Preparing for 2011 and PBP


At this time of year, we reflect on the cycling season that just has ended, and make plans for the next season. For me, the highlight of 2011 will be Paris-Brest-Paris. The famous 765-mile ride still is 9 months in the future, but now is the time to begin preparing for the upcoming season, whatever your goals may be.
I don’t ride much during most of November and December. It’s important for my body and mind to recover and rest, so that I can start the new year fresh and excited about cycling. It’s not that I have stopped cycling altogether: I still go on a leisurely 60-mile ride with a friend or two every 7-10 days. It’s nice to get out, and I don’t want to lose my body’s adaptation to cycling. Otherwise, my cycling consists of commuting for deliveries to local bookstores and bike shops, to pick up mail, etc.
So what do I do during the “off-bike” season? My core strength and flexibility are not what they should be. This is a common problem among cyclists that can manifest itself in knee problems (from the kneecap being pulled out of alignment by tight hamstrings and muscle imbalances) and even in shoulder, neck and hand pain (due to the upper body not holding itself up on the bike, and resting too heavily on the arms and hands).
To work on core strength and flexibility, I do a combination of yoga and strength-building exercises. It’s not something I greatly enjoy, but it makes for a much better cycling season. I try to fit in 5-10 minutes every day, doing stretching exercises recommended by a physical therapist together with others learned in a yoga class, plus some push-ups and sit-ups. Running also seems to help my core strength, so I go for a run twice a week, including some stairs (can’t resist that cycling-specific training!).

I poked around online a bit, and Bicycling magazine has an article on core strength with some exercises that could serve as a good starting point. Most of us know what we need to work on… and now is a good time to lay the foundations to a successful season. How do you prepare your 2011 season?

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Oregon Manifest Technical Trials 2011

The 2011 Oregon Manifest Constructor’s Design Challenge will be held in Portland, Oregon, on September 23-24, 2011. The goal is to determine what the ultimate modern utility bike looks like and who can build it.

The 2009 Constructor’s Design Challenge was an innovative event that focused on riding bikes over a challenging course. Inspired at least in part by the famous French Technical Trials, the Challenge awarded points for desirable features. Unfortunately, the penalties for “problems” were inconsequential in 2009, even though several bikes had racks coming loose, fenders breaking, unsuitable tires, and a host of other problems. Thus, the on-the-road test was instructive to observe, but neither on-the-road performance nor failures influenced the final results.
Over the last year, it appears that the Oregon Manifest crew has examined what worked in 2009 and what needs to be improved. I hope that there will be clear rules, published months before the event, so that builders can determine their likely scores as they design their bikes. Performance on the road should be required (for example, by imposing a minimum speed), and failures should be penalized. One thing probably should not change: The course was both challenging and scenic (see photo above), and it truly tested the bikes. The 2009 event was great fun, but with some careful fine-tuning, the 2011 event has the potential to be much better. I really look forward to next year’s Challenge. More info is at the Oregon Manifest web site.

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A Neat Bike


When I was working with Peter Weigle on an article on fender mounting for the Winter 2010 issue of Bicycle Quarterly (now at the printer), Peter sent me a photo of his latest bike (above). His bikes always have been special, but on this one, I noticed a lot of features that went beyond what you commonly see even on custom bicycles.
The rack clearly shows the influence of Jo Routens, the legendary constructeur from Grenoble. The entire bike is an alluring mixture of old and new. The frame is made from a vintage tubeset, including my favorite Reynolds 531 “Super Resilient” fork blades that make my Alex Singer so comfortable. Here they are combined with our fork crown to provide room for 42 mm-wide Grand Bois “Hetre” 650B tires. The tires themselves have been “shaved,” removing the tread to make them even more supple and even faster.
The hubs are Campagnolo Tipo hubs. Inspired by Campagnolo’s first high-flange hubs, Peter drilled extra holes into the flanges. Instead of quick releases, Peter’s special wing nuts hold the wheels in the dropouts. The Stronglight cranks have been reshaped and profiled to remove excess material.
The shellacked handlebar tape covers what look like 1950s Philippe “Professionel” handlebars. The Shimano aero brake levers are not to my taste, but they offer undeniable advantages on the road. Functionally, they harmonize well with the old Mafac cantilever brakes.
At the back of the seat tube is Peter’s custom-made taillight. (The front light is hidden by the tires in the photo above.) The rear reflector is a vintage item from Peter’s collection, as are the reliable Simplex seatpost and the superlight Huret Jubilee derailleurs.
While I admired all this, I did not even notice the fender attachments until Peter pointed them out to me. The fender stays are flush against the fender, and the drawbolts do not appear to have cups. This is not just elegant, but also provides optimum support for the fender.

