New Rims and Hammered Fenders


Grand Bois has re-designed their rims, so that they offer proper fit and support for tires. The new rims provide a great alternative for riders who don’t plan to run their tires tubeless, since they make tire installation easier and more foolproof.


When 650B tires became popular, we noticed that they often did not seat well on the rims. After some research, we realized that many 650B rims were poorly designed, with wells that were too deep to support the tire. The tires had to float (above), being held in place only by the hook on the rim sidewall. There are ways to mitigate this problem, but we stopped selling the Grand Bois rims when we realized that they were affected by this problem. Other companies continued to sell their rims with over-deep wells, and riders have been plagued with the problems of poor tire seating.


We are happy to announce that Grand Bois re-designed their rims to solve this issue. This required a new extrusion die, which is a considerable investment. The photo above shows the new (left) and the old rims. They look almost identical at first sight…


… but when you measure carefully (or draw a line in the photo), you see the difference: The new one (left) has a slightly shallower well than the old one (right). It doesn’t look like much, but it makes the difference between a tire that floats and one that is supported by the rim bed.

We have tested the new rims, and they fit the tires properly. In most cases, you simply install the tire, inflate it, and it runs round and true, without any further manipulation. With the flexible sidewalls of the tires we like so much, you sometimes have to push the bead in place, but it’s easy. This is how it should be.

The redesigned rims are in stock, both in 650B and 700C sizes, with 32 and 36 holes. They have a classic appearance with a rounded box profile that distributes the stress of the spoke tension well. The rims are polished to a high shine. The sidewalls are a little thicker than those of most modern rims, which means you will get a lot more miles out of them.

Unlike “tubeless-ready” rims, the Grand Bois rims have a curved bed, so the tire slides into position as it is inflated. (On “tubeless-ready” rims, the tire bead needs to clear a shoulder in the rim bed.) When the tire is deflated, it automatically moves to the center of the rim well, making it easy to remove. On the samples we tested, we easily could remove our Compass tires without tire levers. The Grand Bois rims are designed for use with cloth rim tape, so they have a little extra room for the thicker rim tape.


In other wheel news, we finally got hammered Grand Bois 650B fenders in stock. Honjo took a long time to make them, but it was worth the wait. Functionally and aesthetically, these fenders are close to perfect. They envelope the tire nicely, and their diameter is a perfect fit for 650B x 42 mm tires without further “adjustment.” The hammered dimples not only give the fender a nice-looking texture, but they also make dents and scratches almost invisible. Like all aluminum fenders, they are ultralight and the rolled edges keep the water inside.

Click here for more information on the rims, and here for the fenders.

Posted in hubs/rims, Testing and Tech | 31 Comments

Early-Season Rides


It’s already mid-March: two-and-a-half months into our riding season. And what a season it’s been so far, full of memorable rides enjoyed with wonderful friends. Here are just a few snapshots from those long, early-season miles.

These are the rides when our legs feel sluggish, the weather is cold, and yet we are happy to be out on our bikes. We enjoy the conversations as we ride at a leisurely pace. We talk about plans for the season and reminisce of memorable rides.


These rides take us on familiar roads that we don’t usually ride during the summer, like this old railroad grade near Carnation that has been turned into a trail.


Sometimes, we explore new roads that entice us to venture into the hills.


Many of the rides have been rainy, since we’ve had a very wet winter. On this dismal day (above), we stayed on the Burke-Gilman Trail and its extension. Just for fun, we usually ride a few laps around the track at Marymoor and dive down from the banking for a rush of speed. That day, the surface was so slippery that one cautious lap each sufficed.


We’ve been testing the new Compass tires over the last few months to see how well they held up on challenging rides. Here my René Herse is equipped with a black Babyshoe Pass on the front and a Grand Bois Hetre on the back.


Since we were testing tires, we were tempted to take rougher trails than we usually do. That is how we found ourselves on a mountain bike trail near Issaquah.


The tires (and our randonneur bikes) did fine, and only once or twice did we prefer to walk rather than go over large rocks that might have ripped off our front fenders.


