Journal

Fake Metal vs. Honest Plastic

Few taillights available today complement the aesthetics of a classic randonneur bike, where you want to see finely detailed components, typically in metal. Most modern lights are chunky black plastic, but one succeeds in being more understated: Busch & Müller's Seculite Plus (above). So Compass Bicycles decided to sell...

Pricing a Book

In the past few weeks, we have received many e-mails from readers of our new René Herse book. All messages were positive. Many readers wrote that the book greatly exceeded their expectations. I appreciate the feedback, and I am delighted that our readers are so happy. After all, few people...

Winter Base Miles

Now that it's February, our winter rest is over. We are starting to build a base for the coming cycling season. That means riding long distances at a moderate pace. It can be hard to get going for these rides. It's easy to be discouraged by the cold weather. On...

René Herse édition française

Our new book René Herse • The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders will be available with French text in addition to the English version. Therefore, this update is in French. Notre souscription pour l'édition française du livre René Herse a connu un beau succès puisque nous avons reçu...

Charity Drive: Thank You!

The Bicycle Quarterly charity drive was a success. We were able to raise almost $ 1500 for three charities. Checks are going out this morning to Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Thank you to all who contributed!

Am I Retro?

Many people see my bike and think "Retro!" In some cases, this is seen as cool. Others are dismissive, like the famous builder who once compared riders like me to civil war re-enactors, who dress up and play civil war in their spare time. It is true that I enjoy...

Does My Bike Take Fenders?

We often extol the virtues of aluminum fenders over plastic ones: They keep rider and bike drier and cleaner, they last longer, they don't make noise on rough roads, and they are lighter. (I also think they look better.) Metal fenders' major disadvantage is that they require a bike designed...

Mise à Jour: Livre René Herse en Français

Our new book René Herse • The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders will be available with French text in addition to the English version. Therefore, this update is in French. Notre nouveau livre René Herse • Les Vélos • Le Constructeur • Les Pilotes probablement sera disponible en édition...

Rides to Remember

When it is cold and foggy outside, or when the rain is beating down, I like to remember the days when it was summer. My mind wanders back to long hours of daylight, sunshine and memorable rides. Like last October, when Mark and I headed out for an all-day...

Passing the Test

When we designed the new René Herse cranks, our goal was to create a crank that was as reliable and safe as any on the market. After all, we ride these cranks ourselves. We are especially proud that these cranks pass the stringent EN standards for racing bikes (EN...

Staying Warm

Winter is a great time for riding around here. We have a choice between cold and sunny or  not-so-cold and rainy. If we can, we pick the sunshine, but that often means starting our rides when it is just below freezing. Riding into a glorious winter morning is wonderful, if...

René Herse Books are Here!

While I was in Paris and presented the first copy of the René Herse book to Lyli Herse, the container with the bulk of the books continued its voyage to Seattle. We finally received the shipment last Monday! We immediately started packing and mailing books to readers who pre-ordered the...

Exploring Backroads in Germany

I recently visited relatives in Germany. They live in Bavaria, in the corner between Austria and the Czech Republic. The "Bavarian Forest" is a lovely landscape that offers some of the best cycling anywhere. The name is deceptive, because most of the "forest" is an agricultural landscape that has...

Bottom Brackets Demystified

Replacing a square taper bottom brackets can seem a bit daunting. What threading do I need? How long should the spindle be? Which taper? It's really quite simple, and here is how to figure it out. Threading The bottom bracket screws into your frame. If your frame was made in the...

Too Precious to Ride?

Some people wonder whether special bikes can be too precious to ride. They ask me about my bikes: "Aren't you afraid that it will get scratched?" or "What if you crash it?" or "What if it gets stolen while you lock it up on the street?" Those things do happen....

Winter Training

I enjoy the annual rhythm of the seasons. It encourages me to change my cycling and exercise, like a farmer rotating crops and leaving some fields fallow for a while. The early months of the year remind me of preparing the soil and sowing that year's crop. This means base...

Will I be able to get chainrings?

