Remembering Naches Pass

gravel

Recently, I cleaned out old files on our computers, and came across this treasure trove of unpublished photos from Bicycle Quarterly‘s “Secret Pass” adventure. It took me back three years, when Hahn and I headed into the Cascade Mountains to test the MAP 650B Randonneur.

pressure

Like all of Mitch’s bikes, his latest machine was stunningly beautiful – and its ride matched its appearance. We left in the middle of the night, and by the time the sun came up, we already were on old logging roads that parallel Highway 410 on the way to Mount Rainier. It was time to let out some air and adjust the tires to gravel pressure.

hahn_climb

After a good breakfast in Greenwater, we left civilization behind as we climbed toward Naches Pass. Hahn was riding his first 650B randonneur bike, and we both carried our camping gear in low-rider panniers. It was the first time we tried the now-common idea of a high-performance bike with front low-riders, rather than full touring bikes with stiff frames that feel “dead” and don’t “plane” for us.

Even though we were only heading out for two days, we were giddy with a sense of adventure. Back then, nobody we knew had cycled across Naches Pass. We could see roads on the map, but we had no idea what they’d look like…

boardwalk

We were surprised to find a boardwalk as we approached the pass. With our wide, supple tires, riding on the wooden planks was easy. Patches of snow lined the trail – remnants of the first autumn snowfall at this high elevation.

fender_mud

The boardwalk gave way to a bumpy, muddy trail, and Hahn learned the hard way about the importance of generous fender clearances. Where the MAP had passed without problems, his fenders clogged up with mud, and his wheels no longer turned. Several times, he removed the wheels and scraped out the mud.

naches_highland

Naches Pass is on a beautiful highland. The sandier gravel no longer clung to the tires, and the riding was smooth. The dense forest opened into meadows, and the sparser tree coverage that was prescient of what we’d find east of the Cascades. We were elated: We had found Naches Pass!

toward_cliffdell

As we started descending, we entered a maze of logging roads. Only educated guesswork (and luck!) kept us from getting completely lost. We were relieved when we reached the valley. The sun had already set as we approached Cliffdell, but even in the twilight, the autumn leaves were stunning.

wakeup

We slept well despite our rudimentary camping gear. In the morning, our sleeping bags were covered in frost. This enticed us to pack up quickly and head into the next leg of our adventure: the search for the “secret passes” that separate the valleys of the Naches and Yakima Rivers. We felt like explorers on an important mission: A good route across these mountains would be as useful to cycling in the Cascades as the “inside passage” was to commerce during the 19th century.

climb

Our search started well. Based on a tip from a local at the campground where we had spent the night, we found the road out of the Naches River Valley. The climb  was spectacular.

secret_pass_2

The dark basalt cliffs provided a beautiful backdrop for the green pine and yellow aspen trees. We warmed up quickly as we rode up the steep, long gravel road.

overland

A few hours later, our prospects looked less good: Our road simply petered out. We rode across boulder fields and roadless grasslands as we searched for roads. The beautiful scenery kept us happy even when it wasn’t clear whether we’d find our way or not.

reflection

We finally found something that resembled a road. In the mud, we saw the tracks of deer, but no human footprints or vehicle tracks. It was fun to make the first tire tracks here. Most importantly, the “road” seemed to lead in the right direction.

ellensburg_pass

We were lucky, as the road brought us to the tiny hamlet of Wenas. Our hope to find food there – we had run out of supplies – was futile. Wenas consists of four or five houses, and there wasn’t a person to be seen, much less a store.

From Wenas, we climbed Ellensburg Pass. Even on this “main road” (above), we encountered almost no traffic and wonderful riding. After cresting the pass and a screaming descent, we made it to Ellensburg in time for an early dinner. More gravel riding returned us to Seattle late that night.

The passage across the “secret passes” had proved elusive, but what a grand adventure it had been! And perhaps, somewhere in those mountains, there still may be a passable gravel road. And so the search for the “lost pass” continues…

Further reading:

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues, Rides | 11 Comments

Winter 2016 Bicycle Quarterly

The Winter 2016 Bicycle Quarterly will be mailed soon. Winter is when many cyclists review the year’s riding season and think about a new bike. If we were to order (or even build) a new bike, what we would do differently?

moots_bon_jon

In the Winter BQ, we look at this question from many angles. We test a titanium Allroad bike from Moots that is designed for pure performance. Not only do we ride it as intended, but we also explore its limits. How much adventure can a production bike handle?

mule_moss

At the other end of the spectrum is the “Mule”, the steel Rinko bike I built for travel in Japan. The Mule is a full custom bike equipped with the very best components, yet it costs less than many stock Allroad bikes. The Mule has surprised me with its performance and versatility – there is hardly a ride where it doesn’t offer excellent performance. To celebrate its second anniversary, I took it on an epic ride across the rain-soaked Cascades to the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting.

frek_01

For those on a more limited budget, Steve Frey explains how he made a competent 650B randonneur bike out of an old Trek with few tools, learning the skills as he went.

