First Look! Gravel Crushing New GT Grade Adventure Road Bike

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

In development for three years, the new GT Grade fires a serious shot across the bow of the burgeoning gravel grinder scene with a svelte, racy frame designed to tackle anything you can throw at it.

Some time ago, GT was a little more involved in road. They provided track bikes for the US Olympic team and supplied Lotto Belisol. Six years ago, they provided bikes for the Jelly Belly team. Since then, they’ve been predominantly focused on mountain with the Athertons, Tyler McCaul and others. Their latest crop of full suspension bikes have been well received.

But, there’s no denying the growth in adventure riding, and that growth is worldwide. GT says they’re seeing growth in sportives, fondos and non-sanctioned ride/races in Australia, throughout Europe and elsewhere. And of course we’re seeing a lot more of it in the U.S., too. Since big fat knobbies aren’t always the best way to get there, something new was in order. The people riding these (um, like us) want something that’s a bit more comfortable than a pure ‘cross bike but can handle wider rims and tires than a road bike. And disc brakes, of course. So, yeah, the explosion in gravel riding and racing seems very recent, but thankfully GT saw it coming - their new Grade looks amazing…

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Designed to be an all-day bike that offers both comfort and performance, the Grade is made for gran fondos, gravel races and any other sort of riding you like to do. There was absolutely no regard given to UCI design restrictions.

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Taller head tube means less spacers to get into a comfortable position. The slightly lower BB (somewhere between road and ‘cross bikes) and a longer wheel base adds a lot of stability. A slightly slacker head angle complements the stability, particularly at speed and when descending.

They wanted to make its foundation as stiff and strong as a high performance motorcycle. A torsionally stiff platform would provide two benefits: Maximum power transfer on the bottom, and a supportive structure to build compliance into the top half.

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To do this, they started with a PFBB30 shell and 1-1/8 to 1-1/4” tapered head tube.

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That gave them room to run a massive downtube with a roundish, octagonal cross section that’s reinforced with hi-mod carbon fiber.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

The chainstays are boxy, creating a stable bottom half of the bike. GT’s reps acknowledged not everyone loves pressfit 30 BB’s, but they needed the size to get the desired stiffness. So they’ve spec’d appropriate models with the Praxis bottom bracket, which threads together to create a solid, tight fit and runs Shimano’s 24mm spindle cranks on PFBB30 frames.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

With such a killer base, the top half could be made to flex and absorb bumps. Wider set seatstays add lateral stability, but they’re super thin and made with a solid glass fiber core to add a lot of vertical compliance. No, not carbon fiber, glass fiber, but they’re wrapped in carbon for protection. The thinness gives them a low bending moment of inertia (meaning they react quickly).

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Andy Schmidt, CSG’s design engineer, says the glass fibers have a similar strength to low-mod carbon fibers, but flex better and more easily. They pre curved them to further help them start moving, sort of like a preload. At the axle, they moved the contact point just behind the dropout, giving the wheel a tiny bit more leverage over the system, too.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

But that’s only half the story. The seat tube starts off narrow to hold a 27.2 post, then grows in diameter until finally flattening out at the bottom. That flat section creates a leaf spring effect, allowing it to bend, too. As the seatstays cross the seat tube in GT’s trademark triple triangle design, they push into the top tube, which is also designed to flex thanks to specific layups and shapes.

Put it all together and you get up to 10mm of deflection at the top of the seatpost. That’s just from the frame – a good flex seatpost would add to that. And the triple triangle design transfers vibrations away from the seat tube, which should reduce rider fatigue.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

Up front, there’s a monocoque carbon fork with 15mm thru axle on the high end models. Lower end models use a carbon fork with alloy crown and steerer that uses a standard 9mm QR. Specs are 493mm axle-to-crown with 45mm offset.

The carbon fork design adds more compliance by using a very short tapered section and thinner legs with a leading dropout design. Since a fork’s steerer tube flexes quite a bit, and a straight 1-1/8” steerer would be the most comfortable, they kept the tapered section at the bottom very short. The benefit is the stiffness gains in steering precision without sacrificing comfort.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

Brakes are 160mm direct mount front and rear. They figured more powerful braking trumped a minor weight savings.

Not sold yet? Frame weight for the carbon is a very, very light 965g (size 56).

