I’m a little confused. All these bike labels—enduro, all-mountain, trail, freeride—have me in a spin. Never before has buying a bike been so confusing, with so many models intended for so many different purposes. With all these categories bouncing around my noggin I set about riding the latest GT Force 1.0. GT implies the Force is an all-mountain rig; due to the travel and weight, that’s the category in which it’s been placed in their literature. This is the highest-spec’d aluminium model but it also has some carbon brethren, and some first cousins in the Sanction and Distortion, aimed at those somewhat more gravity orientated. The Force 1.0 frame features a tapered head tube, ISCG tabs and 150mm of Independent Drivetrain travel, damped by a Fox RP2 Boost Valve shock. There are standard 135mm QR dropouts in the rear. The spec includes a wellrespected 150mm Fox 32 fork, new XT 10 speed drivetrain, plus Formula RX brakes and RockShox’ awesome Reverb seatpost. The Easton XC wheels, 90mm stem and own-brand 700mm wide flat handlebar give the bike more of a trail/marathon flavour than inviting some true aggressive riding. That said, after over a month of hard riding, a broken chain (KMC) was my only on-trail complaint. When riding the Force you’re reminded why GT has continued to push the Independent Drivetrain frame design. You certainly get the impression the suspension is active during every discipline. I had tonnes of grip on the climbs and never felt any negative pedal feedback in the rough stuff. I did have to spend a little longer setting it up to reach full travel, resulting in running more sag than I normally would. However, this never hindered its trail eagerness but made a big difference in its descending capability. The ride quality feels very much like I’m riding on rather than in the bike. With a relatively steep 69º head angle, I felt that I was riding over the fork more than I would on other six inch travel bikes. The steeper head angle with the longer stem and flat bars gives a more aggressive riding position, which is certainly welcomed when climbing and in tight twisting singletrack. A 34.7cm high bottom bracket allows you to pedal aggressively through rocky or rooted sections with less concern for pedal strikes, giving the opportunity for an extra couple of pedal strokes over your mates. This does however contribute to a higher centre of gravity which gives a slight pendulous feeling in steeper, more technical sections. If you haven’t guessed, this bike really sings in flowy, pedally, undulating singletrack with pinch climbs and sharp aggressive turns where you really want to get over the front and carve. Unsurprisingly, the Force’s achilles heel is fast, rough, technical descents where the steeper head angle becomes twitchy and less forgiving. I had a couple of brown-pants moments until I discovered that on some trails, line choice was more mandatory than optional. I’d previously had an impression of GTs being quite large in their sizing, but at 177cm, I found the medium about right in its stock setup. If I was buying one I’d probably head for a large and run a shorter stem (and slightly wider bars) so I can benefit from the carvability of the head angle without having too much of my weight over the front on trickier tracks. When it comes down to it I really see the Force as a long travel trail bike. It’s well made and spec’d, can be easily serviced and handle a lot of abuse. However this is where category confusion starts to set in. If you want a bike that can handle all types of riding, it’s certainly an option, but more technical, gravity orientated riding is not one of its true strengths. If that’s where your heart lies, the Distortion or Sanction may be better options. For me, it’s a little too steep and feels a little too high to be a realistic all-mountain contender, but is right at home as an all day, hard hitting trail bike. MARK DANGERFIELD
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