‘Ground Force One,’ A Custom Made Ride

GT Force 29 Expert

The GT Force 29 Expert is a clean, simple and effective bike for putting a big smile on your face.
Steve Behr
gloss pitch green full suspension mountain bike
GT has made a really capable bike with the Force 29 Expert at a very competitive price. An ideal first enduro bike.
Steve Behr
Fabric Scoop saddle
The Fabric Scoop saddle is a nice touch for a bike at this price.
Steve Behr
Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT mountain bike
Fox’s Float Performance DPX2 rear shock helps soak up the hits on the rear and doesn’t easily become overwhelmed.
Steve Behr
Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT mountain bike
The flip chip in the lower shock mounting changes the geometry of the Force 29 to make it more trail friendly or downhill orientated.
Steve Behr
Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT mountain bike
The LTS (Kinkage Tuned Suspension) badge is back.
Steve Behr
Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT mountain bike and external cables
External cable helps keep cost down, and also the time spent on maintenance.
Steve Behr
adust the sag setting on full suspension mountain bike
GT provides recommended sag settings, which are generally less than other bike brands.
Steve Behr
Maxxis Minion DHF tyre on full suspension mountain bike
One of the great parts of this bike is the well specced tyre choice. The Maxxis Minion DHF is a strong choice.
Steve Behr
Maxxis Minion DHR II tyre on full suspension mountain bike
The Maxxis Minion DHR II on the back provides plenty and grip and control.
Steve Behr
chain guide on full suspension mountain bike
The small and subtle OneUp Components chain guide shows this bike is not meant for smooth trails.
Steve Behr
Spank Oozy 780 trail handlebars on full suspension mountain bike
It’s good to see the Force 29 Expert comes with a decent set of handlebars. It’s often one of the most overlooked components.
Steve Behr
SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain on full suspension mountain bike
While the NX Eagle range might not offer the same weight and feel as SRAM’s higher priced components, it offers the same gear range with only a small drop in performance.
Steve Behr
Stans wheels on full suspension GT mountain bike
The Stans wheels are a welcome sight on a bike of this price and a well thought out addition to the Force 29 Expert.
Steve Behr
TRP G-Spec brake lever on full suspension GT mountain bike
The TRP G-Spec brakes offer descent power in the dry, but they do have a plastic feel to them.
Steve Behr
male cyclist riding gloss pitch green full suspension mountain bike on dirt track
The GT Force 29 Expert is more than happy when you let the brakes off.
Steve Behr
male cyclist riding gloss pitch green full suspension mountain bike on dirt track
When it gets a little rougher, the Fox suspension helps keep the Force 29 composed.
Steve Behr
male cyclist riding gloss pitch green full suspension mountain bike on dirt track
The Force 29 can be thrown around no problem.
Steve Behr
GT Force 29 Expert Spec list
GT Force 29 Expert spec list.
GT
GT Force 29 Pro spec overview
GT Force 29 Pro spec overview.
GT
GT Force 29 Elite spec overview
GT Force 29 Elite spec overview.
GT
geometry chart for GT Force 29 Expert
GT Force 29 Expert Geometry chart.
GT

The updated GT Force was introduced last year, where we saw the brand ditch its I-Drive platform, a unique but complicated system, in favour of a ‘Horst link’ and a return to the LTS badge – a symbol that still holds a special status in mountain biking (for those who remember it).

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The Force was only available with 27.5in wheels last year, but with the release of the Force 29, GT has brought a big wheeled brother into its enduro stable.

The layout of the bike is the same as the Force, but the geometry and suspension kinematics have been revised for the bigger wheels.

The Force has seen great success in the hands of GT Factory Racing riders Martin Maes and Noga Korem on the EWS stage, with Maes winning the EWS in Maderia and Korem currently sitting second in points in the overall EWS standing.

It’s great to see GT, a brand with such a strong racing heritage, competing back at the top of the sport, but does this make for a bike that’s usable by mere mortals?

GT Force 29 frame details

Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT Force 29 Expert
External cable helps keeps cost down, and also the time spent on maintenance.
Steve Behr

GT has taken the route of robust reliability with the Force 29 frame, making both the front and rear triangles from aluminium. It comes in four sizes, from small to extra-large, and looking at the geometry charts the Force 29 should accommodate most rider heights.

GT hasn’t taken the plunge to offer internal cable routing, but while it might lack the sophistication of some expensive carbon frames, it does make maintenance a shed load easier – and as nice as internal cable routing looks, it never made us faster riders.

The bike comes with a threaded BSA 73mm bottom bracket shell and ISCG05 mounts, a tapered head tube from 1 1/2in to 1 1/8in, and plenty of tyre clearance – everything you’d expect from a modern enduro bike. There’s also space to fit a bottle cage, which while it’s a small detail, always receives bonus points.

