Spring 2019 Bicycle Quarterly

The Spring 2019 Bicycle Quarterly is at the printer. We are finalizing our mailing lists – subscribe or renew today to get your copy with the first mailing. You don’t want to miss this edition!

One focus of the Spring BQ is women in cycling. More women enjoy cycling than ever before, but many still face a problem: Most bikes are designed for average men – and many women have a hard time finding bikes that fit them.

Our editor Natsuko is all-too-familiar with this problem. When she needed a new all-road bike for gravel adventures, she went to C. S. Hirose, the Japanese master builder. He created a bike with a 47 cm frame that doesn’t involve compromises in handling, performance or appearance.

Read Natsuko’s story about where she took her new bike for its first ride. Find out how it compares to her other bikes with narrower tires. Discover its many special features in beautiful studio photos.

Women have always participated as equals in randonneuring. Giving you a taste of this year’s incredible Paris-Brest-Paris adventure, we talk to two randonneuses (and two randonneurs) from three continents. Why do they ride 1200 km (750 miles) almost non-stop? What did they enjoy most about PBP? What was most challenging? What bikes do they ride? And what is their advice for riders contemplating the big ride? You’ll be inspired by these riders and their passion!

Adventures come in many guises. Finding a new route across the Dark Divide of the Cascade Mountains (yes, that is the official name!) in mid-winter certainly qualifies. What better test for the Salsa Warbird all-road bike? With its all-carbon frame, the latest Warbird is geared toward performance, yet it’s got all the mounts of a modern adventure bike. Is the Warbird tough enough for this challenging route?

When I saw Sanomagic’s beautiful wooden bikes at the Tokyo Handmade Bicycle Show, I thought they were charmingly different. When their builder insisted that they matched the light weight and performance of carbon bikes, I was intrigued. So we visited his shop, learned about the technology transfer from ultralight mahogany sailboats to bicycles, and even rode one of his rare creations. Rarely have I been so surprised by a bike!

Photographer and hardcore rider Donalrey Nieva ordered his new Firefly all-road ‘ultra-adventure’ bike with 26″ wheels and a low-trail geometry. As soon as it was ready, he took it to southern France to climb all the cols in the maritime Alps. How did it perform on such challenging terrain? How does it compare to his other, more conventional all-road bike? You’ll love his story and his stunning photos.

Steel, carbon, wood, titanium – the Spring BQ covers the spectrum of modern frame materials. For our Shop Visit, we take you into the surprisingly small factory in Japan where most of the steel tubes for the thousands of Keirin race bikes are crafted. Kaisei prides itself on making the tubes that professional racers rely on, week after week, in the toughest racing you’ll find anywhere.

See how steel tubes are butted and how fork blades are swaged. Discover why high-end steel frames remain so popular in Japan, and why Kaisei is the most important supplier of tubing for those bikes.

Cycling is full of remarkable characters, and few were more charismatic than Michael Barry Sr. Best known as the driving force behind Mariposa bicycles, Michael passed in December. We look back on a life lived to the fullest on two wheels.

These are just a few of the features in this exciting 112-page edition. Reading the stories and looking at the photos will take you on rides near and far, and it’ll inspire you to plan your own adventures.

Click here to subscribe today and be among the first to get the Spring Bicycle Quarterly.

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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31 Responses to Spring 2019 Bicycle Quarterly

  1. Heather says:

    I love Natsuko’s bicycles! I can only imagine how they ride. I have found a few used lugged steel bikes that had been designed and custom built for smaller women but they were designed for 700cc. They were built by very esteemed builders so the issues are not as bad as with mass produced small sized bicycles for 700cc wheels. Wheel flop, compromised handling, too far reach and so many things an average sized man or even taller woman would not even recognize as a ‘thing’.
    I had a ‘woman’s mtb bike once, was it just the sparkles in the paint job that made it different? Then all the components, too large, too long, at least for small sized women! I had a 160mm TA crank on a bike, but there was a bottom bracket issue and the bike mechanic just tore it apart to get off and replaced with a 172mm crank. Then wondered why I was so upset!
    I have been riding all of my life and still get treated like a ‘girl’ sometimes even to this day.
    But oh Natsuko’s bicycles!

