Bicycle Quarterly Spring 2014

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The Spring 2014 Bicycle Quarterly came off the press earlier this week. It’s another exciting issue, full of inspiring stories, useful technical articles and beautiful bikes.

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We tested a new semi-production bike from Mitch Pryor (MAP). This was a perfect excuse for us to embark on a “fast camping trip” to explore two “secret” passes in the Cascade Mountains. We encountered everything from fast pavement to terrain that is more suitable for mountain bikes. How does a lightweight 650B randonneur bike fare in such a diverse endeavor?

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The randonneurs of the mid-20th century have been a wonderful inspiration for us. In the Spring issue, Raymond Henry protrays six female randonneuses and takes us on their amazing rides. Whether it’s a Diagonal in the 1930s or the Raid Pyrénéen during the 1960s, these women knew how to ride and how to have fun!

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We feature a Camille Daudon that was ridden by one of the women on René Herse’s team. She rode this lovely machine to many records in time trials and other events. The bike has survived exactly as she rode it, displaying a lovely patina.

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What makes a tire fast? How important is the width of your tires? The thickness of the tread? The tpi of the casing? The rubber compound of the tread?

We quantify each variable, so you can choose the best tires for your upcoming season. A second article looks at how tire tread works, while a third explains why tire pressure does not matter when it comes to optimizing the performance of your bike.

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A new feature are our “First Rides,” which bring you a first impression of a new bike before we have the opportunity to do a full test. We rode the affordable Soma Grand Randonneur 650B bike for a few days and tell you how it performs.

As always, there is much more in this issue of Bicycle Quarterly: book reviews, news, articles about skills and icons of classic cycling design, letters…

Click here for a full table of contents.

Click here to subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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24 Responses to Bicycle Quarterly Spring 2014

  1. Aquilaaudax1 says:

    I can’t wait. I have been hoping that BQ would do a review of the Soma. To bad it takes so long for my BQ to get to Australia :(

  2. David Pearce says:

    Looks great, looking forward to it!

    Strange the way bicycling and getting back to nature and getting connected to other people keeps on colliding. The Writer’s Almanac mentions that it was on this date (March 5) in 1975 that the Homebrew Computer Club first met. And that led me to Steve Roberts, his DIY computers, and really, his DIY bicycles / traveling computers “Winnebiko” and “BEHOMOTH” in the 1980s.

    http://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/personal-computers/17/296

    For some people, they care about creating something new and building prototypes, and don’t care how they attach it to a bicycle, just so long as it’s attached. Bicycling has been, and is, a big, big world, with lots of different points of views. It’s amazing…

    Thanks, Jan.

  3. Brian Campbell says:

    Looks like a great issue! I just purchased a 3 year subscription. Can’t wait!

  4. Bubba says:

    I am looking forward to this one (OK, I look forward to all issues), especially the article about tire pressure. There’s a group of riders who think tire pressure matters, and it should be high. More recently there’s a group who think tire pressure matters and it should be low (or should be precisely measured for a particular amount of tire drop). It will be interesting to see how those two groups react to your conclusion that tire pressure doesn’t matter.

    • Pressure doesn’t matter for performance. It does influence comfort and how the tire reacts in corners. If your pressure is too high, you’ll bounce, which decreases your comfort and your cornering speed. If your pressure is too low, the tire starts collapsing, which isn’t good for cornering and can cause pinch-flats.

      However, the good news is that between the two, there is a large area where you are fine.

      • apfrancis says:

        It is interesting to hear that tire pressure doesn’t matter. Your tests on the rumble strip were one of the biggest influences for me to try wide 650b tires for gravel riding and commuting. It was my understanding that lower pressure allowed the tire to roll faster on rough and uneven ground. Given the roads here in Seattle, I would call that a performance enhancement!

      • Yes, on rough ground and especially rumble strips, lower pressures are faster. However, it is interesting that even on very smooth pavement, higher pressures don’t make you faster.

      • Andy says:

        I’ve read several times from BQ about tire pressure. It seems like with other sporting advances, positive changes are quickly implemented because everyone wants whatever advantage is possible. I would think that even if absolute speed isn’t changing, the comfort of a wide supple tire would be of interest to pros that race 100+ miles in a day. Why do you think racers, teams, manufacturers and marketers aren’t jumping on this as a “hot new trend” like they do with everything else? I’m guessing this is one of many unanswerable questions though.

      • First, they already have gone from 20 to 23 and now to 25 mm. That is a huge difference in air volume. So they are definitely moving to wider tires.

        For racers, there isn’t much of an advantage of going wider than 25 mm. You don’t gain much, especially on smooth roads. You might even lose a bit in climbing (wider tires are heavier, although you could use smaller wheels), although you might make that up in descending (wider tires corner better).

        Add to that their sponsors, whose tooling is for bikes that don’t accept wide tires…

        There also is a very conservative mindset among racers, but that is a different matter.

      • Bubba says:

        I agree there’s a large area where I’m fine. I’ve adopted the Jan Heine style of tire inflation. Pump up to ~40. Re-inflate a few weeks later when they start to feel squishy which is usually in the low 20s.

  5. Trazymach says:

    Jan, do you mean I won’t lose any speed running low pressure in my tyres? Do I understand it correctly – the only danger here is getting pinch flats? What about manufacturer’s minimal pressure range? Can I go safely under the limit specified on tyre’s sidewall?

