I'm new to gravel bikes and I could use help choosing between these two.  My price-point is $900-$1100 and I've been looking online and at LBS near me.

Two questions...

1) I'm just shy of 5'9" tall.  Performance Bike told me I'd be best in a 51cm but another Trek dealer told me I'd be best in a 56cm.  From what I can gather, 51cm would kill my back and 56cm would be too much.  What do you recommend?

2) I'm trying to choose between a GT Grade Alloy 105 and the Fuji Tread 1.0 LE Disc.  After reviewing specs, GT seems to be the better of the two due to the mechanically-actuated hydraulic breaks where the Fuji just has traditional mechanically-actuated disc brakes.  The GT is $999 and the Fuji is $1099 at my LBS.  What do you recommend?

I live in a Chicago suburb next to the prairie path -- a gravel path that extends quite far.  I used to do 20 miles or so on the weekends with my old steel-frame Fuji and I'd love to get back into mileage-biking for my daily exercise.  I'd also like to use the bike to tow my kids along on the weekends in a bike trailer (I have a 1 and 4-year-old).  I'm not really a fan of flat-bar bikes unless I'm mountain-biking (which I love as well).

I'm looking to buy this weekend.  Oh, and if anyone has heard of Priority Bikes or Brilliant Bikes -- my wife wants a Townie but my gut is telling me to look at something higher-quality for her.  Priority and Brilliant seem to be two good companies for comfort bikes.

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For what it's worth, I'm just under 5'10" and rode a 56 Alloy 105 Grade until a recent accident.  I always felt it was a little big for me, and if I could do it again, I'd go with a 55.  It's hard to to recommend size over the internet, but for you I'd guess a 51 would be to small and you could probably make a 55 or 53 work.  Did the Trek store size you as a 56 for a a Trek bike?  I used to ride a 56cm Madone, and that felt smaller than the Grade in a 56 did. 

I thought the Grade was a great bike, and it always felt smooth to me over gravel and rough roads, but I think a lot of that had to do with the 35cm USH tires I was running.  The 105 drivetrain felt as good as the Ultegra on the Madone, and the HYRD brakes were pretty good, if not a little clunky looking.  The only thing I would caution you on the Grade would be tire clearance.  I used mine for commuting too, and I really had to modify the front fender to work with the 35's I like to run.  Without fenders, you could maybe get to a 38, but that is probably pushing it.  Both bikes are pretty comparable, but like you said you get the better brakes on the Grade, and save $100.  I'm not trying to sound to biased towards the GT, I just don't have any experience with the Fuji.  Hope this helps!
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Hello!  Both the Grade and Tread are great bikes for the money; you really can't go wrong with either, as I've had experience with both.  However, my experience has been if you're looking for ride quality (whether for exercise--as you point out, commuting, or grinding the gravel), tires make all the difference.  Accrodingly, I would look real hard at the Tread as you can run a wider, more comfortable tire.  Also, if you go to performance (I believe that they have a location or two in the Windy City), they are running a current 20% discount on all Fuji's, with a current pricing of $999 on the Tread 1.0.  On top of that, the Tread 1.0 via Performance comes with upgraded tires (Clement USH X'Plor 700x35) and upgraded brakes (Spyre C160s), plus the workhorse 105 drive train.  For the money, one hell of a nice bike!

Good luck and happy riding!

Da Banger...
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Thanks guys.

I spent a couple hours at Performance today and rode four bikes, all with a 105 setup.  Take-aways...

1) Diamondback Haanjo Comp (53cm) - Their 2016 model hasn't upgraded to the 11-spd 105 set, and for some reason the shifting wasn't smooth even after the on-site mechanic tuned it a bit.  The frame size seemed fine.

2) Ridley X-Trail AL30 (med; cm not listed) - Fast and smooth but my posture was more aggressive, which I suspect would become uncomfortable over time.  Nice bike, for sure.

