Tubeless-Compatible 650B x 42 mm

The updated Compass Babyshoe Pass TC 650B x 42 mm tires are now in stock in all models. What’s new? We took our most popular 650B tire, and made it tubeless compatible. When you are riding fast on rough gravel, tubeless really makes sense – as I found out when I had dual pinch flats on a Bicycle Quarterly test bike on the original Babyshoe Pass tires (below).

You may wonder how I pinch-flatted on what looks like a smooth gravel road. It was smooth, and so we let the bikes fly on a fast downhill section. Right after a bend in the road, the gravel turned very rough. It was only a short section, but it was enough to pinch-flat both tubes. By the time I had stopped the wobbling bike from a speed of 65 km/h (40 mph), the road was smooth again, as if it all had been a bad dream. At least it was a scenic spot to change the tubes…

While we were making a new tire mold, we also increased the width of the new Babyshoe Pass by 1.5 mm. Now the tires measure a true 42 mm wide on most rims. That makes them the perfect tires not just for randonneur bikes, but also for a whole generation of gravel bikes like the Litespeed T5G and the Cannondale’s Slate.

What about the name? Babyshoe Pass is a 1330 m (4350 ft) high passage between the great volcanoes of Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in the Cascade Range (above during the recent Volcano High Pass Challenge). The origins of the name are shrouded in mystery, but that doesn’t keep passers-by from hanging baby shoes from the sign (top photo). It’s a great way to travel from Seattle to Portland while avoiding the crowded Puget Lowland.

During challenging rides like this, you will enjoy the Babyshoe Pass TC tires, which roll as fast as racing tires on the paved lower sections of the climb, yet float across the gravel as you cross the actual pass. No matter from which side you ride it, the descent is so steep that speed builds quickly. As you fly across the gravel, you’ll appreciate the possibility to run your tires tubeless. When you don’t have to worry about pinch flats, you can even look up from the road and see glimpses of Mount Adams snow-covered cone. Of course, like all our tubeless-compatible “TC” tires, you can also run the new Babyshoe Pass TC with tubes.

The original Babyshoe Pass (without the “TC” in the name) remains available as long as supplies last. It’s a little lighter, a little narrower and a little cheaper than the new model.

Click here for more information about Compass tires and the new Babyshoe Pass TC.


Posted in Tires | 12 Comments

Ultra-wide tires: Unfair advantage in ‘cross?

Last weekend was the first cyclocross race in Seattle. Almost every year, the first race catches me by surprise. Summer is over? It’s ‘cross season already?

Usually, I oil the chain on my trusty Alan ‘cross bike and head to the races. This year, the Alan’s tubular tires needed regluing. The glue must cure for 24 hours, and the race was too close for that.

What to do? I looked at my Firefly, still dusty from the Volcano High Pass Challenge and the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. What if I raced it instead?

The morning of the race, I took off the low-rider rack and two bottle cages, then rode the 25 miles (40 km) to the start. I arrived with just enough time to remove the last bottle cage, unclip the underseat bag, and do a practice lap. I let some air out of the tires, and then it was time to race.

At the start, I was a bit nervous, because I had forgotten to swap my touring pedals for dual-sided mtb pedals. On the bumpy course, clipping in after a remount wasn’t easy. I knew I’d lose some time. And I worried about the grip of my “road” tires at race speeds on the loose stuff, especially the grass. Hopefully, the competition wouldn’t be overwhelming. I had entered the Category 4 race – the lowest of the three categories offered.

Then we were off! I’ve never been an explosive sprinter, and so I found myself somewhere around 15th position as we went into the first corner. A long straight followed, and I was surprised by how fast my bike went. I know what bumpy grass feels like on 34 mm tires, and it was a totally different experience on 54s. Instead of bouncing, I was able to put down power and ride smoothly.

I had moved up to 3rd position when we reached the first sandpit. And since I hadn’t been working as hard as the others on their narrower tires, I could outrun them. (In the deep sand, even my 54 mm tires didn’t provide enough floatation to make riding more efficient than running.) I took the lead at the exit of the sand pit and never looked back (top photo).

I ran through the next sand pit, too, but the third one was relatively short, and I found that momentum carried me across. Just accelerate hard on the approach and keep going! Where the course doubled back on itself, I could see my pursuers. I was surprised how quickly my gap had grown. I would like to claim superior fitness, but I think the bike’s speed deserves more credit. I’ve raced Cat. 4 in the past, and I’ve never experienced such a speed difference.

With so much grip, I rarely touched my brakes. I did realize why ‘cross bikes have higher bottom brackets: After leaning deep into a corner, I righted the bike until I thought that I was straight again. When I started pedaling, I was still leaning much further than I thought. I clipped a pedal, and next thing I knew, I was on the ground. My lap times show that I lost 10 or 15 seconds, and my pursuers came back into sight. But adrenalin enhances performance, and I managed to hold onto my lead to take the win after 42 minutes of all-out racing.

