Spring 2023 Bicycle QuarterlyJan Heine
With every edition of Bicycle Quarterly, we try to provide an exciting mix of stories. Articles about incredible adventures, but also about the joys of exploring at a more leisurely pace. About the latest and greatest bikes, but also about classics and proven technology. Add a little history, some technique, and you’ve got a balanced mix covering many aspects of cycling that you won’t find in mainstream media.
The Spring 2023 Bicycle Quarterly exemplifies that mix. You’ve probably heard the story of the Rhino Run, the 2700-kilometer bikepacking race across the deserts of South Africa and Namibia. Abdullah Zeinab and Kevin ‘Benky’ Benkenstein raced neck-to-neck for over a week before the race came down to a final showdown as the course climbed to the finish in the Namibian highlands.
Abdullah’s story is one of the best pieces of cycling writing we’ve read: how he overcame obstacle after obstacle—including losing a tiny screw in the great sands of the desert—to win the event by just 16 minutes. We are excited to share it with you, together with photos that take you right into the action—and show the incredible beauty of the desert landscapes. An interview with Benky about this intense, yet friendly, competition completes this feature.
Our popular ‘Shop Visit’ series continues with a visit to Montson (above and top photo). This young builder crafts beautiful cyclotouring and randonneur bikes in the classic vein, but also built a prototype bikepacking bike that is full of innovative features—things like bikepacking bags that form integral parts of the rack. We checked out his workshop, marveled at his tools and fixtures, met one of his most intrepid (and youngest) customers, and even got to ride his bikes.
On the other side of the planet, in France, Cycles Victoire also crafts beautiful bikes by hand. Distance is their semi-production sub-brand, with fixed geometries available without the wait and cost of a full custom frame. (They ship to North America at a relatively affordable rate, too.) The Distance 45 is a capable all-road machine designed around 45 mm tires. We took it across the Sawtooth Range in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, on a route so remote that Strava showed only a single cyclist ever attempting it.
Not only was this a thorough test of the Distance 45, but also of Campagnolo’s new Ekar gravel group. Do we really need 13 cogs? The rugged terrain of the Sawtooth Range is the place to find out…
Cycling is a great way to experience a landscape, and Sarah Swallow takes us on a voyage to the Sky Islands that straddle the border between Arizona and Mexico. Sarah shows us the beauty and incredible riding in this amazing area and gently reminds us of the complicated stories that lurk just below the surface. Her story is a thought-provoking read that makes us want to head to the mountains of southern Arizona.
We continue our ground-breaking research into how bicycles really work. Are gravel bikes slower than road bikes? All too often, a straight answer to this question is made impossible by comparing apples to oranges: If the gravel bike has a more upright position, heavier wheels, stiffer tires, etc., then it’s slower because of those factors, but not necessarily because of some inherent performance deficit of gravel bikes and/or wider tires.
To answer this question once and for all, we took the same bike—an Allied Echo with clever flip chips that allow adjusting the geometry, tire clearances, etc.—and tested it in its ‘Gravel’ and ‘Road’ settings. Any disadvantages of wide tires and low pressures—a little extra weight and more flex in the tire—will show up especially when climbing steep hills at high power outputs. So we rode the bike up a 9% hill in its ‘Gravel’ and ‘Road’ settings, and recorded power with ultra-precise SRM X-Power pedals.
As always, we controlled the conditions of our test very carefully (same temperature, absolutely no wind) and did multiple repeats, plus a thorough statistical analysis to make sure we’re reporting real differences between bike setups and not just random ‘noise’ between test runs. If you’ve been following the wide-vs-narrow-tire debate, this is the final piece of the puzzle you’ve been waiting for.
In our ‘Roadmap to PBP’ series, we look at strategy for the long ride. How to eat (and where). How to plan for sleep. How to prevent aches and pains. Whether a support car provides an advantage or not, (And how to do support if your family or friends just want to be part of your ride.) Those are just a few of the topics we cover to help you prepare for the big ride (or any other long-distance adventure).
During the annual New Year Ride of Tokyo’s Alex Singer Owners, questions about climbing speed or strategy weren’t on anybody’s mind. Join us for an enjoyable day of riding with friends and admiring beautiful bikes.
These are just a few of the articles you’ll enjoy in the Spring 2023 Bicycle Quarterly. The magazine is being printed right now. To get your copy directly from the printer as soon as it comes off the press, please make sure your subscription is current: Click here to subscribe or renew.
We hope you enjoy this edition!
Jan, Natsuko & BQ Team