Tire Fit Gauge

How wide a tire can I fit on my bike? It’s a common question, and yet it’s difficult to figure out, especially when you plan to change wheel sizes.

Hahn Rossman has developed a simple tire fit gauge that allows checking tire clearances on your bike. Put the disc for the tire width in the slot for the wheel size. Place the gauge on a dummy axle (any old hub axle will work). Rotate the gauge around the axle to check clearances between the chainstays, at the back of the seat tube and between the seatstays.

It’s such a simple tool that you wonder why nobody else has made one before. Above, you can see that if your frame has clearance for 700C x 23 mm tires…

… you may also be able to fit 650B x 38 mm tires…

… but you need a lot of extra clearance to fit 26″ x 54 mm tires.

The outer diameter of all wheels is the same, but it’s the clearance to the chainstays that is often too tight. The gauge makes it easy to visualize where the widest portion of the tire will be. It eliminates the guesswork that can make conversions to different tire sizes a hit-or-miss.

The Tire Fit Gauge is laser-cut from plexiglass. It’s in stock now. Click here for more information.

Posted in Tires | 12 Comments

Back in Stock: Knickers and Handlebars

Our knickers are back in stock. They are sewn right here in Seattle in small batches, which can make it difficult to keep them in stock. Now all sizes are back.

Inspired by the clothes worn by the stylish Japanese cyclotourists, and refined for even greater performance, the knickers all but disappear when you ride. When you get off the bike, you are dressed to look sporting without pushing the boundaries of good taste. Click here to read a review – by a mountain biker! – of the knickers.

Our handlebars also have been incredibly popular. Their carefully designed shapes provide comfort on long rides by supporting your hands properly. Rather than locking you into a prescribed position, they allow you to find the position that matches your very unique anatomy. Made by Nitto in Japan to our exclusive specifications, they are among the lightest and strongest handlebars you can buy. All models and all sizes are in stock again. Click here to read a comparison of our handlebar models.

More information:

Posted in Clothing, Handlebars | 1 Comment

Compass becomes Rene Herse Cycles

Starting in early 2019, Rene Herse Cycles will be the sole brand for all tires and components made now by Compass Cycles. This streamlines our two brands and clarifies the philosophy that guides us.

Since Lyli Herse asked us to become custodians of the Rene Herse name more than a decade ago – above I’m riding with Lyli to celebrate her 85th birthday – we’ve introduced a number of products under the Rene Herse name, including low-Q factor cranks and superlight brakes. Our other components continued to be offered under the Compass brand.

 

Now we’ve decided to bring our entire program into Rene Herse Cycles to reflect our commitment to René Herse’s values: excellence in design and unwavering pursuit of quality. These values provide the inspiration as Rene Herse Cycles is reborn in the Cascade Mountains.

We discovered Herse’s genius as we developed our own bikes for a new style of riding long distances across varied terrain. The rough surfaces, harsh mountain environments and long distances placed new demands that then-current bikes could not meet. Racing bikes were unsuited for the rough surfaces, but mountain bikes were not ideal for our spirited rides, either. The all-road machines from René Herse provided the inspiration for the bikes we needed. Herse never followed the current trends, but created unique and extremely advanced designs that offer timeless performance.

This philosophy has guided us as we’ve developed a range of tires and components specifically for gravel riders, randonneurs and cyclotourists. Our components will continue to evolve as technology and riding styles change over time. To reflect this commitment to tradition and innovation, we are introducing a new set of logos that combine classic cues with a modern aesthetic.

The move to the Rene Herse Cycles will occur as a rolling change. Some products, like our cranks, are already manufactured under the Rene Herse name. Others will follow, until the entire product line is part of Rene Herse Cycles. The last decade has been an exciting journey, and we’re looking forward to where it will lead us in the future.

Further reading:

 Rene Herse® is a registered trademark.

