We first found Franco Bicycles and the Grimes at the 2015 Sea Otter Classic. We saw two versions of the Grimes, named after a Southern California ride of the Grimes Canyon, when we were there. One was built as a cyclocross bike just like our test bike previewed here, the other was shown as more of a commuter build. The two set-ups showcased the frame's intended versatility, which Franco classifies as “All Road.”
While the Grimes might be meant as a do-it-all bike, when your test model comes with Zipp 303 tubulars shod with file tread rubber, you know Franco thinks the Grimes is also a serious race bike.
Franco Bikes does everything built to order in California, tailoring bikes for each rider's particular riding style and needs. The Grimes frameset sells for $1499.00 usd with a carbon (or steel) QR fork. The TRP Carbon Thru-Axle fork is a $419.00 usd upgrade. The build as listed above has a carbon fork upgrade, seat post upgrade, and wheel/tire upgrade. Retail would be $6499.00 usd as shown. A stock Force 1 build is $3799.00 usd. This is with standard stock paint options.
The frames are warrantied for 5 years and as of this writing were manufactured in Portland, Oregon at Zen Fabrications. Of course, news broke yesterday that Zen is closing it's OEM manufacturing operations, but Franco expects they won't miss a beat.
We spoke with Hector Rodriguez of Franco Bicycles and he sees Zen's closure as having little impact at this point. The company is transitioning to another manufacturing partner and have plenty of inventory so they have time to make the manufacturing change. For now, there is no price change or any other changes that will impact potential customers.
Our tester Grimes came with Paragon Thru-Axle Polydrop Dropouts and a TRP Carbon Thru-Axle Fork. The kit on our demo was a SRAM Force 1 set-up with a 42 tooth front ring mated to an 11-28 cassette. The cockpit consisted of Zipp's Service Course SL components and an SL Speed Post with a Fizik Aliante R3 Saddle. the aforementioned 303s were wrapped in Clement's LAS tubular tires. TRP Spyre SLC dual piston mechanical disc brakes were assigned braking duties.
Designed to tackle anything you can throw at it—cyclocross, gravel and even adventurous bikepacking, the Grimes frame offers fittings for racks and fenders, and the Paragon Polydrops offer plenty of versatility in terms of axle and hub configuration. While our test bike was outfitted with 33mm tubulars, the Grimes’ stays offer enough room for 40c tires, and there's even more room up front.
Aesthetically, the Grimes has the certain attractiveness of slender steel tubes, in understated gloss black of race bikes of the 60’s, but set off by the fire-red paint on the fork and stays.
Our Medium test bike sported a 56cm top tube, 71.5 degree head tube angle, 73 degree seat tube angle, paired with a 43cm chainstay and 68mm drop. With the TRP thru axle fork, total wheelbase is 102.8cm. Franco may call it All Road, but we could probably find a half dozen cyclocross bikes that come in a very similar geometry. Regardless, the geometry suggests it should be well at home on the cyclocross course or touring.
Could it be true? A cyclocross bike that could double down as a touring rig? Was this "All Road" frameset worthy of the high-end race kit? There was one way to find out.
In addition to the Zipp 303 tubular wheels with Clement LAS tubulars, the full SRAM Force 1 spec was ready for a cyclocross race. TRP Spyre SLC dual piston mechanical disc brakes and a full Zipp Service Course SL Cockpit with Zipp Speed SL post rounded out the lightweight build, making for a 19 pound bike, or 12.9 pounds without the wheels.
We took the Grimes out on local cyclocross courses, a mix of dirt trails and dirt and gravel roads, and a bit of pavement. The only thing we didn’t attempt was some loaded bikepacking.
The Franco Grimes excels at the type of riding we do almost every day: A brief road ride out to the trails, parks and dirt roads for some adventure, hot laps and training races. The Grimes has a classic steel bike ride. It’s forgiving on big bumps, and offers some compliance in rougher terrain without feeling sloppy in hard cornering or sprinting. We loved it.
Don't mistake it for a grass crit hairpin specialist, or a high bottom bracket European off-camber and deep mud rut weapon. That type of riding isn't it's forte, with its slightly longer chainstays and lower bottom bracket, but it's still very capable in this type of riding.
How did the Grimes hold up? Is it worth its price tag? Stay tuned for the full review of the Grimes in our print magazine. Not a subscriber? Sign up today for less than one race entry fee.
Frame Material: True Temper 4130 chromoly
Frame Features: mechanical cable stops or electronic wiring ports,
Geometry: stock sizing options
Colorways: two stock offerings, custom paint available ($750.00 usd charge)
Fork Options: stock carbon quick release axle or thru axel offerings from Whiskey No. 9, TRP or Enve
Build Kits: Multiple build options available, or sold as frameset only
Fork: TRP thru axle
Crankset: SRAM Force 1
Rear derailleur: SRAM Force 1
Front derailleur: n/a
Brakes: TRP Spyre SLC dual piston mechanical
Stem: Zipp Service Course SL
Bars: Zipp Service Course SL
Seat post: Zipp Speed SL
Saddle: Fizik Aliante
Wheels: Zipp 303 tubular
Tires: Clement LAS tubular
Weight: 19 pounds (medium, as built) 12.9 pounds without wheels
Price as built: $6,499.00 usd
MSRP: $1,499.00 usd (stock color frameset only)
more info: www.francobicycles.com