New Curved Stays and OS Bottom Bracket Shells

Fitting wide tires and/or fenders between road cranks can be a challenge. René Herse was a master of frame design, who curved his chainstays ‘just so’ to create the room he needed. On the tandem above, not a single millimeter is wasted, and the result are perfect clearances for 42 mm-wide tires, fenders and cranks with a narrow Q-factor.

The first step toward replicating Herse’s mastery in modern bikes was to make a bottom bracket shell with the correct angle for curved chainstays. We already offer this shell for standard-diameter tubes. Brand-new is the same shell for oversized down tubes. These parts eliminates the need to ‘blacksmith’ the chainstay sockets of BB shells designed for straight chainstays.

There are many ways to bend the chainstays. To obtain easily replicable results, Hahn Rossman machined dies that fit perfectly over the chainstays. They create a beautiful curve without kinks or bulges. We’ve developed the exact shape through CAD design and the experience of building numerous bikes with curved stays.

Curving stays is a labor-intensive process, to say nothing of the time and effort to make the dies, but it’s almost a necessity for modern all-road bikes.

We now offer the curved chainstays ready to go. They also are indented slightly on the inside to increase the clearance further, without creasing them as you often see on older bikes. The curved chainstays are a perfect match for the Compass bottom bracket shells. They are available separately or as part of the complete tubesets that we’ve developed  in collaboration with Kaisei, the Japanese maker of top-quality steel tubes

Also new in program are lighter-gauge chainstays, which balance the stiffness of our ‘Superlight’ tubeset.

As a final part of the puzzle, Hahn also made a gauge that visualizes the required clearances for a Rene Herse crank (177 mm length) with a 48×32 chainring combination. If the gauge fits, then your cranks will work with the recommended 110 mm bottom bracket. And since Rene Herse cranks have one of the narrowest Q-factors and a standard road chainline, other cranks will fit as well.

If the gauge fits, then smaller chainrings and shorter crankarms will fit, too. If you need more room, space out the cranks with a longer bottom bracket spindle. This gauge takes the guesswork out of the parts you need to order.

The photo above shows a fillet-brazed frame, because the new bottom bracket shell for OS tubing wasn’t available yet. With the new BB shells and curved stays, standard road cranks, even those with a narrow Q-factor, will fit, unless your rear spacing is much greater than 130 mm.

When I built my Mule (above), it was intended as a prototype for a modern all-road bike that can travel with speed and comfort over any distance, on any road and in any weather. Over the last few years, we’ve productionized most of the parts used in this build. Creating a custom all-road bike has never been easier!

Further reading:

 

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Guest Post: Natsuko’s Trip to Rishiri Island

Mount Rishiri-Dake (1721 m) is a popular hiking destination.

In this guest post, Bicycle Quarterly editor Natsuko Hirose takes you to Rishiri Island, off Hokkaido’s coast in northern Japan. Translated from Natsuko’s blog Touge to Onsen:

From the northernmost town in Hokkaido, Wakkanai, there is a ferry that goes to Rishiri and Rebun Islands. These small islands are the northernmost inhabited parts of Japan, and many cyclists dream of cycling there once in their lifetime. So did I!

Cycling around the islands is not difficult, but finding the right time is! During the brief summer season, the Rishiri Island is popular with hikers. It’s also famous for its great seafood, amd the few hotels are usually booked.

At the end of September, it starts snowing in the mountains, and storms often cancel the ferry. By October, most hotels and pensions close. It’s difficult to find a time when cycling is possible, but there are no crowds.

Leaving Wakkanai on the ferry to Rishiri Island

With the uncertain schedule of the ferry, my friends cannot join me on this trip, so I travel alone. It is a different kind of fun.

The ferry takes two hours to reach the island. The first thing I look forward to is seeing the sun set into the Sea of Japan. It is cold on the boat, but I am excited to head to the island.

There are bike paths on the island, and a road goes around the perimeter. The distance is 55 km (35 miles), and the map doesn’t show much up-and-down, so it seems quite doable in a day – unless it is very windy. I pray that the wind won’t be too strong.

