Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Guide

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Finishing touches
If you have a bike that works perfectly for you, congratulations! A few finishing touches might make it even more enjoyable.
Nitto bottle cages aren’t just beautiful, but they also are superlight and hold your bottle more securely than most other cages. From $ 60.
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.
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.
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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Comments (22)

  • Bob C

    The cell phone pocket is cool!
    I made on like this about a year ago, but added a sleeve for a pen and my wallet too, so that I could find them easily. My keychain holder is behind it. I made it out of Martexin waxed cotton — but naturally not as nicely finished as the Berthoud! It’s quite handy to have a little more internal organization in the Berthoud bags.
    Here’s a link to mine on Instagram:

    December 5, 2016 at 11:29 pm
  • Jason

    I don’t understand why Compass keeps pushing these aluminum fenders — especially for off-road riding (through sticks, etc.) they are very dangerous, to say the least. The SKS fenders, for example, have struts which provide a quick release in case a stick gets tangled up in the wheel. Without struts like these one runs the risk of a serious accident, even with enough clearance between fender and tire. I know because I’ve seen this happen.
    Perhaps Compass should develop struts for aluminum fenders along the lines of the SKS fenders. Otherwise, I for one would never run aluminum fenders on a bike intended for anything but strictly road riding. I feel that Compass should also state this risk when selling their fenders. Anything less is — to put it mildly — irresponsible.

    December 5, 2016 at 11:35 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Those are strong words, but I understand your concern. Collapsing bicycle fenders have caused many accidents. I have several friends who’ve broken bones. However, in all but one case, these were plastic fenders. The one aluminum fender that collapsed was a narrow (and thus less stiff) model, mounted with insufficient clearances.
      Really, the situation is the other way around: Plastic fenders are flexible and inherently unsafe. If you pick up a stone that doesn’t roll through the fender, the fender will collapse, wedge into the fork crown, and send you over the bars. Different solutions have been tried to mitigate that danger. First, many British builders placed the front fender eyelets further up the fork blade, so the fender opens rather than closes when it collapses. The break-away hardware is the latest attempt to find a band-aid for this problem that is inherent in plastic fenders.
      We’ve researched fender safety extensively, because we share your concern. In fact, there was a detailed article in Bicycle Quarterly 49. I interviewed all the old randonneurs I know in France. Combined, they have ridden millions of miles on aluminum fenders. None could recall an accident due to a collapsing fender. Simply put, when installed with sufficient clearances, small objects pass through the fender. Large objects will not be picked up with enough force to collapse a stiff aluminum fender. Obviously, the stiffer the fender, the safer it is. That is why we prefer wider fenders and models that wrap around the tire more, like the Honjos we sell.
      Motorcycles have even bigger and stiffer fenders. They don’t use break-away hardware, yet I’ve never heard of a motorcycle fender collapsing and causing an accident. Perhaps it has happened, but it’s so rare that it’s not a concern, unlike the scores of accidents with plastic bicycle fenders, which continue to occur. Break-away hardware has greatly reduced, but not eliminated, these accidents that are caused by the inherent lack of stiffness of plastic bicycle fenders.

      December 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm
      • Johannes

        I cannot follow your thoughts, Jan. How shall the fenders material affect lifting a stick?
        I had two crashes with metal fenders (inox and aluminium) in one or two years (no injuries), caused by little sticks. But no one with plastics, which I use for more than twentyfive years now, almost zero clearance. Stones under them scratch terrible, yes, but they don’t collapse them, be there quick releases or not.

        December 7, 2016 at 3:38 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Sorry for the misunderstanding. It’s the fender clearance that matters. Small objects, like stones, get picked up with great force, because they are so light (and easy to pick up). You want those to go through the fender without touching. Larger objects, like big sticks, are too heavy to be accelerated to the speed of the tire, so they don’t come with the same force. Those will hit the fender, but if the fender is stiff enough, it won’t collapse. With properly mounted fenders, I almost never get the scratching noise of a stone rolling through the fender (less than once a year), even though I ride thousands of miles on gravel roads every year.
          I am sorry to hear about your fender crashes. The noise of stones rolling through fenders is a clear sign that fender clearances are insufficient. It’s too bad that many bikes intended for fenders aren’t really designed for sufficient clearances.

          December 7, 2016 at 7:42 am
      • Jason

        hi jan
        thanks for your detailed reply. however, my personal experience — regardless of how many articles i might read on the matter — would never lead me to use metal fenders or to recommend them to anyone else who didn’t have anything but road riding in mind. and i feel that photos like the one of yourself above riding through sticks sends the wrong message to people about what these fenders are capable of.

        December 7, 2016 at 10:15 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Jason, I see your point, but I can assure you that I am a very careful guy, and I wouldn’t ride a bike that isn’t safe.
          In fact, I once took a fender off on a bike that wasn’t mine – mid-ride and in the rain. It was a plastic fender with a single strut – I think it was made by Planet Bike, but not sure. It flexed so much that it touched the tire when going over bumps. I prefer getting wet over risking an accident.
          On my own bikes, I’ve ridden tens of thousands of miles on gravel roads with zero problems. And so have many others.

          December 7, 2016 at 11:51 am
  • Robert Cochran

    Do you have installation videos for the hardware items?