The promise of the Allroad bike is alluring: It’s the one bike you’ll need for almost all your riding needs. Where does a road bike with wide tires reach its limits? We found out by entering an Enduro Allroad bike in the toughest mountain bike race in Japan (cover photo of this issue).

tire_test

All these bikes have one thing in common: wide tires. Wide, supple tires really have revolutionized cycling, and we are still figuring out the limits of this exciting trend. We test how fast wide tires roll on smooth roads. Do you give up anything when joining a fast group ride on 42 or even 52 mm tires?

panaracer_factory

We are especially proud of the next feature: For the first time, Panaracer has allowed a photographer into their factory. See how some of the best tires in the world are made largely by hand.

provot

Many of us are inspired by cycling’s golden age, when riding bikes was a way of life rather than a pastime. Our photo feature takes you right to that wonderful time when life revolved around rides, brevets and other cycling activities.

hanto_tango

Some of the best rides aren’t about performance at all. A tour of the Tango Peninsula in Japan takes us to a breathtakingly beautiful and remote region that is within easy reach of the big cities of Kyoto and Osaka.

Other articles report from the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting, explain why a bike can be ridden no-hands and much more. We hope this issue will give you plenty of ideas and inspiration as you plan how and where to ride next year.

Subscribe or renew today to receive this exciting issue without delay! (We are submitting our mailing list to the printer tomorrow.)

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 17 Comments

Bicycle Quarterly Charity Drive a Success!

 

bq_back_issues

The Bicycle Quarterly Charity Drive raised $ 2475. We are excited to send a check to Doctors Without Borders. Thank you to everybody who made this a success, either by contributing directly or by sharing the news about the event with their friends. Thank you!

If you would like to make your own donation, please do so at www.msf.org.

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Bicycle Quarterly Charity Drive

A Hatian MSF nurse treats a patient at a mobile clinic in the village of Nan Sevre, in the mountains north of Port-à-Piment. The village is now accessible only by helicopter. (Photo by Joffrey Monnier/MSF)

With a tumultuous election season in the United States, we sometimes lose sight of the bigger worries that exist in many parts of the world, even as the news highlight armed conflicts and refugee crisis.

One of the ways Compass Bicycles has chosen to make a difference is with a special 24-hour charity drive to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).

In many places experiencing conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and other crises, Doctors Without Borders is working to save lives. Doctors Without Borders bring not only medical and humanitarian assistance to those who need it most, they bring hope.

For every new subscription or gift subscription purchased in the next 24 hours, we will donate 50% of the subscription price.*

While renewals are not included in the charity drive, we will also donate 50% of the price of back issues of Bicycle Quarterly.

Orders must be received by November 1 at 9:00 a.m. (Pacific Time).

If you have been thinking about subscribing to Bicycle Quarterly or buying back issues, please do so now, and do a good deed at the same time. Click the links above to subscribe, give a gift subscription, or shop the back issues.

Your first issue will be the Winter 2016 Bicycle Quarterly, with many inspirational and useful articles that you don’t want to miss:

  • How much slower are extra-wide tires? In a return of BQ‘s ground-breaking tire tests, we compare the performance of tires from 32 to 52 mm under carefully controlled conditions. What do you give up when you switch to extra-wide tires?
  • How does a road cyclist on a drop bar bike fare when facing 100 km of rough trails? We take an Enduro Allroad Bike on Japan’s most epic mountain bike race (see cover image).
  • Join us on a tour of the hauntingly beautiful Tango Peninsula of Japan, learn how to build an inexpensive Randonneur bike from an old Trek, and visit the Panaracer tire factory to see how tires are made.

Your subscription will run more than just the next issue, and there is much to come. Future bike tests include the iconic Moots Routt (titanium), the ground-breaking Open U.P. (carbon), a modern-classic J. P. Weigle (steel), and even a bike made from bamboo.

bq_website600

Visit our new web site to read more about Bicycle Quarterly and to see a sample magazine online.

*Note: For international subscriptions, $ 18 per year of subscription will be donated to Doctors Without Borders; the same amount as a U.S. subscription. The additional amount paid covers the cost of postage.

Photo credit (top): Joffrey Monnier/MSF

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 5 Comments

Rinko Systems: Ezy and Ezy Superior

 

We have discovered a compatibility issue with the different versions of MKS Rinko pedal. Please note that the SPD-compatible MKS US-S pedals (shown on left) use the “EZY” release system while the other MKS Rinko pedals we offer use the “EZY-Superior” release system (shown on right). Each system works equally well, but the two are not interchangeable. The new SPD-compatible pedals use the “EZY” system, because it allows for a thinner, lighter adapter.

