Fuji infuses revamped Gran Fondo with vibration-killing technology

New endurance machine promises class-leading smoothness

Fuji’s road range has for the last four years been under constant, ground-up redevelopment. The Track Elite with its wind tunnel-optimised design led to the TDF TTT-winning Norcom Straight time trial machine.

Lessons learnt from these gave way to development of the Transonic aero-road bike that impressed us at BikeRadar.

With the ultra-light SL arriving last year, finally the endurance-oriented crowd is catered for via the all-new Gran Fondo. Aside from its universal adoption of disc braking, Fuji’s design team, led by senior road product manager Steve Fairchild, have looked at every element of the GF’s chassis to improve comfort while maintaining swift handling from the SL and the stability of the Transonic.

Related: Fuji’s SL 1.5: fewer frame sections make a featherweight ride

The frameset is available in two versions. The higher grade 1 series uses Fuji’s C10 carbon and tips the scales at 940g for a 56cm, with the paired fork adding a further 370g. Meanwhile the second-tier 2 series using C5 carbon has a frame weight of 1070g, with the fork clocking 410g. See below for range details and pricing (AU$ figures were TBC at time of writing).

1 series bikes use the higher-grade c10-level carbon: 1 series bikes use the higher-grade c10-level carbon
1 series bikes use the higher-grade c10-level carbon: 1 series bikes use the higher-grade c10-level carbon

1 Series bikes use the higher-grade C10-level carbon

These figures are light for a disc-specific bike with endurance geometry; Fairchild told us the brand could have gone lighter, but explained that would have been at the expense of all-important comfort.

Road-buzz killer

That’s because both frame specifications use ‘VRTech’ material – seen here for the first time in a bike – in the seat and chainstays and through the fork legs. The VRTech process (it stands for Vibration Reduction Technology) uses a layer of polyurethane (PU) material within the carbon layup that Fuji claims vastly improves the frameset’s ability to absorb high-frequency, low pitch vibrations – that’s road-buzz to you and me. The VRTech does add 3-4g per layer, which amounts to around 24g per frameset – not exactly a big penalty to pay when Fuji has measured a 24.6% reduction over a non-VRTech frame.

Testing and proving the concept was conducted with two methods. The first was on road ride testing, with a bike equipped with accelerometers mounted at both hubs, and at the stem and seat rails. These recorded vibrations over mixed surfaces and offered direct comparison to gauge the effect of the frame. Both (VRtech and standard carbon) bikes were equipped with exactly the same components, with equal tyre pressures and the same test riders over the same routes.

The frameset being tested in taiwan's chc labs:
The frameset being tested in taiwan's chc labs:

The frameset being tested in Taiwan's CHC labs

The second test was lab based in Taiwan’s Cycling & Health Tech Industry R&D Center (CHC). The machinery here allowed Fuji to replicate plenty of road surfaces from the smoothest of tarmac to big potholes.

Its not just the VRtech wonder material helping aid the riders comfort though. Fuji has also designed new ‘Wave’ seatstays, which are kinked at the brake bridge position (though there isn’t a brake bridge, just a fender mount) to disrupt the energy path from impacts at the rear wheel reaching the rider’s hindquarters.

The bikes come equipped with 28mm tyres, though there is space to fit 30mm with mudguards (fenders) and, according to Fairchild, a high percentage of 32mm models will fit too. Fairchild told us he believes 30mm rubber is the future for endurance-style bikes, as the increased comfort pays dividends – especially over long distances.

The 'wave' stays are claimed to disrupt the path of impacts between the rear wheel and the rear of the rider: the 'wave' stays are claimed to disrupt the path of impacts between the rear wheel and the rear of the rider
The 'wave' stays are claimed to disrupt the path of impacts between the rear wheel and the rear of the rider: the 'wave' stays are claimed to disrupt the path of impacts between the rear wheel and the rear of the rider

The Wave stays are claimed to disrupt the path of impacts between the rear wheel and the rear of the rider

The disc specification means Shimano flat-mounts plus 12mm thru-axles front and rear (surely 12/12 is set to become the default for road bikes). Interestingly the rear 12mm thru-axle is convertible: with the removal of a single 5mm nut and bolt on both rear dropouts you can remove the threaded thru-axle section and run a standard 135mm QR rear wheel, should you wish.

