Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting in Portland, OR

We’re looking forward to this year’s Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting – our annual get-together to share the joy of riding off the beaten path. It’s not an organized event – we just publish a date and time, and everybody is welcome to join. There are no fees, no registrations, and no services are provided.

The photos here are from last year’s Un-Meeting, when we spent a great two days along the Hood Canal and in the Tahuya Hills. This year, we’ll meet near Portland for another weekend of riding. Here are the details:

  • When: Sept. 14, 2019, 9 a.m.
  • Where: Stub Stewart State Park, Buxton, OR 97109
  • What: Rides from 40 to 70 miles (65 – 110 km)

Stub Stewart State Park is 15 miles (24 km) from the end of Hillsboro MAX rail line, so it’s easy to reach from Portland. (And Portland is at the intersection of several Amtrak lines, so it’s easy to reach by train, plus there is an airport, too.)

On Saturday, we’ll start the day by riding together to the Black Iron Coffee House in Vernonia for breakfast. From there, we’ll have several route options that include pavement, gravel and dirt. We’ll publish details about the routes in the coming weeks.

On Friday and Saturday nights, we’ve reserved four walk-in camp sites at the Brooke Creek Hike-In Camp. If you have a small tent, you are welcome to share our sites. You also can book your own accommodations.

Join us either just on Saturday for a fun day of riding, or camp with us for a great weekend with new and old friends.

For me, the Un-Meeting is a highlight of the year. Riders come from all over the world, from all backgrounds, on all kinds of bikes, yet we all share a love of riding and discovering new roads.

A little bit about the logistics: The rides of the Un-Meeting are within reach of most cyclists, but please remember that we provide no services and no sag wagon: You’ll carry your own gear. You don’t need a special bike, but there are no bike shops along the route, so make sure your bike is in perfect condition for this ride. And with some of the terrain being challenging, please use caution and ride within your and your bike’s capabilities.

See you in Portland on September 14 and 15!

Posted in Rides

Climbing into the Clouds

A recent hiking trip to Mount Rainier also provided an opportunity to revisit a favorite climb – and work on my form for the upcoming 1200 km (750 miles) of Paris-Brest-Paris.

This time, we headed to Mount Rainier by car, loaded with four people, backpacks and associated gear. Fortunately, the J.P. Weigle from the Concours de Machines is a Rinko bike, which packs quite small. The extralight bag protected our other luggage from the chain and sharp parts. The package took up little space in the car. It also was easy to store for the night in our room at the historic Paradise Inn.

I awoke at dawn, carried my bag downstairs and put together the bike. In less than ten minutes, I was ready to roll. It still amazes me how quickly a Rinko bike assembles.

The forecast predicted a sunny day, and for a moment, I got a peek of Rainier’s summit, before I started the long descent toward the Nisqually River valley. Within seconds, I dove into the clouds. I was glad to have fenders. The road was wet in places, dry in others. Without spray from the wheels, even descending in the clouds at this high altitude wasn’t as cold as I had feared. I carefully explored the grip of my tires on the wet pavement as I scythed around the many twists and turns. Warm weather improves the rubber’s coefficient of friction, and there was traction to spare. This meant I could relax and enjoy the descent on this beautiful road.

It did not take long until I traversed the bridge that, when it was built a century ago, was right at the mouth of the Nisqually Glacier. Today, the glacier has retreated out of sight. I passed Longmire, the second lodge in the park, still fast asleep. I continued toward the park boundary. Deep in the valley, the trees became bigger, and the road weaved its way between them. There was little traffic, all going the other way: Workers commuting to the park’s two lodges. Soon, that ebbed, and I had the road to myself.

Then it was time to turn around. I had come here not for the descent, but for the climb back up to Paradise.

The road climbs almost 900 m (3,000 ft) during the 18 km (11 miles) from Longmire to Paradise. It has a beautiful rhythm. With a maximum gradient of about 8%, it’s never really steep. The slope provides just enough resistance, so I can work hard without having to fight the constant ebb and flow of wind resistance that you get at high speeds on flat roads. It makes for a meditative, beautiful workout.

On this day, I wanted to test my form for PBP, and my plan was to climb in the ‘big’ ring of the Weigle. Of course, my big ring isn’t exactly huge (46 teeth), and the Weigle has a 27-tooth cog on the rear…

Having a superlight bike doesn’t hurt on a climb like this: The Weigle weighs a scant 20 pounds (9.1 kg) with lights, fenders, rack and even its pump. Even more important is a frame that flexes in unison with my pedal strokes and allows me to put out more power. The Weigle, with its super-thinwall, standard-diameter tubing, ‘planes’ extremely well. Would my 46×27 be enough for this hour-long climb?

