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Archive | Uncategorized

Back in Stock: Maware Bar Tape, Monkey Bananas, Chainstays and more

At Rene Herse Cycles, we know that our customers rely on their bikes – for transportation, for sport and for fun. So we try to keep all our products in stock at all times. Nothing is more frustrating than needing a new tire or part for a big ride and having to hunt around for left-over stocks, because the maker or distributor is out of stock. And yet, it can happen: Demand suddenly increases, or there are delays in manufacturing. And then an item is out of stock. We just received a big shipment from Japan, and our local production right here in Seattle also has caught up, so we’ve got a lot of parts back in stock.

I got many questions about my new bike for this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris. One of the most asked was about the handlebar tape. Maware leather tape is by far my favorite. Made from pigskin, it’s thin, and it wraps smoothly. It’s soft to the touch and has just the right amount of grippiness. Whenever I moved my hands during the long 56-hour ride and felt the luxurious tape, I smiled. It’s one of the little things that make the miles pass quickly. Continue Reading →

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Job Opening at Rene Herse Cycles

We’ve got a job opening at Rene Herse Cycles. Are you dreaming of working on beautiful bikes, assembling dazzling cranks and brakes, and chatting about amazing rides all day long? The reality is not quite as glamorous, but we’ve got a good team, good compensation and benefits, plus the potential for long-term, stable employment.

As Operations Assistant, you’d run our warehouse, keep track of inventory, assemble the afore-mentioned cranks and brakes and ship them to our customers, plus update our web site and Bicycle Quarterly subscriber database. It’s a great job for somebody who enjoys doing many tasks and wearing many hats, yet wants stable employment (40 hours/week) with full benefits. Click here for a detailed job description.

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Blog Transition is Complete

Thank you for your patience last week while we’ve transitioned the blog to the Rene Herse web site. We’ve moved all the old contents – blog posts and comments – to the new site, so everything continues to be available.

If you’ve bookmarked a blog post, the link no longer works. Replace the old web address and date with ‘www.renehersecycles.com,’ and you’ll be able to find your bookmarked posts. Below are the new links to six of our most popular posts:

Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to get updated when new posts are published. Use the box on the right side. We won’t use your information for anything else, and it’s easy to unsuscribe if you’re no longer interested.

I hope you’ll continue to enjoy this blog!

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Our Blog Has Moved

We are excited to move our blog and integrate it seamlessly with our Rene Herse Cycles web site. This will allow us to create even more exciting content. And now we can link directly between blog posts and support pages. This and other changes will improve your experience as you use this resource. If you subscribed to the old blog, your subscription will automatically move here. (You will get a message from WordPress about this.)

Please bookmark the new site. Better yet, click on the ‘Follow Our Blog’ button to receive a short e-mail when a new post goes up. (It’s easy to unsubscribe by clicking the button again.) Thank you!

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Cost Increases = Price Increases

Unlike most posts, this isn’t one that I enjoy writing… Over the past decade, we’ve seen a period of remarkably stable prices. In fact, it’s been more than five years since our prices have changed across the board – and back then, they went down, because the exchange rate to the Japanese Yen had become more favorable.

Things have changed over the last few years. The trade wars have caught the headlines, but they haven’t affected us directly. Our high-quality products are made in Japan, Germany, France, Taiwan and, of course, the United States – not the countries that have had big tariffs levied on them. However, the trade wars have rippled throughout the world, and they affect us as well: The dollar has lost in value, which increases the cost of the parts we make overseas.

Why not make them in the U.S.? We make many parts locally or in the U.S., but for others, there simply is no domestic manufacturer who can make bicycle tires, forged bike parts, and other high-end components.

The cost of raw materials has also increased due to tariffs and other disruptions. This affects everything from aluminum (used on most of our components) and copper (generator hubs) to rubber (tires), and it’s been substantial.

Our components are made in batches, and our suppliers buy their materials in large quantities, so these cost increases haven’t hit us all at once, but as a steady trickle. For a while, we’ve been able to absorb them. At some point, we have to pass them on to our customers. This means that over the next few months, our prices will increase. It won’t be a huge increase, and it won’t affect all our parts. And for the time being, we’re of course still taking orders at the old prices. We want to give our loyal customers a heads up, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. We hope you’ll understand.

Thank you!

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Gravel Before It Was a ‘Category’

I’ve been wanting to thank Bicycle Retailer and Industry News for the nice article about Rene Herse on the front cover of a recent edition. It’s not often that the media talks about the contributions of small companies, especially those without a big ad budget. BRAIN’s Steve Frothingham wrote that Rene Herse “has nurtured the [gravel] category’s growth since before it was a category.”

Steve and I met when he reported about an industry meeting, where tire and rim makers discussed new standards to address new, wider tires and rims, as well as tubeless technologies. The article about that meeting also made the front page. It shows how far we’ve come in the 13 years since Bicycle Quarterly coined the term ‘all-road bike.’ Back then, high-performance drop-bar bikes with wide tires simply didn’t exist, and we knew that without a good name, our ideas would never gain traction. Now the industry (finally) is creating new standards for these bikes!

We’re excited that what used to be a ‘niche’ is now enjoyed by so many cyclists: Rides that combine paved backroads and gravel trails, far from traffic and fully immersed in the experience. It’s a great time to be a cyclist!

Click here to read the full article on BRAIN’s web site.

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Celebrating 2000 Posts on Instagram

We’re celebrating our 2000th post on Instagram with a favorite image. It shows everything I love about cycling: small roads off the beaten path, beautiful bikes and great riding companions.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time on social media, but I’ve been enjoying Instagram a lot: Seeing where you ride has inspired me to seek out new places; examining your bikes has made me think of new products that might be useful; and more generally, the beautiful photos just brighten my days.

Follow us on Instagram to join the fun!

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Ryan’s PBP Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve3tXQY5pFk&feature=youtu.be?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

I’ve really enjoyed the stories that have come out of last week’s Paris-Brest-Paris. Above is my friend and training buddy Ryan Hamilton’s short video, seen entirely through the eyes of his bike-mounted camera. I was moved when seeing the great big bridge that leads into Brest. My eyes welled up when seeing the food stands in the middle of the night. I smiled when I saw our friend Bruno pedal so smoothly on his chrome-plated Concours de Machines Alex Singer (in the yellow jersey). It’s these experiences and emotions that make Paris-Brest-Paris so special.

Which is your favorite PBP story? Put a link in the comments, so we all can enjoy it.

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Ted King Wins SBT GRVL on Rene Herse Tires

The inaugural SBT GRVL (Steamboat Gravel) race saw more than 1,500 riders at the start in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The field include the Who-Is-Who of gravel racing: Ted King (two-times Dirty Kanza winner), Colin Strickland (this year’s DK winner) and Payson McElveen (winner of this year’s Landrun 150).

It turned out to be an exciting race over the beautiful high-country gravel roads. Attacks whittled the field first to 15, then five, then two: King and McElveen. And then Ted King crossed the finish line alone for a well-deserved win.

Ted King’s bike was a replacement, put together at the last minute after his own rig was damaged during the flight to Colorado. Rene Herse Bon Jon Pass 700C x 35 mm tires provided speed and comfort on the smooth high-country gravel.

Head over to VeloNews for a gallery of photos from the race!

Photo credits: Photowil (SBT GRVL).

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15% Off Tires for Paris-Brest-Paris Riders

Paris-Brest-Paris, the epic 1200 km randonnée in France, is coming up fast. More than 6000 riders are busy with their final training, setting up their bike, preparing their trip… To help PBP riders out a bit, we are offering a 15% discount on a set of tires for the big event. (Details at the end of the post.)

Many randonneurs choose Rene Herse tires for their comfort and speed. We want to encourage everybody to start the long ride on a new set of tires. Ride your tires for 50-100 miles to make sure that everything is fine, but don’t start such an important ride on old rubber.

In 2007 – before we developed our Compass / Rene Herse tires –  I rode on partially-worn tires, hoping to gain a little speed from the thinner rubber. It was a rainy year, and I had two flat tires. Not a big deal, and perhaps the thin tread saved more time than it took to fix those flats. (Despite – or perhaps because of – the inclement weather, that was my fastest PBP yet.)

When we developed our Rene Herse tires, we added a little rubber in the center of the tread to increase the tires’ lifespan. To make the tires more supple, we kept the tread on the shoulders thin, since that part doesn’t wear. Our testing has shown that Rene Herse tires don’t get significantly faster as they wear. That is why I’ll be starting this year’s ride on almost-new tires.

Here is what I’ll ride in PBP:

  • Size: 650B x 42 mm. I prefer wide tires for comfort on the often surprisingly rough asphalt of the French backroads.
  • Casing: Rene Herse Extralight. The Extralight is significantly faster than the Standard, while the puncture resistance is the same. If you really are afraid of flats, the new Endurance casing is a good choice, too.
  • Tubes roll faster than tubeless (no liquid sloshing around inside the tires), so I’ll be on tubes. In my experience, French backroads aren’t littered with steel wires and glass, so the added puncture protection of tubeless isn’t worth the hassle for me. (In 5 PBP so far, the two aforementioned flats are the only ones I’ve experienced.)
  • Pressure: 35 psi. Tire pressure obviously depends on your weight and the width of your tires. With supple tires, higher pressures doesn’t make you faster: The added vibrations cancel out any gains from the reduced tire deformation. I run low pressures for comfort. How low is too low? If your tires squish a lot when you ride out of the saddle – add some air until your tires feel the way you like them.

For PBP riders, we offer a 15% discount on a set of tires. Here is how it works:

  1. The offer is open to riders from all over the world who are registered for the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris. The offer is available only for direct orders from the Rene Herse Cycles web site.
  2. Place your order by 8/2/2019 and pay as usual when you check out.
  3. In the comments field, put “PBP Discount” and enter your PBP number.
  4. We’ll refund 15% of the 2 highest-value tires you order. Please allow up to a week for the refund to appear on your account.
  5. You can order as many tires and other components as you like, but the discount applies only to 2 tires, and only once per PBP rider.
  6. We usually ship the same day or the following day, so you can figure out which shipping method will get you the tires in time for your trip to France.

Click here to order your tires. We wish all randonneurs a successful, safe and enjoyable PBP!

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"Why I love Dirty Kanza" – Interview with Ted King


Last weekend was the 14th running of the Dirty Kanza, the famous 200-mile gravel race in Kansas. After the race, I was chatted with Ted King (TK), winner in 2016 and 2018, about what makes Dirty Kanza so special.

JH: Congratulations to another great finish in Dirty Kanza!
TK: This was my 4th go at DK, and it was the hardest edition that I’ve experienced.

JH: Tell us about the race!
TK: After the initial easy ride down Commercial Street, it ended up being a relatively slow roll-out where nobody really wanted to show their cards for the first 25 miles. At that point, with enormous faith in my equipment and tire choice, I gave it a good hard pull at the front of the group to break up the field. That dwindled the lead group from about 500 down to 50. The hours ticked by, and DK took its toll as riders dropped back from the typical places over such a tough slog: exhaustion, cramping, flat tires, or any number of other issues. 50 riders in the lead group became 25, then 10, then 8.
Colin (Strickland) rolled off the front on a hilly section and our group kept on the gas to keep him in sight. His advantage grew and grew, and it was clear that he meant business. Our pace picked up, Josh Berry went backwards from the group, and, a handful of miles later, so did I. I reunited and rode with Josh for a bit, then we separated and, with 4 miles to go, he and Kiel Reijnen caught me. We’re all buddies from our previous lives racing on the road together and amicably finished as a group.

JH: It sounds like a long, tough day. Tell us about the appeal of Dirty Kanza!
TK: For me, it’s the community and who shows up. Emporia is a pretty isolated location, smack in the middle of the country, and yet it’s such a fun, friendly, welcoming community. It starts right with the founders, Jim Cummins, Kristi Mohn, and Lelan Danes. They’re doing an amazing job celebrating everyone at the race, from first place to last, whether you finish or just line up. Emporia is not a quintessential cycling town, so it’s really palpable how they’ve persuaded a lot of people to get into cycling. For example, right there on Commercial Street in downtown, there are three bike shops, just four blocks apart! Every coffee shop, ice cream shop, and pub in town has some bicycle-related aspect to it. The whole community has embraced the sport so that it really is ‘Gravel Central.’ Then, at the finish, as the party engulfes the main street, it becomes a circus. It’s hilarious and really fun to be part of. It’s a wonderful critical mass, all backed by the community.

There is also a lot of history to the race. 2006 was the first year with just 34 riders. Back then, it was such an abominably long ride, before DK was DK. It grew a bit over the years until it suddenly became the event for a long single day of racing. Now 3400 or so people are racing it, with another thousand or more who haven’t won ‘the lottery.’ What I enjoy most is this community of friendly faces. It’s coming back year after year, seeing friends and folks I haven’t seen in a year, ready for another edition of an amazing race.

I think the distance is a huge part of the appeal. I do a lot of other long races, but 200 is such an interesting distance. You couldn’t do a 200-mile race in Vermont, for example, because it’s too hilly.

It’s such an iconic event too. Not much has changed since 2006. It’s still largely self-supported. If you started an event now, you’d need to put an aid station every few hours, have sag support, provide signage, and a bunch of other things. But they’ve kept DK pure over the years, really strongly tied to its roots. I love that it’s self-navigated. Sign pollution or sign sabotage can be a big issue in events, but being self-reliant makes for a really amazing day.

JH: What is it like to ride gravel in Kansas?
TK: The whole landscape is very wide-open and exposed. You start in downtown Emporia and roll out in a mass group. This is over relatively flat terrain. Then, the further out you get, the more gargantuan the hills get. You are on top of a crest and see the next one, and you think: “Geez, that’s a big hill. Who knew Kansas had climbs like these.”

And then you get into the deep gullies, where you drop down to a creek and then back up on steep climbs. It’s 12, 15, or 18%, and it takes quite some bike handling skills to get up, with the super sharp rocks and loose surfaces. Especially with all the precipitation they had this year.

Add to that, the wind always picks up in the afternoon. And since the course doesn’t go in one direction, the wind always changes. So you are blessed with a tailwind at times, and demoralized by cross- and headwinds at others.

Cows. Barns. Farms. You see lots of those things. It cattle country. You see farmers in huge pickup trucks, but unlike in many places, they are friendly folks who just drive by and wave.


JH: What is your equipment advice for Dirty Kanza?
TK: What I tell everybody who shows up at DK is to be confident about their equipment. It’s too late to arrive and start second-guessing, which inevitably everybody does. They come and say “My tire is too much”or My tire is too little,” “My gearing is too much” or “too little,” and so on. Focus on the ride and don’t worry about the bike.

JH: Tell us about your equipment choices.
TK: I’d say the biggest thing at DK is tires. You need tires that are tough enough not to flat on the incredibly sharp stones they have there in the Flint Hills. They’re truly unlike anything else I’ve ever ridden; it’s like riding on knives. I knew I was going to be on Rene Herse Endurance Plus casings, which gave me a huge confidence boost, and they performed flawlessly.

The weather was predicted to be wet, so I went with the Hurricane Ridge knobbies for the race. Then, on race day, it got really hot, and the course dried out completely. I was still happy with having knobs – there are so many corners that we took at high speed, and having extra tread gave me the confidence to stay off the brakes.

JH: This year, you use a double crank after a few years on a 1x. How do they compare?
TK: I’m a long-time SRAM athlete, and 1x has been their simple gravel setup in the past. Meanwhile, on the road, I’ve been racing eTap for half a dozen years or so, and I became a convert long ago. When the two combined, with confidence of eTap and the huge gear range with AXS, honestly, I find shifting fun with eTap. Certainly, I notice much smaller jumps between gears. Now I have 24 gears instead of 11. It’s truly fun to use, and it performed flawless out on the gravel.
JH: Why did you choose a Berthoud saddle?
TK: Mostly because I’ve used it for the entire year. It’s amazing in terms of comfort. It’s equally amazing how much attention it gets. My social media has become a forum where people ask me all the time what saddle am I using.

JH: Tell us about your new gravel ride/race, Rooted Vermont. What inspired you and Laura to organize the event?
TK: It’s a mix of a few things. After moving back east, we were immediately welcomed by the neighbors, who came and gave home-warming gifts and helped us move furniture into the house. Arriving in Richmond was truly special. On top of that, the riding is equally special: Right out of our house, we have mountain bike trails, gravel, paved roads. There’s an alpine ski area two miles away and nordic skiing maybe five miles from home. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, and we wanted to showcase this friendly local community to the greater cycling community. Laura and I have been lucky to have experienced so many events, and we want to take the best from each of them and bring it to our home roads.
JH: I understand that this year filled up quickly…
TK: We’re excited with the popularity in our inaugural event, but come back in 2020!

Photos by Ansel Dickey (except Photo 9).

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Ted King – Gentleman Gravel Racer


2019 will be remembered as the year when gravel racing started to be on equal terms with the great races of Europe. When Pro Tour riders appear at the Belgian Waffle Ride, you know that it’s not just a local event any longer. And yet, the fun part of the sport – above the leaders at Landrun 100 – and the ability for all riders to enter, remain undiminished.
Gravel racing forms a great counterpart to the increasingly sterile, big-money world of professional road racing. Where else can you line up alongside the big names, and even have them cheer you on at the finish?

Few riders embrace this ethos better than Ted King. Even though he’s a retired pro racer himself, he now stands out in the field, in his unbranded jersey, as the quintessential gentleman racer. It’s all the more exciting when he takes podium finishes in almost every event he enters. Recently, he was interviewed on Gravel Cyclist about how he discovered gravel racing, what he is looking for in a gravel bike and tire, and where the sport is heading.

In addition, Ted’s own series, ‘G-Road to Kanza,’ has a new video report from the Belgian Waffle Ride. See Ted duke it out with riders who came straight off the Spring Classics. Click on the images above to enjoy the podcast and video!

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Supporting the Classics: Rene Herse Brakes and Chainrings


At Rene Herse Cycles, we support the classics, in addition to pushing the envelope as we develop our modern parts. René Herse’s bikes were prized for their beauty and performance, and today, they continue to be treasured like few other classics.

I’ve enjoyed many great rides on classic Rene Herse bikes and tandems – above in the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris – but I also know about the challenges of keeping bikes rolling decades after they’ve been made. That is why we support the restoration and use of these wonderful machines with spare parts.

Rene Herse cantilever brakes were revolutionary when they first appeared: incredibly light and powerful. Even today, they are still the lightest brakes you can buy. Over the years, many Herse bikes were equipped with newer brakes when parts became hard to find.
We now offer the original brakes for restorations. They differ from the modern version: They are designed for Rene Herse’s proprietary posts, whereas our modern brakes fit on standard posts. Also, the straddle cable and the springs are different.

The springs and straddle cables are available separately as spare parts, too. For the straddle cable, the ends are silver-brazed onto the wire, so the length of the cable can be adjusted as needed.

We also offer the classic Rene Herse brake pivots to help restorers who want to return classics to the condition in which they left the workshop of ‘the Magician of Levallois.’ (René Herse’s nickname alluded to the part of Paris where his workshop was located.) The L-shaped braze-ons were guards to prevent the brake from rotating into the spokes in the (unlikely) case the brake cable failed.

To go with the brakes, we offer the superlight Rene Herse cable hanger, which is a great choice not just for classic restorations, but also for modern bikes like my Mule.

Many Herse bikes have been ridden huge miles, and their chainrings tend to be worn, especially since the classic rings were made from relatively soft 6000-series aluminum. (Our modern rings use harder 7000-series that resists wear.) The first Herse crankarms used smaller chainring bolts and a different interface between spider and ring. We now offer our chainrings as blanks without holes, so they can be adapted to fit all Herse cranks made since 1938. Unlike the brakes, these are not exact replicas of the originals – they use our modern tooth profile and are made from 7000-series aluminum. They are a great choice to keep a cherished bike on the road. Right now, we’re offering the small rings, which are more likely to be worn. In the future, we plan to add other sizes as well.

In our program, you’ll also find many of the custom bolts that Herse used on his bikes, plus overhaul kits for Mafac brakes and other parts.

We plan to expand these offerings in the future. It’s all part of our commitment to the 80-year history of Rene Herse Cycles.
Click here for the full range of restoration parts in the Rene Herse Cycles program.
Photo credits: Maindru (Photo 2), Nicolas Joly (Photo 8).

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Celebrating Earth Day


Today is Earth Day – a day to celebrate our planet and think about what each of us, in our daily lives, can do to protect it. As cyclists, we get to enjoy nature in immediate ways: As we pedal over hill and dale, we feel the landscape, we smell it, and we become part of it. We also can make a great contribution to preserving it.
Cycling as a commuter can replace car trips and make a significant impact on the biggest threat facing our planet: climate change. It can also do the opposite, if I ride in distant places and drive (or even fly) to the start of my rides. Few of us can live car- and plane-free lives, so I think of myself as having a ‘carbon allowance.’ If I travel overseas, I try to combine trips that meet suppliers, visit family and ride my bike. Still, flying uses much of that ‘carbon allowance.’ In daily life, I ride from my doorstep – or take the train – when it’s possible.
The things we buy have a large impact, too: Manufacturing and distributing goods takes a large portion of the resources we consume. Buying quality things that I enjoy for a long time reduces the impact considerably. Do I need five bikes? Perhaps I would enjoy one truly great bike more? This wouldn’t just reduce the manufacturing by 80%, but the great bike will last longer, too.

