Gravel bikes are now mainstream and people are making pilgrimages to events like the Belgian Waffle Ride or Dirty Kanza as part of their cycling rite of passage. Few remember (we do and we were there) that in 2014, GT launched the Grade, the first production carbon gravel bike with flared bars—before gravel riding was “a thing.” That original Grade turned a few heads and won a few awards. Fast forward five years and the gravel movement is huge and growing in the U.S.—and today GT has launched a redesigned Grade to meet the needs of the global gravel movement (and the burgeoning bikepacking segment) for those seeking longer rides in faraway places.
The best part of this project is that GT has remained true to the initial ethos of the Grade: Riding gravel and dirt is just plain fun! To confirm that goal, we made our own pilgrimage to Girona, Spain, to get our first ride on the 2020 GT Grade.
WHAT’S NEW ON THE REDESIGNED GRADE
GT set out to create a more compliant, versatile and adjustable Grade for 2020 and it has accomplished this in spades.
Triple Triangle: This is a GT staple and we are glad to see it return on the new Grade. When you see this unique frame design, it instantly reminds you how long GT has been making high-end bicycles for elite riders and the masses.
Floating seat stays: The unique floating-stays design is more than just a look, it is engineered for long adventures and all-day rideability. Available in both carbon and aluminum models, you can feel the comfort after a few minutes on rough terrain.
Flip-Chip Fork: This cool option allows riders 15mm of adjustability (from 55mm to 70mm of fork offset), so the bike can be gravel-race-ready and then converted to 70mm for bikepacking adventures.
Dual Fiber Dynamics (DFD): The seat stays on the Grade are built with two different fibers: A fiberglass core is used for damping and toughness and the carbon outer layers are utilized for stiffness.
Mounting Points Galore (MPG): The 2020 Grade was designed to accommodate eight water bottles for longer adventures with frame and fork mounts galore. Top-tube feedbag bosses and fork-leg bosses offer almost limitless options. The aluminum options also feature bottle bosses on the seat stays!
Increased tire clearance: The 2020 Grade comes equipped with 37c tires, but you can easily go up to 42c.
- Removable fender bridge on the carbon models is a cool option.
- The Grade comes in a huge size range, from 44 to 62.
- An accommodating 280-pound weight limit.
- Smart Routing on carbon-fiber models features internal Di2 routing and dropper-post compatibility.
- Price ranges from $1,000 to $3,900.
FIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS
It’s hard not to have fun riding the dirt and gravel roads around Girona with Hans Rey, the GT crew and a slew of European journalists! We spent two hours on a trail network outside the Spanish city that featured single track, gravel roads, rocky and rooty sections, drops and steep dirt climbs—and the new Grade performed flawlessly. There is noticeable compliance in the rear, the handling is spot on and the bike felt like it could handle more and more. We were impressed with the WTB wheel-and-tire combo, the seamless shifting from the new Shimano GRX derailleur system and the confidence and comfort of the new Grade. The bike handles remarkably well and inspires confidence in tricky sections of dirt and gravel.
While Peloton readers will most likely gravitate to the Pro model at $3,900, we were inspired to learn about the $2,000 Carbon Elite option in gunmetal gray. The goal is to get more people on gravel bikes and encourage more adventures—and this model and price will make that happen. We also loved to hear about the two aluminum options in the Expert $1,500 and the Elite at $1,000.
We look forward to more time and more adventures on the 2020 Grade when we get back to our Ojai HQ, but our first impressions were all positive. Kudos to GT for a solid redesign of the Grade and for creating a bike that will inspire more riders to explore gravel and bikepacking adventures at amazing price points. GT continues to keep it fun, and you can feel that instantly on the 2020 Grade.