High-Flange Hubs from Grand Bois

Grand Bois recently introduced their new high-flange cassette hubs. They combine classic appearance with modern performance. The aesthetics of the new Grand Bois hubs are inspired by the classic Maxi-Car hubs. Like the originals, they feature large flanges and red anodized dust shields.

The holes in the flanges are centered between the spoke holes. This makes the flanges stronger and looks nicer. As a result, 32-hole hubs (left) have 8 holes in each flange, whereas 36-hole hubs (right) have 9.

Inside the new hub shells, the Grand Bois hubs are the same as before. That means they are typical high-end Taiwanese cassette hubs, with four cartridge bearings, an oversize aluminum axle and an aluminum cassette body. Two cassette bodies are available, one compatible with Shimano/SRAM (8-, 9-, or 10-speed), the other with Campagnolo (10-speed). Aluminum shields and rubber O-rings (on the rear only) protect the bearings from contamination. The hub shells are polished, but not to a mirror finish. When you look carefully, you can see the machining traces.

The hubs also come with typical Taiwanese quick releases. Frankly, I am not very fond of them. The cutout in the lever is crudely done, and the D-ring on the nut has no function and flops around. On classic Campagnolo quick releases, the D ring was a spring that pushed on the skewer and locked the quick release adjustment in place. The new quick releases have a nyloc insert for that, but then why bother with the D ring at all? Fortunately, it is easy to replace the quick releases.

It would be nice to say that these are the best hubs ever made, but I believe that claim is still held by the original Maxi-Cars. Their double labyrinth seals and adjustable cartridge bearings ensured decades of service. However, original Maxi-Cars are almost impossible to find, and there are no good freewheels available to go with them.

If you are looking for a modern cassette hub with classic appearance, then the new Grand Bois hubs are a welcome alternative. More information is here.

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.
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31 Responses to High-Flange Hubs from Grand Bois

  1. Mitchell Gass says:

    Are special tools required to replace the bearing cartridges?

    • The bearings are pressed into the shell. I haven’t had to replace any yet… The dust shields come off with standard cone wrenches, the bearings come out by tapping the axle, and you’ll need a simple ring made from aluminum to press the bearings in.

  2. nellegreen says:

    Jan,
    Are the hub bodies cold forged or CNC machined?

    • I don’t know, because it’s not something I have ever wondered about. Maxi-Car hubs were machined at first, and only the last generation had forged shells. According the manufacturers, the reason to forge the shells was to save aluminum – you don’t have as many chips. As far as durability is concerned, it does not appear to make a big difference for hubs.

  3. Michael says:

    Speaking of freewheels, what is your take on those modern offerings from IRD?

    • I really don’t know. The first iteration failed, so did the second, the third got stuck on my hub, and I had to take it to a car repair shop to free it with a huge impact wrench, and that is when I gave up on them.

      • Michael says:

        That’s certainly an indictment! Interesting, I have never had any issues with the one’s I’ve worked with.

      • It may be that the latest versions are better. Generally, I resent companies who have the customers test their products for them. It would have been easy to give a few prototypes to randonneurs or somebody who logs a lot of miles, and who could find the problems before the freewheels were introduced.

  4. jb says:

    It looks like Grand Bois has a 120mm 5 speed hub. Do you plan in selling it? Or do you hesitate because of your experience with new freewheels?

    • We may import the 120 mm cassette hub, if there is demand. The cassette mechanism is the same as the “standard” hubs, so durability should not be a concern.

      It certainly would offer a solution for riders of classic bikes who are tired of breaking hub axles. Of course, there also are lots of freewheel hubs that don’t break axles – it’s just that the common Campagnolo/Shimano/etc. axles were dimensioned too small for the overhang of a 5/6/7-speed freewheel. (They worked fine when first introduced with 3- and 4-speed.)

  5. John says:

    Too bad we can’t get 28 and 24 hole hubs. Not everyone weighs 180 lbs.

    • It is hard enough for Grand Bois to get these special hubs made in small quantities. If there was demand for 100 sets or individual hubs with 28 holes, they could be made… but the numbers we sell are much smaller than that. These hubs only exist because they are used on Grand Bois bikes in Japan, and they make some extra for us.

