How Far We’ve Come

Hetre_boulders

A few weeks ago, I was working on the third-ever issue of Bicycle Quarterly: Vol. 1 No. 3, a slim volume of 24 pages. We are reprinting this issue as part of our commitment to keep all this timeless content available. And many of the articles are indeed timeless, but I had to laugh when I read the editorial.

Twelve years ago, I lamented that fully integrated randonneur bikes were not available. I wrote: “I hope some ‘framebuilders’ will make the transition to ‘constructers’ and start offering complete, integrated randonneur bikes. […] It is up to us customers to demand better, to ask difficult questions, and finally to order the bikes.”

BQ_3_cover

Back then, making a randonneur bike was exceedingly difficult. There were no wide high-performance tires. No fork crowns to fit wide tires. No flexible fork blades. No good brakes that could reach around wide tires and fenders. Few good fenders. No compact cranks. And there were few builders who could and wanted to build such a machine. And even those builders lamented that they could not get the parts they needed to make the bikes that we had in mind.

near_oso

How much things have changed. Today, wide tires are commonplace. Not only Compass, but numerous other companies offer supple high-performance tires that are wider than the traditional racing sizes of 20-25 mm. Flexible fork blades and fork crowns for wide tires are no problem. Centerpull brakes are offered by several companies. The same applies to fenders. Compact cranks are commonplace. Beautifully made racks are available either custom-made or as ready-to-go solutions.

diverge_skagit

Perhaps the biggest change is that “accessories” like racks, fenders and lights no longer are treated as afterthoughts, but integrated into the bike from the beginning. That is the only way you can create a bike with the performance of a racing bike, but the added versatility of fenders and lights to take you on any adventure you can imagine. Small builders have been the first to make these fully integrated bikes, and now we are seeing the first production bikes that are truly equipped for rides off the beaten path. The Specialized Diverge we tested for the Autumn issue of Bicycle Quarterly came with fenders and lights that were integrated into the bike, rather than added later with poorly fitting clamps and brackets.

bq123_map_test

As our bikes have evolved, our riding has changed as well. No longer do we need to stay on smooth main roads. First, we explored the paved backroads of the Pacific Northwest, then we discovered a vast network of beautiful gravel roads. Places like Babyshoe Pass, Naches Pass (above) and Bon Jon Pass may not yet be household names among cyclists, but they now see a good number of riders pass every year. And that to me is the most exciting: Not just better bikes, but a new style of riding that is more fun!

We at Bicycle Quarterly are proud to have been at the front of this positive trend. Our job is far from done – we’ll continue to push the development of “Allroad” bikes further, and test the ones available to make sure they perform as well as they should.

For more information about Bicycle Quarterly, click here.

Posted in A Journey of Discovery, Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 32 Comments

New Compass Tires in Stock

rat_trap_black

The four new Compass tires are in stock now! They are the Rat Trap Pass (26″ x 54 mm), Switchback Hill (650B x 48 mm), Bon Jon Pass (700C x 35 mm), and Elk Pass (26″ x 1.25″).

The Rat Trap Pass (above) is the ultimate expression of our new Enduro Allroad tires. With its 54 mm width, it is incredibly plush on rough gravel, yet thanks to the smaller 26″ wheel size, it has the same rotational inertia as a medium-width 700C tire, and thus handles like a good road tire on pavement.

The Rat Trap Pass has already proven itself in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, where it provided wonderful comfort and security for a tandem team on the rough roads of Brittany.

switchback_hill

At 48 mm wide, the Switchback Hill is our largest 650B (27.5″) tire yet. Named after the first major climb in the Oregon Outback gravel race, the extra floatation gives you more speed and security when the going gets really rough. 30% of the Oregon Outback is on pavement, so we designed this tire to roll as fast and grip as well as a good racing tire. With this tire, you truly have the best of both worlds. The Switchback Hill also can transform the performance of your 27.5″ mountain bike on gravel or paved roads.

