Thursday, October 30, 2014

1991 Grove Innovations Hard Core

This bike is actually one of my first vintage bikes when I got back in the scene, but it's never really had a great day in the sun. So here goes, dusted off, tuned up and ready to roll. The Grove Hard Core is the brainchild of Bill Grove and was designed to conquer the rugged, rocky trails of Central Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most noticeable design element is the 13.5" high bottom bracket. Ground clearance - you got it!!! The next thing you see if the 2" down tube, custom formed at the head tube and BB shell to ensure even mating.

Grove Innovations is a brand that is often overlooked by most mainstream collectors. The company wasn't in CA or CO, served a relatively small market and simply didn't advertise or sponsor riders like many other majors. I also think many people think the bikes are crude and unrefined, or have a harsh ride. I would really encourage you to take a second look and examine the details of the craftsmanship, the quality of the welds (especially when compared to say a TIG welded Potts or even Ritchey). The welds are practically invisible. Then there is the legendary paint, very few bikes on the market at that time could match the wild paint jobs found on Groves. Then there is the ride. I've only ever ridden a Hard Core, and so can only comment on that. I have an Assault and an X, but they are not up and running. I plan on doing a more in-depth trail review of the bike, but my quick summary is, it's stiff, really stiff.

The combination of the Hothead (thinner wall, heat treated version of the Hammerhead) bar/stem combo and the straight blade Hard Core fork, means you never have to worry about your bike going where you point it.

The build on this bike is rather basic, actually it's probably a bit more on the sexy side than 95% of Groves that ever left PA. Back in those days nearly all of Bill's production sold out of the Bicycle shop and from my recollection most Groves were built with DX componentry. The riding in PA was harsh and component durability was favored over lightness. This bike is largely built with Shimano XT, with a little flair courtesy of Hugi hubs on Mavic 261 ceramic rims, and IRD post and some Ringle QRs. I toyed with the idea of putting on some Grafton brakes, which would have looked great, but to be honest it just wouldn't have been done back then. So, why now?

Top tube cable routing keep the cables out of the way if you have to carry your bike over some really gnarly sections. Plus I just can't imagine what that would look like across the down tube.

Notice the subtle curve in the bars under the grips. The bars are actually shaped that way to offer a more ergonomically / or anatomically correct hand position. I do recall my hands getting less tired and not getting any numbness on long climbs like I sometimes do with normal bars. Neat feature.

The 1" head tube seems out of place among the considerably larger down tube and top tube, but it seems to do the job. I kind of think these bikes would have looked pretty cool with a massive 1 1/4" head tube and rigid fork.

Brake stiffener bridge helps keep the rear brake crisp and offers very positive response. Plus it's a great place to put another Grove badge.

The cranks on this bike are modern versions of the original Hot Rods. I didn't have a pair of the original cranks when I bought the bike, but have since found one. I may eventually have them painted to match and transfer them over to this frame.

The cross-section transition on the down tube is definitely something to behold, not seen on many other bikes.

Suntour track dropouts were a feature only found on the early Groves, later models have water jet cut, thicker plate dropouts. Notice the smooth transition from the stays, almost looks fillet brazed.

In my humble opinion, everyone should try a Grove at least once. It's a small production, unique design, made by highly skilled craftsmen bike that offers a different ride from the rest and gets a lot of attention on the trails. 


  1. Nice to see this pics. I raced on the team and I still have my Assult. Great bike.

    1. Send me some pictures. I grew up in State College and love all things Grove Innovations!!

  2. I inherited a Grove Innovations 2-B-1 tandem from my Father-in-law. Purchased back in the 80's and immediately converted to a road touring bike, he and my Mother-in-law took it all over the globe. Since his death, it has come home to Pennsylvania and converted back to a configuration closer to the original design. My wife and I continue to enjoy this solid, yet flexible tandem. Will dig up some pics and post them if there is an interest. Thanks for the info above. Cheers

  3. Martin, nice pictures and write up. Maybe you said in the DR article this month, or your website here- likely missed it because of my attention deficit issues and all the really cool pictures/bike porn, but was Groves from State College? I'm from south central PA, went to high school at Southern Huntingdon County HS in 1979. Just before Groves was ramping up. I went back for the single speed worlds in 2005. Thanks, Greg

    1. Basically yes, actual shop was just outside State College