Grand Bois Stems and Decaleurs

Grand Bois recently introduced their new stems. The stems are fillet-brazed from steel tubing, then polished and triple-plated (copper, nickel, chrome) for a brilliant and durable finish. The special clamp bolts and the expander bolt are chrome-plated as well. The stems are made by Nitto exclusively for Grand Bois.

The stems are available in lengths from 60 to 100 mm (in 10 mm increments). The stem clamp measures 25.4 mm, so they work with all Grand Bois and many other current-production handlebars. (The stems do not have a removable face plate, so some modern bars with very tight bends may be difficult or impossible to install.) The stems have a threaded hole to attach a bell.

The stem is designed to work with Grand Bois’ new decaleur. (Of course, you also can use it without the decaleur as shown in the top picture.) The decaleur makes it easy to attach a handlebar bag securely, so the bag does not move around as you ride. It keeps the bag clear of the handlebars, so you can use the “tops” without having to wiggle your hands between bag and handlebars.

The decaleur is fillet-brazed from steel tubing. It consists of two parts: One attaches to the stem, the other to the bag. Pins on the bag attachment slide into the tubes on the stem attachment with a friction fit. This means they don’t rattle or jump out. To remove the bag, you simply pull it upward, and the bag comes off the bike. Based on the decaleurs made by Alex Singer and René Herse, this simple system works very well. The system relies on a precise fit between the parts: There have been some recently-made decaleurs that lacked this precision, leaving the bag to rattle or even jump out of the decaleur. The decaleur does not replace a rack: The bag still needs to be supported from below.

The weight of these components is similar to classic parts from the French constructeurs:

  • Stem: 322 g (100 mm)
  • Decaleur: 117 g (with bag attachment and bolts)
  • Bell: 46 g (for mounting to stem)

The decaleur comes with all the hardware required to attach it to the stem and the bag. All these components are hand-made by Nitto in Japan. We have a few samples in stock now, and more on the way. Click here for more information.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
This entry was posted in Handlebars, Product News, Stems. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Grand Bois Stems and Decaleurs

  1. Chris Lowe says:

    Beautiful stem, if they made a threadless version I’d buy one in a heartbeat. The price is very reasonable given the work involved.

    The decaleur is nice except there doesn’t appear to be any adjustment possible. What if you’re bag sits below your bars? Looks like you’d be forced to either raise the bag and rack up, lower your bars down or buy a bag that may end up being bigger than needed in order to get the height right.

    • Threadless is tough, because the steerer is so big. You’d have an awkward transition from the clamp on the steerer to the more slender forward extension.

      Height adjustment: I always like to have the biggest handlebar bag I can fit on my bike. The extra height doesn’t add much weight (the weight is in the edge reinforcements, straps, etc.). Having the extra volume often comes in handy, and a half-empty bag doesn’t have any disadvantages. So from that perspective, those who ride smaller frames are unlucky to have less room for their bags. Unless they get smaller wheels, but then you get into the handling issues.

      • Jan, come on, please be more of a capitalist: You could sell boatloads of a threadless 1&1/8″ version of these! Not all of us ride bikes that are remakes of French constructeur bicycles from an aesthetic point of view, nor old school set-up point of view!

      • As I said, making the transition from the wide steerer clamp (28.5 mm vs. 22.2 mm diameter of the quill) to the forward extension will be difficult. We’d probably increase the diameter of the forward extension, too, which increases the weight significantly. It would then make sense to increase the handlebar clamp, which means larger-diameter handlebars…

        Why do you like such large-diameter steerer tubes? They may make sense on carbon forks, but otherwise, 1″ steerers have a great track record of more than a century without problems. A 1″ direct-clamp version would be easier to make (half as much increase in steerer clamp diameter), but few production bikes use 1″ steerers any longer.

        That said, we will look into this. As always, Grand Bois components first are made for Grand Bois custom bikes, and they use quill stems. However, if it’s feasible, we’ll try to offer a direct-clamp version eventually.

  2. AC says:

    If you made a decaleur like this for threadless stems they’d probably go like hotcakes. The decaleur offerings out there are pitifully scant with almost all the ones available being a compromise in one way or the other..

  3. Lee Legrand says:

    Nice stem but I just cant see why it cost $193? Is price due it being imported from Japan? I like how the bell is integrated into the stem but I do not see where the cost is coming from honestly.

    • The cost is due to mitering the stem tubes, brazing them together, filing the fillets smooth, polishing it all, and then triple-plating it. By making the stems in batches, it’s cheaper than a custom stem, but there is a lot of labor in this. Compare an aluminum stem, which is cast or forged, then powder-coated. There is next to no labor and all the cost is in the initial setup for the mold/die.