When we shop, do we really need same day delivery? Do we want drivers to head out from distribution centers with just our package in their cars? Or is standard ground shipping, transported together with thousands of other parcels in a fuel-efficient truck, going to be just fine?
This blog is read by many in the bike industry, and it’s important to remember that, as manufacturers, our actions have a big impact. Let’s try to make products that can be enjoyed for a long time. Let’s support them in the long run. Can we prolong the lifespan of our parts by making them easy to upgrade? Sometimes, we can: Our new Rene Herse 11-speed cranks use a chainring that can be installed on all cranks we’ve made since 2011, bringing them up to the newest spec.

An aspect that we hear little about is reducing waste in production. This starts with selecting manufacturing processes that don’t waste material. For example, forging cranks (above) isn’t just stronger, it also uses just the right amount of metal. It continues with designing our parts carefully – recalls aren’t just dangerous for customers, they also waste a lot of parts. And it finishes with supervising production to make sure all our parts meet quality control from the onset. The latter is a bigger problem than I thought: When I visited the component plants in Taiwan, I was shocked by the size of the junk bins full of parts that were rejected before they even left the factory.

Looking back at the history of Earth Day, we’ve come a long way: No longer do we suggest that selecting a paper bag instead of plastic at the grocery store has a meaningful impact. Yet in many other ways, our consumption of resources has spiraled out of control. Each of us can make a difference. This doesn’t just reduce our own impact, but also can inspire others to do the same. Because living consciously creates great joy, and that is contagious.
So let’s celebrate our beautiful Earth by going for a ride today!

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Ted King's Bike for Land Run 100

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=bJxrxIcplvM?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
In his latest video, Ted King takes us around his bike for Land Run 100 and explains why he chose the Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass 44 mm all-road tires, rather than knobbies, for the race across the red dirt of Oklahoma.
Click on full screen mode and enjoy!

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Land Run 100: The Movie

[youtube https://youtu.be/xBoNRa_62k0?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Gravel racing is one of the most exciting developments of cycling as a sport in recent years. It combines full-on racing with adventure and drama. Gravel races are a modern take on the roots of cycling, when racers were battling it out on the unpaved mountain passes of the Alps and Pyrenees, when bikes had to survive the entire race, and when racers were independents who had to read the race and rely solely on their own strength…
A few weeks ago, Ted King placed second at Land Run 100 mile gravel race. We were excited that he chose our Snoqualmie Pass tires (and a Gilles Berthoud saddle) for this challenging course. Now Ansel Dickey has made a movie of Ted’s trip to the red clay of Oklahoma. Switch to full screen mode and enjoy!

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Technology Transfer from Motorbikes and Cars


In recent years, there has been a lot of technology transfer from motorcycles and cars to bicycles. Modern bikes finally have tubeless tires and disc brakes, both introduced in cars as early as the 1950s!
Cyclists tend to be a conservative bunch, but it’s only a matter of time until we’ll see bicycles follow the lead of cars and motorcycles in other ways:

Spoked wheels are a total anachronism. When did you last see a race car with ‘wire wheels’? Cars made the switch to cast aluminum wheels more than 50 years ago. Motorcycles soon followed suit, and yet we’re still riding around on wheels held together by tensioned steel wires! Interestingly, carbon wheels were tried by Citroën (of course!) during the 1970s, but they never caught on. On bicycles, the switch to cast aluminum wheels is long overdue.

Another no-brainer are fenders for performance bikes. The aerodynamic benefits have been confirmed in Bicycle Quarterly’s wind tunnel tests. We’re not the only ones who figured this out: Moto GP bikes (above) have fenders to shield the tires from the onrushing air. And yet bicycles still expose their wheels to the wind like 1920s race cars!
The UCI ban on fairings may outlaw fenders for pro racers, but for the rest of us – and especially for gravel racing – well-designed fenders will increase a bike’s speed as much as a set of aero wheels.

 
Radial tires have improved traction and fuel efficiency of cars and motorbikes for decades, yet today’s bicycles still roll on old-fashioned bias-ply tires. Panaracer in Japan actually made radial bicycle tires decades ago, but a lack of interest stopped that experiment before the tires could be perfected. Improved traction and better efficiency – what is not to like?

Modern bicycles finally have electrically activated derailleurs, but the shifts are still operated manually – in fact, most racing bikes have four shift levers/paddles! How archaic!
High-performance cars these days have automatic gearboxes that learn the driver’s style and shift gears at just the right moment. Why not on bikes?

Anti-lock brakes and anti-wheelie protection are long overdue. Powerful motorbikes have it, and bicycles need it, too. With hydraulic disc brakes, it’s actually possible to flip the bike around the front wheel when braking hard (top photo). And modern bikes have so much performance that it can be hard to keep the wheel on the ground during full acceleration.

The chain is perhaps the most anachronistic part of a modern bicycle. Early cars had chains driving the rear wheels, but they were replaced by clean and silent shafts a century ago. Shaft-drive bicycles briefly were popular in the late 1800s, but conservative cyclists still resist the obvious move toward modern technology. It’s only a matter of time until dirty chains will be as obsolete as mechanical brakes.

Suspension is another obvious necessity: Cars or motorcycles without suspension are unthinkable. It’s not just about comfort, but also about traction: A tire that skips over bumps loses traction. Suspension is needed to keep the tire on the ground at all times. And yet racing bicycles still skitter over bumps on skinny 25 mm tires in a rigid frame! Suspension will change the way races are won – racers no longer will attack on the climbs, but outcorner each other on the flats and descents.

We’ve actually made some gains with regards to traction: Cyclists finally have adopted lower tire pressures. This was long overdue: Even racing motorcycles rarely run more than 40 psi, and yet racing bicycle used to roll on tires that were inflated rock-hard. We still have some ways to go: Few bike racers run pressures as low as 40 psi – the myth is this will negatively affect the handling and cornering. Somehow, it works for Moto GP bikes…
With disc brakes, tubeless tires, and lower pressures, we’ve made a start to overcome a century of stagnation in bicycle technology. Cast wheels, aero fenders, radial tires, automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, shaft drive and suspension are just around the corner. What other innovations will trickle down from cars and motorcycles to bicycles soon? And how will that shape future bicycles?
Last edited: April 1, 2019

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Video: All-Road Cycling in Japan

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Beautiful bikes, great roads, traditional Japanese inns: BQ editor Natsuko Hirose’s short clip takes you to the Izu Peninsula. It’s the first trip on her new all-road bike – a great opportunity to enjoy cyclotouring with friends.
Enjoy this preview, then read the full story in the Spring 2019 Bicycle Quarterly. Make sure to watch in ‘Full Screen’ mode!
Click here to subscribe.

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Rene Herse / Compass tires are safe with carbon rims


Recently, Enve put out a Consumer Safety Bulletin about their carbon wheels and tires made with natural fibers. The conclusion: “Tires using natural sidewall materials with an open tubular type construction are not fit for use with ENVE carbon rims.” Natural fibers are inconsistent in their strength, and the hard edges of carbon rims can cut the weakest ones, causing the tire to split and blow out.

This had some customers worried: Are Rene Herse / Compass tires safe to use with carbon rims. The answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” 
Our tires, including the Extralight models, are made from polyester. In fact, we investigated cotton casings when we first started making tires, but we found the same thing: Cotton – a natural material – is somewhat inconsistent. Some fibers are very strong, others much less so. Polyester has the advantage of being very uniform – ideal for making thin and supple tire casings.
In the past, polyester casings were relatively coarse and not very supple, hence cotton and silk was preferred for high-performance tires. Today, modern manufacturing allows to make extremely fine polyester threads that equal or surpass the suppleness of the natural fibers.

In addition to the stronger material, our tires include a thin strip that goes around the bead. This reinforces the joint between rim and tire, and avoids problems like those reported by Enve. So whether you use carbon or aluminum rims, rest assured: Rene Herse and Compass tires equal the performance of the best ‘open tubulars,’ but they are strong enough to be used on all rims.

Our on-the-road experience confirms this: We’ve ridden our tires on Enve rims with a variety of bikes, without any problems.
The service bulletin also notes a second issue: Some (but not all) cotton tires can have inconsistent diameters and stretchy beads. As a result, they can blow off the rim. Again, this does not apply to Rene Herse / Compass tires: They are made to the tightest tolerances by one of the best makers in the world: Panaracer. In fact, Panaracer tires are specifically mentioned by Enve as a brand recommended for use with their rims.
Oh, and the much-anticipated 650B x 48 mm Juniper Ridge tires you see in some of the photos? They are on their way to Seattle. We should have them within a month.
Further information:

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New Rene Herse Waterbottles and Stickers


We’re excited to release our new Rene Herse waterbottles. The bottles are based on the popular Purist bottles and feature the new Rene Herse logo. The new design is limited to 500 bottles. Available now for $ 10. We’re not suggesting that these will become sought-after collectors’ pieces, but we do suggest that you order your bottles while they last!

We also have stickers with the new logo. They measure 1″ x 3.5″ – perfect for your bike, your tool box, your notebook,… We’ll include one with each order over $ 50, as long as supplies last. They also are available in packs of 10 small ones and one large one (2″ x 7″), for $ 10, world-wide shipping included. Enjoy!
Click here to order the new Rene Herse waterbottle.
Click here to order the sticker pack.

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Welcome to Rene Herse Cycles!


It’s official: Compass has become Rene Herse Cycles. It’s a big change, with a new name and new logo for a line of products that has a very strong following. Rest assured, our philosophy won’t change, and neither will our products.

We’ll continue to make the high-performance components that we need for rides that mix gravel and pavement with plenty of adventure. This is the same style of riding that René Herse (pronounced reNAY AIRS, above) enjoyed in the 1930s and 40s, when he pushed the envelope of what we’d call all-road bikes today. His bikes have inspired us as we developed our own. As Rene Herse Cycles is reborn in the Cascade Mountains, we’ll continue to challenge the accepted limitations of what bicycles can do.

Our first Rene Herse tire, the Juniper Ridge 650B x 48 mm, combines the speed and cornering of a good ‘racing’ tire with excellent performance in mud and snow. Impossible? That’s what they said when we introduced wide tires with the performance of narrow racing rubber, too…
As with our other tires, you’ll have to ride the Juniper Ridge and see for yourself.

You’ll find that they expand what we thought possible on a bike. Suddenly, we can combine fast-paced road rides with…

… rough gravel passes in the mountains…

… and even snow. As with all our products, you know that they’ve proven themselves before they are released. Prototypes of the Juniper Ridge have covered many hundreds of miles under the most demanding conditions. The Juniper Ridge tires are in production right now, and they’ll be available in March.
There are other exciting projects in the works as Rene Herse Cycles is reborn in the Cascade Mountains. Join us as we continue our exciting journey.
Our new web site is at www.renehersecycles.com.
Our Instagram is @reneherse with the hashtag #renehersetires joining #renehersecranks,  #renehersehandlebars, #reneherserack, #renehersetaillight, etc.

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Back in Stock: SON Hubs and Parts


SON generator hubs and other parts have been flying off the shelves lately. Some of it can be attributed to cyclists preparing their bikes for the upcoming Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 km brevet. More cyclists also realize that generator hubs provide peace of mind on long rides and commutes alike. As a result, some of the most popular hubs – especially the Wide-Body that makes for stronger wheels (above) – have been out of stock recently.

The new SON coaxial adapters also have been popular. Slide one onto the tabs of any SON hubs to convert it to the latest coaxial connectors. Then the wires are easy to plug in and out with one hand whenever you have to remove the wheel.

The Edelux II headlights, with their optimized beam pattern, also are available with ‘coax’ connectors now, making the system a plug-and-play setup that is super-easy to install on your bike.

The Splitter Box allows you to wire a USB charger or other device into the circuit from your light to your generator hub. It’s a great way to get the superior beam pattern of the Edelux II and still charge your devices on the go.

Production of all these parts now has caught up with demand, and all SON components in the Compass program are back in stock. We appreciate your patience while supplies were running short.
More information:

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Remembering Lyli Herse's Birthday


Today would have been Lyli Herse’s 91st birthday. And last Friday has been a year from her passing…

… and the 111th birthday of her father, René Herse. They continue to inspire us in so many ways. Today, we just want to remember their smiles and their passion for cycling in all its forms.

Lyli was a friend for so long that it’s hard to believe she’s gone. Until the very end, she rode her home trainer, but she told us that she dreamt of cycling in the mountains.

We miss her! She passed on her family’s legacy to us, and she told us that her father would have been happy to see so many people passionate about rides and adventures again. Together, let’s keep their spirit alive!

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Happy New Year


We are looking forward to another great year! We wish all our readers joy, happiness and many great rides in 2019. See you on the road!
—The BQ and Compass/Rene Herse team
Photo credit: Ryan Francesconi

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Our Holiday Gift Guide


What to give a cyclist? And as a cyclist, what to answer when somebody asks you to make a wish? Here are a few gift ideas that are certain to bring a cyclist joy for a long time.

You can’t go wrong with Bicycle Quarterly. Each edition covers a variety of topics and perspective, with well-written articles that are illustrated with beautiful photos and original artwork. Give a gift subscription ($36), and we’ll send a postcard announcing the gift. And when each magazine arrives, it’ll provide hours of reading enjoyment.

Just as popular are our past editions, whether it’s the 15th anniversary year (above) or our 4-packs on specific topics ($34). They provide a great opportunity to read up on specific topics or simply enjoy more of Bicycle Quarterly without having to wait for the next edition.

Our books also make great gifts. The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles ($35) is one of the most influential cycling books of the last decade. In print for more than a decade, it’s a true classic that has been translated into four languages. Cyclists who haven’t read it and marveled at the studio photos of these amazing bikes are in for a treat!

René Herse ($86) tells the fascinating story of the builder whose legacy we continue today, illustrated with hundreds of historic photos from the Herse family archives. We’ve even a very small number (about 10) of the Limited Edition, which comes with a beautiful slip case and four ready-to-frame art prints of unpublished photos ($185; above).

Third in our trilogy is The Competition Bicycle ($50), which tells the technical evolution of performance bikes through the actual bikes of great champions and amateurs.  Marvel at the bikes that won the Tour and Giro, were ridden to world championships and hour records, but also to first places in Paris-Brest-Paris and in the races of the Paris newspaper couriers, and learn how bikes evolved from highwheelers to modern machines with carbon disc wheels.

Our small Gilles Berthoud bags also make nice gifts. The Bottle Cage/Saddle Tool Bag ($79) fits into most bottle cages or under the saddle. It’s a neat way to carry a spare tube, a few tools, an energy or chocolate bar and a small wallet.

The Small Universal Bag ($98) is even more versatile. It fits under the saddle or on a rack. Mount it on top or hang it from the platform like a mini-pannier. Under the flap is a zippered compartment to carry your essential.

Previously unannounced, we’re offering the ultralight handlebar bag from the Concours de Machines ($375) in a limited edition. By removing everything that isn’t absolutely needed, Gilles Berthoud has created what must be the world’s lightest handlebar bag – without giving up durability or functionality. We’re taking pre-orders until January 15, and the bags will be delivered in March 2019.
Every cyclist can use a nice bottle cage or two. Choose among three Nitto models, from the versatile T cage ($70) to the superlight R ($95) – all work really well.

Our water bottles ($10) make great gifts, too. Designed by a Japanese artist, they celebrate our two brands and add a quote that sums up our approach to bicycles. They are based on Specialized’s popular Purist design, so they function matches their appearance.

Gilles Berthoud leather saddle is a great addition to any bike. Most riders find them extremely comfortable, but saddles preferences are very personal – check before giving a saddle! Choose between different models, with stainless steel or titanium rails ($228 – 295).

The Nitto Bike Stand ($99) is a great way to display a favorite bike. Made like Nitto’s beautiful racks, it holds your bike securely.

Still undecided? How about one of our Rene Herse Posters ($20) with favorite images from our book?
Holiday Shipping: We usually ship your order the same day it’s received, from our Seattle, WA, base. Select an appropriate shipping method if you want your order to arrive in time for the holidays.
Click on the links above to see each product, or click here to browse our entire program.
Photo credit: Isabel Uriarte (Photo 1)

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Berthoud Mirrors Back in Stock


The popularity of Gilles Berthoud’s new mirrors surprised us. We expected them to be popular, but we didn’t expect to sell out within days.

It’s easy to understand why customers like them, though: They are beautifully made from the best materials, and they work well with all road handlebars. They are available as simple aluminum mirrors (top), or with a leather insert that matches Berthoud’s saddles and handlebar tape (above).
Everybody at Gilles Berthoud has been working hard to keep up with demand, but since these are largely handmade, they’ll remain in short supply for a while. We just received another shipment, and all models are back in stock for now.
Click here for more information or to order.

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Racing a 40-year-old bike


I’ve been racing my Alan cyclocross bike since I bought it second-hand, many years ago, when I was still in college. Back then, it was simply a used ‘cross bike. Now it may seem like a relic from another era.

And yet the Alan continues to hold its own in the Pacific Northwest’s cross races. I like the way it accelerates out of corners. Alan’s aren’t as flexible as legend has it – Bicycle Quarterly’s frame flex test found it to be about as stiff as a Columbus SL frame – but mine planes very well for me.

You’d think that modern carbon bikes perform better on the uphills, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Even the Alan’s weight – 10.0 kg (22 lb) – isn’t uncompetitive. Cyclocross is the one place where the weight of your bike actually matters, as you lift it up several times per lap.

The Alan has one other advantage over modern bikes: Its horizontal top tube makes it easier to portage. A sloping top tube makes the main triangle so small that many racers now push their bikes. Dragging your wheels through the mud and leaning over to reach the handlebars is not the most efficient way to move when it’s too steep to ride.
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How about the lack of disc brakes? You’d expect discs to offer a huge advantage in ‘cross, but the reality is that you can only brake so hard when your tires have limited grip, and good cantilevers are more than sufficient.
I find that rim brakes offer more feel when the lockup point is approaching. I suspect this is because the brake lever is directly connected to the rim, whereas with discs, the feedback from the tires has to be transmitted through the spokes. Does it matter? On the Alan, I often get to the point where one wheel locks up for a split second. Feeling that point approaching, I can start to release the brake slightly before the wheel skids, rather than react to the skidding itself.

Last year, I installed our Rene Herse brakes on several bikes as part of our pre-release testing. I didn’t expect a huge improvement over the Mafacs installed before, but I was surprised. Not only are the forged arms stiffer and more powerful, but the terrible fork judder the bike displayed before at low speeds has disappeared.
I also like that the roller on the cable hanger self-centers the brake arms if they get bumped during a clumsy dismount or – heaven forbid! – a fall. By the way, falls in ‘cross are rare, but they also don’t usually hurt. Mud is soft!

I like that the Alan is a true ‘cross bike – designed for cyclocross racing and nothing else. There are no bottle cage mounts. The top tube is flattened so it doesn’t dig into my shoulder when I portage the bike. The low-trail geometry makes the bike beautifully adjustable at high speeds on slippery surfaces.

There is no way to mount a front derailleur on the bike. Back when I bought it, that was considered a drawback, as riders were switching to STI. These days, ‘One-By’ gearing is becoming popular again. The old style, with two large chainguards, keeps the chain on even in the rough-and-tumble of ‘cross racing. And if it ever does come off, you don’t have to worry about lining up thick and thin teeth with their corresponding chain links – just drop the chain into the slot and go.
The Alan originally came to me with toeclips, but I’m not interested in retro for retro’s sake. I don’t like fishing for toeclips, so I installed clipless pedals from the get-go. I still like my old Look Moabs. Their platforms are huge, allowing me to pedal even when my foot doesn’t clip in easily because my cleats are clogged with mud.

The six-speed freewheel has plenty of gears for me – I rarely use the smallest and largest cogs. And with more space between the cogs, they don’t clog up with mud as easily. The popularity of singlespeeds in ‘cross racing shows that I am not the only one who feels that way.

The one place where cyclocross bikes have changed a lot are the tires. Back when I started racing, hand-made ‘cross tires existed, but they were almost unknown. Now I race on hand-made FMB Super Mud tubulars that roll amazingly well across bumpy terrain. The width of the tires has changed as well. Back when the Alan was built, 28 mm was considered wide. On dry days, many racers were on 24 mm tires that looked like road tires. I now run 33s, but they are a tight fit. Anything wider won’t have enough mud clearance.
I’d love to use our Steilacoom 700C x 38 mm clinchers. They provide the same ride quality as my tubulars with less hassle – the extra 10% in width makes up for the tire being surrounded by the rim, rather than sitting on top of it. And with the Steilacooms performing as well on pavement as in the mud, to be able to ride to the races – even when they are as far away as Steilacoom. The FMBs are great on mud, but the small knobs squirm terribly on pavement.

