By now you might have seen the news – GT has an all new Force and Sensor on the horizon, and they’re getting back to their LTS roots. Sort of. While the name conjures images of vintage GTs, the new bikes feature a thoroughly modern implementation of the Horst Link and a wheel size specific platform. To celebrate the occasion, GT invited us out to Trysil, Norway to get a taste of the new bikes on the rocky terrain and experience a bit of midnight sun.
Before we knew it, we were headed up to Knettsetra to get the product download on the new bikes. The good news is that we wouldn’t be using the chairlift to come back down from the presentation, it would be by bike.
Split into two days of riding, GT planned two specific rides for us – one on the Force, and one on the Sensor. Both would explore the rugged peaks and forested valleys around Trysil, but each ride was pretty unique.
Since we were starting the Force ride at mid-mountain, the ride started off with a mellow warm up down the Magic Moose flow trail so we could catch the chairlift to the top. To be honest, the trail down was extremely mellow, but that’s one of the unique things about the Trysil Bike Arean. Seeing the need for family tourism first, the bike park is being built from the bottom up, and with the easiest trails first. Since then however, they’ve added a number of more difficult options and are continuing to build. Just down the road from the bottom of the lift is the GT Bike park and Gullia single track trail system which was built by Bike Solutions out of France. The area had an impressive number of kids and families out riding everything from pump tracks to blue and green flow trails, while the more experienced riders were happy to find more advanced red and black trails with sizable jumps, man made features, and great flow.
However, we were here mainly to experience the bikes on more natural terrain, so it was up the chairlift to the top of the resort – but not the top of the climb. Not even close. As we started pedaling, the trail quickly turned upwards. Soon it was steep and loose enough that even the best among us were forced off their bikes at times. Strangely, even though the terrain reminds you of high alpine from other parts of the world, the elevation tops out under 4k feet which means there is still plenty of oxygen to keep from suffering (too much). After some pushing and pedaling, we were on top of the mountain riding an incredibly scenic trail around the back side.
If it wasn’t clear already, this trail hammered home the notion that this part of Norway is quite rocky. The rocks are also firmly planted in the ground which can make for some bumpy, momentum killing rides where picking the right line and having an active suspension is certainly your friend. Between all the planted rocks, it was also quite loose in spots which quickly made on the Force’s attributes apparent – the amount of traction the rear wheel can put down is impressive. Between the steep 75.5/76º seat tube angle and the suspension, the Force climbs exceptionally well, which is something we’d become very familiar with.
The flip side of that is that it also descends very well, and when it comes to fun, is probably more important. The reward for the relentless slog up to the saddle on the back side of the mountain was a super fast and rugged descent. Somehow, this zone seemed even more rocky which made line choice just as important, but it was also one of those times where the faster you went, the better.
From there, the ride only got more interesting. As we continued our way down the mountain, we ended up on some very primitive single track that was about as narrow as you can get. Filled with more rocks, spongey moss, epic mud holes, and hard pack dirt, the terrain keeps you on your toes as you navigate you way through the forest. Through here, it was hugely beneficial to have a bike that was nimble and composed so that when a surprise hole swallowed your front wheel, or a sniper rock grabbed at your crank, you could easily adjust course and keep it upright. It was a lot of work muscling through the endless maze of rocks, but it was also extremely rewarding.
Soon enough we were at the bottom of the valley ready to cross the river and head back up into more single track on the other side. After another decent climb, we were rewarded with an extremely steep chute down the other side. This was where the slack head tube angle and 160mm fork with big brakes came into play as it wasn’t a spot you could risk locking up your wheels. Even with the dropper down, the descent was so steep I was almost completely behind my rear tire, and to make things even more interesting, it was super loose. Of course that meant it was also insanely fun, and by the time we all got to the bottom we had huge smiles along with smoking brakes. From there, it was back to the resort and back up the chairlift to ride the Magic Moose back down to Knettsetra for lunch – and then back down the trail again to the bottom to finish it out.
Even though it was a single ride on the Force, it was quite the loop covering more than 20 miles, which out here seems like more. Overall, the Force handled it quite well and felt better than many Horst link bikes of the past. GT says that they didn’t set out to build the most pedal efficient bike ever, but that doesn’t mean the Force can’t pedal. With minimal set up, the suspension just seemed to work regardless off the terrain.
As far as the rest of the bike is concerned, as usual I was on a medium which seemed to fit quite well. It did feel fairly short in the top tube however, which led me to push the seat back in the seat post farther than I normally would with modern, ultra long bikes. The different though, is that even though it felt a bit short, the handling still felt highly confidence inspiring with its slack front end, and low BB height. It also wasn’t long until that feeling of shortness went away as you once again got used to a bike without stretch limo worthy numbers. With plenty of room for a 150mm dropper post for my 690mm saddle height, the top tube offers sufficiently low standover in spite of what the triangle would make it seem. It was also great to see that the frame will fit a water bottle inside the front triangle even with a piggy back shock.
We were riding the 150mm rr/160mm ft travel Force Carbon Pro which is a blend of a carbon front triangle, with alloy stays, and a surprisingly well equipped build spec for $5,000. There’s almost nothing to nitpick about the SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, Guide RS brakes, Race Face Aeffect 35mm cockpit, KS LEV Ci Carbon dropper post, Fox Factory suspension, and 27.5″ Stan’s Flow wheels with Schwalbe tires.
It was a similar story with the Sensor, but on a vastly different trail ride. Built with 29″ wheels and 130mm travel front and rear, the ride was chosen to be a bit more pedaly and a bit less burly, though to be honest the Sensor hardly felt much less capable of a bike than the Force. A lot of that could be due to the larger 29″ wheels making easier work of the relentless sea of baby heads, sniper rocks, and full on boulders, but the geometry also has a lot to do with it.
The two bikes have very similar geometries (including the slightly short feeling) in spite of the difference in travel which makes the sensor a shred-worthy 29er that is equally at home pedaling to the top as it is ripping down. That should make it a bit easier to chose between the two bikes – pick a wheel size you like, and well, you know.
Once again, our ride started with a lift to the top of the resort, only this time we were treated to a super fast, flowy single track descent to the bottom. Like the Force, the Sensor was easy to control on the high speed sections and managed to keep composure when a hidden rock caught you off guard.
On the other side of the valley, we started a similar climb to the Force ride, but this time we veered left into a never ending grind that got increasingly technical towards the top. Many times during the day, the Sensor proved it was up to the task, deftly maneuvering through tricky rock gardens that wanted nothing more than to stop you dead in your tracks. That doesn’t mean the ride was easy though. There were still a number of sections that most of us ended up walking – if you love technical, chunky, awkward rock riding, you’ll love Norway.
This time, we climbed to the highest point on this trail just to turn around and blast back down. This descent was just as technical in sections of any on the trip and therefore was equally fun aboard the Sensor.
To cap off the ride, we made a few laps through the Gullia bike park to check out a few of the flow trails with plenty of jumps and man made features for good measure. Even though the Sensor could be considered a trail bike, it held its own in the park which helps hammer home what kind of bike it wants to be.
I’ll admit that at first, I was a little surprised to see GT moving back to their Horst Link roots. While I can already hear the “it looks like a…” comments, this is exactly what GT needed to put them back on the map. The frames are well built, without any proprietary nonsense, and emphasize durability and serviceability in the long run. They also include a uniquely playful and competent geometry with a well engineered kinematic profile that makes them a joy to climb and descend. Finish that off with prices that are surprisingly affordable, and you have two bikes that should have you seeing a lot more of the GT logo out on the trails.