Dave Arthur of road.cc fame has already written a pretty good first look at the GT Grade gravel bike upon its launch back in May this year but this was really a look at the range as a whole. We've just got one of the Grade Carbon Expert models in for test, a great opportunity to take a look at this bike in detail before Dave whips it off for review.
The GT Grade has been about before, back in 2014 road.cc reviewed the previous iteration. 2019 sees an update to this bike increasing the tyre clearance, improving compliance, ramping up versatility and introducing adjustable geometry for the first time.
Today's Grade isn't hugely different to the old version, its kept the same formula and underlying design but made changes aimed at increasing its capability, comfort and versatility. The bike keeps the 'Triple Triangle' design but in a move to increase compliance it has separated the seat stays (made from wrapping carbon fibre around a solid glass fibre core) from the seat tube allowing them to flex more throughout their length,
GT says this has contributed to a claimed 20% increase in compliance compared to the old Grade. Dave says "you can actually see the seatpost flexing back and forth, both when you’re riding behind another cyclist on a Grade or more simply by leaning very heavily on the saddle, there is a 280lb rider weight limit, however."
The Carbon Expert model as the name suggests gets a carbon frame and fork, it uses 12mm thru-axles and 160mm disc rotors front and rear with flat mount calipers and uses a press fit bottom bracket. Cables and the rear brake hose are routed externally along the bottom of the down tube, and there’s internal routing for Di2 and stealth dropper posts.
More interestingly than the brakes is the flip chip found in the tip of the fork which can be used to adjust the fork offset by up to 15mm, between 55 and 70mm to alter the trail to tune the ride characteristic to suit rider preference and whether you’re riding laden or unladen. We've seen similar before on the likes of the Rondo RUUT CF2 and the RUUT AL. GT employs the flip chip to adjust the fork trail provide different handling, shorter trail resulting in a faster steering and more agile bike. GT intends this to be a setting to be used when the Grade is fully laden with luggage and water bottles, offsetting the extra weight by speeding up the handling. On reviewing the Rondo RUUT AL last year our reviewer Pat said he could feel the difference of livelier handling when the trail of his bike was shortened. It will be interesting to see the outcome of Dave's review of the Grade. Interestingly new fork will only be used on higher-end models (the Pro and the Expert as we have here), lower models will use a carbon fork with a fixed 55mm offset.
In terms of the rest of the geometry and as per the original grade, the new one gets a long wheelbase, long chain stays, a low bottom bracket and a tall headtube.
The new Grade increases the tyre clearance to 42mm tyres front and rear, it will also accept 650b x 47mm tyres if you fancy smaller wheels and larger volume tyres. This Carbon Expert model is equipped with WTB ST i23 TCS 2.0 wheels and WTB Riddler 700 x 37c tyres.
The frame is adorned with all the bottle bosses, bag and rack mounts you could want. We spied mounts for a top tube bag, mounts for "anything cages" on the fork legs, fender and pannier mounts and we are told the alloy frame gets bottle bosses on the seat stays too.
Specwise, the Carbon Expert gets a Shimano 105 build in a 2x set up (FSA Omega Adventure cranks with 46/30 chainrings) with an 11-34t cassette. There are hydraulic brakes as you might expect, using 160mm rotors. The bike will accept rotors sized up to 180mm for occasions when beefier braking is required. In the cockpit there is a GT DropTune Super Light alloy handlebar with a 16° flare, a 6° rise stem and a 27.2mm seat post topped with a Fabric Scoop saddle.
As we said, Dave is poised ready to jump aboard this bike and get to grips with the adjustable geometry on trails nearer to home, check back soon to find out how he gets on.
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