It’s been fun racing the Alan. If I ever replace it, it’ll be a with similar bike. A new ‘cross bike would probably be made from steel rather than aluminum, but with similar flex characteristics and similar components. I’ve ridden modern gravel and ‘cross bikes, and they are very nice, too. But for me, the Alan just works remarkably well.
Photo credits: Westside Bicycle (Photo 3), Natsuko Hirose (all other photos).

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HED Belgium+ Rims


We are glad that the HED Belgium+ rims are available again – they are the best modern rims we have found. They build up straight, they remain true, and tire mounting is a snap, even tubeless.

They come in disc brake (top) and rim brake (above) versions, in 650B and 700C (disc brake only). With a width of 25 mm (ouside), they are a perfect complement for our wide all-road tires. They have a properly-sized hook that interlocks with the tire’s bead – a useful safeguard against blowing off a tubeless tire. Of course, you can run the Belgium+ with tubes, too.

The Pacenti Brevet rims look very different, but they perform equally well. Designed for rim brakes, these are the rims we use on most of our bikes. We got Pacenti to make the rims not just with 36 and 32 holes, but also 28. With wide tires cushioning the shocks, 28 spokes are plenty for most riders, especially on the front wheel.

We also offer spoke kits to build wheels with the generator hubs we sell. With so many spoke lengths available, few shops stock all, and finding the correct spokes for your wheel build can turn into a treasure hunt. (Spokes for the 700C Belgium+ will be in stock soon.)

Remember to always use tubeless rim tape with modern tubeless-compatible rims, even if you install inner tubes. Tubeless rim tape is thin and slippery, allowing the tires to slide onto the shelf that forms the bead seat. Cloth and other traditional tapes are too thick and have too much friction, so the tire beads get hung up on the ridge that separates the well from the shelf on these rims.

When installing your tires tubeless, make sure the tire fits properly. If you need huge blasts of air from a compressor to seat the tire, the fit is too loose. Build up the rim bed with tape until the fit is tight enough that you can seat the tire with a floor pump. That greatly reduces the risk of the tire blowing off the rim.

With good rims and properly mounted tires, you can venture off the beaten path with confidence. Enjoy the ride!
All the rims and tape are now in stock. Click here for more information.

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BQ 4-Pack: 15th Anniversary Year


To celebrate Bicycle Quarterly’s 15th anniversary last year, we increased the size of the magazine and put together a number of truly outstanding editions. We now offer them in a special 4-pack.

We kicked off our anniversary year with our biggest edition ever. More book than magazine, this hefty volume counts 124 pages. Inside, Peter Weigle takes you through the building of his superlight entry for the Concours de Machines. Read how he designed and built this special bike. Watch as the last touches were put on the bike only the night before the event at Cycles Alex Singer in Paris.

A full report of the trials themselves rounds off the coverage of this incredible event. Find out how each of these special bikes performed on the road, and enjoy all 24 participants in beautiful studio photographs.

I’ve often dreamt of a perfect mountain pass, with a beautiful rhythm of switchbacks that tighten until the road almost loops over itself, supported by ancient stone walls. Then the road will break through the pass, where an expansive view opens to the other side. Kurakake was exactly that pass…
But Holy Grails aren’t attained easily, and traversing this pass turned into a much greater adventure than we had planned. You are sure to enjoy the stunning photos that tell the story of this ride.

BQ 62 saw a different type of adventure when we took a 1947 René Herse tandem on a tour of the Vercors mountains in France. It was a trip of beautiful roads, small villages and a tandem that surprised us with its performance.

We also visited Shimano’s headquarters in Osaka and discovered the secrets behind the Japanese giant’s rise to market dominance.

A visit to Shimano’s museum let us discover the dream bikes of generations of Japanese cyclists.

In BQ 63, we said Good-Bye to Lyli Herse. Not only was she an incredible rider who won eight French championships, but she also was a great friend. With photos from her personal archives, we brought you a very personal story of her life.

Jo Routens is best known for the amazing bikes he built, but he was an amazing rider, too. Not only did he place first in three Paris-Brest-Paris… he also was one of the first to explore the trails of his native French Alps. Studio images of his machines and historic photos from the Routens family archives bring the story to life. BQ 63 will be remembered as the definite publication on this famous constructeur.

BQ 64 took us on our most ambitious adventure yet: Nobody had ever traversed Mexico’s incredible Copper Canyons entirely by bike. A team of gravel racers rose to the challenge. The result was a great ride, and an excellent test for the superlight and aero 3T Exploro gravel bike.

The Japanese Passhunters pushed the limits of what is possible on a bike. Our editor Natsuko Hirose has been a member of the famous Yama Sai Ken (Mountain Cycling Club) for more than a decade. She researched their amazing adventures, as well as the bikes they developed in the days before mountain bikes even existed. Enter a fascinating world and be inspired by their spirit of adventure and friendship.

We also lined up a great selection of test bikes (left to right, top to bottom): Brian Chapman’s custom-built Di2 Randonneur, Caletti Monstercross, 333fab AirLandSea, 3T Exploro LTD, Rawland Ulv, Surly Midnight Special and (not shown) a Steve Rex Monstercross bike.
With almost 500 pages, there are many other articles in the anniversary editions. One reader wrote: “I hope you keep these issues in print and continue to offer them as stand-alones in your catalog.”
That isn’t possible – color print is only affordable in large quantities – but we are offering the complete set as long as supplies last. Get yours now and enjoy many hours of reading and browsing!
Click here to order your set or other past editions of Bicycle Quarterly.

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New from Gilles Berthoud: Universal and Tool Bags, Mirrors


We are excited to add a few great products from Gilles Berthoud to the Compass program. The Small Universal Bag (above) is really neat: It holds a lightweight rain jacket, wallet, inner tube and a few other things. It’s incredibly versatile: Use it as a saddlebag (above) or hang it from your handlebars. Tandem stokers love this bag, because it fits neatly on a tandem’s rear handlebars, too.

Or attach the Small Universal Bag to a front or rear rack. You can put it on the racktop, or hang it on the side like a mini-pannier. There is even a leather piece on one end that slips over the backstop of a front rack. The Small Universal Bag fits perfectly on the Compass UD-1 rack. It needs a platform that is at least 17 cm long, and the backstop should be no wider than 50 mm. (It can be used without attaching to the backstop, too.)

Under the flap is a zipper, so it’s safe to carry keys and a wallet – nothing will fall out. The Small Universal Bag is a great bag for which you’ll find many uses.

A slightly smaller, superlight option is the Bottle Cage/Saddle Tool Bag. It’s a great way to carry inner tubes and other necessities in a bottle cage – much nicer and more secure than the cut-off water bottle I’ve used for this purpose in the past. It fits perfectly into Nitto’s T Cage (above)…

… but it also can be attached to most other cages with a toestrap. Or carry the bag under your saddle. Made from the same ultra-strong cotton canvas and leather edging as the other Gilles Berthoud luggage, these bags last (almost) forever. The canvas swells when it gets wet on the outside, making the bags mostly waterproof. Made from natural materials, they acquire a beautiful patina as you use them.
Still speaking of bags, we’ve noticed that the leather straps on the large Berthoud panniers were a little thin. They work fine, but after 10 years of hard use, I had to replace mine on one set of panniers. So we asked Berthoud to make extra-strong straps from thicker leather for us.

Gilles Berthoud’s mirrors are beautifully made from aluminum. We’ve had the first version for a while, but it didn’t adjust quite far enough for long-reach handlebars that are tilted upward a bit. The new Mk II version adjusts over a wide range and fits all road handlebars (inner diameter ~20 mm).

The mirrors are available in silver and black…

… and with a leather insert to match Berthoud’s saddles and handlebar tape. The leather mirrors come with a second, matching bar plug.
All these products are in stock now. Click on the links below for more information:

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Steilacoom dual-purpose knobbies back in stock


We just received another shipment of our Steilacoom 700C x 38 mm dual-purpose knobbies. We appreciate your patience while these popular tires were out of stock.
Originally designed for cyclocross, the Steilacoom has become a popular dual-purpose tire: As you’d expect from a tire with widely-spaced knobs, it excels in mud and snow. What surprises most riders is that it rolls and corners better than most road tires.

Leaning into a turn on knobbies isn’t something most riders expect to do. (Please excuse the blurry photo: The overcast winter skies and high cornering speed overwhelmed the camera’s auto-focus.)

The Steilacoom’s knobs are big enough that they don’t squirm. And we’ve distributed them in our unique pattern that ensures that you always have the same amount of rubber on the road. So the grip is constant and the feedback is totally transparent – unlike many knobbies that suddenly lose grip as you lean over.
What about the rolling resistance on pavement? Well, the knobs don’t squirm, so there isn’t much extra resistance. Thanks to our supple casings, the Steilacooms offer similar performance to our ultra-fast road tires. One reviewer even set Strava records on his Steilacooms…

That makes the Steilacoom not just the perfect ‘cross tire, but also ideal for those rides where you spend much of your time on pavement, but might encounter mud or snow on the unpaved sections. Best of all, the same tread pattern is available in our 650B x 42 mm Pumpkin Ridge, too.
Click here for more information or to order a set for your bike.

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Jordan Rapp tests the Compass Snoqualmie Pass 700C x 44 Extralights


We’re always excited to get feedback on our tires, and when it comes from someone like Jordan Rapp, it’s especially valuable. The names of semi-professional gravel racers aren’t yet household names – Jordan used to be a pro triathlete before becoming a gravel racer. This year, he came 6th in the grueling Dirty Kanza 200-mile gravel race (above). So he knows how to ride, and he isn’t babying his equipment.

We sent him a set of 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Extralights, and here is what he had to say:
“On dirt fire roads, the tire has admirable grip and is just screaming fast. Plus, at 35 psi, it just rolls over everything, on road and off.”

The tire made him explore great roads that he was avoiding before:
“Yerba Buena is one of the nicest climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains, but I find it generally unrideable because the pavement is so bad. But with the Snoqualmie, I rode it regularly and loved it, especially because that same bad pavement keeps cars and motorcycles off of it. If you can steer clear of pointy and sharp objects, it’s pretty close to the perfect tire.”

He confirmed what we’ve discovered:
“Riding the Compass Snoqualmie, I was shocked at the fundamental impact of contact patch. These are totally slick tires. The tread is no different, really, than what you’d find on any standard road race tire. The tires are just massive. And that massiveness – and the accompanying ability to run extremely low pressures – just gives you a ton of grip on most terrain. Loose sand is pretty sketchy, but it’s always sketchy. Overall, I was astounded at how well a tire that rolled fast on the roads performed off-road over very technical terrain.”

He pushed his Snoqualmies to the limit, and he was surprised:
“I took a fully-rigid bike with drop-bars on trails that I would previously have only considered riding on a full-suspension MTB. And I never felt that my tires were holding me back.”
I guess we should add: “Don’t do this at home!” But really, that’s just the kind of stuff you tend to do with these tires. It’s remarkable how your riding changes when places that used to be ‘barely doable’ become fun to ride. Thank you, Jordan, for the feedback!
Click here to read Jordan’s entire review on Slowtwitch.com, or head to www.compasscycle.com to learn more about our tires.

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Fire in Paradise – Update on Mitch and Alistair and Ways to Help


Alistair Spence and Mitch Pryor have been my friends for a long time. They both live in Paradise, CA, which was devastated by fire last week. Both are OK; they got out just in time. Their homes literally were burnt to the ground, but what counts right now is that they are OK. I’ve spoken with them, and while shaken, they are moving forward to rebuild their lives.

Mitch Pryor doesn’t need an introduction to readers of Bicycle Quarterly and this blog: He is one of the best-known constructeurs of randonneur bikes in North America. I saw Mitch not long ago, because he dropped off BQ‘s latest test bike. We had to coordinate a tight schedule: Just one week after traversing the crest of the Cascade Range twice in a single night (above), the latest MAP was due to be shown at the Philly Bike Expo. (That bike safely was delivered to its customer just before the fire.)

I’ve known Alistair even longer than Mitch. He’s been part of our Seattle crowd forever. He’s helped me with many projects. In recent years, he’s assembled our Compass taillights. He moved to Paradise a few months ago. He just had set up his workshop again and sent us a batch of taillights.
To help Alistair and Mitch while they figure out the next steps, friends have set up GoFundMe campaigns. Mitch and Alistair have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and they asked to cap the campaigns. Many in the cycling community want to do more to help, and both Mitch and Alistair now have reopened the campaigns to help other victims. All donations beyond the (already attained) limits will go to fire relief causes. Being on the ground, Mitch and Alistair know where the donations will make the greatest positive impact.

At Compass, we’ll do what we can to help both Alistair and Mitch while they rebuild their lives and their workshops. We’re grateful that they are OK, and the rest will work out. And we’re glad that we’ll continue to enjoy the work of these great craftsmen in the future!
In the mean time, please donate to Mitch and Alistair’s campaigns to help other fire victims. Thank you!

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New Curved Stays and OS Bottom Bracket Shells


Fitting wide tires and/or fenders between road cranks can be a challenge. René Herse was a master of frame design, who curved his chainstays ‘just so’ to create the room he needed. On the tandem above, not a single millimeter is wasted, and the result are perfect clearances for 42 mm-wide tires, fenders and cranks with a narrow Q-factor.

The first step toward replicating Herse’s mastery in modern bikes was to make a bottom bracket shell with the correct angle for curved chainstays. We already offer this shell for standard-diameter tubes. Brand-new is the same shell for oversized down tubes. These parts eliminates the need to ‘blacksmith’ the chainstay sockets of BB shells designed for straight chainstays.

There are many ways to bend the chainstays. To obtain easily replicable results, Hahn Rossman machined dies that fit perfectly over the chainstays. They create a beautiful curve without kinks or bulges. We’ve developed the exact shape through CAD design and the experience of building numerous bikes with curved stays.

Curving stays is a labor-intensive process, to say nothing of the time and effort to make the dies, but it’s almost a necessity for modern all-road bikes.

We now offer the curved chainstays ready to go. They also are indented slightly on the inside to increase the clearance further, without creasing them as you often see on older bikes. The curved chainstays are a perfect match for the Compass bottom bracket shells. They are available separately or as part of the complete tubesets that we’ve developed  in collaboration with Kaisei, the Japanese maker of top-quality steel tubes

Also new in program are lighter-gauge chainstays, which balance the stiffness of our ‘Superlight’ tubeset.

As a final part of the puzzle, Hahn also made a gauge that visualizes the required clearances for a Rene Herse crank (177 mm length) with a 48×32 chainring combination. If the gauge fits, then your cranks will work with the recommended 110 mm bottom bracket. And since Rene Herse cranks have one of the narrowest Q-factors and a standard road chainline, other cranks will fit as well.
If the gauge fits, then smaller chainrings and shorter crankarms will fit, too. If you need more room, space out the cranks with a longer bottom bracket spindle. This gauge takes the guesswork out of the parts you need to order.
The photo above shows a fillet-brazed frame, because the new bottom bracket shell for OS tubing wasn’t available yet. With the new BB shells and curved stays, standard road cranks, even those with a narrow Q-factor, will fit, unless your rear spacing is much greater than 130 mm.

When I built my Mule (above), it was intended as a prototype for a modern all-road bike that can travel with speed and comfort over any distance, on any road and in any weather. Over the last few years, we’ve productionized most of the parts used in this build. Creating a custom all-road bike has never been easier!
Further reading:

 

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Guest Post: Natsuko's Trip to Rishiri Island

Mount Rishiri-Dake (1721 m) is a popular hiking destination.


In this guest post, Bicycle Quarterly editor Natsuko Hirose takes you to Rishiri Island, off Hokkaido’s coast in northern Japan. Translated from Natsuko’s blog Touge to Onsen:
From the northernmost town in Hokkaido, Wakkanai, there is a ferry that goes to Rishiri and Rebun Islands. These small islands are the northernmost inhabited parts of Japan, and many cyclists dream of cycling there once in their lifetime. So did I!
Cycling around the islands is not difficult, but finding the right time is! During the brief summer season, the Rishiri Island is popular with hikers. It’s also famous for its great seafood, amd the few hotels are usually booked.
At the end of September, it starts snowing in the mountains, and storms often cancel the ferry. By October, most hotels and pensions close. It’s difficult to find a time when cycling is possible, but there are no crowds.

Leaving Wakkanai on the ferry to Rishiri Island


With the uncertain schedule of the ferry, my friends cannot join me on this trip, so I travel alone. It is a different kind of fun.

The ferry takes two hours to reach the island. The first thing I look forward to is seeing the sun set into the Sea of Japan. It is cold on the boat, but I am excited to head to the island.

There are bike paths on the island, and a road goes around the perimeter. The distance is 55 km (35 miles), and the map doesn’t show much up-and-down, so it seems quite doable in a day – unless it is very windy. I pray that the wind won’t be too strong.

This bike path was built specifically for cycling, rather than being a converted railway. It has some nice ups and downs, and there are great views. It is fun. I imagine that during summer, the flowers will be beautiful, too.

This bike path even has viewpoints. Cycling along the sea, you often travel only at low levels, so it feels special to get to such a great view.

The path is deserted. I feel a bit lonely, but it is nice to have the place to myself. It’s one of the advantages of visiting during the off-season.

The bike path ends, so I take the road. There aren’t many cars, and the wind isn’t very strong. It makes for nice cycling. Except it is very cold. The sun is shining, but it is too low in the sky to provide much warmth.

Tonight, I will stay on the island, so I don’t need to worry about ferry or bus schedules. When I see something interesting, I can just stop and enjoy it. It feels very special.

When I ride with my friends, I often focus on cycling. When I go alone, I try to visit local museums whenever possible. I want to feel the history of the places I visit. It adds another dimension to exploring the landscape on my bike.
The Rishiri Island Museum is housed in the old village hall that was built in 1913. It’s well-known in Japan that Rishiri Island does not have brown bears. That makes hiking here easier and safer. At the museum, I see an old newspaper article: Many years ago, a bear swam 20 km (13 miles) from the mainland to the island!

The sky is so big here, and the air so cold. It really feels like an island far, far in the north.

I stop at Lake Outatomari, which means “inlet with sand” in Ainu, the language of the native inhabitants of the north. I am glad to see Mount Rishiri free of clouds, so I take a photo.

When touring alone, I don’t cover much ground. There are so many places to visit, so many photos to take. This morning, 55 km didn’t seem like a lot, but now the sun is low, and I am nowhere near my destination.

I am back on the bike path when the sun sets. I wanted to return to the hotel before sunset… Even so, I stop, because the sunset is beautiful.

Soon dinner will be served. And it’s getting cold and windy. I shiver.
I really want to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. But I can’t resist to climb up to the viewpoint to enjoy the sunset. It is very beautiful… and cold.

When I get to the hotel, dinner is already served. Traditional Japanese hotels serve dinner and breakfast as part of the accommodation. It is nice not having to worry about finding a warm meal. The meal consists of local specialties: fish, scallops, vegetables, prawns. It tastes great!
My friends ask me whether I feel lonely when I go on solo bike trips. The answer is yes – it can get lonely. This creates an opportunity to talk with local people or others I meet. We talk about local things, the weather, where we come from. It’s fun. Meeting people is an essential part of cyclotouring for me.
All night, it rains hard. When I wake up, I worry that I may not want to go cyclotouring today.

Looking outside, I see the first snow of the year on top of Mount Rishiri. Now I know why it feels so cold here!
I was tempted to climb to the top of Mount Rishiri, but with the snow, it is impossible. I don’t have enough equipment.

Instead, I decide to hike up Mount Pon. It’s only 441 m (1446 ft) high, so there is no snow. In my handlebar bag, I carry my backpack, hiking map, rain gear, headlamp, emergency food, compass… everything I need to hike up the mountain.

The hiking trail is steep, and I get warm from the effort.

When I reach the top, it’s so windy that it almost blows me away. In the background is Mount Rishiri. Later, I meet a hiker who reached the top. He said that it was very cold, and that hail stones covered the ground.
Even here, it’s too cold to stay and eat lunch. I drink hot tea from my thermos, then hike back down.

When I return to the foot of the mountain, the blue sky and red autumn foilage look so different from up there. I’m only 400 m (1300 ft) lower, but it’s a different world. I also realize that I was lucky to see Mt. Rishiri yesterday.

Afterward, I decide to explore other roads on the island. I want to eat lunch at a Ramen shop recommended by a friend. The lady at the visitor center told me that the Ramen shop is only open until 2 o’clock now, so I have to hurry.

