Field Tested: GT Grade Alloy (Tiagra)

From Bicycle Times Issue #36

Reviewer: Stephen Haynes

GT is billing the grade series “enduroad,” presumably building on the surging fascination with stout gravel bikes and the idea that any ride can be an exploratory adventure. Built on the company’s famed triple triangle frame design—where the seat stays overlap the seat tube—GT claims to reduce vibration from the rear wheel. Whether it actually does diminish chatter or not is up for debate, but I’ve always liked the triple triangle aesthetically.

GT Grade alloy

The Bike

The tapered head tube coupled to GT’s oversized carbon fork soaks up all but the most disastrous potholes. That shock absorption and dispersion kept my hands and wrists in the game longer on long rides as well, as I tend to suffer from numbness and fatigue with some setups.

The same can be said with regard to braking.  I’m not a light dude and on some bikes, I can feel the strain on the front end when I’m trying to come to a stop on something steep. I never had an issue with the Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes, with the exception of locking up the wheels on a steep, gravel road and nearly laying the bike down, but that was me being overzealous.

The Ride

My experience on drop bar bikes has centered mostly around home-brewed single speeds and super-stable touring bikes, and the Grade seemed to fall somewhere between those two. From the word go, the Grade felt solid over various terrain types. Stable enough to ride through most anything, from asphalt to gravel, yet maneuverable enough to bob and weave, or attempt the occasional act of stupidity.

As mentioned above, I’m a heavier dude. At over 200 pounds, hills aren’t exactly my favorite things while riding. Still, as a cyclist living in western Pennsylvania, they are a fact of life and it’s much easier to relegate yourself to that fact than to fight it. I commend GT’s decision to run flared drop bars throughout the grade line as it made climbing hills much more bearable, if not even slightly enjoyable.

These bars also give your wrists more clearance to tackle sketchy bits going downhill too. I’m not sure whether, over time, I would fall back to not enjoying climbing, but in my brief time aboard the Grade, I actually began to look forward to the odd hill.

As the name implies, my aluminum test rig came equipped with a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, one of six different builds available in two frame material choices; aluminum and carbon. The really great thing about the Grade line is that the entry point is relatively low, just $870 for an aluminum frame with Shimano Claris components.

Parting Shot

What I find most impressive about the Grade line is the quality of build for an entry-level price point. Every bike in the range is equipped with mechanical disc brakes, STI brake lever/shifters, tapered head tube, a carbon fork, eyelets for mounting fenders and lots of clearance to run beefy tires. That’s a heck of a deal for a lot of bike.

The Grade line from GT is a great buy for anyone looking for a stable, rough- and-ready road bike. While the Grade isn’t quite a surgical instrument, built only for speed, neither is it a Leatherman. You could certainly throw some large size tires on it and equip it with frame bags and take it bikepacking, but I think it’s most at home on long rides that take the rider over mixed terrain and ultimately deposits them at their favorite watering hole.

  • Price: $1,190
  • Weight: 22.5 pounds
  • Sizes:  51, 53, 55, 56 (tested), 58 and 60 cm

Video: GT Bicycles presents ‘Waypoints’

As the “bikesploration” market really gets rolling, more people are riding bikes in more places where you wouldn’t expect. GT Bicycles has had a hit with its Grade line of “adventure road bikes,” and we’ve been sampling one for a review in the next issue of Bicycle Times. To feature its adventure-worthy bikes, GT has launched a new video series about destination-based rides called Waypoints. The first episode recounts a trek from the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the Sloquet Hot Springs, 150 miles northeast of the city.

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