  4. Garth says:

    Jan, very nice stem/decaleur. I’m curious about the history of these steel stems. Perhaps the topic of a future article, so I wouldn’t want to spoil it! I’m hypothesizing that although labor intensive, fillet brazed steel is a method readily accessible to constructeurs, whereas an aluminum forge was not. They could also readily make any size needed, such as those really long ones on the porteur bikes…

    • Aluminum stems were available from the 1930s from Mavic and other companies, but many constructeurs preferred to make their own stems. Some of the early steel stems (with direct clamps) made by Singer were incredibly light. Later quill stems offered few weight advantages over mass-produced aluminum stems. They were seen as the final touch on a beautiful bicycle. And of course, they made it easier to incorporate a decaleur into the bicycle.

      When riding, the stem is the part of the bicycle you see most, so it’s the place where it makes most sense to get a beautiful part.

  5. Stevy says:

    Jan, what is the vertical measurement for the minimum insertion line to the centre of the clamp? I note the weight is very competitive with aluminium stems currently available.

    Stevy

  6. Richard James says:

    Looks like a nice solution for 700C bikes and 650B bikes of small-to-normal sizing. Wish I could buy a bag tall enough to be level with my bars (and work with this stem+decaleur), but unfortunately the tallest Gilles Berthoud bag is well short of the mark.

    I ride a 61cm 650B bicycle and have over 2 inches of vertical space between the top of the Gille Berthoud bag and the bars. The bag is just about level with the headset lock nut.

    Maybe Grand Bois will offer bags someday!

    • I ride a 59 cm (center-to-center) 650B bike, and the largest Gilles Berthoud bag is a perfect fit. It all depends on your handlebar height.

      There are a number of makers of custom bags, who can make a taller bag for you. We are currently testing a bag from Loyal Designs in the U.S. We also tested a bag from Guu Watanabe that was very nice.

  7. superfreak says:

    i had a 2 bolt stem kinda like that once. i could never get both bolts tighten the same. so one was always looser and would eventualy loosen up. i guess u need 2 bolts for the rack thing?
    thx superfreak

    • Two bolts provide more even clamping force with less torque on each bolt. That means that the bolts can be smaller, and in fact, the two small bolts are lighter than one bigger bolt.

      Tighten the two bolts evenly by taking turns. First screw both in finger-tight, then tighten each bolt a quarter turn a few times, then going to 1/8 of a turn steps. Make sure you have grease on the threads, so you can feel how tight each bolt is from the resistance you get. If during the tightening process, one bolt offers less resistance to turning than the other, turn the looser bolt slightly more, or, if you already are very tight, back off the tighter bolt a tad.

      In nothing helps, a torque wrench should allow you to get the bolts torqued evenly.

  8. John says:

    Much to my chagrin, I found that the Grand Bois randonneur handlebars don’t fit in the stem of my Toei. This looks like a very similar design, have you tried the rando bars in the Grand Bois stem?

  9. Phil says:

    Can I ask why the bell tap is on the left side of the stem? I installed my bell on the right side of my stem to that when I ring it I use my right hand and can keep my left on the front brake lever in case I need to brake.

    • The most important reason to mount the bell on the left is this: With the left brake lever operating the front brake, you usually have the cable run on the right side of the stem. If the brake cable touches the bell, it will not ring. Putting the bell on the left makes sure that it won’t be touched by the brake cable.

      Beyond that, you ring the bell by pushing your thumb over the striker. The striker then springs back and hits the bell. I find this easier with the “outward” sweep of my hand, rather than the “inward” sweep, which means that the bell should be on the left side if operated with the right hand. I presume that is the reason why René Herse mounted the bells (usually) on the left, even though the brake cables passed through the center of his stems.

      • Phil says:

        I see what you’re saying. I figured there was a good reason. Right now, I’m getting away with the right and will probably keep it that way because, I prefer an inward sweep (although maybe I’ll try the outward to see what all the hub-bub is about) and also because your argument about the brake cables only makes sense if you’re using non-aero brake levers AND they’re installed correctly. I just looked at my bike and while it currently has non-aero levers, the cable is run incorrectly on the left lever. I’ll keep it this way until I change out the handlebars and brake levers, when I’ll probably go to aero which will alleviate this problem. Unless there is a good reason to use non-aero?

