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Bike Tire Review-Grand Bois Initial Impressions

This is bike tire review that I pulled off another blog I write. I was reminded of it when out for a ride on these tires and was telling another rider about how well they rode.

When I walked in the door last night, there was a package waiting for me containing two brand new Grand Bois Cerf tires. I had been trying to decide between the Challenge Paris-Roubaix (700X27C) and the Grand Bois Cerf (700X28C). A survey of some people who had tried both seemed to indicate that the GB Cerf might be a little less susceptible to flats resulting from glass, which was what tipped me toward the GB Cerf. Given that there has been a lot of interest in the tire lately, I thought I’d write up a small bike tire review.

Jan Heine (of Vintage Bicycle Quarterly and the importer of the Grand Bois tires) was kind enough to answer some of my questions and gave me a brief rundown on widths of some of the tires (measured on a Mavic MA-2 Rim):

Grand Bois Cerf 28 mm: 28.5 mm actual
Challenge Paris-Roubaix 27 mm: 29 mm actual
Grand Bois Hetre 30 mm: 31.5 mm actual

This was helpful as the bike they’d be going on was built to accept up to 30C tires and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t purchase a tire that I could not use. As it turns out, there was plenty of room:

The Grand Bois Cerf under a SRAM Red Caliper.

The rubber on the GBs seemed quite sticky coming out of the package and the beads were tight. It took a bit of hand strength to get the GBs onto my DT Swiss RR 1.1 rims. I was able to get them mounted without the use of tools but it took a little bit of grunting and cursing. Okay, maybe a lot of grunting and cursing. I think this was due to the “stickiness” of the tire. It seemed to really grab the rim sidewall as I was trying to muscle the bead into place. Much different from the other tires I normally use.

Once mounted, I pumped them up to around 95 psi and then went looking for my calipers. At first measure, they were 27mm wide. I went and measured my Jack Brown Green labels  from Rivendell (33.3mm on a Mavic Open Pro-how did Grant do that?!!!) and my 25C Conti GP4000s (25mm on an Open Pro). I waited a bit and then re-measured the GBs and found that they had plumped a bit over time (to around 28.2mm).

I was pleased to find that they had a nice round profile once mounted as well. The Grand Bois were replacing some Specialized Roubaix Pro II tires (the ones with the 25C casing and the 23C tread; measure 26mm wide on the DT Swiss rim), which seemed squarish when mounted. I hoped that the rounder profile would provide a bit of a nicer transition when cornering and might give the ride a bit more plushness as well.

The first ride came this morning on my commute. It’s hard to say from one cold morning commute, but the tires were definitely more compliant than the Specialized tires they replaced, making the ride much more comfortable, in general. They felt faster and seemed to hold in corners nicely, as well. I find that the Specialized tires seem to feel sluggish at lower pressures and only feel fast around 115 psi. This seems to correlate with my commute times as well. Unlike the Specialized tires, the GBs felt fast at 95 psi while still taking the edge off the imperfections of the road surface. I’ll have to ride them more and play with tire pressure a bit to dial them in, but I’m really impressed so far with the ride of the GB tires. After I’ve ridden them a bit more, I’ll report more on my impressions.

You can purchase these through Jan Heine’s online shop: http://www.compasscycle.com/tires.html

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