I wound the bike up to speed on the relatively flat part in the lower reaches of the park. Once I passed Longmire, all I had to do was keep my momentum. That’s often easier said than done when the uphill stretches for an hour, but this morning, the bike performed beautifully as I climbed into the clouds.

The sunny forecast proved elusive, but the effort of spinning my gears kept me warm. When I reached Ricksecker Point at roughly the half-way point, I stopped briefly to remove my leg warmers and long-sleeve jersey. Sweat was beading on my forehead.

My memories of this climb are so varied, it’s hard to believe that it’s always been the same road. I recalled how, as a young racer, I gunned up this climb in just under 50 minutes during my preparation for the Race Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD). At other times, it’s taken me 50% longer, yet it was hard work. Today’s time was somewhere in between, but most of all, the climb was smooth. I could feel my body working hard, but it didn’t feel labored. Just how it should be!

The top appeared sooner than I remembered it, and then I pulled up to the historic lodge. It had been a short ride, well inside two hours, yet it had been thoroughly enjoyable and gratifying. (And I did make it all the way in the 46-tooth ring!)

As I rolled my bike inside, I got a last peek at Mount Rainier’s summit. Clouds were moving back in, and it soon started to drizzle. By pure luck, I had timed my ride perfectly.

Breakfast tasted twice as good after the effort of my ride. Then I packed my bike in its bag again. It vanished into the trunk of our car as we headed out on our hike. I was glad to have brought my bike on this trip – Rinko bikes are useful even if you aren’t traveling on Japanese trains!

Posted in Rides | 21 Comments

New Sealant for Rene Herse Tires

Tubeless tires have changed what we can do on a bike. When the terrain is really rough, not having to worry about pinch flats allows us to run lower tire pressure for more comfort, more traction and more speed. (The speed comes from the lower pressure on rough surfaces, not from the tubeless setup itself.)

Setting up tires tubeless can be a hassle – and high-performance tires require more diligence yet. Everything that makes supple tires so fast and comfortable also makes them harder to set up tubeless: The ultra-thin sidewalls aren’t air-tight, and the tires are so floppy that the bead can be hard to seal against the rim. Supple tires need sealant to close those microscopic pores in the casing and to constantly seal the tire against the rim.

There are many tricks to setting up tires tubeless, and the right choice of sealant is one of them. Many sealants are intended for mountain bike tires with stiff casings that are covered with a thick layer of rubber, making them airtight on their own. The sealant is only intended to close small punctures, not to make the tire itself airtight and seal it against the rim. Those sealants can work OK with supple high-performance tires, but we wanted a better solution.

Over the last two years, we’ve worked with Panaracer in Japan to develop a sealant that is specifically formulated for the supple sidewalls of Rene Herse tires. (The sealant works equally well with Panaracer tires and other brands.)

The Seal Smart sealant uses natural latex and walnut shells to make the tire airtight and seal it against the rim. Thanks to these ingredients, it’s non-toxic and low in allergens. Clean-up is easy, too.

Most of all, it works really well. With every tire we’ve set up so far, the tire sealed almost instantly and held its air for weeks without re-inflating. We’ve tried it on tires that were returned under warranty because the sidewall didn’t seal. (This happens very rarely when the rubber coating is a bit too thin.) Bubbles appeared on the casing, and the tires continued to lose air. With the new Seal Smart, two tiny bubbles appeared at first, but the tires sealed fine. We wiped off the bubbles, and they didn’t reappear – the tires were ready to ride.

Of course, every installation is different, and we cannot guarantee a successful tubeless installation. Especially with supple tires, it pays to be extra-diligent when distributing the sealant inside the tire to make sure it goes into every crack. And make sure to shake the sealant vigorously for a minute or more to distribute the solids really well: If you’re just injecting white water into the tire, it won’t seal…

The new Panaracer Seal Smart comes in 500 ml (17 oz) bottles – enough to set up 4-6 tires and replenish your sealant frequently. It is in stock now.

Further information:

Posted in Tires | 26 Comments

15% Off Tires for Paris-Brest-Paris Riders

Paris-Brest-Paris, the epic 1200 km randonnée in France, is coming up fast. More than 6000 riders are busy with their final training, setting up their bike, preparing their trip… To help PBP riders out a bit, we are offering a 15% discount on a set of tires for the big event. (Details at the end of the post.)

Many randonneurs choose Rene Herse tires for their comfort and speed. We want to encourage everybody to start the long ride on a new set of tires. Ride your tires for 50-100 miles to make sure that everything is fine, but don’t start such an important ride on old rubber.

In 2007 – before we developed our Compass / Rene Herse tires –  I rode on partially-worn tires, hoping to gain a little speed from the thinner rubber. It was a rainy year, and I had two flat tires. Not a big deal, and perhaps the thin tread saved more time than it took to fix those flats. (Despite – or perhaps because of – the inclement weather, that was my fastest PBP yet.)

