2014 GT Force, Sensor 650B Mountain Bikes – Video, Pics, Specs & More!
By now, it’s no secret GT’s been working on several 650B bikes and a revamp of their Independent Drive suspension platform.
What may be surprising (at least for the US market) is just how good the new bikes are. Granted, we only rode the upper end carbon frames, but more than one journo around PressCamp was humming some praises. We also heard murmur that the new Force (above) and Sensor bikes unveiled are not the same bike that Señor Atherton’s been humping around the Enduro courses, meaning there’s likely more to come.
Let’s start with their new schema and platform: GT Global Marketing Manager Chris Hopwood says they started off with a new design philosophy and take into account how each bike will be used. They’re calling it COR, Centered On Rider, and each bike starts off by looking at a certain type of rider and the travel, geometry, features and spec most suited to them. They also looked at what sort of terrain those folks are most likely to ride, which can vary drastically from coast to coast or region to region.
They came up with five unique categories: XC, Trail, AM, Enduro and Gravity. Gravity’s been unveiled in the new Fury. The two bikes you see here are the new 130mm Sensor (Trail) and 150mm Force (AM). See? There’s a convenient hole between AM and Gravity. Anywhoo, check our video interview and much, much more below…
AOS SUSPENSION & PATHLINK
They wanted to take advantage of their IP, but update it to work and look better. They developed a platform called AOS, Angle Optimized Suspension, and for the Sensor and Force, they were designed around 27.5″ wheels from the start.
It’s a high single pivot design, similar to what you’d see on a downhill bike, with an optimized rearward arcing wheel path. This helps you keep momentum when you hit something big.
The old I-Drive dog bone link has been replaced by the new PathLink. The old system’s linkage moved and pulled the bottom bracket to keep it in the desired position. The new one has a similar function but is much stiffer, and it’s lighter because it uses fewer parts and can run smaller bearings with simple axles. The silver PathLink piece is heavily machined from the inside to reduce material. You’ll never see it, but there’s a lot of attention to detail hidden behind that monocoque piece. Thankfully, they stuck with a threaded BB.
The combination provides a low angle of attack for the wheel, which basically means it’s going to move up and over obstacles easier and feel smoother, almost as if you had larger 29″ wheels. It also keeps the bottom bracket where they want to minimize pedal feedback and chain growth, allowing only enough to provide the desired anti-squat properties without limiting suspension travel like a static BB position could on a high single pivot design. It also has the added benefit of stiffening up the rear suspension a bit during hard pedaling so it feels crisp and quick.
The PathLink rotates on two 15mm thru axles, with larger bearings on the main pivot because it sees more load and has to handle all the torsional forces. Both use pinch bolt designs to hold everything in place. The top, main pivot on the frame also rotates on a 15mm thru axle, also held in place with pinch bolts. Each axle slides in from the driveside, then a bolt pulls it tight before being pinched in place.
The COR design philosophy also dictated a long front center/effective top tube with shorter stems. The combo lets you ride “in” the bike more rather than “on” it, so you’re more centered on the bike in a wider degree of climbing and descending. Sensors get 80mm stems, and the Force gets 60mm. Handlebars are also fairly wide, with 740mm and 760mm respectively.
All models, alloy and carbon, will use a 142×12 rear thru axle and their post mount brakes with replaceable mounts.
A cool feature is a built in mini-fender to protect the rear shock, shown above just behind the front derailleur. The alloy frames have it built into the swingarm, the carbon frames have this tiny bolt-on plastic fender that also helps manage the rear shift cable. That’s perhaps the only initial complaint we have is the convoluted cable run, which on at least one of our test bikes meant a bit of cable stiction during rear shifts. Of course, these bikes have seen a good bit of Park City, UT, dust and other riders before we were on them, so fresh housing might have fixed that. Both shifters use full length housing, and the rear’s runs between the fender and linkage into the seatstay.
At right, tire clearance is decent with the stock Continental Trail King 2.4 tires.
They’ll all use the Fox CTD shocks, with only the top model and special editions getting Kashima coatings. Hopwood says including the CTD shocks on all models bumps the price a bit, but since they did all development testing with those shocks, they wanted to keep it on the frames so everyone got the same performance. To aid set up, a convenient sag marker and pointer is placed at the lower pivot. Just look down to see if you’re sitting in the yellow. Lastly, they all have ports for stealth dropper post routing, with many models getting them stock.
For drivetrains, all bikes get Shimano triple cranksets (22/30/40). Based on rider research by Todd Seplavy, their MTB senior product manager, they wanted something that would work across all riding locations. GT’s a global company, and in a lot of Europe, people are climbing steep trails and roads to get to the singletrack, so they wanted something that offered both a wide range and provided a middle gear that would keep people in an ideal gear most of the time.
For the frame, they drew upon Peter Denk’s expertise in developing some of the high tech carbon frames for sister brand Cannondale. While it’s not sharing monikers like BallisTec, Hopwood says it’s made using some “very high tech carbon materials and processes.”
The Force Carbon, which is what’s shown in all photos above, will come in three models (Team, Pro and Expert with XTR, XT and SLX groups respectively). All three share the same frame, which has a claimed weight of 2,991g (6.59lb). There are no alloy models yet, so prices here range from $5,200 up to about $9,000.
The 130mm travel Sensor will have three carbon models, Team, Pro and Expert, and four alloy models (Pro, Expert and Elite plus a special Hans Rey version for select markets…which may be a Euro-only offering at first). Average frame weight with shock, hardware, seat collar and derailleur hanger is 2,721g (6.0lb) for carbon and 3,381g (7.45lb) for alloy, both size medium. Prices will range from $2,800 up to around $9,000. All except the Sensor Elite come with tubeless ready wheels and tires and come spec’d with a dropper post (either Reverb Stealth or Kind Suspension LEV).
Both come stock with Shimano Direct Mount rear derailleurs and hangers, but they’ll offer a standard hanger if you wanted to run something else.
Check them all out at GTbicycles.com.