Compass and BQ in the News

During the last week, Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Cycles have been mentioned in several news stories. The popular web site http://www.bikepacking.com featured an article about converting a 700C bike to 650B. They wrote: “The benefits are fairly obvious. Wider tires offer more floatation, a more supple ride, and are all around better suited to dirt and gravel surfaces. They can also be just as fast as road tires.”

They equipped their bike with Compass Switchback Hill 650B x 48 mm tires, and we talked about some of the things to consider in these conversions: clearances, bottom bracket height, gearing, etc. The article is a great introduction if you’ve looking into running 650B wheels on your disc-brake bike.

It’s not every day that you get a call from Matt Wiebe, the editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News“We’re working on a cover story about big car tire brands like Pirelli and Goodyear entering the bicycle tire market. We’d like to talk to Compass as one of the established smaller brands in the high-end tire market.”

In the article, Wiebe explains how Goodyear is proud to offer 100 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), while Pirelli plans to expand into gravel tires, quoting their head of sales: “Gravel is growing in Europe, and I think it will quickly be a big part of the road market.”

Matt Wiebe contrasts this with Compass, explaining how our program “grew out of the tires we needed to do the type of riding we liked — long rides in the mountains on road and dirt surfaces.” The article shows how the industry is trying to catch up with the trend toward high-performance tires – a trend that caught them by surprise because it originated with riders and not with the industry.

Global Cycling Network has brought the latest research about tires into the mainstream. In a recent segment, they looked at why you need lower pressures to make wider tires perform better. They talk about suspension losses – crediting Bicycle Quarterly (Thank you!) – and test different tire pressures on cobbles. No surprise: When the going gets really rough, the lowest pressures roll fastest.

Earlier, GCN took three bikes to the same cobbles: a racing, a cyclocross and a mountain bike (below).

Again, readers of BQ and of this blog will not be surprised: The bike with the widest tires was fastest. In GCN‘s test, it was the mountain bike, even though the data showed a lower power output when the riders were on the mountain bike. The explanation is simple: The lower suspension losses more than made up for the mtb’s wider Q factor, lack of ‘planing,’ etc., that limited the tester’s power output.

Now imagine if GCN had tested a true allroad bike instead of the mountain bike! A bike like my Firefly (above), which enables the rider to put out the same power as on their racing bike and which has tires as wide as their mountain bike, plus its more supple tires reduce rolling resistance and suspension losses even further. From our own on-the-road experiences, we know that it would easily outperform the mountain bike. Perhaps we’ll see that test in a future episode – for now, GCN already is pushing the limits of what a mainstream cycling audience finds believable…

With all this exposure, it’s nice to see that many of the ideas we’ve championed over the last 15 years are getting widely accepted. Click on the images above to read the full stories!

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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22 Responses to Compass and BQ in the News

  1. Dale Bamford says:

    Sounds like you guys might need some good legal eagles to ensure your innovations are protected. In short, it should come as no surprise you are on the cutting edge of this technology for bicycles and tires, or if you prefer, tyres! 😀

    Congratulations!

    • Once again glad to see you getting the credit you deserve! I agree with Dale; take whatever legal measures necessary to protect your products/brand. 🙂

      • We are just glad that cyclists now have bikes that are so much fun to ride. As to the competition, I am not too worried – we’re confident that cyclists will choose our components because of the quality and performance they offer. We are constantly improving them – often in ways that aren’t immediately obvious – to make sure they remain ahead of the game.

  2. John Keiffer says:

    If I have a road bike that can clear 700c 35mm Compass tires, would it be able to fit 650b 48mm Compass tires?

  3. ViveLemond says:

    Great stuff as always! I’ve decided on not educating my friends and riding partners who don’t want to listen anyway. Since they tend to be stronger than me, let them keep riding on their crummy tires and stiff frames – since I’ve gotten a BQ insprired bike with a nice flexible steel frame and Baby Shoe Pass ELs, keeping up has gotten a lot easier. Not to mention the low trail handling, which along with the nice tires allow me to blow them away on the down hills as well. The info is out there if they want it…

  4. ayjaydee says:

    The power output was less on the mountain bike. You claim that was due to the inefficiencies of Q factor and planing. Why didn’t you mention rider position as a cause?

    • Riding position could be a factor, as could be other things, which is why I wrote “etc.” Without much more testing, we can only guess why the power output was lower on the mountain bike. The main point is that even though the rider put out less power on the bike with the widest tires, he was fastest. The only resistance that was significantly lower were the suspension losses.

    • Adamar says:

      Didn’t they specifically say in the video they spun out, ie ran out of gears?

    • Jeff says:

      Less power for the same (or better) speed is good. Typically you might say it was because of better aerodynamics, but in this case it is obviously not true as they looked like windsocks on the MTBs. It probably mostly comes down to the effectiveness of the wider tires and suspension. No big surprises there, given the surface. I don’t recall reading anything about them balancing the weights of riders+bikes so if the MTB was lighter that may have an effect, but probably not much on the flat if there was minimal acceleration ?

  5. Tom G says:

    The GCN comparisons are amusing but there seems to be little attempt at a rigorous “scientific” comparison, for example when they compare a gravel bike against a road bike. The bikes are not even close! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr7u9hgUKJs. I like what you’re doing because there is an attempt to isolate the variables. Hard to do without a big research budget!

    • As I see it, GCN’s ‘tests’ are like high-school physics experiments: They are to demonstrate science, not to do new research. GCN isn’t trying to figure out new things, they just try to illustrate what we already know. I think they do a good job with that.

      Otherwise, you’d need to make sure there is no wind, temperatures are constant, and you’d want to repeat each run three times. But then, you get the issue of rider fatigue. There are ways to deal with that, like BQ‘s second tester, who provides a constant reference…

  6. Jan Koegel says:

    I‘m not sure if the Q factor or lack of planning can explain lower power output on a MTB.
    Today’s MTB‘s with a high front end and massive handelbar widths are no longer very specialized going over distances. My old school 26er does it much better and for example I can‘t figure out really a difference in speed even on tarmac compared to my CX bike. The bikes used on GCN are all together very stiff and must be far away from what you call planing.

  7. fnardone says:

    Another interesting finding of the GCN cobble test is that the riders “felt” that the mountain bike was the slowest because the ride was less jarring. Probably the same reason many people feel that narrow tyres at high psi are faster.

  8. VF says:

    Why are you being chased by four police cars?

  9. morlamweb says:

    One minor note of pedantry: it’s Global Cycling Network, not News.

  10. Mx says:

    Methinks solo riding or steady riding benefit from the cushy tires, particularly in handling on rough terrain, but a pro race is different in that it requires keeping up with sudden “jumps” and out of saddle efforts on smooth sections that can make fatter tires wallow too much. On asphalt, this can make quite a difference — making or missing a break, closing gaps, etc. — and even PR involves a lot of asphalt prior to the cobbles. There are also substantial weight differences between race day tires and wheels vs. what an enthusiast would prefer for longevity as well as speed. Pro racing /= recreational riding.

  11. Doug L. says:

    Good to look thru the Compass web site & BQ to see how cycling is evolving. Having just adopted two children puts most of your products out of reach for now. However I will sacrifice a bit and buy good tires. So when the kids get old enough to except responsibility for a good machine they too will be able to say to their friends, “Still riding those 23’s are you?” The 38 X 700c extra lights are as advertised, smooth and fast. Keep the tires coming!

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