When we developed our Rene Herse tires, we added a little rubber in the center of the tread to increase the tires’ lifespan. To make the tires more supple, we kept the tread on the shoulders thin, since that part doesn’t wear. Our testing has shown that Rene Herse tires don’t get significantly faster as they wear. That is why I’ll be starting this year’s ride on almost-new tires.

Here is what I’ll ride in PBP:

  • Size: 650B x 42 mm. I prefer wide tires for comfort on the often surprisingly rough asphalt of the French backroads.
  • Casing: Rene Herse Extralight. The Extralight is significantly faster than the Standard, while the puncture resistance is the same. If you really are afraid of flats, the new Endurance casing is a good choice, too.
  • Tubes roll faster than tubeless (no liquid sloshing around inside the tires), so I’ll be on tubes. In my experience, French backroads aren’t littered with steel wires and glass, so the added puncture protection of tubeless isn’t worth the hassle for me. (In 5 PBP so far, the two aforementioned flats are the only ones I’ve experienced.)
  • Pressure: 35 psi. Tire pressure obviously depends on your weight and the width of your tires. With supple tires, higher pressures doesn’t make you faster: The added vibrations cancel out any gains from the reduced tire deformation. I run low pressures for comfort. How low is too low? If your tires squish a lot when you ride out of the saddle – add some air until your tires feel the way you like them.

For PBP riders, we offer a 15% discount on a set of tires. Here is how it works:

  1. The offer is open to riders from all over the world who are registered for the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris. The offer is available only for direct orders from the Rene Herse Cycles web site.
  2. Place your order by 8/2/2019 and pay as usual when you check out.
  3. In the comments field, put “PBP Discount” and enter your PBP number.
  4. We’ll refund 15% of the 2 highest-value tires you order. Please allow up to a week for the refund to appear on your account.
  5. You can order as many tires and other components as you like, but the discount applies only to 2 tires, and only once per PBP rider.
  6. We usually ship the same day or the following day, so you can figure out which shipping method will get you the tires in time for your trip to France.

Click here to order your tires. We wish all randonneurs a successful, safe and enjoyable PBP!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Rene Herse 700C x 44 with Endurance Casing

We developed the Endurance casings for our Rene Herse tires based on requests from gravel racers like Ted King (above), who need tires for truly harsh conditions. A race like Dirty Kanza traverses 200 miles of sharp stones in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The lead racers travel at high speeds in densely packed pelotons, unable to see the road ahead – and thus unable to avoid hitting big and sharp rocks. The event becomes a race of attrition. If you flat and are lucky, your plug holds, your CO2 cartridge inflates the tire, and you can chase back on. More likely, you see the peloton vanish into the distance.

It’s for this type of event that we’ve introduced our Endurance casing. It’s a beefed-up version of our renowned Extralight casing: We use the same ultra-thin and ultra-supple threads, but push them closer together to obtain a denser weave. Then we add a puncture protection layer from bead to bead that reinforces not only the tread area against punctures, but also the sidewalls against cuts.

For even tougher conditions, we offer the Endurance Plus casing with thicker threads for even more cut resistance, plus the same puncture protection layer as the Endurance casing. It’s probably overkill for most rides and races, but there are times where you gladly give up a little speed for the peace of mind of not having to think about your tires at all.

We shipped a small quantity of Rene Herse tires with Endurance casings as soon as possible, so racers could use them in Dirty Kanza and other races. This also allowed us to get valuable feedback from the field.

Ted King (leading the pack in the photo above) rode the Hurricane Ridge Endurance Plus to a formidable 8th place in this year’s Dirty Kanza against international competition of professional riders. In the past, the ‘King of Gravel’ had suffered from flats in every edition of this epic race – but not this year.

Others had similar experiences. One customer wrote:

“I used the Steilacoom Endurance tires and had no problems or flats on the DK200 course this year. I did not feel that I had to brake and descend with extra caution, but felt confident to just let them roll. I will now continue to ride these tires, dropping the pressure for added comfort and better rolling resistance, and see where the limits are.”

Another racer commented:

“I would like to let you know on how amazed I was in yesterday’s Dirty Kanza riding your Steilacoom tires with the Endurance casing. Hassle free. No flats, no nothing, all good, and supple riding!”

And:

“Thank you for the expedited shipping so I got the tires in time for the race. You guys are as awesome as your tires…”

The first shipment of Rene Herse tires with Endurance casings sold out almost immediately. We’ve now received another shipment, and all models are back in stock.

