CBT Italia Grak test: The gravel bike from the traditional manufacturer from Cuneo is visually inconspicuous at first. But if you take a closer look, you will discover many convincing details, and the Grak is completely convincing off-road.
CBT Italia is definitely one of the classic Italian road bike brands. Founded in the 1950s, the company started making frames in the XNUMXs. The glazed frames with black chrome on the rear triangle and fork are sought-after collector's items today; Of course, the company has completely said goodbye to steel as a material. All current frames are made of carbon, which also applies to the brand's e-road bikes. They are an important mainstay, which certainly has something to do with the age structure of CBT Italia's typical clientele - older men who want a bit of support in the country's mountainous terrain. Of course, the Cuneo-based company also has something ready for the younger generation: the CBT Italia Grak, whose name crunches like the light gravel of the Tuscan Strade Bianche – but which is very smooth and pleasant to drive.
Test CBT Italia Grak: Gravel bike with integrated cable routing
Visually, the gravel bike from northern Italy is inconspicuous - very different from its colorful steel predecessors and some of the bikes from the competition. Underneath the matte finish is a carbon frame, whose features include angular tube cross-sections and internally routed lines from the top of the head tube. The chainstays are pulled down slightly, which should allow for tires up to 50mm wide. If you want, you can mount three bottle cages, a small top tube bag, fork mounts, mudguards and a rear carrier on the Grak - so the bike is exemplary in terms of bikepacking and suitability for everyday use.
Traditionally, the frame shows itself at the bottom bracket, where CBT relies on the classic BSA thread - not only with the Graveller, but also with the racing frames. In terms of serviceability, there is nothing better at this point. The thread for the thru-axle on the fork is not laminated in, but is attached as a separate aluminum part with a small screw - so if the thread is damaged, the entire fork is not gone.
CBT Italia only offers the Grak in one configuration, namely with SRAM Apex 1×11 and a rather cheap wheelset from Fulcrum. The 40 mm WTB Byway mounted on it are more geared towards solid ground and asphalt, and at 38 mm they are also slightly narrower than stated. Overall, this set-up is solid and functional, if not particularly light - but if you want something different, you have all the options. Because CBT Italia offers the frame set for 1.499 euros, which promises an inexpensive way to an individually built gravel bike.
And the effort could be worth it, because the driving characteristics of the Italo Graveller are excellent. The frame, which is available in five sizes, has a very sporty cut, but is quite small overall, with the two smallest frame sizes being unusually close together. In the largest version, the head tube measures just 185 mm; if you want to sit more upright, you have to mount various spacers under the stem.
Exemplary driving characteristics
In keeping with the pleasantly stretched posture, the bike steers in a neutral to agile manner; out of the saddle, it can be moved with a light hand, and thanks to impeccable power transmission, you can reach your cruising speed with just a few pedal strokes. At high speeds, the Grak pleases with its safe straight-line stability, but without appearing sluggish.
Deda bars with a lot of flare and an unusual shape
CBT Italia equips its gravel bike with add-on parts from Deda, which also include a rather unusually shaped handlebar. This is slightly cranked upwards and also slightly angled towards the driver, resulting in a kink on the top link that is very comfortable to hold. Due to the strong "flare" the handlebars are around 10 cm wider at the ends than at the top link. On the other hand, the handlebar arches aren't too deep, so the lower handlebar position on the Grak is very comfortable. The bike is also surprisingly comfortable at the rear, even though an aluminum seat post is fitted; the short "Selle Italia" saddle is comfortable even on longer tours.
Lots of driving fun off-road
Going off-road and on the gravel roads with the Grak is therefore an all-round pleasant experience, which is not diminished by the slightly higher weight of the bike of almost ten kilos ready to ride. Anyone who attaches particular importance to this aspect should think about the aforementioned frame set from CBT Italia - in terms of value for money, this variant is just as interesting as the complete bike, which at 3.110 euros is by no means expensive. Either way, the Grak deserves to be better known in this country.