New from Gilles Berthoud: Universal and Tool Bags, Mirrors

We are excited to add a few great products from Gilles Berthoud to the Compass program. The Small Universal Bag (above) is really neat: It holds a lightweight rain jacket, wallet, inner tube and a few other things. It’s incredibly versatile: Use it as a saddlebag (above) or hang it from your handlebars. Tandem stokers love this bag, because it fits neatly on a tandem’s rear handlebars, too.

Or attach the Small Universal Bag to a front or rear rack. You can put it on the racktop, or hang it on the side like a mini-pannier. There is even a leather piece on one end that slips over the backstop of a front rack. The Small Universal Bag fits perfectly on the Compass UD-1 rack. It needs a platform that is at least 17 cm long, and the backstop should be no wider than 50 mm. (It can be used without attaching to the backstop, too.)

Under the flap is a zipper, so it’s safe to carry keys and a wallet – nothing will fall out. The Small Universal Bag is a great bag for which you’ll find many uses.

A slightly smaller, superlight option is the Bottle Cage/Saddle Tool Bag. It’s a great way to carry inner tubes and other necessities in a bottle cage – much nicer and more secure than the cut-off water bottle I’ve used for this purpose in the past. It fits perfectly into Nitto’s T Cage (above)…

… but it also can be attached to most other cages with a toestrap. Or carry the bag under your saddle. Made from the same ultra-strong cotton canvas and leather edging as the other Gilles Berthoud luggage, these bags last (almost) forever. The canvas swells when it gets wet on the outside, making the bags mostly waterproof. Made from natural materials, they acquire a beautiful patina as you use them.

Still speaking of bags, we’ve noticed that the leather straps on the large Berthoud panniers were a little thin. They work fine, but after 10 years of hard use, I had to replace mine on one set of panniers. So we asked Berthoud to make extra-strong straps from thicker leather for us.

Gilles Berthoud’s mirrors are beautifully made from aluminum. We’ve had the first version for a while, but it didn’t adjust quite far enough for long-reach handlebars that are tilted upward a bit. The new Mk II version adjusts over a wide range and fits all road handlebars (inner diameter ~20 mm).

The mirrors are available in silver and black…

… and with a leather insert to match Berthoud’s saddles and handlebar tape. The leather mirrors come with a second, matching bar plug.

All these products are in stock now. Click on the links below for more information:

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all readers, customers and cyclists! We’re grateful for the joys and friendships that cycling have brought us.

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Steilacoom dual-purpose knobbies back in stock

We just received another shipment of our Steilacoom 700C x 38 mm dual-purpose knobbies. We appreciate your patience while these popular tires were out of stock.

Originally designed for cyclocross, the Steilacoom has become a popular dual-purpose tire: As you’d expect from a tire with widely-spaced knobs, it excels in mud and snow. What surprises most riders is that it rolls and corners better than most road tires.

Leaning into a turn on knobbies isn’t something most riders expect to do. (Please excuse the blurry photo: The overcast winter skies and high cornering speed overwhelmed the camera’s auto-focus.)

The Steilacoom’s knobs are big enough that they don’t squirm. And we’ve distributed them in our unique pattern that ensures that you always have the same amount of rubber on the road. So the grip is constant and the feedback is totally transparent – unlike many knobbies that suddenly lose grip as you lean over.

What about the rolling resistance on pavement? Well, the knobs don’t squirm, so there isn’t much extra resistance. Thanks to our supple casings, the Steilacooms offer similar performance to our ultra-fast road tires. One reviewer even set Strava records on his Steilacooms…

That makes the Steilacoom not just the perfect ‘cross tire, but also ideal for those rides where you spend much of your time on pavement, but might encounter mud or snow on the unpaved sections. Best of all, the same tread pattern is available in our 650B x 42 mm Pumpkin Ridge, too.

Click here for more information or to order a set for your bike.

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Jordan Rapp tests the Compass Snoqualmie Pass 700C x 44 Extralights

We’re always excited to get feedback on our tires, and when it comes from someone like Jordan Rapp, it’s especially valuable. The names of semi-professional gravel racers aren’t yet household names – Jordan used to be a pro triathlete before becoming a gravel racer. This year, he came 6th in the grueling Dirty Kanza 200-mile gravel race (above). So he knows how to ride, and he isn’t babying his equipment.