I had seen this arrangement on a few special French bikes, but never really had figured out how it worked. So I asked Peter about it. From that came the a Builders Speak article for the Winter issue, in which he shares some of the secrets of his fender installation. On Peter’s bikes, the details tend to be subtle, but they all combine to create a bike that is very elegant. And judging from the Weigles I have ridden, it probably rides as well as it looks. Click here for more photos on Peter’s bike.

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COMPASS BICYCLES: Components for Real-World Riders


At Bicycle Quarterly, we sometimes discover products that are superb, but nobody imports them to North America. Or our research indicates that certain classic components work better than those available today, but nobody is making them.
We have suggested some of these products to existing manufacturers. I told Paul Price how wonderful centerpull brakes were, and sent him a set of Mafac Racers. The Paul “Racer” centerpull brakes were the result. In other cases, we have imported cycling components to make them available to North American cyclists. For example, we now import Grand Bois tires and components, as well as SKF bottom brackets. There are plenty more components that we would like to have available.
We are starting Compass Bicycles Ltd. to provide these components. Compass Bicycles will take over the bicycle components from Bicycle Quarterly Press, which focuses on publishing the magazine and books. In addition to the components already on offer, we are working on a number of new components.
Compass Bicycles’ first new products are the 650B fork crowns with matching Kaisei “Toei Special” fork blades. These classic fork crowns provide the right amount of tire clearance for 38-41 mm tires. The crowns are a reproduction of those used by René Herse and Alex Singer, which have proven themselves over decades of hard use.

The fork blades use the “Imperial Oval” cross section at the fork crown for strength, and a small diameter in their lower half for optimal shock absorption.

The small diameter near the bottom also makes them easy to rake to a graceful curve, as on this fork raked by Mark Nobilette for a René Herse bicycle.

For the future, I dream of a Nivex derailleur, with constant chain tension, superlight weight, and immediate, light-action shifting due to its twin-cable operation without a return spring.

I still use Maxi-Car hubs on my bikes, with twin labyrinth seals and adjustable cartridge bearings. A cassette-hub version of these would be nice. I also would like to see a centerpull brake with forged arms for light weight and safety, so that riders no longer have to scour eBay for “new old stock” Mafac “Raid” brakes.
As before, the Bicycle Quarterly team will develop and test all components before they become available. You will know that the components you buy from Compass Bicycles have proven themselves over thousands of kilometers. Check out the new web site www.compasscycle.com.

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Farewell to the Mountains


Autumn is a melancholy time. In Seattle, it is hardly noticeable, as the weather gradually gets cooler and wetter. But in the Cascade Mountains, the change of the seasons is swift and spectacular: Cold nights turn deciduous foliage into bright hues of yellow for a brief time, before snow falls and closes most of the scenic passes until June or July.

What better way for a last farewell ride than to string together many of my favorite roads? My pre-PBP-year* training usually includes a ride at least 3/4 as long as the event itself, so I quickly mapped a 930-km course. The route out of Seattle isn’t exactly the one I followed, as some roads are closed for cars, and the mapping program doesn’t allow using them (click here for course).

* Paris-Brest-Paris is a 1200-km (765-mile) randonneur event held every 4 years in France.

Last week, the forecast predicted snow levels dropping to 3000 feet, and I realized that my last chance for this ride had come. Without much time to plan, my route sheet for the unfamiliar parts of the ride was a bit rudimentary, but navigation in the mountains isn’t complicated since there are few roads.

