A new year, a new decade, a new bike, a new me! Hopefully.
Why did I get another bike? Well, I could justify the purchase merely with reference to the rules:
Rule #12: The correct number of bikes to own is n+1
❝ While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.❞(source: The Rules)
But I have been thinking about an all-terrain-vehicle for a couple of years. In fact it's almost three years ago I fell in love with the Fuji Gran Fondo 1.3. It had several features on my wishlist - tubeless tyres, clearance for 32mm tyres, disc brakes and vibration-damping technology. It's not a gravel bike, more an endurance bike. The bad news was that it cost £4k, which I couldn't justify. I looked for ages for a secondhand one but they never came up. So I forgot the idea.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was searching to see if there were any cheap gravel bikes available (less than £1000), when I saw this secondhand GT Grade Carbon Ultegra 2016 on ebay for £889, with a special offer 5% discount that day.
I'd never heard of the Grade, but soon discovered it had been at the spearhead of today's gravel bike 'craze', and was awarded Best Debut Bike of the Year 2015. It looked like a nice bike. I researched the hell out of it, kept looking at the advert and called the seller, but it was being sold on behalf of the owner, who could no longer ride it, through ill-health. Originally a £2.7k bike, it was well-specced and seemed to be a bargain. So I took a chance and bought it, sight-unseen for £840.
I picked it up the following day, less than an hour's drive away. It looks like an 'honest' bike. Judging by the original bar-tape and general condition it's not done that many miles. It has hardly any scuffs but needs a clean.
|Frame||GT EnduRoad carbon with disc specific triple triangle design|
|Fork||GT Carbon + tapered 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 threadless Carbon steerer|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano Ultegra braze on|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano Ultegra 11spd|
|Shifters||Shimano Ultegra STI 11spd|
|Chain set||Shimano Ultegra 52/36|
|Cassette||Shimano 105 11spd 11-32|
|Bottom Bracket||Praxis Works PF30 BB adapter|
|Brakes||Shimano BR-RS785 hydraulic|
|Rotors||160mm IceTech centerlock|
|Pads||Resin Pad J02A Finned (Y8LW98040)|
|Handlebars||GT DropTune Ultra Light double butted alloy 16° flair|
|Stem||New design 3D forged alloy SL|
|Headset||Integrated TH sealed bearing|
|Rims||Stans No Tubes Grail Disc specific Road 28h|
|Front Hub||DT Swiss 240 sealed bearing centerlock 15mm thru-axle|
|Rear Hub||DT Swiss 240 sealed bearing centerlock 135mm spacing|
|Spokes||15g stainless steel with Brass CP Nipples|
|Tyres||Continental Grand Sport Race 700x28c Folding|
|Saddle||Fizik ALIANTE R7 Mg|
|Seatpost||FSA K-Force Light carbon 27.2 20mm set back|
*Items in red are different on my bike
|Cassette||Shimano 11spd 11-28 not sure if Ultegra. Some reviews I saw quoted a 105 11-32, others quoted an Ultegra 11-30, but none of them mentioned 28T cassette, so I'll look at this and maybe change it.|
|Pedals||Shimano 5800 105 SPD-SL Carbon. Nice pedals!|
|Stem||Deda Elementi Zero2 Road. Decent stem but don't think it's original. It's the sort of thing that typically gets changed out.|
|Tyres||Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 700x25. Very good tyres, and they're both in great condition, so it's a shame that they are only 25mm. The whole raison d'être of this bike is wide tyres!|
|Saddle||Griffon Pro Ti. Seems decent enough. Not original I suspect|
Do I need a gravel bike? This question is much easier to answer.
Never one to shy away from riding on less-than-perfect surfaces, I can easily recall dozens, if not hundreds, of rides featuring something other than smooth tarmac. Woods, fields, deep mud, cliff-top paths, bridle paths, forest tracks, so-called UK bike paths, canal paths, footpaths, cinder paths, gravel paths, etc have all featured at various times. And all on a 'normal' road bike. Other than unrideable gradients, the only 'flat' surface that stopped me riding was large pebbles near Deal. That was just impossible, although maybe fatter tyres would have overcome even that.
Tyres I've had 28mm Conti Grand Prix tyres on my Giant for the past 5 years, but unfortunately there's not enough clearance for them on the Colnago. Although, last year, I shod the Colnago with 28mm Conti Gatorskins, which inflate to be no larger than the 25mm Grand Prix! After discovering the smooth ride that 28mm tyres offered, especially on UK roads, I naturally wanted to try even fatter tyres. And for that I would need another bike!
Brakes Gravel bikes have disc brakes. One advantage is that they won't get completely clogged-up with mud, which I have had before. I also won't have to worry about my wheels melting on long descents! I had several long descents last year where I was on the brakes nearly the whole time. A negative for disc brakes is that they can squeal, which is very annoying.
Frame The frame has a more relaxed geometry with a longer wheelbase which leads to more stability and less 'twitchiness'. The disadvantage is that it will be less responsive. The Grade frame features very thin seat stays composed of a solid fibreglass core. This, and the small triangle design at the top of the seat stays allow the frame to flex more. (In fact, on the 2020 version of the frame, the thin seat stays are completely decoupled from the seat tube, offering even more flexibility.) The frame is 55 cm, just right for me, according to Evans website - we'll see...
Bars The drops on the handlebars are splayed out at quite a noticable angle, offering more stable steering.
Things to do
- Clean The bike needs a good clean and re-lube
- Brakes The brakes squeal terribly. So I need to look at this. There's lots of advice on YouTube with all sorts of solutions including microwaving your brake pads!
- Noisy free hub The DT Swiss 240 hubs are noisy, but that's my experience of DT Swiss hubs. Hopefully I can quieten them down by greasing the ratchet. I hate noisy freewheeling, but will put up with it for now.
- Tyres The excellent Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres it came with will have to go because they are only 25mm, which kind of defeats the purpose of this bike. I have ordered some 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. Will report back after fitting those!
- Mudguards It's useful that it came with £70's-worth of full mudguards, but these will come off, maybe never to go back on! I tend to use ass-savers.
- Cassette I'll almost certainly change this out to a 30T or preferably 32T cassette.
- Other bits A brake cable tie is missing
As bought, it weighs 9.15 kg. That compares with my Giant at 8.2 kg and my Colnago at 7.65kg (with carbon rims). No doubt the mudguards weigh something, but not much. The disc brakes will weigh quite a bit more than the rim brakes on my other two bikes. And it is going to weigh even more once I've fitted those 35mm tractor tyres! Looks like I'll have to lose some weight. Maybe I'll look for a 34T cassette!
|Twister||Sidewall puncture riding through Blean Woods|
|Completing the Jigsaw||Uncomfortable NE Kent coastal cycle path|
|Reverse Sandwich||Sidewall blow-out on Dover cliff-top coastal path|
|Ardennes Adventure||Puncture on a gravel forest track in the Ardennes|
|Tunnel Mortier||Disused roads and stony tracks in the Vercors|
|La Molière||Forest track|
|Tour of The Isle of Sheppey||Ride through a nature reserve|
|Auvare||Ride aborted due to steep gravel track|
|Saint Léger||Gravel section of the ride|
|Samphire Hoe||Many miles of off-road|
It seems like fate that this bike came along. Good spec, great price, the correct size and in the new blog colour scheme! Once I get the fat tyres on, I'll take it out for a spin and report back!