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Verdict: 
A versatile, fast and capable road bike that's happy in the rough
Weight: 
8,780g
GT Grade Carbon Ultegra
8 10

GT's flagship carbon fibre Grade was one of the first of the new breed of gravel and adventure bikes to hit the market when it launched a couple of years ago. It combines disc brakes with big tyres and slacker geometry to create a bike that is fast on the road yet capable of tackling more adventurous trails and paths. You get a well-considered package for the asking price and it should definitely be on your shortlist.

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GT Grade - riding 2.jpg

GT Grade - riding 2.jpg

Ride and handling

Where road bikes are pure in their pursuit of speed on the road, the new gravel/adventure category offers you a wider choice of roads and tracks to ride over. GT tags the Grade with the EnduRoad descriptor, but you can call it what you want: it's a road bike with bigger tyres, disc brakes and slacker angles, which opens up the sort of riding the bike is capable of doing.

Take your pick of gravel roads, bridleways, beaten up old farm tracks, potholed country lanes, old mountain bike tracks... the Grade tackles them all, and more, just fine. Its 28mm tyres (which appear much wider on the Grail rims) provide good comfort and traction (in the dry), while the carbon frame and fork take the edge out of bumpier tracks but maintain a nice bit of zip when sticking to the tarmac.

GT Grade - fork clearance.jpg

GT Grade - fork clearance.jpg

The geometry, with a longer wheelbase and slacker head angle than a road bike, instills a huge amount of confidence in its ability to be stable and steady, traits that mean it's very composed at high road speeds or when hurtling down a dusty tree-lined track dodging roots and rocks.

Don't think that it's slow and ponderous on the road. Granted, it doesn't have the razor sharp direction changes or acceleration of a race bike, but it's far from a slouch when used mainly as a road bike, and it'll cruise along the road just as fast as the best endurance bike. You can ride it for long distances or load it up with some bikepacking bags and go on a multi-day adventure – on a route that takes in some of the forgotten lanes and byways that crisscross this small island.

GT Grade - riding 4.jpg

GT Grade - riding 4.jpg

The weight – 8.78kg thanks to the carbon build and generous kit choices – gives you a fighting chance on the hills, where the 52/36 chainset and 11-32 cassette help you scale most climbs. A 50/34 chainset would be preferable, especially when heading into more challenging terrain and especially if you do decide to swap the slicks for a tyre with more aggressive tread pattern and head into wilderness, where climbs are typically steeper.

GT Grade - drivetrain.jpg

GT Grade - drivetrain.jpg

The bike displays a high level of front-end stiffness when climbing out of the saddle, with the 15mm thru-axle helping to eliminate rotor rub from the disc brake and the oversized bottom bracket and down tube area ensuring it feels stiff under pedal. The use of a regular quick release 135mm back-end didn't appear to be a detriment to the ride of the bike, but it must be noted that more recently designed adventure bikes are leaning towards thru-axles at both ends.

GT Grade - front hub.jpg

GT Grade - front hub.jpg

The full-carbon frameset, with slender seatstays (carbon wrapped fibreglass cores) and fork blades, noticeably removes more vibration from the ride than the aluminium Grade I tested last year, resulting in a more composed ride on the wide variety of terrain the bike is able to tackle and conquer.

A pair of 28mm Continental tyres are, at about 75-80psi, beautifully smooth on the road, mopping up bumps and ripples very well. They're capable of tackling off-road trails, provided the ground is dry: the slick design is next to useless in mud. There's ample tyre clearance, up to 35mm, to fit a gravel tyre (such as Panaracer's GravelKing) or even a cyclo-cross tyre, so the Grade can be easily adapted for a higher ratio of off-road to road use if that's how you want to use the Grade.

GT Grade - stays.jpg

GT Grade - stays.jpg

The Grade, then, handles any terrain with ease and isn't fazed by rough terrain, yet whizzes along the smoother stuff as quickly as any decent endurance road bike. That you can fit mudguards and racks boosts its versatility immensely, making it a bike that can comfortably replace three or four dedicated-purpose bikes. It's well suited to the recreational cyclist who cycles for fun or transportation, rather than those who count segment chasing as their priorities.

Frame details

GT has used its iconic Triple Triangle design, most famously used on its Zaskar mountain bike from the 90s, with a full-carbon fibre construction.The seatstays are actually made by wrapping a fibreglass core with carbon fibre, to provide the right blend of stiffness and compliance. That, along with the 27.2mm seatpost, is claimed to provide as much as 11mm of deflection, which helps to smooth out rougher roads and impacts from riding over ridges and holes.