To ensure the balance of the bike’s rear end the chainstays are highly assymetric, with the non-drive side significantly beefier than the drive side to handle the extra forces upon it from the disc brake.

Size-specific geometry, women’s version in the pipeline

We like that Fuji has built in year-round versatility with the additional of concealed mudguard mounts, with each bike including a set of add-in stainless eyes to fit full length front and rear ’guards.

The ride position is as you’d expect taller at the front and shorter in reach, with our 58cm test bike having a 625mm stack and a 389mm reach. The steering geometry is the same as the race bred SL.

The gran fondo's geometry compared to the sl – it's a little taller, a little shorter in the top tube, but a bit longer in wheelbase:
The gran fondo's geometry compared to the sl – it's a little taller, a little shorter in the top tube, but a bit longer in wheelbase:

The Gran Fondo's geometry compared to the SL – it's a little taller, a little shorter in the top tube, but a bit longer in wheelbase

Fairchild went on to explain that Fuji has introduced an ‘optimal range of trail’ too – in other words the trail figures are size specific (to avoid any potential toe-overlap). So on the XXS bike that’s a trail of 61.7mm on a fork offset of 52mm, on the XXL its 58.7mm on a more standard 43mm offset. Like all Fuji road machines the tubing diameters are also size specific to ensure parity in ride feel across the board, so the (down tube) diameter ranges from 52.3mm on the XXS to 57.2mm on the XXL.

Fuji also announced a women-specific version called the Brevet to launch soon. Alongside the components being female-friendly (slightly narrower bars,  women specific saddles) the developers have also adapted the tube diameters, and size for size they are slightly smaller than the men’s versions (because female riders tend to be lighter than their male equivalents). The top-tube lengths size for size are slightly shorter too.

Up front the internally routed hydraulic cabling looks neat, as does the amount of room for big volume tyres at the fork crown: up front the internally routed hydraulic cabling looks neat, as does the amount of room for big volume tyres at the fork crown
Up front the internally routed hydraulic cabling looks neat, as does the amount of room for big volume tyres at the fork crown: up front the internally routed hydraulic cabling looks neat, as does the amount of room for big volume tyres at the fork crown

Up front the internally routed hydraulic cabling looks neat, as does the amount of clearance at the fork crown

Further models are on the way including flat-barred versions and a range-topping model equipped with SRAM’s wireless Red eTap groupset. The frames already come with injection moulded cable stops for mechanical, Di2, and flush-fitting blanks should you want to forgo cables all together.

First ride impressions: precise handling and tingle-free fingers

We took the Gran Fondo 1.3 for a spin over a mountainous test route in Taiwan. While the road surface was generally good, over speed bumps, bridge expander sections and some rain-scarred tarmac the 1.3 seemed truly impressive. Now, any bike running fat rubber on nicely wider rims like the Oval 723s we’d expect to be great, so to see if the frame really lived up to its claims we banged the pressure up to a way-over-the-top 110psi.

Still the overall impression is a chassis that’s as good at isolating you from irritating road buzz as anything I’ve tried without the aid of suspension. The slightly more upright position than I’d usually ride did at first feel like a bit of a compromise; on the rolling terrain of the first third of the ride I really had to hunch into the drops to get a faster position.

The 1.3 model is based around shimano's ultegra di2 and r785 hydraulic brakes, sadly this model won't be coming to the uk: the 1.3 model is based around shimano's ultegra di2 and r785 hydraulic brakes, sadly this model won't be coming to the uk
The 1.3 model is based around shimano's ultegra di2 and r785 hydraulic brakes, sadly this model won't be coming to the uk: the 1.3 model is based around shimano's ultegra di2 and r785 hydraulic brakes, sadly this model won't be coming to the uk

The 1.3 model is based around Shimano's Ultegra Di2 and R785 hydraulic brakes

When we hit the mountain climbs however the ride position felt ideal, natural and easy on the lower back. Once we’d crested the rise and into a 10km-plus hairpin descent the 1.3 was brilliant in the drops – the perfect mix of power and feel coming from the superb Shimano R-785 brakes and the formidable grip from the big Vittoria slicks only being topped by the stability of the extended wheelbase and the light, swift and precise way the bike steers.