Question from a potential customer: "If I purchase a Rene Herse crankset with its non-standard bolt-circle diameter, what guarantee do I have that Compass Bicycles will continue production of the chainrings for 5, 10 or 15 years?" Compass Bicycles makes products that we expect to last for decades. We have...

A Typical Ride

When you read this blog or Bicycle Quarterly, you may get the impression that all our rides go over hundreds of miles and involve at least three mountain passes on gravel roads. The reality is more prosaic. We live in a major urban region, and we have busy jobs and...

Overview of SON Generator Hubs

When "Schmidt's Originaler Nabendynamo" (SON) was introduced more than a decade ago, the choice was easy: There was only one model. Today, Schmidt offers three models of their revolutionary generator hubs. Here is what distinguishes them: SON Delux: Weight: 386 g. Lightest generator hub available today. Least resistance of all generator hubs. Narrow flanges. Aluminum...

René Herse – En Français !

Our new book René Herse • The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders will be available with French text in addition to the English version. Therefore, this announcement is in French. Notre nouveau livre René Herse • Les Vélos • Le Constructeur • Les Pilotes sera disponible avec texte français....

René Herse Book Update

The good news is that the René Herse books are on the way to Seattle. We received a few advance copies, including the Limited Edition with its beautiful slipcase (above). The book turned out even nicer than we expected. The bad news is that the boat won't reach Seattle before...

100% Quality Control

Some customers of our René Herse cranks have noticed that their brand-new cranks show traces of having been mounted on a bottom bracket. Did they receive used cranks by accident? No, the cranks are brand-new. As part of our quality control, we mount each crank, with the chainrings the customer...

An Impromptu Ride

On Monday, Seattle experienced a huge rainstorm as the rainy season arrived in earnest. By noon, more than 2 inches of rain had fallen in my neighborhood, and the wind gusts reminded me of Hurricane Sandy, which I experienced in Philadelphia. (I was lucky and not on the shore,...

René Herse Book Update

Printing a book is a long and exciting process. During the last few months, almost every week, we have received a courier package with yet another step in the process for approval. First the plotter printouts, then the digital color proofs, paper and cover samples, and finally, the actual...

How Germans vote

Today, I am reminded of my grandfather in Germany. Not of his cycling exploits during the 1930s, when he rode hundreds of kilometers with his friends on weekends. Instead, I am thinking of him voting. When my grand-father was in his 80s and confined to his house by severe arthritis,...

Unimprovable: Berthoud Handlebar Bag

Berthoud handlebar bags are among the few things in this world that are so well-designed and have proven themselves for so long that they have become unimprovable. These bags first were introduced by Sologne in the 1950s, and they have been made almost unchanged ever since. Handlebar bags have...

Rene Herse – The Book

Our new book! Instead of telling you about René Herse, I'd like to tell you how this book came about. While I was visiting René Herse's daughter Lyli many years ago, we talked about restoring the tandem that placed first in the 1956 Paris-Brest-Paris. Lyli thought that she might...

BQ's Calendar of Classic Bicycles 2013

For 2013, we are proud to introduce the Classic Bicycles calendar featuring studio photos of thirteen classic bicycles. The “cover model” is a 1965 Cinelli Supercorsa, built up by the legendary Spence Wolf of the Cupertino Bike Shop. Other racing bikes include Eddy Merckx’ winning machine, Francesco Moser’s hour record...

Supporting a 600 km Brevet – Part 1

During our pre-riding the planned route for the Seattle International Randonneur's "Mountain 600 km Brevet," we realized that it was not safe to have riders descend from Windy Ridge at night. It would be too cold, and the road has big cracks that already had seen a rider crash...

A Nice Encounter

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call: "Gerolf here. I am in Seattle." Gerolf Meyer is one of the people behind the German magazine Fahrstil, for which I had written a few articles in the past. I knew that he was riding from Vancouver to San Francisco, and that...

"Pre-Riding" the 600 km Brevet

Last weekend, Ryan and I were fortunate to have glorious weather for our "pre-ride" of the Seattle International Randonneurs 600 km brevet. A "pre-ride" is done by the ride organizers to make sure the route sheet is accurate, instead of relying solely on sometimes-erroneous maps and outdated satellite images:...