GT Grade - seat tube junction.jpg

GT Grade - seat tube junction.jpg

A huge down tube, BB30 bottom bracket and tapered head tube help to ensure the frame is stiff enough to deliver the speed on the road. As I've said, this model benefits from a full-carbon fork with a 15mm thru-axle. Because the Grade has been around for a few years now, it's using post mounts for the disc brakes; while not as clean looking as the newer flat mount standard, it works just fine and is easy to adjust.

GT Grade - rear disc.jpg

GT Grade - rear disc.jpg

There are details of which I'm a fan, the external cable routing being one, with the cables and rear brake hose neatly clipped to the underside of the down tube. Full-length outers prevent dirt getting into the cables, the frame looks clean, and cable replacement is going to be far easier than with internal cable routing. A removable seatstay bridge provides a mudguard mount, a simple and smart solution that lets you fit mudguards for winter riding.

Build and prices

The pictured bike is the most expensive model in the Grade range, and packs a full Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset with hydraulic disc brakes. It's an excellent combination. Gear changes are a delight, with a light action, and the brakes are simply superb. Get them bedded in and they deliver stacks of braking power with easy one-finger application, they're a godsend on challenging descents and flawless in the dirt.

GT Grade - bars 3.jpg

GT Grade - bars 3.jpg

The devil is in the detail, for GT has packed this bike with a really high-quality set of wheels. The excellent Stan's Grail rims – a wide aluminium tubeless rim able to take plenty of abuse – are laced to the lovely DT Swiss 240 hubs which are silky smooth and very durable. Brass nipples are a nice touch as they provide better longevity and durability, for a negligible weight penalty.

GT Grade - rim and tyre.jpg

GT Grade - rim and tyre.jpg

Continental's Grand Sport 28mm tyre is a good choice, fast-rolling and puncture-resistant, and on the wide Grail rims measure closer to 30mm – they look huge! It's a shame that GT hasn't opted to make use of the tubeless compatibility of the Grail rims and fit some tubeless tyres. There's nothing to stop you upgrading them yourself, but if you've just spent £2,700 on the bike, you might understandably be wanting to curtail any future expenses.

> Check out our guide to the best adventure and gravel bikes

You get a GT branded aluminium handlebar, with its flared drops, and matching stem, coupled with an FSA K-Force carbon fibre 27.2mm seatpost. The flared handlebar feels a bit odd at first if you've never used one before, but while it makes less sense on the road, it's invaluable on off-road terrain. The extra width provides more leverage and control over the bike's direction when tackling rougher tracks, especially those pointing down.

GT Grade - bars.jpg

GT Grade - bars.jpg

The seatpost is topped with a superbly comfortable Fizik Aliante saddle, the kicked tail shape a benefit on steep off-road trails. The plastic edges help to prevent scuffs if you have any crashes or tumbles off-road as well.

Conclusion

Its looks might be divisive, but it's a well-designed bike packed with some thoughtful details and the performance will appeal to the many riders who want one bike that is happy on the road but capable of going off-road, and versatile enough to be turned into a touring bike, cyclo-cross racer, mudguard-equipped commuter or regular road bike. The Grade is a chameleon of a bike.

Verdict

A versatile, fast and capable road bike that's happy in the rough

road.cc test report

Make and model: GT Grade Carbon Ultegra

Size tested: 56

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame: All New GT EnduRoad carbon frame and fork, disc specific triple triangle with Tapered head tube, full carbon fork, PFBB30 bottom bracket, removable fender bridge

Fork: GT Carbon with tapered 1 1/8-1 1/4 threadless Carbon steerer, disc specific, 15mm thru axle

Chain: KMC X11

Crank: Shimano Ultegra 52/36 with Praxis Works PF30 BB adapter

Bottom Bracket: Praxis Works PF30 BB adapter

Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra braze on

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 11spd

Shifters: Shimano Ultegra STI 11spd

Cog Set: Shimano 105 11spd 11-32

Rims: Stans No Tubes Grail Disc specific Road 28h

Tires: Continental Grand Sport Race 700x28c Folding

Hubs: F: DT Swiss 240 sealed bearing, centerlock, 15mm thru-axle; R: DT Swiss 240 sealed bearing, centerlock, 135mm spacing

Spokes: 15g stainless steel

Nipples: Brass CP

Brake: Shimano R685 hydraulic w/ cooling fins, 160mm IceTech centerlock rotors

Brake Levers: Shimano BR-R685

Handlebar: New GT DropTune Ultra Light double butted 2014 alloy bar with 16degree flair

