GT's Grade is a bike designed for gravel or adventure road riding. We’ve tested the range topping Carbon Ultegra version

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

GT Grade Carbon Ultegra

Pros:

  • Brilliant ride on and off road
  • Top spec for adventure road riding
  • Great stability and control

Cons:

  • Tyres not the best choice for UK conditions

Product:

GT Grade Carbon Ultegra

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,599.99

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The GT Grade is one of the growing legion of adventure road and gravel bikes, which typically have clearance for wide tyres and are equipped with disc brakes, but unlike a cyclocross bike will have slack angles and a longer wheelbase for off-road stability and a wider gear range to allow you to make faster progress on the tarmac. GT has its roots in the Californian mountain bike scene and has put much of this experience into the Grade.

>>> Adventure road bikes explained

The frame

The Grade is available in an aluminium framed version and this carbon model. The super-slim, bowed seatstays have a solid fibreglass core wrapped with carbon fibre. GT claims that the fibreglass contributes strength and rigidity while the carbon fibre adds vibration damping.

Seatstays have a solid fibreglass core wrapped with carbon and meet at the top tube

Seatstays have a solid fibreglass core wrapped with carbon and meet at the top tube

The fork is thin to add a degree of flex over the bumps and the headtube angle is a low 70.5 degrees to aid stability. The wheelbase is long at 102.5cm, helping stability off the road. The Grade comes with a 15mm front thru axle for front end rigidity, although the rear hub is a conventional 135mm quick release.

>>> Go off-road to keep fit

External routing of cables and rear brake hose under the bottom bracket - potentially a mud trap

External routing of cables and rear brake hose under the bottom bracket – potentially a mud trap

There’s plenty of clearance for wide tyres, helping prevent mud clogging in typical UK conditions. Cables are fully enclosed and routed externally under the down tube, as is the rear brake hose.

Specification

The Grade Carbon Ultegra is the top spec of the Grade range. It comes with a full Ultegra groupset with a 52/36 chainset, 11-30 cassette and hydraulic disc brakes. A Praxis Works bottom bracket adaptor is fitted to allow the Shimano chainset to sit in the BB30 shell.

Shimano Ultegra 52/36 chainset sits in BB30 bottom bracket shell

Shimano Ultegra 52/36 chainset sits in BB30 bottom bracket shell

Wheels have Stans No Tubes Grail rims on DT Swiss 240 hubs. The choice of 28mm Continental Grand Sport Race tyres is somewhat surprising as this is a treadless design, although on the extra-wide Grail rims they come up at 31mm, so not much less than many cyclocross tyres.

>>> Praxis Works bottom bracket converter review

Shimano 11-30 cassette and long cage rear derailleur

Shimano 11-30 cassette and Ultegra long cage rear derailleur

GT has equipped the Grade with its own flared bars, with the 42cm width at the tops increasing to 50cm in the drops. There’s a 27.2mm diameter FSA K-Force Light carbon seatpost and a Fizik Aliante Delta saddle.

Conti 28mm slick tyres are mounted on Stans Grail rims

Conti 28mm slick tyres are mounted with inner tubes on Stans Grail rims

Ride

On the road the Grade is a stable and fast ride, with the highish gear ratios meaning that good progress can be made and it’s an enjoyable and comfortable bike for extended rides.

Turn off the road onto unsurfaced bridlepaths and progress continues to be swift. The bike copes well with uneven and loose surfaces and the saddle is comfortable being well-padded without feeling soft.

>>> Guide to off-road technique

15mm thru axle, DT Swiss hubs and 160mm Shimano Icetech rotor at the front end

15mm thru axle, DT Swiss hubs and 160mm Shimano Icetech rotor at the front end

I was surprised how well the Continental tyres handled loose gravel, tree roots and muddy sections, with some wheel slip and sideways slide but nothing uncontrollable. Pushing my luck I headed out after a night of rain, to find that they reached their limit on off-camber turns on wet grass and chalk. A switch to cyclocross knobbly tyres sorted things out – they would be a wise choice for off-road riding in most UK conditions.