    • Matthew J says:

      Curious statement. I weigh all of 160 and could not be more pleased with my 40h MaxiCar hubs. With all the brittle weight weenie stuff out there why get non-plussed about a limited run product?

      • Especially on the front wheel, if you run wide tires on a relatively small wheel, you really don’t need more than 28 spokes. I always thought the British practice of using more spokes on the rear than the front made a lot of sense. 32/40 was common in Britain, but they used thin tires (which don’t absorb much shock) on tall wheels.

      • Matthew J says:

        40h are an indulgence for the bike (650b city/weekend tourer). But MaxiCar hubs roll wonderfully, and, as you point out, are difficult to source. After lucking into a perfect nos pair, there was no way I would break them up. I certainly do not feel as though I am giving away anything on the account of a few extra spokes.

        May well match another MaxiCar 40h high/low rear hub with a 36 or 32h Son up front for a longer haul touring bike I am contemplating.

      • Yes, Maxi-Cars are wonderful. On my new randonneur bikes, I am using 36 spokes on the rear. I was tempted by 32, but then I wouldn’t be able to replace spokes on the road, as the spoke holes of the 32-hole hubs are too far apart do to the keyhole spoke holes, which allow you to hook on the drive-side spokes without removing the freewheel – but only on 36-hole Maxi-Car hubs…

  6. willem says:

    I am trying to figure out what these 120 mm hubs are. From the pictures on the Grandbois site they are obviously cassette hubs, and I think I can count 6 cogs. Are they trimmed 7 speed cassettes? It would be a neat way to have a low q 120 mm spacing with modern components.

  7. Garth says:

    Is it feasible to put shims between the cogs on a cassette hub to get easier shifting? And, only use five or six so you can have sensible wheel dish w/ 130mm axle spacing? Cassettes do offer clear advantages over freewheels as far as removal and also free hub replacement.

  8. willem says:

    A modern high quality seven speed cassette hub would be the most obvious answer. Shimano 7 speed cassettes can still be had, work very well, and make for a narrower cluster than the 8/9/10 speed style.

  9. Garth says:

    7-speed spacing is the same as 8-speed (and ultra-6). There was a six-speed cassette that matched the spacing of 5 and 6-speed freewheels. I like the friction shifting of the 5 and 6 speeds better than the 8-speed. I assume the 7-speed would equal the 8-speed.

    • Mitchell Gass says:

      For Shimano cassettes, 7-speed spacing is *not* the same as 8-speed. See http://sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-spacing.shtml for details.

    • nellegreen says:

      Well, Campy 7 and 8 are spaced the same as Shimano 7. Shimano 8 uses thinner spacers with same thickness cogs, which leads to smaller center to center distance. I use all three of these systems now. I used Suntour 7 and 8 with the same shifters a long time ago. No comment on the 6 speed equipment..

    • Greg says:

      Please clarify that statement. That doesn’t make sense to me. Ultra-six goes on 120, 7-speeds on 126 or 130, and 8-speed requires 130 mm.

  10. E.L.M. says:

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate the frank reviews of the products you sell, and thanks for making these products available.

  11. Garth says:

    I meant spacing between the cogs. Sorry for confusion.

    • Greg says:

      Got it. Now it makes sense. Cog (centerline) spacing is indeed 5 mm for all of those that you mentioned, vs. 5.5 mm for the old 4-speed, 5-speed and “standard” 6-speed setups. Although, wasn’t there a ‘wide seven-speed’ freewheel standard, briefly? For 130 hubs?

  12. Simon says:

    Jan, any chance you would think about producing five or six speed high quality freewheels?

    • That would be nice, wouldn’t it? After all, cassette hubs became popular only because most freewheel hubs at the time had undersized axles that tended to break. There is nothing inherently superior about a cassette hub. A well-designed freewheel hub with a high-quality freewheel will last at least as long as a good cassette hub.

      • Matthew J says:

        The dream – a freewheel body as light and smooth rolling as the Campagnolo were but with cogs that last forever as the Suntour did.

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