When I reach the Ramen shop, it starts raining. The forecast was for sunshine, but on the island, the weather is unpredictable. The Ramen, with its soy sauce base and strong flavor, warms me on this cold day.
After I eat, I wait for the rain to stop. I meet a German tourist who rented a bike and is riding around the island, too. He asks me how to find the entrance to the bike path.

Today, I have much time, so I decide to ride with him. I’m no longer a solo cyclotourist – it’s a nice change!
I wonder why he could not find the bike path. There are many signs! For me, it is clear – I read the Japanese Kanji symbols, but it should be fine for him, too: There is an English translation on each sign. Then I realize that the English text says ‘Jitenshado’ – the Japanese word for ‘cycling road’ has been transcribed into the Roman alphabet, but not translated into English. Now I understand why the German cyclist could not find the bike path!

I am happy I could help the German tourist.

He tells me that he likes Japan very much and describes the places he has visited. Unexpected encounters also are part of the fun of cyclotouring.

He will leave the island on the last ferry. I suggest that he visit the public bath before taking the ferry… With some time before dinner at my hotel, I decide to explore the island a little more. I enjoy the view of the harbor with Mt. Rishiri in the background.

The following day, I take the ferry to the next island. It’s alway been my dream to go from island to island by ferry. It seems very romantic to me.

Rishiri Island recedes in the distance. I’ll come back some day to climb Mt. Rishiri1 But now I am heading to Rebun Island.
Read Natsuko’s previous post, about her cyclotouring reunion in Hokkaido.

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Back in Stock: MKS Allways Pedals and Kaisei Fork Blades

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The MKS Allways pedals are back in stock. The video above shows how the super-smooth cartridge bearings make these spin almost forever. The slightly concave platform allows optimum pedaling efficiency without the need for foot retention. Made in Japan, these may be the best platform pedals ever made. Click here for more info or to order.

We also offer the MKS Rinko Adapters separately, so you can use the same pedals on multiple bikes, or run different pedals on the same bike. Changing the pedals takes just a few seconds – no tools required. Simply turn the ring and push it inward; then you can remove the pedal.
Most Rinko pedals in the Compass program use the “EZY-Superior” Rinko system (above), but the US-S (spd-compatible) pedals use the “EZY-Standard” couplers. We now offer both as separate parts. (Unfortunately, they aren’t interchangeable.)

Also back in stock: Kaisei ‘TOEI Special’ fork blades – as used on most of our bikes. To read how these fork blades improve the comfort and speed of your bike, click here.
The fork blades in this shipment are a bit shorter than we’d like – 405 mm as used by Japanese builders, rather than the 420 mm we usually specify. They work fine for 650B bikes, but the 420 mm blades give builders more leeway in trimming them to length. We will get the full-length blades again in January or February. For more information on fork blades and our other Kaisei tubing, click here.
We appreciate your patience while production caught up with demand on these popular items.

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Tubular Stays and Other Fender News


Many years ago, a big magazine published a note about Honjo fenders, which were just starting to trickle into the United States, and noted: “We are charmed by the idea that there actually are fender snobs.”
Those days are long over: Today fenders are recognized as an integral part of many performance bikes. Those of us who ride year-round need fenders that not only keep us and our bikes dry and clean, but also don’t rattle, resonate or break prematurely. We also want them to offer as much performance as possible.
Tens of thousands of miles of riding with fenders have shown us what works and what doesn’t. Honjo’s aluminum fenders keep us drier and are lighter and more aerodynamic than any plastic fenders we’ve tested.
The fenders Compass sells are made by Honjo to our own specifications. The most noticeable detail is the added coverage: 165° on the front and 200° on the rear. On the front, that means no spray on your feet and bottom bracket/chain (further helped by a short mudflap). On the rear, the fender can extend beyond the bottom bracket to keep the chain dry and clean even in crosswinds. These are small details, but they make a large difference.

One reason why we’ve found Honjo’s fenders so superior is their stays. They run all the way around the fender, rather than connecting to flimsy flat brackets. This makes them stiff and strong. The fenders we sell at Compass come with our own Rene Herse eyebolts (above). Not only is their rounded shape more elegant, but the threads are 7 mm long – exactly the right length, so the bolt doesn’t stick into the fender any further than needed. And the special ‘Tensiloc’ nuts we use prevent the fender bolts from loosening.
That hardware adds a little to the cost, but it means that you can install these fenders and forget about them. I’ve yet to re-tighten a fender bolt on my current bikes, even though my Urban Bike has seen more than a decade of hard use in the city, and my Rene Herse that has done 2 Paris-Brest-Paris, 2 Raids Pyreneens, the original Oregon Outback and countless other challenging rides.

To save weight on my Herse, I used tubular fender stays. I found the raw material among the stocks we got from Lyli Herse when we bought Cycles René Herse. They were left over from the 1940s Concours de Machines technical trials! My tubular stays have been 100% reliable, and they save 35 g, so we’ve asked Honjo to make tubular stays for our fenders (above).

Starting today, the tubular stays are available as an option on all fenders we sell. We also offer them separately as a retrofit.

We’ve got more fender news: The Gilles Berthoud fender stays are modeled on a style found on many Jo Routens bikes. It’s an elegant design that is also useful if you are fighting toe overlap on your bike.

The flat section on the rear of the stay attaches directly to the fender. That eliminates the eyebolts that stick out a few millimeters. It can make the difference between catching your toe or not.

Berthoud fender stays come with a matching bolt kit (not shown). You can also rivet these stays directly to the fender to save a little weight.

We also stock plastic R-Clamps from Gilles Berthoud to attach the fender stays to the frame or fork. These are useful if you want a safety release on your fender stays: The stay will pull out of the plastic clamp if a foreign object gets caught between fender and tire. This is useful if your fenders are mounted with less-than-optimal clearances, as it reduces the risk of the fender collapsing and jamming into the fork crown.
 

Why not use the plastic R-Clamps on all bikes? When you ride on rough roads, the stays can work loose over time. Check them periodically to make sure.

Since our bikes wear their fenders year-round, and we ride on gravel and in the forest, we take fender safety seriously. We’ve researched this, and here is what we’ve found: If you have the recommended 20+ mm clearance between tire and fender, objects that are small enough to be picked up with great force will go through the fender without causing any harm. Large objects have too much inertia to accelerate to a speed that allows them to do much damage. The fact that aluminum fenders is far stiffer than plastic ones helps in this respect. Wider fenders are stiffer than narrower ones, making them even safer.
During our research into fender safety, I asked all the old randonneurs I know in France about fender-related accidents. Nobody remembered any, even though these guys and women rode tens of thousands of kilometers a year – fast. I heard about all kinds of crashes, but everybody agreed that their aluminum fenders were completely safe.

If you have sufficient clearance between tire and fender, we recommend the metal Honjo R-Clamps. (Our fenders come standard with them.) They are more elegant as well as more secure. They will never come loose. You can use either clamps with all fender stays we sell.

Often overlooked, yet very important: a third attachment point for the front fender. Every fender needs three attachments to stabilize it in three dimensions, so it’s silent and doesn’t resonate on rough roads. With just two attachments, the fender can twist and flex, which can bring the fender’s trailing end in contact with the tire. Then, the tire pulls along the fender, which risks collapsing and jamming into the fork crown.
Many randonneur bikes have racks that incorporate the third attachment point for the fenders. (All Compass racks do.) If you don’t plan to use a rack with a fender attachment, we sell single Honjo fender stays to stabilize the front of the fender. The single stay comes with two R-Clamps and a single eyebolt to attach it to your fender and fork. The most elegant solution is to mount the stay to mid-fork eyelets (above), but you can also run it stay all the way down to the dropout eyelets as well.

We have to say that we are quite excited about the fender news here at Compass. Does that make us ‘fender snobs’? Ask us when we hit a rainshower on a long ride that crosses multiple mountain ranges and continue without undue suffering!
Click here for more information about Compass fenders.

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How Long Do Compass Tires Last?


One of the less-noticed results of the ‘Wide Tire Revolution’: Our tires last a lot longer these days. When I rode 20 mm-wide tires, I rarely got more than 1300 km (800 miles) out of a set of performance tires. For long-distance races, I put on new tires for every event.
Now it’s rare that my tires need replacing. Even for challenging events like the 360-mile Oregon Outback (above), I only put on a new tire (on the rear, above) because the old one had seen a lot of hard use. There are three reasons for this huge difference:

  • Wider tires spread the wear over a much-larger area, so they wear much slower.
  • Modern rubber compounds wear much better. In the past, we had to choose between grip or wear resistance. Today, the best tires combine both.
  • Compass tires have a little extra rubber right in the center of the tread to increase the wear resistance. This adds only a few grams and doesn’t measurably change the rolling resistance, but it doubles the tire’s tread life. The shoulders of the tire don’t wear, so we keep them thin and supple.


How do you know when it’s time to replace your tires? We’ve designed our Compass tires so the center tread (longitudinal ribs) serves as a wear indicator. (The chevron tread on the shoulders gives you extra grip in corners.)
On the tire above, you can see how the longitudinal ribs are starting to show some wear. This tire has been ridden, but it still has many miles (or kilometers) left to go.

This tire is ready for replacement. The center tread is completely worn off. When the rubber gets much thinner, the risk of flats increases. And if you wear all the way through the tread, your tire can suddenly blow out. That’s a risk not worth taking to get a few more miles out of a worn tire.
The tread also allows you to check whether you have been running a good tire pressure: All the longitudinal lines should disappear – as on the tire above. If you get wear only in the very center, your pressure is too high. The footprint of your tire is smaller than ideal, and you get more wear, less traction and less comfort. (And no additional speed.)
If the wear goes far into the chevron tread on the shoulders of the tire, your pressure is too low. You’re stressing the casing more than is ideal (in extreme cases, you’ll see individual broken threads in the sidewall), your tire can collapse under hard cornering, and you may even give up a little bit in speed.

How long does a Compass tire last? This depends on several factors:

  • Tire width: Wider tires spread the wear over more rubber, so they last longer. The 38 mm Barlow Pass (above) has 11 ribs in the center; the 55 mm Antelope Hill (below) has 23. With twice as much rubber touching the road, the Antelope Hill will last roughly twice as long.
  • Weight: Tire wear is directly proportional to the weight of rider/bike/luggage.
  • Power: High power outputs increase the wear on the rear tire.
  • Both power and weight are the reason why the rear tire wears faster than the front one. If your rear tire wears significantly faster, you can rotate your tires from front to rear roughly half-way through their lifespan to even out the tire wear. I sometimes do that on bikes I use for hill intervals.
  • There is no difference in the tread between the Standard and Extralight versions, so both last equally long. (The Extralight’s casing is more supple, which further improves the tire’s performance and comfort.)


Other tips for increasing the lifespan of your tires:

  • UV light makes rubber deteriorate and crack. High-end tires contain more natural rubber, which is especially susceptible to UV damage. If possible, don’t store your bike in direct sunlight.
  • Ozone damages rubber. Electric motors emit ozone, so don’t keep your bike near refrigerators, freezers, heater furnaces, etc.
  • The shelf life of tires is very long, if they are stored in the dark with moderate humidity. I recently found an old set of tires that was ten years old, and they were as good as new.
  • In the past, there was much talk about aging tires to increase their puncture resistance. It’s true that rubber should cure for optimum performance, but at least with our Compass tires, that takes only about a month. By the time Compass tires arrive from Japan in our Seattle warehouse, they are fully cured.

What does all this mean in practical terms? I expect about 5000-6500 km (3000-4000 miles) out of a 650B x 42 mm Babyshoe Pass. For high-performance tires, that is quite remarkable, and it’s dramatically lowered the cost-per-mile of high-end tires. There is no longer a need to reserve them for special events – I enjoy them even on my Urban Bike.
Click here for more information about Compass tires.

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BQ Skills: Ghost Riding

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Most of us remember when we learned to ride a bike. The incredible feel of balancing on two wheels – it felt like flying. Over the following days, months and years, our skills improved. First we learned to ride without wobbling. Then – in my case – to start without anybody holding onto my saddle…
And yet there is always more to learn. Some skills are useful, like being able to stop without putting a foot down, others merely amusing, like being able to do a cyclocross mount. They all make you a better cyclist, as you control your bike more fully.
We learn new skills through visualization and practice. To help with the former, every Bicycle Quarterly includes the ‘Skill’ column, which describes an everyday skill and how it works. In the current edition: ‘Ghost Riding’ – riding with two bicycles at once. It’s useful when you need to transfer a bike over a short distance, for example, to drop it off at a bike shop. The video above shows it in action.
Subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly to read how ‘Ghost Riding’ works, how to learn it and how to do it safely. Interested in the other ‘Skill’ articles? Check out our back issues!
Warning! Use appropriate caution when attempting new skills, including Ghost Riding.

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Autumn 2018 Bicycle Quarterly


The Autumn 2018 Bicycle Quarterly is at the printer and will be mailed soon. It’s another action-packed edition that will bring many hours of reading enjoyment.

What better way to test the Masi Speciale Randonneur and the Frances Farfarer trailer than to take them on a real adventure? For our third attempt to cross the Sawtooth Range, will a new route bring success? Is the affordable Masi bike enough for such epic ride? And how does the trailer carry its load? You’ve probably seen our movie about this adventure – read the full story in the magazine.

We’ve tested many great bikes, but their performance often carries a price tag to match. Can the joy of pedaling a responsive frame be translated to an affordable price point? That is the promise of the Alter Bikes Reflex 300. It costs just $ 998, yet its frame is engineered to flex with the rider’s pedal strokes. Does it deliver?

Fun on a bike doesn’t get much better than a solstice gravel ride skirting the flanks of Mount Hood, one of the volcanos of the Cascade Range. Join a group of friends as they explore some of the most amazing and challenging roads of the Pacific Northwest.

We take you on a tandem tour along a forgotten part of the Mediterranean Coast. Join us as we explore quaint fishing villages connected by miniature mountain passes.

Raymond Henry has been riding bikes for 60 years, and he’s researched the history of cyclotouring for almost as long. He takes us on a fascinating tour of his incredible collection of documents and historic bikes, and he tells us of the incredible rides he’s done. His most ambitious project took 20 years and 27,000 km to complete!

The early 1980s saw the pinnacle of the classic racing bike. We feature a René Herse with a frame made from Reynolds’ mythical 753 tubeset. Campagnolo Super Record components with plenty of titanium bits complement the beautifully crafted frame. Classic racing bikes don’t get much better than this!

Of course, there is much more to this exciting edition: Join more than 60 cyclists for a weekend of fun in a forgotten corner of the Puget Sound during the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. Visit Ostrich, the Japanese maker of cycling bags. Learn how to ride with two bikes at once. Find out why the features of modern carbon bikes don’t always translate well to steel bikes. And much, much more…
Subscribe today to get your copy without delay!

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Why We Like Custom Gearing


Our Rene Herse cranks are available with chainrings from 24 to 52 teeth, in single, double and triple configurations, including 11-speed compatible versions. We even offer tandem cranks. That way, riders can benefit from customized gearing, but it also means that we stock a lot of chainrings. We try to keep all ring sizes in stock, but sometimes, demand outpaces supply. We’ve just received a new shipment, and all chainrings are back in stock.
It’s easy to see why the big makers limit their chainrings to a few combinations, but the downside is that most riders find themselves with gearing that doesn’t work well for their riding styles. It’s not just that the gears are usually to large, but also that you need to make far too many front shifts.

Why are front shifts so disruptive? With a 50 x 34, the small ring is 32% smaller than the big one. That is a huge step. You probably need a gear that is 5-10% smaller, not 32%, so you shift 3-4 cogs on the rear to compensate until you finally arrive in the gear you need. Multiple shifts take time: Your speed drops, and your rhythm is gone.

To solve this problem, you could make the step between the chainrings smaller, like the 46 x 36 found on some cyclocross cranks in the past. Front shifts now are 22%, and you only need a single shift on the rear to get back to your optimum cadence. The drawback is the limited gear range: A 36-tooth small ring is fine for ‘cross, but most riders need smaller gears when climbing mountain passes.
However, the smaller ‘big’ ring of the cyclocross setup provides the answer to the original problem. If we select our big chainring so that we ride in the middle of the rear cassette during normal riding, we can respond to small changes with just a few shifts on the rear. Pick up a tailwind? Click and we have a bigger gear. A small rise in the road? Click-click-click – a few seamless downshifts as our speed drops, and we are over the crest. No front shift required!
With a 46-tooth big ring, I can surge across gentle hills with just a few shifts on the rear. That means I can select my ‘small’ ring so that I can climb even the steepest mountain passes. For me, that is a 30-tooth. Now the large step between chainrings is OK, because I don’t shift on the front unless I get to a really steep hill. A hill that steep breaks my rhythm no matter what.

Your ideal gearing depends on a number of factors: your cadence, your strength and speed, and the terrain where you ride. From your current setup, you know which gears you use when riding on flat roads. Select your big chainring so that these gears are in the middle of the cassette, and your riding will be much smoother. That is the secret behind custom gearing. The small chainring can be up to 16 teeth smaller, because that is the maximum that modern derailleurs can handle reliably.

We offer our Rene Herse cranks with so many chainrings because we recognize the need for custom gearing. Click here for more information about Rene Herse cranks.
Photo credit: Nicolas Joly (Photo 4).

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BQ 65 Preview: Traversing the Sawtooth Range

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The Autumn Bicycle Quarterly take you on a trip across the Sawtooth Range. Long-term BQ readers know that it’s been a bit of a holy grail for us to find a passage across this mountain range, with our first attempts ending in washouts and snow. This time we take the affordable Masi Speciale Randonneur and the Frances Farfarer trailer on the search for a route that crosses these beautiful mountains. Will we make it this time?
The full story (and tests of bike and trailer) are in the Bicycle Quarterly 65. We are finalizing the mailing lists tomorrow, so subscribe today to be among the first to get this exciting edition! Click here to sign up online – it’s easy and takes just a minute or two.

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Compass Photo Contest: Vote for Your Favorite!


The Compass Swift Campout photo contest has been a huge success with almost 500 entries! With so many amazing photos, it was impossible to select just 8 finalists, so we finally settled on 10. We selected photos that show different aspects of the contest theme ‘Cyclotouring off the beaten path.’
Now it’s up to you, our readers, to select the winner among the finalists below. We present the images without context so you can enjoy them for their photographic qualities alone. Then please choose your favorite at the bottom of the post.

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▲ Photo 10
[polldaddy poll=9955940]
 
The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate from Compass Cycles, and all finalists will enjoy a one-year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly.
The polls close on Sunday, July 15, at midnight. Results will be published next week, and all finalists and their stories will be featured in a future issue of Bicycle Quarterly. Also check out the many other great entries in the #swiftcompasscontest.

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BQ 64 Preview: Our Biggest Adventure Yet

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The Summer 2018 Bicycle Quarterly caps our 15th anniversary year, and so we’ve put together a very special issue. In our most epic adventure yet, we headed south to the incredible Copper Canyons of Mexico. The video above takes you right into the action. Make sure to enjoy it in full-screen mode!
Click here to subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly and read the full story of this adventure, plus the many other exciting articles of this 112-page edition.

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Back in Stock and New Fenders


Some new products are much more popular than we anticipate. Even though we try to keep everything in stock at all times, production can take a while to catch up to the increased demand. Recently, that has affected a few products.

The first batch of our 11-speed Rene Herse chainrings sold out quickly. They’ve received rave reviews from customers. These riders enjoy shifting on par with the very best rings, but with more useful 46×30 chainrings. Add the elegance and light weight of our Rene Herse cranks, and you can see why they’ve been popular.
The new chainrings work just as well with 9- and 10-speed drivetrains. During our testing, we’ve found Shimano’s Ultegra chains to offer the best shifting, so we designed our tooth profiles for this chain. (If you run 9- or 10-speed, use the appropriate Ultegra chain.)
The 11-speed cranks are in stock for single bikes and tandems. Click here for more information.

The MKS Allways pedals take this popular platform style to the next level. They feature the super-smooth cartridge bearings found only in top-of-the-line MKS pedals. Just as importantly, the platform is slightly concave to provide a better grip for your foot. The Allways pedals are available both with standard spindles and with the EZY Superior system that allows removing your pedals without tools in seconds (above). Click here for more information.

The Ostrich frame covers are back in stock, too. They protect the frame when you travel with your bike. Unlike thick foam tubes, these covers are small enough to easily fit in your handlebar or seat bag. That makes them ideal for trips where you’ll put your bike on a bus, on a train, or in a car for part of the trip. New is the ‘oversize’ version for the large-diameter tubes of carbon, titanium and aluminum frames. Click here to find out more.

Our handlebars are back in stock in all sizes. Their shapes were developed when stages were long and roads were rough. Now we offer them for standard-diameter and oversized stems, so you can enjoy their all-day comfort on modern bikes.
Why are classic handlebar shapes more ergonomic? Human bodies haven’t changed, it’s only that modern races are shorter and speeds are higher, so modern racers can get away with less-than-optimal shapes. For the rest of us, the classic shapes make a remarkable difference in the comfort of our bikes. Click here for more information.

