A knobby faster than a road tire?

At Compass, we see little point in replicating what you already can buy from others. When we made our first knobby tires, we wanted true dual-purpose tires. Could the new knobbies match the on-pavement of good road tires, yet grip as well in mud as true cyclocross tires. Impossible? You’ll never find out unless you try…

After a few seasons of cyclocross, there is no doubt that the Compass Steilacoom (700C x 38 mm) and Pumpkin Ridge (650B x 42 mm) offer plenty of grip and shed mud well – as you’d expect from their widely spaced knobs.

How about their on-pavement performance? I’ll let others speak on that. Matt Surch, the well-known Canadian gravel racer, wrote: “I don’t understand how the tread rolls so fast and quiet… these are wild!”

When BQ tester Mark tried them, he wrote: “Once the wind drowned out the tire roar at high speed, I was thinking about how unremarkable the Steilacoom tires had rolled on the paved descent. I had pretty much forgotten that I was riding on knobbies.” Yet he was glad to have them when a road closure detoured us via a muddy trail (above).

And now Mike Stead tested a set of Steilacooms for www.road.cc. Among other adventures, he set two Strava records on these tires. One was for a gravel descent. His comment: “I wasn’t even pushing that hard. […] The Steilacooms make you a better, faster descender than you deserve to be.”

The second KOM surprised not just him, but us as well: He set a new record for a flat-out 60-second sprint – on pavement. He wrote: “Averaging 45 kph, the Steilacooms made an awesome high-pitched noise as I fanged along the straight. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, I went back the next week and recorded exactly the same time to the second.”

Mike’s time on the Steilacooms was two seconds faster than the previous KOM record, which he had set on our Barlow Pass tires. Does that mean our knobbies are faster than our road tires? Not necessarily – there are too many variables – but it shows that they certainly aren’t much slower. And that is remarkable, considering that our road tires are among the fastest in the world.

In a future post, I’ll explain how we created a knobby that doesn’t ride like a knobby… until you hit mud or snow, when it behaves exactly like a knobby. But don’t take our word for it – read Mike Stead’s review.

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 8 Comments

Compass Swift Campout Photo Contest

Entries for the photo contest keep pouring in – so far more than 250 photos have been submitted. Check them out on Instagram under #swiftcompasscontest!

It’s not too late to enter: Upload your best shots that show ‘cyclotouring off the beaten path’ to Instagram, add the hashtag, and you’re all set. On June 30, we’ll look at all the entries and select 8 finalists. They’ll appear here on the blog, and all of you get to vote for the winner, who receives a $ 200 gift certificate to Compass Cycles. All finalists also win a 1-year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, and their photos will be published in the magazine.

A reminder: The Swift Campout is this coming weekend. Head over to their web site to get details and register. Most of all, have fun on your very own adventure!

Click here for the full rules of the contest.

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BQ 64 Preview: Our Biggest Adventure Yet

The Summer 2018 Bicycle Quarterly caps our 15th anniversary year, and so we’ve put together a very special issue. In our most epic adventure yet, we headed south to the incredible Copper Canyons of Mexico. The video above takes you right into the action. Make sure to enjoy it in full-screen mode!

Click here to subscribe to Bicycle Quarterly and read the full story of this adventure, plus the many other exciting articles of this 112-page edition.

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Back in Stock and New Fenders

Some new products are much more popular than we anticipate. Even though we try to keep everything in stock at all times, production can take a while to catch up to the increased demand. Recently, that has affected a few products.

The first batch of our 11-speed Rene Herse chainrings sold out quickly. They’ve received rave reviews from customers. These riders enjoy shifting on par with the very best rings, but with more useful 46×30 chainrings. Add the elegance and light weight of our Rene Herse cranks, and you can see why they’ve been popular.

The new chainrings work just as well with 9- and 10-speed drivetrains. During our testing, we’ve found Shimano’s Ultegra chains to offer the best shifting, so we designed our tooth profiles for this chain. (If you run 9- or 10-speed, use the appropriate Ultegra chain.)

