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Just In: GT Grade Carbon Ultegra

A £2,700 endurance bike designed for a variety of road surfaces, with hydraulic disc brakes and a Shimano Ultegra groupset

The £2,699.99 GT Grade Carbon Ultegra has just arrived at for review, so let’s take a good look before we take it out on the road.

GT Grade - seat tube junction.jpg

The Grade range is aimed at more than just asphalt. Dave summed it up like this when he reviewed the GT Grade Alloy Tiagra last year: “GT’s Grade is one of a new trend of road bikes (some call it gravel and adventure, GT calls it EnduRoad) built with the intention of providing the capability to tackle more than just smooth roads, because with its relaxed geometry and bigger tyres, the Grade is as happy hurtling through the woods on a thin slither of singletrack as it is chasing wheels on the Sunday club run. Fit some mudguards and it can be pressed into service as a daily commuter.”

GT Grade - top tube.jpg

Seeing as we’re slinging quotes about, here’s GT’s own take on it: “The EnduRoad series bikes are built for the long haul, and especially love it when you take the path that brings on dirt. Comfortable geometries pair up with a stiff frame and the durability you’ve come to love in our mountain bikes for the ultimate in go-anywhere road (and off road) riding.”

GT Grade - head tube badge.jpg

So you get the idea. The Grade bikes are designed to be versatile.

The big difference between the Grade that we reviewed last year and this one is the frame material. Rather than aluminium alloy, this model is carbon (the clues are in the names).

GT Grade - bottom bracket.jpg

The head tube is tapered, taking a 1 1/8in bearing at the top and a 1 1/4in bearing down below, while the bottom bracket shell is oversized (BB30 standard) fitted with a Praxis Works conversion bottom bracket to take a Shimano Ultegra 52/36-tooth chainset (with a 24mm axle rather than a BB30’s 30mm axle). The design keeps the cartridge bearings outboard of the frame. 

GT Grade - seat stays detail.jpg

Of course, the frame is built to GT’s ‘Triple Triangle’ design, meaning that the seatstays meet the seat tube quite low and then just keep on going up to the top tube. GT claims that this frame layout reduces unwanted lateral frame flex and improves acceleration, although we suspect that it’s as much to do with brand identity as anything else.

GT Grade - thru axle.jpg

Like the frame, the fork is carbon, including the steerer, and both are 15mm thru-axle designs.

We have the 56cm frame here which comes with a stack height (the vertical distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube) of 601mm and a reach (the horizontal distance between those points) of 381mm. Those figures suggest a far more upright riding position than you get on a standard road bike, although we’ll find out for sure once we pump up the Grade's tyres and get out there.

GT Grade - rear dropout.jpg

The GT Grade Alloy is available in five different builds while the carbon model is offered in Shimano 105 and Ultegra options. You'll probably know that Ultegra is Shimano’s second tier road groupset, sitting below only Dura-Ace in the hierarchy.

GT Grade - rim and tyre.jpg

Both derailleurs are Ultegra and, as mentioned earlier, so is the semi-compact chainset, while the hydraulic brakes and levers are non-series RS685

GT Grade - stays.jpg

The wheels comprise DT Swiss 240 hubs and Stans No Tubes Grail Disc specific rims. The tyres are Continental Grand Sport Race in a 28mm width, although there’s plenty of clearance to spare if you want to swap to something larger for more grip and comfort in future. 

GT Grade - saddle.jpg

Speaking of comfort, we’re guessing that the narrow (27.2mm) FSA K-Force Light carbon seatpost will provide some give to improve the ride quality. The saddle that sits on there is a Fizik Aliante with a carbon-reinforced nylon shell and magnesium rails.

GT Grade - stem.jpg

The flared handlebar and stem are both aluminium alloy, and the complete bike weighs in at 8.78kg (19.4lb).

GT Grade - bars.jpg

Of the gravel/adventure bikes that we’ve reviewed on in the past, the closest in price to the £2,699.99 GT Grade Carbon Ultegra is the Jamis Renegade Elite. This was £2,500 when we reviewed it this time last year and it’s now £2,699. 

The Renegade Elite is also built around a carbon-fibre frame and fork, and it has a Shimano Ultegra groupset, just like the GT, although the chainset is compact rather than semi-compact, so you get some lower gears. The hydraulic disc brakes are Shimano 685.

GT Grade - fork clearance.jpg

Jez loved the Jamis, concluding, “Brilliant do-it-all bike. Light, tough, very well-specced and grin inducing,” and it’s our current Adventure Bike of the Year

That means the GT Grade Carbon Ultegra is going to have to do a lot to impress us. It’s time to get it out on the road to see how it performs. We’ll be back with a review on soon.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

Add new comment


MrB123 | 7 years ago
1 like

Can't really undrstand the reason for speccing a semi-compact chainset on this bike. Surely a compact would be far more appropriate for a bike designed to be taken off road on occasion.

wycombewheeler replied to MrB123 | 7 years ago
MrB123 wrote:

Can't really undrstand the reason for speccing a semi-compact chainset on this bike. Surely a compact would be far more appropriate for a bike designed to be taken off road on occasion.

Semi compact with 32t cassette gives same bottom gear as compact with 28t cassette. Or are you pushing for semi compact with 32? Would certainly make the steep hills easier.

shufflingb | 7 years ago

I'm lucky enough to have last years version. Around here (edge of East Anglia) it's a really great bike for byeway and bridle path bashing for most of the year, typically say from late spring to early autumn.

However, outside of that season I've had to to lug it a few more times than I care to mention because of wheels have got clogged with mud.  So personally I'm farily convinced that the ideal bike for typical British offroad conditions looks a lot like the Grade, but with another inch or so of clearance on a 33cc tyre.

 Of course this might just be me justifying  my  n+1 quest   1


untakenname | 7 years ago

I've got the 2015 version (what's changed?) and it's pretty sweet, done some 200km sportives and it's not that much slower on the shoddy UK tarmac than my dedicated road bike which is over 2kg lighter.

 I recomend taping some helicoptor tape to the mount the rear mudguard clips onto on the rear triangle otherwise grit will get between the mount and guard and due the the rear stays flexing (by design) but the mudguard mount remaining stationary in one ride the grit can wear into the carbon.
Sadly I know this from experience and GT won't do much about it.

paulrattew | 7 years ago
1 like

Lose the less than great Conti 28mm tyres and fit some Schwalbe G-One 35mm tyres in their place. Takes the bike from being a great ride to being spectacular.

I've got the 2015 Carbon 105 model (which has the RS685 shifters). I'm not convinced that the Ultegra version is would have been worth the extra money. The wheel hubs are marginally better, slightly better seatpost and ultegra gears for me just wasn't worth the extra money, especially when the current incarnation of 105 works so well. I think the 2016 version of the Carbon 105 has the 105 level shifters, which are pants in comparison to the RS685s.

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