We sent him a set of 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Extralights, and here is what he had to say:

“On dirt fire roads, the tire has admirable grip and is just screaming fast. Plus, at 35 psi, it just rolls over everything, on road and off.”

The tire made him explore great roads that he was avoiding before:

“Yerba Buena is one of the nicest climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains, but I find it generally unrideable because the pavement is so bad. But with the Snoqualmie, I rode it regularly and loved it, especially because that same bad pavement keeps cars and motorcycles off of it. If you can steer clear of pointy and sharp objects, it’s pretty close to the perfect tire.”

He confirmed what we’ve discovered:

“Riding the Compass Snoqualmie, I was shocked at the fundamental impact of contact patch. These are totally slick tires. The tread is no different, really, than what you’d find on any standard road race tire. The tires are just massive. And that massiveness – and the accompanying ability to run extremely low pressures – just gives you a ton of grip on most terrain. Loose sand is pretty sketchy, but it’s always sketchy. Overall, I was astounded at how well a tire that rolled fast on the roads performed off-road over very technical terrain.”

He pushed his Snoqualmies to the limit, and he was surprised:

“I took a fully-rigid bike with drop-bars on trails that I would previously have only considered riding on a full-suspension MTB. And I never felt that my tires were holding me back.”

I guess we should add: “Don’t do this at home!” But really, that’s just the kind of stuff you tend to do with these tires. It’s remarkable how your riding changes when places that used to be ‘barely doable’ become fun to ride. Thank you, Jordan, for the feedback!

Click here to read Jordan’s entire review on Slowtwitch.com, or head to www.compasscycle.com to learn more about our tires.

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Fire in Paradise – Update on Mitch and Alistair and Ways to Help

Alistair Spence and Mitch Pryor have been my friends for a long time. They both live in Paradise, CA, which was devastated by fire last week. Both are OK; they got out just in time. Their homes literally were burnt to the ground, but what counts right now is that they are OK. I’ve spoken with them, and while shaken, they are moving forward to rebuild their lives.

Mitch Pryor doesn’t need an introduction to readers of Bicycle Quarterly and this blog: He is one of the best-known constructeurs of randonneur bikes in North America. I saw Mitch not long ago, because he dropped off BQ‘s latest test bike. We had to coordinate a tight schedule: Just one week after traversing the crest of the Cascade Range twice in a single night (above), the latest MAP was due to be shown at the Philly Bike Expo. (That bike safely was delivered to its customer just before the fire.)

I’ve known Alistair even longer than Mitch. He’s been part of our Seattle crowd forever. He’s helped me with many projects. In recent years, he’s assembled our Compass taillights. He moved to Paradise a few months ago. He just had set up his workshop again and sent us a batch of taillights.

To help Alistair and Mitch while they figure out the next steps, friends have set up GoFundMe campaigns. Mitch and Alistair have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and they asked to cap the campaigns. Many in the cycling community want to do more to help, and both Mitch and Alistair now have reopened the campaigns to help other victims. All donations beyond the (already attained) limits will go to fire relief causes. Being on the ground, Mitch and Alistair know where the donations will make the greatest positive impact.

At Compass, we’ll do what we can to help both Alistair and Mitch while they rebuild their lives and their workshops. We’re grateful that they are OK, and the rest will work out. And we’re glad that we’ll continue to enjoy the work of these great craftsmen in the future!

In the mean time, please donate to Mitch and Alistair’s campaigns to help other fire victims. Thank you!

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New Curved Stays and OS Bottom Bracket Shells

Fitting wide tires and/or fenders between road cranks can be a challenge. René Herse was a master of frame design, who curved his chainstays ‘just so’ to create the room he needed. On the tandem above, not a single millimeter is wasted, and the result are perfect clearances for 42 mm-wide tires, fenders and cranks with a narrow Q-factor.

The first step toward replicating Herse’s mastery in modern bikes was to make a bottom bracket shell with the correct angle for curved chainstays. We already offer this shell for standard-diameter tubes. Brand-new is the same shell for oversized down tubes. These parts eliminates the need to ‘blacksmith’ the chainstay sockets of BB shells designed for straight chainstays.