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

One of the other main considerations was keeping it affordable. The top end maxes out at $3,300 and the Grade alloy bikes start at just $800. Some of the features that make that happen are keeping all cable routing external. They borrow the cable management from their mountain bikes, making for easy servicing, too. For now, that means no electronic-specific wire routing options, which is why you’re seeing a not-very-integrated execution of mounting Di2 to the bike photo’d. (The top end models use Shimano’s new RS685 mechanical shifters with hydraulic brakes, but they’re not available yet so our test bikes were all equipped with Ultegra Di2)

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

Versatility: By running a standard 27.2 post and other common standards, you have a lot of upgrade potential. They created add-on rear fender mounts for the seat stays, and the frames all have fender mounts, with rack mounts on the alloy models.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

There’s tire clearance for up to 35c knobbies, though it’s a bit tighter at the chainstays than the seatstays.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

It’s refreshing to see a brand using premium products like the Praxis BB adapter.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

A strap-on fender mount keeps the seatstays lean and mean when not in use.

2015 GT Grade carbon fiber gravel grinder road bike

Another nice touch is the new GT Drop-Tune handlebar with 14º flair in the drops. Top models use a lighter 2000-series alloy, lower models get 6061, but all use the same flaired shape.

ALLOY MODELS

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The 6061 double butted alloy frames comes in at about 1300g. Schmidt designed it to have the same flex/movement pattern as the carbon bike, but it doesn’t get quite as much deflection. He also designed the Cannondale Synapse and says the alloy Grade beats the alloy Synapse in deflection and comfort.

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What it lacks in lightweight and cush, though, it makes up for with integrated rack mounts.

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The look and shape of the alloy frames is very similar to the carbon ones.

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Full length cable housing for shifting and braking keep things clean and make for much easier service.

BUILD OPTIONS

This is just a quick overview until we get full spec sheets. All pricing is for U.S. market.

Grade Carbon Ultegra
- Full carbon fork
- BR-R685 mechanical shifting w/ hydro brakes
- Ultegra 11-speed with 52/36 and 11-32 cassette
- Stan’s NoTubes Grail Road Disc wheels
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 2XXX handlebar
- FSA K-Force Light post with Fizik Aliante MG saddle
- $3,299 (US)

Grade Carbon 105
- Full carbon fork
- Ultegra 11-speed shifters and BR-R685 hydro brakes
- 105 11-speed drivetrain
- Stan’s NoTubes Grail rims on non-series Centerlock hubs
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $2,599

Grade Alloy X
- Full carbon fork
- Ultegra 11-speed shifters and BR-R685 hydro brakes
- 105 11-speed drivetrain
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $1,749

Grade Alloy 105
- alloy/carbon fork
- TRP HyRD brakes
- 105 11-speed drivetrain
- FSA cranks
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $1,299

Grade Alloy Tiagra
- alloy/carbon fork
- TRP Spyre
- Tiagra 10 speed
- FSA Vero 50/34 x 12-28 cassette
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $1,099

Grade Alloy Sora
- alloy/carbon fork
- Bangle mechanical calipers
- Sora 9 speed
- FSA Tempo 50/34 x 12-28 cassette
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $899

Grade Alloy Claros
- alloy/carbon fork
- Bangle mechanical calipers
- Claris 8 speed
- FSA Tempo 50/34 x 12-28 cassette
- Continental Ultra Race 28c tires
- GT Drop-Tune 6061 handlebars
- $799

The U.S. will only see complete bikes at first, other markets may get a frameset depending on demand.

GTbicycles.com

Comments

F Almeida - 06/14/14 - 2:35pm

“low bending moment of inertia (meaning they react quickly)”

In seat stays it rather means they flex easily.

Perry - 06/14/14 - 2:37pm

For similar dollars the Grade Carbon 105 seems like a great deal compared to the war bird.

No GT dealer where I live, but there is always Jenson.

Rico - 06/14/14 - 2:41pm

Wow I’m surprised how many gravel specific bikes are coming out. I’m sure it’s a honkin good time if you can get to some 50-100 mile routes that are mostly gravel or fire roads. Something like this would be sick in eastern europe on dirty, rough roads and fire roads. We normally ride regular road or cross bikes with fat road tires.

Rico - 06/14/14 - 2:50pm

Btw, Tyler you must have almost a 40 inch inseam.

hair - 06/14/14 - 2:56pm

Clearance up to only 35? Should be 42 at least. Big disappointment in an otherwise very surprising GT product.

Ck - 06/14/14 - 3:20pm

Odd looking frame, and I hate the cable routing, but I really like the spec/price for the top end carbon models.

queridiculo - 06/14/14 - 3:53pm

I see seat stays like that and I can’t imagine how they’re going to hold up under a rider of clydesdale proportions.

