On Review: GT Force Carbon Pro 27.5/650b

Back in the 1990s, GT and their triple triangle designs were the name in performance mountain bikes, but then the company seemed to go quiet for several years. That’s been changing dramatically recently, especially in 2012 and 2013 with GT signing the Athertons to their Factory Racing team and the release of a number of all-new, …

Back in the 1990s, GT and their triple triangle designs were the name in performance mountain bikes, but then the company seemed to go quiet for several years. That’s been changing dramatically recently, especially in 2012 and 2013 with GT signing the Athertons to their Factory Racing team and the release of a number of all-new, high-performance mountain bikes, including the Sensor, the Force, and the Fury.

GT Force Carbon Pro Specs

Frame: Suspension

Featuring 150mm of rear suspension (paired with a 150mm fork), both of the GT Force models currently available feature full-carbon frames–there’s not so much as a single alloy offering for this model… at least not yet.

The rear linkage is extremely low on the bike and is built right around the bottom bracket, making for an extremely low-and-stable center of gravity.

Dubbed by GT as an “Angle Optimized Suspension (AOS) Independent Drivetrain,” the idea is to offer the best pedaling efficiency and bump compliance possible. For more deets on the suspension, check out this video from GT:

While most suspension systems try to accomplish these same goals, GT, more than almost any other company, has really succeeded in getting the center of gravity (aka the rear shock, suspension linkage, and seat and chain stays) extremely low on the bike. As I mentioned in my Diamondback Sortie 3 29er review, “having most of the weight low and at the center of the bike [helps] it handle and ride like a much lighter bike. Many times people don’t consider weight distribution when comparing bikes but it is definitely important to think about.” And GT has put the bulk of the weight even lower than Diamondback did. Really, just look at the photos: the Force’s linkage can’t physically get lower, as it already incorporates the bottom bracket into it!

Frame: Design and Paint

While the suspension design is pretty unique, what really sets this frame apart in my mind is its sheer beauty. Essentially every high-end mountain bike company makes bikes that ride and perform really well… but not all of them make bikes that perform well and are pleasing to look at. With the curvy carbon lines of the Force’s frame, not only is it functional, but is extremely good looking too!

When you look at the frame up close, you’ll realize that there’s not a single straight line in it. All of the tubes are curved and shaped, molded to provide as much stiffness as possible or to provide clearance for a certain component… or both.

The front triangle is incredibly stiff, with added supports at the head tube and seat tube, but those supports are crafted to seem both artistic as well as functional. The seat tube, where the rear triangle pivot connects and the shock passes directly through it, is a beautiful, massive, sculpted hunk of gorgeous carbon. Move on down to the rear chain stays with their flair and low-lying posture, and this bike frame truly looks like the wings of the bird that are painted on it.

The paint scheme on the Force Pro isn’t just a slapped-on afterthought, either. Every color change and wing accent is incorporated into the folds and trusses of the frame. The paint scheme was designed to utilize the frame’s shape in every way possible, making the aesthetics seem as much a part of the bike as the functional design itself.

Yeah, GT could have settled for just making a bike that rides well… but instead they decided to make a fantastic-riding bike that is worthy of being hung on the wall as art.

Frame: Geometry

My size-medium test bike features a 455mm seat tube length, 599mm top tube length, a 763mm stand over height, a 114mm head tube length, 9mm bottom bracket drop, and a 348mm bottom bracket height. However, thanks to a very short (60mm) stock stem, the reach is still quite reasonable.

The head tube angle comes in at 67.2 degrees and the seat tube angle at 73.8 degrees, meaning this is a slack bike that is definitely most comfortable while descending.

A 443mm chain stay length in all models, 43mm fork rake in all models, and a 1162mm wheel base in the size-medium model all show that GT didn’t attempt to make the wheelbase short. In fact, in the video above, GT talks about lengthening the wheelbase which is a bit out of the norm. The resulting super-stable, long bike feel is one of the first things I noticed when I hopped on the Force.

Stay tuned for my final review for a detailed analysis of how this geometry affects the demeanor and performance of the Force.

Photo: Brinkley Messick

Component Spec

My stock, size-medium GT Force Carbon Pro weighs in at exactly 30 pounds. The component spec is definitely not designed with the lightest-weight components that money can buy, but since they are indeed expensive components, a premium has been consciously put on durability and performance over low weight.

The rear Fox Float CTD BV shock is paired with a burly Fox 34 Float 27.5 CTD FIT fork for full, supple Fox suspension.

The entire drivetrain is a 3×10 Shimano XT system with a Shadow Plus clutch-style rear derailleur. While I think that a clutch-style rear derailleur is absolutely necessary on a bike of this caliber at this point in time, the choice to go 3×10 is quite interesting. While a 2×10 or even an aggressive 1x system might seem more fitting, the 3×10 really helps to compensate for the weight and the burl of the bike by allowing the rider to spin up even the steepest of climbs.

The brakes, on the other hand, are Formula T1. This choice really confused me: the Formula brakes cost $349 per end, whereas Shimano XT brakes retail for $170 per end. Yes, Shimano XT brakes are literally less than half the price of the Formula brakes.

With such expensive brakes, I expected the Formulas to be absolutely superb. However, I’m only about 100 miles of riding into my review, and I have been completely underwhelmed with the Formula brakes. My test rig had been ridden before, and when I got the bike, I could tell that the brakes had significant air in the lines, and that the power wasn’t anything to brag about. I had them bled at my local shop, and then a couple days later, when I took the bike out for a ride, there was zero brake power. I took it back to the shop, got another bleed (for free), and right now they are feeling at least decent.

I’m interested to take them back out onto the trail to see how they perform (and if there’s more power available now), but I really wonder: why did GT spec Formula brakes when they could have rounded out their full XT kit with the bomber, time-proven, XT stoppers for over $350 less? Stay tuned to my final review for more information on these brakes, but so far, they’re the only complaint I have about this bike.

The entire rig rolls on e.thirteen TRS+ 650b wheels with a 21mm/26.4mm rim width and big 2.4″ Continental X-King tires. So far, I’ve been loving the tires, thanks to fantastic grip and reinforced sidewalls to guard against sidewall tears.

Rounding out the build kit are a RaceFace Turbine cockpit with 760mm-wide bars and 60mm-long stem, GT lock-on grips, a Fizik Gobi saddle, and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post.

Stay Tuned…

Photo: Brinkley Messick.

I’ve already spent a good bit of time riding the GT Force Carbon Pro, and without giving too much away, I can say the Force is designed to be uncompromisingly burly and aggressive. It doesn’t mess around with pretenses of light duty: this is an all mountain bike that’s more than prepared for the extreme end of the MTB spectrum!

For full ride impressions, stay tuned for my final review in a couple of months!

MSRP: $7,050

Many thanks to GT Bicycles for sending the GT Force Carbon Pro over for review.