Next came planning my schedule. I prefer to descend mountain passes in daylight. Not only can it be very cold descending for half an hour or more in late October, but the fall colors cannot be enjoyed at night. I jotted down a quick schedule and worked out that if I left around 4 in the morning, I could cover all but one pass in daylight, and might even get back at a reasonable time the following evening. The schedule was even rougher than the route sheet, as I did not adjust the average speeds for the terrain. My actual times are in the last column, which will help me plan future rides along these roads. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

So I left at 4:30 in the morning. After enduring morning commuter traffic (fortunately headed the other way), I reached Orting just after sunrise. Orting is the last of the suburbs, where the landscape transitions to meadows and forests. I turned off the highway. Fog was rising from meadows heavy with dew, and blue skies above were announcing a gorgeous autumn day.

“My favorite roads” was the theme of this ride, and few are more favorite than Orville Road along Ohop Lake. Its gentle undulations lent a nice rhythm to my effort. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful patterns of light and shade on the pavement. Between the trees, I caught glimpses of the meadows, lakes and even Mount Rainier in the distance.

Skate Creek Road is another favorite, and well worth the two-hour detour it took to get there. During my first summer in Washington, I rode and hiked almost every inch of this valley as I mapped its glacial geology. Under the bucolic cover of trees are the scars of an eventful past, with landslides, floods, debris flows and other events eroding and depositing material, as is visible in the photo in the river bank. Today, I just enjoyed the views of Mount Rainier at its barest, before new snow covers its flanks.

The sign at Bear Prairie reminded me why it’s always an effort to get there. Almost imperceptibly, the Nisqually River valley climbs 1200 feet in just under 20 miles.

Skate Creek Road then drops 700 feet in a few miles. It’s not so steep that you can coast, but the gradient helped me speed along. I took the challenging turns (below) at good speed, and that was great fun.

In Packwood, I turned westward again, taking in some recently discovered side roads as pleasant alternatives to the main highway. In Randle, I turned south toward Mount Saint Helens.

I passed the sign that announces 30 miles of beautiful, almost uninterrupted, mountain climbing. It starts with shady, curvy Forest Road 25 (below).

Forest Road 26 (below) is even better than FR25, since it sees almost no traffic.  It is a steep, single-lane ribbon of asphalt that winds up the slopes of the mighty volcano, Mount St. Helens. Every time I start this climb, I feel that the outcome of the battle between cyclist and mountain is slightly uncertain. Will I make it?

This time, I climbed smoothly and stopped only once, briefly, to stretch my legs on the steepest stretch. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I reached Norway Pass and joined the “main” road to Windy Ridge. The blasted trees from the 1980 eruption make this area a bit desolate. The lack of trees allows you to look over the Cascades and see the volcanic peaks of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood in the distance (see opening photo). It’s a rare feeling of being on top of the world. The descents on the return from Windy Ridge are spectacular, with the road forming a continuous string of curves that test the bike’s handling to the limit.

I resisted the temptation to take one scenic photo after another. October days are short, and my schedule called for descending Forest Road 25 before dark.

After a brief rest stop in Packwood, where the food is best forgotten, I headed up Cayuse Pass, then Chinook Pass. Mount Rainier was gleaming in the moonlight, and for almost two hours of climbing, I did not see a single car. Even though it was warm for an October night, I wore every bit of clothing I brought for the descent from Chinook Pass: wool shorts, Windstopper leg warmers, wool tights, wool socks, booties, two long-sleeve wool jerseys, rain jacket, fleece gloves, shell overmitts, skull cap and helmet. Tonight, the long descent offered views of the valley below and of the rocky slopes in the silvery light.

My small digital camera could capture only the moon, which is why you don’t also see Mount Rainier in the photo. I understood why Ansel Adams kept coming back to the western mountain ranges in the moonlight… It’s magical, especially on a warm night like this one.