This bike path was built specifically for cycling, rather than being a converted railway. It has some nice ups and downs, and there are great views. It is fun. I imagine that during summer, the flowers will be beautiful, too.

This bike path even has viewpoints. Cycling along the sea, you often travel only at low levels, so it feels special to get to such a great view.

The path is deserted. I feel a bit lonely, but it is nice to have the place to myself. It’s one of the advantages of visiting during the off-season.

The bike path ends, so I take the road. There aren’t many cars, and the wind isn’t very strong. It makes for nice cycling. Except it is very cold. The sun is shining, but it is too low in the sky to provide much warmth.

Tonight, I will stay on the island, so I don’t need to worry about ferry or bus schedules. When I see something interesting, I can just stop and enjoy it. It feels very special.

When I ride with my friends, I often focus on cycling. When I go alone, I try to visit local museums whenever possible. I want to feel the history of the places I visit. It adds another dimension to exploring the landscape on my bike.

The Rishiri Island Museum is housed in the old village hall that was built in 1913. It’s well-known in Japan that Rishiri Island does not have brown bears. That makes hiking here easier and safer. At the museum, I see an old newspaper article: Many years ago, a bear swam 20 km (13 miles) from the mainland to the island!

The sky is so big here, and the air so cold. It really feels like an island far, far in the north.

I stop at Lake Outatomari, which means “inlet with sand” in Ainu, the language of the native inhabitants of the north. I am glad to see Mount Rishiri free of clouds, so I take a photo.

When touring alone, I don’t cover much ground. There are so many places to visit, so many photos to take. This morning, 55 km didn’t seem like a lot, but now the sun is low, and I am nowhere near my destination.

I am back on the bike path when the sun sets. I wanted to return to the hotel before sunset… Even so, I stop, because the sunset is beautiful.

Soon dinner will be served. And it’s getting cold and windy. I shiver.

I really want to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. But I can’t resist to climb up to the viewpoint to enjoy the sunset. It is very beautiful… and cold.

When I get to the hotel, dinner is already served. Traditional Japanese hotels serve dinner and breakfast as part of the accommodation. It is nice not having to worry about finding a warm meal. The meal consists of local specialties: fish, scallops, vegetables, prawns. It tastes great!

My friends ask me whether I feel lonely when I go on solo bike trips. The answer is yes – it can get lonely. This creates an opportunity to talk with local people or others I meet. We talk about local things, the weather, where we come from. It’s fun. Meeting people is an essential part of cyclotouring for me.

All night, it rains hard. When I wake up, I worry that I may not want to go cyclotouring today.

Looking outside, I see the first snow of the year on top of Mount Rishiri. Now I know why it feels so cold here!

I was tempted to climb to the top of Mount Rishiri, but with the snow, it is impossible. I don’t have enough equipment.

Instead, I decide to hike up Mount Pon. It’s only 441 m (1446 ft) high, so there is no snow. In my handlebar bag, I carry my backpack, hiking map, rain gear, headlamp, emergency food, compass… everything I need to hike up the mountain.

The hiking trail is steep, and I get warm from the effort.

When I reach the top, it’s so windy that it almost blows me away. In the background is Mount Rishiri. Later, I meet a hiker who reached the top. He said that it was very cold, and that hail stones covered the ground.

Even here, it’s too cold to stay and eat lunch. I drink hot tea from my thermos, then hike back down.

When I return to the foot of the mountain, the blue sky and red autumn foilage look so different from up there. I’m only 400 m (1300 ft) lower, but it’s a different world. I also realize that I was lucky to see Mt. Rishiri yesterday.

Afterward, I decide to explore other roads on the island. I want to eat lunch at a Ramen shop recommended by a friend. The lady at the visitor center told me that the Ramen shop is only open until 2 o’clock now, so I have to hurry.

When I reach the Ramen shop, it starts raining. The forecast was for sunshine, but on the island, the weather is unpredictable. The Ramen, with its soy sauce base and strong flavor, warms me on this cold day.