The equipment looks like decent value too. The shapely Carbon Oval Ergo 910 bar has a big oversized shape to the tops, with the opening-out shape of the ergo drops offering plenty of room for even the biggest shovel-hands. Out back the carbon post is a fine match for the frame, with enough slender mast exposed to add a bit more compliance. We even liked the narrow (yet well padded) Oval 700 saddle. 

Readings from the accelerometers showing the amount of g-force experienced after a sizeable hit at the wheels – see how the vrtech quickly minimises the vibration after the initial impact: readings from the accelerometers showing the amount of g-force experienced after a sizeable hit at the wheels – see how the vrtech quickly minimises the vibration after the initial impact
Readings from the accelerometers showing the amount of g-force experienced after a sizeable hit at the wheels – see how the vrtech quickly minimises the vibration after the initial impact: readings from the accelerometers showing the amount of g-force experienced after a sizeable hit at the wheels – see how the vrtech quickly minimises the vibration after the initial impact

Readings from the accelerometers showing the amount of G-force experienced after a sizeable hit at the wheels

The 723 disc specific wheelset, looks pretty understated and, if anything, seems a little modest on a Di2-equipped bike. But as mentioned above the wider rim suits the big volume tyres and they didn’t flex or creak under pressure, and handled well in a section of blustery crosswinds.

Once the ride had finished Fairchild had waiting for us an equally equipped bike, with the same 110psi in the tyres and the same frame material (sans VRTech). We jumped straight onto this unmarked mule, and rode back up the final descent and then back to the finish.

The mule bike fuji offered us to get a comparison between vrtech and standard c10 carbon: the mule bike fuji offered us to get a comparison between vrtech and standard c10 carbon
The mule bike fuji offered us to get a comparison between vrtech and standard c10 carbon: the mule bike fuji offered us to get a comparison between vrtech and standard c10 carbon

The Mule bike Fuji offered us to get a comparison between VRTech and standard C10 carbon

Honestly the difference was marked – on the production bike this section felt smooth and slick, while on the mule halfway down the steep twisting descent we had that telltale tingle in our hands. Elsewhere bike the difference was less drastic, but that probably had more to do with the punishing climbing we’d done over the previous few hours.

In all the Gran Fondo impresses, though the short and tall geometry won’t appeal to racing snakes, even if the handling is spot on. The comfort levels afforded by the frame though should be welcomed and positively encouraged, whatever your particular peccadillo is. We can’t wait to get a GF back on UK soil and treat it to some truly bad road surfaces to see if VRTech really is the cure for tingling fingers we think it might be.

Prices and models

Gran Fondo 1.1

  • PRICE $4110, £3,399
  • SIZES XXS (46cm), XS (49cm), S (52cm), M (54cm), L (56cm), XL (58cm), XXL (61cm)
  • COLOR(S) SATIN CARBON / BRIGHT BLUE
  • FRAME C10 ultra high-modulus carbon w/ VRTech, integrated head tube w/ 1 1/2” lower, internal cable routing, press fit BB30, double water bottle mounts, oversized
ETC chainstays, 12mm convertible thru-axle system w/ replaceable hanger & hidden fender eyelet
  • FORK FC-330 carbon monocoque w/ VRTech, tapered carbon steerer, 12mm thru-axle dropout, hidden fender eyelet
  • CRANKSET Shimano Dura-Ace, 50/34T
BOTTOM BRACKET Praxis conversion bottom bracket PEDALS N/A
FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Dura-Ace, braze-on mount REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Dura-Ace , 11-speed SHIFTERS Shimano R-685 hydraulic, 11-speed
CASSETTE Shimano Dura-Ace, 11-28T, 11-speed
CHAIN Shimano Dura-Ace, 11-speed
  • WHEELSET Oval Concepts 723 Disc, Centerlock hubs, 100x12mm & 142x12mm thru axles, 700c 24/28H tubeless compatible rims
  • TIRES Vittoria Open Corsa, 700 x 28, 320 tpi, folding
  • BRAKESET Shimano R-805 hydraulic, 160mm rotors
  • BRAKE LEVERS Shimano R-685 hydraulic
  • HEADSET FSA, 1 1/8” upper - 1 1/2” lower, integrated w/ carbon top cover
  • HANDLEBAR Oval Concepts 910 Ergo, carbon, 31.8mm clamp, 133mm drop, 4° sweep
  • STEM Oval Concepts 707, 3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7° TAPE Oval Concepts 300 bar tape, suede
  • SADDLE Oval Concepts 700 with pressure relief zone, cromo rail
  • SEATPOST Oval Concepts 905, carbon & alloy, 27.2mm diameter
  • WEIGHT 16.38 LBS / 7.43 KG

