Canadian Cycling Magazine

Super Champion Wooden-rim Wheel


This wheel with wooden rims is probably younger than you think. Don’t let the Campagnolo Gran Sport hub throw you off. That component, with its steel quickrelea­se axle and aluminum flanges, is from the 1950s. This model of Super Champion hardwood rim, however, was made in the early ’70s.

Wooden laminate rims were common into the 1950s. Afterwards, steel and aluminum grew in popularity as production of these metal rims improved. Still, wood held on. “We were selling them in the shop when I was a kid,” says Michael Barry. He remembers his father, Mike Barry Sr., carrying wooden-rim wheels at his store in downtown Toronto in the ’70s.

One feature that a wood rim had over its metal cousin was compliance. The laminate rim offered a smoother ride as it did a better job of absorbing road vibrations. It was also lighter than steel or aluminum. Do those features sound familiar? Of course they do. Another fibrous material, which is ubiquitous on today’s bikes, has the same properties. It seems wood was, in some ways, the carbon fibre of day. Actually, since organic matter is based on carbon, you could say the wooden rims were the first carbon-fibre wheels.

This front wheel has 36 doublebutt­ed spokes, which keep the rim true. Water and humidity can warp the rims, but H2O can also help to fix the hoops. Barry has heard of riders soaking wooden rims i n order to restore their shape.

Super Champion, which also made metal rims, was a French company that was bought by tire-maker Wolber in the late ’70s. Later, Wolber disappeare­d; its tires went to Michelin, while its rims went to Mavic. Today, you can still find wooden rims. Cerchio Ghisallo in Italy makes rims out of beech, perfect for your L’eroica bike.— Matthewpio­ro

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