The dark side suddenly got a lot more tempting

Words Julian Hardman      Photos Neil Kerr

I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden my fair share of eMTBs over the past couple of years, from a full carbon, dripping-in-gold-bling superbike to the lowliest anchor with a motor attached. Regardless of the pricetag, one thing that all these bikes have in common is that they’re a hell of a lot of fun. Trail-oriented eMTBs such as the GT E-Force AMP sit in the sweet spot of value and maximum frothing fun.

I’ll start with a quick caveat – I believe all bikes are fun compared to other modes of movement like walking, running and swimming. It’s the risk factor that separates biking from the pack, unless you’re running from lions, walking a tightrope or swimming anywhere in ‘Straya’. However, I feel that eMTBs amplify the opportunities of both fun and risk by allowing you to go further and faster more frequently.

At first, electric mountain biking is a novelty. The wow factor of powering up uphill singletrack at seemingly the same pace you come down it, or smashing out all your favourite trails in one session or whirring past people slogging up a climb, the emotional mixture of shame and joy is incredibly addictive. However, the more time you spend on your trusty e-steed, the quicker the novelty transcends to sheer laugh-inducing enjoyment, and you discover what a fun, versatile tool you have. It’s much more than a turbo-boosting, one-trick pony, and will become the most used member of the stable.

Now, for those of us who prefer trail-riding (including myself), adding a trail-focused eMTB to the stable is a costly endeavour; the good ones aren’t cheap, but, mind you, neither are good analogue bikes.
If these types of eMTBs were more affordable there’s no doubt many more of us would’ve already found space in the garage for one, but alas, for the majority of us, that’s currently not the case. So when I took a look at the GT E-Force AMP price and spec I was intrigued. What do we have here?

Well, we have a bike produced by GT – one of the biggest bike companies in the world – which means quality R&D ,and lots of it. GT has taken its time getting on the eMTB market, not because it’s slow off the mark, but because it’s wisely used the time to develop a worthy offering in an ever-increasingly competitive and progressive market. The result is the E-Force AMP – a well appointed, affordable trail eMTB.

The Bike

The AMP is built around the E-Force aluminium frame, with 29-inch wheels, GT’s proven LTS four-bar linkage suspension platform, and 150mm of front and rear travel.

The AMP receives top billing in the lineup and has a superior spec to the rest of GT’s offerings. The engineers have tweaked the geometry to accommodate the lower centre of gravity and weight of the motor by increasing the platform’s anti-squat and anti-rise capabilities. My medium-sized test bike had a reach of 450mm, a headtube angle of 65 degrees, a seat tube angle of 76 degrees, 455mm chainstays and a relatively low bottom bracket for an eMTB. 

The E-Force has a shorter-than-trendy reach, but it was refreshing to hop on a bike where I didn’t need to consciously push forward over the front of the bike when descending or cornering at speed. It was a nice departure from my long, low and stretched-out analogue bike.

That said, uber-trendy progressive geometry hasn’t really filtered down into the eMTB world yet. Generally speaking, the measuremments remain relatively conversative while brands contemplate the best ways to accommodate the extra weight of a motor and battery.  

On paper I really liked GT’s numbers; they reflect the time the company has put into designing an eMTB-specific platform rather than just bolting a motor onto an existing frame and rushing it to market.

Visually, the AMP looks sleek. Everything is nicely integrated with the look of a regular bike, but with a more staunch and solid presence. Something I immediately noted was the length of the steerer tube – it looks like an elder of the Kayan people with their neck rings (Google it). Instead of being cut short, GT has left it long with a massive amount of spacers. This allows you to either shorten it yourself, or leave it long to provide a more comfortable, upright riding stance. This is smart thinking, considering the first thing many older e-bike buyers do is replace the stock handlebars with a higher rise option to help their posture.

The spec on the AMP is reflective of the price point – it’s reliable and cost effective. All the components work really well and are super reliable, while sitting on the modest side of premium.   

A Rockshox 35 Gold RL fork and Deluxe Select R shock take care of the suspension duties. These were easily tuned in and felt capable in the rough stuff.

The drivetrain is SRAM’s entry level SX Eagle, which provided surprisingly crisp shifting and never missed a beat.

Brakes are a critical component on eMTBs, especially when the bike is on the heavier side of the scales, and I was very impressed with the Shimano MT420 4-piston brakes. They really surprised me with how well they performed under load and stress. A set of WTB STX i29 rims sporting Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR 2.6” tyres round out the main build kit.

The beating heart of any eMTB is the motor, and the AMP comes equipped with Shimano’s tried and tested E8000 and 504 w/h battery. They combine to pump out 250 watts of power and 70 Nm of torque.  Although the battery isn’t the biggest, the E8000 is one of the most efficient and reliable motors around and still offers an impressive range. That’s worth noting, as since we tested the 2020 E-Force, the new 2021 model has been released. It carries an almost identical spec, except for the new Shimano EP8 motor (lighter and provides an extra 15 Nm of torque), which can only improve the performance of the E-Force.

The Ride

Once built and on the dirt, my first impressions of the AMP were that it felt comfortable, maneuverable and reassuringly solid. It’s on the heavy side compared to a high-end carbon e-bike with a more expensive build, but this is only noticeable at low speed, or, heaven forbid, you run out of battery (which I did once and it won’t be repeated)!

It might come as a surprise, but uphill performance is very important on an e-bike. How efficiently and comfortably an eMTB climbs really makes a difference to the quality of ride, and with the steep seat tube angle and improved kinematics, GT has nailed this aspect. I really enjoyed riding the GT uphill – its handling and smooth power delivery had me searching out the best uphill singletrack I could find.

On the descents the AMP was incredibly planted and happily ploughed through anything I could find, no matter how rowdy. My only qualm was that perhaps it’s a touch overly-stable and could benefit from a livelier suspension set up. Cornering was effortless and the Minion tyres provided plenty of grip in all conditions.   

Overall, the GT E-Force AMP is a well thought out, fun, super-capable yet comfortable bike. GT has produced a genuinely trail-worthy eMTB that sits at a great value price point and offers an affordable pathway to the masses to turn to the dark side.