    • What about manufacturer’s minimal pressure range? Can I go safely under the limit specified on tyre’s sidewall?

      I have done some research on the minimum pressure that is written on the sidewalls, and it appears that in most cases, it’s an arbitrary number. In most cases, you can go lower without problems. For example, the Grand Bois Hetres say “Inflate to 50-75 psi,” yet I run mine at 40. Our Compass tires don’t list a minimum pressure. The engineers at Panaracer, who make the tires, were fine with that.

      You can damage the tire if you run too low a pressure, but usually, you’ll notice the handling deteriorate before that happens.

      • Trazymach says:

        Thank you for answering! What sort of pressures would you recommend for Compass Stampede Pass 700C x 32 mm tires? My bodyweight is 83 kg (183 pounds) and my bike weights about 15 kg.

      • Frank Berto’s tire pressure chart still provides a great starting point for your own experimentation. Use the pressure he lists as a starting point, and see how it feels. It’s easy to let out some air or add some, and you’ll soon figure out what works best for you and the roads you ride.

      • kww says:

        I notice in the 1st week with new Barlow Pass tires, that I have to run more pressure than my old Schwalbes since the sidewall is not as stiff. Is Berto’s tire press chart tailored for sidewall composition closer to Grand Bois tires as opposed to stiff Schwalbes?

      • You are absolutely right – the more supple the sidewall is, the more you rely on air pressure to hold up your weight. Berto’s chart is an aggregate of many tires he measured. I’d still use it as a starting point, and then experiment from there.

  6. David Pearce says:

    Perhaps this is already on the drawing board, but if not, IMHO it should be. I say, if you’ve got a line of Compass branded tires, and Compass branded water bottles, it’s high time for a line of easy care, “bright & breezy”, Compass branded T-shirts in randonneur’s blue. On the front it says “I read and ride ‘Off the Beaten Path’ !”, with the Off the Beaten Path swoosh (a drawing of a rider rounding a curve). On the back, “Compass Randonneurs” and the Compass logo.

    Perfect for Spring.

    Sell like hotcakes!

    • We generally don’t do “merchandising”, so it’s unlikely you’ll see T-shirts from us. The tires are a product we developed. The water bottle also is the best we have tried, and we decided that instead of some other logo, it might just as well have ours. (Camelbak doesn’t make plain water bottles…)

  7. Dylan says:

    For some reason, I’m finding myself captivated by the glare of sun reflecting off the seat tube in the photo of the randdoneuse and her chromed bicycle. It is as if I’ve been struck by a ray of decades-old European sunshine.

  8. AndyAndy says:

    Interesting new blog post from Soma… “The Grand Randonneur tire is the lightest 42mm tire on the market at just 300g. They use Panracer’s lightest casing and the same supple rubber compound found in our other tires.” It will be interesting to see how the market reacts as more 650b options are on the market.

    • It’s great to see more tire options out there. As you’ll read in the Spring issue, where we compare tires with different thickness, this does make the tire slightly faster.

      Some of you may wonder how Soma’s planned tire will compare to the new Compass Babyshoe Pass. The casing of the Compass Extralight is the same – we developed this for the Grand Bois Extra Léger tires – so the only way to reduce the weight further is to make the tread thinner. This will make the tire lighter, but greatly reduce its service life. We call those tires “pre-worn.” The Pacenti Pari-Moto also used a very thin tread in an attempt to get the lightest weight. Tires like those make great event tires.

      With a little more tread in the center, you get a lot more life out of a tire. And once you ride the Babyshoe Pass a few thousand miles, it’ll be as thin and light as these event tires. On the other hand, you don’t want such a thick tread that it squares off after a while, since the tire then doesn’t handle well any longer, and you won’t get any more miles out of it than out of a tire with a more reasonable tread thickness.

  9. Gerard says:

    Always pleased to read about a forthcoming issue – something I really look forward to. What is the typical delay from ‘Next issue coming’ (or as above ‘came off the press earlier in the week’) to the magazine actually being mailed?

    I ask because in the UK it seems to take several weeks (feels like 2 or 3, but maybe my impatience is exaggerating the perceived delay!) for it to arrive. Is there anything that can be done to get it within a quicker timescale? Could a faster shipping option on the sub pricing perhaps be offered? Or if they are bulk shipped to the UK initially and then onward distributed is there anything which might speed the international leg of the journey?

    Perhaps even a pdf so online conversation, even for international readers, is in synch with more local subscribers? Thanks for any comment.

    • Usually, the magazine comes off the press and is mailed immediately. However, the postal service sometimes takes its time – magazines in the U.S. take between 5 and 20 days to arrive in subscribers’ mail boxes. Some international subscriptions are sent in bulk via express, and then re-posted in the destination country. This is faster and more reliable than putting single envelopes in the mail. It also saves a little money, allowing us to keep the International subscription rates affordable. (Mailing a single magazine to an international subscriber outside North America costs between $ 9 and 11!)

      A faster mailing service would be prohibitively expensive. To the UK, FedEx Economy would cost $ 59!

      We appreciate your patience as you wait for your magazine. Bicycle Quarterly‘s information does not become outdated, so we hope it will be as enjoyable to read in two weeks as it would be today.

  10. Christian says:

    Today I saw the brown-yellowish envelope peeking out of mail box – the current issue of BQ! 6 days for delivery to Germany is super-fast – thank you, Jan!

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