  2. Dennis D Ketterling says:

    Clues from the photo:
    Did Natsuko take her new Hirose to Li castle? Are those the Hikone crest on the wall?

  3. Conrad says:

    I was just talking to a local builder that was joyful that 650b is cool again, because previously he would have to explain to clients that there just wasnt a way to do 700c in a small frame without mucking up the geometry, and people would be disappointed. People are down on 26 but sometimes it makes the most sense!

    • Jan Heine says:

      It’s funny how some people get hung up on wheel size, thinking that bigger is better. I love my 26″ Firefly, and I think that wheel size will see a resurgence soon.

      • Conrad says:

        My fat tire road bike and mountain bike are on 26″ wheels and I prefer it that way.

      • Mike says:

        I sure hope that you’re right about 26 in wheels. That’s the wheel size on my bike, and I’d hate to see my options for replacements limited by the fickles of fashion.

        On the subject of wheel sizes and bikes for women: I recall reading that the other GT – Georgena Terry – made/still makes bikes featuring 24 in wheels, or a 24 front/26 rear setup, to best suit a smaller-statured rider. It shows you what you can do for fitting riders to bicycles if you ignore the “bigger is better” mentality.

      • Jan Heine says:

        I’ll have to ask Georgena some day why she put a bigger wheel on the rear. I suspect it was exactly the resistance toward smaller wheels. More than one rider told me how they tried a small-wheeled bike, and it was just too slow… With a smaller (same size) rear wheel, you’d lower the gearing, which tends to be way too big for most non-racers. Most of all, you’d create a more balanced look of the bike.

      • Sam Atkinson says:

        When did Terry first start making bikes with different wheel sizes front and rear?
        In the mid-80s, 53-13 was still a typical top-end ratio on racing bikes; with a 24×1 in back, that’s only a ~93″ gear. Using a bigger rear wheel to boost the gear ratios would have made a lot of sense for fast spirited riding.

        Totally agree that road bikes are typically geared too high, though. Many people undervalue adequate low gears, and overestimate how much top-end they need.
        And, unfortunately, a lot of folks just don’t understand the gearing math. To many people, 52-14 “sounds” like a higher ratio than 48-11, because 11 vs 14 doesn’t mean anything whereas 52 vs 48 is “racing” versus “adventure.”

      • Jan Heine says:

        You are right that compared to today’s ‘racing’ gears, 53-13 wasn’t that big – and yet, it was big enough for Eddy Merckx. But then, Eddy had a healthy spin, and could wind that gear up to 130 rpm or more…

        A quick calculation shows that if you aren’t a spinner – say you max out at just 90 rpm – a 53-13 with 700C x 23 mm tires will get you to 44 km/h or 27.5 mph. That’s still a very healthy speed!

        In reality, most riders spent all their time in the small 42-tooth ring, and wished for a smaller one yet once the roads turned uphill. So they installed triples, and that 53-tooth ring still didn’t get any use. We now prefer a 42-26, which could be considered a triple with the big ring removed…

      • Andy Stow says:

        First they’ll re-brand it as “600B” or something, then sell it like it’s a new, improved thing.

      • Mike M says:

        @Sam Atkinson: I don’t know when Georgena started selling bikes with different sized wheels. I did find a blog post dated from 2013 on her site which discusses this subject:
        https://georgenaterry.com/designing-a-bike-around-a-24-front-wheel/

      • Jan Heine says:

        Interesting post – in the comments, Georgena implies that the larger rear wheel was chosen to keep the gearing as large as it is on a ‘standard’ bike.