We visited our favorite taco truck for lunches in their heated tent, and we had a good time.


As spring approaches, we are ready to head into the hills, and then up into the mountains as the snow melts. It promises to be a good season!

Posted in Rides | 30 Comments

Should Children be Indulged Cyclists?


As my son has got more into cycling, I have grappled with the question: “Should he have the best equipment?”

On the one hand, I feel that we all need to make our own experiences. I learned how to jump a racing bike with skinny tires across streetcar tracks – after a few near-crashes when my rear tire got caught in the gap. I cobbled together a bike on a shoestring when I was in college. I now am glad about those experiences. I feel that riding inferior bikes has made me a better cyclist. It also made me more appreciative of what I have now.

However, when my son’s narrow tires got caught in a gap between two concrete road panels and he crashed on our first cross-town ride, I wondered how far you want to go in having your children make their own experiences. I recall many of my own lucky escapes during my youth, but there probably were others who weren’t as lucky…

When my son joined me for our first truly long ride, it started raining. His bike did not have fenders (above). He was a good sport as the spray ran down his nose and coated his back with grime. As I rode my fender-and-mudflap-equipped bike, I wondered: “Should I really introduce him to the suffering of cycling in this way?”  Or should I just get him a 650B bike with supple tires, fenders and excellent brakes, so his cycling can be as enjoyable and safe as mine?

Where safety is concerned, the decision is easy. While I survived a childhood of riding a bike with steel rims that offered almost zero braking in the rain, I will make sure that my son has equipment that is safe to use. We are replacing the brake pads on his brakes with better ones. He obviously has a helmet, and he’ll also get fenders and good lights. No more narrow tires, either!


But what about things that enhance his cycling experience? Last autumn was my son’s first cyclocross season. He lined up against children who rode carbon bikes and were dressed in skinsuits full of sponsorship logos – “the pro kids,” as he called them. He was wearing an old T-shirt and a pair of hand-me-down cycling shorts. His shoes were spinning shoes found on close-out at REI. His bike was a nice test bike, but far from a professional-grade ‘cross racing machine. And yet he had a great time and did quite well, and I believe he learned that equipment alone does not determine success or enjoyment of a sport.

Now that he has shown a great love for the sport, I am tempted to get him the equipment that makes cycling more enjoyable … at least within reason. We don’t feed him bad food, so why should he ride on crummy tires? I needed somebody to test our new Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm tires anyhow, so that is what he is riding now. Next winter, he’ll have wool tights and a real jersey, so he can enjoy rides in all weather. And maybe, some day, he’ll even get the full 650B bike of his dreams.

What are your thoughts about cycling equipment for children?

Posted in Uncategorized | 75 Comments

Bicycle Quarterly Spring 2014


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.


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?


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!


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.


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.


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.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues, Product News | 24 Comments

My Solitary Ride


I usually ride with friends; it’s great fun to enjoy a wonderful ride together, to share the experience, and to pass the time with animated conversations. I’m disappointed when the scheduling does not work out, when no one can make it, or when things come up at the last moment. That happened this week. But the weather forecast was great, so I used this opportunity for a solitary ride.

After testing various bikes recently, I enjoyed riding my own bike again. I had just equipped it with the new Babyshoe Pass Extralight tires. I put a few energy bars in my handlebar bag, filled my water bottles, grabbed my camera and mini-tripod, and headed out.

I left my house at 7 a.m., and an hour later, I already was heading into the hills. Two hours later, I swooped down into the Skykomish River Valley. I cruised through Snohomish. From there, I hardly saw a car as I headed into the hills near Lake Roesinger.


To think that roads like these are just a few hours from Seattle! Sadly, we rarely see other cyclists on them – it seems that most riders prefer the flatter, busier roads in the valleys.


When I ride by myself, I am more aware of my surroundings. I had passed this beautiful tree-lined road to a horse farm dozens of times, but never had noticed it.

Riding alone also means time to think and meditate. By this point in the ride, I already had come up with ideas for two articles that you may see eventually in Bicycle Quarterly, as well as a number of other evolving thoughts.