After I eat, I wait for the rain to stop. I meet a German tourist who rented a bike and is riding around the island, too. He asks me how to find the entrance to the bike path.

Today, I have much time, so I decide to ride with him. I’m no longer a solo cyclotourist – it’s a nice change!

I wonder why he could not find the bike path. There are many signs! For me, it is clear – I read the Japanese Kanji symbols, but it should be fine for him, too: There is an English translation on each sign. Then I realize that the English text says ‘Jitenshado’ – the Japanese word for ‘cycling road’ has been transcribed into the Roman alphabet, but not translated into English. Now I understand why the German cyclist could not find the bike path!

I am happy I could help the German tourist.

He tells me that he likes Japan very much and describes the places he has visited. Unexpected encounters also are part of the fun of cyclotouring.

He will leave the island on the last ferry. I suggest that he visit the public bath before taking the ferry… With some time before dinner at my hotel, I decide to explore the island a little more. I enjoy the view of the harbor with Mt. Rishiri in the background.

The following day, I take the ferry to the next island. It’s alway been my dream to go from island to island by ferry. It seems very romantic to me.

Rishiri Island recedes in the distance. I’ll come back some day to climb Mt. Rishiri1 But now I am heading to Rebun Island.

Read Natsuko’s previous post, about her cyclotouring reunion in Hokkaido.

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Back in Stock: MKS Allways Pedals and Kaisei Fork Blades

The MKS Allways pedals are back in stock. The video above shows how the super-smooth cartridge bearings make these spin almost forever. The slightly concave platform allows optimum pedaling efficiency without the need for foot retention. Made in Japan, these may be the best platform pedals ever made. Click here for more info or to order.

We also offer the MKS Rinko Adapters separately, so you can use the same pedals on multiple bikes, or run different pedals on the same bike. Changing the pedals takes just a few seconds – no tools required. Simply turn the ring and push it inward; then you can remove the pedal.

Most Rinko pedals in the Compass program use the “EZY-Superior” Rinko system (above), but the US-S (spd-compatible) pedals use the “EZY-Standard” couplers. We now offer both as separate parts. (Unfortunately, they aren’t interchangeable.)

Also back in stock: Kaisei ‘TOEI Special’ fork blades – as used on most of our bikes. To read how these fork blades improve the comfort and speed of your bike, click here.

The fork blades in this shipment are a bit shorter than we’d like – 405 mm as used by Japanese builders, rather than the 420 mm we usually specify. They work fine for 650B bikes, but the 420 mm blades give builders more leeway in trimming them to length. We will get the full-length blades again in January or February. For more information on fork blades and our other Kaisei tubing, click here.

We appreciate your patience while production caught up with demand on these popular items.

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Tubular Stays and Other Fender News

Many years ago, a big magazine published a note about Honjo fenders, which were just starting to trickle into the United States, and noted: “We are charmed by the idea that there actually are fender snobs.”

Those days are long over: Today fenders are recognized as an integral part of many performance bikes. Those of us who ride year-round need fenders that not only keep us and our bikes dry and clean, but also don’t rattle, resonate or break prematurely. We also want them to offer as much performance as possible.

Tens of thousands of miles of riding with fenders have shown us what works and what doesn’t. Honjo’s aluminum fenders keep us drier and are lighter and more aerodynamic than any plastic fenders we’ve tested.

The fenders Compass sells are made by Honjo to our own specifications. The most noticeable detail is the added coverage: 165° on the front and 200° on the rear. On the front, that means no spray on your feet and bottom bracket/chain (further helped by a short mudflap). On the rear, the fender can extend beyond the bottom bracket to keep the chain dry and clean even in crosswinds. These are small details, but they make a large difference.

One reason why we’ve found Honjo’s fenders so superior is their stays. They run all the way around the fender, rather than connecting to flimsy flat brackets. This makes them stiff and strong. The fenders we sell at Compass come with our own Rene Herse eyebolts (above). Not only is their rounded shape more elegant, but the threads are 7 mm long – exactly the right length, so the bolt doesn’t stick into the fender any further than needed. And the special ‘Tensiloc’ nuts we use prevent the fender bolts from loosening.