      • singlespeedscott says:

        I guess the attitude towards smaller chainrings for road racing will change now SRAM has introduced Etap 12 speed with its smaller chainrings.

        I don’t get the complete dislike towards large chainrings on this blog. I use a 52 and 53 tooth chainring on all my geared 700c equipped bikes. Paired with a 12 or 14 tooth first sprocket and a 32 large it gives me a gear for down hill chases on group rides. With the 32 tooth I can stay in the big ring on rolling terrain. Paired with a 36 tooth small chainring I have a low a lot lower than Jan’s Herse and is proabably as low a gear as what Jan uses on his mule. The added bonus is my bigger Campagnolo chainrings will probably take longer to wear out as well.

  4. singlespeedscott says:

    Natsuko’s bike is beautiful but the seat tube mounted rear light is a bit superfluous as it’s looks to be completely blocked by the rear mud guard.

    • Jan Heine says:

      You are right – that is the only compromise on this bike due to its small size. And that’s why there is an additional reflector on the rear fender. In Japan, taillights are not required, and most bikes don’t have them, so C. S. Hirose didn’t quite put as much importance on this feature as we would in North America or Europe.

      • Jacob Musha says:

        The compromise isn’t due to the small size of the bike but the large size of the wheels. 26″ wheels are still quite big for someone of Natsuko’s height. It looks like it worked with 42mm tires, but trying to build a similar frame around 52mm tires and fenders would involve significant compromise. I’m 5’9″ and I have to be careful to avoid toe-overlap with that combination!

        Bicycle Quarterly has been a pioneer of suggesting smaller wheels with wider tires, and I hope that continues. It would be great if wide (40-55mm) high performance tires were available in 20″ or 24″ wheel sizes so everyone could enjoy them without having to resort to distorted geometry, toe-overlap, lack of fenders, or all of the above.

  5. Derek says:

    Glad to see you writing about women in cycling. Crank length for women is a significant yet widely ignored fit concern, especially on tandems. They all seem to come with 170’s. I recently changed cranks on a tandem to 175mm front, 150mm rear, and now my wife and I have the same range of knee angles in our pedal stroke. I’m 5’11” and she is 5’7″. The idea that short or even average women should be fine with “normal” 165mm and up cranks is so silly…

    • Jan Heine says:

      Crank length is an interesting subject. Your example points to the conundrum: Both of you aren’t that different in size (10 cm / 4″) compared to a team like Natsuko and I (25 cm / 10″), yet your wife uses the shortest available cranks and you use close to the longest. Based on this reasoning, Natsuko should use 120 mm cranks, yet she’s perfectly happy on 160s and 165s?

      If humans just scaled like that, taller cyclists would much faster than shorter ones? Imagine taking Natsuko’s bike and scaling it up by 20% – as long as you turn the cranks with the same rpm, you’ll be 20% faster! And yet, extra-tall riders don’t seem to have an advantage in professional racing. (Marathon runners are another example – if a taller runner just makes longer strides, they’ll be faster.) So clearly, there is a lot going on beyond the simple issue of scale!

      It’s something we plan to explore more in the future…

      • Derek says:

        Two things. First, the 150 tandem cranks were not even available. I had the existing cranks drilled with new pedal holes. Second, I agree that crank length alone doesn’t determine power and speed, but I didn’t say anything about that. It really affects how the bike fits and feels, yet most don’t even have the opportunity to try because they’re not offered by the big companies. Female riders I know have to cope with too long cranks by pedaling a slower cadence, and they don’t like to ride in the drops because their knees come up so high. It’s a handicap for them and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be addressed more seriously.

      • Sam Atkinson says:

        My guess would be that humans of wildly-varying sizes use a narrow range of cranks because it’s less problematic to go too-short than too-long. Too-short merely asks you to use a shorter and quicker power stroke, whereas too-long demands contortion. I suspect that many taller riders are using cranks significantly shorter than they could manage, while many shorter riders are at or beyond their tolerance: it seems far more common for shorter riders to look into shorter-than-normal cranks, than for anyone to look into longer-than-normal cranks.