And finally, we are excited to announce a new fender. We now offer Honjo’s fluted fenders in a 47 mm width for 700C wheels. This is ideal for tires between 32 and 36 mm wide.

Like all our Honjo fenders, the new model is custom-made to our specifications. Front and rear fenders are longer than standard to provide better coverage. We supply all fenders with our elegant Rene Herse eyebolts (above).

We also sell extra fender stays separately for bikes without a front rack, where the second fender stay stabilizes the front fender ahead of the fork crown. Not only does this guarantee that the fender is quiet, it also improves safety and longevity, as it reduces flex and the risk that the fender breaks. Click here for more information about our fenders.

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New Compass Web Site


If you have visited the Compass Cycles web site in the last few days, you’ll have noticed that it has a new look. On the home page, you’ll see a slide show with the three parts of the Compass story.
The first slide links to the story of the ‘Wide Tire Revolution’ – how we realized that wide tires could be as fast as narrow ones, and how we developed our pioneering allroad tires.

The second slide talks about the philosophy behind our components: classic in appearance, but 100% up-to-date in their performance. And compatible with modern bikes.

Much of what we do at Compass Cycles draws on the experience of René Herse. Read how we became the successor of the great constructeur.

We’ve also updated our menu to make it easier to use. ‘Shop’ and ‘Support’ put all the information you need in one place. ‘About’ gives you direct links to the slides with our story. There are links to our Instagram and YouTube contents, and the flags give you access to the translations of our web site into French and Japanese. (The translations are works in progress…)

When you click on a product category (like ‘Bags’ above), you see an overview of the parts we offer. The pull-down ‘Read the Back Story’ explains why we use (and sell) these parts. For example, on the ‘Bags’ page, we explain why we prefer handlebar bags, and why we feel that leather and canvas outperform synthetic materials.
Go to www.compasscycle.com to start exploring the new site.

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Compass and BQ in the News


During the last week, Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Cycles have been mentioned in several news stories. The popular web site www.bikepacking.com featured an article about converting a 700C bike to 650B. They wrote: “The benefits are fairly obvious. Wider tires offer more floatation, a more supple ride, and are all around better suited to dirt and gravel surfaces. They can also be just as fast as road tires.”
They equipped their bike with Compass Switchback Hill 650B x 48 mm tires, and we talked about some of the things to consider in these conversions: clearances, bottom bracket height, gearing, etc. The article is a great introduction if you’ve looking into running 650B wheels on your disc-brake bike.

It’s not every day that you get a call from Matt Wiebe, the editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News“We’re working on a cover story about big car tire brands like Pirelli and Goodyear entering the bicycle tire market. We’d like to talk to Compass as one of the established smaller brands in the high-end tire market.”
In the article, Wiebe explains how Goodyear is proud to offer 100 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), while Pirelli plans to expand into gravel tires, quoting their head of sales: “Gravel is growing in Europe, and I think it will quickly be a big part of the road market.”
Matt Wiebe contrasts this with Compass, explaining how our program “grew out of the tires we needed to do the type of riding we liked — long rides in the mountains on road and dirt surfaces.” The article shows how the industry is trying to catch up with the trend toward high-performance tires – a trend that caught them by surprise because it originated with riders and not with the industry.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBMNGpPPHVw?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Global Cycling Network has brought the latest research about tires into the mainstream. In a recent segment, they looked at why you need lower pressures to make wider tires perform better. They talk about suspension losses – crediting Bicycle Quarterly (Thank you!) – and test different tire pressures on cobbles. No surprise: When the going gets really rough, the lowest pressures roll fastest.
Earlier, GCN took three bikes to the same cobbles: a racing, a cyclocross and a mountain bike (below).
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvO74sZxVs4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Again, readers of BQ and of this blog will not be surprised: The bike with the widest tires was fastest. In GCN‘s test, it was the mountain bike, even though the data showed a lower power output when the riders were on the mountain bike. The explanation is simple: The lower suspension losses more than made up for the mtb’s wider Q factor, lack of ‘planing,’ etc., that limited the tester’s power output.

Now imagine if GCN had tested a true allroad bike instead of the mountain bike! A bike like my Firefly (above), which enables the rider to put out the same power as on their racing bike and which has tires as wide as their mountain bike, plus its more supple tires reduce rolling resistance and suspension losses even further. From our own on-the-road experiences, we know that it would easily outperform the mountain bike. Perhaps we’ll see that test in a future episode – for now, GCN already is pushing the limits of what a mainstream cycling audience finds believable…
With all this exposure, it’s nice to see that many of the ideas we’ve championed over the last 15 years are getting widely accepted. Click on the images above to read the full stories!

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Compass Introduces Quintuple Cranks


Seattle, April 1, 2018: Compass Cycles is proud to introduce the new René Herse quadruple and quintuple cranks. We are one of the few manufacturers of triple cranks with a wide selection of chainrings, and we’ve received requests for even more choices.

There is a historic precedent for this: Alex Singer showed a bike with quadruple cranks at the 1973 Salon de Cycle in Paris (above). The idea never caught on – back then, cyclists were conservative and unwilling to try new things. Now, I feel that the time has come to go beyond three chainrings…

But why stop at four? In addition to quadruple Rene Herse cranks, we’ll offer quintuple configurations, too. (In the photo above, the chainring teeth reflect in the polished surfaces, making it look like there are even more chainrings!)
As always with our cranks, you can freely choose their chainrings between 52 and 24 teeth. Converting existing cranks is easy, too: All you need are extra spacers and longer chainring bolts. A bit more difficult is fitting the cranks on your bike: You’ll need a longer bottom bracket spindle and a front derailleur that moves further outward to span the four or five chainrings. Both these essential components are under development – the photos show prototypes.

We have tested the quintuple cranks for many thousands of miles on several bikes. How do they ride?
Obviously, the appeal isn’t to have 55 gears (if you use a modern 11-speed drivetrain), because nobody needs that many… The advantage of multiple chainrings is that you can always ride in the middle of the cassette. If your speed changes due to terrain or wind, simply shift a few cogs on the rear to keep your cadence in its optimal range. And if you do need to make a front shift, the steps between chainrings are small – no need to ‘compensate’ on the rear, just shift and keep going. And with the chainrings spanning a huge gear range, you can use a closely-spaced cassette with very small steps between gears. After riding them for a few months now, I have to say, quintuple cranks are a gearhead’s nirvana.
I set up my prototype with a 50-44-38-32-26 combination, because the evenly spaced chainrings really highlight the beauty of the Rene Herse cranks. On the road, the 50-tooth chainring is perfect for those jam sessions on a slight downhill with a tailwind. Instead of being at the bottom end of my cassette (with a 46-tooth ring), I now can accelerate at will, knowing I’ll always have a bigger gear if I need it. The 44-tooth is perfect for fast ‘normal’ riding at 18-22 mph. The 38T is for days when I feel a bit less sprightly. The 32T gets me up most hills, and the 26T is for those really steep ones that I encounter only rarely, but where I used to walk my bike.

Drawbacks? Apart from the need for a custom BB spindle and front derailleur, quintuple chainrings add a little weight. This isn’t the crank to use for the Concours de Machines! Fortunately, the basic design of the Rene Herse cranks is so light that even the quintuple configuration weighs only 603 g – not much more than most 1980s mountain bike cranks.
The Q factor is a bit wider, but at 177 mm, it’s no worse than many modern ‘gravel’ cranks. Chainline can be a concern, but realistically, you’ll use the bigger chainrings with the smaller cogs of the cassette, the middle with the middle, and so on. It helps to use a tandem-spec rear hub with 145 mm spacing, as that moves the chainline outward to match the crank.
When can you get one? Testing of the prototypes is complete, and the longer BB spindles and chainring bolts are in production. We are now working on 11-speed compatible chainrings with ramps and pins to make the shifts even smoother. Front derailleurs are in the works – in the mean time, you can ask your builder to make a custom one, or just move the chain by hand. If you want to use brifters, we are working with Wolf Tooth on an adapter that will get four and five clicks out of a standard STI, Ergopower or DoubleTap lever. If you prefer electronic shifting, it’s easy to reprogram the software to offer more steps.
Quadruple and quintuple chainrings are fun. Why don’t you try them on your bike? And if you don’t like them, you can always convert them to a triple or double – that’s the beauty of Rene Herse’s timeless design.
Click here for more information about Rene Herse cranks.

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Live Interview on Path Less Pedaled

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I love the unscripted spontaneity of live interviews, where neither side knows the questions and answers in advance. When I sat down down with Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled, we talked about how Bicycle Quarterly got started, what inspires Compass products, and how the bikes we ride have changed dramatically in recent years. Click on the image above to watch the interview. Enjoy!

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Road.cc Reviews the Compass Barlow Pass


“A supremely grippy, comfortable, fast tubeless tyre with no downsides” is the verdict of the popular British web site www.road.cc. Tester Mike Stead goes on to explain how he used the Barlow Pass tires: “After months of trying, I smashed a 1km Strava sprint segment, knocking five seconds off my previous best and setting a KOM benchmark that the previous holder is going to be hurting to regain.”
Of course, Compass tires aren’t just known for their speed, and Mike enthuses about the “supreme comfort” and “prodigious amounts of grip for cornering and braking.” Reading this, you might think that he’s a friend or relative, or that we paid him to review these tires. But no, all our British distributor Sven Cycles did was send a set of tires.
When Mike went “properly off-road into rooted and rocky singletrack,” he found that “the super-supple casing deformed around and gripped to trail irregularities with amazing ease.” When I read this, I really wanted to join Mike Steed on his rides. It sounds like he was having a lot of fun on his Compass tyres! But instead of telling you more about the review, why don’t you read it yourself?
Further reading:

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North American Handmade Bicycle Show


Last weekend’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) was a great success by all accounts. I’ve especially enjoyed the beautiful photos of John Watson (aka The Radavist) from the show. With his permission, I am reposting a few of them here.
J. P. Weigle’s bike (above) for the 2017 Concours de Machines in France was never intended as a show bike, and yet it won ‘Best Road Bike,’ ‘Best Lugged Frame’ and was the runner-up for ‘Best of Show.’

I think Peter can’t build a bike that isn’t beautiful, and even after hundreds of hard miles on two continents – not to mention very rushed Rinko-style disassembly – the bike still looked good enough to impress the judges. Congratulations, Peter!

Speaking of Rinko, Peter showed his ‘backup’ bike from the Concours in disassembled Rinko form. He reports that many visitors couldn’t figure out how a bike without couplers could become so small. I wish Natsuko could have given demonstrations of how to disassemble (and reassemble) the bike in less than 12 minutes.

Next door in what became known as ‘Rando Alley’ was Brian Chapman with his amazing and very different take on the ultimate randonneur bike. Where Peter’s Concours bike was all about function and classic aesthetics, Brian created a unique combination of black components with 1970s racer-style ‘drillium.’ True to form, it appears that he even hand-crafted custom cranks for this bike. A stunning machine!

A showpiece of a different kind was this Mosaic titanium bike – built to showcase Jpaks, a new brand of bikepacking bags. Titanium allroad bikes can be great fun, and I’d love to have a go on this one! I’ll ask Mosaic whether a Bicycle Quarterly test is on the cards.

Another bike I’d love to try is Chris Bishop’s ‘Item 4,’ a more affordable model with TIG-welded main triangle and fillet-brazed rear. Equipped with 700C x 38 mm tires, it’s a thoroughly modern road bike with a beautiful steel frame, available with rim or disc brakes. (I’d like a centerpull brake option, but that is difficult to do with a stock carbon fork.)
These are just a few of the interesting, beautiful or just plain crazy machines that were on show at NAHBS this year. Head over to www.theradavist.com for the full gallery, and then tell us in the comments which one is your favorite.

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The North American Handmade Bicycle Show


If you are in New England this weekend, I highly recommend a visit to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). From Friday until Sunday, dozens of builders from North America and beyond will show their best bikes in Hartford, CT.

This year, constructeur J. P. Weigle (above) will exhibit a number of bikes, including the superlight machine he built for last year’s Concours de Machines in France (top photo). See for yourself how he created a randonneur bike that weighs just 9.1 kg (20.0 lb) with fenders, rack, generator-powered lights and even the pump.

The Weigle is just one of the many beautiful bikes you’ll be able to see at the show. Another exhibitor is Brian Chapman, whose amazing Di2-equipped ‘Light Tourer’ (above) we tested recently. I am not sure whether he will bring the BQ test bike, but whichever creation he will bring, you can be assured it will be an amazing bike. NAHBS is definitely worth a visit!
More information:

  • NAHBS details, tickets, etc.
  • Illustrated list of Bicycle Quarterly‘s test bikes.
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Midwinter Ride across the Tahuya Hills


In Seattle, we are lucky: We can cycle year-round. Rarely is it so cold or so icy that cycling becomes difficult. Our cycling season usually starts with the new year. “What about the rain?” you may ask. It’s not a big deal if you have the right equipment.
Last weekend was the middle of winter – halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was a good excuse to celebrate with a bike ride. The weather forecast was for ‘showers’ – as good as it gets around here this time of the year. At least we wouldn’t get snow like we did when we ventured into the mountains last week!

Busy schedules meant that only two of the BQ Team could make it. Steve and I met at 6 a.m. to take the ferry to Bremerton. We rolled on quiet backroads through the hills to Belfair.

There we had a second breakfast – knowing that this was the last opportunity to obtain food for a few hours.

From here, we headed into the Tahuya Hills. To me, even the name sounds romantic, and the hills always live up to our expectations.

North Shore Road goes along the water of the Hood Canal, a fjord carved by the glaciers of the last ice age. On the other side are the Olympic Mountains, but on this cloudy, rainy day, we only saw glimpses of the snow-covered peaks.

It’s an amazing gravel road that winds its way in and out of the many little ravines in the mountainside.

At the same time, the road is relentlessly hilly – it was built with minimal earthworks because it wasn’t worth making big improvements for a road that sees very little traffic. This combination of attributes – minimal ‘improvements’ and little traffic – made it perfect for our ride!
[youtube https://youtu.be/ubclniV3_KA?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
It’s a course that challenged our leg power as much as our bike handling skills. The road dives into each ravine, turns sharply, and immediately heads steeply uphill again. The more speed we carried through those gravel turns, the less we had to pedal on the next hill.

Back on pavement after a few hours, we climbed high above the water, only to drop back down and roll along the shore. It was great fun.

The clouds opened briefly to hint at the views we would have enjoyed on a sunny day. We smiled at each other as we got in the aero tuck to maximize our speed on the downhill, remembering at the last second that the turn at the bottom has a wickedly decreasing radius, which caught both of us out the first time we rode it. No problem today: The low-trail geometry of my bike allowed easy midcorner adjustments of my line.

After a few hours of riding on deserted roads, we reached Seabeck on the other side of the Tahuya Hills, where we enjoyed a sandwich at the store. It had been raining on and off, and the gravel was a bit muddy, but you’d never know it from looking at our bikes. Remembering the days when we rode with plastic fenders, it never ceases to amaze me how clean and dry both rider and bike remain with a set of really good fenders. There only was a little dirt on the fork blades where the brake pads had sprayed the water they had scraped off the rims. The chain didn’t squeak, and my feet remained dry even though I didn’t wear booties.
Steve was riding his Frek, the old Trek he converted into a randonneur bike, with similar features as my bike. Neither of us even bothered putting on rain jackets, because we would have overheated on the steep climbs. Keeping the road spray off our bodies was key; our layered wool jerseys took care of the comparatively little water that was falling from the sky.

The hardest part of the ride was yet to come: the incredible Anderson Hill Road with its 14% stairstep climb. We made it up that just fine, and then we upped the pace on the last few miles back to Bremerton.

We boarded the ferry, parked our bikes, and enjoyed the scenic boat ride through the islands back to Seattle.

The Tahuya Hills course makes a beautiful 80-mile ride that goes along the water for much of the way. It sees very little traffic apart from the first and last kilometers near Bremerton. Easily accessible from downtown Seattle via a direct ferry, it’s a ride I highly recommend!
Click here for a link to the RideWithGPS route with a detailed map of the course.

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Global Cycling Networks Video on Frame Flex

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH_AL4rxrp8?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Global Cycling Networks just published a video in which they did an experiment that many of us have been talking about: Load up a frame with flex, and then release that energy. The rear wheel turns as the energy is returned to the drivetrain. It’s nice to see it in practice…
Also nice to hear: “I wonder whether frame flex is going to be the new tire pressure. Go back 10 years, and we all knew that harder tires rolled faster. And you could feel it as well. Except that now, we know that lower pressures can roll faster.”
Watch the video above, or click here to see it directly on YouTube. Enjoy!
To read our recent post about how frame flex actually can contribute to making you faster, scroll down or click here.

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Back in Stock and New Products


For us, cycling is part of our lives. Our bikes are the most important tools we own. We use them for transportation, and we use them for enjoyment, often combining the two. That means our bikes need to be ready at a moment’s notice. If we can’t get a part, it leaves us stranded. The same applies to most of our customers, who consider the components we sell essential.
That is why we work hard to keep our parts in stock. Usually we are successful, but sometimes an item runs out before a new shipment arrives. It might be that demand is greater than we anticipated. Or there could be a delay at the manufacturer – often because a supplier is running behind schedule. Or a shipment can be held up somewhere. We’ve encountered all these issues in recent months, but we are glad that 98% of Compass parts are back in stock as we prepare our bikes for the next cycling season. Here are a few things that just arrived:

As one of the key contact points, good handlebars are key to a comfortable ride. Many modern bars are very shallow and short, leaving your hands cramped and uncomfortable during long hours in the saddle. The classic handlebars we offer were designed for long days on rough roads, where comfort is paramount. The Maes Parallel (above) give you lots of room to roam, and the Randonneur provides a super-comfortable position on the ramps.
All Compass handlebars are available with 25.4 and 31.8 mm clamp diameters. If you have a 26.0 mm stem, we offer a shim to reduce the diameter to 25.4 mm. We have added wider models, so all our bars now come in widths between 400 and 460 mm.

Saddles are the other important contact point with your bike. We’ve found Berthoud saddles to offer superior comfort and quality. The composite frame is lightweight and flexes a bit to improve the comfort of a traditional leather saddle even further.
Berthoud’s leather quality is second to none. We carry the medium-width touring and the narrow racing saddle, plus a shorter women’s model (above). They are available in different colors, with titanium or steel rails, and also in an ‘open’ version to alleviate pressure. All models are in stock again.

Handlebar tape is a matter of personal taste. Riders with a light touch on the bars often prefer thin bar tape, but most modern tape is heavily padded and too thick for our liking. Maware’s beautiful leather tape is made in Japan from pigskin, so it’s thinner than the others we’ve tried. It’s also superlight, so we used it on the J. P. Weigle for the Concours de Machines technical trials last summer.
Compass now distributes Maware’s bar tape and their leather frame protectors in North America, but the small company was overwhelmed by the demand. Now they’ve caught up, and all products are in stock again.
And if you prefer thicker handlebar tape, we also stock Berthoud’s excellent cowhide tape.

Tires change the feel of your bike more than any other component, and tires are why we got into the component business in the first place: There were no wide tires that offered the ride and performance we wanted. We offer tires in many sizes and models, and a few of them have been in short supply lately. We always make sure that at least one or two models in every size are in stock, so your bike won’t be left immobilized for lack of tires. In time for the new season, all models are on hand again.

We developed the new René Herse cantilever brakes for the Concours de Machines, where the prototypes helped J. P. Weigle’s bike win the prize for the lightest bike. We began to offer the production version last autumn. These are made in small numbers, and sometimes, demand overwhelms supply. They are back in stock, but since they are assembled to order, allow a few extra days for delivery.

We appreciate your patience while some of these components were in short supply. Most parts are back in stock now, and we’ll work on keeping it that way, so you can enjoy your cycling season without worrying about spare parts. Click on the links above for more information, or click here to go directly to www.compasscycle.com.

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Berthoud Saddlebags


Gilles Berthoud’s are my favorite under-seat bags: lightweight, beautiful and functional. Since using one on a tandem in the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris, I’ve found them useful whenever my handlebar bag doesn’t have enough capacity, or as the only bag on bikes without a front rack. Berthoud now offers a version that attaches neatly to their saddles with the KlickFix system. We’ve added these bags to the Compass Cycles program.

Like the other Gilles Berthoud bags, the saddlebags are made from waterproof canvas and edged with leather. These traditional materials work well, keeping the contents dry even during my rainy 50-hour ride in the 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris, a year that remains infamous for its wet conditions. The canvas is lighter than most ‘modern’ materials, too – the Berthoud saddlebag weighs just 242 g (254 g for the KlickFix model). And yet it has enough room for two spare tubes, a spare tire, a few tools, a wallet and a pair of arm warmers. The elastic loop closure is easy to open with one hand. I usually run both ends of the elastic loop through the hook for an ultra-secure closure.