Gran Fondo 1.3

  • PRICE $4160/ Not available in the UK
  • SIZES XXS (46cm), XS (49cm), S (52cm), M (54cm), L (56cm), XL (58cm), XXL (61cm)
  • COLOR(S) CARBON / CITRUS
  • FRAME C10 ultra high-modulus carbon w/ VRTech, integrated head tube w/ 1 1/2” lower, internal cable routing, press fit BB30 shell, double water bottle mounts, oversized ETC chainstays, 12mm convertible thru-axle system w/ replaceable hanger & hidden fender eyelet
  • FORK FC-330 carbon monocoque w/ VRTech, tapered carbon steerer, 12mm thru-axle dropout, hidden fender eyelet
  • CRANKSET Shimano Ultegra 6800, 50/34T
BOTTOM BRACKET Praxis conversion bottom bracket PEDALS N/A
FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra Di2, braze-on mount REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra Di2, 11-speed SHIFTERS Shimano R-785 hydraulic, 11-speed
CASSETTE Shimano Ultegra, 11-28T, 11-speed
CHAIN KMC X11L, 11-speed w/ MissingLink
  • WHEELSET Oval Concepts 723 Disc, Centerlock hubs, 100x12mm & 142x12mm thru axles, 700c 24/28H tubeless compatible rims
  • TIRES Vittoria Rubino Pro, 700 x 28, 150 tpi, folding
  • BRAKESET Shimano R-805 hydraulic, 160mm rotors
  • BRAKE LEVERS Shimano R-785 hydraulic
  • HEADSET FSA, 1 1/8” upper - 1 1/2” lower, integrated w/ carbon top cover
  • HANDLEBAR Oval Concepts 910 Ergo, carbon, 31.8mm clamp, 133mm drop, 4° sweep
  • STEM Oval Concepts 707, 3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7° TAPE Oval Concepts 300 bar tape, suede
  • SADDLE Oval Concepts 700 with pressure relief zone, cromo rail
  • SEATPOST Oval Concepts 905, carbon & alloy, 27.2mm diameter
  • WEIGHT 17.52 LBS / 7.95 KG

Gran Fondo 2.1

  • $2600/£1949
  • SIZES XXS (46cm), XS (49cm), S (52cm), M (54cm), L (56cm), XL (58cm), XXL (61cm)
  • COLOR(S) SATIN DARK GRAY / GREEN
  • FRAME C5 high-modulus carbon w/ VRTech, integrated head tube w/ 1 1/2” lower, internal cable routing, press fit BB30 shell, double water bottle mounts, oversized ETC chainstays, 12mm convertible thru-axle system w/ replaceable hanger & hidden fender eyelet
  • FORK FC-440 carbon monocoque w/ VRTech, tapered carbon steerer, 12mm thru-axle dropout, hidden fender eyelet
  • CRANKSET Shimano Ultegra 6800, 50/34T
  • BOTTOM BRACKET Praxis conversion bottom bracket
  • PEDALS N/A
  • FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra, braze-on mount
  • REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
  • SHIFTERS Shimano R-685 hydraulic, 11-speed
  • CASSETTE Shimano 105, 11-28T, 11-speed
  • CHAIN KMC X11L, 11-speed w/ MissingLink
  • WHEELSET Oval Concepts 327 Disc, 6-bolt hubs, 100x12mm & 142x12mm thru axles, 700c 24/28H rims
  • TIRES Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 700 x 28, 60tpi, folding
  • BRAKESET Shimano R-805 hydraulic, 160mm rotors
  • BRAKE LEVERS Shimano R-685 hydraulic
  • HEADSET FSA, 1 1/8” upper - 1 1/2” lower, integrated
  • HANDLEBAR Oval Concepts 310 Ergo, 6061 alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 133mm drop, 4° sweep
  • STEM Oval Concepts 313, 3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7° TAPE Oval Concepts 300 bar tape, suede
  • SADDLE Oval Concepts 500 with pressure relief zone, cromo rail
  • SEATPOST Oval Concepts 905, carbon & alloy, 27.2mm diameter
  • WEIGHT 19.57 LBS / 8.87 KG