The prototypes of the Switchback Hill tires have been in demand among BQ contributors. Fred Blasdel took Alex Wetmore’s Switchback Hills on an epic ride across the Cascades, and apparently he has no intention of returning them, since he likes them so much! (It’s OK, we’ll just have to give Alex a new set.)

bon_jon

The Bon Jon Pass is our Goldilocks tire: at 700C x 35 mm, it fits bikes that have extra clearance around the Stampede Pass (32 mm), but not enough space for a Barlow Pass (38mm). Whether smooth gravel or rough pavement, the Bon Jon Pass will make your bike fly!

elk_pass

The Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ tires (32 mm-wide) are superlight tires for bikes with 26″ wheels. If you are looking for the fastest, lightest 26″ tire ever made, this likely is it. Not only does it weigh just 178 g, but it uses the Compass Extralight casing and our ultra-sticky tread rubber for the ultimate in suppleness and cornering grip. It also is a great emergency spare tire for those traveling off the beaten path with 26″ wheels. The Elk Pass already has proven itself on challenging rides in the Cascade Mountains and in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris.

Like most Compass tires, the new tires are available with “Standard” casings and tan sidewalls, as well as with “Extralight” casings in a choice of black or tan sidewalls. (The Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ is available only with Extralight casing and tan sidewalls.)

Click here for more information about the “Standard” and “Extralight” casings.

Click here for more information on the new tires or to order.

Posted in Tires | 54 Comments

Autumn Bicycle Quarterly

bq53_cover_lowres

We seem to be at the apex of Summer: Jan and Theo and other randonneurs experienced Paris-Brest-Paris, and we see many of you on great cycling outings. Yet, we all notice how the sun sets a bit earlier, and Labor Day is not too far away if we look at our calendars…

… which means the Autumn issue of Bicycle Quarterly is at the printers’ and will be mailed soon.

diverge_blog

We tested the Specialized Diverge Carbon Di2. It’s an exciting machine: A top of the line carbon bike with room for wide tires, optional fenders and lights, and you even can mount a low-rider rack!

We took this bike on a multitude of adventures, from a midnight climb of Mount Constitution in the San Juan Islands to a fast overnight camping trip up the Carbon River on Mount Rainier (above). Is it possible to combine the feel of a modern carbon road bike with the versatility of wide tires, fenders and even a touring load? And is this really the fastest bike we’ve tested? We rode the bike over 1000 km (650 miles) to find out!

shimano_disc_blog

The Diverge was equipped with Shimano’s latest hydraulic “road” disc brakes. We tested these brakes and assessed the state of “road” disc brakes in general. Are they mature technology?

hirose_blog

From the latest technology to a more classic approach: We visit the legendary constructeur C. S. Hirose in Tokyo and take you on a tour of his workshop. Marvel at the incredible variety of bikes he builds, and learn why he makes his own front and rear derailleurs with desmodromic actuation.

mini-velo_blog

Not only did we visit C. S. Hirose, but we rode one of his very special machines on a wonderful day trip in the Japanese mountains. Fall colors, great camaraderie and an amazing bike combined to one of our best “First Ride” features.

hirose_bike_blog

We also bring you a portrait of a more conventional Hirose bike, except that it’s made for a small rider. Natsuko Hirose (no relation to the builder) explains how she chose her bike and what makes it special.

jobst_blog

Jobst Brandt inspired several generations of cyclists, and his technical insights changed how bicycle wheels are built. We look back on a full life dedicated to the enjoyment of cycling off the beaten path.

alan_blog

With cyclocross season around the corner, we discovered a “New Old Stock” Alan cyclocross bike in its original packaging. Join us as we unwrap this treasure. In our “Skills” column, we explain how to remount your bike cyclocross-style while running, and why this technique, executed in slow-motion, is useful for all riders. (Hint: It allows you to get moving quickly and without wobbling.)

