Autumn 2016 Bicycle Quarterly

Autumn 2016 Bicycle Quarterly

The Autumn Bicycle Quarterly went to the printer today. It’s always a great sense of satisfaction to complete another issue.
A lot goes into each BQ: organizing trips and scheduling test bikes; photography on the road and in the studio; writing, editing, copy-editing and proofreading; photo selection and layout; color corrections to make the images jump off the page; and finally, checking and re-checking multiple sets of proofs. The last check will occur as the magazine comes off the printing presses.
It takes a hard-working team to do it. We are fortunate that almost everybody involved in Bicycle Quarterly is passionate about cycling…
Bicycle Quarterly continues to bring you the news you really want to read about: In France this summer, the famous Technical Trials were organized for the first time since 1949! It was exciting to be part of the jury at this event, where bicycles (and not riders) competed for the prize of the best “light randonneur bike”. Some of the bikes used tried-and-true solutions (above), but others featured suspension, disc brakes, and even a carbon frame with integrated fenders.
We bring you a full report from this great event, including on-the-road observations of the bikes as they were ridden over a very challenging course. We present two of the most amazing bikes – including the winning machine – in beautiful studio photos.
To complete our in-depth coverage of the Technical Trials, we tested one of the most surprising machines: The PechTregon combines its rack and fork into one lightweight unit.
The whole event was a truly great experience, because it was all about bike performance and reliability for real-world riding. Best of all, the Technical Trials will be organized in regular intervals, so builders can improve their bikes with each iteration.
The original Technical Trials were part of the mid-century cycling culture of France, when cyclotourists who used every opportunity to take the train to the mountains and go riding. Today, that lifestyle still exists in Japan. We join the cyclotourists of Tokyo and take you on three amazing autumn tours, each to a completely different destination.
Bicycle Quarterly is famous for its in-depth bike tests. The Autumn issue features the Litespeed T5g “gravel” bike. We’ve asked for bikes like this since the early days of Bicycle Quarterly: full-on racing bikes with extra clearance for wide tires. This leads to two questions: How good is the Litespeed on the rough? But also: How much of the “racing bike” remains – how fast is this “gravel bike” on smooth pavement?
To answer the first question, we took the Litespeed on the search for the “Lost Pass” in Cascade Mountains. You’ll read how the bike coped with a truly challenging ride. As so often during our adventures, the road started out smooth (photo), but it didn’t remain that way…
We also tested the Litespeed on pavement, because we know that many cyclists are wondering: If we go to wide tires, what are we giving up on smooth rides? Will we be able to keep up with our friends on fast Sunday morning rides that never stray from pavement?
For this issue, we tested whether wide and ultra-wide tires slow you down on steep climbs. By pitting the wide-tire machines against the fastest bike we’ve ever tested on our “reference” hillclimb, we find out!
Can you imagine importing high-end French Uragos to Detroit in the late 1930s? That was John Fletcher’s plan. Yet his friends remember him not for his business endeavors, but because he was a truly inspirational gentleman. His story, as well as that of his 1937 Urago, are told in a beautiful article. Evocative photos immerse you into a cycling culture that has almost been forgotten.
Back to the current day: Tom Moran takes you on a ride along the “Southern Tier” across the United States – in mid-winter. Tom is from Alaska, so he thought that the southern border of the U.S. would be warm and dry in winter. Not so – but that and other adventures led him to encounter strangers, whose kindness made his trip all the more memorable.
BQ 57 mudflap
If you get caught in the rain unexpectedly, you need mudflaps for your fenders. In our “Project” article, we show you how to make them from materials you can find virtually anywhere.
Our “Skill” article shows you how to corner with confidence. How do you guide the bike in a smooth arc? And what do you do if you find yourself going too fast in mid-corner?
There is a lot more in the Autumn issue… We hope this short overview is enough to whet your appetite!
Be sure to get your Bicycle Quarterly without delay: Click here to renew or subscribe.

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Comments (7)

  • marmotte27

    “Will we be able to keep up with our friends on fast Sunday morning rides that never stray from pavement?”
    A question I’m really interested in since a recent ride with two friends on their racing bikes. OK, they are better climbers than I am, so no surprise they got to the top a little faster than me. It was on the downhills that I got a little frustrated since every time they took several minutes out of me. My descending skills didn’t seem to be the issue, it happened even on straight, technically easy descents.
    Is it the tires (I’m on Loup Loup Pass, they on Michelin Pro Race)? Is it the aerodynamics (I’ve got a Berthoud GB 28 handlebar bag with side pockets, but they stayed on the brakehoods, whereas I rode in my drops or in an aero-tuck; I’ve got fenders, they don’t)? Is it my dynohub (a Son delux)? The higher weight of my bike, 3-4 kilos, should be in my favour on downhills…
    I really like my bike and wouldn’t go back to a racing bike, but reading many issues of BQ had me convinced there shouldn’t be that much of a difference.