When I finally did feel sleepy, I stopped in Cliffdell, removed my helmet and lay down on the porch of a shop for a short nap. I fell asleep immediately. I woke up because I was getting cold. I checked my watch: Only 9 minutes had passed, but I was ready to go.

I try to find backroad alternatives to the main highways, but I hadn’t investigated this area on a map yet. As “luck” would have it, a massive landslide has blocked the main highway, and traffic was re-routed over an older road that meanders along the river. Eventually, the highway will be rebuilt, but I will continue to use that backroad.

My hasty preparation let me down in Yakima.  My cue sheet showed a “T-junction.” I anticipated that junction for a long time… until I found myself on the main highway to Yakima again. After more than an hour riding on various highways, I found a gas station and borrowed a map. I realized that my “T junction” was actually a small sideroad to the left in the middle of a curve to the right. I had followed the road to the right, and never noticed the small sideroad I should have taken.

It was with great relief that I finally found myself on Canyon Road toward Ellensburg. Canyon Road is lovely, but the moon had set, and it was too dark to see much. I enjoyed the road rising and falling along the sides of the canyon, although I was distracted with thoughts of breakfast. One of my favorite restaurants, the Valley Cafe, is in Ellensburg. I arrived at 7 in the morning; alas, the cafe opened at 11. Instead of breakfast, I got to fix a flat tire at a grocery store! A long thorn had punctured my tube.

At least it was a gorgeous morning. My misfortune in Yakima had put me behind schedule. I decided to forgo the short detour over Old Highway 10 that loops above the Yakima River. Instead, I headed straight toward old Blewett Pass. The old road up this pass blends into the landscape: You can barely see it in the middle of the photo below.

The mountain continuously tries to reclaim this road. I rounded a sharp bend and came upon a few rocks that had fallen onto the road. I was reminded once more why I prefer bikes that allow adjusting their line in mid-corner. Good brakes are useful, too.

Favorite roads aren’t always super-spectacular. Sometimes, they just provide a pleasant alternative to a major highway. Between Peshastin and Leavenworth, there is a lovely road winding its way on the glacial terraces above the Wenatchee River (below). Who wouldn’t rather ride through the orchards up here than on the busy highway in the valley?

I haven’t found any alternatives to most of the main highway up to Stevens Pass, but traffic was light, the shoulder was clean, and the trees had beautiful fall colors.

I reached Stevens Pass as the light began to fade on the second day of my ride.

On the other side of the pass, the old highway remains intact for many miles, often just a hundred feet from the busy highway. Instead of trucks thundering down the grade, you hear the burbling of a brook, which eventually will become the mighty Skykomish River. That evening, lots of chipmunks scampered off the road as I approached.

I zoomed through Skykomish, then took the side road to Index. I climbed over Reiter Road as the sun was setting in the Puget Lowland far to the west. Reiter Road is perhaps the crown jewel of any ride. I was afraid that after more than 800 km on the road, I would regret taking this rolling road instead of the downhill highway, but the opposite happened. I felt inspired by the road, and it mobilized energies I did not know I had. This invigoration carried me all the way to the outskirts of Seattle. I was home before midnight and  back at my desk the next morning.

Two days later, the snow started, and today, the passes were covered in snow. This also completed my PBP training for the year. Now I will rest for two months until I start training again for the new season with a focus on PBP. In the coming months, I will talk about preparing and training for this wonderful 1200 km event.

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Science and Bicycles 1: Tires and Pressure


Most cyclists are interested in improving their bike’s performance, because rolling along at considerable speed while expending relatively little effort is one of the great appeals of cycling. Before you can improve your bike’s performance, you need to know what makes your bike faster, and that is where science comes in. Science is a fascinating process. Here is how we determined that higher tire pressures (beyond a certain point) don’t make your bike faster.
Science usually starts with a hypothesis. In 2005, the German magazine TOUR published performance tests of racing tires, and found that at 50 km/h (31 mph), the differences between racing tires were relatively small. Looking at the data, I realized that at more moderate speeds, the differences in rolling resistance could be quite significant. We designed a roll-down test. Our preliminary results showed that some tires rolled much faster than others. We refined our test protocol, and started testing dozens of tires (see BQ Vol 5 No 1 for more details and complete results).
Science also is hard work: Mark Vande Kamp rode up and down the same hill about 300 times over the course of several months, always in the early morning, when the chances of zero wind are greatest. And several times, we got up at 4 a.m., set everything up, only to have a slight wind rise despite a forecast of perfect conditions… All we could do is go back home. (And because our test track was next to a BMX practice track, we had to sweep the pavement – all 245 m of our test hill – the evening before to create a clean surface for testing.)

