The Biggest Bicycle Quarterly Ever

When we started putting together the Autumn Bicycle Quarterly, we realized that, for each article, we had more material than planned – longer stories, more photos, and new angles.

Usually, we test two bikes, but for this edition, we had the chance to ride five: two OPEN all-road bikes, plus the Trek Checkpoint in three different versions. We figured our readers would be interesting in Natsuko’s comparison between the men’s and women’s Checkpoints – especially since she preferred the men’s bike!

The two OPENs push the idea of the gravel bike to its outer limits: The U.P.P.E.R. is as light as most carbon racing bikes, while the WI.DE. rolls on tires as big as most mountain bikes. They made for a fascinating comparison, inviting us to look at it from different angles – and have three riders give their opinion on the bikes. The result is a whopping 26-page article. When I presented the story to Natsuko, BQ’s editor, I pointed out that this was just 13 pages per bike…

We had planned a story on this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris that focused on the ride itself. When the first photos of the Rene Herse team’s bikes leaked out on social media, people asked so many questions that we decided to do a bike feature, too. We quickly scheduled a studio photoshoot with Nicolas Joly that shows all three bikes in great detail.

Then Natsuko, who had followed PBP from Paris, shared her observations with us. “Did you know that all riders slow down after 30 hours?” she asked. We realized that by following more than 30 friends on the PBP tracking app, she got a unique insight into the ride. What she found surprised even those of us who had ridden PBP several times, so we persuaded her to write an article, too.

I’d been looking forward to interviewing Ted King. Casually talking to him, I appreciated his insights on what it’s like to race as a professional in Europe – and his ultra-positive, yet honest, attitude about the experience. Just as fascinating was how he got involved in gravel racing. Ansel Dickey contributed his stunning photos of gravel races in Kansas and Iceland. Squeezing all this wonderful content into the four pages allocated for this article would have been a shame.

The same thing happened when we visited Cherubim, the iconic Japanese framebuilder.  We got to see so many cool fixtures and tools… even a pantographing machine for engraving logos on components, lugs and other parts. We talked with Shin-ichi Konno, the owner of Cherubim, on what makes a great bike. He told us about matching the frame stiffness to the rider. He explained that this is especially important for Keirin racers, whose livelihoods depend on the performance of their bikes, and he finished the interview by stating: “A lifetime is not enough to learn everything there is about making bicycle frames.”

As a bonus, we got to photograph a frame Cherubim made for the most-winning racer in Keirin history. It pushes the art of framebuilding (and painting and chrome-plating) to rarely seen heights. Of course, we had to include all that content!

Where could we find space for all this content? We didn’t want to shorten Christopher Shand’s wonderful story of riding from France to Istanbul…

…nor take out our Project, Skill and Icon features, nor our technical article about how hookless rim and tubeless tire installation affect the safe pressure of your tires. At this point, it became clear: This would be our biggest edition ever – with no fewer than 128 pages.

Usually, when a magazine publishes a ‘biggest-ever,’ it’s to drive up newsstand sales. Additional advertisers are recruited to pay for the extra content (and benefit from the increased sales), an extra-splashy cover is designed, and an ad campaign runs just ahead of the release date.

Here at Bicycle Quarterly, newsstand sales and ads are not a big source of revenue. BQ is financed by our subscribers. When we decided to increase the page count, the most important question was: “Will the bigger magazine fit in the envelopes we use for our mailings?” A quick check confirmed that it would (barely), so we decided to go ahead. The extra cost of printing and mailing will be offset if more readers are tempted by all this great content. If you are a reader who has enjoyed this edition, please tell your friends! And if you’ve been thinking about subscribing to BQ, now is a great time to give it a try!

Click here to start your Bicycle Quarterly subscription with our biggest-ever edition.

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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25 Responses to The Biggest Bicycle Quarterly Ever

  1. Tim Shears says:

    I will subscribe as soon as you produce a digital version.

    • Jan Heine says:

      Unfortunately, we are too small to produce two separate editions. We chose print, because we enjoy the paper reading experience and also appreciate paper’s durability. Most readers keep their BQs for years, and many of the technical articles will be referred to for decades. With four editions a year, the environmental impact remains small.

      • Robert Cochran says:

        I do keep my Bicycle Quarterly editions. The fact that it is in print format is extremely important to me.

      • Mike Morrison says:

        I subscribed last year, after a period of weighing the pros and cons of hanging on to print editions in a minimalist house. Ultimately the quality of the content won me over. It’s my first subscription to a physical print magazine in more than a decade. I would jump on a digital subscription if you were to offer one, but that being said, I’ll remain a subscriber to the print magazine for some time to come.

    • Hoogle Da Boogle says:

      I will UNsubscribe as soon as you produce a digital version.

      • canamsteve says:

        Obviously, the magazine is produced digitally, as is everything today. However, distributing it in such a way would be counterproductive – it would be shared in various ways and it could mean the production would not be feasible economically. But still, it would be more efficient, “greener” and less expensive for both producer and consumer. If only consumers would pay for what the consumed.

        I make not comment on the decision to print on dead trees – but again – what an odd opinion.

        Im happy to subscribe to the Dead Tree edition in order to support BQ. I archive my editions for prosperity

      • Jan Heine says:

        The digital files that we use for printing are so large that we put them on a drive and hand-carry to the printer (together with the color proofs). They are much too large to send to subscribers. That also shows you how much photo quality you’d lose with a digital edition.