Most customers use just one type of pedal on their bikes, so whether their pedals use the “EZY” or “EZY Superior” system makes little difference. However, if you plan to swap different pedals systems on the same bike, please not that you cannot swap the SPD-compatible pedals (EZY system) with the other MKS Rinko pedals (EZY Superior system) we sell.

We apologize for any confusion in our previous e-mail and blog entry.

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SPD-compatible Rinko Pedals

uss_01

The long-awaited SPD-compatible Rinko pedals from MKS have arrived. Now you can enjoy the convenience of SPD shoes and cleats, and yet remove your pedals in just seconds without tools.

Initially intended for Rinko (the Japanese system of disassembling bikes for train travel), MKS Rinko pedals have two parts. A stub attaches to the crank like a normal pedal. The actual pedal attaches to this with a fitting similar to an air hose. To attach or release the pedal, turn the outer ring and push it toward the crank.

rinko_bike

The ability to remove the pedals quickly and without tools (or dirty hands) is useful not only for packing bikes when you travel (above). It can help when the bike is stored in a narrow space.

With the MKS Rinko Adapters, you can even share the same set of pedals between different bikes. Right now, we have the “EZY Superior” adapters. In the future, we’ll offer the “EZY” version, too.

mks_rinko_pedals

MKS now offers Rinko pedals for all popular pedal systems. In addition to the new SPD-compatible pedals, there are Look-compatible and Time-compatible (above) pedals, as well as platform pedals.

pedalMKSrx1_2

MKS makes pedals at many quality levels. Compass imports only the top-of-the-line models that feature silky-smooth cartridge bearings. You have to turn the spindles of these pedals in your hands – then you’ll understand how smooth bearings can be!

rinko_oshima

With these pedals, you can enjoy visiting distant places, switching between bikes, trains, ships and airplanes, as a true cyclotourist.

Click here for more information about MKS pedals.

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Bicycle Flea Market

campy_table

Visiting Japan is fun, in part because I meet so many different cyclists. There are the cyclotourists, the randonneurs, the collectors…

Bicycle collecting as a hobby has a long tradition in Japan, and there are many events for collectors. The Keiokaku Bicycle Flea Market is one of them.

moulton

It’s a popular event that is held on the grounds of a Keirin race track on a weekend when there are no races there. The selection on display is amazing.

jos

Looking for some rare JOS lights for your 1950s René Herse or Alex Singer? You’ll probably find them here.

superrecord_1

The first-generation Campagnolo Super Record derailleur was made only for a short time, so it’s ultra-rare. This one is brand-new, but with a twist: The date stamp on the body is incorrect. It appears that somebody found a few outer plates as spare parts and assembled these derailleurs. If you put it on a bike, few will notice, and the price is a bit more affordable than a genuine one.

sinad

Much cheaper are these cable ties, used to tidy up the brake cables on traditional, non-aero brake levers. Here is how they work:

sinad_detail

“No tools needed” – they just fold over. Never heard of Sinad? Neither had I.

dura-ace_cranks

Three generations of Dura-Ace cranks remind me of my early cycling years. That was a time when components still were getting more beautiful with every iteration. The oldest cranks are on the right, the classic 7400 model on the left, with the early 1990s one in the middle. These old gems don’t do the modern Shimano crank in the upper right corner any favors.

campy_fw

The Campagnolo freewheel is one of the craziest bike components ever made. It was superlight, with everything made from aluminum. It came in a wooden case, with its own set of beautifully made tools. I’ve never taken one apart, but old mechanics told me that the bearings ran straight on aluminum surfaces, so it really was suitable only for special events, because it wore out so quickly. But what a gem!

duraace_fw

It was a time when everybody copied Campagnolo, so of course, the Dura-Ace freewheel cogs (made out of no-nonsense steel for durability) also came in a wooden case…

regina_futura

… as did Regina’s Futura freewheels. These are neat in that the freewheel body was installed on the hub the normal way, but the cogs could be removed by hand, making it easy to swap ratios.

mini_mini-velo

And then you come across something totally unexpected, like this Mini-Mini-Velo that looks like it’s intended for a circus clown.

h_ichikawa

The best part about these events is meeting old acquaintances and making new ones. It was nice to see Hiroshi Ichikawa, one of the foremost experts on Campagnolo, with whom I had written an article detailing the development of the first Campagnolo rear derailleur more than 10 years ago.

sasaki

It was also nice to meet Hideki Sasaki, whose illustrated catalogues of derailleur brands are a true labor of love. (We are currently working on an order from him – hurry if you want a copy of his books on Campagnolo, Simplex or Suntour.)

If you happen to be in Japan during the Keiokaku Flea Market (Spring and Autumn), it’s worth a visit!

Further information:

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