That hardware adds a little to the cost, but it means that you can install these fenders and forget about them. I’ve yet to re-tighten a fender bolt on my current bikes, even though my Urban Bike has seen more than a decade of hard use in the city, and my Rene Herse that has done 2 Paris-Brest-Paris, 2 Raids Pyreneens, the original Oregon Outback and countless other challenging rides.

To save weight on my Herse, I used tubular fender stays. I found the raw material among the stocks we got from Lyli Herse when we bought Cycles René Herse. They were left over from the 1940s Concours de Machines technical trials! My tubular stays have been 100% reliable, and they save 35 g, so we’ve asked Honjo to make tubular stays for our fenders (above).

Starting today, the tubular stays are available as an option on all fenders we sell. We also offer them separately as a retrofit.

We’ve got more fender news: The Gilles Berthoud fender stays are modeled on a style found on many Jo Routens bikes. It’s an elegant design that is also useful if you are fighting toe overlap on your bike.

The flat section on the rear of the stay attaches directly to the fender. That eliminates the eyebolts that stick out a few millimeters. It can make the difference between catching your toe or not.

Berthoud fender stays come with a matching bolt kit (not shown). You can also rivet these stays directly to the fender to save a little weight.

We also stock plastic R-Clamps from Gilles Berthoud to attach the fender stays to the frame or fork. These are useful if you want a safety release on your fender stays: The stay will pull out of the plastic clamp if a foreign object gets caught between fender and tire. This is useful if your fenders are mounted with less-than-optimal clearances, as it reduces the risk of the fender collapsing and jamming into the fork crown.

 

Why not use the plastic R-Clamps on all bikes? When you ride on rough roads, the stays can work loose over time. Check them periodically to make sure.

Since our bikes wear their fenders year-round, and we ride on gravel and in the forest, we take fender safety seriously. We’ve researched this, and here is what we’ve found: If you have the recommended 20+ mm clearance between tire and fender, objects that are small enough to be picked up with great force will go through the fender without causing any harm. Large objects have too much inertia to accelerate to a speed that allows them to do much damage. The fact that aluminum fenders is far stiffer than plastic ones helps in this respect. Wider fenders are stiffer than narrower ones, making them even safer.

During our research into fender safety, I asked all the old randonneurs I know in France about fender-related accidents. Nobody remembered any, even though these guys and women rode tens of thousands of kilometers a year – fast. I heard about all kinds of crashes, but everybody agreed that their aluminum fenders were completely safe.

If you have sufficient clearance between tire and fender, we recommend the metal Honjo R-Clamps. (Our fenders come standard with them.) They are more elegant as well as more secure. They will never come loose. You can use either clamps with all fender stays we sell.

Often overlooked, yet very important: a third attachment point for the front fender. Every fender needs three attachments to stabilize it in three dimensions, so it’s silent and doesn’t resonate on rough roads. With just two attachments, the fender can twist and flex, which can bring the fender’s trailing end in contact with the tire. Then, the tire pulls along the fender, which risks collapsing and jamming into the fork crown.

Many randonneur bikes have racks that incorporate the third attachment point for the fenders. (All Compass racks do.) If you don’t plan to use a rack with a fender attachment, we sell single Honjo fender stays to stabilize the front of the fender. The single stay comes with two R-Clamps and a single eyebolt to attach it to your fender and fork. The most elegant solution is to mount the stay to mid-fork eyelets (above), but you can also run it stay all the way down to the dropout eyelets as well.

We have to say that we are quite excited about the fender news here at Compass. Does that make us ‘fender snobs’? Ask us when we hit a rainshower on a long ride that crosses multiple mountain ranges and continue without undue suffering!

Click here for more information about Compass fenders.

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How Long Do Compass Tires Last?