The KlickFix attaches to Gilles Berthoud saddles (except the superlight Galibier) with two screws. The saddlebag then slides into the attachment and locks firmly into place. A strap around the seatpost further stabilizes it. To remove it, you open the strap, push the two red tabs inward, and then pull the bag upward. It’s an elegant solution that is simple to use. The second version attaches to the saddle rails of (almost) any saddle with a toestrap.

Like all products we sell, we’ve tested these bags for thousands of kilometers – including the Volcano High Pass Challenge – to make sure they work well even on the roughest roads. I’m sure you’ll find them as useful as I do.
Click here for more information about Berthoud bags.

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Free World-Wide Shipping on René Herse Components


At Compass Cycles, we’ve been excited to see interest in our components grow all over the world. We now work with more than 500 bike shops, as well as a number of international distributors. However, some components are difficult for shops to stock. Our cranks are a typical example: They are available in three lengths, as singles, doubles or triples, with dozens of chainring combinations. And then there are the tandem cranks… Every crank is custom-assembled to order here in Seattle. It makes for a great product, but it also means that it’s difficult for most bike shops to stock all the parts needed to build these cranks.

This means that ordering directly from Compass Cycles often is the most practical solution. To make this easier for our international customers, we now offer free shipping worldwide on René Herse components. This offer includes big components like cranks and, soon, the new cantilever brakes, but not small parts like bolts, chainrings and cable hangers.

For our less specialized components, like Compass tires and handlebars, as well as the parts we distribute from Gilles Berthoud (saddles, bags), Schmidt Maschinenbau (lights, generator hubs), Honjo (fenders) and MKS (pedals), we encourage you to buy from local shops that carry these products.
Click here to find out more about René Herse components.

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Allroad Riding in Alsace (Open's Video)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAwXw_GGtY4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Open made a video to introduce their facelifted U.P. wide-tire racing bike. They went for a beautiful ride in the Alsace Mountains of France, coincidentally the same region where the first post-war Concours de Machines was held in 1946.
A few months ago, we sent Open’s Andy Kessler a set of Compass 650B x 48 mm Switchback Hill tires for testing. He put them on the new bike and featured them in the video. How did they perform? Andy’s comment:
“Funny enough, I was downloading a MTB loop to my Garmin that was described as difficult. OK, we had to push our U.P.s for 5 minutes as the trail was big rocks and drops, but all the rest can be done with an U.P. also.”
Seeing the video makes me want to head out for a ride in the hills. Enjoy!

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1995 Rivendell: Turning the Tide


When Bridgestone USA closed in 1994, many mourned the loss of what they saw as the last bastion of sensible design in the quickly changing world of bicycles. They rejoiced when later that year, Bridgestone’s marketing manager Grant Petersen started Rivendell Bicycle Works. The new company’s first project were three hand-built frames, the Road, Mountain and All-Rounder.

Looking back, it is hard to appreciate the significance of these first Rivendells, because what they championed has become commonplace. They were a turning point in the decline of custom steel bicycles in the U.S. By the early 1990s, steel was rapidly being replaced by aluminum and titanium among high-end bikes. Almost overnight, steel was relegated to inexpensive production bikes. Sure, custom builders still built beautiful steel bikes, but more and more, they seemed like hold-overs from a glorious past when great champions still won big races on steel bikes. It was a dying craft – the idea that young cyclists might pick up the torch and become framebuilders seemed almost laughable.

Then along came Rivendell and made steel cool again. “Steel is still the best choice for frames,” was the message, “and now steel is better than ever before!” It was a breath of fresh air welcomed by all who harbored doubts about the “newer is better” ethos that had taken over the bike industry. For Grant Petersen, it may have been the logical next step – to take the customer base he had built at Bridgestone in a more up-market direction – but it also legitimized and revitalized the entire genre of hand-built steel bikes.

The Rivendells were also the first bikes in more than a decade to feature a headbadge. Fitting for a purely ornamental part, the headbadge was perhaps the most over-the-top part of the frames, with cloisonné inlays that were devilishly difficult to produce. In the days before Internet marketing, Rivendell published the Reader, a zine that detailed all the trials and tribulations of the young company. It is telling about Rivendell’s influence that headbadges have become a must-have accessory, even on mass-produced frames.

During his Bridgestone days, Grant had been a defender of lugs against the encroachment of less-expensive TIG-welding. At Rivendell, he coined the slogan: “I ride lugged steel, and I vote”. The lugs of the first “Road” frames were based on a design Richard Sachs had carved for Bridgestone. They had lingered in a drawer for years, perhaps because they would have been too difficult to braze on a production line. Playful and yet elegant, they’ve rarely been bettered. They were perfect for a bike named after a mythical place taken from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. With that headbadge and those lugs, it almost seemed like the frames were made by elves.

The elves who made the first Rivendells lived in Waterford, Wisconsin, where Richard Schwinn had resurrected the old Paramount shop after the first of Schwinn’s many bankruptcies. The Rivendell frames were built to order with a wide choice of sizes, braze-ons and colors. The basic frame design was fixed, an evolution of the much-loved Bridgestone RB-1. To many, the early Rivendells were the bikes that Bridgestones should have built, had price not been a concern.

These first Rivendells were dream bikes of their era. The tubing was the best of the best, Reynolds’ mythical 753, the first “supersteel”, custom-drawn to Rivendell’s specifications. Grant even had special stickers made, with French lettering referring obliquely to the great French constructeurs, recently discovered by another Grant (Handley), in whose bike shop Planetary Gear Grant Petersen sometimes hung out.
The early Rivendells were as sensible as they were beautiful. They were designed for performance. Clearances were optimized to fit the widest tires with the then-available brakes. A head-tube extension enabled a comfortable riding position. Braze-ons for racks allowed converting the bikes for touring. These were bikes intended to be ridden, bikes that promised to go wherever their riders wanted to take them – racing, touring, exploring, even commuting.
Everything that followed – the steel bikes from Surly, Soma, All City, etc.; the renewed popularity of handbuilt custom bicycles that since has swept the world; the comeback of classic components; even Compass Cycles – can trace its roots to the moment when Grant Petersen stood up and said: “I love steel and lugs. Why not?”
Further reading: The full story of the first Rivendell Road lugs is told in the Summer 2017 Bicycle Quarterly.
P.S.: The frame featured here is for sale on ebay.

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MKS Allways Pedals

Allways pedal
At Compass Cycles, we sell only parts that we want to ride on our own bikes. It’s important that we can rely on the components we use to carry us through all conditions, problem-free. This is why we offer the top-of-the-line pedals from MKS.
Each of the MKS pedals we offer features silky smooth cartridge bearings, beautifully finished bodies and elegant design. Our most recent addition, the Allways platform pedal, is a great choice for urban riding, when you don’t necessarily want to wear cycling-specific shoes.
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When I saw the prototypes of the Allways pedals this spring in Tokyo, I was impressed by their light weight and silky-smooth bearing. When I spun the pedals, they seemed to rotate forever. Then the engineers from MKS explained the other features behind the pedals: The large platform has a slightly concave surface so that your foot doesn’t slip. Removable pins provide further retention of your shoe. They told me that the name  “Allways” is a play on the fact that these pedals are intended to be used “always” and on “all ways and roads”.
 
Allways Rinko pedal
The Rinko version of the Allways pedals allows removing the pedal without tools in just seconds with the EZY-Superior quick-release system. It’s convenient for travel, to store your bike in tight spaces, or if you want to ride with platform pedals one day and with clipless pedals the next.
Click here to learn more about the Allways and our other MKS pedals.

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New Favorites from Compass; Others Back In Stock


Compass is now offering two new leather handlebar tapes: one from Gilles Berthoud in France (above) and another from Maware in Japan. We’ve also restocked several popular items.
Berthoud’s leather handlebar tape is made from a luxurious cowhide in seamless strips dyed to match their high-quality saddles (except cork). Riders who appreciate a bit of padding will prefer this tape.

For riders who prefer thinner bar tape, we have Maware of Japan’s durable and weather-resistant tape made from pigskin (above). This tape has plenty of stretch for a perfect wrap. Available in dark brown, black, and tan, Maware handlebar tape comes with lightweight plugs, covered in matching leather.
Click here to shop Berthoud and Maware handlebar tape.

In addition to bar tape, Maware makes a wide range of leather goods for bicycles. We’re also offering their frame cover, in colors that match the tape, to protect your frame from getting scratched by bike racks or posts.

Light mounts are back in stock, for threaded eyelets and for adjustable struts, to fit all Compass racks, as well as many others. These mounts make it easy to attach a standing or hanging generator light to your existing rack. Our carefully designed hardware lets you adjust tension perfectly to keep the light in place on rough roads, but still adjust the light angle by hand, without tools.
Click here to learn more or buy a light mount.

Knickers are back in stock for sizes 30 – 36 and 40. We’ve enlarged the pocket openings, so it’s now easier to get your hands in and out. Designed to fit over bike shorts or bibs, our knickers are light and durable, equally at home on or off the bike.
Click here to learn more and shop the Compass Knickers

Our very popular 700C x 38 mm Barlow Pass tires are back in stock in all casings and colors. They’re now tubeless-compatible and measure a true 38 mm wide. This is a great tire for pavement, gravel and mixed-terrain rides.
Click here to see the Barlow Pass and other 700C tires from Compass.

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Compass Tires Back in Stock

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The container with Compass tires has arrived, and all sizes are now available again. We thank you for your patience as we continue to work hard to keep all our products in stock. Enjoy the little video of our Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ Extralight tires in action!
Click here for more information about our tires.

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Tires Have Landed – Pre-Order Now!


We try to keep our products in stock. For us, bicycles are necessities, and their parts should be available at all times. So we are really sorry that some of our tires have been out of stock. We simply hadn’t planned on demand in Europe taking off as it has. And making tires by hand takes time, so we couldn’t just ask Panaracer in Japan to make more at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, our most popular sizes have been in stock all along.

We are glad to report that the NYK Nebula that carries the container with our latest tire shipment from Japan has docked in Tacoma. After unloading and customs’ clearance, the shipment will arrive at the Compass warehouse next week. Then, Compass tires will be in stock again in all sizes, including the new tubeless-compatible Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm.

Many customers have asked to be alerted when the tires arrive. We are now taking pre-orders, so that you can be among the very first to get your tires. Your credit card will be charged now, and your order will be shipped as soon as the tires arrive. At that time, you’ll receive a shipping confirmation, so you know your tires are on the way.
Or you can just wait until the tires are in our warehouse. We’ll make another announcement then.
Click here to order your Compass tires.

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Paul Components Interview

7 Questions with Jan Heine, of Bicycle Quarterly


We always enjoy to learn how others see Compass Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly. Paul Component Engineering has been making CNC-machined bike components in Chico, California for over 25 years. Like Compass, Paul focuses on quality, craftsmanship and making parts that last a lifetime.

Paul’s monthly email newsletters show how their components are made, provide stories of rides and events, and interview leaders in the bike industry. Past interviews have included Steve Rex, Curt Inglis, Mark Norstad (Paragon Machine Works), Ira Ryan and others. When Paul Components asked to interview me, I was delighted to say yes. Some of the questions were quite unexpected. Here is the interview as it appeared in the Paul Components newsletter. Enjoy!

Paul has been a fan of Jan’s for a long time, especially after discovering a shared interest in vintage sports cars and, of course, vintage bikes.

Bicycle Quarterly has great photography, it’s never dumbed down, and that’s one of the main reasons people like Paul love it – because it’s smart.

Because Jan gives scientific explanations as to why something works or doesn’t work. It’s a slightly more serious, more technical publication, a niche much appreciated and needed. You learn things from reading Jan.
So we want to learn a few things about him:

1. Your original magazine was Vintage Bicycle Quarterly – Where did the idea come from for starting that magazine?
I wrote for a bunch of other magazines back then as a hobby – Bicycle Trader, On The Wheel, Rivendell Reader. One by one, they stopped publishing, but I had all those amazing stories about French cyclotourists, builders and their bikes. I wanted to share them, so I decided to put together a little newsletter for a few friends. Grant Petersen published a note underneath my article in his Reader, and I had 150 subscribers before I even had put the first word to paper. I realized that a xeroxed newsletter wouldn’t do, so I took the plunge and made a real magazine. Over the last 15 years, it has grown steadily from there – we now have more than 15,000 readers all over the world.
2. One of your biggest campaigns was that skinny, high pressure tires don’t roll any faster than a fatter low pressure tires. How does it feel to be vindicated on this?
It feels good that so many people enjoy their rides more, because they don’t have to choose between comfort and performance any longer. The latest “Allroad” bikes we test for Bicycle Quarterly are so much fun to ride, because they can go on any road – paved, gravel and even single-track – without giving up anything in speed to a classic racing bike with narrow tires. This has changed how we ride, and it’s gratifying to share this experience with cyclists all over the world.
3. Tell us a little about the progression from writing about bikes to actually producing and selling products? What inspired you to take that leap?
It’s easy to be a critic, much harder to do things better. I love riding bikes, so instead of bemoaning that the parts I wanted to use weren’t available, I decided to make them – starting with supple high-performance tires in useful widths, and continuing with handlebars, cranks, racks and other parts. Each product we sell or import starts with our own riding experience, where we ask: “Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a part like this?” And then we make prototypes, test them, modify them, and finally OK a new component for production.
4. Did you come from a publishing background and then acquire the business acumen later or was it the other way around?
Actually, I came from a science background. For my Ph.D., I studied climate change on a fellowship from NASA. And I have always loved riding bikes. So it was natural to do real scientific studies of how to make better bikes for the type of riding I love. I really don’t know much about business. Compass just makes the parts that we need for our own adventures, and we hope that others want them as well. We make them to the highest quality possible, rather than to a pre-determined price. That is our entire business plan, and so far, it’s worked out OK.
I also know very little about publishing, so I started a magazine that is financed by subscribers rather than advertisers. Everybody says that is the wrong way around, but it is liberating not to worry about advertisers when writing articles or doing research. We did our first tire tests during the Lance Armstrong years. I doubt a mainstream magazine could have asked the question whether wider tires roll as fast as narrow ones, when the bike industry was pushing narrow-tire racing bikes.
5. Where did your love of vintage bikes come from and was it a tough move to move into more contemporary bikes?
I love riding bikes. That is really what has inspired all my work. I love the stories and photos of riders on lonesome gravel roads high in the mountains more than vintage bikes that you also see in these photos. Even our best-selling book about the French constructeurs – The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles – is really about the stories that these bikes tell, and not so much about the bikes and their components.
These stories have inspired us to seek out old gravel roads in the Cascades, and we’ve found that sometimes, classic components work better for this type of riding than new ones. That is how I came to discuss centerpull brakes with Paul, which led to the development of the Paul Racer… Or we discovered that certain classic handlebar shapes work much better for long rides, so Compass offers them again.
Now that modern bikes once again are suitable for the type of riding I love, it’s natural that you see them in Bicycle Quarterly more. It’s not about modern or classic – what I want is a bike that beckons me to seek out little mountain roads that lead into adventure.
6. You’re a lover of vintage sports cars – have you worked in that field at all? Do you currently restore old cars or have other project on the burner in that area?
My love for cars is almost entirely platonic. I admire the beauty and creative engineering solutions of many great old cars. A friend is restoring an amazing 1940s Cisitalia that is made from bicycle tubes – the first car with a spaceframe, which revolutionized race car construction. I have a similar appreciation for steam locomotives, but owning one of those would be even less practical than owning a classic car. For photoshoots and book projects, I do get to work on classic bikes. I love the machines made by the great French constructeurs: René Herse, Alex Singer, Jo Routens, Daudon. They have taught me a lot about bicycles, and especially that the current way of doing things may not always be the best!
7. On a scale of 1-10, how afraid of the dark are you?
Zero. I love the dark. I love riding my bike across the mountains during full moon nights. Sometimes, I turn off my headlight and ride by the moonlight alone. I am a great fan of the night-time photography of Ansel Adams, Winston Link and Jim Shaughnessy (the latter two photographed steam railroads).

Further reading:

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Video: Testing the Open U.P.

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Bicycle Quarterly took the Open U.P. to Odarumi, one of the highest passes in Japan. How does a carbon bike for wide tires handle the 2000 m (6600 ft) paved climb? And how does it do on the challenging gravel descent? We made a little video to take you right into the action. Join Bicycle Quarterly in this amazing adventure!
Click on the image above or watch at this link. Make sure you watch it full-screen!
Subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly and receive the Spring issue (BQ 59) with the full story of this adventure!

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Visiting C.S. Hirose


A highlight of my trips to Japan is visiting Cycle Store Hirose. It’s a truly special place.

I enjoy talking about bikes with Mr. Hirose. His knowledge is deep, and his ideas and thoughts never cease to surprise me. This time, I was proud to show him the Compass decaleur that licenses Hirose’s locking mechanism. He had seen prototypes before, but this was the first time that he saw the final production version. I was glad that he approved of the decaleurs.

My Japanese still is very limited, but fortunately, Natsuko and our friend Meisei are becoming expert translators! Meisei’s new bike was almost finished, and we took it outside to admire it. Mr. Hirose is much more than a framebuilder – there aren’t many parts on the bike that he didn’t make or modify in some way.

Meisei’s bike is equipped with Hirose’s own desmodromic rear derailleur. Inspired by the classic French Cyclo, it’s entirely hand-made and shifts very smoothly. Mr. Hirose is proud that the latest version is 10-speed compatible, but Meisei opted for just 8 cogs on the rear cassette.

Mr. Hirose also makes his own front derailleurs. The cages are custom-shaped for each rider, depending on how they pedal and shift. That is one reason why Hirose wants to meet each customer and see them ride before designing their bikes.

Meisei’s new machine is a beautiful bike, and I could have spent much time admiring it. The winter sun bathed the bike in a golden light, but the cold of this Tokyo winter day drove us back inside.

The shop is crammed with Hirose’s bikes, old and new. There are classic machines that he made decades ago, as well as brand-new customer bikes waiting to be picked up. Each is special in some way. Mr. Hirose loves to develop new solutions for old problems.

He prefers to equip his bikes with centerpull brakes. Many mountain roads in Japan are incredibly steep, which can tax the brakes of  tandem. Mr. Hirose has found a solution: old mountain bike U-brakes really are very beefy centerpulls!
Mr. Hirose attaches the front rack to the brake pivots for a fully integrated solution. This leads to an interesting juxtaposition of slender steel tubes and massive brakes, but most of all, I am sure the brakes perform well.

During every visit to the shop, I have admired this yellow bike. Now I finally realized why it seemed so familiar. I had seen a sister bike, almost identical except the color, in the very first book about Japanese custom bicycles that I had bought from a friend many years ago. The grainy B&W photos had impressed me very much back then. It was the first time I saw centerpull brakes with brazed-on pivots, custom stems and many other details. Unable to read the descriptions, I did not realize that the derailleurs also were custom-made, rather than just old French components.
But they are, and so are the shift levers. I love the simple, but elegant lugs on this machine, and for a moment, I thought of painting my Mule in the same yellow. Unfortunately, I don’t think my large frame would look as good in this bright color as this much smaller bike.

Koushou Kinugawa (of Helavna Cycles) joined us, and we discussed the next bike in the queue, built around Compass Naches Pass 26″ x 1.8″ tires.

Mr. Hirose showed us the new gauge labeled “343”. He uses these gauges to check the spacing of the bridges and fork crown from the axle center to make sure the fenders will fit perfectly. The many gauges show the great variety of bikes Mr. Hirose has built – each represent a tire and wheel size!