What did I learn? First, on bumpy terrain, wider tires are much faster. We already knew this, but the magnitude of the effect surprised even me. Being able to pass other racers at will really represents an unfair advantage. Cornering grip on the loose, but dry, surfaces also was far superior to what I am used to.

What about the lack of knobs on my tires? We know that on gravel, knobs don’t make any difference, and I found that the same holds true on dirt and even dry grass. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised: Traditional dry-weather ‘cross tires (above) have almost no tread – in fact, they are so smooth that we used to ride them on the road, since they were a little bit wider than the 21 mm racing tubulars we had back then.

Of course, riding the Firefly with its 54 mm tires in a ‘cross race is unfair. The best rider should win, not the rider on the widest tires. Road racing and its muddy cousin, cyclocross, are traditional sports, and the bikes are clearly defined by the rules. It may be possible to make faster bikes, but finding the fastest bike isn’t the point of racing – it’s finding the fastest rider. As BQ contributor Hahn Rossman (below) put it: “Cross is about riding a road bike off-road. You really shouldn’t ride across bumpy terrain on narrow tires, but it’s great fun.”

Cyclocross has an element of underbiking, and that is why the UCI has limited tire widths for professional racers. For amateurs in the U.S., the UCI rules usually don’t apply, but I feel it isn’t in the spirit of the sport to ride a bike that is so blatantly outside the accepted norm.

I am also not sure my advantage would persist as the weather turns rainy. On a muddy course, my ultra-wide tires may not work so well. A narrower tire – say 35 to 40 mm wide – digs into the mud and probably creates more lateral resistance when cornering. A super-wide tire may just skate across the muddy surface without finding any grip. Once the weather turns muddy, I could put a set of mountain bike knobbies on the Firefly to find out.

Or I’ll just ride my Alan (above) again, because it’s already set up for muddy riding. In the end, my experiment hasn’t shown anything we didn’t know already: On bumpy surfaces in the dry, wider tires are much faster. We also know that in mud, you need knobs to dig into the surface and generate grip.

If you have been intrigued by cyclocross, give it a try. It’s great fun, and what you learn about bike handling will improve your skills on all surfaces, year-round. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cyclocross bike. Just ride the most suitable bike you have. Cyclocrossers are very relaxed about the competition – nobody complained that I rode ultra-wide tires. Last weekend, old road bikes, a randonneur bike (with the fenders removed), and mountain bikes mixed it up with the purpose-built ‘cross bikes.

And if you need cyclocross tires – whether for dry or muddy conditions – our Steilacoom 700C x 38 mm and Pumpkin Ridge 650B x 42 mm knobbies are hard to beat. I just wish they fit my old Alan, which dates from a time when 28 mm tires were “huge”. It would save me from having to re-glue my tires!

Photo credits: Westside Bicycle (Photos 1, 3, 4, 5), Natsuko Hirose (Photo 8).

Posted in Rides, Testing and Tech, Tires | 22 Comments

Allroad Riding in Alsace (Open’s Video)

Open made a video to introduce their facelifted U.P. wide-tire racing bike. They went for a beautiful ride in the Alsace Mountains of France, coincidentally the same region where the first post-war Concours de Machines was held in 1946.

A few months ago, we sent Open’s Andy Kessler a set of Compass 650B x 48 mm Switchback Hill tires for testing. He put them on the new bike and featured them in the video. How did they perform? Andy’s comment:

“Funny enough, I was downloading a MTB loop to my Garmin that was described as difficult. OK, we had to push our U.P.s for 5 minutes as the trail was big rocks and drops, but all the rest can be done with an U.P. also.”

Seeing the video makes me want to head out for a ride in the hills. Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Kaisei Tubing

It’s no secret that we love steel bikes. Steel allows us to build the bikes we need for our adventures – bikes where every detail is optimized to the nth degree. You can imagine our concern when True Temper, one of the most important suppliers of steel tubing, decided to leave the bicycle market. Without steel tubes, especially the superlight ones that True Temper was specializing in, there wouldn’t be any more of the bikes we love.

What to do? We thought about who made the best steel tubing in the world today. There is no simple answer, but Kaisei in Japan was an obvious candidate. Kaisei is unique in that most of their tubes are used for professional racing bikes: More than 2000 Japanese Keirin riders race on steel bikes, and most are made from Kaisei tubing, which is known for its high quality.