WoofWoof - 06/14/14 - 4:09pm

35mm of tire clearance, that’s all? These gravel bikes are pointless. A true gravel bike would have provision for at least a 29′er 2.0 tire. As it is, a good cross bike has adequate clearance and works perfectly on gravel. My Ritchey Breakaway CX has plenty of clearance for 40mm tires, with room to spare!

Frank - 06/14/14 - 5:22pm

I’m with WoofWoof, on the tire clearance 50c or I walk.

Otherwise, nice looking bike, well thought-out, looks like fine engineering… lets hear how it rides.

Aaron - 06/14/14 - 5:57pm

Naysayers aside I personally think this bike looks totally dope. I want one. GT has really stepped up their game across the board these last few years.

Henry - 06/14/14 - 6:02pm

“A true gravel bike would have provision for at least a 29′er 2.0 tire.”

No thank you… 35 is ALL you need. I have done multiple gravel events including 4 DKs and don’t understand this idea. There is no need to have that large of a tire even on the rougher roads. Look at what all the winners ride on the biggest gravel events DK and Tusher. They are not riding 2.0 wide 29er tires.

I also hate that cable routing…. You spent 3 years designing this bike but thats the best routing you came up with?

LateSleeper - 06/14/14 - 6:12pm

Love the concept and the aggressive pricing. Although gravel bikes make excellent “do everything” bikes, most folks will be buying these as their 3rd (or N+1 th) bike and won’t want to pay top dollar just to fill a niche.

I think not allowing clearance for 40 mm tires is a serious oversight, but perhaps the trick seat stays will soak up what the rear tire can’t.

For gravel use, the gearing is nonsensical. Why on earth did they put a 52-36 crank on the front? Gravel bikes need a 1:1 low gear for climbing — maybe some riders don’t need it out of the gate, but I guarantee it’ll get used by the end of the day. And a 52/11 combo on gravel and dirt? Trust me, if it’s that steep a downhill, you’re feathering the disc brakes to scrub some speed before the next gravelly corner launches you into a tree or a barb wire fence. A 50-34 compact crankset would probably have been the best choice at these price points. Not quite 1:1 gearing, but close. Really, somebody like FSA needs to make a 46-30 crank that interchanges with Ultegra.

wheel-guy - 06/14/14 - 6:34pm

Everything looks great on this bike except for the 35mm tire limit. That will be a major deal breaker for a lot of people. Perhaps they’ll fix this for next year’s version?

THAT GUY - 06/14/14 - 6:55pm

No 8′ bed on the new Civic? No wonder Honda is losing market share!

Tyler Benedict - 06/14/14 - 8:01pm

Rico – I put the seat down quite a bit before riding it…just looked better for pics this way. The 58 I rode (first impressions will come in a later post) seemed big, waiting on full geometry charts and a few other details from GT then this post will be updated with additional tidbits and pics.

Tyler Benedict - 06/14/14 - 8:10pm

queridiculo – They tested the design using a rigid metal post inside the seat tube and put 700lbs of downward pressure for something like 11,000 cycles with no failure. It’s the same test they use for the Cannondale Synapse (same parent company), and that’s a massive load with a ton of cycles that simply isn’t going to be replicated in the real world. Unless a really, really big Clydesdale kept hucking off stuff and landing seated maybe.

Devin - 06/14/14 - 8:42pm

Did you mean “393 mm axle-to-crown?”

MB - 06/14/14 - 9:24pm

What don’t folks like about the routing? Looks like pretty standard stuff to me. My cx bike is pretty similar with exception to brakes being done a little differently as they aren’t inside the chainstay/seatstay junction. I don’t see any performance issues, just aesthetics? Please educate.

i - 06/14/14 - 9:25pm

Holy crap, that is exactly the bike I’ve been waiting for, at least the di2 version. Too bad they aren’t offering that option.

“low bending moment of inertia”
might want to get the engineering books out, sounds like you’re mixing terms.

John - 06/14/14 - 9:51pm

Cool bike but does the world need a gravel bike? Not a lot of dirt roads around here & I ride those on my road or mt bike. Can’t a cyclocross bike do the same as a gravel bike? All good though the only bad bike to me is one that gets dusty !

hair - 06/14/14 - 10:00pm

@henry – If this frame was designed for 45- 50s, you can still use 35s, lucky skinny tire you, but it’s a deal breaker for me and lots of others since it doesn’t work the other way around.

notapro - 06/14/14 - 10:14pm

Nice sled. 35s are fine. Plenty of cool bikes to choose from these days. “50c or I walk…” Laughable.