Doping in Randonneuring?

With the recent news that Lance Armstrong effectively admitted to a large-scale doping conspiracy on his teams, the issue of doping has been front and center in the cycling news. A few readers have asked whether doping exists in randonneuring, too. The short answer is yes – doping exists in...

Riding Fast is Fun!

The cycling community sometimes seems to fall into two camps: Those who emulate racing, and those who don't care the least about racing and performance. On the one side, you have the mainstream bike industry, who finds it easy to sell racing bikes to anybody interested in cycling for recreation...

Online Resources

The Bicycle Quarterly web site provides a number of useful resources. Most popular is the Color Photo Supplement. It shows color photos of the classic bikes that have been featured in Bicycle Quarterly over the years. Most of the bikes we feature are unrestored originals, so they are not...

Science and Bicycles: Designing Experiments

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

Hutchinson 650B x 32 mm Tires

Compass Bicycles now carries the Hutchinson "Confrérie des 650" tire. The Confrérie des 650 was created by French riders who loved their 650B bikes. They were concerned that the wheel size might become extinct, leaving them without rims and tires for their bikes. So they formed the Confrérie and...

Daniel Rebour

Even though Daniel Rebour retired almost 40 years ago, his drawings remain recognizable to many cyclists today. Rebour's drawings distilled the essence of components and bicycles better than photographs ever can. He managed to make even the most mundane bicycle appealing, and his drawings greatly added to the allure...

Dedication to Details

At Compass Bicycles, we tend to be a bit obsessive when it comes to our bicycles. "Good enough" usually is not good enough when we're out on our bikes, and we apply the same exacting thoroughness to the components we sell. Take the Honjo fenders as an example: When you...

We sell what we like

When the owner of a bicycle magazine also runs a company that develops and sells bicycle components, the words "conflict of interest" inevitably come up. Does Bicycle Quarterly only like products that Compass Bicycles sells, and disparages those of other companies? Is the magazine blind to the flaws of...

Fleche 24-Hour Ride

Last weekend was the 24-hour Flèche team ride, traditionally held over the Easter weekend. The Flèche was officially inaugurated in 1947, but its origins go back further to the early 20th century when Vélocio gathered cyclotourists every spring in Provence. Riders from all over France rode their bikes to these...

People who have inspired us: Roger Baumann

I learned about the history of Paris-Brest-Paris from the late Bernard Déon's excellent book Paris-Brest et Retour (unfortunately out of print). Déon was a great storyteller, and I found his report from the epic 1956 particularly gripping. The main protagonist of that dramatic edition of PBP was a young...

Wiring a Light for a SON Generator Hub

Before I explain how to connect your light to a SON generator hub, I'd like to summarize the advantages of quality generator-powered lights. They simply allow you to ride more safely and enjoyably: Light when you need it, at the turn of a switch. No worries about batteries running out. Asymmetric beam...

Bicycle Quarterly Spring 2012

Cyclists come in all sizes, as illustrated on the cover of the Spring 2012 Bicycle Quarterly. In this issue, we look at riders that are outside the range of our usual testers. How will a low-trail bike handle for a novice rider? Is “planing” something that all cyclists can...

Frames Going Soft?

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

Winter Weather Break

Looking at the weather forecast, we realized that the next day had the potential to be a perfect day. So we meet at seven. When the sun rises above Lake Washington, we already are well on our way out of town. After a stop in Snohomish at a café to...

New Bicycle Quarterly Web Site

The new Bicycle Quarterly Press web site is up and running. We have a new design, simpler navigation, and clearer organization. The site better explains what Bicycle Quarterly is all about: Inspirational rides (above) and technical articles that explain how bikes work... ... as well as exciting articles about cycling...

Single-Speed!

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

Winter Rides and Summer Plans

For me, November and most of December are rest months. That doesn't mean that I don't ride my bike – I use my bike for daily transportation – but there isn't any "training" on the bike. I worked on my core fitness and went for a few short runs....