Wednesday, July 20, 2016

GT Grade Alloy 105 Review

I spend a lot of my time riding my bike.  I've always disliked having to own multiple bikes for different purposes (ie - mountain biking, road, etc.).  As a result I decided to go on a search to find a bike that can do it all.  I evaluated at least a dozen different bikes at various price ranges from $800 to $5,000.

Adventure riding is my favorite style of riding.  What I mean by adventure riding is that when I go out on my bike I never know what type of terrain I will be riding on.  All my rides usually start out on the road, but usually end up with me off in the woods on some single-track trails.

This type of riding can be done on a MTB, but I find that I can cover much more ground is a shorter period of time with my Grade.  I also don't get exhausted as quickly.  This reason for this is  because MTB's are dogs on the road and in gravel.  I usually spend a good portion of my rides on road and gravel as well as on dirt trails.

There are some definite differences between my gravel bike and my full-suspension mountain bike.  For one, mountain bikes tend to have more gears suited for steeper hill climbing.  Mountain bikes are also much slower.  One big difference is that when I'm on my full-suspension MTB I can plow right over high curbs without first popping my front wheel up.  This cannot be done on my Grade because there is not a suspension to absorb the curb.  However, with a slight pull of the front wheel I can fly over curbs at speed without difficulty.

I've taken this bike on some pretty decent single-track, and it does very well.  Its obviously a bit bumpier as a result of not have suspension, but the payoff is speed, comfort and pure fun.  Yes, this bike is very fun.

Now on to the review, but first please take a look at some of my sponsor links.

This bike will take a couple hundred miles to break-in, but once you pass this point its rock solid.  It shifts smoothly, provided you don't cross-chain. Cross-chaining will mess up any bike not just the Grade.  The Shimano 105's are a very good quality set.

I chose this over the Ultegra because the cost to benefit ratio isn't worth it to me.  Shimano is constantly improving their components.  They generally will upgrade the 105's with the prior years Ultegra, so you can pretty much guarantee you are getting a great setup on this bike.

The cables will stretch during the break-in period, which is to be expected so make sure you adjust it every so often.  You will notice the gears won't shift so smoothly after a bit of riding.  Cable stretch is the reason for this.  This happens with all new cables and is not a flaw.

There are two, possibly three, things you might want to upgrade on the bike.  The first thing I did after I rode it was replaced the saddle with a Forte Contour XFC Men's Saddle/ Forte Contour XFC Gel Women's Saddle.

The second would be the pedals.  They come with some pretty flimsy plastic ones.  I've replaced them with a set of Forte ATB Comp Pedals.  They are inexpensive, strong and work very well on this bike. They are absolutely necessary if you plan to ride on anything but smooth roads.

Lastly, although they are pretty decent, I am planning to replace the tires with something with a little more grip off road.  The stock tires are definitely worthy, but when things get wet, hilly, and sometimes even in gravel they tend to slip a bit.  I have not decided on which tires I will put on, but will write a review after I have them on for a bit.

I also suited mine with a Blackburn EX-1 Rack.  This enables me to carry panniers, a trunk bag or whatever I want.  Its even compatible with various baby carriers.  It works great for grocery shopping, or longer bicycle trips when I need to carry gear.

The bike out of the box is excellent, and can really fly.  Especially on road and gravel.  I'm able to hit speeds well over 25mph on flats and rolling hills.  Going down some moderate hills I've had the bike over 35mph.  I actually slowed down at these speeds because the road conditions were not good.  The bike would easily have gone much faster.

As far as hanging with my buddies on their road bikes, I have not had any issues.  Also, drafting is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

The disc brakes are awesome!  They are mechanical/hydro.  This means they use a cable to pull the hydrolic lever, which is actually on the brake caliper mechanism.  This greatly reduces cost, without compromising performance.  I have full hydro's on my MTB and I can tell you there isn't much of a difference.  I can stop on a dime on either of the two bikes.  They are great in wet conditions too.

If you prefer a carbon bike with a slightly higher price tag checkout the GT Grade Carbon 105 Medium 55cm Matte Black.

In summary, the GT Grade Alloy 105 is an incredible bike for the price and is definitely capable of handling most any situation.  If you are looking for one bike that can do it all, you need not look any further.  This bike is comfortable on 40+ mile rides, on single-track and just about anywhere.

I would highly recommend this bike for anyone currently looking for a new ride.

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