We also tried to find out how much performance improved with higher tire pressures. We knew that higher pressures are less comfortable, so we wanted to find out just how much speed you give up for that added comfort. To our surprise, the answer was: “None.” We found that higher pressures beyond a certain point did not make the bike roll faster. This was counter to our and almost everybody else’s expectations…  To rule out that these results were just noise in the data, we did more tests of different tires at various pressures. The results were consistent with our previous tests. Statistical analysis showed us that the results were highly significant, that means, they are unlikely just noise in the data.
Suspension Losses
The next step was to develop a hypothesis that explained what we had observed: Suspension losses are caused by friction in the the rider’s body tissues as they are vibrating. Higher pressures cause more vibrations, and hence higher suspension losses. This appears to cancel any gains at higher pressures from reduced flexing of the tire (hysteretic losses), as the tire deforms less at the contact patch as the wheel rotates.
This hypothesis also allowed us to explain why the drum test results were different – by neglecting the suspension losses, they measured only one half of the equation.
To test this hypothesis, we had to establish that suspension losses really were a significant factor, rather than some theoretical construct. (OK, the U.S. army already had established this for vibrating tank seats, but we had to show that it happens on a bicycle, too.) We did this by testing power output at constant speed on a smooth and on a very rough surface, side by side (see photo below). The differences were huge. On the rough surface (rumble strip), our rider had to put out 290 Watts more than on the smooth surface (right next to the rumble strip). That means that 290 Watts were lost through vibrations of the bike and rider’s body.

The Army studies had shown that energy absorption in human bodies was directly correlated to discomfort. After having ridden up and down our test hill 300 times, Mark wasn’t keen on riding 11 miles on rumble strips. That task instead fell upon me. I was able to confirm the Army’s results on the discomfort of absorbing hundreds of Watts as your body vibrates. Did I mention that science is hard work?
As a side effect, the suspension loss tests confirmed once again that higher pressures don’t make the bike faster even on very smooth pavement. And this time, we tested with a power meter instead of a roll-down test. So we had confirmed the results with two different methodologies. (This is much more powerful than just reproducing our initial results, which simply means running the same tests again, and finding the same results. We have done that as well, multiple times.)

After all this testing, we now can say with great certainty that increasing your tire pressure (beyond a certain point) does not make your bike faster on road surfaces that range from very rough to very smooth. In fact, on very rough road surfaces, higher pressures are a lot slower than lower pressures, because the suspension losses are so great. On most surfaces, tire pressure (beyond a certain point) simply doesn’t make a difference in speed.
Optimized Tire Pressure
Our initial tests even established at what point the performance no longer increases with higher tire pressures. For most tires and on “average” roads, this point appears to be a little higher than the 15% tire drop measured by Frank Berto. Note that the loads are given per wheel, not for the entire bike.

This means that Berto’s values are a good starting point for experimenting with tire pressures. If you want to optimize performance, you may want to go a little higher. If you are mostly concerned about comfort, you might prefer a tad lower pressure.
As always in science, there remain open questions. Is this cut-off point the same for different tires? Or do stiff tires benefit from higher pressures more than those with supple sidewalls? After all, a stiffer sidewall takes more energy to flex, so reducing that flex by all means may be helpful, even if it makes the bike vibrate more. Or is it the opposite, that stiff tires vibrate so much that running them at lower pressures is better, even if it increases the losses due to tire flex? Rest assured, we are working on this…

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Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show


The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show was a celebration of finely crafted bicycles. With natural overhead light in a former industrial building, the bicycles were displayed well. Tony Pereira (above) showed a replica of his Oregon Manifest-winning commuter machine with its integrated lock.  We hope to get this one for a test soon.
About 2 dozen builders showed interesting bikes. It was nice to see Mark DiNucci active again, with the most finely thinned lugs I have seen on a bike. The paint motif on this 1970s (?) frame caught our attention.