Twisting downhills brought me back into the Skykomish River valley. There is one particular turn that you almost can take without braking. The road surface is smooth, and today, it was dry, yet clean after the recent rain. On the earlier descents, I had noticed the improved traction of the new tires. I realized I could recalibrate my ideas of what my bike can do.

Instead of riding in the drops, I got into the aero tuck, and built speed quickly. I changed into the drops just before the road began to turn. A light dab on the front brake, not to scrub speed, but to change the weight distribution and get more traction on the front tire. Then I was committed to the turn. It felt – it was – very fast. Almost too fast. Yet nothing untoward happened. I got pushed into the saddle by the g forces a bit more than usual, but the bike rounded the curve without drama.

I’ll just have to be careful when I next ride a racing bike, with narrower tires that offer so much less traction!


It was windy, and I was battling a fierce headwind as I headed up the Skykomish Valley. When I turned onto Reiter Road, there were many branches lying on the ground. I considered the risk of getting injured by a falling tree branch, but with a few exceptions (above), all the fallen branches were small. Being in the trees had me sheltered from the wind, which was nice.


I was surprised to see snow by the side of the road. It must have snowed here earlier in the week, when we in Seattle just got our usual cold rain. Reiter Road always is enjoyable, and my fatigue from riding into the wind vanished as I headed up this enchanted road.

Riding alone is different, as my speed varies more. In a group, I ride faster when I am not feeling great, so I don’t hold up the others. And I ride slower when my legs want to fly. Today, I was flying and flagging by turns. By myself, there was nothing to moderate my pace.


It did not take long to reach my destination, Index. The small old wooden houses that line one of the three or four streets of the town look almost like a movie set. The town is set into a narrow side valley, surrounded by towering cliffs. It’s a charming town that is waiting to be “discovered.”


For now, the lunch choices are limited to a convenience store. My picnic meal had the calories I needed, but lacked a bit in nutritional value. And I missed the conversations that animate our lunches when we are out with a group of friends.


Although with a view like this, I wasn’t complaining. It would have been nice to share this with a friend or two.


I took a look at my bike. I really count myself lucky. When I first started writing about bikes, I wouldn’t have dreamt of riding a René Herse. I didn’t even imagine that tires could perform so well. And I never came out here, since it was too far, and the backroads were too rough to be enjoyable. It’s not that I am stronger now than I was then – quite the opposite – so I really have to credit the bike for being able to do these rides now.


It was time to head back. The wind had calmed down a bit, but it still pushed me vigorously down the valley. I took the backroads from Sultan to Monroe (above), and I enjoyed the little rollers that add some challenge to this section. And unlike on a ride with friends, nobody dropped me on the hills, nor did I have to wait on top. It made for a nice flow.


From Monroe, I rode through the wide-open Snoqualmie valley. By now, it was so warm that I took off my tights and rode in shorts for the first time this year. Then I climbed the hills that separate the Snoqualmie valley from Lake Washington, before riding the Burke-Gilman Trail back to Seattle.


As I crested Phinney Ridge, I saw the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains. I got home a ten minutes later than planned, but still in time for dinner. It was another wonderful day on the bike, and it left me recharged for the challenges of daily life.

Posted in Rides | 41 Comments

Introducing the Full Line of Compass Tires


Compass Bicycles Ltd. introduces a full line of high-performance tires in both 700C and 650B sizes. The narrower 700C tires are a great way to transform the performance and comfort of a racing bike. The wider 700C tires, especially the 38 mm-wide “Barlow Pass”, will allow riders of 700C bikes to enjoy the benefits of supple, fast and wide tires. The wide 650B models provide more performance and better cornering grip than existing models, thanks to their optimized tread pattern and thickness.

Eight years ago we started the first systematic real-world tests of tire performance in recent memory. We conducted both roll-down tests and track tests with a power meter. What was revolutionary about these tests was that they were performed with a rider on board. As it turns out, the rider is an integral system of the bike, and suspension losses in the rider’s body are one of the main components of the resistance that tires create.

