Everything is turning up gravel these days, and GT Bicycles has revamped their Grade model which they introduced in 2015. From afar, the changes to the Grade may look subtle but move closer, and you will see some unique updates.
The triple triangle has long been synonymous with GT bicycles, and the Grade integrates that design in a new and intriguing way. While past models have seen the extra triangle attach or become part of the seat tube, the latest version of the Grade introduces floating seat stays, descending from the top tube straight to the rear dropouts. What does that mean for the rider? According to GT, a more forgiving ride in the saddle over rough terrain, while maintaining verticle compliance, and let’s be honest, there can never really be too much vertical compliance.
Along with floating seatstays by way of the redesigned Triple Triangle, GT has also redesigned the fork on the Grade. The new Grade fork has plenty of mounting points for carrying a variety of gear and accessories as well as fender mounts. Most interestingly is GT’s addition of a flip chip in the thru axle. The flip chip gives riders 15mm of adjustability ranging from a 55mm offset to 70mm.
The Grade presents an optimal solution for riders looking for a drop ar bike to handle a variety of tasks. With a plethora of mounting points and the ability to change the fork offset the Grade appears to be equally at home on a gravel race course as it does packed up for a multi-day adventure.
I was able to sneak the Grade out for a little romp in the rain on as many surfaces I could find. The Carbon Pro model comes equipped with Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 shifting componentry and an FSA gravel specific crankset sporting a 46 and 30 tooth chainrings. The precise Di2 shifting is a compliment to any ride, and on the Grade, it’s no different. For my first venture out on the Grade I left the fork thru-axle at the 55m offset position knowing that I wasn’t going to be loading down the front of the bike.
On the open road in search of gravel and dirt, the Grade felt smooth and fast. With a set of WTB Ridler tires, there was just enough tread for when the surface got loose and still rolled with ease on the tarmac. While on loose gravel paths and a longer washed out dirt climb, the Grade felt nice and stable. I can only imagine that the sensation of stability will increases when flipping the fork chip to the 70mm position. Out the saddle, there was most undoubtedly vertical compliance, and while I may not have noticed the suppleness of the floating seat stays, my ride was perhaps not quite long enough to appreciate the subtle benefits.
We plan on testing the Grade on a variety of terrain and destinations to boil down it’s finer points to see just where this bike excels. GT will be offering the Grade in several builds starting at $1000 for the opening Aluminum frame models up to $3900 for the Carbon Pro Model featured here. For more on the Grade be sure to check out GT Bicycles.