Posted in Components | 31 Comments

Winter 2018 Bicycle Quarterly

The cover of our Winter edition is one of my favorites. It illustrates the story of Natsuko buying her first bike, when she was a college student. Read how she struggled to figure out what it meant when bike magazines listed the price for “frame+fork only,” and how she finally decided to buy a custom-made Alps cyclotouring bike. To bring Natsuko’s story to life, MIYOSHI, who went to art school with her, contributed his iconic gouache paintings – no computer graphics here!

You’ve probably already seen the MAP All-Road in our latest movie. Now you’ll read how the bike fared during our 30-hour adventure. Mitch Pryor combined modern technology with classic features and added the versatility of racks, lights and fenders. Is this the future of randonneur bikes?

At a much more affordable price point, the All-City Gorilla Monsoon looks remarkably similar. Does it offer similar performance, too? And how does it compare to its cousin, the Surly Midnight Special we tested a few months ago?

Rides don’t come much more epic than the Transcontinental Race. Jonah Jones takes you on this incredible adventure. Somehow, he found time during the race to capture stunning photos. He takes you to places that you’ll want to visit some day.

Firefly makes some of the best titanium bikes in the world. We visit their workshop and document what makes their bikes so special.

In France, the iconic Idéale saddle are being made again. We traveled to Toulouse, at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains, to discover the secret behind this amazing revival. Plus, we bring you the full history of this innovative saddle maker.

Idéale saddles felt right at home during Peter Weigle’s French Fender Day. Join us as we enjoy a day among friends and their cyclotouring bikes deep in the woods of Connecticut.

Nicola Barra was the mad genius of cyclotouring bikes, and the one we feature in this issue is madder than most. Just consider: an aluminum frame with ovalized tubes, a 1930s racing derailleur converted to wide-range gearing, and a weight that would not have been out of place at the Concours de Machines technical trials. All with beautiful patina, presented in beautiful studio photos.

We celebrate the 80th anniversary of Cycles Rene Herse with an illustrated timeline. Above is Lyli Herse overlooking the Mississippi River during a 1960s trip to the U.S.

Natsuko takes you on a ride through New England during harvest time, a scientific study looks at how Q factor affects performance and the potential for injury, we test products and review books… Like every Bicycle Quarterly, this 112-page edition will give you many hours of reading enjoyment.

Click here to subscribe today, and you’ll get your copy in time for the holidays.*

*Holiday delivery guaranteed for U.S. addresses.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 6 Comments

Berthoud Mirrors Back in Stock

The popularity of Gilles Berthoud’s new mirrors surprised us. We expected them to be popular, but we didn’t expect to sell out within days.

It’s easy to understand why customers like them, though: They are beautifully made from the best materials, and they work well with all road handlebars. They are available as simple aluminum mirrors (top), or with a leather insert that matches Berthoud’s saddles and handlebar tape (above).

Everybody at Gilles Berthoud has been working hard to keep up with demand, but since these are largely handmade, they’ll remain in short supply for a while. We just received another shipment, and all models are back in stock for now.

Click here for more information or to order.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Racing a 40-year-old bike

I’ve been racing my Alan cyclocross bike since I bought it second-hand, many years ago, when I was still in college. Back then, it was simply a used ‘cross bike. Now it may seem like a relic from another era.

And yet the Alan continues to hold its own in the Pacific Northwest’s cross races. I like the way it accelerates out of corners. Alan’s aren’t as flexible as legend has it – Bicycle Quarterly’s frame flex test found it to be about as stiff as a Columbus SL frame – but mine planes very well for me.

You’d think that modern carbon bikes perform better on the uphills, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Even the Alan’s weight – 10.0 kg (22 lb) – isn’t uncompetitive. Cyclocross is the one place where the weight of your bike actually matters, as you lift it up several times per lap.

The Alan has one other advantage over modern bikes: Its horizontal top tube makes it easier to portage. A sloping top tube makes the main triangle so small that many racers now push their bikes. Dragging your wheels through the mud and leaning over to reach the handlebars is not the most efficient way to move when it’s too steep to ride.

How about the lack of disc brakes? You’d expect discs to offer a huge advantage in ‘cross, but the reality is that you can only brake so hard when your tires have limited grip, and good cantilevers are more than sufficient.