There are many ways to bend the chainstays. To obtain easily replicable results, Hahn Rossman machined dies that fit perfectly over the chainstays. They create a beautiful curve without kinks or bulges. We’ve developed the exact shape through CAD design and the experience of building numerous bikes with curved stays.

Curving stays is a labor-intensive process, to say nothing of the time and effort to make the dies, but it’s almost a necessity for modern all-road bikes.

We now offer the curved chainstays ready to go. They also are indented slightly on the inside to increase the clearance further, without creasing them as you often see on older bikes. The curved chainstays are a perfect match for the Compass bottom bracket shells. They are available separately or as part of the complete tubesets that we’ve developed  in collaboration with Kaisei, the Japanese maker of top-quality steel tubes

Also new in program are lighter-gauge chainstays, which balance the stiffness of our ‘Superlight’ tubeset.

As a final part of the puzzle, Hahn also made a gauge that visualizes the required clearances for a Rene Herse crank (177 mm length) with a 48×32 chainring combination. If the gauge fits, then your cranks will work with the recommended 110 mm bottom bracket. And since Rene Herse cranks have one of the narrowest Q-factors and a standard road chainline, other cranks will fit as well.

If the gauge fits, then smaller chainrings and shorter crankarms will fit, too. If you need more room, space out the cranks with a longer bottom bracket spindle. This gauge takes the guesswork out of the parts you need to order.

The photo above shows a fillet-brazed frame, because the new bottom bracket shell for OS tubing wasn’t available yet. With the new BB shells and curved stays, standard road cranks, even those with a narrow Q-factor, will fit, unless your rear spacing is much greater than 130 mm.

When I built my Mule (above), it was intended as a prototype for a modern all-road bike that can travel with speed and comfort over any distance, on any road and in any weather. Over the last few years, we’ve productionized most of the parts used in this build. Creating a custom all-road bike has never been easier!

Further reading:

 

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Guest Post: Natsuko’s Trip to Rishiri Island

Mount Rishiri-Dake (1721 m) is a popular hiking destination.

In this guest post, Bicycle Quarterly editor Natsuko Hirose takes you to Rishiri Island, off Hokkaido’s coast in northern Japan. Translated from Natsuko’s blog Touge to Onsen:

From the northernmost town in Hokkaido, Wakkanai, there is a ferry that goes to Rishiri and Rebun Islands. These small islands are the northernmost inhabited parts of Japan, and many cyclists dream of cycling there once in their lifetime. So did I!

Cycling around the islands is not difficult, but finding the right time is! During the brief summer season, the Rishiri Island is popular with hikers. It’s also famous for its great seafood, amd the few hotels are usually booked.

At the end of September, it starts snowing in the mountains, and storms often cancel the ferry. By October, most hotels and pensions close. It’s difficult to find a time when cycling is possible, but there are no crowds.

Leaving Wakkanai on the ferry to Rishiri Island

With the uncertain schedule of the ferry, my friends cannot join me on this trip, so I travel alone. It is a different kind of fun.

The ferry takes two hours to reach the island. The first thing I look forward to is seeing the sun set into the Sea of Japan. It is cold on the boat, but I am excited to head to the island.

There are bike paths on the island, and a road goes around the perimeter. The distance is 55 km (35 miles), and the map doesn’t show much up-and-down, so it seems quite doable in a day – unless it is very windy. I pray that the wind won’t be too strong.

This bike path was built specifically for cycling, rather than being a converted railway. It has some nice ups and downs, and there are great views. It is fun. I imagine that during summer, the flowers will be beautiful, too.

This bike path even has viewpoints. Cycling along the sea, you often travel only at low levels, so it feels special to get to such a great view.

The path is deserted. I feel a bit lonely, but it is nice to have the place to myself. It’s one of the advantages of visiting during the off-season.

The bike path ends, so I take the road. There aren’t many cars, and the wind isn’t very strong. It makes for nice cycling. Except it is very cold. The sun is shining, but it is too low in the sky to provide much warmth.

Tonight, I will stay on the island, so I don’t need to worry about ferry or bus schedules. When I see something interesting, I can just stop and enjoy it. It feels very special.

When I ride with my friends, I often focus on cycling. When I go alone, I try to visit local museums whenever possible. I want to feel the history of the places I visit. It adds another dimension to exploring the landscape on my bike.

