Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

March 17, 2014

UPDATED: Grand what? (a tire report)

UPDATE:    Nov 1st, 2014:

I'm filing this under "do better research."  I'd made some assumptions in the post below, and this comment (immediately below) from "PB" corrects those assumptions.  Compass Tires and Grand Bois tires are distinct from one another - the Compass-branded tires are NOT, as I'd indicated in error, a replacement of Grand Bois.  Grand Bois tires are still made and sold.  I'd also blended Compass and Boulder Bicycle together in some early sentences - they are also distinct entities, which happen to nicely complement each other.  My apologies to the companies referenced, and to my readers for the confusion.  No miss-information had been intended!  I learned quite a bit about both Compass, Boulder Bicycle, and Grand Bois after receiving this comment, and I remain grateful for "PB" having taken the time to set me straight.
kG


The reader's valuable comment:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Grand what? (a tire report)": 

Hi Keith, nice write-up! You've got a few details smushed together. No harm done, but it may be helpful to your readers to sort it out.

Executive Summary: Compass tires did not replace Grand Bois, they are a new/different line of tires. Jan Heine at Compass sells tires and other parts, but doesn't sell frames. Mike Kone at Boulder Bicycle sells Boulder & Rene Herse frames, and also sells parts.

The Compass tires are a new line spec'd by Jan Heine, who owns Compass Bicycles and publishes Bicycle Quarterly. They do not replace theGrand Bois tires, which are still being produced, and Jan still carries Grand Bois. His Compass tires have some modified designs and improvements, best to get the details from his site.

The Boulder and Rene Herse frames are spec'd and sold by Mike Kone, at Boulder Bicycle in CO, not by Jan. The Boulder frames are built to Mike's specs by Waterford, the Rene Herse are custom-built for Mike by Mark Nobilette. 

Mike does also carry both Compass and Grand Bois tires, along with a bunch of other components.

We are in a Golden Era of awesome hardware made for unracers. Lots of steel frames designed for wider tire clearance, for fast but comfy riding. Lots of incredibly awesome lightweight and supple wide tires. Wider rims, wider gearing, great saddles, racks, bags--I could go on and on. But I'll spare you.

Best,

PB


Other notable links relating to this post: 
http://grandbois.jp/
http://www.renehersebicycles.com/
http://www.boulderbicycle.bike/

ANY reference to Compass Bicycles actually "making" the Grand Bois tires is incorrect;  so please forgive me if any untouched passages re-state that impression.  I have re-worded and crossed out many things to show the original notion, and the truth.  Some passages have been removed entirely, as they no longer offered relevance to the review of the tires themselves.


Thanks, all!

...and now, the original post:
-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Welp, I drank the kool-aid and bit the bullet on a set of tires offered by Compass Bicycles, purveyors of fine cycling goods and Bicycle Quarterly magazine. 

In possibly BQ's most-read and referred-to article series, they tackled putting to rest all the conjecture, tribal-knowledge, and wives'-tales about the rolling resistance of bicycle tires, all things considered:  width, volume, air-pressure, contact patch size, tread composition, casing, construction.  Exhaustive research revealed interesting results, well worth the read.  The culmination of that research, spanning eight years of data-gathering and testing, has yielded   the Grand Bois line of tires, now simply sold as   "Compass" tires.  These, however, are not the tires I'm reviewing.  The Grand Bois tires are available from Compass Bicycles, but are produced by a different company and are imported and sold by Compass Bicycles.  The tires I'm posting about here, specifically, are produced/commisioned by Cycles Grand Bois, and have the model name of "Cerf."

I wonder how much of the name change had to do with the   I'm not really sure how to pronounce this name, as I imagine it would be sometimes comical to answer the phone at Compass and struggle with all the variations of the "Grand boys"  vs. "Grand bwaa" pronunciation conundrum.  ...and that's only taking the 2nd word into consideration.  Gran?  Grand?  Grawn?  

They're Compass tires now.  Problem solved.    Nope!  Grand Bois tires are still being made, and they are sold by Compass Bicycles.  The Compass-brand tires are different, and are the real culmination of BQ's research.



If you're still reading, fear not:    You needn't be riding steel, or lugs, or have bags, or ride ridiculous distances... these tires are engineered for both speed and comfort.  Though they are only available with tan sidewalls, these are not retro-grouch, steel-or-death tires... they are meant for comfort AND performance.

All that aside, I felt compelled to offer some impressions - considering my initial stance on these things.  

Initial stance?  "Hogwash."  My Paselas are effectively the same tire WITH flat protection... and why would anyone give THAT up??  

As the price margin between my trusty Paselas and the Compass Grand Bois tires narrowed however, my interest grew.  Here we are.  More on that in....