The rocker link bolts to the frame using a LockR pivot, which uses an oversized axle and expanding collets at each end. The principle is, when tightened, the collets expand and lock inside the rocker, providing a torsionally stiffer link between the rear stays and main frame.

The Force 29 also uses a 185 x 55mm metric shock with a Trunnion mount, which helps lower friction to reduce breakaway force. The chainstay protector doesn’t offer the most coverage, but it should keep the worst of any chainslap at bay.

GT Force 29 Expert suspension

GT has tried to keep the ride feel and performance of the Force 29 similar to the Force, but a few small changes were needed.

“Due to the bigger wheels and increase in rotational mass and inertia, the anti-squat was increased to maintain the same pedalling behaviour,” Luis Arraiz told me, one of the designers of the GT Force.

Even with the increased anti-squat, the Force 29 still has an anti-squat value below 100 percent across the entire cassette range. While this is relatively low, which means the bike will bob when pedalling, GT has opted for this to help with climbing traction and to minimise pedal kickback, which should make the suspension feel supple.

The Force 29 leverage rate is progressive through the whole travel, and GT has increased the progression by 1.2 percent over the Force. I was told this was to better handle bike park duties and to offer more compatibility with coil shocks.

The Force 29 comes with a useful ‘recommended sag’ sticker next to the shock. The recommended percentages range from 23–28 percent, which are slightly lower than some recommendations, but as the Force 29 has a progressive linkage ratio, the sag percentage at the shock will be lower than the true sag at the rear wheel.

The Force 29’s anti-rise (how much the bike ‘sinks’ down from rear braking forces) has been kept the same as the Force at 40 percent at the sag point. That is relatively low, meaning that the Force 29 doesn’t use up its travel under hard braking too readily. GT says this allows the suspension to remain supple when dropping the anchors because the initial part of the travel is the softest.

GT Force 29 Expert specifications

For a bike that costs £2,799, it’s great to see such a branded list of parts, only the seatpost, stem and grips are GT branded.

The dropper post is a sticking point because I feel the 120mm drop on the medium is too short. The size small comes with the same 120mm drop, whereas the large and extra-large sizes get 150mm.

SRAM’s NX Eagle drivetrain takes care of the gears, which provide plenty of range. But instead of going with SRAM brakes to match the gears, the Force 29 Expert uses TRP’s G-Spec Trail brakes with an enduro 200mm front rotor and 180mm rear.

Stans wheels on GT Force 29 Expert
The Stans wheels are a welcome sight on a bike of this price and a well thought out addition to the Force 29 Expert.
Steve Behr

What is impressive is that the Force 29 Expert comes with STANS Flow S1 wheels. While not the brand’s top-end wheelset, it is a great addition to a bike at this price point.

So is the Fox Performance suspension. The Float Performance 36 with its GRIP damper is still a great fork, likewise the Fox Float DPX2 on the rear is no slouch.

Even the handlebars and saddle haven’t been overlooked. The bars are from Spank and use its Oozy 780 trail bars in a 30mm rise, and the saddle is from Fabric.

Another point GT has got spot on is the tyres. Tubeless ready right from the off, the mix of Maxxis Minion DHF and DHRII using a 3C compound and EXO+ casing is a brilliant spec choice from GT. It sometimes seems that tyres can be overlooked by other brands to help keep the price and weight down.

GT Force 29 Expert geometry

It’s no surprise the Force 29 has some modern geometry figures that should help you rip the descents and climb back up in comfort.

The 65-degree head angle isn’t revolutionary, but it’s pretty spot-on for a versatile 29in-wheeled enduro bike. What is a touch more contemporary is the steep 77-degree effective seat tube angle, which should sit you over the bottom bracket nicely for an efficient climbing position.

The reach values jump up in 25mm increments from 425mm on the size small to 500mm on the extra-large, which offers a good range in sensible steps.

Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT Force 29 Expert
The flip chip in the lower shock mounting changes the geometry of the Force 29 to make it more trail friendly or downhill orientated.
Steve Behr

What’s also good to see it that the seat tubes are a sensible length, neither too short or tall. Starting at 420mm and increasing to 480mm over the four sizes, this leaves plenty of space for a long dropper post.

The 442mm chainstay length should offer good stability for both climbing and descending, while still allowing the bike to be agile enough through tighter sections of trail.

Last but not least, the 346mm bottom bracket height should offer a ride that promotes good cornering characteristics, but without too much fear of constantly catching your pedals. (Note: these figures are for the flip chip’s ‘low’ setting. I don’t currently have the numbers for the ‘high’ setting, although I have heard the bottom bracket is 6mm higher).