We are also introducing two new models, the 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Endurance and Endurance Plus with our smooth all-road tread. For dry rides and races where you won’t encounter mud, these tires are a great choice. They complement the knobby 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge to offer a quiver of tires that will handle all conditions. They are ideal not just for racing, but also for adventures where you don’t know what you will encounter.

In addition to our Standard and Extralight tires, we now offer the following tires with Endurance and Endurance Plus casings:

  • 700C x 38 mm Steilacoom knobby (Endurance)
  • 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge knobby (Endurance; Endurance +)
  • 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass all-road (Endurance; Endurance +)
  • 650B x 48 mm Juniper Ridge knobby (Endurance)

Click here for more information about our Rene Herse tires.

Photo credit: Dustin Michelson/Gravelguru (Photo 1).

Posted in Tires | 21 Comments

Back in Stock: SON Generator Hubs and Lights

With the 750-mile Paris-Brest-Paris coming up, demand for generator hubs and lights has been high. We’ve just received another shipment, and now all products are back in stock, plus there are some new items as well.

By far our most popular generator hub is the SONdelux Wide-Body. In addition to all the standard SON features of extremely low resistance and superior reliability, it features a wider body to create a stronger wheel. This is especially useful for wheels with low spoke counts. Even with 32 spokes, you can feel the difference when you climb out of the saddle: No matter how hard you pedal, the rim won’t touch the brake pads.

The SONdelux is also available in a disc model, both for thru-axles (shown) and quick releases. We now offer the thru-axle version with 24 spokes, in addition to the 28- and 32-spoke models. Running lights on your disc brake bike has never been easier.

SON hubs are available with the ingenious connector-less SL system: The current is transmitted from the hub to a contact plate on the fork, so there are no wires and no connectors.

Not only is it easier to remove the wheel – you also get rid of the wires that can break and cause problems. You do need a custom fork for this – currently, no production forks are available with the contact plates – to get the most elegant way of powering your lights.

Speaking of contacts, there is also the SON coaxial adapter that plugs onto your SON hub. It makes for a clean and reliable connection for riders who don’t like the spade connectors (which have the advantage of being 100% field serviceable).

To build your generator hubs into wheels, we carry rims that provide excellent seating for the tires, whether you run your tires with tubes or tubeless. We offer spoke kits to make it easy to source all the parts you need to convert your bike to generator lighting.

I’ve recently written about why I love the Edelux II headlights: With their carefully designed beam, they illuminate the road evenly without bright spots that can make night riding so fatiguing. All car headlights are required to work that way – why settle for less on your bike’s headlight?

Plus, the beam is cut off at the top, so you aren’t blinding oncoming traffic. It’s not just considerate, but also safer: Drivers who are blinded will be afraid to get off the road and steer toward the center of the road  – and toward you.

To mount the lights to your rack, we offer our custom-designed Rene Herse light mounts in different configurations. They allow adjusting the angle of your headlight without tools (lower in the city, higher on mountain roads). And yet, thanks to the clever design, the bolts won’t ever come loose.

The easiest way to mount your light is to attach it to the handlebars. The B&M light mount is perfect for that. If you don’t use a front bag, you can mount the light below the bars, where it’s out of the way. Then you just need to run a wire down to the hub, and you are done. (On the rear, you can use a battery-powered light. Taillights use less power than headlights, and the batteries will last a long time.)

If you are planning a new custom bike, the Rene Herse taillight mounts in a well-protected location on the back of the seat tube. The light uses an ultra-reliable LED circuit with a standlight that keeps you visible even when you are stopped. The lens acts as a reflector. This not only adds safety in the unlikely event that your taillight (or the wiring) develops a problem. It also creates a more diffuse light source that is easier on the eyes of riders following you – and yet it is as visible from a distance.

It’s hard to appreciate how much of a difference a great lighting system makes for night-time riding until you’ve experienced it. When my friend Ryan Francesconi mounted an Edelux II headlight for our recent 600 km brevet, he was blown away. Our all-night adventures wouldn’t be half as much fun without these lights.

More information:

Photo credit: Nicolas Joly (Photo 1).

Posted in Lighting | 12 Comments

Bamboo in the Cascades – the Movie

For the Summer Bicycle Quarterly, we test the incredible Calfee Bamboo show bike from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Not only does this bike feature Calfee’s new bamboo tubes – lined with carbon for lighter weight and greater strength – it’s also equipped with Rotor’s brand-new hydraulic shifting.

When I admire bikes at shows, I always wonder how they ride. Fortunately, Craig Calfee was happy to send us the bike for a real test.

How do you test a bike like this? For us, there is only one way: We take it on an adventure into the unknown! Enjoy the video – make sure to watch it in full-screen mode! Then check out the current Bicycle Quarterly to read all about this amazing bike:

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 4 Comments