Testing and Tech

The Biomechanics of Planing

We discussed "planing" in a recent post by looking at power data from a double-blind test of two different bikes. (If you haven't read that post, we suggest you start reading there.) The data showed that the same rider's power output was consistently higher on a bike with a more...

"What'll she do?"

When I was a kid, I loved cars. My first question to any owner of a sports car was: "What'll she do?" I approach bikes similarly – I care about how they ride first and foremost. Some cyclists these days seem to be concerned what their bike is, not what it...

Pro-Joy instead of Anti-Racing

These days, the "real-world" or "alternative" cycling world often seems to define itself by what it is not: It's not racing. One company even made a patch that said: "Racing Sucks!" Perhaps this sentiment is understandable, considering how much racing has dominated bike design and cycling culture in recent decades, often...

The Price of Performance

Why do high-end bikes and components cost so much more than budget offerings? Both racing bikes in the photo above are made from carbon fiber. Both are equipped with multi-speed drivetrains and Shimano STI shifters. Both have narrow 700C tires. One may be a little lighter, but does that justify...

Walking Your Bike

When the terrain is incredibly steep or rough, cyclists tend to crank it out instead of walking. Walking might feel like defeat – they didn't "clear" that section. I have gotten to the point where I don't mind walking when the terrain gets too steep or too rough. Walking stretches my...

Trouble with STI Triples

Triple cranks are a good choice for some riders. The most common shifting system for triple cranks, Shimano's STI, only works with Shimano chainrings. Unfortunately, Shimano's chainring combinations are of limited use to most riders. If you want to customize your chainring sizes, you will have to use downtube or...

Science and Bicycles: Designing Experiments

Designing scientific experiments requires a lot of thought, if you want to arrive at useful results. Most studies of bicycles fall into two categories, which I'll call observation-based and measurement-based. Observation-based studies starts with an observation. In our case, we ride a lot of bikes. Then it goes like this: We begin...

Rim Weight

At Compass Bicycles, we are not obsessive gram counters, but none of us want to carry extra weight on our bikes. A few grams here and there add up quickly to a couple of pounds, and that can make a difference not only in how the bike performs, but also...

Frames Going Soft?

When talking to older cyclists and builders, you sometimes hear that old frames lose their stiffness. This apparently manifests itself in reduced performance – the "snap" is gone from the acceleration when you step on the pedals. On the upside, the bike is said to become more comfortable as the...

Vision vs. Focus Group

In today's world, it is crucial for companies to listen to their customers. Give customers what they want, and you'll be successful, the reasoning goes. Combine that with the economies of scale of mass production, and most manufacturers chase the same "average" audience. As a result, more and more products...

Single-Speed!

I have ridden fixed-gears and single-speed bicycles, but for my own bikes, I am wedded to multiple gears. Part of that is my love of the mountains with their long and steep climbs, and part of it is my allegiance to Vélocio, who fought tooth and nail to get multi-speed...

What Your Money Buys

It often is surprising that high-end components cost not just a little more, but several times as much as budget components. For example, the high-end Sugino cranks (above right) cost more than three times as much as the budget model from the same maker (above left). (This already takes into...

Bike Tests

Good bike tests provide information that allow you to choose a bike that is right for you. Your bike need not look like the one that was tested, because it often can be customized to your personal tastes. When we test a production bike, the bike we test is the bike...

Why Bolts Come Loose

Fenders, racks and other attachments can remain maintenance-free for 10,000+ miles, yet other bikes require tightening bolts on a regular basis. Why do some bolts stay tight, while others loosen quickly? We have covered this in detail in Bicycle Quarterly's article "Engineering a Bicycle" in Vol. 5, No. 4. The essential...

Science and Bicycles: Frame Stiffness

Lightweight frames, made from high-strength tubing, were thought to be stiffer than ordinary frames. They performed better for most cyclists, but the conclusion that stiffer frames were better was erroneous. Eventually, this led the makers of steel bicycles down the wrong path and may have hastened their demise. When the plague...

The Big Picture

It's amazing to me that  the big picture often gets overlooked. I am not talking about willful distortion, but about well-intentioned people looking at only one part of the equation in an attempt to arrive at a good but simple solution. Here are two examples, both concerned with reducing pollution. All...

PBP Preparation: Reflective Vests and Rapha Jersey

Rapha recently introduced their "Paris-Brest-Paris Jersey." It is designed specifically for randonneuring, and as a bonus, it comes with a reflective vest. The vest has generated considerable interest among randonneurs... Randonneuring requires riding at night. To improve rider safety, randonneuring rules not only require lights, but also reflective clothing. Reflective vests...

The Cover Photo

A number of readers have asked where the cover photo of our blog (above) was taken. Here is the story: An old road above Leschi in Seattle switchbacks though an Olmsted Park, with a set of  S-curves that we use for assessing a bike's handling. It's downhill, and with a bit...

A Journey of Discovery, Part 5: Frame Stiffness

In the previous parts of this series, we have looked at how our preferences in bicycles changed over time. We started out on "state-of-the-art" bikes with mid-trail geometries, 700C x 28 mm tires and saddlebags. How did we come to prefer low-trail 650B bikes with much wider tires and handlebar bags?...

A Journey of Discovery, Part 4: Front-End Geometry

How did our preferences change from our familiar bikes with mid-trail geometries, 700C x 28 mm tires and saddlebags to low-trail 650B bikes with much wider tires and handlebar bags? In the previous parts of this series, we related how we found out about the advantages of handlebar bags, aluminum fenders,...

A Journey of Discovery, Part 3: Wide 650B Tires

How did our preferences change from our familiar bikes with mid-trail geometries, 700C x 28 mm tires and saddlebags to low-trail 650B bikes with much wider tires and handlebar bags? In the first two parts of this series, we talked about discovering handlebar bags and aluminum fenders. Inspired by the old randonneurs,...

A Journey of Discovery, Part 2: Handlebar Bags and Aluminum Fenders

In the last installment of this series, we looked at the bikes we rode when Bicycle Quarterly got started almost a decade ago. How did our preferences change from our familiar bikes with mid-trail geometries, 700C x 28 mm tires and saddlebags to low-trail 650B bikes with much wider tires and...

A Journey of Discovery, Part 1: What We Used to Ride

We sometimes hear people criticize our technical analyses: "Bicycle Quarterly's testers simply prefer they bikes that they ride most. You get used to anything, and then you prefer it." Or: "Jan has got his preferences. He started a magazine so he could have a place to talk about them." The reality is a bit...

Handlebar Width

A few people have asked about handlebar width in our handlebar discussion. Compass handlebars come in widths between 40 and 46 cm, which may appear narrow by some standards. Many riders, even very tall ones, prefer relatively narrow handlebars. Above is my friend Ryan, who is 6' 4", riding on 41...