700.00|
|Weight||16.03kg (M) – Without pedals|
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Brakes||TRP G-Spec Trail S, 203/180mm rotors|
|Fork||Fox 36 Float Performance FIT GRIP, 170mm (6.69in) travel|
|Frame||Aluminium alloy, 150mm (5.9in) travel|
|Handlebar||Spank Oozy Trail 780, 780mm|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM NX Eagle|
|Rear shock||Fox Float DPX2 Performance|
|Saddle||Fabric Scoop Shallow|
|Seatpost||GT Dropkick, 125mm|
|Shifter||SRAM NX Eagle, 12spd|
|Tyres||Maxxis Minion DHF 29x2.5in (f) and Maxxis Minion DHR II 29x2.4in (r)|
|Wheels||Stan’s NoTubes Flow S1 wheels|