Kaisei is an interesting company, because they are just a manufacturer, without any marketing. All they do is supply tubes to Japanese framebuilders. And since those builders work for professional racers, there is no need for fancy names and stickers. As a result, Kaisei uses Cromoly tubing. It’s the strongest and most reliable, and the thinwall tubes are heat-treated. I like that no-nonsense approach.

Kaisei tubes are rounder than most, and their walls are more uniform in their thickness. They match their spec exactly, unlike some other tubes we’ve measured. The heat treatment is uniform, and it’s designed to strengthen the tubes without making them brittle. This precision reduces the risk that a frame breaks due to defects in the tubing. For Keirin racers, this point is very important: They are not allowed to change bikes during a weekend of racing, and if their bike breaks, they are out of the races. And since they live off their prize money, this means they have no income, either.

In the past, Kaisei tubing was designed for smaller frames, since Japanese (racers and otherwise) tend to be shorter than the average westerners. The thinwall “bellies” of the tubes were relatively short, which meant that tall frames were heavier and stiffer than necessary. In addition to offering these “short” tubes, we worked with Kaisei to make “long” tubes with longer thinwall “bellies” that are optimized for taller frames. Since we commissioned the tooling for these tubes, they are available exclusively from Compass Cycles.


To complement the excellent Kaisei tubes, we developed a selection of framebuilding parts. They are made by Longshen in Taiwan to the highest specifications. The new Compass fork crown is a perfect fit for the Kaisei TOEI Special fork blades that we use on all our bikes. The new fork crown combines classic looks with a modern box section construction. The result is an ultralight and super strong fork crown.

The Compass bottom bracket shell is specifically designed for wide tires. The chainstay sockets angle outward a bit more (10°) to accommodate curved chainstays. This provides extra tire clearance. It’s the secret for using wide tires with road cranks. Designed for standard-diameter tubes and with enough material to carve and match your preferred lug shape, the Compass bottom bracket shell combines light weight with versatility.

These are just a few elements of our new frame tubing program. Instead of lamenting the demise of a major supplier of steel frame tubing, we worked on a replacement that is arguably even better. Now it’s easier than ever before to have your dream bike made!

Click here for detailed specs of the tubes, as well as our complete program of braze-ons and other framebuilding parts.

Photo credit: Paul Keller (Photo 4).

Posted in Framebuilding supplies | 29 Comments

Results: Volcano High Pass Challenge

The results are coming in for the Volcano High Pass Challenge. As the name implies, it was a challenging ride with much elevation gain, much gravel, and much scenic beauty.

Fifteen intrepid riders set out from the Packwood Library shortly after 5 a.m. on Saturday.

The long gravel climb up to Walupt Lake – more than 3000 ft up – separated the pack into small groups.

Even the race leaders stopped in awe when the forest opened up, and the giant peak of Mount Adams came into view.

The first control was at Walupt Lake, which most riders reached just as the sun was rising.

As proof of passing, riders had to take photos of their bikes at these scenic locations. I really enjoyed seeing the different view of the same places. Cyclotourists always have been keen photographers, and it’s nice that the Challenge brought out that element of our sport.

Takhlakh Lake is perhaps the most photographed spot in the Cascades, but it seems impossible to tire of the spectacle…

…of Mount Adams’ reflection in the beautiful lake.

From Takhlakh Lake, it was a quick descent to Babyshoe Pass, and then further downhill to Trout Lake.

Trout Lake is dwarfed by its scenic surroundings, but it’s a cute town in its own right, with fabulous huckleberry shakes and pies that invite for a rest. But beware, there is a Sasquatch hiding behind the general store…

The climb up to Goose Lake seems to be hot every time I ride it, and the lake invites to a swim.

Several racers took advantage of the cooling waters.

After cresting the last big climb, a sinuous descent brought participants to the finish at the Carson General Store after 166 km / 103 miles. The full route is at the bottom of this post.

As the ride finished, we could see the smoke rising from the Eagle Creek fire that had started on the other side of the Columbia River earlier in the day. The two first finishers returned to Portland that night, having completed a two-day ride/race from Portland to Packwood and back via Mount St. Helens on the way out and via Mount Adams on the way back. Chapeau! Others headed to the campground to join the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting, with great camaraderie and beautiful riding over this long weekend.

Rider continued to trickle in until late in the evening. We don’t have all results yet, especially from the riders who completed the ride over multiple days. Please e-mail your photos and arrival time to Some riders were unable to complete the ride. Fortunately, Jerry, Pat and Jean from Branford Bike in Seattle were on the course to help riders in trouble. Thank you for the support!

