Bell Black Gold

How durable is the Bell Black/Gold compared to Royalex? Is that material suitable for running class I/II?

Many thanks!

If you wrap Black Gold
around a rock, you will be justifiably upset.

Its not nearly as abrasion resistant as Royalex.

Sure I do run whitewater at high levels with composites when the chief danger is swamping rather than wrapping.

A Bell Black Gold what? There used to be an Extreme layup at least for WildFire.

I was looking around
for a solo. Mainly a Bell Yellowstone or a Wenonah Argosy in royalex. Ran across a Bell Wildfire BlackGold. I’m not that familiar with the composite type materials.

Thats a superb boat
and can handle moving water very capably. It is more maneuverable than either the YS or Argosy. On flatwater you need a good forward stroke to keep it going straight. And that will come.

But I dont know the rivers you want to paddle.

I have paddled some streams in Mississippi with folks who had that boat in Black Gold.

If you have gravel bars rather than huge rocks or ledges and don’t drag the boat(despite this weeks picture of the week which makes me cringe) over rocks it should be fine…

The black/gold layup is not good with rocks. It is a bit brittle and the very sharp entry lines and will crack or chip if hitting large rocks in even a class I rapid. As far as design, a decent paddler can get a Wildfire through a class I, but any large standing waves tend to swamp it, so some class II might be questionable. I know some advanced paddlers who brag about taking a WF on WW but I don’t think it would be much fun. Hulls designed for WW are more enjoyable, IMO.

probably the best ever

– Last Updated: Apr-10-09 9:20 AM EST –

Depending on the paddlers skill level and decision making ability, Bell's Black Gold was the best laminate of it's day, very tough, very rigid in the water and quite light. Bell now wet bags and Swift and Placid now infuse the same, basic laminate, all three cases better.

For those who still bounce down the river and cannot read water, there's always RX, but once a modicum of skill is acquired, that B/G hybrid laminate is hard to beat for those who demand performance from a hull.

The performance difference between stiff composite and a floppy ABS versions of the same hull is incredible. [Try a Hemlock Kevlar and S glass Shaman and Mohawk's ABS variant.]

It's also a whole lot easier to tote around rapids where the hull might be in danger. This is an important consideration for the aging and infirm, a group I seem to be inadvertently joining.

Another take on that is I'd rather carry a 25# hull more often than a 45#er at all, understanding there are some riffs where I'd risk and ABS hull but tote the carbon one.

Hello Charles:
I agree with you about the performance differences. I was sorely disappointed in the Royalex WF, much preferring the B&G. I feel oblidged however, to weigh your comments with the knowledge that you are an ex-manufacturer and marketer of B&G hulls, staunchly eschewing the royalex versions. I still maintain, and I hope you will remember that I was an experienced WW soloist before getting into FS, in a class II boney stream the B&G will take some abuse. Not even the best WW paddler cannot avoid some hits on rocks, at speed of current. The B&G are fun on class I or lower but for me the worry of damage to a B&G on rocks, is too disconcerting in class II or above. No pugnacity intended old friend, just an honest opinion.

I will admit I can replace the things pretty inexpensively, and that I’ve already admitted I’m too lazy to tote a RX hull. [It just prays on my mine; “You could be carrying half this weight!”]

One might think at my age I might be more comfortable with floppy things, but for me, the arbiter is on water performance, and that requires a properly designed and stiff hull.

I can’t…
argue with that eternal verity. I seem to be much thinner on top and thicker in the middle than just a few years ago. I can’t figure out what’s causing this. Must be something in the air!

It’s hard to beat RX for peace of mind and there are quite a few enjoyable RX hulls available these days.

That said, for the rounded type rocks here in lower Michigan my B/G Bells have taken many solid rock bumps with no complaints…but I can imagine that sharp rocks could be a problem.

Last season I hit a barely submerged tree stump at full cruise speed with a full load that brought the boat to a dead stop (boom!). I waited to see water seeping in but there wasn’t even a mark on the boat.

You’d love the boat and even if you put a hole in it you can have it repaired. If your rocks are sharp and your water is shallow, fast and noisy so you know you’ll be slamming nasty rocks regularly then you probably want RX.

Hey John
I’ve got the same problems…I’ve narrowed down the sources to the inability to pass by good food (not veggie,tofu stuff, but GOOD stuff like we did at the first couple LALOU’s), and the propensity for riding the sofa when the water’s hard. Steve T from OH

Similar layup
I have a Savage River canoe that is kevlar on the inside and carbon on the outside,which I think is the same principle,but thinner layers of each.Several times I had unintended serious encounters with rocks and obsticals that I was certain totaled the boat. I was amazed to find not even evidense of the encounter in the first case and a mark,but no damage in the second.I’m a beliver!


I own both lay-ups
and the Black/Gold (and Kevlar ultralight foamcore for that matter) is actually more abrasion resistant than Royalex. On my local lake, hitting and grinding the same rocks in the same area have left the Royalex looking worse. They both WILL show wear from hits and grinds, the Royalex does scratch easier, deeper and gouges, were the Black/Gold has just shown for the most part fine, shallow scratching, nothing deep. Granted, the Royalex WILL take harder hits and survive better usually, but it DOES abrade easier, being an initially softer material.

Agree… Many people assume
Royalex is abrasion resistant, but while it abrades more quietly than composite layups, the actual loss of material is as great or greater. This is exactly what one would expect with a soft surface skin of vinyl.

black gold vs cypress knees
Black Gold may be tough, but I had an unplanned demonstration last week that pushing a black gold hull through a swamp thick with cypress knees and brush can cause damage. I was paddling in an area of swamp where the water was completely covered by salvinia (or worse, mats of hyacinths). Although paddling was a chore I was happy to get back into the scenic area which is even less accessible most of the time. After a couple of hours in the swamp I’d gotten tired of pushing through the weeds and wasn’t being as careful about backing up and trying different approaches when encountering the abundant cypress knees and brush blocking the way. At the end of the trip I discovered a 2 or 3 inch area of cracked gel coat and a corresponding slight milky shading inside near the bow of the black gold flashfire I’d been paddling. The damage is minor, but royalex would have been better for those conditions. OTOH the flashfire sure was nice to paddle on the rest of the trip!

Stevet !
Good to hear from you. It has been a while.

I’m chagrined to learn that lack of restraint for good food and laying on the couch produces my thickening condition. Knowing that this is not attributable to merely something in the air leaves me without excuses. Thanks a lot ! Seriously, I’m still paddling. I recently paddled the W&G Wildfire I bought from you many years ago. It was one of the early Bells that had foam blocks glued in the stems. Before Bell started encasing the floatation. It also is a extra bright white color that I have not seen since. See ya on the water.

Experienced whitewater paddlers use composite boats all the time. But composite boats are more likely to crack if they hit a rock hard.

Royalex boats flex when they hit rocks and are less likely to crack.

I do suspect that composite boats are more abrasion resistant than Royalex boats, but I am still reluctant to take a composite boat down a bony, shallow river or creek. For me, it is just too painful.

There’s no question composite boats have the edge in weight and performance. In the old days of whitewater boating, before Blue Hole Canoe, whitewater paddlers used fiberglass boats routinely, if they wanted something better than aluminum. But they got very good at repairing fiberglass.

Lbrown, CEW probably knows best…
he built the things for a while. and he’s one hell of a designer/builder. you should check out his web site for placid boatworks. it has a great video on canoe building. i’ve never paddled one, but it’s hard to argue with his methods and results.

cew won’t flat out say it, but he’s truly one of the industry’s great minds when it comes to lay-up, construction techniques and materials.