Jim Rawson - 06/14/14 - 10:35pm

GT…….Available at a WalMart, K-Mart, Target or Performance near you.

bikerhp - 06/14/14 - 11:13pm

@Jim Rawson. I am not a fan of GT anymore because the direction of the Owners since 2001. BUT GT HAS NOT BEEN SOLD IN WalMart, Target or Kmart. They are sold in Performance, REI and some bike shops. I am sure they will be “ON SALE” in Performance soon. The great fake sale they do on current bikes. The brand that you see in WalMart , Target, K-mark are sister brands Schwinn, Mongoose, Roadmaster, Iron Horse, Dyno, Pacific, and Powerlite. GT, Charge, and Cannondale are the good bikes from Dorel owners of all these brands.

mack_turtle - 06/14/14 - 11:59pm

tire clearance is lame. if you’re a hardcore win-at-all-costs race duder, 35mm knobs makes sense. for the rest of us who want to enjoy riding gravel roads, 42mm is a minimum.

Der_kruscher - 06/15/14 - 12:09am

Obviously this bike isn’t going to tick all of the boxes for everyone out there but IMO the tire limitations and gearing are fine. This looks to be a fairly aggressive bike and my bet is that the folks who are going to use it won’t need a 1:1 ratio or tires bigger than 35′s – it doesn’t appear to be intended for dawdling. I guess that I don’t see much point in getting a carbon bike if you’re not planning on going fast. And while I wouldn’t call this bike beautiful, it is at least interesting to look at. I won’t be buying one (I already have a ‘cross bike) but I like it.

Grail trail - 06/15/14 - 12:16am

The Grade placed 3rd in the DK200 this past month.

Robbo - 06/15/14 - 4:18am

So… that’s a cyclocross bike, right?

Frippolini - 06/15/14 - 6:15am

I think it’s impressive, and from my opinion it shows that GT really made their homework and are ready to fight. Finally someone is ready to give the market a technologically advanced (not leading edge) value product that incorporates some of tomorrow’s standards (disc brakes, through axles, vertical compliance, flared / tapered head tube, reasonable weight).

I also believe that taking a step away from the UCI regulations is the correct thing to do considering that… (1) regulation for racers and races is Ok, but not necessarily applicable and useful for “normal” and weekend racers, same as Formula one regulations has little effect on the cars most of us drive on regular roads, (2) most of the market are not restricted (or cares) about UCI regulations for their riding, (3) regulation can not by definition keep pace with technology development, thus always a step behind.

Sure, the critics will have their opinion about the product not being 100% from their perspective, and although the cable routing might be considered “ugly”, you still have to remember that this is the first generation frame from GT of this article, and most likely it will continue to evolve.

I will for sure take a closer look at this bike, and if it’s as good as it seems, then I will get one.

Jim - 06/15/14 - 8:36am

Triple Triangle Technologhy (TTT)!

mudrock - 06/15/14 - 8:56am

So, those are Conti Grand Sports, which come no larger than 28 width. That sure doesn’t look like room for 35 knobbies to me. And the shelf behind the bb of the aluminum models will collect tons of crap.

FarmerJohn - 06/15/14 - 10:09am

Apparently this very bike placed 3rd at this years Dirty Kanza 200 piloted by Johnathan Schottler- there are a few photos of him with the bike.
The GT Grade seems more like an adventure road bike with capabilities to race gravel. I would think this could do a cross race or two as well. Looks amazing and the value is incredible. Is this the ultimate one trick pony bike for gravel only- no. Is it cable of much more than a single focused bike- appears so. I’m sold!

ScottO - 06/15/14 - 11:25am

*Want*
Great value, cool design, adequate clearance. I’ve done dozens of very long gravel rides and races on rough roads and never run more than 35s. I also ride full on mtb trails on my cross bike. Definitely for the go-fast gravel crowd, if you want huge tires get a warbird.

K11 - 06/15/14 - 11:53am

@mudrock said the thing i was thinking, why design a big horizontal flat section behind the bb? this will collect A LOT of stuff(unless you only use it in dry conditions) not pretending to be a frame designer, but that shelf will accumulate a huge pile of mud rocks and sand.

GT was somebody back in the 80s

Rich Lather - 06/15/14 - 1:25pm

Looks like a enthusiast road bike with relaxed geometry… If it were a gravel racer, it would have taken into consideration the tires that are headed to market that the category has demanded (38 to 42c).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing value and a great bike for a weekend warrior who doesn’t want to be stretched by a long & low bar reach or suffer a steep head tube angle and twitchy handling. But if it were a gravel racer, it would be up to the task and have cycle cross style tire clearance. (even most cross bikes can take a 40).

notapro - 06/15/14 - 2:49pm

Pause. If you do not feed your family by bike racing you ARE a wknd warrior.