Here are the results so far:

One-Day Ride/Race

  • David Wilcox 8:56 hr (avg.: 18.6 km/h)
  • Ryan Francesconi 9:01 hr 
  • Jan Heine 9:04 hr
  • Larry Kaufman 9:45
  • Tim Clark 11:05
  • Scott Sattler / Daniel Wynn 11:30
  • Brent Shultz 13:10

Multi-Day Challenge

  • Jeff Angeley
  • Chris Behrens
  • Parker Couch
  • Jason Miller
  • Steve Tatge

Here is the full route of the Volcano High Pass Challenge. Click here for a link to the RidewithGPS file. If you missed this year’s event, it’s a great ride on your own.

Photo credits: Ryan Francesconi (Photos 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 14), Tim Clark (Photos 6, 8), Larry Kaufman (Photo 12).

Posted in Rides | 5 Comments

BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

Smiles all around: That is perhaps the best summary of the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. A couple of dozen cyclists met in Carson, WA, for a weekend of exploring with like-minded cyclists.

This year, the weekend started with the Volcano High Pass Challenge, an unsactioned ride/race over 103 miles (166 km) and 10,000 ft (3000 m) of climbing. Fifteen riders set out on Saturday morning, plus others had started earlier to enjoy the beautiful course over several days.

Riding along the flanks of Mount Adams on gravel roads made for a beautiful ride after the challenging initial climb out of the Cowlitz River valley.

The number of riders increased further for the actual Un-Meeting itself. A forest fire brought smoke into the mountains, so we changed course, but the routes we discovered were at least as nice as those we had intended to ride.

Riders came from all over the United States – as far as Colorado, Wisconsin and Philadelphia – with Monica even coming directly from riding the Tour Divide from Canada all the way to New Mexico. Everybody had great stories to share, and the day passed all too quickly.

Monday saw many of the riders return to Portland in small groups. It was another fun Un-Meeting, and I can’t wait for the next one.

For the participants of the Volcano High Pass Challenge, we ask to please e-mail your photos from the controls, together with your complete name and arrival time in Carson, to Results and additional photos will be published as they come in.

Posted in Rides | 4 Comments

Final Details: BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

Volcano High Pass Challenge (Saturday, 9/2)

Part race, part scenic ride with friends, this unsanctioned event challenges riders of all abilities. The distance is 170 km (105 miles), with half on gravel and half on pavement, from Packwood, at the foot of Mount Rainier, to Carson, on the Columbia River.

Anyone is welcome: Just ride the course and have fun. For the one-day ride/race, show up at the start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, in front of the Packwood Library. Whether you compete for the fastest time, ride with friends, or start early and complete the ride at a more relaxed pace over multiple days, it’ll be an unforgettable experience.

Riders will need to be self-sufficient as no services will be provided. Be sure to review the route and print a copy of the cue sheet (links below). A few pointers on the route:

  • A third of the total climbing is during the first 25 km (16 miles). Don’t despair – it gets easier (and even more scenic) later.
  • The last climb to Walupt Lake is very steep, but short. Don’t be afraid to walk, if necessary. The view of the lake is worth it.
  • There is no water between Walupt Lake (km 38 / mile 23) and Trout Lake (km 108 / mile 67). Plan accordingly. We will try to have water at Takhlakh Lake (km 66 / mile 41), but don’t count on it.
  • Great blackberry shakes in Trout Lake at the restaurant/gas station. Don’t miss it.
  • The last 30 km (20 miles) are downhill! Make sure your brakes work and enjoy!

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

BQ Un-Meeting (Sunday, 9/3)

Camping: We have a group tent site at the Wind River RV Park and Lodge in Carson for Saturday and Sunday nights. Cost is $15 per tent per night. In exchange for this reduced group rate, the campground asks for a single payment, so please give Theo cash before setting up your tent. There will be enough space for everybody who wants to camp.

On Sunday we’ll have two rides:

Weigle Hill

To Trout Lake on the Volcano High Pass route, then circling Weigle Hill and Buck Mountain on beautiful gravel roads. This route covers approximately 150 km (93 miles), almost all on gravel. Route details are subject to change.

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

Calamity Peak

This is a mostly paved course (with a little light gravel in places) on one of the most amazing mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest. This is an out-and-back course, allowing you to shorten or extend the ride as you like. The distance is 70 – 90 km (43 – 56 miles), depending on where you turn around.

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

Return from the Un-Meeting (Monday, 9/4)

Carson to Portland

On Monday, after the Un-Meeting, many of us will ride to Portland via the Bridge of the Gods and Historic Highway 30 in the Columbia River Gorge. This is a wonderful scenic, paved route of about 100 km (62 miles). There are many waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. Bring  $1 to pay the bicycle toll after crossing the Bridge of the Gods. There is a staircase about 19 km (12 miles) into the route where you will need to carry your bike.

Route on RWGPS

Photo credits: Theo Roffe (3, 4)

Posted in Rides | 14 Comments