Hans Rey has fully earned his position in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Not only is he a World Championships-winning trials rider but he’s also broken new ground in parts of the world that have never before seen tyre tracks, riding headhunters’ trails in Borneo with Steve Peat and 3,500m descents in the Himalayas with Richie Schley, among countless other adventures.
Hans’s most recent trip was to Africa, on a mission to summit Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro with Danny MacAskill and German rider Gerhard Czerner. The bike he took with him was this GT Force, and when he said it was the perfect choice, of course we wanted to find out more.
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Offering 150mm of rear wheel travel, the Force is the ‘go anywhere, ride anything’ model in GT’s range. It’s been around since 2008, but underwent a big change in 2014, when it was the first bike (along with the Sensor) to feature GT’s new ‘Angle Optimised Suspension’ design.
This is an updated take on the ‘floating drivetrain’ concept that inspired its long-running ‘I-Drive’ system, complete with a chainstay pivot to improve climbing and braking.
Hans has played a big part in the development of GT’s bikes over the 29 years he’s ridden for the firm. The AOS layout, and the ride characteristics it produces, was decided with input from him, alongside other pros, including the Athertons.
Working with design engineer Peter Denk, Hans rode back-to-back runs on prototype versions with varying pivot positions. Telemetry equipment was then used to find the optimal configuration.
So, did Hans have a clear idea of how he wanted the bike to ride? “Often you know what you don’t want the bike to do, so that helps to narrow things down!” he tells us. “Really though, we wanted to make sure the design kept the good attributes of the old design and improved on it.”
One of a kind
For Hans’s style of adventure riding, he needs a bike that’s a true all-rounder. His set-up reflects that, pairing climb-friendly touches with some decidedly more downhill-orientated kit, including a burly 160mm-travel Fox 36 Float fork.
“I don’t like too much sag in the front, especially when it’s steep,” he tells us. “But there’s no point having 150mm of travel if the suspension is set up so hard that for 90 per cent of the ride it feels and performs like a 130mm bike. I hardly ever lock out the Float X rear shock but I usually climb in the ‘medium’ setting and descend in ‘medium’ or ‘open’ mode.”
The 780mm width and 15mm rise of Hans’s SQlab carbon bar are nothing unusual, but it has 16 degrees of backsweep, which is double that of a regular bar. This allows him to run an unfashionably long 70mm stem.
Is this a hangover from his trials days? Apparently not. “The larger sweep is an ergonomic decision,” he says. “It gives your arms a better position and improves steering. Most enduro motorbikes have that much sweep, and it allows for a slightly longer stem.”
When you’re ascending steep mountainsides, a big gear range is essential. Twin chainrings and an 11-40t cassette allow Hans to pedal up all but the steepest pitches. Shimano’s electronic Di2 system takes care of shifting, and the whole groupset, including the cranks, is from their top-of-the-line XTR range.
One of the perks of being a pro is getting your hands on pre-production parts, such as the 2.4in Chongo and Tempter tyres from Duro that Hans is running. Another prototype product is the 150mm CrankBrothers Highline dropper post – a component that he says is a must for his style of riding.
So, what makes this Hans’s go-to bike? “I love its versatility,” he says. “It pedals and climbs well, you can use it for trail riding, shred bike park runs and do adventure trips.”
The places he’s taken this bike to already read like any mountain biker’s bucket list. Back home in Southern California, he’s already planning his next challenge – the Trans Angeles, a four-day stage ride that traverses the mountains around Los Angeles and Catalina Island. It really does seem that there’s no stopping Hans ‘No Way’
Why’s it super?
- Hans Rey is an icon of the sport, and he says that if he could only ride one bike, this would be it
- It’s taken him to the summit of two African peaks, as well as on adventures across the Alps and elsewhere
- The unique spec includes a super-backswept bar, electronic shifting and prototype tyres and post
1. Floating on: The ‘AOS’ suspension system is a revision of GT’s tried-and-tested ‘I-Drive’ design, which uses a high main pivot to soak up the hits but improves pedalling efficiency (normally an issue with high- pivot designs) by separating the transmission from the front triangle.
2. What grinds his gears? Hans is fairly unusual in that he still runs two chainrings up front, in 24t and 34t sizes. An electronic Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain gives him super-slick shifting.
3. Don’t slate ’em: TRP is gaining a reputation for making some top-quality stoppers. Aaron Gwin uses them (admittedly not very often!) and Hans too. On this bike he’s relying on its four-piston all-rounder model, the Slate T4, with 180mm rotors.
4. Breaking the mould: As well as running an odd-shaped SQlab bar and matching 811 stem, Hans has his own pair of signature 711 MX Ltd grips from the brand. SQlab say the moulded shape lets you grip the bar less tightly for better control and reduced nerve pressure.
5. Stamp on it: With a background in trials, it’s no surprise to see Hans running flat pedals. The CrankBrothers Stamps come in a choice of platform sizes and Hans prefers the smaller of the two.
- Price: £3,999
- Contact: GT Bicycles
- Also try: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon, £4,000 – Specialized
About Hans Rey
Born in Germany and now living in Laguna Beach, California, Hansjörg Rey has been wowing people on two wheels since before most of us were born. A pioneer of mountain bike trials, he now specialises in expeditions to far-flung corners of the globe. Despite being the ripe old age of 50, he still rips on a bike and his appetite for adventure is as strong as ever.