    • John C. Wilson says:

      Please do explore short cranks further.

      First, they are available. Current production the most available is Sugino XD. Many more possible for those willing to adapt BMX cranks. Shorter than 150 exists.

      My evidence is purely anecdotal. But perhaps suggestive. The wife is 5’3″. Had been using 165 and 170 with no preference. No difference perceived. When we tried 150 it was a one minute test ride and she asked to have them on the other bike too. Hills that were becoming almost impossible on 1:1 gears were suddenly easy on 36×28. For someone getting on in years to suddenly use higher gears and go much faster is a bit of a surprise. Faster on flats too.

      I can’t explain it. Insight or research would be most welcome.

      • Derek says:

        Here’s what I think is going on. It’s common for riders to adjust seat height for optimal leg extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Consequently, short riders legs are much more bent at the top of the pedal stroke. If their legs are bent more than what is comfortable for them, then the beginning of the power phase of their pedal stroke is weak or delayed. Shorter cranks can bring their entire pedal circle within their comfortable range of motion and give them a longer (in degrees of rotation), more even power stroke.

  6. David says:

    I’d have to be REALLY thirsty to drink from that water bottle shown under the frame and covered with muck on the Dark Divide ride! Perhaps vintage racers riding on dusty/muddy unpaved roads knew what they were doing with their bottles up on oldtime handlebar mounts.

    • Jan Heine says:

      That was just ‘clean’ mud, so no health risks. Anyhow, before drinking, I unscrewed the top – so I had a clean lip to drink from. The reason to carry the bottle under the down tube was to keep the main triangle clear in case we encountered deep snow and had to portage our bikes for significant distances.

  7. VincentB says:

    “Steel, carbon, wood, titanium – the Spring BQ covers the spectrum of modern frame materials”
    What about aluminium? Not to be considered modern?

    • Jan Heine says:

      Aluminum has moved downmarket. I can’t think of a single high-end frame made from aluminum any longer. The days when Marco Pantani rode an aluminum Bianchi to TdF victories are long over. It’s probably a material that’s ready for a resurgence…

      • singlespeedscott says:

        Some Spealized sponsored teams have been using the aluminum Allez Sprint for a few years now. It is the main frame for quiet a few second tier pro teams. Sagan even used one for the opening crit at the Tour Down Under.

      • Craig Lloyd says:

        I would say there are high-end Al-alloy frames and the resurgence is already happening, but it is a limited market due to the advantages other materials offer:
        Cannondale never dropped their CAAD racing frame that is very well respected.
        Mason cycles in the UK produce aluminium adventure bikes like the Bokeh.
        Spooky, Koga and Bond do custom alloy frames. Specialized S-works Allez Sprint…

        To me, aluminium is a cheap, light (recyclable) cyclocross race frame. It can be very good, but it doesn’t add up against the competition other than cost.

        ps. was wondering how you were going to follow the brilliant BQ66, but this looks great!

  8. Ryan McCord says:

    I look forward to your article on Mike Barry. Back in 2000 I walked into his shop Bicycle Specialties when it was on Millwood Road in Toronto looking for a touring bicycle, and not quite knowing what I was looking for. Mr. Barry sold me a steel-framed Marinoni Turismo that I ride to this day. He had to phone Montreal to see if they had the right size frame for me, and brought it in as a special order. That bicycle has served me very well over the years, but my dream for the last few years has been to order a custom Mariposa. Mr. Barry’s attitude towards cycling was hugely influential to me.

    • Daisuke says:

      Mr. Sano Suehiro of Sanomagic, talks about how flex in sync with a riders movement can help deliver better performance, something that is very similar to planing that is described in BQ, in this YouTube video

      Sorry no English captions available.

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