provot_blog

After the U.S. and Japan, we take you to France. Daniel and Madeleine Provot were cyclotourists and randonneurs during the Golden Age of French cycling in the 1950s. In the first part of a series, they share images from their photo albums that take us back to a time when cycling was more than a simple pastime – it was a way of life.

rivet_blog

As always, there is much more – product tests like this Rivet saddle, letters, our “Icon” column…

Click here to start or renew your subscription, so you get your Autumn issue of Bicycle Quarterly without delay. Our website now provides customer accounts that you can access to check your subscription, renew, and also give gift subscriptions.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 13 Comments

A Lap of the Poly de Chanteloup

demilly_theo

After Paris-Brest-Paris, Theo and I rode out to Chanteloup in the hills west of Paris. After every PBP, we organize a small reunion of the Pilotes de René Herse (the riders on René Herse’s team) at the restaurant where the team used to eat after the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race. During recent reunions, some of the pilotes brought their bikes, and we rode around the course of the Poly.

pilotes_herse

Due to a relatively short notice, only six people participated, but it was a fun event nonetheless. Left to right: Theo, Lyli Herse, Jan, Jean-Marie Comte, Max Audouin (current-day randonneur and friend) and Robert Demilly.

Readers of the René Herse book will know Comte as one of the four riders who were a formidable presence in the randonneuring competitions that were popular at the time, including the Poly hillclimb races. However, they also were capitaines de route who guided the group rides of the Audax brevets… Being able to ride fast was an asset when trying to keep these groups together.

HerseCH1200

Robert Demilly, the other pilote at the reunion, came first in the 1966 Paris-Brest-Paris, together with Maurice Macaudière. They set a record of 44:21 hours in the process. The photo above shows Demilly leading Macaudière on the approach to Paris during the final stages of this amazing ride. (Their story was published in Bicycle Quarterly 21.)

We all enjoyed an excellent dinner, then Robert Demilly changed into his cycling clothes and led us during a lap around the course of the Poly de Chanteloup. On our way to the restaurant, we already had climbed the famous 14% hill that the randonneurs ascended 11 times during their 100+ km event.

descente_maurecourt

We started our ride on the forested plateau of Hautil, then launched into the descent toward Maurecourt. The road is very steep and bumpy, but Monsieur Demilly handled his Look racing bike with aplomb. Max and Lyli followed in the car – Lyli wanted to relive her many tandem exploits in the Poly, but we couldn’t find a tandem to fit her. Two years ago, to celebrate her 85th birthday, I had the honor to pilot her around the course on an Herse “Chanteloup” tandem (with curved seat tube for better performance up- and downhill)!

In Maurecourt, we had to detour due to construction, but soon we found ourselves on the original course again.

cote_andresy

After a short ride along the Seine, we turned up the hill of Andrésy. It’s not the main hill, but it’s steep and long. I had admired Monsieur Demilly’s pedal stroke on the flats, but now I could see that he also had plenty of power. Especially impressive for a 75 year-old!

demilly_chanteloup

We rolled along a false flat, then we turned a corner and found ourselves right in front of the beautiful church of Chanteloup. I couldn’t take a photo, since I was too busy shifting to the small chainring. Now the famous climb began in earnest. I sprinted ahead to take the photo above, and then had a hard time catching up to Theo and Monsieur Demilly. Part of it was the 1200 km of PBP that still were in my legs, but those two really climbed well (see also photo at the top of the post).

groupe_monument

The hill was long, and it was hot. When we finally reached the top, we stopped at the monument for a professional racer who died in his 20s. Monsieur Demilly, who used to work as a mechanic for the French national team, filled us in on the details of this racer and his untimely death.

Then we went to Lyli Herse’s house for refreshments and more reminiscences. We talked until late in the evening, and the sun was setting when Theo and I set out to return to Paris.

seine

We rode along the Seine, then crossed the Pont d’Asnières, passed near the Alex Singer shop in Levallois-Perret, before launching into Paris traffic on the way back to our hotel. As we jostled with taxicabs for position on the cobblestone roundabout of the Place de la Bastille, we shouted at each other: “What a fun day!”