    August 18, 2016 at 8:04 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s hard to diagnose bikes and riders without seeing them, but one thing you didn’t mention is your height and weight compared to theirs. When I was racing, the short, stocky guys would descend like a bullet (at least on straight roads), and even in the aero tuck, it was hard to stay on their wheels. Fortunately, those same guys usually didn’t make it up the hills so fast…
      The tires make almost no difference at very high descending speeds, at that point, aerodynamics is your main resistance. As to what is driving your bike, it’s the weight of the rider. So either your aerodynamics are not good, or your weight is too low.
      A good test might be to ride a racing bike with the same group. Descending, your daily form doesn’t matter, so even a single ride would show you whether it’s the bike or the rider.

      August 18, 2016 at 6:21 pm
    • Theodor Rzad

      I probably fall into a shorter/stockier category at 177cm tall and 80kg and as Jan described, have always descended aggressively thanks to gravity and 25+ years of BMX and motorcycles.
      I too have been considering the affects of aerodynamics lately. Last I year, with my old TSX Merckx ready for retirement, I acquired a vintage Salsa cross racer and built it up in the ‘all-road’ manner. My riding is coastal and steep with seemingly infinite ways to link dense urban and winding country pavement with fireroads and singletrack San Francisco Bay Area). I immediately noticed a distinct ‘top speed’ on familiar descents. the typical headwinds seemed stronger. On flats and rollers, the Salsa feels very fast with its very small and light tubing, easy planing, and Barlow Pass Extralights. My Merckx has 40mm aero section rims, bladed spokes, and Cayuse Pass Extralights and only feels slightly faster on the same flats and rollers. Descending, however, is a much different story!
      I’m currently thinking that the significantly higher BB, wider bars (46mm vs 44mm), and wider surface area of the tires add up to a significant increase in aerodynamic drag on the Salsa.
      This year I’ve been on a 650B-converted Rawland Nordavinden with a Swift Ozette. The much lower BB and aerodynamic ‘bubble’ from the front bag I believe help me descend very near the abilities of the Merckx despite the saddle to bar drop being nearly the same across all three bikes.

      August 19, 2016 at 8:59 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Aerodynamics are a complex topic. BQ contributor Ryan and I usually descend at the same speed. Yet once, we descended a pass during a brevet, and assuming him right behind, I didn’t check on him for a minute or two, and when I did, he was gone! I was about to turn around and climb back up the mountain to see whether he crashed (unlikely, wide open road) or had a flat (likely, he was still riding 25 mm tires then). But then he appeared in the distance.
        Why was he descending so much slower? The only thing that had changed was that he had clipped a clue sheet holder to his STI cables. We removed the holder to confirm, and yes, he then descended at exactly my speed again. Who would have thought?

        August 19, 2016 at 4:14 pm
  • Theodor Rzad

    The waaaaaaaaiting is the hardest part…

    August 18, 2016 at 4:00 pm
  • Michael

    I still am not convinced that bike testing with human engines can be repeatable and reliable as the engine condition changes moment to moment and day to day. Also the line that is ridden is never the same. Both are too important to get lost in the noise. Especially the former.
    Also the weight of the rider’s bouncing down on the tire must figure in.
    I just have to look at my own riding to see it. Though that isn’t a reliable test either, because I am only one person. But my bikes’ engine is constantly running different from ride to ride, and during rides, too. Sometimes dramatically.
    I also wonder if there is a lagging of the tire as it briefly lags behind the initial rim movement. Also spokes and rims surely must play a role. Perhaps the tires run differently on different wheels. So Mr.A buys a certain tire but it won’t perform the same because he has different wheels. I don’t know. Just speculating. Except about the engine. I just don’t see how an engine in constant power output flux can be valid.

    August 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      not convinced that bike testing with human engines can be repeatable and reliable

      Here is how we control the variables to reduce the noise:
      – test only on days with zero wind. That means that more than once, we show up at the track at 4:30 in the morning (in Seattle, the wind is calmest around sunrise), only to go home because a light wind is blowing.
      – test only on days with constant temperature. Temperature affects tire performance, because rubber gets more supple as it gets hotter.
      – test the same “reference tire” multiple times during our tests. That way, we can compare and check how repeatable our measurements are. Again, a crucial part that I rarely see in cycling “science”.
      – do multiple test runs, so we get more data, and thus can reduce the noise.
      correlate power and speed. We don’t just look at lap times around the track, but we actually look at how much power is used at whatever speed the bike is doing, once per second.
      – use experienced riders who can keep their lap times around a 400 m track within 1.5 seconds lap after lap.
      Are we successful in controlling the “noise”? Science has a way to test this: You do a statistical analysis that shows the likelihood that your results represent real differences between tires vs. the likelihood that you are just measuring differences in wind, rider position, etc. Bicycle Quarterly contributor Mark Vande Kamp has a Ph.D. in statistics and is an expert on this type of work. So we are in good hands, and we don’t report any data that doesn’t pass this rigorous test. It’s a crucial part of any scientific experiments, yet I rarely see it done in cycling.
      I do agree with you, simply riding a bike and recording your time won’t tell you much, as too many things change. Even with a Power Meter, wind, temperature and other factors play a role. Science is all about designing experiments that control the variables. Our statistical analyses show that all the efforts we’ve undertaken have been successful.

      August 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm

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