The 11-speed cranks are in stock for single bikes and tandems. Click here for more information.

The MKS Allways pedals take this popular platform style to the next level. They feature the super-smooth cartridge bearings found only in top-of-the-line MKS pedals. Just as importantly, the platform is slightly concave to provide a better grip for your foot. The Allways pedals are available both with standard spindles and with the EZY Superior system that allows removing your pedals without tools in seconds (above). Click here for more information.

The Ostrich frame covers are back in stock, too. They protect the frame when you travel with your bike. Unlike thick foam tubes, these covers are small enough to easily fit in your handlebar or seat bag. That makes them ideal for trips where you’ll put your bike on a bus, on a train, or in a car for part of the trip. New is the ‘oversize’ version for the large-diameter tubes of carbon, titanium and aluminum frames. Click here to find out more.

Our handlebars are back in stock in all sizes. Their shapes were developed when stages were long and roads were rough. Now we offer them for standard-diameter and oversized stems, so you can enjoy their all-day comfort on modern bikes.

Why are classic handlebar shapes more ergonomic? Human bodies haven’t changed, it’s only that modern races are shorter and speeds are higher, so modern racers can get away with less-than-optimal shapes. For the rest of us, the classic shapes make a remarkable difference in the comfort of our bikes. Click here for more information.

And finally, we are excited to announce a new fender. We now offer Honjo’s fluted fenders in a 47 mm width for 700C wheels. This is ideal for tires between 32 and 36 mm wide.

Like all our Honjo fenders, the new model is custom-made to our specifications. Front and rear fenders are longer than standard to provide better coverage. We supply all fenders with our elegant Rene Herse eyebolts (above).

We also sell extra fender stays separately for bikes without a front rack, where the second fender stay stabilizes the front fender ahead of the fork crown. Not only does this guarantee that the fender is quiet, it also improves safety and longevity, as it reduces flex and the risk that the fender breaks. Click here for more information about our fenders.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Myth 11: Rear tires should run at (significantly) higher pressure

To celebrate Bicycle Quarterly‘s 15th anniversary, we are looking at myths in cycling: things we used to believe, but which we’ve since found out not to be true. Today, we explain why your bike’s weight distribution does not directly translate into your tire pressures.

We are partly responsible for the myth that front tires should run at significantly lower pressures. When we first started researching tires, we published Frank Berto’s tire pressure chart, which lists inflation pressures to achieve a ‘tire drop’ of 15% with average tires. That pressure depends on the width of the tire and on the load on the wheel.

Most bikes carry roughly twice as much weight on the rear wheel as on the front (above). So we reasoned that it makes sense to inflate the rear tire twice as hard as the front one. Except it doesn’t work that way.

During hard braking, the entire weight of the rider is on the front wheel. Now the front tire carries three times as much weight as it usually does. If this isn’t factored into the tire pressure, then the tire can collapse during hard braking: Suddenly, the sidewall no longer holds up the tire. The tire loses the ability to transmit the forces from the road to the bike – braking and steering are seriously impaired. It’s like riding with a flat tire.

In recent years, the potential for trouble has increased as we now run supple tires at lower pressures. Back in 2010, when we published the chart, we inflated our 23 mm tires to 120 psi. Running the fronts at 80 psi was fine, since the stiff sidewalls of the tires most of us rode helped with holding up the bike.

These days, many of us are on supple 42 mm tires inflated to 35 psi. Dropping the front to 23 psi is fine when rolling along, but during hard braking, the sidewall will collapse.

The solution is simple: Use Frank Berto’s chart (above) to calculate the optimum tire pressure for your rear wheel, based on the weight distribution of your bike. But for the front, assume that 50% of your weight rests on the wheel, even if the real number is less. In our experience, that will prevent the tire from collapsing.

When you are just riding along, your front tire will be a bit harder than necessary, and you’ll lose a little comfort, but it’s better than risking problems during hard braking.