    • Frank says:

      I use a bell mounted to an aheadset spacer similar to the spacers Velo Orange sells (mine is made by BBB though, which is easier to buy in Germany). It can be mounted on both sides, and my (aero) cables wouldn’t touch it on any side. I mounted it on the left *because* I use the right hand to ring it. I found it easier to ring it with my right hand’s thumb that way: The right thumb moves in an arc going from left to right which is exactly the direction, the little ringer bat moves when it’s mounted on the left side and is pointing to the back of the bike.

  10. Buffalo Bill says:

    so wait… the stem is only available in 100mm lengths, only 25.4mm clamp diameter, and the decaleur has no vertical adjustment? And it’s nearly $400 for the whole kit once it’s shipped? Couldn’t I just drill and tap any nitto stem for the bell, in any length I like, and continue to use my current $25 decaleur which–even though it may lack “precision”–can be adjusted to fit my bike? Furthermore, isn’t this production stem well into (if not beyond) the price range of custom stems?

    • Buffalo Bill says:

      Ah, now I see. 60-100mm lengths (was looking at the 100mm for the weights). Still…

    • There are less expensive options out there, that is sure. Compass Bicycles tries to bring you the best, not the cheapest, components. In fact, if you are handy with a torch and a file, you could make your own stem and decaleur. You’d still have to pay for chrome-plating, but that should not cost much more than $ 100.

  11. TimJ says:

    There look really lovely. I’ve been looking for a longer stem for my old Trek 520 and have had to resort to cannibalizing old bikes to get the right length. I have an open question however: One of the things I like about the Aheadset format is the ease with which stems and handlebars can be changed, as a result of being able to remove the entire faceplate of the stem. Why has this feature never been used on traditional stems? Not enough metal? Tradition? Just wondering.

    • The advantage of removable faceplates lies in the ability to change the stem length quickly and easily. This is great for new riders who are still finding their position. However, I figure you’ll order a hand-made stem only after you have figured out which length you need. Being able to remove the bars also makes it easier to pack the bike for shipping. Both of these are not big concerns for most riders, who don’t change stem lengths frequently and who ride their bike rather than ship it. You mentioned changing the bars, but that still requires removing the brake levers and bar tape, so you gain very little convenience there.

      Removable faceplates do have a few disadvantages:
      • They don’t form a band around the bars that tightens evenly, but instead tend to crush the bars like a vise.
      • They have extra bolts and flanges, thus weigh more. (Many makers use very small bolts to get some of that weight back, but small bolts can strip.)

      Given these trade-offs, I prefer non-removable faceplates on my own bikes.

      • Richard James says:

        One additional advantage of a removable faceplate is for packing an S&S, BreakAway, or otherwise separable bike in an airline-legal box.

    • Matthew J says:

      Richard: One can just as easily pull the quill with handlebar attached out of the steerer tube.

      • A quill stem with handlebars attached has an awkward shape that is hard to fit in a bike box. (Of course, the Aheadset means that the steerer tube sticks up further, increasing the dimensions of the bike, which already can be hard to fit in a case.)

  12. Ben Kraft says:

    Beautiful stem, but I don’t think it makes sense to argue 1 1/8 direct clamp stems are at a disadvantage with regards to weight because of their larger diameter tubes. While the tubes themselves may weigh more (or may not, if they could be made thinner), I bet the whole setup would still weigh significantly less, since a quill has the wedge and the extension into the steerer tube.

    For example, consider the ‘classic’, alum. ritchey wcs stem. Looks like the 100mm comes in under 130 grams, and steel steerer tubes under 25 grams / inch, so with 3 inches of extra steerer to compensate for the height, an equivalent setup could weigh just over 200 grams (though you could add a bit for spacers and star nut).

    • I was referring to the comparison between threadless 1″ and threadless 1 1/8″. Threadless does offer weight advantages over quill stems, mostly because the steerer tube can be thinner. Not only don’t you need threads (which reduce the effective wall thickness), but the steerer also doesn’t need to take the spreading forces from the stem’s quill.

      Once you have gone threadless, increasing the diameter of the steerer always will add weight, because you cannot reduce the wall thickness, which has to withstand the crushing forces of the stem clamp. It’s too bad that 1″ threadless isn’t more popular, as it seems to be a great option (assuming you know their stem height).

      An oversize steerer tube diameter is useful with carbon forks. There, you need a smooth transition from steerer to fork blades to reduce stress risers. The larger the steerer, the easier it is to achieve this.

  13. Richard says:

    I love that little bell, “ring” “ring”,lol. Richard from Amish Stories

  14. Garth says:

    What’s really great about threaded stems is the ease with which you can adjust the height. You don’t need to buy a new fork if you decide you want your bars a little higher.

Comments are closed.