When we started Bicycle Quarterly almost 12 years ago, I got a phone call from Frank Berto: “I give you two years max. I’ve seen all the others fail. In the mean time, I’ll give you all the help I can.”
Similar enthusiasm from numerous people enabled us to assemble a great team of contributors, but really, our loyal and engaged readership has been key to our success. We are glad that so many of you have shared our passion. Looking back over almost 12 volumes of Bicycle Quarterly (almost 3000 pages!), we’ve published a lot of neat and timeless material.
Our very first issue was dedicated to Cycles Alex Singer. We interviewed Ernest Csuka, who started working for his uncle, Alex Singer, in 1944. He talked about the days when a beautiful bike was a status symbol. He reminisced about the cyclotouring rides of the post-war era, before cars began to push bicycles off the roads of France.
In addition to photos from the Singer family, this issue included beautiful Daniel Rebour drawings from a classic Alex Singer catalogue (above). Most readers probably wonder how such an Alex Singer actually rides. To find out, we took a 1962 Alex Singer on a 300 km brevet. We reported how its Nivex derailleur shifted and how its Alex Singer cam-actuated cantilever brakes performed. To date, our first issue remains the most complete look at this famous constructeur.
Magazine features of inspirational stories of classic builders has remained an important part of Bicycle Quarterly. Paul Charrel (above) set himself the challenge to ride from his home town Lyon to the top of Mont Ventoux and back, a distance of 530 kilometers, in 24 hours. He attempted this half a dozen times, but never succeeded. He did enjoy many other amazing rides, and he built supremely elegant and innovative bikes, as Raymond Henry recounted in Vol. 8, No. 2.
Our technical research has changed the world of bicycles. Whether it’s tandem geometries, rolling resistance of tires, or the aerodynamics of real-world bicycles (above), much of what we learned has had pronounced influences on mainstream bicycles. The wind tunnel tests showed that wider tires weren’t significantly less aerodynamic than narrow ones, and our tire tests showed that they rolled as fast. When you see racers adopting wider tires today, it’s at least in part due to this research.
Our research on front-end geometry has been as influential. We challenged the widely held belief that more trail made bikes more stable. Our findings contributed to a more nuanced understanding of steering geometries based on load, tire size and speed. And if you see more and more bikes adopting front racks, it’s because of our research showing that a front load is easier to balance than a rear one, provided the bike’s geometry is designed for it.
We may have Ph.D.’s and conduct peer-reviewed scientific research, but we are avid cyclists first and foremost. This means that ride stories are our favorite parts of the magazine. An epic race in Arizona in 1894. Riding a 1946 tandem in a recent Paris-Brest-Paris. Exploring gravel roads in the Cascade Mountains. Each ride provides a fresh perspective on how bikes can be enjoyed.
Better bikes make riding more fun. We’ve tested more than 60 bicycles from a variety of makers. Whether you are in a market for a new bike or just curious, learning about how these bikes ride is bound to be interesting. It’s amazing how much better real-world bicycles have become in the last 12 years!
We shared our experience in our Randonneuring Basics series: How to train for a long ride? How to pack all you need without overloading your bike? How to make your bike faster? When to pedal and when to coast?
We keep all back issues available, so all our readers can enjoy this timeless content. A few online resources help you find your way around this extensive catalog of back issues:
- a full table of contents of every issue
- an index of articles sorted by subject
- all BQ test bikes (with photos)
- all articles in our Randonneuring Basics and Builders Speak series