As one of the OG’s of gravel, the original GT Grade was ahead of its time. Now, for 2020, GT has updated the Grade to be even more capable than before. With tons of added comfort and a knack for adventure, the GT grade Carbon Pro has been a hoot on the trails, dirt and road.
2020 GT Grade Carbon Pro Features
- Carbon Triple-Triangle frame with Flex Stays
- Clearance for up to 42c tires
- Mounting points galore for bags, bottles, etc.
- Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Ultegra RX rear derailleur
- New fork features flip chip axle positioning
- FSA Energy 46/30 crankset with Shimano 105 11-34 cassette
- WTB KOM Light i23 TCS wheelset
- WTB Riddler 700x37c tires
- Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle
- GT carbon seat post and alloy cockpit
- Weight: 19.1 lbs (55cm, actual)
- MSRP: $3900
The Grade is adventure-ready
Close your eyes and imagine yourself going beyond where the pavement ends and onto a rolling gravel road. You then find a singletrack trail that heads off into the distance and you take it. Suddenly, you’re bikepacking, laden with frame bags and enough gear for a few days in the mountains. Then, as you head home, you hop onto a paved path back home. Alright… come back with me now. That scenario is just what the product team at GT had in mind — a single bike that’s versatile enough to hit your local road routes, but capable enough to tackle gravel, singeltrack and any other adventure that awaits.
The 2020 GT Grade Carbon Pro is that one bike quiver and it’s much more affordable than you might think. I’ve been testing the top-shelf Carbon Pro and with Ultegra Di2, it’s still less than $4000.
One of GT’s hallmarks is the Triple Triangle, which is now not just for looks but enables a level of comfort that approaches mind-boggling territory. Those extra-long stays are now made using a fiberglass core that’s built to flex, yet remain laterally stiff. On paper, it makes complete sense and on the trail, it feels as though you’re riding on a pillow. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see the new Grade tackling just about any terrain you can throw its way.
Some gravel bikes are well-suited to all terrain while others are unabashedly gravel/adventure bikes with no desire to chase that local KOM or maintain pace on an aggressive group ride. The new Grade sits somewhere in the middle, but definitely leans towards adventure. Because of that, I’d expect it to have larger tire clearance than the 42c it offers. If I can pick out anything to poke at, it’s that. This is a great bike for mixed terrain adventures and I’d love to install bigger treads or 650b options to take it to the next level.
Yeah, it can do the roadie thing
Let me cover a little about road manners to get that out of the way. It is very composed on the road and definitely fun/capable, but it’s not my first choice when heading on a long road ride with lots of climbing. That said, it does admirably-well on ascents. I’ve been surprised just how well it does. I’m not nabbing KOM’s, mind you, but it does climb faster than I’d expect for a 19.1 lb gravel bike. In addition, standing climbs are natural-feeling as well without a ton of front-end wonkiness that you’ll find with some gravel or endurance bikes. It’s a pleasant road climber, just not zippy.
That said, if you spend your road miles on bike paths or roads that turn to gravel or singletrack, the 2020 Grade Carbon Pro is your weapon. You could put narrower tires on it, but really, it’s like putting 22″ spinners on a Toyota Land Cruiser.
On fast, winding descents, you may notice a little bit of “rebound” from the Flex Stays. It’s a little odd, but is only noticeable should you push the Grade like you would a Specialized Venge Pro.
Road, schmoad, the Grade loves gravel and dirt
Yes, you can ride it on the road, but where you really want to ride the Grade is on gravel, dirt and singletrack. Every ride I went on with the grade turned into an adventure (of the good kind). I’m not just talking gravel, but fast and fun singletrack. I couldn’t help myself as I found every ribbon of dirt enticing in a way that I’ve never had on a drop bar bike.
Again, the relatively-narrow 37c tires are decent overall and roll well on all terrain. They do lose traction on the most technically-challenging climbs and don’t quite have the bite I’d like to see on this kind of bike. Luckily, that’s an easy but unfortunate change.
The other change I’d recommend for long-term comfort are the bars. With a 16 degrees of flare, the house-brand bars have a good shape, but their narrow diameter makes them a bit stiff and uncomfortable — particularly if you like to hang out on the hoods or tops. Grab a set of ENVE Compact Road Bars, Zipp Service Course SL-70 Ergo Bars or their new XPLR bars for a bit more comfort for those long gravel rides.
Let’s talk comfort a little more
I can’t help but re-hash just how comfortable and capable the Grade is overall. Every time I swing a leg over this bike and charge through rough terrain, everything is incredibly smooth. Those Flex Stays can be felt. But, the comfort isn’t just limited to the rear as GT has also done wonders with the front end of the Grade. I’m amazed at just how balanced this bike feels. This isn’t always the case, so well-done here, guys.
The comfort can be felt in the saddle, but when standing and sprinting or climbing, the Grade propels forward with chutzpah. That huge downtube and chainstays are tuned for power transfer. And, something unique here is the adjustable flip chip on the fork to turn the Grade into an adventure machine so you can take advantage of the myriad of mounting points it offers. Testing that wasn’t within the realm of my 6 weeks of testing, but it’s an option should you choose to go off the grid with your Grade.