Show organizer Andy Newlands of Strawberry Bicycles asked us to bring an “interesting classic bike.” We were able to bring a 1952 Rene Herse (below). Riding this bike years ago persuaded us of the virtues of the “constructeur” approach to building bicycles that combine the speed of a racing bike with the versatility of wide tires, fenders, racks and lights. It’s a bike Bicycle Quarterly readers rarely have seen in its entirety, but its geometry, its integrated rack, the way the chainstays bend around the wide 650B tires and fenders, and many other features have been shown in the magazine to illustrate technical articles. One could say that there is a direct lineage from the old Herse to many of the bikes on display, including Mitch Pryor’s MAP which we tested for the current issue of Bicycle Quarterly. Seeing that MAP at the show was like greeting an old friend – I rode this bike more than any other BQ test bike to date.

Most of all, BQ contributor Hahn Rossman and I enjoyed seeing old friends, meeting many BQ readers, as well as discussing bicycles with fellow cyclists.

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Carbon Fiber Handlebar 911

Emergency Roadside Repair in 3 Easy Steps

Materials required:
• wooden stick
• steel strap
• big rock
• 5 mm Allen wrench (optional)
Time required: 25 minutes.
On a spring-time ride in the Cascades, we took a side road from Sultan to Gold Bar in the Skykomish River Valley. Our destination was Index, and we were looking forward to the fabulous Reiter Road that runs high on the hillsides above the valley between Gold Bar and Index. Presently, the road turned to gravel, and then we found ourselves in the railyard at Gold Bar. Suddenly, Ryan crashed.

His front wheel had picked up a steel strap, which locked up the wheel. Ryan fell over at low speed. He was relatively unhurt, but his carbon-fiber handlebars broke in half when they impacted the ground. (Here is a photo of Ryan on his carbon-fiber bike.)
We were 80 km (50 miles) from home, so our repair had to be durable enough to get back to Seattle safely.

Step 1: We found a stick of suitable diameter and jammed it into the handlebars. We had to remove the rear brake, because the cable was too short to get the broken end onto the stick. Ryan’s handlebars had a groove for the brake cable, so the cross-section wasn’t round, and the stick was not a perfect fit. The stick served only to preserve the alignment; it was not strong enough to support the weight of the rider on the handlebars.
Step 2: We decided to splint the handlebars like a broken bone. Fortunately, a railyard is full of useful materials. A steel strap was perfect for the job.

A big rock served as a hammer to form the strap into an “L” profile, giving it more strength. The gap between two rails served as a vise. (This was a siding, there was no danger of being run over by a freight train descending Stevens Pass.)

Step 3: We carefully removed the handlebar tape and used it to wrap the splint tightly onto the handlebars. Ryan had gel tape on his handlebars, which we used to cover the sharp edges of the steel plate.

We used two toestraps to secure the splint further. It certainly looked odd, but the bike was ready to ride. We didn’t want to press our luck, so we decided to forego the final, most beautiful leg of our ride, and instead turned back toward Seattle.

The ride home was uneventful. Ryan still could use his right shift lever with confidence, but wasn’t so confident resting his weight on the hoods or drops. Fortunately, the lever for his front brake was on the intact left end of the handlebars, so his braking was not impaired. Of course, this is only a temporary fix. Ryan replaced the handlebars for his next ride. Use your judgment before riding with similar repairs.

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Seattle to Portland through the Backdoor

Recently, I had to return a Bicycle Quarterly test bike to MAP Cycles in Portland. I really don’t like boxing up bikes, and very much prefer to ride them. Boxing a bike takes half a day, riding to Portland about a day, so it was an easy choice to ride to Portland.