Stem: New design 3D forged alloy SL

Grips: Black Marble Cork

Headset: Integrated TH sealed bearing

Saddle: Fizik ALIANTE R7 Mg

Seat Post: FSA K-Force Light carbon 27.2, 20mm set back

Seat Clamp: New Alloy blk ano

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

GT says:

Take the road to nowhere

When you want to head off the beaten path, take the road less traveled, or avoid cliches altogether, the Grade Carbon is the bike of choice for the route of your dreams. With a glass fiber and carbon frame and GT's patented Triple Triangle design, you have the ultimate in control and fatigue reduction for those long day exploring the roads to nowhere.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

High-quality finished and the paint job is durable, ideal for tackling rocky trails.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Full carbon fibre frame and fork with carbon wrapped fibreglass stays.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Longer and slacker than an endurance bike.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Fitted very well with no stem change needed, with good reach for long distance road comfort, yet with nimble handling off-road – a shorter stem would liven it up off-road if you wanted.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Incredibly smooth provided you don't overinflate the tyres – they work best at lower pressures so don't be afraid to experiment.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

The oversized bottom bracket and down tube, along with the tapered head tube and 15mm thru-axle fork, ensure the bike is very responsive and doesn't waste your power input.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very well.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Relaxed, very relaxed.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Relaxed and steady best sums up the handling of the bike, and it really shines on descents.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I'd love to see tubeless tyres fitted as standard to make use of the tubeless compatibility of the excellent Grail rims.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

A compact chainset would better suit this bike if you want to explore trails and paths, but for road use the 52/36 is just fine.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Use this box to explain your score

There's growing choice in this gravel/adventure category but the Grade was one of the first from a big brand, and it's still very much a relevant choice combining great performance with a sorted specification.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

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.

12 comments

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Thelma Viaduct [57 posts] 1 year ago
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I bought the 2015 version, same spec as '16. Agree with the review. Only negatives from me are the wheel build is awful, 2 snapped spokes and would prefer a seatpost with zero layback. 2017 comes with a Mavic wheelset, Sram red version looks mint too, but obviously comes with chocolate fireguard sram hydraulics.

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jterrier [108 posts] 1 year ago
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Mine is a carbon 105 which i felt was more economically sensible. It did indeed break a spoke. Just one though. Otherwise it is a completely brilliant bike that does everything i need.

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Pauldmorgan [233 posts] 1 year ago
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Thelma Viaduct wrote:

Sram red version looks mint too, but obviously comes with chocolate fireguard sram hydraulics.

I've got SRAM Red hydros on my bike - they're brilliant.

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paulrattew [195 posts] 1 year ago
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I've got the 2015 Carbon 105 version. Great bike - couldn't justify the extra expense of the Ultegra version when 105 is so good now (plus the fact that it is on a bike which will take a battering, so ultegra would be prohibitively expensive to replace).
I've not hand any problems with spokes snapping, but the rear wheel doesn't seem to want to stay true for long which is frustrating. I'm tempted to have the rear wheel just fully built up again. The hub is good and the rim is great, but something is obviously off with the factory build. I do change the tyres around a lot though (Schwalbe X-one, G-one and Hutchinson sectors - depending on what I am planning on riding) which probably doesn't help though

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Kestevan [79 posts] 1 year ago
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I've also got the carbon 105 (won in a compo) and had repeated problems with broken spokes (front and rear). Eventually gave in and got the wheels rebuilt from scratch. Wheelbuilder said the rear rim was "pringled" and he couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't keep giving issues.

Replaced the rear with a new one from Superstar (same Grail rim, but with a higher spoke count) and not had any problems since.

Shame, as the bike itself is a truly excellent all rounder.

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StephenMC [2 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm so glad it's not only me getting the problems with spokes, I blew 3 in a week at one point. Now i put it down to being bigger than the average rider and going up hills a lot. I eventually gave up and took both wheels in for a rebuild. Turns out some of the spokes seem to have been wired up wrong at the factory according to a very reputable wheelbuilder in my local town. He showed me where the spokes were rubbing the hubs one the drive spokes, explaining why I blew a few jumping out of the saddle. I have had no trouble since, it was actually a relief not to hear that twang once i'd got them back and fitted.

The bike itself though is another matter, it's superb. I'd never dipped intot he road market properly before but i bought the ultegra just to stop myself from buying the 105 and being stupid enough to end up upgrading it. I have no idea what the difference between a road bike and gravel racer was, but on the road it's manners are immaculate. On the gravel and cobblestones it's every bit as bumpy as i would expect a road bike to be.