Blub - 06/15/14 - 3:58pm

I had a race on gravel today and I fail to see the point. Most folks had perfectly normal crit bikes and we just crushed the section like there was no yesterday, 45 km/h. I would die on a bike like that.

Psi Squared - 06/15/14 - 4:10pm

@notapro: +1.

Antipodean_G - 06/15/14 - 5:47pm

@notapro @Psi Squared my definition of a weekend warrior was that rider who ONLY rode on the weekend, no week days miles, nothing else.

I get what yer say’n though ;)

Jdog - 06/15/14 - 6:59pm

This is an interesting bike. I have been thinking of a synapse for some time, but this might be a better option. Throw the battery on the post and run sector 28 tubeless tires and I think it will make a fun bike.

Can’t wait to test it.

jp - 06/15/14 - 7:13pm

Even if the pilot at DK200 got third on this bike there are a few design flaws that are apparent. No room for 40c+ is sad. Also, all that stuff hanging in front of the bb, the cables etc., are going to get chewed up by rocks. After racing the DK200 myself, my Foundry Harrow looks like someone beat it silly with a hammer from the rocks getting spit up in that direction. Plus, I had to replace all my cables as well since they have a similar routing.

Brad - 06/15/14 - 8:03pm

Looks a bit odd but the pricing is good and it looks like a bit of thought has gone into it. The 35mm tire clearance kills if for me though. I’d prefer 45mm clearance to easily fit 40-42mm tires.

James - 06/15/14 - 8:46pm

There were some pictures of Schottler who raced this bike into 3rd at this years DK200 on Steve Tilford’s blog.

http://stevetilford.com/2014/06/01/dk-200-race-results/

FarmerJown - 06/15/14 - 9:01pm

@jp- did you read the article? Those bikes were retro-fitted with Di2, standard routing is much cleaner- I would much rather replace cable housing than a down tube

H M - 06/16/14 - 6:50am

“low bending moment of inertia (meaning they react quickly).”

You probably mean “2nd moment of area” – wiki “engineer’s theory of bending”

Also “react quickly” = bend easily

MS - 06/16/14 - 9:02am

That alloy frame has a horrible shelf behind the bottom bracket. Whey in the world did they weld it solid?

FoxShadow - 06/16/14 - 11:55pm

Saw one of these with 40mm tires on it. They clear. GT just has to say 35 max because there is a federal law regarding minimum clearance.

Aaron - 06/20/14 - 8:30pm

SO SO, many naysayers. You guys do realize that 2013 Gravel Worlds was won on an All-City Mr. Pink (a steel rim braked road bike) with 28c Vittoria Open Paves?

You do NOT need 40c tires to ride on gravel. 35c is perfect.

Star Stevenson - 06/22/14 - 2:19pm

4:22 miler and Cat 3 rider in cycling crazy Sonoma county, I herniated 4 discs, had spine surgery. I would be into 10mm of vertical compliance and a taller head tube!

Goran - 06/24/14 - 7:21am

Great idea on the strap-on fender mount. Tyler Benedict – Is that available somewhere for purchase?

Thanks

Dougal - 07/21/14 - 12:13am

I wonder how those skinny forks will cope with braking forces. This and the Jamis renegade are both very interesting. Why does everything have to be flat black ?

Kenny O - 10/29/14 - 10:01pm

This is an exciting design from GT but a few specs are missing and a lot of people are making a serious mistake on judging it based on recommended tire sizes. I’m excited for the Stan’s rims as they’re wider than most people realize and the 28mm wide stock tires end up being over 30mm wide when actually measured. Those 35mm wide gravel tires are going to have a wicked sweet profile and fit much differently than on the rims on your current ride. Don’t write it off until you ride it or at least until someone has a chance to swap out the stock tires for some hand made Challenge tires.

My biggest question is what is the rear end setup? Did they go with a 130mm or 135mm with a quick release? With the 15mm thru axle up front, will they put a 142x12mm on the rear for added stiffness and stupid proof wheel installation? (That’s my secret dream setup) Seriously, if they make it with the 142x12mm axle I will be the first in line for one.

My other question is why no SRAM option or no frame and fork option? I loathe the soulless feel of Shimano and would like a crankset with a real 30mm spindle. Shimano has some sick hydraulic brakes but I won’t buy a bike that uses their shifters. It’s a personal preference but I know that I’m not alone. I can get a groupset at a better price point and mix and match between levels.

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