I find that rim brakes offer more feel when the lockup point is approaching. I suspect this is because the brake lever is directly connected to the rim, whereas with discs, the feedback from the tires has to be transmitted through the spokes. Does it matter? On the Alan, I often get to the point where one wheel locks up for a split second. Feeling that point approaching, I can start to release the brake slightly before the wheel skids, rather than react to the skidding itself.

Last year, I installed our Rene Herse brakes on several bikes as part of our pre-release testing. I didn’t expect a huge improvement over the Mafacs installed before, but I was surprised. Not only are the forged arms stiffer and more powerful, but the terrible fork judder the bike displayed before at low speeds has disappeared.

I also like that the roller on the cable hanger self-centers the brake arms if they get bumped during a clumsy dismount or – heaven forbid! – a fall. By the way, falls in ‘cross are rare, but they also don’t usually hurt. Mud is soft!

I like that the Alan is a true ‘cross bike – designed for cyclocross racing and nothing else. There are no bottle cage mounts. The top tube is flattened so it doesn’t dig into my shoulder when I portage the bike. The low-trail geometry makes the bike beautifully adjustable at high speeds on slippery surfaces.

There is no way to mount a front derailleur on the bike. Back when I bought it, that was considered a drawback, as riders were switching to STI. These days, ‘One-By’ gearing is becoming popular again. The old style, with two large chainguards, keeps the chain on even in the rough-and-tumble of ‘cross racing. And if it ever does come off, you don’t have to worry about lining up thick and thin teeth with their corresponding chain links – just drop the chain into the slot and go.

The Alan originally came to me with toeclips, but I’m not interested in retro for retro’s sake. I don’t like fishing for toeclips, so I installed clipless pedals from the get-go. I still like my old Look Moabs. Their platforms are huge, allowing me to pedal even when my foot doesn’t clip in easily because my cleats are clogged with mud.

The six-speed freewheel has plenty of gears for me – I rarely use the smallest and largest cogs. And with more space between the cogs, they don’t clog up with mud as easily. The popularity of singlespeeds in ‘cross racing shows that I am not the only one who feels that way.

The one place where cyclocross bikes have changed a lot are the tires. Back when I started racing, hand-made ‘cross tires existed, but they were almost unknown. Now I race on hand-made FMB Super Mud tubulars that roll amazingly well across bumpy terrain. The width of the tires has changed as well. Back when the Alan was built, 28 mm was considered wide. On dry days, many racers were on 24 mm tires that looked like road tires. I now run 33s, but they are a tight fit. Anything wider won’t have enough mud clearance.

I’d love to use our Steilacoom 700C x 38 mm clinchers. They provide the same ride quality as my tubulars with less hassle – the extra 10% in width makes up for the tire being surrounded by the rim, rather than sitting on top of it. And with the Steilacooms performing as well on pavement as in the mud, to be able to ride to the races – even when they are as far away as Steilacoom. The FMBs are great on mud, but the small knobs squirm terribly on pavement.

It’s been fun racing the Alan. If I ever replace it, it’ll be a with similar bike. A new ‘cross bike would probably be made from steel rather than aluminum, but with similar flex characteristics and similar components. I’ve ridden modern gravel and ‘cross bikes, and they are very nice, too. But for me, the Alan just works remarkably well.

Photo credits: Westside Bicycle (Photo 3), Natsuko Hirose (all other photos).

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Bicycle Quarterly Movie: A 30-Hour Ride

How do you test a bike like Mitch Pryor’s latest MAP All-Road? With its 48 mm-wide tires, fenders, racks and full lights, this is a bike designed for epic rides. How about taking it on a 30-hour, non-stop ride that traverses four mountain passes and crosses the crest of the Cascade Mountains twice?

Enjoy our little movie about this adventure! (Make sure to click on the ‘full-screen’ icon.)

Read the full story in the Winter 2018 Bicycle Quarterly. Subscribe today, and you’ll get your copy before the holidays.

Click here to subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues, Testing and Tech | 3 Comments