I  love it though, it's my primary bike and so much easier than cleaning yourself up after taking out the mountain bike.

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StephenMC [2 posts] 1 year ago
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.

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MikeGT [4 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

I have the 2015 Carbon Ultegra and it is a great bike, and very comfortable indeed.  However, I too had issues with the poor quality Grail rims.  Three spokes broke on the rear in quick succession resulted in having it rebuilt at TriSports Letchworth with double-butted spokes.  The old spokes seemed to have such a sharp angle at the nipple/spoke junction that you could see that it was a weakness waiting to happen.

The front wheel always sounded like it had something inside the rim.  I removed the tyre countless times to check for bits but never found anything.  Pop the tyre on and inflate it, there it was again.  Lots of frustrating trips (five) to Evans Cycles to get it sorted and EVENTUALLY (almost reluctantly) they decided that there was a problem and replaced the rim under warranty.  The bit of metal which joins the rim internally was defective in some way. New rim, no rattle.

So now those dreaded wheels have been relegated to being my winter wheels and I've just bought some extremely good value Hunt Aero Light Disc Race wheels and taken the tubeless plunge.  OMG what a difference! The bike feels so much quicker and more responsive - quite a transformation.

So GT, please sort out the poor quality of the Grails rims, and for you Grade owners out there, upgrade to some Hunts and love the bike all over again.

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shufflingb [15 posts] 1 year ago
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To balance things a bit, I've got one of the 2015 Grade Ultegra's as well and it has had a good thumping off road from me without any problems yet (he said crossing fingers ...), wonder if there was bad batch of wheels went through?

Have found the bike to be a wonderful bridle path basher, particularly tubeless. Only improvement I'd previously thought I would like would be a tad more mud clearance, although the suggestion of the Hunt Aero Light wheels now sounds like an interesting experiment  1

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Fifth Gear [114 posts] 1 year ago
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I bought this same bike, the 2016 Ultegra, in January as a Winter bike because the rim brakes on my old bike simply weren't working properly in the wet. I fitted mudguards and have mainly used it onroad though it has been on canal towpaths a few times. I've never had the slightest problem with it and in fact I found I preferred it to my Summer bike, a Colnago carbon fibre road bike, as it is almost as fast and gives a much more comfortable and steady ride. I can recommend it as a very enjoyable bike to ride in wet or dry conditions.

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nadsta [174 posts] 1 year ago
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I bought the 105 carbon just before Xmas 2014. I couldn't understand how the then unavailable ultegra version was £700 more. Broken plenty of spokes, bike feels sometimes heavy and always too high at the front despite changing & slamming stem , but I kind of like its goofiness. It's quick enough on the flat, you trust it on wet and dry descents with the fat tire and discs, and I'm not worried about commuting & winter miles as its relatively inexpensive and easy to clean/maintain. Was thinking of ditching for new Canyon or at least upgrading to the Hunt aero wheels but wary of chucking money at the winter bike. Now I've seen the pic above though I'm tempted with wheels  Experimented with tubeless but had more punctures in a few months than I usually have in a year. Tyres ended up full of tyre boots and kit covered in sealant so have gone back to tubes with new Vittoria graphene 'commuter' tyres. Supplied mudguard bridge has chewed into the super thin seat stays, at least they're solid. Could be abrasion from road grit trapped between rubber and carbon so beware and keep that surface clean. 

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massmoor [1 post] 9 months ago
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Coming from an XC MTb background and the last road bike I had was a Raleigh Equipe (1988) I didn't want an out and out road bike and this fit the bill perfectly.

I bought the 2015 105 version and have loved riding it mainly on road but have ventured off road and its superb on both.  *However* the wheels are RUBBISH, after numerous broken spokes and wheel trues I changed the rear hub for a Shimano CX75  (original freehub died after 500 miles) had them rebuilt from scratch with new spokes then sold them.  

I replaced the stock wheels with Superstar Switch Evo Alex Black Dragons and they have made a massive difference to the ride and dropped about 250g off the weight.  I also changed the bars for some FSA Omega Compact Bars as I didn't like the flare on or offroad and again its made a difference to the handling  for the better, its a bit sharper.  The 105 is faultless and the disk brakes are great.  I had various tyres on (Happy Mediums, GP4000S, CX Speed) but am currently running Vittoria Corsa G+ 28mm.

Overall this is great bike but the wheels are terrible.