We tested dozens of different tires. We tested the same tires at different pressures. We tested the same tire models in different widths. We tested different tire treads. We even had prototype tires made with different casings and tested those.

In addition to that, we rode dozens of different tire models over challenging terrain to test things like wet- and dry-weather grip, cornering and road feel. We’ve ridden them on gravel and on pavement.

We’ve published the results in Bicycle Quarterly, and they have informed the design of the tires that we have developed with Grand Bois and Challenge. Those tires were far superior to any wide tire that had been available before, but we wanted to optimize the tread pattern even further and offer additional sizes, so we decided to make our own line of tires under the Compass brand.


The Compass line of tires is designed to offer optimum performance above all. Their supple casing is key, and these tires roll faster than most. The supple casing also absorbs vibrations and shocks better, making these tires supremely comfortable. The tire tread was designed to offer optimum cornering adhesion and precision, both in wet and dry conditions.

Despite this focus on performance, we designed these tires to be sensible everyday tires. The tread is 3 mm thick to last many miles, unlike thinner high-performance tires which are best treated as “event” tires. The new tires are available with “standard” casings and brown sidewalls, as well as “extralight” casings with brown sidewalls or in all-black. The “extralight” casing not only reduces the tire’s weight, but is also more supple, thus increasing the tire’s speed and comfort even further.


The new tires are available in six sizes, named after some of our favorite mountain passes in the Cascade Range:

  • Cayuse Pass 700C x 26 mm
  • Chinook Pass 700C x 28 mm
  • Stampede Pass 700C x 32 mm
  • Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm
  • Loup Loup Pass 650B x 38 mm
  • Babyshoe Pass 650B x 42 mm

All tires have the same optimized casings and tread patterns.

With their focus on ultimate performance and handling, the new Compass tires will complement the existing Grand Bois tires, which will remain in the Compass Bicycles program. The Compass 26” tires remain unchanged as well. The tires are available right now. Click here for more information.

Posted in Product News, Tires | 161 Comments

The New Compass Taillight


When building my René Herse randonneur bike, I was unable to find a taillight that combined the functions I needed along with a classic appearance. I ended up making my own taillight. Now this light is available from Compass Bicycles Ltd.

I wanted a generator-powered taillight that matched the appearance and style of a classic, hand-built custom bicycle. The plastic tailights from Europe did not meet that criteria and were not appealing. I also wanted the light to incorporate a reflector, both as a fail-safe and to comply with legal requirements and the rules of randonneuring events.

I wanted reliable internals, and not custom-made electronics. The light had to survive many years of spirited riding on rough roads. It also had to be lightweight.


Bicycle Quarterly contributor Hahn Rossman suggested using the reflector as the lens of the taillight, which creates a nice, diffuse light. This reduces the glare for riders following you closely, yet it is no less visible from a distance. (The reflector doesn’t reflect the other way, so it doesn’t absorb more light than a normal red taillight lens.)

The Compass taillight has a machined aluminum housing. The reflector is EN-approved. (We tested a number of reflectors and used the one that reflected best, while also being thin enough to work as a taillight lens.)


Inside the aluminum housing are the electronics and LED of the Busch & Müller Seculite Plus taillight, which include a standlight. The circuit board mounts to a custom-made stainless steel plate, so it is securely attached. The stainless plate also serves as an attachment for the grounding wire.


The light comes with a custom-machined, two-piece braze-on. Your framebuilder can attach this behind the seat tube of your bike, René Herse-style. The screw-in piece provides a conduit into the seat tube, so the wire doesn’t snag on the sharp edge. It also provides a stop for a seatpost that otherwise might be inserted too deep and cut the wire.

The braze-on is pre-mitered for the seat tube, but your builder also can braze it to the end of a tube, if you want to use the light on a rack. You could also mount it underneath the chainstay, Alex Singer-style.


The light comes with ample wire to reach the headlight. The wire itself is a special automotive wire. The insulation is made of a cross-linked polymer with extra-high abrasion resistance.

The Compass taillight carries a 2-year warranty. It is made in the USA, and available now. More information about the Compass taillight is here.

Posted in Lighting, Product News | 32 Comments