Seattle to Portland (STP) is a popular ride that draws thousands of riders every year. The 320 km (200 miles) ride goes through the densely populated Puget Lowland. It’s flat, but not what I would call scenic. I love riding in the mountains, away from traffic and civilization. So I designed an alternate course to the STP route, which minimizes the time spent on busy roads. (Click here for a course map.)

I left Seattle after dinner, and rode on empty roads through the city and the industrial areas of Renton. Then I continued on empty winding roads to Orting and Eatonville. I skirted Mount Rainier and stopped for a resupply in Morton just past midnight. In Randle, I turned toward Mount Adams on Cispus Road. With a new moon and cloudy skies, the landscape outside the beam of the MAP’s Edelux headlight was so dark that I rode through the hamlet of Cispus without noticing it. The gravel road up Babyshoe Pass was rougher than I remembered, but the MAP’s  650B x 42 mm tires coped very well after I had reduced the tire pressure. Daybreak saw me approaching Babyshoe Pass. I had not seen a car in at least 4 hours.

A huge grader was parked on the pass, so hopefully the road will be better next time I ride it.

The sun rose, and by 8:20, when I rolled into Trout Lake, it was the beginning of a beautiful day. I arrived in perfect time for breakfast at the general store.

From here, the back road to Carson winds through the forest, with occasional views of Mount Adams in the meadows.

There was almost no traffic. Soon, a sign appeared that delights riders of Allroad bicycles:

Unlike the gravel on Babyshoe Pass, Carson-Guler Road road was smooth. After the rain of the previous days, the gravel was soft, so once again, I let out some air from my tires to increase floatation. After a few hours, I was back on pavement, with a magic, twisty descent toward Carson. The MAP handled beautifully and the wide tires (re-inflated to their normal 40 psi) hugged the undulating pavement. Sunlight filtered through the trees, dappling the pavement with a beautiful pattern of light and shade. I could have continued to ride like this for hours…

After an early lunch in Carson, I crossed the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods. I huge wind was blowing down the gorge, but fortunately, the MAP’s geometry was not overly affected by the crosswind.

The name “Bridge of the Gods” stems from a Native American legend of an ancient stone bridge that crossed the river here. One day, during a quarrel between two gods over a beautiful maiden, the earth shook, and the bridge collapsed. Its stones fell into the water, where they formed the rapids of The Dalles. More recently, geologists have found evidence of a giant landslide that dammed the river, forming the “bridge.” Eventually, the mighty Columbia River breached the dam, and the bridge was destroyed.

On the south shore of the great river, a series of trails leads along Interstate 84. Going west, I had to travel about two miles on the shoulder of the freeway, the rest was on trails and then the beautiful Historic Columbia River Highway. This road winds its way through the forest, past the famous waterfalls, crossing bridges with art nouveau railings that are covered with moss: The road was built in the 1920s, and today sees little traffic as most drivers use the Interstate highway that now parallels it. The old road then climbs in a wonderful series of switchbacks to a series of scenic overlooks.

To think that most travelers to Portland drive on the freeway and never get to see these views… The old highway ends in the suburbs of Portland, but fortunately, Marine Drive along the river has a wonderful bike trail that got me close to the center of town. I arrived at Mitch Pryor’s MAP Bicycles in the afternoon, after 21 hours on the road. I had a little less than two hours to freshen up, buy dinner and walk to the train station for the ride home.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride. If you think of riding from Seattle to Portland, I recommend taking an “inland” route away from traffic. If your bike is ill-equipped to handle gravel roads, you can go from Randle up Forest Road 25 to Elk Summit, and then continue to Randle via Northwoods.

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Welcome to Our New Blog!

In this space, I’ll blog about what is going on at Bicycle Quarterly: Rides we do, how we keep our bikes on the road, new products, glimpses of topics in upcoming issues of the magazine and more. BQ’s contributors will feature occasionally as well. We welcome everybody to join us through the comments section. Enjoy!
Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

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