GT's Drop Tune bars spread to 50cm at the drops

GT’s Drop Tune bar spreads to 50cm at the drops

>>> Shimano R785 hydraulic brake review

Braking was excellent and progressive. There was no fade even on long steep off-road descents, although there was significant brake squeal: at least other riders knew I was coming.

Value

At £2600 the Grade is not a cheap proposition for a bike which will inevitably see some abuse, but you are getting an innovative frame with excellent comfort and first-rate components. The Ultegra groupset behaved faultlessly throughout and the control offered by the wide bars and the hydraulic brakes gave real confidence on descents both on and off road.


Watch our review of the Shimano Ultegra groupset


The finishing kit too is excellent and the wheelset is a highlight. The Stans rims provide a stable base even for very wide tyres, but without adding too much weight or the feeling that you are being slowed down on the road. They can also be easily converted to run tubeless.

In summary

For anyone looking to spice up their road rides and turn off the beaten track, the Grade is an excellent choice. It’s got the oomph and comfort to press on over the most dodgy of road surfaces and the off-road capabilities to take you to new places and stretch your bike handling skills.

>>> Cycling Weekly Adventure Cross Series

It’s worth noting too that it comes with mudguard eyelets, so this is a bike which would serve equally well as an all-year rugged commuter or a winter bike.

Verdict

Great bike for on/off road riding in mixed conditions but let down by its tyres

Details

Weight (without pedals):8.88kg
Size Tested:55cm (size M)
Frame:GT EnduRoad carbon
Fork:GT Carbon, 1 1/8-1 1/4 tapered
Shifters:Shimano Ultegra 11sp
Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra 11sp braze on
Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra 11sp
Chainset:Shimano Ultegra 52/36t
Bottom Bracket:Praxis Works BB30 to Shimano adaptor
Cassette:Shimano Ultegra 11-30
Chain:Shimano 11 speed
Brakes:Shimano R685 hydraulic, 160mm rotors
Wheelset:Stans No Tubes Grail rims, DT Swiss 240 hubs, 15mm thru axle F, QR rear
Tyres:Continental Grand Sport Race 28 mm
Handlebar:GT DropTune Ultra Light with 14 degree flair, alloy
Stem:GT SL alloy
Seatpost:FSA K-Force Light, 27.2mm
Saddle:Fizik Aliante Delta
Sizes:51, 53, 55, 56, 58, 60cm
Colour:Matte raw carbon
  • Tyler G

    I just ordered mine up today. I’ve never seen such universal, glowing praise for a bike online and in print.

  • Amanda JumonvilleOlivier

    Thank you very much. I picked it up yesterday. It’s a dream.

  • Jim Charlesworth

    Totally. Choose a good tire and you are away.

  • Amanda JumonvilleOlivier

    Would you say it would be a good bike for a long 4 day 350 mile road ride?
    I ride on gravel, dirt and sometimes grass but need a bike to do a good mix with a few long rides a year on paved, hilly roads.

  • Jim Charlesworth

    I have one of these. Its now my only bike. I sold everything else. Tells you everything (plus i just went tubeless with schwalbe s-ones too so its more perfect than before).

  • SkiSync

    This performed great in the 2015 Crusher in the Tushar.

    Used 40c WTB Nano on the front and 35c WTB Cross Boss in the rear. Tubeless, of course.

    Used 40c Nano as well on the rear for a few hundred miles b4 the race but there was only 1mm or so of clearance on the sides, and I was getting some rub. With the 35c tire there was beaucoup room.

    As an aside, WTB should make a 36, 37 or 38c Nano!!! It’s a fantastic tire for gravel/dirt/combo surfaces.

    Also – switched to compact rings and had a 11-36 SRAM cassette (11spd). Thing will climb anything.