Category Archives: reviews

A Preliminary Review of the the Rivet Diablo Saddle

Saddles are the bane of my existence, as they are for many people who put in long steady distance rides. In contrast to short, fast rides that require repeated bursts of high-intensity pedaling—often out of the saddle—on longer rides you often sit…and sit…and sit. A comfortable saddle is a must.

I’ve preferred the Brooks Swallow for a long time now. It’s narrow enough to fit neatly between my thighs and has a flat profile, which suits my skinny ass well. Like other leather saddles, it appears rock hard, but there’s a bit of a trampoline effect that provides a cushion, particularly when the saddle is new. I like it enough that I use it on wildly inappropriate bikes, like my English, which really deserves a 100-gram wonder saddle.

I’ve tried other saddles without success, including the Fizik Kurve, which—despite claims that it offers the benefits of a Brooks in a modern saddle—has all of the initial drawbacks of a Brooks without the benefit of being able to break it in after a few hundred miles.

However, I still experience some pain, particularly when I’m in the saddle for longer than 10 or 12 hours. As importantly, the Swallow tends to collapse after seven or eight thousand miles. Not good if that’s about how far you ride each year, and especially not good considering that it costs more than $300.

This is the Rivet. It looks like a Brooks Swallow and, in fact, has almost identical dimensions, but it also has a cutout in the center.


If you’ve got your saddle set up properly, there’s no need for a cutout because you’re not sitting on your perineum. However, the slot offers one key benefit: It allows greater flex and permits the saddle to move naturally with your pedal stroke.

I received the titanium-railed saddle a few days ago, and my initial impressions were favorable. In particular, the leather appears to be thicker than on the Brooks (closer to a Berthoud saddle) and is at least equally well finished.

I went for a 35-mile ride today with the saddle with positive results. It has been a year since my last Brooks Swallow, so my recollection may be off, but the saddle was comfortable immediately, unlike the Brooks which takes at least a few hundred miles to break in. This may or may not be a good thing—if it is comfortable immediately, as the saddle breaks in it may become less comfortable.

Only time will tell if the Rivet is more durable than a Brooks. If it is—and it continues to perform—I’m a convert. So far, so good.

I’ll report back after a thousand more miles, and PS, the Kurve Bull is for sale, if anyone wants it.


A Review: Grand Bois Extra Leger Tires

Not even six months ago—and being of the decidedly entrepreneurial bent (in my entire life, I’ve only been “employed” by someone other than myself for 6 months)—I was considering getting into the tire business myself. Not as a huge money maker, but instead because I thought there was no reason why someone couldn’t make a clincher as nice as my favorite tubular, the FMB Paris-Roubaix 25 mm. I even went so far as to start researching the equipment needed and scoping out sites for a mini-factory. I figured I’d make a little money, employ 5 or 6 people in upstate New York, and most importantly get the tire I wanted. The tires would be expensive, sure, but no more than a high-quality tubular and they’d be made in the US.

I had heard rumors of a new ultralight tire from Compass that was supposed to ride like a tubular, so I snapped up a pair of 32 mm Grand Bois Extra Léger tires, literally within minutes of them becoming available at the Compass Bicycles site. Compass has finally started using Priority Mail, so the tires arrived within a few days of ordering (they used to use regular post, and things would arrive in 7 to 10 days, if at all) My initial feelings about the tires before they arrived were mixed…although I was excited to get what might be a truly superb clincher tire, there would be no need for me to manufacture my own.

When I opened the package, it was apparent right from the beginning that there was something different about these tires. The sidewalls are so flexible that they actually wrinkle when unmounted—something I’ve never seen before except in the highest-quality tubulars.


They mounted up relatively easily, although I had to use a tire jack to get the rear tire on. Later, when my latex tubes arrived, the tires had stretched enough to get on and off by hand. This is in sharp contrast to the Challenge Eroica tires that I purchased and subsequently returned—those tires were so tight that I couldn’t even jam a tube under them.


I pumped the tires up to 60 psi front and 65 psi rear (I weigh 145 lbs) and went for my usual 18-mile lunchtime loop with 2000 feet of climbing. It was a revelation. All traces of road buzz were eliminated relative to the regular Grand Bois 32s that I have on another bike. I suspect the smoother ride and reduction in road buzz made me feel a little slower than usual. However, my speed on multiple days on this loop averaged +0.3 mph of my usual speed. I’m not ready to say that they are any faster, but they are unambiguously more comfortable than the standard version. Even better with Challenge latex tubes.

The Grand Bois Extra Léger tires are available in 23 mm, 32 mm, and 42 mm. I think that’s an unfortunate range of sizes. 23 mm will fit on most race bikes, but many people (and everyone I know) are going with 25 mm or 27 mm tires these days. If Compass cares about selling tires, they would make a true 25 mm Extra Léger tire. Not 26 mm for the simple reason that many who own race bikes would reject it out of hand because they will think it won’t fit on their bikes.