Impression 1:  I already ride Panaracer Paselas.  I have for the last eight years, without complaint.  So, if Panaracer manufactured these tires, using many of the same materials and processes... why spend the extra money?  ... and, I'll be clear here:  NOT get flat-protection?  It smacked of the sort of thing high-end car manufacturers often do:  offer minimalist, lightweight versions of already-fast cars, and charge extra for them.  Hmm...

Impression 2:  The buy-in.  Importation costs being what they are lately, my particular choice of Pasela isn't as cheap as it had been when I first started using them.  With the Grand Bois tires sitting a scant $7.00 north of what I already pay for per tire, it only took a small nudge to push me over the edge.  So, while they DO offer extra-light versions of these tires for upwards of $80/per, these entry-level GBs are a more modest $57.  Still, considering anyone can stumble onto Nashbar and get five or more generic tires for that... yes, it's not exactly cheap.  If you're still with me after this section, read on.  Utilitarians among us may not find value in these observations - and that's fine.  I'm honestly still searching for a gem of a tire, hiding out there somewhere, which has 80% of what my fave tires offer, for far, far less money.  Considering the mileage I normally extract from a Pasela, and the rubber on the Grand Bois actually being initially thicker, I expect to continue to realize a good dollar-per-mile result here.

Impression 3:  Kevlar?  Vectran?  HDPE?  Why?  The main culprit rendering a harsh ride to many a cyclist on the road these days, and the nexus of design philosophy responsible for the Grand Bois, centers around the flat-protection belt nearly all of us insist on.  It makes sense - nobody wants or enjoys flats.  But, the argument (which I'll leave to Compass Bikes to explain, as they do it best) against having a flat-protection belt seemed reasonable if other criteria could be met.  So far, no, I haven't had any flats on the Cerfs.  Moreover, these tires - with their lower pressure rating and nearly smooth tread - haven't picked up any debris the way Paselas normally do.  No cuts, no embedded items -- and, while I have only logged perhaps 150 miles so far and cannot call that a real "test", it's still notable.  Now, to be fair --- the idea of no flat protection under me initially had me avoiding roadside debris with additional scrutiny, but, by ride #3 I started behaving normally and just riding right through the leftover winter road treatment sand and junk which is still hanging around here, at least until a few strong storms wash it all into the storm drainage system.  The Paselas normally pick up this winter-time grit largely because of their tread pattern, which has grooves for water channeling.  I usually end up extracting dozens of offenders by the weekend.  Now, the flat belt does its job - no flats, save but one slow leak recently.  But, again, by contrast the Grand Bois haven't picked up anything.  A wet ride may change that, so, I'll continue checking the tread.  So far, interesting -- but, I'm aware there will be some luck and chance involved here, too.

Impression 4:  The resulting ride.  Well, I was prepared to feel no difference whatsoever between my Paselas and the Grand Bois 'Cerf' 700x28 tires.  None.  I was prepared to have been spoofed (as I've been in the past) by marketing and numbers.  I am not pointing any ill fingers at anyone here --- I just know for a fact that I've spent a LOT of money on things that I never could have hoped to feel a performance difference from, despite convincing myself that - yes - "the reason I'm slow has been created by a lack of (insert high-end cycling component here)".  It's been a slow process outgrowing that tendency, yet, I still enjoy spirited performance and a "as-light-as-is-reasonable" bicycle.  I don't weigh bottle cage bolts anymore, that's for darn sure.  The slight weight savings of the Grand Bois, however, caught my eye - but mainly it was the promise of faster rolling and more comfort.  On long, long rides - for me - it's ultimately the culmination of road vibrations and fatigue which eventually materialize and conspire to slow my pace.  This is despite running a steel frame and fork, and larger volume tires.  If those larger volume tires are less than forgiving, however, the vibrations and shocks of bumps will still occur.  

Ok... 

Ride #1, commute, Monday.  Paselas.  Normal.  
Ride #2, commute, Tuesday.  Grand Bois Cerf.  Uhhh....ok, wow...  

Both tires, 700x28.
Both tires inflated to 90 PSI.  

This last point, it should be noted:  for the Paselas, that's 15 PSI lower than the sidewall recommendation of 105 PSI.  So, they SHOULD - even according to Compass - ride better at the slightly lower pressure.  Conversely, 90 PSI for the Cerfs is about 5 PSI too high for my body weight (Compass has recommendations based on this number, relative to what the sidewall can support, vs. the tire's intended use - instead of an arbitrary sidewall figure to cover everyone).  The Cerfs, then, should ride a smidge firmer than intended - and thusly LESS comfortable than intended.  This puts both tires in a position to counteract each other from a "I'm waiting to be impressed" stance, from my seat-of-the-pants viewpoint.