Time passed quickly, and suddenly, it was time to go. I love visiting great builders – there is so much to discover and learn.
Further reading:

  • Cycle Store Hirose was featured in Bicycle Quarterly 53. The issue also included a test of a Hirose Mini-Velo.
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Reducing Our Environmental Impact

GravelHelens
You may have seen the headlines that global temperatures have hit record highs each of the last three years. There is little doubt that global climate change is real and accelerating. The signs have been there for decades: When I worked in the Cascade Mountains on my Ph.D. in geology, I noticed how much smaller the glaciers in the Cascades were than shown on topographic maps – which had been created in the late 1950s.
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For my Ph.D., I studied past climate changes, so I know that the science is complex, but it should be obvious that burning all the carbon, which was stored inside the earth over hundreds of millions of years, is not a good idea. So what should we do about it? In the absence of a coordinated response, we each can reduce our “carbon footprint” as much as possible. That is what we’ve done at Compass and Bicycle Quarterly. Here are a few things we do to minimize our emissions:

  • Shipping to our customers: Probably our greatest environmental impact is shipping Compass products to our customers. Over the last year, we switched from Priority Mail to FedEx Ground as our preferred shipper – from airplanes to more fuel-efficient trucks or trains. When you place an order anywhere, it’s worth thinking about: “Next Day” sounds tempting, but “Ground” creates much less carbon emissions.
  • Shipping products from our suppliers: We choose ocean shipping whenever possible. It requires planning ahead, but it’s also less expensive, which allows us to keep our products affordable.
  • Durable products: Manufacturing things inevitably creates emissions. We make products that last a very long time, which spreads the impact over more miles and more years of use. Our customers buy fewer products and enjoy them longer, which reduces the emissions.
  • Careful design and manufacturing: A significant portion of products never leave the factories, because the design is flawed or they get rejected by quality control. We carefully design our products and work with the best manufacturers to reduce this type of waste (and the associate emissions) to an absolute minimum.
  • Office/warehouse: 80% of our employees commute by bike or bus. We turn down the thermostat in our office and warehouse to reduce our emissions further.
  • Travel: For many of us, airplane trips represent the biggest carbon emissions. For each passenger mile, airplanes consume as much fuel as a small car with two occupants, but airplanes fly over huge distances. At Compass, we combine trips as much as possible. We fly to Japan or France not only to visit our suppliers, but also work on Bicycle Quarterly features and to visit family and friends. We try to take fewer, longer trips rather than fly all over the world multiple times. When traveling in the U.S. (and not riding our bikes), we take the train when possible, such as during our recent trip to San Francisco. Trains not only generate the least emissions, but they also are a much more relaxing way to travel.
  • Ride from home: Whenever possible, we start our bike rides at our back door. For us, there is no need to start up a car when we just want to ride our bikes. With bikes that are fully equipped for riding long distances, the “ride to the ride” is part warm-up, part meditation and part anticipation.

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As cyclists who enjoy venturing off the beaten path, we love this world as much as anybody. We try to do our part to preserve the joys we know so well.

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Join Us at 'Stoked Spoke'

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Every year in Seattle, Swift Industries organizes the ‘Stoked Spoke’ series of presentations about cyclotouring trips. On January 18, I’ll talk about our ride across the Paso de Cortés in Mexico.
Hear the story behind the ride, discover the inspiration that had us pack up the bikes and head to Mexico, and finally, find out what it would take to ride this amazing route yourself. (Hint: It’s not as hard as it sounds.)
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I’ll show previously unpublished photos from the ride, and I’ll bring the Firefly that took me over the amazing variety of terrain on this route. I’ll see whether Hahn can attend and bring his bike, the Ex-Bontrager.
It’ll be fun to meet many readers and customers in person. Most of all, the ‘Stoked Spoke’ events are a great opportunity to meet cyclists who like venturing off the beaten path. If you are in Seattle (or had planned to visit soon), make sure you’ll attend this fun event!
When: January 18, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Rhino Room, 1535 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Cost: $5

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Bicycle Shop Gen

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In Bicycle Quarterly, we’ve featured a number of the great bicycle builders in Japan: TOEI, C.S. Hirose, Iribe and Level. We did a brief feature on Bicycle Shop Gen – one of my favorite shops anywhere in the world. This year, I had the opportunity to visit again.
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Bicycle Shop Gen is the passion of Genzo Yoshizawa (above). The shop is tiny – it occupies what used to be a single-car garage – yet it contains one of the most amazing collections.
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Inside, the shelves are overflowing with beautiful and rare components. Classic French headlights… Every model of the sought-after Ad-Hoc pumps… Derailleurs…
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Bicycle Shop Gen specializes in building up TOEI frames. On display are Mr. Yoshizawa’s eight TOEIs, each equipped with very special components.
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It’s difficult to photograph the shop, because it holds so much in such a limited space. I could look for hours and still discover new details. Some things are easy to notice, like the beautiful fork rake for which TOEI’s bikes are famous…
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… or the chainguard with the elegant cutout of the TOEI logo.
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Each bike is special and unique. This “Sports Model” has different lugs from the others. I like the pump peg that is brazed onto the lug.
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Aficionados will appreciate the super-rare mid-1970s first-generation Super Record derailleur. This was Campagnolo’s response to Huret’s superlight Jubilee derailleur. For the Super Record, Campagnolo used titanium bolts to save weight and black paint to update the optics a bit. Most importantly, this derailleur was the start of the Super Record groupset that became the dream of a whole generation of cyclists (myself included).
campa1_porta-catena
The TOEI even features the rare Porta Catena, a chainrest that allowed wheel changes without having to touch the chain. There is an interesting story behind this part: When Tullio Campagnolo bought two Nivex derailleurs from Alex Singer at the 1948 Salon du Cycle, they came with dropouts that incorporated a chainrest like this. The Nivex derailleur inspired the immortal Gran Sport – the first parallelogram derailleur for racing bikes. Today, all derailleurs trace their ancestry to the Gran Sport and the Nivex that guided its design.
What about the chainrest? I imagine that in the 1970s, somebody at Campagnolo found the dropouts with the chainrests in a drawer and decided that this was a neat idea…
Originally it was intended to be used with a 5-speed freewheel, but 6-speed spacing (the chain rest sits where the sixth cog usually goes). The craftsmen at TOEI went one better and mated it to a six-speed freewheel.
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The system came with a special shift lever that had a lock-out for the last position, so you didn’t accidentally shift onto the chainrest when you slammed the lever all the way forward for an all-out sprint.
The Porta Catena wasn’t a big success, but its importance for cycling history goes beyond its rarity value: Campagnolo’s chainrest looks exactly like the Nivex, and it corroborates Alex Singer’s story that the Nivex inspired Tullio Campagnolo when he developed the Gran Sport derailleur.
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In addition to the wonderful TOEI bikes, Bicycle Shop Gen has numerous classics on display, like this Lygie with Campagnolo’s Cambio Corsa shifter…
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…as well as Alex Singers (foreground) and René Herses (background). The bikes are in spotless condition, yet they all get ridden, because Mr. Yoshizawa is an avid cyclotourist. For me, that is the best part.
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If you are ever in Tokyo, Bicycle Shop Gen is definitely worth a visit. Their address is:
Nishigaoka 1−27−8, Kita-ku, Tokyo, Japan; Zip code: 115-0052. Their web site is in Japanese, but it includes a map. Make sure that they are open before you head their way – Mr. Yoshizawa’s hours are variable.
Thank you to Misao Takigawa for taking me to Bicycle Shop Gen.
Further reading:

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Follow Us on Instagram!

E346FDAA-AB97-40DC-B3AC-459B5B7B062D.jpgAt Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Cycles, we take thousands of photos on our rides big and small. Only a fraction make it into the magazine or onto our web site. Many of the others are just too precious to vanish into our archives. Instagram provides a great way to share them.
Most of all, I really enjoy Instagram. With each photo that pops up on my screen, I participate for a few seconds in somebody’s adventure. Some of these amazing rides go over familiar roads to Babyshoe Pass, Takhlakh Lake or Carbon River. Others are from places that I dream of visiting some day. Each is like a mini-story, and it brightens my day!
Join the fun and follow us on Instagram @compasscycle or www.instagram.com/compasscycle/

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Holiday Gift Guide

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Winter is a time when we think about our bikes. That way, when we are riding, we don’t have to think about our bikes. During the off-season, we overhaul parts to make them last another year. We switch components in search of comfort, performance or beauty. We then test the modifications during the early-season rides, make any necessary adjustments, and when the real adventures begin, our bikes are ready. Then we can focus on the ride. We may glance at our bikes leaning against a tree while we enjoy a picnic lunch, but they shouldn’t intrude into our cycling experience.
With the holidays approaching, many people ask us for gift ideas. Beyond the obvious, like a Bicycle Quarterly subscription (from $ 36) or one of our great books (from $ 35), a new component will remind us of the gift-giver every time we ride our bike. It’s much more personal than a gift card…
Back to those bike projects – they often fall into three categories:
Small changes to already great bikes
Through Bicycle Quarterly, I get to test some the best bikes in the world, but on most of them, there are three things that I would change immediately if they were mine.
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The gentle curves of Compass handlebars allow you to find the perfect position for your very individual anatomy. It’s hard to believe how much difference great handlebars can make, until you experience them. The new-found comfort will have you plot longer rides, exploring all the places that previously seemed out of reach. Compass offers different models, both with classic and modern oversized clamp diameters. From $ 115.
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You’ve probably heard it a thousand times now, but supple tires really are the biggest change you can make to your bike. Almost daily, we get e-mails from customers who tell us how their bikes have been transformed with a new set of Compass tires. Available in all-black and with the always-fashionable tan sidewalls. From $ 57.
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Most bikes have gearing designed for Tour de France sprints, yet few of us have a five-man lead-out team for that final rush to the line. As a result, we don’t use half the gears on our bikes, and we wish for smaller gears that we don’t have. A new crankset can customize your gear range exactly to your needs. Our René Herse cranks not only are beautiful, light and strong, they also offer an unmatched choice of chainrings between 52 and 24 teeth in singles, doubles and triples. From $ 435.
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Complete Make-Overs
Sometimes, your riding has changed, and so has what you need from your bike. Often, a favorite bike can be modified to do what you want to do. In the latest Bicycle Quarterly, we feature the “Frek”, an old Trek that Steve Frey modified into a full randonneur bike (above). Most projects don’t go that far, but it’s amazing what you can do to with a few simple, but highly functional, additions.
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Our M-13 racks attach to bikes with cantilever brakes. They make it easy to carry a handlebar bag. Now available with an integrated light mount (shown) or without, in two sizes for medium-width and wide tires. From $ 155.
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Generator lighting is the ultimate in convenience: Always on your bike and never out of batteries. The headlights we sell feature excellent optics and a broad, even beam pattern. Riding at night can be as much fun (and as safe) as riding during the day. From $ 68 (lights) and $ 249 (hubs).
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More and more riders use fenders, and for good reason. Often, the forecast predicts a “chance of rain”. Without fenders, we are reluctant to head out, only to regret our choice when the day remains dry. With fenders, we’ll go on our ride, and most of the time, it doesn’t rain. If it does, it’s only a minor nuisance, because we don’t get hit by spray from our wheels.
Aluminum fenders are lighter than the plastic alternatives and keep you drier, because the front fenders reach lower, and the rolled edges keep water from splashing onto your feet. When mounted properly, they will last for decades. We carry a good selection from Honjo, who make the world’s best and most beautiful fenders. From $ 136.
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Finishing touches
If you have a bike that works perfectly for you, congratulations! A few finishing touches might make it even more enjoyable.
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Nitto bottle cages aren’t just beautiful, but they also are superlight and hold your bottle more securely than most other cages. From $ 60.
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Small details like the René Herse straddle cable hangers can really make you enjoy looking at your bike much more. The smart design gives you a choice of a freely turning roller that re-centers your brakes automatically, or a fixed roller so you can set your straddle cable position – useful on brakes with uneven spring tension. $ 38.
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If you have a Gilles Berthoud handlebar bag, the new cell phone pocket is a useful addition. No longer do you need to dig through your bag for the phone every time you want to take a photo! The pocket attaches to the Velcro that holds the stiffener (which most riders remove anyhow). I’ve been using mine on every ride. $ 24.
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Finally, don’t forget the rider’s clothing. Compass knickers combine excellent performance with style. They’ve become the favorite wear of most riders who’ve tried them. $ 129.
I hope this has given you some ideas as you approach your bike projects this winter, and some gift ideas as well. Click on the images or links for more information about these components.
I plan to work on my bikes over the next month, so that they are ready when the new season starts. Because summer is too short for working on bikes!

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Our Man in France

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Compass components have found fans all over the world. We are shipping them as far as Brazil, South Africa and Singapore. Unfortunately, international shipping is expensive. And we really want to see our products in bike shops. So we are working with distributors to make our products more widely available.
Many of our customers live in Europe. We are excited to work with Jean-Philippe Ferreira (JP). His company, 2-11 Cycles, distributes Compass products to bike shops and also sells them directly to customers. And since France is part of the Euro zone, it’s easy to mail Compass products all over Europe.
When asked about the name, JP explained that it should be read: “To 11 Cycles”. In a reference to the movie Spinal Tap. With his company, he wants to distribute products that “take it to 11”.
2-11_booth
2-11 Cycles had a stand at the Concours de Machines technical trials this summer. For now, 2-11 Cycles sells Compass tires, select components like handlebars, Bicycle Quarterly back issues, and the French edition of our René Herse book.
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French builders have been embracing Compass components. No fewer than 9 out of 17 bikes competing in the technical trials were on Compass tires!
And the best shops in France now carry Compass components. Thank you, JP: We look forward to working with you for many years to come!
To find out more, visit the 2-11 Cycles web site or check them out on Facebook as “2-11 Cycles”.
We also are working to appoint other distributors in Europe. Many bike shops already order from Compass directly and carry our products. We appreciate that cyclists all over the world are excited about our components!

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Just Another Road!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY_9e-dB8M0?rel=0&w=640&h=360]
Here is a little video we made in Mexico during our trip to the Paso de Cortés. Compass doesn’t have the means to air it during the Superbowl, but we think you’ll enjoy it nonetheless. Click on the image above or watch at this link. Make sure you watch it full-screen!

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Rinko Systems: Ezy and Ezy Superior

 

We have discovered a compatibility issue with the different versions of MKS Rinko pedal. Please note that the SPD-compatible MKS US-S pedals (shown on left) use the “EZY” release system while the other MKS Rinko pedals we offer use the “EZY-Superior” release system (shown on right). Each system works equally well, but the two are not interchangeable. The new SPD-compatible pedals use the “EZY” system, because it allows for a thinner, lighter adapter.
Most customers use just one type of pedal on their bikes, so whether their pedals use the “EZY” or “EZY Superior” system makes little difference. However, if you plan to swap different pedals systems on the same bike, please not that you cannot swap the SPD-compatible pedals (EZY system) with the other MKS Rinko pedals (EZY Superior system) we sell.
We apologize for any confusion in our previous e-mail and blog entry.

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SPD-compatible Rinko Pedals

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The long-awaited SPD-compatible Rinko pedals from MKS have arrived. Now you can enjoy the convenience of SPD shoes and cleats, and yet remove your pedals in just seconds without tools.

Initially intended for Rinko (the Japanese system of disassembling bikes for train travel), MKS Rinko pedals have two parts. A stub attaches to the crank like a normal pedal. The actual pedal attaches to this with a fitting similar to an air hose. To attach or release the pedal, turn the outer ring and push it toward the crank.
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The ability to remove the pedals quickly and without tools (or dirty hands) is useful not only for packing bikes when you travel (above). It can help when the bike is stored in a narrow space.

With the MKS Rinko Adapters, you can even share the same set of pedals between different bikes. Right now, we have the “EZY Superior” adapters. In the future, we’ll offer the “EZY” version, too.
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MKS now offers Rinko pedals for all popular pedal systems. In addition to the new SPD-compatible pedals, there are Look-compatible and Time-compatible (above) pedals, as well as platform pedals.
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MKS makes pedals at many quality levels. Compass imports only the top-of-the-line models that feature silky-smooth cartridge bearings. You have to turn the spindles of these pedals in your hands – then you’ll understand how smooth bearings can be!
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With these pedals, you can enjoy visiting distant places, switching between bikes, trains, ships and airplanes, as a true cyclotourist.
Click here for more information about MKS pedals.

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Bicycle Flea Market

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Visiting Japan is fun, in part because I meet so many different cyclists. There are the cyclotourists, the randonneurs, the collectors…
Bicycle collecting as a hobby has a long tradition in Japan, and there are many events for collectors. The Keiokaku Bicycle Flea Market is one of them.
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It’s a popular event that is held on the grounds of a Keirin race track on a weekend when there are no races there. The selection on display is amazing.
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Looking for some rare JOS lights for your 1950s René Herse or Alex Singer? You’ll probably find them here.
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The first-generation Campagnolo Super Record derailleur was made only for a short time, so it’s ultra-rare. This one is brand-new, but with a twist: The date stamp on the body is incorrect. It appears that somebody found a few outer plates as spare parts and assembled these derailleurs. If you put it on a bike, few will notice, and the price is a bit more affordable than a genuine one.
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Much cheaper are these cable ties, used to tidy up the brake cables on traditional, non-aero brake levers. Here is how they work:
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“No tools needed” – they just fold over. Never heard of Sinad? Neither had I.
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Three generations of Dura-Ace cranks remind me of my early cycling years. That was a time when components still were getting more beautiful with every iteration. The oldest cranks are on the right, the classic 7400 model on the left, with the early 1990s one in the middle. These old gems don’t do the modern Shimano crank in the upper right corner any favors.
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The Campagnolo freewheel is one of the craziest bike components ever made. It was superlight, with everything made from aluminum. It came in a wooden case, with its own set of beautifully made tools. I’ve never taken one apart, but old mechanics told me that the bearings ran straight on aluminum surfaces, so it really was suitable only for special events, because it wore out so quickly. But what a gem!
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It was a time when everybody copied Campagnolo, so of course, the Dura-Ace freewheel cogs (made out of no-nonsense steel for durability) also came in a wooden case…
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… as did Regina’s Futura freewheels. These are neat in that the freewheel body was installed on the hub the normal way, but the cogs could be removed by hand, making it easy to swap ratios.
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And then you come across something totally unexpected, like this Mini-Mini-Velo that looks like it’s intended for a circus clown.
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The best part about these events is meeting old acquaintances and making new ones. It was nice to see Hiroshi Ichikawa, one of the foremost experts on Campagnolo, with whom I had written an article detailing the development of the first Campagnolo rear derailleur more than 10 years ago.
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It was also nice to meet Hideki Sasaki, whose illustrated catalogues of derailleur brands are a true labor of love. (We are currently working on an order from him – hurry if you want a copy of his books on Campagnolo, Simplex or Suntour.)
If you happen to be in Japan during the Keiokaku Flea Market (Spring and Autumn), it’s worth a visit!
Further information:

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It's a Hobby!

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It might be challenging to understand cycling enthusiasts when you aren’t one. We spend a lot of money on bikes, then spend a lot of time getting into shape, and then we go on rides to nowhere, and come home tired. After all this effort, we are back exactly where we started. We haven’t achieved anything. Except that we are happy.
Perhaps that is the definition of a hobby – something that isn’t necessarily useful, but that gives you satisfaction and makes you happy. For some cyclists, it’s hard to justify spending time and money on what is “just” a hobby. Shouldn’t we focus on more “important” things, like a new car or an addition to the house?
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It took me a while to realize that my “hobby” actually is among the most important things in my life. It struck me when I read about David Purley, a British refrigerator maker who raced his own Formula 1 team in the 1970s. When his car’s competitiveness flagged, he assembled his team and admonished them:
“For you, this may just be a job. But you have to understand: For me, it’s a hobby!”
Purley turned the normal priorities on their head. Shouldn’t a job be more important than a hobby? Yet Purley’s comment stuck with me. It’s about passion. Racing was Purley’s passion, and he was concerned that for his team, it was just a job, something where adequate performance was good enough.
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Our passions, whether it’s Formula 1 racing or cycling, are the things that define us. To me, they are the most important things in my life. That is why it’s so important to go out and ride with friends. I make it a priority, not something that I try to fit into a busy schedule as an afterthought. Because cycling is my passion.

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Join the Swift Campout

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Some of Bicycle Quarterly‘s favorite stories have been campouts – short camping trips into the mountains. We pack lightly and enjoy spirited rides, unrolling our sleeping bag or setting up a lightweight tent at the end of the day, before continuing the next morning on a loop that brings us home at the end of the day.
It’s a formula that doesn’t require a huge investment of time and money. For example, our ride to the end of the road at Carbon Glacier (above) took 24 hours start-to-finish. This year, Bicycle Quarterly is partnering with Swift Industries to sponsor the Swift Campout, which encourages riders all over the world to plan their own campouts on June 25-26, 2016. The rules are simple: Pick a great place and register (or just head out without a destination), ride your bike there, camp for the night, and then ride back.
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We look forward to hearing of all the great campouts that readers will enjoy. In the past, Campout riders have retraced our “Secret Pass” adventure that traversed the Cascades on long-forgotten mountain passes (above).
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This year, we’ve heard that some readers plan a cyclotouring ride over the Volcano-High-Pass route, inspired by our feature in the Spring 2016 Bicycle Quarterly. Our ride took four days, and every one was unforgettable, culminating in the discovery of Takhlakh Lake (above).
Whether it’s camping in a small RV park during a freezing night, and neighbors bringing you wood for a huge fire; reaching Carbon Glacier at midnight and washing off in the freezing river; or enjoying a canoe ride on Takhlakh Lake as the sun turns Mount Adams into ever-changing shades of orange – you’ll have these experiences only when you spend a night out in the wild. And that is the idea of the Swift Campout: Mark your calendar, perhaps gather a few friends, pack your bike with a few essentials, and have fun!
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This year’s Swift Campout is on the same day as the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting in Carson, WA, but that doesn’t represent a conflict at all – you can easily participate in both events, by making the Un-Meeting your Swift Campout! When you register for the Swift Campout, simply indicate the Un-Meeting as your destination. (The Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting doesn’t require registration – just show up!)
We hope you join the fun, wherever you go. And please tell us about it afterward! Click the links for more information:

Photo credits: Mark Vande Kamp (gravel), Andrew Squirrel (campfire).