One of the less-noticed results of the ‘Wide Tire Revolution’: Our tires last a lot longer these days. When I rode 20 mm-wide tires, I rarely got more than 1300 km (800 miles) out of a set of performance tires. For long-distance races, I put on new tires for every event.

Now it’s rare that my tires need replacing. Even for challenging events like the 360-mile Oregon Outback (above), I only put on a new tire because the old one had seen a lot of hard use. There are three reasons for this huge difference:

  • Wider tires spread the wear over a much-larger area, so they wear much slower.
  • Modern rubber compounds wear much better. In the past, we had to choose between grip or wear resistance. Today, the best tires combine both.
  • Compass tires have a little extra rubber right in the center of the tread to increase the wear resistance. This adds only a few grams and doesn’t measurably change the rolling resistance, but it doubles the tire’s tread life. The shoulders of the tire don’t wear, so we keep them thin and supple.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your tires? We’ve designed our Compass tires so the center tread (longitudinal ribs) serves as a wear indicator. (The chevron tread on the shoulders gives you extra grip in corners.)

On the tire above, you can see how the longitudinal ribs are starting to show some wear. This tire has been ridden, but it still has many miles (or kilometers) left to go.

This tire is ready for replacement. The center tread is completely worn off. When the rubber gets much thinner, the risk of flats increases. And if you wear all the way through the tread, your tire can suddenly blow out. That’s a risk not worth taking to a few more miles out of a worn tire.

The tread also allows you to check whether you have been running a good tire pressure: All the longitudinal lines should disappear – as on the tire above. If you get wear only in the very center, your pressure is too high. The footprint of your tire is smaller than ideal, and you get more wear, less traction and less comfort. (And no additional speed.)

If the wear goes far into the chevron tread on the shoulders of the tire, your pressure is too low. You’re stressing the casing more than is ideal (in extreme cases, you’ll see individual broken threads in the sidewall), your tire can collapse under hard cornering, and you may give up a little bit in speed.

How long does a Compass tire last? This depends on several factors:

  • Tire width: Wider tires spread the wear over more rubber, so they last longer. The 38 mm Barlow Pass (above) has 11 ribs in the center; the 55 mm Antelope Hill (below) has 23. With twice as much rubber touching the road, the Antelope Hill will last roughly twice as long.
  • Weight: Tire wear is directly proportional to the weight of rider/bike/luggage.
  • Power: High power outputs increase the wear on the rear tire.
  • Both power and weight are the reason why the rear tire wears faster than the front one. If your rear tire wears significantly faster, you can rotate your tires from front to rear roughly half-way through their lifespan to even out the tire wear. I sometimes do that on bikes I use for hill intervals.
  • There is no difference in the tread between the Standard and Extralight versions, so both last equally long. (The Extralight’s casing is more supple, which further improves the tire’s performance and comfort.)

Other tips for increasing the lifespan of your tires:

  • UV light makes rubber deteriorate and crack. High-end tires contain more natural rubber, which is especially susceptible to UV damage. If possible, don’t store your bike in direct sunlight.
  • Ozone damages rubber. Electric motors emit ozone, so don’t keep your bike near refrigerators, freezers, heater furnaces, etc.
  • The shelf life of tires is very long, if they are stored in the dark with moderate humidity. I recently found an old set of tires that was ten years old, and they were as good as new.
  • In the past, there was much talk about aging tires to increase their puncture resistance. It’s true that rubber should cure for optimum performance, but at least with our Compass tires, that takes only about a month. By the time Compass tires arrive from Japan in our Seattle warehouse, they are fully cured.

What does all this mean in practical terms? I expect about 5000-6500 km (3000-4000 miles) out of a 650B x 42 mm Babyshoe Pass. For high-performance tires, that is quite remarkable, and it’s dramatically lowered the cost-per-mile of high-end tires. There is no longer a need to reserve them for special events – I enjoy them even on my Urban Bike.

Click here for more information about Compass tires.

