Tester: Stephen Haynes
Weight: 200 lbs.
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
>Reach: Low 18.3”
Stack: Low 23.8”
Top Tube: Low 24.4”
Head Angle: Low 65°
BB Height: Low 11.6”
Chainstays: Low 17.1”
Weight: 32 lbs w/o pedals, specs based on size tested in Low Mode
From its humble beginnings out of a Southern California garage in the ‘70s, GT Bicycles has been making two-wheeled products to facilitate getting rad for over 40 years. My own history with GT goes back to the late ‘80s when I was gifted my first brand-new bike. I don’t remember the model name (other than it was a BMX bike), but I do remember it was black with some acidic yellow accents and it had a gyro which I never learned how to use. And mag wheels, of course.
Coincidentally, the bike in question here has many of the same characteristics as my long-forgotten BMX, from its color scheme and bad attitude to its exceptional capacity for abuse. More on that in a bit; for now, let’s take a look at what makes the Force Carbon Expert tick.
The 150 mm travel Force Carbon Expert has a complement of tech-bits geared toward the all-mountain-duro enthusiast. For example, its linkage tuned suspension (or LTS), employs LockR thru axle connections between the frame and swingarm, which is supposed to limit play in the connections, while also making a more solid connection by way of expanding thru axles on contact patches. In addition, the GT LTS employs FlipChip, which allows the user to lift or lower the shock by way of exterior suspension linkage thru axle plates or “chips” that can be rotated to achieve a slightly higher (or lower) bottom bracket height and slightly higher (or lower) head tube and seat tube angles. In theory, this gives the user a more agile-feeling bike with better clearance in the high setting and a lower, more aggressive-feeling bike in the low setting. Rounding out the LTS is the unfortunately named, but eerily spot on, Groove Tube, a trenchlike groove that runs the entirety of the interior length of the down tube, in which brake, shifting and dropper cables are tucked away, yet exposed, for easy maintenance.
The frame itself is of carbon construction with an aluminum swingarm, has Boost 148 rear spacing, ISCG05 mounts for a chain guide or bash guard, and metric trunnion shock mounts, which is a whole thing regarding emergent shock standards. Suffice it to say, GT is up on all the developing technologies with regards to shock manufacturers and their move toward a more homogenous mounting system.
Mounted on top of all this loveliness is a smattering of SRAM bits from their hydraulic Guide R brakes to GX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain and rear derailleur. The über plush and responsive 160 mm Pike fork and Deluxe RL shock provide high-performance absorption and remain some of the least finicky and fickle sources of suspension for this not-at-all-tech-prone rider.
Topping off the bits and bobs are Stan’s NoTubes S1 rims wrapped in Schwalbe Magic Mary 27.5×2.35 tires and KS Lev SI dropper all of which performed exceptionally well.
I’ll preface this section of the review by reiterating my distaste for pedaling uphill in general. It’s not an outright prohibition—that would be silly in a sport like ours—but some bikes make this practice of elevation gain more tolerable than others. This bike is not one of them.
Whether locked out or not, in high or low setting on the FlipChip, standing or sitting and grinding, the Force Carbon Expert just didn’t feel at home while climbing. I’m big enough (pun intended) to admit my shortcomings in this area, but I began to dread pointing the thing uphill.
In western Pennsylvania, a lot of the riding we do is of the hill-and-valley type, where short, punchy climbs are rewarded with equally short, punchy descents. This bike is admittedly not built for this type of riding.
So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to experience what the marketing people at GT and I agree this bike is really built for: gnarly, chunder-strewn descents, punctuated by high speeds and more chunder. The team and I were fortunate enough to do shuttle runs at Windrock Bike Park, outside of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they grow organic chunder in the backyard.
Anything bad I may have said in previous descriptions about the Force should be wiped from your memory starting now. This bike is incredible when push comes to shove. The fit and feel of the bike are right on the edge of chaos, but chaos within limits. I typically ride right out to the edge (my edge) and sort of reign things in from there, but with the Force, you just go right past the edge and talk about what funny things limitations are as you’re shuttling back to the top of the hill.
The combination of 27plus wheels and enough travel to soak up the worst of what I was willing to throw at it is like rolling over cars in a monster truck while taking a course in lion taming. The RockShox Pike remains one of the best forks I’ve attempted to have anything to do with and is as easy to use as a pair of Velcro shoe straps. The only time I got into any trouble at all was poor line choice and under-committing, which is down to user error every time.
The GT Force Carbon Expert is, in a sense, a caricature of my childhood BMX bike. An exaggerated version of a one-dimensional machine. That is to say, as much as my fondly remembered childhood ride was used as a means of general conveyance, its real purpose was absorbing any and all torment I may dish up, and happily continue to operate. In much the same way, the Force Carbon Expert exists to absorb abuse with a smile. You wouldn’t choose this bike to do a cross-country tour, a cross-country race, or to get your groceries because that’s not what it’s for. Sheer, unadulterated bashing about on trails that you otherwise have no business with … That’s what this thing is for.