GT Grade Carbon Expert review

Happy on or off the tarmac

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £2,200.00 RRP

Our review

The Grade is a quick, road-orientated bike that still likes to get its feet dirty
Buy if, You want a light bike with proper road speed and decent gravel potential
Pros: Carbon frameset, Stan’s wheelset, very good value
Cons: Narrow high-pressure tyres aren’t ideal off road
Skip to view product specifications

GT started in 1972, and was a great innovator in the fledgling mountain bike scene. Comprising GT’s EnduRoad category, the Grade debuted ahead of the current gravel bike trend, but is equipped to compete.

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This model is the cheapest carbon Grade in the range, as well as being the only all-carbon fibre adventure bike on test, and the most expensive, against the Kinesis Tripster AT, Merida Silex 700, Ridley X-Trail Adventure, Specialized Sequoia Elite and Trek Checkpoint ALR5.

So, what does it offer that could make that higher price worth paying?

GT Grade Carbon Expert frame

The high-modulus carbon frame incorporates GT’s trademark Triple Triangle seat cluster design
The high-modulus carbon frame incorporates GT’s trademark Triple Triangle seat cluster design
Robert Smith Photography / Immediate Media

First up is that high-modulus carbon frame, incorporating GT’s trademark Triple Triangle seat cluster design, which braces the main triangle and permits additional seated flex from the dropped seatstays.

All the cables and brake hoses run externally beneath the down tube and chainstays, with the front brake hose clipped on to the front of the fork leg. I’d replace its single clip with a cable tie, because if it gets pulled off, the hose will rub against the tyre. It’ll take full mudguards, the rear attaching to a seatstay bridge that bungees on to the stays.

GT Grade Carbon Expert tyres

WTB tyres are almost slick in comparision with the more rugged rubber on the competition
WTB tyres are almost slick in comparision with the more rugged rubber on the competition
David Caudery/Immediate Media

GT refers to the Grade as a road bike, something borne out by the road-oriented gearing of 52/36 and 11-32, and on this model, the 32mm, mostly slick WTB Exposure tyres.

Narrowest amongst the test group, and with the highest minimum pressure of 65psi, they have a smooth central band, bordered by shallow angled grooves before a jagged collection of barely raised, small, square tread blocks, edged by a row of low rectangles along the shoulder.

The tyres are mostly slick 32mm WTB Exposure tyres
The tyres are mostly slick 32mm WTB Exposure tyres
Robert Smith Photography / Immediate Media

They’re mounted on a pair of 25mm wide Stan’s ZTR Grail tubeless rims, measuring 33mm, but although the rims are tubeless compatible, the tyres aren’t.

While there’s 10mm or more additional tyre clearance at the fork and seatstays, the chainstays only have 5mm on each side of the Exposures, limiting bigger rubber choices.

GT Grade Carbon Expert ride impressions

The Grade Carbon handles light bikepacking with ease, but needs more air volume
The Grade Carbon handles light bikepacking with ease, but needs more air volume
Robert Smith Photography / Immediate Media

On the road, it’s the most road bike-like of the group, hardly surprising given the tyres, and eagerly picks up pace. I appreciated the 42cm flared drop bar’s relaxing 50cm outer width and hand position on the hoods at speed.

The Grade’s geometry pitches a 73-degree seat angle with a 70.5-degree head angle, reasonably short head-tube, lengthy chainstays and a 1,025mm wheelbase, ensuring a good riding position, and relaxing handling that’s stable on gravel.

The bike will take full mudguards
The bike will take full mudguards
Robert Smith Photography / Immediate Media

It’s the best climber of this bunch, which has less to do with overall weight than with tyre, wheel and frame efficiency. Carbon fibre’s damping properties smooth road vibrations, and help to fend off big hits on dirt and gravel, while the WTB saddle and carbon seatpost keep things seriously comfortable.

With 65psi in the relatively low volume tyres, things can get a little choppy on the roughest surfaces, and there’s minimal shoulder grip to deal with loose cambers.

As a fast bikepacker with a seat pack and frame bag it would fly over mixed routes with a tarmac bias, and with mudguards added it’s a decent commuting option.

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Although specced with 105 and the RS505 hydraulics, the Grade’s frameset and wheels make it decent value, but it lacks some of the features common on the current crop of gravel bikes. For the adventurous rider, fitting 35mm tubeless gravel-friendly rubber would maximise the Grade’s exploration potential.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Grade Carbon Expert
Brand GT

Available Sizes 51cm 53cm 55cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Seat Tube (cm) 49
Shifters Shimano RS505
Stem GT 3D forged alloy
Trail 7.5
Weight (kg) 9.23
Wheelset Stan's No Tubes ZTR Grail S1
Chainstays (cm) 43
Top Tube (cm) 55
Seat Angle 73
Wheelbase (cm) 102.5
Frame size tested 55cm
Head Tube (cm) 16.2
Stack (cm) 37.8
Reach (cm) 37.3
All measurements for frame size tested 55cm
Seatpost GT carbon
Saddle WTB Silverado Pro
Bottom Bracket Cartridge sealed
Frame Material GT EnduRoad Carbon
Brakes Shimano RS505, 160mm rotors
Cassette Shimano 105 11-32
Chain Shimano KMC X10
Cranks Shimano 105, 52/36
Fork Grade full carbon
Fork Offset 4.5
Front Derailleur Shimano 105
Rear Wheel Weight 2150
Front Tyre WTB Exposure, 32mm
Front Wheel Weight 1510
Handlebar GT Drop Tune RS alloy
Head Angle 70.5
Headset Type FSA
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
Rear Tyre WTB Exposure, 32mm
Bottom-bracket drop (cm) 7