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BQ Skills: Ghost Riding

Most of us remember when we learned to ride a bike. The incredible feel of balancing on two wheels – it felt like flying. Over the following days, months and years, our skills improved. First we learned to ride without wobbling. Then – in my case – to start without anybody holding onto my saddle…

And yet there is always more to learn. Some skills are useful, like being able to stop without putting a foot down, others merely amusing, like being able to do a cyclocross mount. They all make you a better cyclist, as you control your bike more fully.

We learn new skills through visualization and practice. To help with the former, every Bicycle Quarterly includes the ‘Skill’ column, which describes an everyday skill and how it works. In the current edition: ‘Ghost Riding’ – riding with two bicycles at once. It’s useful when you need to transfer a bike over a short distance, for example, to drop it off at a bike shop. The video above shows it in action.

Subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly to read how ‘Ghost Riding’ works, how to learn it and how to do it safely. Interested in the other ‘Skill’ articles? Check out our back issues!

Warning! Use appropriate caution when attempting new skills, including Ghost Riding.

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Myth 15: Marginal Gains

‘Marginal gains’ are the latest buzzword in cycling. The idea is that many tiny improvements can add up to make a meaningful difference. Make 10 changes that each save 3 Watts, and you’ll have gained 30 Watts…

Think of Greg LeMond winning the 1989 Tour de France by eight seconds… If the second-placed rider, Laurent Fignon, had used ceramic bearings, he might have won that year.

Chasing these marginal gains, cyclists put bigger pulleys into their derailleurs to reduce the bending of the chain and make other tiny improvements.

Marginal gains may be appealing when you feel that they are all that is left, after you’ve optimized everything else on the bike. And yet most riders still can make major improvements that will outweigh the sum of all the marginal gains. Here are two examples:

  • Switching to truly fast tires gives you the biggest edge. We are talking 5% in speed gain when compared to most racing tires – more if you currently ride stiffer gravel or touring tires.
  • Getting a frame that ‘planes’ and gets in tune with your pedal stroke can increase your power output by 5% or more.

Even Greg LeMond won the ’89 Tour not because of marginal gains, but because his aerobars reduced his wind resistance by at least 10% compared to Fignon’s traditional bike.

Aerodynamics enable you to go faster without spending any money: Get into the aero tuck on downhills, and you’ll reduce your air resistance by about 30%. Not only will you go faster on the downhill, but you’ll coast further on the flat (or up the next hill), before your speed drops back to where pedaling is faster than coasting. Coasting more allows you to pedal harder the rest of the time. This is one of the secrets behind riding fast across rolling terrain.

There are other gains that we may consider marginal, but each will make a bigger difference than just a few Watts:

  • A fork that absorbs ‘road buzz’ can save 20-30 Watts on smooth roads by reducing the suspension losses, yet most modern forks are stiff and absorb little shock (above).
  • Wide handlebars increase our air resistance. Some pros use ultra-narrow bars, but even going from 44 to 42 cm bars will make a difference.
  • When we optimize the aero tuck, our knees touch the top tube. Modern frames have wide top tubes, which means that our knees can’t get as close together. Modern cranks put our feet further outward. Both increase our frontal area. It’s probably the reason why BQ’s carbon test bikes descend slower in the aero tuck than our randonneur bikes.
  • Cogs smaller than 14 teeth significantly increase a drivetrain’s resistance, because the upper chain run is under load. By comparison, there is almost no load on the lower chain run, so the savings from extra-large derailleur pulleys are much smaller.

Combining all these small, but significant, gains does make a difference. They are the reason why our fully equipped randonneur bikes are as fast (or faster) than modern carbon bikes on real roads, even though the carbon bikes are a bit lighter.

There is one place where very small gains matter: the weight of the bike. Because a bike consists of so many parts, the way to make a lightweight bike is to reduce the weight of every part as much as possible. The remarkably light weight of the J. P. Weigle for the Concours de Machines (above) – 20.00 lb (9.07 kg) fully equipped – did not come from a few superlight parts, but from every part being as light as possible without giving up strength. Does it matter? Well, every bit counts!

Further reading:

Photo credit: Nicolas Joly (Photo 6).

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