We first came across the GT Grade a year ago as a gravel-munching EnduRoad machine and instantly thought “this would be good with an MTB bar and brakes rather than these flared drops”. Fast-forward to the present and GT has satisfied our request with the GT Grade Expert… sort of.
GT Grade Expert spec overview
- Frame: Grade alloy
- Fork: Grade carbon with threadless steerer
- Wheels: Formula hubs laced to Alex ATD470 rims
- Transmission: Shimano Sora
- Brakes: Shimano Claris
GT Grade Expert frame and equipment
While all the aluminium Grades share the identical frame, the Grade Expert FB (flat bar) receives a lower checklist of components than the 105 Adventure incarnation, dressed instead with Shimano Sora/Claris 3x9 drivetrain and the rather cumbersome non-series hydro brake levers.
Mixing groupsets can be a bit of a bugbear of ours but, thankfully, the more-affordable Sora/Claris mix drivetrain on the FB edition is actually pretty good. Okay, it doesn’t match the 105 for efficiency but it’s certainly adequate.
GT Grade Expert ride impression
A triple chainset and nine-speed cassette sent chills down our legs at the thought of spinning such a high cadence, but mentally and physically easing into a more sedate spin than the usual out-of-the-saddle battering paid dividends. Yes, KOMs remained absent, but so did dismounting. Every cloud and all that… Mind you, the indicator windows on the shifters are a constant reminder that you’re nestled in the granny ring!
Kenda’s Kwest ‘tyres’ feel just that, their tired performance distilling confidence; in fact, the combination of their plastic feel, the relatively short stem and narrow flat bar result in a twitchy front end that also seems to dissipate speed. Don’t let that distract you from the bike’s credentials, though — tyres are an easy and affordable upgrade, as are a better stem and handlebar.
While we’re leaning on the front end, GT spec its own-brand ergon grips that are a little misleading. At first we weren’t fans, but settle into the ride, relax a little and they come into their own, and are actually pretty comfy compared to a regular grip.
The non-series brake levers from Shimano are an omnipresent entry in the world of hydraulic brakes, where you generally only need to use one finger to brake but still have the option to safety grab with three or four. But it’s for this reason that we’re not huge fans, preferring instead less lever material. Go for something like the single-finger M615 lever and you’d de-clutter the narrow bar area.
If you’re looking for a bike that will get you to work and, with a few upgrades, provide a fun platform for the weekend’s pub trips along the river, then the Grade Expert FB is worth checking out. There’s a lot of potential here to make it a great bike. In its current state it’s still okay but, in an ideal world, we’d like to see something slap bang between the EnduRoad models and this.
GT Grade Expert early verdict
A potentially fine bike let down by component choices.