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Tokyo Cycle Parts Show

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The first Tokyo Cycle Parts show was held last week. This trade show is open only to the bicycle industry, which allowed focused inquiry into products, and provided a good glimpse at what is happening in Japanese cycling.
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For me, it also provided a great opportunity to see acquaintances, such as Mr. Yoshikawa, the president of Nitto, and his son.
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Mr. Imi, the owner of Ostrich, was there, too. We discussed a few new product ideas, even though I usually visit the companies directly to discuss new projects with fewer distractions.
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Among the interesting new products were Ostrich’s bike stands. They raise the rear derailleur off the ground when the bike is disassembled for Rinko. The larger collapsible stand (bottom) has been available for a while, but the minimalist single-sided ones (in two lengths) are new. You can see a bike with the single-sided stand on the table in the photo of the Ostrich booth.
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Speaking of new products, Nitto showed their first carbon handlebars. Made in Japan, they are made to Nitto’s exacting quality standards. The track version (above) is painted Nitto blue. Sharp eyes will notice the width: just 380 mm. Japanese track racers prefer narrow bars, so they can exploit small gaps when they make their winning moves.
As impressive as these bars are, I don’t think a carbon fiber version of the Compass Randonneur handlebars is in our future plans.
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Another product is unlikely to make it into the Compass program: Nitto is making a seatpost-mounted Di2 battery system for Shimano.
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MKS showed their pedals, including the beautiful top-of-the-line ones that Compass sells.
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I finally got to see their new SPD pedal. More than a year ago, I’d seen drawings, then photos of prototypes. I am not so keen on the aesthetics, but the function is neat. The front retention mechanism is split, so you need to open only one side to release your foot, yet the shoe is held securely when you pedal. A Rinko version also will be available. And of course, the bearings are better than any other SPD pedal…
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Honjo had only a small table to show their lovely fenders. I think that is because they are plenty busy these days.
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From fenders to tires: Even in the mainstream, 650B no longer is purely for mountain bikes, and more companies offer road-oriented tread patterns. Vittoria’s new “Revolution” is 50 mm wide and looked promising at first. But the weight of 810 grams shows that there is a lot of rubber, and the description lists it as an “urban” tire. When will Vittoria finally offer their high-end racing tires in more sensible widths?
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IRC’s new 650B x 54 mm tire felt more promising when I pressed it between my fingers. No specs were available. We’ll try to get a test sample soon. Perhaps it’s a sign that the Enduro Allroad Bike idea is catching on.
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Soyo offers hand-made tubular tires that look very nice, but they are available only in narrow widths. And they carry a price tag of more than $ 200 for the best ones. Still, it’s nice to see that true handmade tires are still produced in Japan.
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At the other end of the spectrum, airless tires are alive and well. And they are as scary as ever!
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More encouraging: In Japan, you still can buy lugged production bikes with downtube shift levers and hammered fenders for less than $ 2000.
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Of course, carbon is big in the mainstream, and Scott had their own candy made to celebrate their claim that they are “carbon experts”.
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Contrasting with the carbon were the leather goods from a Japanese company. Their extra-thin handlebar tape looked interesting.
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When I started cycling seriously, Hoshi spokes were considered the best. Nice to see that they are still around, offering a wide variety of spokes, including the bladed ones that they pioneered long before they became fashionable.
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Another Japanese specialty are rain covers for child seats. It’s common to carry two children on your bike in any weather. This maker used cute inflatable figures to demonstrate their covers.
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Among the many things at the Minoura stand was this neat camera mount, which uses your bike to stabilize your camera. Lionel Brans had a similar mount on his custom bike when he rode from Paris to Saigon in 1947. As long as you don’t need your bike in the photo, it’s a neat idea.
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And then you have true oddballs, like these stickers to dress up your bike. Do you prefer your fenders with a houndstooth or a plaid pattern?
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The sun was setting when I finally left the exhibit. As I walked by the pagoda of the temple in Asakusa, I was reminded how Japan has a long tradition of making beautiful things. The best Japanese bicycle makers are rooted in that tradition, and that is why we enjoy working with them so much.

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Happy Holidays!

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I wish all our readers Happy Holidays! I’ve enjoyed all the interactions with readers. The technical discussions are stimulating, but most of all, it’s nice to read about so many people enjoying their bikes on great rides! Thank you all!
Photo credit: Fred Blasdel

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Price Reduction for International BQ Subscriptions

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Good news: We’ve found a less expensive way to send Bicycle Quarterly to our international subscribers! Our readership has grown so much that we are now able to access bulk mailing options. We are passing on that reduced mailing cost to our subscribers and have lowered our international subscription rates.
Click here for Bicycle Quarterly subscription rates.
 
If you subscribe now, your Winter issue of BQ will be included in our “mid-term” mailing between two issues, and you have a good chance to get your first BQ by the holidays.
For U.S. subscribers, we’ve made similar efforts to keep the subscription price low. Consider this: When Bicycle Quarterly first started 13 years ago as a slim 24-page black & white issue, the annual subscription price was $ 32. Today you get full-color, 90-to-100-page magazines for just $ 36.
Click here for information about Bicycle Quarterly subscriptions.

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Thankful for Family and Friends

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On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my family and friends who have helped me so much over the past two weeks, since my accident in Taiwan. I am spending the holidays with my parents, who came to Seattle from Germany to take care of me. (The photo shows me with my mother during our Thanksgiving Day walk.)
I have much to be grateful for. I suffered only relatively minor injuries, considering that I flew head-first at 30 km/h (18 mph) into the side of a car that turned suddenly in front of me. Just as importantly, the healing process has been going well. I no longer need to wear my neck brace, since my broken vertebra will heal on its own. 28 stitches were removed from my ear – the Taiwanese doctors (plastic surgeons?) did an awesome job stitching my ear back together. My hearing is not affected, and scarring should be minimal. My concussion is clearing up nicely, without memory loss or other issues associated with head trauma, but I will still need to be very careful in coming months to not have a second impact while this one is still healing.
The bandages on the incision where my clavicle was bolted together came off the day before Thanksgiving. It’s healing well. I have to keep my left arm in a sling (broken scapula), and limit the movement of my right arm (also broken), but otherwise, I am fine. My broken ribs are healing well. Soon, I’ll be able to cough without much pain. (Fortunately, a relapse of a cold I had before the accident was narrowly averted.) I even can type with 10 fingers…
I am thankful that the road to recovery has been smooth so far. Through all this, I was supported by wonderful family and friends: Stefan who accompanied me through various hospitals in Taiwan; Natsuko who came from Tokyo to take me back to Seattle and support me through my hospital stay; Hahn who organized my surgery here in Seattle and helped in many ways; my parents who came from Germany to take over my care.
Seeing their concerns and smiles kept my morale up even when things were difficult. I owe them much, and I am grateful for everything they did and do for me. Thank you!
Photo credit: Klaus Heine
 

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Gift Ideas from Compass Bicycles


It’s that time of year, with the holidays fast approaching, when many relatives and friends wonder what to give to their favorite cyclist. Here are some great gift ideas you can use, or forward them to anybody who asks: “What would you like?”


For The Allroad Cyclist
The Allroad Cyclist is an inveterate randonneur, a gravel-seeker, an adventurer. They are the rider in your life who collects unknown roads and always goes the distance. For this person, nothing beats the highest quality gear, no doubt destined to be put to the test in all conditions.
ClotWlLsLxBicycle Quarterly wool jerseys are distinctive and comfortable. The long sleeve version will keep your cyclist cozy in the winter and the extralight short sleeve version is perfect for hot summer days.
 
 
Tire650x48CmSX_1504-300x300Wide and supple Compass tires to take on all conditions for bikes with 26″, 650B, or 700C wheels. The Allroad Cyclist will appreciate the speed and comfort on pavement, dirt, and gravel roads.
 


For The Traveler
The Traveler is always on the go, seeking adventure in new places, and riding the world over. For this person, packing and unpacking a bike for travel is a recurring chore, one which could be much more fun with the right tools.
Ostrich frame pads were designed for Rinko, but work well with a wide variety of packing systems. Whether your cyclist uses a coupled bike, rinko, or a large bike bag, these are the prefect pads to protect their bike's finish.
Ostrich frame pads were designed for Rinko, but they work well for all packing system. They’re thin enough to carry on the bike once you reach your destination.
 
 

BQ54_cover_sqBicycle Quarterly — our ride stories inspire you to seek out new destinations and our technical articles show how to make a bike that’s easy to pack for travel.

 
 

PedlMkUSBRi_1598-300x300MKS Rinko Pedals use a special quick release system, so you can quickly remove the pedal without tools. They also feature the best bearings of all pedals today. Also available in non-Rinko versions.

 


For The Reading Cyclist
Be inspired by the passion of those who came before us!
BookBQRHEnCoverRead about the passion of great rides, wonderful friendships, and beautiful bikes. René Herse, “the magician of Levallois”, made more than just incredible bikes, he was at the center of a world where cycling was not a mere pastime but a way of life. Hundreds of action photos from the René Herse archives bring this incredible story to life.

BookBQGAEn1-300x300The book that inspired the current trend towards real-world bicycles: admire 50 bicycles that are works of art, but also designed to be ridden hard. Learn the stories of their builders and riders and be inspired by the passion that created them.

 

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Paul Fournel does not talk about bikes, he talks about why we ride bikes. He describes the sights, sounds and smells he encounters while riding, and the secrets of cycling: “To descend well, you’ve got to have an excellent knowledge of the road – a kind of complicity with the engineers who built it, an instinctive and rapid grasp of the terrain. Every road is a design, and every descent is a design within a design.”


For The Touring Cyclist

For this cyclist, the journey is as important as the destination. And the destination is often far.
HBarCpRand_1496-300x300Compass Randonneur handlebars provide unmatched comfort  with curves that support multiple hand positions. These are our favorites for long-distance riding.
 
 
bags_gb25_blue_front-300x300Berthoud handlebar bags are a beautiful, classic way to carry your gear. Easily accessible while riding. Waterproof. Develop wonderful patina over decades of use. Make sure your cyclist’s bike is equipped to carry a handlebar bag.
 
 
Compass-Bicycles_2036-copy1-210x210Compass Knickers ensure that you’re well-dressed both on and off the bike. On the bike they disappear, off the bike you’ll be one of the more stylish people at any restaurant, pub, or evening stroll.
 


For The Spirited Cyclist
Spirited Cyclists enjoy le goût de l’effort – a taste for effort – and like to push their limits. Fast tires, smooth pedals, cranks with perfect gearing all make sure that their bikes are spinning along as smoothly as possible.
PedlMkRX1_1584-300x300MKS RX-1 pedals have the best bearings of all pedals ever made. Hand-adjusted to NJS-approved precision, these beautiful pedals will keep spinning year after year.
 
 
René Herse cranks are not only beautiful, they’re highly functional. Your cyclist can customize their gearing with any combination of chainrings. Available in single, double, and triple configurations as well as double and triple for tandems.

 
Tire700x28CmBSX_1797-210x210Compass Extralight tires make your bike hum over every road surface. Superior speed and unmatched comfort make every ride an event. Available in many sizes, including 700C x 26 mm, 700C x 28 mm, and 700C x 32 mm.
 


For Every Cyclist
There are some gifts that every cyclist can appreciate. Choose a book full of inspiring stories, open their mind to new ideas and adventures with a subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, or let them choose the perfect thing for themselves.
 
cage_nitto_r80-300x300Nitto Bottle Cages are functional works of art. They hold your bottle securely, look beautiful, and last a long time.  For a complete gift, combine with a Compass water bottle.
 
 
 
BQ_sub_giftBicycle Quarterly is an inspirational magazine with ride stories, technical articles, and product tests. Gravel riding, randonneuring, light-weight touring — the topics we discuss have shaped the direction of cycling culture.
 
 
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For the hard-to-please cyclist, a Compass gift certificate allows them to choose from our great program of components, books, and clothing.

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Charlie Cunningham Needs Our Help

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Of all the people I have interviewed for Bicycle Quarterly, Charlie Cunningham was perhaps the most fascinating. We talked for hours about a great variety of bike-related topics. I am particularly fascinated by his various brake designs – we both prefer brakes with posts next to the fork crown. (Since then, even Shimano has adopted that technology.)
The hardest part for me was distilling our several hours of conversation into a BQ article. It still ended up 14 pages long, but I am proud to think we managed to explain how Charlie’s “Toggle Cam” and “Lever Link” brakes actually work. Charlie exemplifies the “mad inventor” for me – a guy with scant regard for convention, but who is right more often than not.
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The same issue (BQ 29) also included a long interview with Charlie’s partner, the incomparable Jacquie Phelan. Together, they make one of mountain biking’s most amazing and inspirational couple.
So you can imagine how sad I was when Jacquie told me recently that Charlie had a bike accident with multiple broken bones. Worse, a head injury manifested itself six weeks later, requiring emergency brain surgery. Charlie is a tough guy, and it appears that he is recovering, albeit slowly.
We want to help get the word out that there is a fund drive to raise money to help cover mounting expenses, especially in the face of what looks like a long recovery. One of their friends has set up a relief fund. Please donate at https://www.gofundme.com/w85tn3dg

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A Visit to Ben Le Batard

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While I was in Paris after this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, I visited Ben Le Batard, who runs a machine and fabrication shop. He specializes in motorbikes and bicycles. The bicycle portion of his shop is run by Daniel Hanart, perhaps best known for building Jeannie Longo’s hour record bike, as well as some of the bikes of the Confrérie des 650.
Le Batard bicycles are unique creations. The bike above is a time trial bike with an aluminum frame, which reputedly has won numerous French championships. According to Monsieur Le Batard, polishing the frame alone took more than 9 hours.
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The entire bike is an amazing piece of fabrication. The custom-made stem-cum-aerobar combo was inspired by René Herse’s stems…
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Here is another Le Batard creation. This one is unorthodox in the British tradition – the goal is to keep the chainstays short and stiff for optimum performance. I’d love to test one!
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Outside, we saw a customer’s bike, which featured many neat details. The integrated headset cups remind me of 1950s Bianchis, except here they house easily replaceable cartridge bearings. The internal brake cable routing also is quite elegantly done.
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Among the personal bikes of Monsieur Le Batard was this magnificent track bike, built for 6-day racing, and completely original, left untouched since it had last been raced.
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Even though it was labeled “Terrot”, it was quite obvious that the frame was made by Bianco, who built the frames for many professional racers at the time. Bianco only delivered bare frames, which then were painted in the colors of the racer’s sponsors. So there are no “Bianco” decals, and yet anybody with a little knowledge can easily tell a Bianco by many of the details, as well as the superb workmanship.
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From the sublime to the (slightly) ridiculous: a Honda Monkey mini-motorbike. I actually kind of like it. At the very least, I’d love to try one.
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Custom motorcycles, hour record bikes and now also some classic randonneur machines – it’s an fascinating mix that speaks highly of Messieurs Hanart and Le Batard’s abilities. It was a fun visit! Merci beaucoup, also to Ivan Souverain, who introduced me to this unique shop.

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$ 5: Add Bicycle Quarterly to Your Order

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We often hear from new subscribers: “If I had known how much I like the magazine, I would have subscribed years ago!”
Now it’s easier to give Bicycle Quarterly a try: you can add the current issue to your Compass Bicycles Ltd. on-line order for just $ 5 at www.compasscycle.com.
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Whether you are a new reader or want an additional copy to give to a friend, it’s an easy way to enjoy our inspiring adventures, detailed bike tests and gorgeous photography…
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… our in-depth reports from the greatest builders…
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… and our great features from cycling’s glorious past.
Look for this special offer on the check out page of your Compass Bicycles order. We’ll either include the magazine in your package or, if it doesn’t fit, send it with our next regular mailing.

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Visiting a Bicycle Mega-Store

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During a pre-PBP visit to Germany, I had the opportunity to visit one of the largest bike shops in the region. Germany is the country with the most bicycle sales in Europe… and it shows. This shop is more like a supermarket. It’s huge. There are four cash registers to take care of all the sales.
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There is a vast selection of, well, almost everything a casual cyclist needs. Helmets, bike shorts and jerseys, bells, racks… It was impressive.
When I was a teenager, I went to this shop to buy my first Silca pump, my first hairnet helmet, and they even had a 50-tooth Campagnolo chainring for my sister’s bike. (I bought it to replace the 53-tooth that came with her bike.)
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The store’s size has increased many-fold. I saw rows upon rows of racing bikes. Upon further inspection, all still had 700C x 23 mm tires. There were no gravel bikes. No wool clothing. It felt like I had traveled five years back in time…
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Finally, in the very back of the shop, I found three cyclocross bikes. They seemed banished to the far corner, even though cyclocross season is right around the corner. Then I remembered that cyclocross isn’t popular in Germany (yet)…
I am confident that when I return in a year or two, all this will have changed. Already, as I was leaving, I saw that employees were putting a gravel bike prominently on display. And when I was interviewed by a German radio show about cycling, the interviewer asked about wide tires, 650B, Allroad bikes… Experts are aware of these trends, but they haven’t made it into mainstream bike shops yet.
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In recent years, many important trends – like handbuilt bicycles, wider tires on road bikes, gravel riding, wool clothing – originated in North America, and then slowly made their way to Europe and the rest of the world. It used to be the other way around… but today, cyclists all over the world are looking to North America for inspiration. We’ll keep trying to do our part to make sure the new trends are positive and improve the enjoyment of cycling!

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Customer Newsletter

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Along with our updated website, Compass Bicycles updated its customer newsletter. We use it to announce things like new items, products that are back in stock, and other noteworthy news. It’s the best way to stay updated on what is going on at Compass. Our newsletter frequency is once every 1 or 2 weeks, so we won’t clutter your inbox. We try to keep the newsletter interesting and a bit different from this blog or Bicycle Quarterly magazine.
Even if you haven’t bought anything from Compass yet, you can sign up for the newsletter here. It’s easy, and you can always unsubscribe, either by clicking on a link at the bottom of the newsletter, or at the same link.

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400 km Brevet Video


Theo is the ride organizer of an upcoming Seattle International Randonneurs 400 km brevet. So a week ago, Theo, Hahn and Ryan of the Bicycle Quarterly team pre-rode the course, to make sure that the cue sheet is correct, that roads are open, and to get a general feel for the ride. Are the controls easy to find? Are the stores open at the times required, or is there a need of an “informational” control for some riders who may come through at night? Are there long stretches without “services”? All those questions are best answered by doing the ride a week ahead of the official ride. The “pre-ride” also allows the organizers to do the ride and get credit, for example, to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris.
Ryan mounted his GoPro camera on his bike for this ride and edited the footage into a lovely 6-minute video. It gives a great feel of one of these rides, in the company of friends. You see the three taking pulls in a paceline, getting into the aero tuck on downhills, riding through the night, and indulging in a hearty breakfast. Click on the image above and enjoy!

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Hanging Edelux II Headlights

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When the new Edelux II headlights came out a little over a year ago, they were another big step forward in lighting technology. Compared to the first Edelux, the new version features a much wider and more evenly lit beam. Compared to older halogen headlights, the difference is night and day. (Sorry for the pun.)
At first, the Edelux II was available only for “standing” attachments. This works well if you mount your light on the fork crown or with a rack designed for such a light (like the Compass CP1 rack), but if you prefer to mount your light under the handlebars or on a custom rack, the hanging attachments has several advantages.
It took a while to redesign the Edelux II for hanging attachment, but we are glad to report that the first production samples have arrived. There are two versions:
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The first features the standard on/off switch, the standard co-axial wire and a second connector for a taillight. The taillight connector is different from the standing Edelux, in that it uses a screw that attaches a connector, rather than a plug-in connector (see photo below).  The screw makes sure no water can enter through the connector. (The screw should always be installed, even if no taillight is attached.)
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The second version is intended for bikes with separate light switches. This version has no switch, no wire and only a screw connector to attach the wire from the generator hub. (Both versions have the “Ground” connected to the light’s housing.)
 
At first, I was surprised that there wasn’t a single-strand wire as on the previous hanging Edelux lights, but I now realize the connector is better: Since most custom bikes will use wiring that runs inside the fork blades, fenders and/or rack tubes, having a screw connector allows you to remove the light without disturbing the wires.
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The hanging Edelux II does not have a light sensor – if you use a handlebar bag, the bag shades the light, and the sensor always would turn the light on. Otherwise, they are functionally identical to the standing versions.
I am looking forward to installing these lights on my next bike. We now have a very limited quantity in stock. More will arrive, but we don’t know when. Eventually, they will become regular products in the Compass Bicycles line.
For a photo of this light installed on a bike, see Anton Tutter’s photos.
Click here for more information or to order.

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