The need (it can be safely assumed that in the context of this writer, “need” refers to first world needing) for a gravel bike was real. Given that, at the time of purchase, the Cannondale Slate wasn’t available, the GT Grade was the next most intriguing option available. The Carbon 105 build was squarely within the budget. GO!
Full humodulous carbon frame, with crazy tiny seat stays, and crazy flexible fork, designed for maximum rider comfort, without sacrificing much in the way of performance if the itch to really throw the hammer comes calling, and we all know that it always does.
The bike came built with the 105-level shifter/hydraulic brake levers, which were really quite bulbous and didn’t fit my little-tiny baby hands very nicely. I swapped those out for the ultegra level RS685 version, which slim down quite a bit more. Each were attached to the 785 calipers, which really are quite nice. Center lock rotors front and rear.
It’s quite refreshing to see a bike labeled 105 coming with 105 cranks. These are fitted to the PF30 frame via the entirely fantastic Praxisworks Conversion BB system, which will undoubtedly be covered here at some other time. Rings are a nice 52/36 setup, which is low enough to grind some gravel, but is steep enough to get you down the paved road to the gravel with some degree of expediency.
The seat stays really are, absurdly slim. Instead of hollow tubes, as most frame bits are, these are fiberglass (or, if you read the GT website – glass fibre) cores wrapped in a thin layer of carbon. They flex vertically, a lot. The keen-eyed riding partner can see the back end of the bike flexing up and down upwards of a cm, if they know for what they’re looking. GT’s venerable triple triangle design allegedly helps increase this flex even more as it makes the stays effectively longer, also allowing for greater flex in the seat tube as well.
The wheels are pretty decent. The hubs are non-branded formula hubs, but are nicely quiet, with 15mm through in the front, and standard QR in the rear. Stan’s Grail hoops keep the rolling weight fairly low, and also provide a wide internal that really widen up the tires. The stock tires on the bike were Conti road slicks at 28c, though they measured as 31.5 when mounted. I’ve swapped those out to Schwalbe’s G-One in 35c, they measure significantly wider than that on these rims, though I can’t recall exactly what at time of posting.
Cockpit features GT’s custom tuned drops, which have a moderate amount of flair in them. Think old school dirt drops. They let you ride in the drops without extreme bend to your arms or wrists. They also provide a wider platform which increases stability for a slippery decent or tricky climb. Good stuff.
It’s absolutely sublime. On a fifty mile road ride, it’s just as able and willing as any bike I own. It’s vibration damping characteristics are truly sublime, regardless of tire width mounted. When you first take it for a ride, you find yourself seeking out things to run over. And the first big thing you hit you seem really and truly surprised and frustrated that you’re able to feel the bump; “hey, what gives, I thought this thing smoothed out bumps” you exclaim before you pause and realize you had to ride through a car eating pothole before you felt a single bump. Pavement that would ordinarily leave you on your road bike screaming in agony doesn’t phase you. Throw some slicks on the Grade for crushing your local Sunday ride in comfort, or some knobbies for getting out and exploring. Go Rogue.