Correction 8/24: The original post listed the square with the cobblestones as Place de la Nation. We traversed both, but only the Place de la Bastille has cobblestones.

Posted in People who inspired us | 29 Comments

Customer Newsletter

letter

Along with our updated website, Compass Bicycles updated its customer newsletter. We use it to announce things like new items, products that are back in stock, and other noteworthy news. It’s the best way to stay updated on what is going on at Compass. Our newsletter frequency is once every 1 or 2 weeks, so we won’t clutter your inbox. We try to keep the newsletter interesting and a bit different from this blog or Bicycle Quarterly magazine.

Even if you haven’t bought anything from Compass yet, you can sign up for the newsletter here. It’s easy, and you can always unsubscribe, either by clicking on a link at the bottom of the newsletter, or at the same link.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Compass Tires and Tubeless

 

no_tubes

I was trying to put a photo of the new Compass tires’ bead here, but it’s hard to photograph the difference… What is important is this: our upcoming Compass 26″ x 2.3″, 650B x 48 mm and 700C x 35 mm tires will be tubeless compatible!

You’ll just need to use a tubeless-compatible rim, the right rim tape, and put sealant into the tire. The new Compass tires feature a new bead shape that can be used with either inner tubes or set up tubeless.

The new bead shape is designed to provide a better interlock with the rim. This reduces the risk of the tire coming off the rim. Even so, tubeless setups put bigger stresses on the tire, and when set up tubeless, tire pressure is limited to 60 psi (4.1 bar). For the wide tires, this is no problem, as you don’t need to run them at high pressures.

Of course, many of our customers already have set up the existing Compass tires tubeless. However, we cannot recommend this, since the bead shape isn’t optimized for tubeless installation. If you try it, use your discretion…

travel_gifford

With the new tires, these concerns no longer will exist. It’s an exciting development, but we are also glad that for the majority of us, who continue to use tubes, the new bead works just like the old one.

Posted in Tires | 46 Comments

PBP Preparation: Rest, Check Bike, Learn French

biergarten

Paris-Brest-Paris is less than a week away. That means that training is over. Any hard or long rides from now will just fatigue your body, rather than make it stronger. All you can do to get your body into top shape is rest.

That doesn’t mean you cannot prepare for the big ride. Your bike probably is in good shape after you’ve ridden the qualifying brevets and trained for the big event. However, there are two things you can do that take little time, yet can save some aggravation during the ride.

First, if you have bar-mounted shifters, replace the cables and housing now. Your bike will shift better, and you eliminate the risk of a fraying or breaking shifter cable ruining your ride. Second, check your brake pads. Most riders don’t need to brake a lot in PBP, but if your pads are worn, finding replacements mid-ride will cost valuable time. Both maintenance items are not expensive and don’t take much time.

Finally, now is a good time to brush up on your French. With less than ten words, you can go from “stranger” to “nice guy who appreciates our culture”. Here is how:

Any time you talk to somebody in France, first say “Bonjour”. If possible, add “Madame” (if it is a woman) or “Monsieur” (if it is a man). This is basic politeness, and not greeting somebody before talking to them is incredibly rude in France. (You are entering their private sphere, and need to announce that intrusion.)

Second, follow any request with “s’il vous plait” (please). Again, it’s considered very impolite to omit this, even among friends.

Finally, receive any favor or information with “Merci” (thank you). That is all.

Let’s say you want to buy a croissant in a bakery. It’s perfectly acceptable to walk in, say “Bonjour, monsieur/madame”, point to a croissant and say “s’il vous plait“. Then, after you receive the croissant and pay the amount shown on the cash register, say “Merci”. Everybody will marvel at how well you speak French, and how nice you are!

I wish all readers who participate in PBP a great ride!

Posted in PBP Preparation | 19 Comments