Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Grand Bois Rims

New neo-classical bike products keep coming at you fast these days. From the Classic Rendezvous mail list yesterday:

"After many years when it looked like classic box-section rims with a polished aluminum finish were going to be a distant memory, we now have more and more exciting rim choices.

Grand Bois just offered their latest, a "double-wall" polished rim that is 23 mm wide, 700C and 650B, 32 and 36 holes.

The new Grand Bois rim is based on a custom extrusion. Why a custom extrusion? Most makers of limited-production rims use existing extrusions, and just have them rolled to different diameters, sometimes adding a nice polish as well. That means that there is only minimal tooling and setup cost. However, all existing classic rim profiles are only 19 mm wide, as they are intended for narrow racing tires. That is narrower than is ideal for the 30-40 mm wide tires many of us prefer. The wider rims are intended for mountain or hybrid bikes and often have facetted shapes that are heavier and look out of place on a classic bike. So Grand Bois commissioned a custom extrusion for a 23 mm wide rim.

The new Grand Bois rims are remarkably light, without compromising strength. The 650B version weighs 488 g, making it the lightest 650B rim available today. (The Velocity Synergy weighs 502 g, so the difference isn't great. You begin to reach a lower limit, and to make the rims lighter, you either compromise strength and durability, or you make them narrower.)

Available in 700C and 650B, 32 and 36 holes. Because of the custom extrusion, these rims aren't cheap, but worth every penny at $89 (650B) and $96 (700C).
For more info, see


In the mean time, we have a few of the first-generation Grand Bois 650B rims left. They use a cross-section with two small boxes, like the old Super Champion M58. A very nice rim, but not ideal for modern, highly asymmetric rear wheels. $ 60 as long as supplies last.

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly
2116 Western Ave.
Seattle WA 98121

So I trotted over to to look and saw these:

This is pretty good news - as Jan alludes to, some of the recent "classic" rims are essentially tarted up versions of modern mid-grade quality rims. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as those offerings are markedly cheaper. But high quality, wide, flat topped box, low sidewall rims that are all nice and shiny have been essentially unavailable new.

Plus, I have a soft spot for Grand Bois, as the shop (I's Bicycle, surf the site for some eye candy) that designs and/or sources Grand Bois products is in Kyoto, Japan, the region my wife is from and where she is currently in situ with my son.

This is also just in the nick of time, as I was pondering making up a new set of 700c wheels for wider tires and hard duty. All the likely suspects had some deficiency in either the quality or cosmetic department. But these look like just the ticket, perhaps for those new Electra Ticino hubs or my set of groovy cool (very late/rare Spidel Model) Maillard 700 Pro hubs:

Jan Heine and the crew at Vintage Bicycle Press have some good products over there. As they freely admit, they are not cheap, but it is one of the places where you can get stuff that scratches the classic styling itch without having to make compromises in quality or performance. Plus, these guys were around long before the classic bike revival began as well as being hard core riders, so they are definitely true believers.

Were I a betting man, I would wager that a set of these Grand Bois rims will show up in future installments, so stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

The Grand Bois rims are not made in Kyoto. They are made in Changhua.

robatsu said...

Fair enough, I didn't mean to imply that the actual manufacturing process occurs in Kyoto. But to make sure there is no confusion, I edited the article to make this a little more clear.