3) GT Grade (women's version) - I obviously couldn't get a feel for the frame size, but the brakes were noticeably the best out of all four bikes.  And since I'm going to be toting a bike trailer periodically with two kids, braking power is important to me.

4) Fuji Tread 1.0 (54cm) - Great ride quality, best of all.  Brake quality was fine.  Not a huge fan of the cables being exposed on the top tube.  Not sure if that will make a huge difference, but I can only imagine they will loosen over time when I'm off the saddle (think stopping at stoplights).  Anything to be concerned about here?

Performance had me sit on the Fuji (54cm) and look at the front hub, then tell him where the hub stood in my field of vision in comparison with the handle bars.  I could see about .25cm of the hub underneath the bar, which seemed to make him think I would be better-suited for the 51cm since he said I shouldn't see the front hub at all while seated. He also happened to have a 51cm in stock while the 53cm would have to come from the warehouse in 7-10 days, so while I'd like to trust him, I wonder if his motivations are swayed by making a sale or fitting me with the right size.  I would hope the latter.  But frankly, a 51cm frame doesn't seem to match all I've read from other riders' setups who are approx. my height.  The Trek store only did a visual assessment @ 56cm -- didn't measure, etc. -- so I don't trust their assessment.

Anything I can do to better assess the appropriate frame size myself?

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Not sure if you've made a decision yet but there is a revised version of an existing Trek model that should be coming very soon that's very intriguing. Will start at $999
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@chilejeep Haven't purchased anything yet.  How'd you get the inside scoop on the new Trek model?  I can't imagine they would do a CrossRip Comp alternative with anything better than a Sora groupset @ $999. My lbs built up the 51cm GT Grade for me to test and as I suspected, my knees were in my elbows when cornering upright.

So, it's between the GT Grade 53cm and Fuji Tread 52cm at this point and I'll probably make the jump tomorrow.  Unless, that is, you work for Trek and need someone to demo the upcoming model...
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I am also struggling between 52 vs 54 cm Fuji Tread. I am a bit smaller than you (172 cm), and i wont have the chance to test ride it (or any other gravel bike in my country [frown] ). However, i was suggested from three independent source to get the 54 cm, because of tube angles are switching from 54, and the 54 cm frame has got a shorter reach, than the 52 cm one.
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The hub under the handle bar test is kinda bunk if you ask me. Reason being...all that is doing is telling you how stretched out you are and that can easily be adjusted by changing out the stem for a shorter or longer one. And only seeing a tiny bit if the hub...that's definitely not enough to size you down two sizes. That could be anything from just the angel you were looking at or an easy saddle adjustment or different shorter stem. I don't know what comes on that bike but wouldn't surprise me if it was a 100mm or 110mm stem. Swap it for a 90mm and you'd be good to go I'd venture to guess. How did the 54 feel when you rode it? If it felt good...then that's what matters. Fit can be dialed in if it's close. I'd almost guess they are trying to unload the 51 because it's not a popular size. A 54 is. 

As far as the cables on the top tube...that's not really an issue. On a CX bike they are routed that way so you can throw the bike up on your shoulder during a race when you have to run with your bike. I've had bikes with cable on top and underneath the top tube and there wasn't an issue with either. Personally I think they look better under the top tube...but's whatever.
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Thanks all.  I bought the GT Grade Alloy 105 and I love it.  Swapped the stock pedals for Crank Bros Doubleshot and installed in-line brakes.  Only complaint is that the FSA crank started squeaking after ~10 miles of hard pedaling.  I wound up going with the 53cm...the 51 had my knees on my elbows.  It fits well, though at times I feel slightly overextended...perhaps because I'm just trying to adjust to the bike.  The 105 set is nice...smooth shifts.  And the mechanically-actuated hydraulic brakes are excellent.  I'm already considering tubeless and swapping the crank for Shimano, but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself.  Thanks for all the input.  Really like the bike...tons of fun.
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