“2014 GT Bikes Review. What truly makes this bike different from the rest? Read below!”
GT’s timing could not have been better, with the Atherton’s double-double downhill victory coinciding with its 2014 product launch in Park City, Utah this weekend. The festivities took place at the Chateaux resort, where we were shown GT’s full lineup of its all new Fury DH bike at four price points – and two very promising 650B trailbikes. The vibe was that GT has re-committed to producing a range of bicycles that are worthy of the brand’s heritage – when the marquis was a proud symbol of all things good in our sport. If GT demonstrates that it has the staying power to carry this effort through the present decade, the heavy hitters that are leading the market today will have to give up a top spot on the hot seat.
Two New Trailbikes
Two years after the first prototypes were being tested in Germany, GT released its 130-millimeter-travel Sensor and 150-millimeter-travel Force at Park City. Both are built around 650B wheels and there are no plans to offer a 26-inch model in either the trail or all-mountain categories now, or in the future. The Force and Sensor are framed around two different chassis designs that, while they may share some common parts, are designed with different geometry, and cut distinctly different profiles.
Dan Atherton leads Hans Rey on a test session during the development of GT’s 2014 Force and Sensor. Both athletes were essential throughout the process, with Atherton pulling hard for the 150-millimeter-travel all-mountain Force and Rey giving the major input for the trail-oriented Sensor. Hans has a signature Sensor model in GT’s lineup.
The top offerings all feature high-modulous carbon construction, but GT also produced affordable aluminum versions to ensure that most of its core customers could pony up for a new Sensor or Force should the spirit move them. At the heart of the new bikes is a high-pivot rear suspension which is controlled by a simplified version of GT’s Independent Drive four-bar linkage called ‘Angle Optimized Suspension’ (AOS). GT backs up its new chassis with trail worthy components too. The short version is; great pedaling, low bottom bracket heights, slack head angles, extended top tube lengths and much lighter overall weights than anything GT has fielded in the history of its dual-suspension trailbike lineage.
The new Force is designated as an all-mountain bike that is more trail-oriented. GT was secretly testing and developing its 650B Force in Germany, where its design team, headed by Peter Denk, began with a list of performance demands and a blank computer screen. A number of aluminum test frames were built with adjustable suspension locations and in differing frame geometries to zero in on the right mixture of bomb-proof descending and XC-worthy climbing. Real-time testing by the likes of Dan Atherton and Hans Rey was backed up by electronic data acquisition in Germany and when the prototype Force was ready in principle, the final frame design was handed over to GT’s Jeremy Mikesell, who took the suspension hardpoints and frame numbers and crafted them into a sleek, high-modulous carbon frame. The result was a medium-travel ripper that feels low and slack – but won’t disappoint in the climbing and acceleration department.
GT’s 2014 Force Carbon Team. Complete geometry and final prices were not forthcoming at GT camp, but the most important numbers for the medium frame size are: head angle – 67.2 degrees, seat angle – NA, top tube length – 59.9 mm (23.6 inches), bottom bracket height – 347.9 mm (13.7 inches) and a wheelbase of 1162 mm (45.75 inches). The Force Carbon Team frame is reported to weigh 2.89 kg (6.36 pounds with shock) and the bike is said to weigh under 30 pounds.
New Suspension Platform
Force frames feature an exaggerated high-pivot swingarm (technically, the frame’s seat stays) that is large enough in all dimensions to resist the torsional stress meted out by a pro downhiller. GT’s Independent Drive system was redesigned and simplified and is now called ‘AOS’ for Angle Optimized Suspension. The effect is exactly the same, however, with the bottom bracket swinging slightly back and forth to track the swingarm’s rearward arc’ing axle path to eliminate all but a smidgen of its unwanted chain-growth effects. More about that later, all you need to know now is that AOS keeps the suspension moving without adversely affecting pedaling action and that the high-pivot swingarm gives the suspension superior performance over ragged terrain.
The Force frame is built with lateral stiffness in mind, but it is one of the lighter dual-suspension frames that GT has produced. Large-diameter frame tubes and wide, 15-millimeter suspension-pivot axles keep the frame stiff and light. Cables run externally below the down tube and the dropper seatposts are internally routed through a port behind the seat tube. To keep the bike’s weight low, the Fox CTD shock is driven by the upper end of the PathLink and through a seat tube tunnel. The 12-millimeter through axle uses a Maxle release system and all of the major frame pivots are clamped in place. The new frame design looks much cleaner and simpler than anything that has come from GT in a while – and the aluminum version is an identical copy. Sizes offered are X-small, small, medium and large.
GT got the parts right on the Force, with a Shimano XTR transmission, Fox’s latest Kashima CTD suspension, headlined by a Float 34 fork, tubeless Continental Trail King tires, wheels from e-thirteen, a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, and a 760-millimeter handlebar sitting on a 60-millimeter stem. The only questionable choice was the Shimano triple crankset, which GT’s mountain bike marketing director defended as a choice that they made to cater to the booming European market. I must not have drank the same Koolaid. Dan Atherton’s Force used a single, 32-tooth chainring and he was going pretty fast. I am sure that GT did their homework, but I would be happier with a 34/22, two-by crankset. The good news is that you can ditch the 40-tooth sprocket and switch it out with a bash ring. More at GT 2014: Four models of the Fury – and Two Trailbikes: 650B Sensor and Force