GT Grade Carbon X First Track Review: Impressed with the track and event

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Some of you may be reading this and not even realize that the GT brand is also big on gravel. As hard as it is to believe, GT was one of the first bike brands to hit the market with a gravel-specific bike, the GT Grade, way back in 2014. It then received a major update in 2019 and, in our opinion, my , was one of the most underrated gravel bikes.

While the GT has undergone some major corporate changes, the gen 2 Grade somehow just disappeared from the website and stores only a year after its launch due to internal personnel changes and company direction. GT remains part of Pon Holdings along with Cannondale, Cervelo, Santa Cruz and a few other notable brands, but changes in recent years mean a new focus and priority for the legendary brand. Best of all, a new grade is ready for the masses.

So when I was invited to meet some of the GT team at an event, I jumped at the chance. Even better, it was an event that was on my bucket list and I would be riding the new generation 3 GT Grade Carbon X. The GT Grade design is based around the triangulation and the best feature remains, the floating seat remains with integrated fiberglass for extra elasticity. GT calls it Dual Fiber Dynamics (DFD), and it’s a design that combines the carbon frame with the fiberglass tire for superior flexibility and control along the extended length of the seat stays.

The floating seat remains with integrated fiberglass for extra flexibility in the new GT Grade.

First impressions

For my first ride, I traveled to the Lost and Found gravel race in Portola, Ca. Not only was it the same weekend as Unbound, but the weather was much better. GT sent two of their best to show me not only the new GT Grade Carbon and Grade Carbon X, but they also brought a few extras for people to show off. Since the new Gen 3 looks so much like the Gen2, they didn’t really need to hide it. It was more hidden in plain sight.

For testing, GT brought a new build model for them, the Grade X with a 40mm RockShox Rudy XPLR suspension fork, 50mm TransX dropper and SRAM 11-speed Apex1 mechanical drivetrain. Yes, the GT Grade geometry has suspension offset and the seat tube is slightly shorter to accommodate a wide variety of dropper lengths.

The overall build of the GT Grade Carbon X is just about right. Hopefully we’ll see the new SRAM Apex 12-speed next year.

With only a 15 minute shakeout ride the day before, I decided to ride the medium 60 mile version of Lost and Found. They offer a 35 mile version and the full 100 mile version as well. I knew nothing about the course except that due to the amazing snowfall this winter, the course was “easier” than in the past. At least, that’s what I was told last night.

The course begins on an extended cobbled climb that splits the group very quickly. I didn’t get a good starting position since I slept so I used the climb to make passes until I got into a group that was going pretty well. Grade X went up amazingly. Sure, the bike was a bit heavy with alloy wheels, a lock-out suspension fork and basic alloy bits, but it didn’t seem to matter.

The first dirt descent was a blast. The bike was extremely stable at top speed as I navigated the dirt road and all its imperfections with mixed light through the tree cover. Going up that first cobbled climb, I remember wishing I didn’t have the suspension fork, but from the top, through all the rolling dirt roads, and to the finish, I was glad I had it.

The Lost and Found class was quick and fun. There were enough technical sections to keep you on your toes, but the open dirt roads were fast. It was almost as if GT Grade X was made for courses like this. The suspension fork that comes on the X was definitely not needed, but I was glad to have it.

Almost the view all day. Right now, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Rearward compliance is the one aspect of the new GT Grade that is difficult to determine how much it does. The GT claims 30mm of rear axle travel. GT calls it a “gravel ride”, I call it amazing. I can’t vouch for the 30mm claim, but I can verify that this is one of the most responsive and active rear ends with no graphics or moving parts. The built-in flex seems to work when you need it without taking anything away when you drop the watts. I’d also like to note that the dropper posts are incredibly stiff, so to feel the rear compliance when seated means it’s all in the frame design.

To finish off my first ride, the Lost and Found crew threw a very rough, rock-covered descent that dropped us back into the valley and along the river. I wasn’t at the front of the race, but it was also where all three rides came back together, and there were a lot of 35 mile riders on the side with flats in that section. The GT Grade with the Rudy XPLR suspension fork left me with essentially a full suspension bike. What a way to end a great first ride and an even more impressive event. The atmosphere after the ride is one of the cooler atmospheres. I will definitely be back next year.

Yep, that’s more my speed after a fun gravel day.

GT grade details

The GT Grade Carbon X with suspension fork is now available in just the one build for $4000. However, the GT was also released with six rigid-fork models. Two carbon frame versions and four alloy versions, all four with a carbon fork. The aluminum bikes cost $1300, $1500, $1950 and $2000, while the carbon versions are $2500 and $4200. For me, this is good to see, bike prices for the general gravel rider.

Stay tuned for our full review of a custom built GT Grade Carbon. I don’t want to spoil it, but the bike I built is even better than the X I rode in Lost and Found.

For more information

When you show up a little late, all the front spots are taken. That’s good for me, I like to start from behind.
Okay, I didn’t go all the way to the back. There was a lot of people.
This was worth a quick stop. Too bad there wasn’t room to go back to the beginning.

#Grade #Carbon #Track #Review #Impressed #track #event

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