If you use a handlebar bag, that puts more weight on the front and works toward equalizing the weight distribution – a randonneur bike’s weight distribution is 45:55. This means that you don’t have to overinflate the front tire by much.

If you carry a heavy front load, your weight distribution may be heavier on the front than on the rear. In that case, you obviously want to inflate your front tire based on the actual weight it carries.

In any case, the pressures in the chart are just a starting point for your own experimentation. We’ve found that these pressures work well for supple tires and for riding on pavement. On gravel, you’ll want to reduce your pressure (above), but not so much that you bottom out frequently.

This week’s myth shows how our understanding of bicycles continues to evolve – and also why on-the-bike observation is more important than theoretical reasoning. What seems right in theory often overlooks factors that are important on the road.

Further reading:

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 23 Comments

Compass Antelope Hill 700C x 55 mm Tires

We are proud to introduce our biggest tire yet, the much-anticipated 700C x 55 mm Antelope Hill. The new tires have arrived with the latest shipment and are now in stock.

Antelope Hill is the unofficial name of the last great climb of the iconic Oregon Outback, the 360-mile gravel race that traversed Oregon from the south to the north. Like many gravel rides, almost a third of the Outback route is on pavement, including Switchback Hill itself (above). The ideal tire for this and similar rides combines excellent speed on pavement with enough width to float on top of the gravel, rather than sink into the loose aggregate.

The new 700C Antelope Hill completes the trilogy of ultra-wide Compass allroad tires, which also includes the 650B Switchback Hill – named after the first big climb of the Oregon Outback – and the 26″ Rat Trap Pass.

Like most Compass tires, the Antelope Hill is available with our Standard casing and tan sidewalls (above). This is the more economical choice. Also, the sidewall is stronger to resist cuts better.

For the ultimate in performance, we recommend our Extralight casing, available in tan or black. This is the same ultra-supple casing found on top-level tubular tires. The Extralight isn’t just incredibly light for such a big tire (465 g) – the supple casing also improves its speed and comfort further. And thanks to the extra width and hence lower pressure, the Antelope Hill Extralights are strong enough even in rough terrain.

Experienced riders can use these tires on rough trails, but they are not intended as true mountain bike tires. The supple sidewalls aren’t stiff enough to climb out of ruts, and the casing can suffer cuts if it’s forced into sharp rocks. We mostly intend them for riders who enjoy their 29er mountain bikes on gravel and paved roads. Under those conditions, Compass allroad tires will transform your bike’s performance. You’ll want to ride it everywhere… We can’t wait to see where people are taking their Antelope Hills!

The Antelope Hills are available now. For more information or to order a set, click here.

Posted in Tires | 30 Comments

Swift Campout photo contest sponsored by Compass Cycles

 

Calling for the most evocative, inspirational, and just plain amazing photos that show ‘cyclotouring off the beaten path’! Share your adventures and win a $ 200 gift certificate and other prizes!

Simply post a photo – or several! – on Instagram by June 30 and add the hashtag #swiftcompasscontest. Anybody can enter – no need to register or become a customer. Just post your photos with the hashtag, and you are automatically entered. Of course, you can only enter photos you’ve taken yourself. The goal is to share the fun of cyclotouring, nothing more and nothing less. Enter your best photos!

We’ll chose 8 finalists, and put them here on the Compass blog for final vote by the public. The winner will be announced on July 11 and receive a $ 200 gift certificate toward Compass and Rene Herse components, Bicycle Quarterly magazines, or our books. All finalists will receive a one-year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, and their photos will be published in the magazine.

Entrants give permission to repost their photos on Compass blog, web site and in Bicycle Quarterly, only for the purposes of this contest. Employees of Compass Cycles, Swift Industries and their families may enter, but are not eligible to win.

Vital stats:

  • Post your photo(s) on Instagram
  • Use hashtag #swiftcompasscontest
  • Photos posted until 6/30/2018 are eligible to win
  • More information about the Swift Campout.

Have fun!

Photo credits: Nicolas Joly (Photo 1); Natsuko Hirose (Photo 3).

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