        If there was a digital edition, you are right, it would have to use a platform that is protected against excessive sharing. We are too small to develop a proprietary platform, and the existing ones are very expensive.

  2. Stuart Fogg says:

    Now that you have thoroughly tested all-road bikes with tires up to 60mm wide please share your thoughts about which widths you like best for which situations. Thanks!

    • Jan Heine says:

      That is a good topic for a separate post. My new road bike – intended for pavement mostly, with some smooth gravel thrown in for good measure – runs 650B x 42s.

  3. oonacoconut says:

    Hope to see those swank jerseys in the store soon!

  4. marmotte27 says:

    It seems to be arriving here and there in France. The last issue went missing chez moi… Should I be worried again?

  5. Wow, Bicycle Quarterly might start selling by the pound… literally!!

  6. Raymond Muzic says:

    I love the new issue.
    I just renewed a multi-year subscription.
    I don’t think that a digital version would do justice to the spectacular photographs.
    I also would love to see an analysis of optimizing tire width.

  7. Robert Cochran says:

    Christopher Shand’s “Balkan Backroads” story is interesting. As I commented on Instagram, I wonder what year he and his friend went on this ride? I’m guessing it must have been in 2017 or early 2018. Also, is there a map of their travels — perhaps on RideWithGPS?

    • Jan Heine says:

      He did the ride in 2018. I don’t think he has a route map, since they were improvising the ride as they went along. Often, that makes for the best adventures.

  8. Marius Clore says:

    Great issue and enjoyed reading the write-up on the Open UPPER and WI.DE. However, I thought the comparison was really an apples and oranges one, at least in terms of speed on the flat, since you can’t compare the WI.DE equipped with G-one speed snakeskin 60 mm tires to the Open UPPER with compass/Rene Herse 48 mm tires. You would need to put the same tires on both (e.g. 650BX48 mm or 700C x 35 or 40 mm). I happen to have the two frames, and there really isn’t much difference between them, when using the same wheels and tires (I’ve ridden them with 700×40 C G-one speeds on ENVE G23 rims). The two big differences, of course are that (i) the WI.DE can take wider tires and easily accommodate, for example, a 700Cx42 mm WTB Resolute tire (a knobby that rolls well on tarmac), and (ii) the WI.DE is only good for a 1x whereas the UPPER can take a 2x. For any ride with a significant portion of tarmac, I personally prefer a 2x (and I currently ride 46/30T chain rings with either 11-speed 11-36 SRAM or 11-40 Shimano cassettes). For rides that are predominantly gravel, the 1x is simpler and I think more effective, and I currently ride a Rotor Q 38T chain ring with a 12-speed 10-50T SRAM cassette. I don’t really need the 50T gear and could run a 10-45T 12-speed shimano cassette, but it’s nice to have the option of the 50T when it gets really steep and one is tired.

    • Jan Heine says:

      Absolutely agree that our WI.DE. test bike was handicapped by its G-One Speed tires. Tires, more than anything else, change how a bike feels. That is why we usually equip all test bikes with the same tires, but for the WI.DE., we wanted to test how a bike with 60 mm-wide tires rides and feels – and there aren’t any truly supple tires in that width. So we had to compromise. We made this very clear in the article.

      However, the difference between the two bikes goes beyond that. The WI.DE. has a frame that is similar to the standard U.P., while the extralight U.P.P.E.R. really feels like a different bike.

  9. Robert Cochran says:

    Regarding the article “Paris-Brest-Paris 2019”, I assume you and many others flew to France from distant locations just before the start of the event. What effect does jet leg have on the ride experience? The photo on top of page 34 shows one rider wearing a cap rather than a helmet. Do you think this helped improve that rider’s finish time? This article helped make me aware that a rider needs to strategize how he or she will finish the ride in the time desired. The article “Paris-Brest-Paris” reads almost like a strategy guide for completing this event. I appreciate this very much. Perhaps a future article could cover strategies for completing long distance rides in more detail.

    • Jan Heine says:

      Most of us tried to arrive a few days early, so we could recover from jetlag. I don’t think wearing a helmet or not would affect you finishing time – as long as the helmet is comfortable and not too heavy, so it doesn’t overstress your neck muscles.

  10. canamsteve says:

    Excellent timing – my subscription goes to my US address (to save on postage and hassle) and I will be there tomorrow!

  11. Marius Clore says:

    I suspect the difference you felt between the old UP and the new UPPER relates to the old fork versus the new U-turn fork, which incidentally is the same for the new UP and the UPPER.

    The only way you would know whether there was a difference between the new UP and the UPPER was if they were setup identically in terms of wheels, tires (including pressure), finishing kit, groupset, etc…. And I suspect that if you did this, the only difference would be the tiny difference in weight, and the paint scheme.

    Having owned both the old UP, the UPPER and the WI.DE, I would say that there is very little difference between them when set up identically. The old UP fork with post-mount for the disc caliper, however, was not as good as the U-turn fork (flat mount for the disc caliper) as the Shimano disc brakes on the old UP constantly squealed in the wet, no matter what I did, whereas they work perfectly on the UPPER.

  12. Brian Roth says:

    One of the things I like about the magazine is the photography. You should consider adding the exposure details to the captions.

  13. thebvo says:

    Does the updates Nivex/ Cyclo need specialized dropouts, braze-ons, gear ranges, and cassette/ freewheel?
    Super excited to hear more about it. I’m sure you know that already. 😉

Comments are closed.