The GT Grade Carbon 105 makes an excellent first road bike – Bike Magazine Australia

People often ask me for advice on choosing a good first road bike. They generally don’t want to spend a ton. And they expect the bike to do some heavy lifting, performing well on the road of course, but maybe also on a towpath with their kids, in a charity ride, or on a spontaneous dirt adventure. Those are all important things to know before walking into a shop. But I always tell them to consider the intangibles as well.

A great first bike is one that makes you always want to ride. A bike that gets you excited every time you think about it, look at it, talk about it. And perhaps most important, that allows you to discover things on it, about riding and about yourself. The right first bike will help define who you are as a cyclist.

The versatile GT Grade Carbon 105 might just have that power. The Grade made a splashy debut in 2014 with its disc brakes, front thru axle, and wide tyres/rims. At the time we called it a “forward-thinking road bike,” anticipating the industry’s widespread adoption of these features on road bikes and an exciting example of the category’s expansion into adventure.

GT has built the carbon frame to maximize compliance. The quirky triangular gap where the top and seat tubes meet? It’s because the seat stays are positioned outside the seat tube, which GT says helps dissipate road vibration. Those stays are notably skinny, made rigid by a glass-fibre core and damped with an outer layer of carbon fibre for even more vertical compliance. In the carbon fork, the thru-axle sits in slightly offset dropouts, which have more give than traditional in-line dropouts. A tapered steerer tube offers additional fore-aft compliance.

The Grade’s geometry is dialled for long rides: a tallish head tube puts you in a somewhat upright position, a longer wheelbase and low bottom bracket height contribute to handling stability. That doesn’t mean it’s sluggish though: The Grade is hella fun to rip on. Lending crispness to the ride is an oversized downtube; a hefty PF30 bottom bracket; a wide seat tube junction; and fat, angled chain stays. The outboard position of the seatstays also boosts torsional stiffness, according to the company.

In addition to tuning and geometry that make riding on or off the road a total blast, the bike comes with Stan’s wide, tubeless-ready rims and grippy Clement Strada USH 32c tyres. Shimano’s R785 hydraulic disc brakes provide excellent stopping power, and the handlebar has a 16-degree flare for more control in the drops, especially on uneven terrain.

The Grade is available in in rim and disc-brake versions and in either aluminum or carbon (three different builds each) and there’s an option for nearly any budget. After test riding the Carbon 105, a friend who owns an aluminum Grade told me that despite that model’s stiffer ride, “Both instill the same attitude in the rider: absolute huckery and mischievousness.”

No matter what else you find out about yourself as a cyclist after riding the Carbon 105, if you discover huckery and mischievousness, you’ve picked the right bike.

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