Having a good, balanced amount of comfort is nice since you’ll likely be taking the Grade Carbon Pro into places you had previously only ridden on a mountain bike. When descending in gravel or dirt, it remains balanced and comfortable. Again, beefier tires would make everything even more capable (and even more comfortable). That’s an easy change at some point.
- Incredibly-smooth on even the roughest terrain
- Balanced compliance
- Excellent power transfer
- Sanding climbs feel natural
- Mounting points galore
- Ultegra Di2 shifts is smooth and fast
- RX rear derailleur keeps chainslap at bay
- Flip chip turns it into a bikepacking steed
- External cable routing is easily-maintained
- WTB wheelset is utilitarian, but functions well
- Put some meatier treads on this badboy
- Should have a bit more tire clearance
- Bars are stiff and uncomfortable
- A little “springy” when pushed hard on curvy road descents
The Bottom Line: 2020 GT Grade Carbon Pro
Since the original Grade, many other gravel bikes have entered the fray. With the 2020 GT Grade Carbon Pro, you get a significantly-improved chassis with supreme comfort in an affordable package. There are flashier bikes out there, but the Grade Carbon Pro is a blast to ride — even on the roughest terrain.
Buy Now: Visit GTBicycles.com
As you can see, I didn't treat the 2020 Grade Pro with kid gloves. I put it through its paces and then some. I got it dirty. I ventured into roads and terrain that honestly made me wish I had a mountain bike, but I made it back out with the Grade Pro (and me) in one piece. Through all that, I have fallen in love with the sheer capabilities of the new Grade. It is a comfortable groad machine that can spin well on tarmac, but should really be ridden hard on gravel and dirt. The Ultegra Di2 kit functioned well and the WTB KOM Light i23 wheelset is utilitarian, but functional for all-terrain use.
great review, More detailed than the msm media for sure. Does the rear suspension work when your out of the saddle? One would hope eventually, a bike would have the ability to soften bumps, you encounter even when standing on the pedals. Maybe this remit is asking too much from this design, not sure, maybe the new Niner MCR will be the design for that? thanks
Thanks for the kind thoughts and for checking out the review. You really don’t notice the “suspension” out of the saddle. I’m sure it moves, but much less because I reckon it needs your body weight to engage. Perhaps the MCR will soften things while standing and pedaling. If the Grade does, it’s hard to feel, but it may be subtle.
Jason, thanks very much for the reply.
It seems we are entering a new era in road bike design- be it gravel or even paved. As such the old rule books will need to be changed quite a bit. I have seen for instance that Ted King has actually won a major gravel race on a Cannondale Kingpin bike..indeed suspension must be playing a role here. I think it would be great if you could do a comparison between this GT and the Cannondlae Kingpin and/or BMC URS- a bike with only 10mm of travel, that appears to defy the statement that Cannondale made regarding suspension being like adding 9mm of tire. Its obvious that suspension travel is rather different than tire travel. Note too that Heine of BQ says he gets lots of extra compliance on his flexible fork bikes, even with 42c tires on.
On the point about not feeling suspension when out of the saddle, I think someone needs to figure out a way to measure travel in many such situations. a meter on the rear wheel like Jones uses, would be good. I would think there is still quite a bit of rider weight pushing on the frame when out of the saddle, its just that its pushing against the chain/seat stays at such a point.
We definitely need to see some comparisons of these designs, as much as the manufacturers probably do not want to see this. thanks, j
I own the 2020 Grade Carbon Pro and absolutely love the ride quality. However, I have a problem with the Di2. This works flawless in my Emonda that is set up with 50/34 & 11-34 respectively. The option for a 46/30 crank doesn’t exist in E-tube. Hence, my chain has popped off the front crank 2x now and I also can’t keep it in the lowest/highest 2 gears on the back because it won’t stay there, jumps back up/down.
Is there a specific Di2 setting that will fix this? So far, I’ve come up empty and need to get this resolved in order for this to be my new go-to. If this issue didn’t exist it would be the perfect all-a rounder I need for year-round riding.
Dang. Sorry about that, Ron! The test bike I rode is no longer here and it shifted up/down perfectly for me. You don’t need to connect it to the E-Tube app to make it shift properly. In fact, all Shimano supports is PC, so I’ve done very little customization of Di2 using their E-Tube software. This is the previous-gen Di2, but my buddy Daniel walks through the derailleur adjustment process pretty well here:
Art’s Cyclery Di2 Adjustment
Have you tried those steps? I hope it helps!
This video is extremely helpful. I’ll walk through these steps and hope it helps. I’m wondering what settings it should be on as default in e-tube. Right now I have it at the 50/34 and 11-34 setting. Perhaps this is part of the issue as well. I was told not to use the synchro shifting at all since I don’t have exact gearing choices. That sort of stinks too since I really like the semi-auto mode with Di2.
hello Jason, thanks for the review, may I ask what si your height and inseam?
My saddle height is 30 inches.
Hi. I am 179 cm high and have inseam 83 cm. How big frame should I have do you think ?
Helge Myhrevold, Norway
Really hard to say. I’m just a teeny bit shorter than you and was fine on the 55cm, but had to put more spacers under the stem than I thought I would. Maybe the 57cm would fit you better? It’s possible, but again, hard to tell really.
Thank you Jason.
I go for 55 cm 🙂