Revamped GT Grade moves further into the gravel and adventure realm

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The original GT Grade was arguably ahead of its time. Launched in 2014, the carbon frame placed an emphasis on ride comfort with its innovative fiberglass-core seatstays, room for 35mm-wide tires, and a relaxed geometry. But the red-hot gravel market was rapidly changing, and it wasn’t long before the Grade that was once so forward-thinking suddenly seemed off the back — something we noted even when we reviewed it in 2016.

But now GT has redesigned the Grade, bringing the family more up to date with the segment, and offering a much more competitive package than its predecessor.

Visually, the new GT Grade bears a strong resemblance to the original one, particularly in terms of its distinctive Triple Triangle profile, with slender seatstays that attach further forward on the top tube. As before, GT says that this provides more rider comfort than more conventional layouts, and more compliance than the previous Grade overall. Both carbon fiber and aluminum versions will be offered.

The unusual seatstays don’t attach to the seat tube at all, instead attaching to the top tube well ahead of the usual spot. The seatstays are also solid, not hollow, with a flexible fiberglass core that promises excellent rider comfort on rough ground.

GT has carried over the unusual seatstay construction on composite versions. Instead of being made of hollow carbon fiber as is typical, the Grade’s seatstays have a solid fiberglass core for extra flexibility, and they’re wrapped with carbon fiber to provide the necessary structural rigidity.

Frame design only provides so much rider comfort, however, and the lion’s share still comes from the tires. The original Grade had room for 35mm-wide tires, but came equipped from the factory with 28mm-wide Continental slicks — a nod toward GT’s thought that the bike would more likely be used by roadies looking for a comfortable ride. But this new Grade is now approved for tires up to 42mm-wide, and proper 37mm-wide WTB gravel treads come stock. GT made no mention of 650b compatibility, though.

Tire clearance has gone up dramatically. Whereas the old Grade could only handle a 35mm tire, the new one will take a 42mm one.

Frame geometry has undergone a thorough rethink as well. Not surprisingly, the new bike leans more heavily toward stability, with lower bottom brackets in most sizes for more surefooted cornering. GT has equipped the new fork with adjustable dropouts, too, so that users can choose between 55mm and 70mm rake figures, depending on whether they want sportier or more relaxed handling.

Stack heights have understandably gone up across the board by about 10mm, depending on size, but reach has actually grown longer across the board as well. Also interesting is the fact that chainstay length stays the same at 430mm for aluminum bikes, but they’re now 15mm longer on carbon models. Shorter stock stems will maintain similar rider positions overall, but the main benefit here is significantly longer — and more stable — wheelbases. On a medium carbon model, for example, the wheelbase has grown a substantial 24mm.

Alloy versions of the new GT Grade are reasonably priced, and certainly offer a unique look.

The overall size range has grown, too – and in the downward direction. Existing 51-62cm size options carry over, but there are now 48cm and 44cm sizes, too, to accommodate shorter riders. The 44cm one will only be offered in aluminum models, however.

Mounts galore

GT has certainly gone aggressive with the accessory mounting options for the new Grade.

There are two bottle mounts inside the front triangle, plus a third one underneath the down tube. “Anything” mounts are located on the outside of each fork blade, and there are dedicated holes for a top tube feed bag. Riders who regularly find themselves in wet conditions will be happy to hear that there are front and rear fender mounts as well, and there’s even the option of fitting a rear rack for extra utility.

Accessory mounts are everywhere you look on the new GT Grade.

Cable routing leans toward serviceability and versatility, too. Brake and mechanical derailleur lines are run externally via bolt-on clamps — mechanics, rejoice! — but there are also internal ports for Shimano Di2 wires and stealth-style dropper seatposts.

Lots of models, a wide price range

GT will offer the new Grade in two aluminum models, and three carbon ones. Retail price for the entry-level alloy bike is US$1,000 / £1,000 / €900, while the upper-end version comes in at US$1,500 / £1,500 / €1,400. Carbon bikes start at US$2,000 /£2,000 / €2,000 and top out at US$3,900 / £3,900 / €3,800. Interestingly, none of the bikes are equipped with single-chainring drivetrains. Australian pricing and availability are to be confirmed.

We’ve got a test sample inbound, so stay tuned for a more in-depth review in a few weeks.

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