Gran Fondo 2.3 Disc

  • PRICE $2110/£1,699
  • FRAME C5 high-modulus carbon w/ VRTech
  • FORK FC-440 carbon monocoque w/ VRTech, tapered carbon steerer, 12mm thru-axle dropout
  • CRANKSET Shimano 105 5800, 50/34T
  • BOTTOM BRACKET Praxis conversion bottom bracket
  • FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano 105, braze-on mount
  • REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano 105, 11-speed
  • SHIFTERS Shimano ST-RS505 hydraulic, 11-speed
  • CASSETTE Shimano 105, 11-28T, 11-speed
  • CHAIN KMC X11, 11-speed w/ MissingLink
  • WHEELSET Oval Concepts 327 Disc, 6-bolt hubs, 100x12mm
  • & 142x12mm thru axles, 700c 24/28H rims
  • TYRES Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 700 x 28, 60tpi, folding
  • BRAKESET Shimano RS505 hydraulic, 160mm rotors
  • BRAKE LEVERS Shimano ST-RS505
  • HEADSET FSA, 1 1/8" upper - 1 1/2" lower, integrated
  • HANDLEBAR Oval Concepts 310 Ergo, 6061 alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 133mm drop, 4° sweep
  • STEM Oval Concepts 313, 3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7°
  • TAPE Oval Concepts 300 bar tape, suede
  • SADDLE Oval Concepts 300, steel rail
  • SEATPOST Oval Concepts 905, carbon & alloy, 27.2mm diameter
  • WEIGHT 19.80 LBS / 8.98 KG

Fuji Gran Fondo 2.5 Disc

  • PRICE $1940/£1,549
  • FRAME C5 high-modulus carbon w/ VRTech
  • FORK FC-440 carbon monocoque w/ VRTech, tapered carbon steerer, 12mm thru-axle dropout,
  • CRANKSET Shimano 105 5800, 50/34T
  • BOTTOM BRACKET Praxis conversion bottom bracket
  • FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano 105, braze-on mount
  • REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano 105, 11-speed
  • SHIFTERS Shimano 105, STI, 11-speed
  • CASSETTE Shimano 105, 11-28T, 11-speed
  • CHAIN KMC X11, 11-speed w/ MissingLink
  • WHEELSET Vera Corsa DPD22, double wall, 24/28h, Formula disc hubs
  • TYRES Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 700 x 28, 60tpi, folding
  • BRAKESET TRP Spyre twin-piston mechanical, 160mm rotors
  • BRAKE LEVERS Shimano 105, STI HEADSET FSA, 1 1/8" upper - 1 1/2" lower, integrated HANDLEBAR Oval Concepts 310 Ergo, 6061 alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 133mm drop, 4° sweep
  • STEM Oval Concepts 313, 3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7°
  • TAPE Oval Concepts 300 bar tape, suede
  • SADDLE Oval Concepts 300, steel rail SEATPOST Oval Concepts 905, carbon & alloy, 27.2mm diameter
  • WEIGHT 19.74 LBS / 8.96 KG
Warren Rossiter

Senior Technical Editor
Approaching two decades of testing bikes, Warren can be found on a daily basis riding and exploring the road and off roads of Wiltshire's Salisbury Plain in the UK. That's when he's not travelling the world to test the latest kit, components and bikes.
  • Discipline: Road
  • Preferred Terrain: Big, fast descents and rough surfaces like cobbles or strada bianca
  • Current Bikes: Decade Tripster ATR, Dedacciai Temarario, Cannondale Synapse, BMC Granfondo Disc Di2, Genesis Day One CX, Parlee Z Zero Custom, Storck Scenario Comp Custom, DMR Trailstar, Bianchi Pista, Cube SUV 29er e-bike
  • Dream Bike: Bianchi Oltre Disc, Bianchi Specialissima, Cannondale Slate, Buffalo Bike
  • Beer of Choice: Brew Dog Punk IPA
  • Location: Wiltshire, UK

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