Dan Atherton has a brand new bike to ride, as GT Bicycles last recently officially unveiled the majorly updated Force. Of course, keen readers will know that Dan has been riding a prototype bike for some time – GT have spent the last two years developing this new platform and Dan’s input has been vital – but now the cat is out the bag and this is our first close look at the 2014 Force.
GT have spent those two years updating the Independent Drivetrain (ID) suspension that has been an integral element of their bikes for 13 years since they first introduced it. Getting Peter Denk involved (who designed the Cannondale Jekyll and Scott Genius before that) has seen the most dramatic redesign of ID in its history.
In essence, it’s still an ID, but the new Path Link replaces the previous assembly and cuts down on weight while increasing the stiffness and simultaneously reducing the complexity, so it’s now easier to service. There are 15mm axles throughout, something Denk borrowed from the Jekyll. These, along with the oversized frame tubing and tapered head tube, ensures maximum frame stiffness.
This new Path Link houses the bottom bracket and connects the front triangle to the swingarm, allowing the BB to swing backwards to counteract chain growth as the rear wheel path follows a rearward curve. There’s a pivot located on the chainstay near the 12x142mm Maxle axle. The upshot of this redesigned suspension platform is one much less affected by chain growth with far improved pedalling efficiency, a good thing for an enduro rider with the important transition stages to take into consideration.
Dan Atherton’s bike
Dan is running a size large frame and the build is anything but stock. A Shimano XTR chainset with a Saint single ring and chainguard, and XTR shifters pulling the XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur across the cassette. Brakes are XTR too with IceTech brake pads, and 180/160mm rotors.
At the wheels it gets a bit more interesting. The Athertons are known for destroying wheels, so Dan pairs solid XTR hubs with de-stickered Stan’s ZTR Flow rims. It doesn’t keep the sponsor happy, but they’re up to the task. Tyres are from Continental and on this occasion were Rubber Queen 2.4in tyres.
Handlebars and stem are both PRO Atherton signature series, as you’d expect, with just one small spacer below the stem. The handlebar is a whopping 800mm wide. Notice the Hope stem cap as well – there’s a Hope headset in this frame.
Suspension parts are from Fox. At the front is a top-level Fox 34 Float CTD with Kashima coated stanchions. The RAD sticker gives us another clue about these forks, they’re far from stock and most likely contain a development damper (similar to RockShox’s BlackBox). Several other riders on the enduro circuit have been spotted with similar forks, including Nico Lau and Lars Sternberg. We know that Fox have revamped the CTD damping circuit for 2014, so it could be that these guys were testing that.
Out back is the brand new Fox Float X CTD shock with the same RAD sticker, suggesting that the tune also differs from stock. The 365g shock is all new this year, and is designed for the latest crop of 140-180mm bikes that push the regular Float shock to its limits. The piggyback reservoir allows increased oil volume so it is better able to deal with heat build up during longer runs. The CTD lever adjusts an internal cam and this adjusts the oil flow for the three settings: climb, trail and descend.
Completing the build is a Fox DOSS dropper post with a PRO saddle atop the clamp. While the new Force does have Stealth internal routing, it’s not compatible with the Fox post. Asked about his saddle position, Dan told me that it’s for the climbing in enduros, as having it shunted forward and nose down promotes a better climbing position. I can see his logic, it’s the equivalent of having a very steep seat angle, and will help to keep his weight over the front wheel, and body over the bottom bracket. Good job the UCI aren’t involved in the governing of enduro because they’d surely tut and wave their rule book at him…
So there you go, one very hot looking bike and one to watch out for on the enduro circuit this season.