Conditions:
Same route both days - roughly the same AM and afternoon temperatures, same paved-trail slash residential road conditions; and, I'll-be-darned, the Cerfs DID ride better.  I deliberately made note of how I handled bumps and joints in the road/trail, and made a point to remain seated with my hands in the same positions as the previous day.  Pavement joints and other "normal" imperfections were noticeably 'muted' by comparison.  I did not observe, nor did I measure, speeds.  I can't speak to the rolling resistance difference, or whether it yielded real speed differences... however, the Grand Bois Cerfs, indeed, felt faster.  With slight wind differences, etc., I cannot say if I actually arrived slower or faster, in either case, on either day.  I won't spend a lot of time on that.  The Cerfs met my main objective:  yes, they ARE more comfortable.  



Final thoughts:  
 I'm impressed by this combination of comfort and a feeling of speed and spirit which the Paselas (granted, I didn't know any better beforehand) seemingly lack.  For the small current price difference, I'm not disappointed at all by my choice.  The lack of flat protection may well bite me someday - but I'll repair the flat and move on; and remember quietly that my first, beloved and long-gone Continental Ultra 2000 700x23 tires shared this distinction... and I seem to remember those tires riding rather well, too, come to think of it...especially considering their tiny volume compared to my current 28s.  I don't recall suffering more or fewer flats on those old tires compared to anyone else I'd ridden with - so, as Compass contends, I'm beginning to understand that it's not essential.  If one is reasonably careful, one shouldn't notice an increase in punctures.  Fingers crossed.

Longer-term impressions to come later.
As I ramp up in distance this spring, I'm most curious to discover how they'll affect my later-mileage performance and feel at the 200, 300, 400 and 600k levels.  If the comfort gains allow me to finish the longer rides fresher, perhaps faster, then I think it's a win.  ...and, sure, a puncture would negate any speed gains, so - again - speed isn't really my goal here:  comfort will pay back.  Tread longevity and eventual flat-tally will decide the rest --- but, riding on a cloud feels awfully good at the moment!



OH, yes.... the taillight reference in a recent Twitter post: 
Perhaps most-telling --- or perhaps a really interesting fluke:
While doing final impressions on a really short 'round-the-block rotation after dark a few nights ago, I decided to run my backup taillight:  a fender-mounted Spanninga Pixeo.  This little taillight has an interesting feature in that it employs two sensors to allow automatic power-on after dark, if the bike is moving.  It's a "rattle" sensor, and a photoelectric cell, basically - if the bike is moving, and it's dark, the light comes on.  

When circling the block with the Paselas, the taillight was on, constantly -- working as designed.
VERY interestingly, however, with the Cerfs mounted - same bike, same wheels, same PSI - I began to notice during looks-over-the-shoulder for traffic that the Pixeo had switched OFF.  

So, that's remarkable.... but, it's also a weird fluke and possible coincidence?
But, it repeated - lap after lap, and after opening the taillight and re-seating the batteries and cycling the switch a few times.  I'd tap the fender, the light would come on.  I'd mount up and start riding down the street, at speed -- and glancing back, the light had again switched off.

Are you seriously telling me that a 700x28 tire pumped up to 90PSI is SO SMOOTH that the motion-sensing "rattle" switch in the taillight can't detect any vibrations?????  Uh... it would seem so --- and that's amazing if that's what's really occurring.



Until more time passes, however... I'll repost.  So far... I am impressed indeed.












1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Keith, nice write-up! You've got a few details smushed together. No harm done, but it may be helpful to your readers to sort it out.

Executive Summary: Compass tires did not replace Grand Bois, they are a new/different line of tires. Jan Heine at Compass sells tires and other parts, but doesn't sell frames. Mike Kone at Boulder Bicycle sells Boulder & Rene Herse frames, and also sells parts.

The Compass tires are a new line spec'd by Jan Heine, who owns Compass Bicycles and publishes Bicycle Quarterly. They do not replace the Grand Bois tires, which are still being produced, and Jan still carries Grand Bois. His Compass tires have some modified designs and improvements, best to get the details from his site.

The Boulder and Rene Herse frames are spec'd and sold by Mike Kone, at Boulder Bicycle in CO, not by Jan. The Boulder frames are built to Mike's specs by Waterford, the Rene Herse are custom-built for Mike by Mark Nobilette.

Mike does also carry both Compass and Grand Bois tires, along with a bunch of other components.

We are in a Golden Era of awesome hardware made for unracers. Lots of steel frames designed for wider tire clearance, for fast but comfy riding. Lots of incredibly awesome lightweight and supple wide tires. Wider rims, wider gearing, great saddles, racks, bags--I could go on and on. But I'll spare you.

Best,

PB