    December 6, 2016 at 5:37 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We don’t have installation videos at this point. Where installation is difficult, we include detailed instructions with our products.

      December 7, 2016 at 8:00 am
  • Jim

    Just a year ago I discovered BQ now I’m riding on Baby Shoe tires, my bike is equipped with front load racks and I have been seen riding in Compass Knickers. 2017 I will try my hand at Randoneuring so thank you for the inspiration and broadening my cycling life. Happy Holidays Jim

    December 6, 2016 at 9:06 am
  • Tom

    I too had fender concerns, after seeing some scary online photos of crumpled fenders which most certainly sent the riders flying, probably to the ER. So I ordered back issues of Bicycle Quarterly #49 as Jan referenced above, along with issue #34 from 2010 which has Peter Weigle’s excellent fender installation suggestions. If these guidelines are followed, which is difficult with older bikes and wider tires, your safety is greatly enhanced. I particularly liked the suggestion of even stiffer stainless steel fenders, which may resist crumpling a bit more, although selection is limited. Both back issues are must reads for anyone with fender safety concerns, or if you just want to know how to install them properly and beautifully like the French fender master himself, without a 100 excess leather washers.

    December 7, 2016 at 5:24 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We include Peter Weigle’s article from BQ 34 with every fender ordered from Compass, to give our customers the information they need to install their fenders properly.

      December 7, 2016 at 7:59 am
    • Samuli

      I had a stick stuck between the tire and a stainless steel fender (with insufficient clearance) on a gravel road and it didn’t crumble, but that didn’t actually make it safe. The wheel still got jammed and I went over the bars, but the fender stayed mostly true. So that doesn’t help if there’s not enough clearance.

      December 8, 2016 at 5:41 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Picking up sticks can be dangerous even without fenders. If the stick gets in your spokes, it’ll hit the fork blades and you go over the bars, too. Unfortunately, not all accidents can be avoided. I hope you didn’t get hurt in your accident.

        December 8, 2016 at 9:16 am
  • Joe Kendrick

    I’ve switched away from plastic fenders to aluminum. Longer life, better looking, etc. Yup. But a big reason for metal fenders is that they do not weaken and become brittle as time passes. I have been thrown over my handlebars by a plastic fender that, with age, was beginning to migrate and flex just far enough to lock in with the tire tread. It’s not that the strut failed or that a bolt came out. It just developed play and had not yet given a warning by cracking.

    December 7, 2016 at 9:24 am
  • Tom

    Jan, would you mind elaborating on the clearance issue, specifically the sound of stones rolling through the fender, which you’ve said is a warning sign of tight clearances. Sorry to hijack this into a fender thread.
    It would seem to me that once a small stone or pebble is picked up by the tire, and thrown into orbit around the tire, centrifugal force is going to throw that debris against the fender’s underside, making that scratching noise. I’m trying to think where else it would go, maybe out one of the sides?

    December 7, 2016 at 11:32 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      With sufficient clearances, it seems that the little stones get thrown into the fender, and then fall back out, rather than rolling through. Just like when driving a car over gravel roads at speed, you hear stones hitting the insides of the fenders (and underbody) with a “bang” or “ping”, but they don’t roll through the fender with a “scrrrrtchh”.
      On my bikes, I do hear the occasional “ping” of a stone hitting the inside of the fender, but not the “scrrrrrtchh”.

      December 7, 2016 at 11:56 am
  • David Pearce

    Comment for the Holiday Gift Guide:
    It appears you’re not offering a calendar this year. If this is true, I must say, I’m heartbroken & disappointed!
    I’ll have to make do with my Frank Lloyd Wright wall calendars from But I wanted both!
    Both bicycles & Frank Lloyd Wright are DEDICATED to GREAT DESIGN!

    December 8, 2016 at 3:42 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We have only limited resources, and a wall calendar was beyond what we were able to do this year. We are planning a return of the Bicycle Quarterly calendars – but not this year. Stay tuned!

      December 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm
  • donald compton

    I decided to buy myself a Christmas present and bought some Compass Extralights 700×32 for my Roadeo. They are incredible. Thanks for offering this tire.

    December 8, 2016 at 6:09 pm
  • Robert Cochran

    Regarding the handlebars offered by Compass. My Jamis bicycle has a flat bar. I’m thinking of replacing this with one of your drop bars. Would the brake lever parts on the bike (Tektro Auriga with mineral oil) an/or the shifters (Shimano Tiagra 10 speed) need to be replaced in order to fit properly on drop bars?

    December 10, 2016 at 7:21 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Yes, you’d need brake lever for drop handlebars. Also, drop handlebars sweep forward, whereas flat handlebars sweep backward slightly, so the reach to the bars will be much longer, and your bike fit will change very significantly. A shorter stem can compensate in part, but usually, a frame is designed either for drop bars (with a top tube that is a bit shorter than the seat tube) or for flat bars (with a top tube that is usually longer than the seat tube).
      However, if you are looking for a very radical change in position from upright to inclined, because you prefer a more spirited riding style, then the swap from flat to drop bars (with a shorter stem) may allow you to achieve that in one fell swoop. The same applies the other way around – if you are way too stretched out on a bike, changing to flat or swept-back bars (with a longer stem) will get you a much more upright position that will be more comfortable for slower rides.

      December 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

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