I’ve had a chance to ride some really good clinchers and tubulars. Because these are 32s, it is impossible to do a direct comparison with tires other than the regular Grand Bois 32. However, based on what I’ve seen I’m confident that the 23s will ride better than any other clincher in the 23 to 25 range, and will probably provide as close to a tubular experience as it is possible to get on a clincher. I’m going to buy some Extra Léger 23s and compare with other tires in the 23 to 25 mm size range.


The Magic of Latex

Finally found them: 28 to 35 mm Challenge latex tubes. These tubes are difficult to find except in late summer and early fall, when retailers start stocking them for cross.


I like latex tubes, and yes, I can tell the difference. So much so that, on my English, I use latex tubes in my carbon fiber clinchers–a practice generally considered inadvisable because of the potential for melting. However, I don’t brake much, and I’ve been pairing latex tubes and carbon fiber clincher rims for years without incident.

The other nice thing about latex tubes is that–at least in my hands–they are resistant to puncture. The tube that currently resides on the front wheel of my English has survived three years. No punctures, and most of that time was riding in New York City. Contrast that with the butyl tubes on the Herse (no choice because it is 650B), which puncture at least once or twice every thousand miles.

There is considerable disagreement regarding whether latex tubes reduce or increase rolling resistance. Jan Heine’s real world tests indicate that they increase rolling resistance slightly, while other more carefully controlled but less realistic tests suggest that rolling resistance is reduced. The latter result makes more sense to me in the context that more supple tires generally have lower rolling resistance, but who knows?

Online, you will see complaints about punctures occurring when mounting latex tubes. There are a few ways to avoid this: First, try to mount the tire by hand. If you need help, a tire jack is a safer bet than a lever. Second, after mounting the tire inflate it slowly to 20 psi, let it rest for a few minutes to release any tube trapped under the bead, then add another 20 psi and let it sit for a while longer. Grab the tire with both hands and wiggle it to ensure both beads are seated. Then pump to full pressure. Thereafter, you can inflate as you normally would. I’ve never punctured a latex tube using this method.

I received the Challenge tubes today, and on a short break from work mounted them under the Grand Bois Extra Legere tires I received recently. I have only ~100 on the tires so far, so don’t ask about them yet. I’m planning to take Friday off for an 80-mile double crossing of the Shawangunk Ridge. I might have an opinion after that ride.



I might have a problem. I’ve tried to get help, but nobody understands. I age my FMBs loosely wrapped in my office desk drawer. Why? When I need comfort or just want to relax, I can open the drawer slightly, slide my hand in, and fondle them ever so gently. No other tire, even Veloflex, has the same feel…


…and until now, no clincher even came close.

Today, I received a pair of 32 mm Grand Bois Extra Légère tires from Compass Bicycles, and the feel in the hand is pretty damn close to FMBs. At 232 grams they are lighter than many 23 mm tires and most 25 mm tires. They are going on the cross bike tomorrow, and next week I’ll be taking them off again to mount them with Challenge 28-35 mm latex tubes (finally found a place with them in stock!)


I have high expectations.

Now, Jan…give me a true 25 mm Extra Légère tire, please. Or even just produce the 26 mm tire in an extra light version. The Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine also comes in an Extra Légère version; I may just have to satisfy myself with that until I can get something a little wider.

In any case, this is as excited as I’ve ever been for a new tire (aside from my yearly FMB restock, of course!) As far as I know, this is a limited edition tire until further notice; hopefully if the demand is high enough they’ll make them a regular part of the program.

Oh, and by the way, I’m really not a tire fondler. I was exaggerating for effect. Plus, I’ve made an effort to control myself since the second time my girlfriend caught me late at night, hand in drawer.


Challenge Eroica: Tight!

…and I don’t mean “tight” in the positive sense.

Last night I attempted to mount a set of 30 mm Challenge Eroica tires on my new cross bike (which isn’t actually intended for cross, but more about that later). They were so tight that I couldn’t even stuff a tube under them. So for 2 hours of effort all I got were some blistered thumbs and a popped tube (Exhibit A).

Exhibit A: Human thumb after failed attempt to mount a Challenge Eroica 30 mm tire*

Tubular Thumb

I’ve never had a set of tires that were so tight that I couldn’t mount them. Even Veloflex tires, which are ordinarily quite tight. In this case, I couldn’t even use a tire jack because I couldn’t get the tube in. It was so bad that even Winston was disgusted. Exhibit B shows a typical feline reaction to Challenge Eroica tires.

Exhibit B. Feline reaction to Challenge Eroica tires.

Lamb Doesn't Like Challenge

In any case, I’m returning these and getting some of the new Grand Bois Extra Legere 32s: 230 grams for a 32 mm tire (and 181 grams for the 23–lighter than Veloflex)! I’ve used the Grand Bois 23s, 32s, and 42s in the past, and they were great tires.

Now, I just need to track down some 28-32 mm latex tubes. Every place I’ve checked seems to be sold out. Anyone know of a source?

I’ll let you know how the Grand Bois tires work out after some serious gravel road abuse.

*The blistered thumb in Exhibit A is actually from removing a too well-glued tubular tire a few months ago, but serves as an example of what you can look forward to if you try to mount Eroicas.