The Rishiri Island Museum is housed in the old village hall that was built in 1913. It’s well-known in Japan that Rishiri Island does not have brown bears. That makes hiking here easier and safer. At the museum, I see an old newspaper article: Many years ago, a bear swam 20 km (13 miles) from the mainland to the island!

The sky is so big here, and the air so cold. It really feels like an island far, far in the north.

I stop at Lake Outatomari, which means “inlet with sand” in Ainu, the language of the native inhabitants of the north. I am glad to see Mount Rishiri free of clouds, so I take a photo.

When touring alone, I don’t cover much ground. There are so many places to visit, so many photos to take. This morning, 55 km didn’t seem like a lot, but now the sun is low, and I am nowhere near my destination.

I am back on the bike path when the sun sets. I wanted to return to the hotel before sunset… Even so, I stop, because the sunset is beautiful.

Soon dinner will be served. And it’s getting cold and windy. I shiver.

I really want to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. But I can’t resist to climb up to the viewpoint to enjoy the sunset. It is very beautiful… and cold.

When I get to the hotel, dinner is already served. Traditional Japanese hotels serve dinner and breakfast as part of the accommodation. It is nice not having to worry about finding a warm meal. The meal consists of local specialties: fish, scallops, vegetables, prawns. It tastes great!

My friends ask me whether I feel lonely when I go on solo bike trips. The answer is yes – it can get lonely. This creates an opportunity to talk with local people or others I meet. We talk about local things, the weather, where we come from. It’s fun. Meeting people is an essential part of cyclotouring for me.

All night, it rains hard. When I wake up, I worry that I may not want to go cyclotouring today.

Looking outside, I see the first snow of the year on top of Mount Rishiri. Now I know why it feels so cold here!

I was tempted to climb to the top of Mount Rishiri, but with the snow, it is impossible. I don’t have enough equipment.

Instead, I decide to hike up Mount Pon. It’s only 441 m (1446 ft) high, so there is no snow. In my handlebar bag, I carry my backpack, hiking map, rain gear, headlamp, emergency food, compass… everything I need to hike up the mountain.

The hiking trail is steep, and I get warm from the effort.

When I reach the top, it’s so windy that it almost blows me away. In the background is Mount Rishiri. Later, I meet a hiker who reached the top. He said that it was very cold, and that hail stones covered the ground.

Even here, it’s too cold to stay and eat lunch. I drink hot tea from my thermos, then hike back down.

When I return to the foot of the mountain, the blue sky and red autumn foilage look so different from up there. I’m only 400 m (1300 ft) lower, but it’s a different world. I also realize that I was lucky to see Mt. Rishiri yesterday.

Afterward, I decide to explore other roads on the island. I want to eat lunch at a Ramen shop recommended by a friend. The lady at the visitor center told me that the Ramen shop is only open until 2 o’clock now, so I have to hurry.

When I reach the Ramen shop, it starts raining. The forecast was for sunshine, but on the island, the weather is unpredictable. The Ramen, with its soy sauce base and strong flavor, warms me on this cold day.

After I eat, I wait for the rain to stop. I meet a German tourist who rented a bike and is riding around the island, too. He asks me how to find the entrance to the bike path.

Today, I have much time, so I decide to ride with him. I’m no longer a solo cyclotourist – it’s a nice change!

I wonder why he could not find the bike path. There are many signs! For me, it is clear – I read the Japanese Kanji symbols, but it should be fine for him, too: There is an English translation on each sign. Then I realize that the English text says ‘Jitenshado’ – the Japanese word for ‘cycling road’ has been transcribed into the Roman alphabet, but not translated into English. Now I understand why the German cyclist could not find the bike path!

I am happy I could help the German tourist.

He tells me that he likes Japan very much and describes the places he has visited. Unexpected encounters also are part of the fun of cyclotouring.

He will leave the island on the last ferry. I suggest that he visit the public bath before taking the ferry… With some time before dinner at my hotel, I decide to explore the island a little more. I enjoy the view of the harbor with Mt. Rishiri in the background.

The following day, I take the ferry to the next island. It’s alway been my dream to go from island to island by ferry. It seems very romantic to me.

Rishiri Island recedes in the distance. I’ll come back some day to climb Mt. Rishiri1 But now I am heading to Rebun Island.

Read Natsuko’s previous post, about her cyclotouring reunion in Hokkaido.

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