A number of readers have asked where the cover photo of our blog (above) was taken. Here is the story:
An old road above Leschi in Seattle switchbacks though an Olmsted Park, with a set of S-curves that we use for assessing a bike’s handling. It’s downhill, and with a bit of pedaling, you can build enough speed to make this truly challenging.
The first curve is an off-camber left with a decreasing radius (above). The best way around is cutting across the centerline in mid-corner once you get a clear sight line ahead. In the rare case that there is oncoming traffic, you get to test the brakes: Straighten the bike briefly while braking hard, then make a sharper turn at lower speed. Good brake modulation is key, so you can brake while the bike still is leaning into the curve.
If you rounded the left-hand curve at maximum speed, you immediately have to line up for the second curve. This right-hander is not particularly tricky, but the severe bumps make it crucial to pick a line close to the curb, where the pavement is a little smoother (above). For this, you need a bike that corners on a constant radius and can be placed on the road with precision.
Most modern racing bikes tend to drift outward once they are past the apex of the turn. In this corner, this puts you on the worst bumps. As you lose traction, you tend to run even wider and into the oncoming lane. This is a bad idea as a tunnel under an abandoned cablecar right-of-way obscures the occasional uphill traffic. In addition to precise handling, you want wide, supple tires for optimum traction on the bumpy pavement.
For the photo, the cornering was the easy part, as the low-trail MAP test bike with its 42 mm tires went exactly where I directed it. However, the digital camera we carried on this ride had a hard time focusing. We wanted a nice lean angle, which meant approaching the camera at considerable speed. We did a good number of runs, and in the end, only one photo was in focus, more through luck than anything else. (I wished I had brought my old Nikon with manual focus, which you focus on a crack in the pavement and then hit the shutter release when the rider arrives at that spot.) Fortunately, that one useful photo, taken by Hahn Rossman, turned out to be just about perfect.