GT Bicycles have launched their all-new Grade in the UK with seven models available priced from £649 to £2,599. The disc-equipped Grade is pitched as a versatile bike that can indulge in a spot of road riding, touring, cyclo-crossing, commuting, gravel racing, with space for big tyres and rack and mudguard mounts.
road.cc was at the worldwide launch of the new Grade in Utah earlier this year, where the company pulled the wraps off a disc-equipped road bike with space for 35mm tyres, slack geometry and a frame designed to be super versatile and comfortable. They only had provisional prices at the launch, but we’ve just got back from GT’s UK distributor Cycling Sports Group in Poole where we had a look at the full range and we can reveal the prices.
There will be five aluminium models with a Claris model kicking things off at £649, running through Sora (£749), Tiagra (£849), 105 (£999) and a 105/R685 hydraulic disc brake build at £1,499. The top of the range is occupied by two carbon framed bikes, one with Shimano 105 costing £1,999 and an Ultegra model at £2,499.
All bikes share common features, the 35mm tyre capacity, relaxed geometry, disc brakes and mudguard and rack mounts. All come fitted with 28mm tyres as standard. The top models use a carbon fork with a 15mm bolt-thru axle, the lower models make do with a regular quick release fork. All bikes use a quick release rear axle.
Grade Alloy 105 - £999
This is the £999 Grade Alloy 105. It’s the second-rung offering and uses a Shimano 105 groupset with an FSA Vero Compact 50/34 chainset. Discs are Tektro's Hy/Rd hydraulic disc brakes. We've reviewed this brakes in the past and found them to be excellent, awarding them a four star review.
Unlike the bolt-thru fork on the top models, the lower bikes make do with a carbon fibre fork with regular quick release dropouts.
The frame, constructed from double butted aluminium with similar tube profiles and shapes to the carbon version, is available in six sizes from 51 to 60cm. We look forward to testing this bike to see how the aluminium frame compares to the carbon version, which features some interesting technology to provide a smooth and compliant ride.
This model rolls on Alex disc-specific rims, with a wider profile that bulges the tyre out noticeably, laced to Formula hubs with 160mm rotors front and rear.
Grade Carbon Ultegra - £2,499
GT will offer just two carbon versions of the Grade for 2015, topping out with this £2,499 Grade Carbon Ultegra model pictured here. Unlike the Di2 bike we rode at the launch, there will be no electronic offering in the Grade 2015 range. Looking at the line-up it is clear GT have focused on an affordable and accessible range rather than focusing on the super expensive top-end. We reckon it won't be long before there's a few blinger bikes at the top of the range in 2016 though.
This model then is specced with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical 11-speed groupset and will have Shimano’s R685 hydraulic disc brakes - they’re not quite available yet so the bike photographed has cable disc brakes.
The brakes operate on 160mm IceTech rotors front and rear. They’re attached to Stan’s No Tubes Grail disc-specific wheels, especially developed for GT following their request for a wider profile rim that can take higher tyre pressures than Stan’s previous disc cyclo-cross wheelset.
GT have chosen an interesting flared drop handlebar across the range, which they call DropTune. They’re made from 2014 double butted aluminium and feature a 14 degree flair. The idea is simply to provide increased bar width when you’re riding in the drops, so you have more control when tackling the trails.
We rode them in Utah and you do get used to them very quickly, and when venturing off-road they certainly give a boost in control. So don't be too hasty to turn your nose up at them.
The rest of the bike is a mix of GT branded parts - the stem and bar tape - and a Fizik Aliante VS saddle resting on an FSA K-Force Light carbon 27.2mm seatpost.
Lastly, the tyres are 28mm wide Continental Grand Sport Race.
Grade offers super versatility
The Grade aims to be a versatile bike. You could race cyclo-cross on it with knobbly tyres, mix up a road ride with some off-road trails with lightly treaded tyres, or ride sportives with slick tyres. With optional mudguard and rack mounts you can ever dabble in a spot of touring, Audax or commuting.It’s a bike that’s only limitation is your imagination. If you only had space for, or only want one bike in your shed, but don't want the usual limitations of dedicated purpose bike, the Grade could be for you.
You could call it a ‘gravel’ bike if you want, there are a lot of those around at the moment, but GT are keen to demonstrate that this isn’t a bike that can be that easily pigeonholed.
The carbon frame gets some interesting tech to dampen nasty vibrations from riding along bumpy roads and gravel tracks. The seatstays are constructed with a solid composite glass core and wrapped with a carbon fibre layer, and they’re as thing as it’s possible to get and still be hollow. They follow the iconic Triple Triangle Design and wrap around the seat tube and join at the top tube. GT reckons this placement outside of the seat tube helps to offer more compliance, by providing a shallow angle.
How much deflection do these stays provide? GT reckon it’s in the region of 10mm, which is quite a bit compared to a regular road frame, and when you factor in the deflection from the large volume tyre and 27.2mm seatpost, you’re looking at quite a bit of deflection overall. Stood over the bike and pushing down hard on the saddle and you can visibly see the stays flexing.
Elsewhere the frame utilises oversize tube profiles with a large down tube and chainstays, press-fit 30 bottom bracket. They’ve opted for a 15mm bolt-thru axle on the new carbon fork (lower down models will make do with a regular quick release fork), along with a regular quick release rear setup.
Claimed frame weight for a size medium is a respectable 950g. That’s not much more than Giant’s new Defy. So it’s light, but it’s also very versatile. There are mudguard eyelets in the fork and rear dropout and, at the seatstays, a removable mounting bridge. You can also fit a rack too. Mudguards for the winter, sans-mudguards for the summer. Nice.
GT have given the Grade the sort of geometry we're seeing on endurance and sportive bikes, so a long wheelbase, relaxed head angle and taller head tube are the defining features. To pick one of the six sizes, a 56 has an effective top tube of 565mm with a 601mm stack and 381mm reach. The head angle is 71.5 degrees and the seat angle is 73. The wheelbase is 1031mm with 430mm chainstays.
You can see the full range at www.gtbicycles.com/gbr_en/
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.