GT Force 29 Expert first ride impressions

I was fortunate enough to have the bike delivered to the office, so have been able to test the GT Force 29 Expert on tracks I know around south wales and southern England.

Time on the bike has still been limited, so I can’t comment on reliability or any long-term issues that might arise, but here are my initial impressions.

Cyclist riding GT Force 29 Expert on dirt track
When it gets a little rougher, the Fox suspension helps keep the Force 29 composed.
Steve Behr

One of the biggest highlights of the Force 29 is the ride/race-ready tyres (tubeless ready too), which mean you can get straight on the trail without having to worry about them holding you back.

The Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II combination are a reliable choice, and the newer EXO+ casing is good to see. It’s one upgrade you won’t urgently need to buy. On the other hand, I did find the 120mm dropper post on the medium I tested a little too short.

I can’t complain about the operation or performance though, I just couldn’t drop it out the way as much as I wanted to. That’s an extra cost to think about, because I would replace it.

On the trail I found the Fox Performance 36 fork and its 170mm of travel, controlled by the older GRIP damper, to be a great fork for a bike of this price. It provides enough performance for all but the fastest racers, where the newer GRIP 2 outshines it.

It kept its composer on bigger hits, while still offering a supple ride without wasting travel by diving under hard braking.

Fox Float Performance DPX2 rear shock on GT Force 29 Expert
Fox’s Float Performance DPX2 rear shock helps soak up the hits on the rear and doesn’t easily become overwhelmed.
Steve Behr

Likewise, the Fox Float Performance DPX2 shock gave me a predictable and stable ride without any cause for concern. The fork and shock complemented each other well, which gave the bike a balanced ride and meant I could get comfortable quickly.

The 150mm travel from the rear-end never felt under-gunned either when matched to the 170mm of travel of the fork. When the shock is in its open mode, the rear end is pretty active, but there’s a good amount of progression which helps keep the back-end from blowing through its travel.

This suppleness does mean the bike bobs when pedalling, and I quickly flicked between the shock’s medium and firm modes for any extended pedalling. It does offer traction and comfort when pedalling over rough ground, though.

Cyclist riding GT Force 29 Expert on dirt track
The GT Force 29 Expert is more than happy when you let the brakes off.
Steve Behr

Geometry wise, GT has struck a great balance between stability and agility. I kept the bike in its low setting and the 442mm chainstays allowed the bike to be manoeuvrable but still keep the rear-end stable along off cambers, roots and fast trails.

The 65-degree head angle also means it never feels like you’re in danger of going over the bars – even when the trail gets steep. The weight distribution on the medium Force 29 (which changes in other sizes), between the 450mm reach and 442mm chainstays, means it’s easy to get your weight balanced, and allowed me to find plenty of grip.

The steep 77-degree effective seat tube does put you in a comfortable climbing position, which is good, because one of the only drawbacks of the Force 29 is its hefty weight. At 16.03kg in a size medium with no pedals it’s not going to claim any Strava climbing PBs.

Cyclist riding GT Force 29 Expert on dirt track
The Force 29 can be thrown around no problem.
Steve Behr

The rest of the kit on the bike does a good job, and while it might not possess the flashiest kit out there, it lets you tackle anything with confidence.

The gears didn’t falter during my time on them, but it’s good to keep a check on the jockey wheels because I have found them to come loose.

The brakes have a plastic feel at the lever, but in the dry, summer conditions I tested them in, I couldn’t complain about their performance for the price.

This is perhaps where the Force 29 Expert really shines; for £2,700 you get a bike that will put a smile on your face as big as any ‘boutique’ bike can, and it will keep up with anything double its price too.

If you’re a weight-weenie or top-flight racer, then sure, this bike has its drawbacks, but if you’re looking for something with great performance that’s got the essentials dialled (geometry, suspension), and much more, then you can’t go far wrong. Plus, it makes a great platform from which to upgrade.

GT Force 29 Expert early verdict

A well-priced enduro bike that has the essentials dialled if weight isn’t your number one priority.

GT Force 29 Expert geometry

  • Sizes (*tested): S, M*, L, XL

  • Seat tube: 44cm

  • Top tube (horizontal): 59.3cm

  • Top tube (actual): 54.9cm

  • Head tube angle: 65 degrees

  • Seat tube angle: 77 degrees

  • Head tube: 11cm

  • Wheelbase: 1,221mm

  • Chainstay: 44,2cm

  • Bottom bracket drop: 3cm

  • Bottom bracket height: 34.6cm

  • Fork rake: 5,1cm

  • Stack: 61.7cm

  • Reach: 45cm

    GT Force 29 Expert first ride review
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