Results: Volcano High Pass Challenge

The results are coming in for the Volcano High Pass Challenge. As the name implies, it was a challenging ride with much elevation gain, much gravel, and much scenic beauty.

Fifteen intrepid riders set out from the Packwood Library shortly after 5 a.m. on Saturday.

The long gravel climb up to Walupt Lake – more than 3000 ft up – separated the pack into small groups.

Even the race leaders stopped in awe when the forest opened up, and the giant peak of Mount Adams came into view.

The first control was at Walupt Lake, which most riders reached just as the sun was rising.

As proof of passing, riders had to take photos of their bikes at these scenic locations. I really enjoyed seeing the different view of the same places. Cyclotourists always have been keen photographers, and it’s nice that the Challenge brought out that element of our sport.

Takhlakh Lake is perhaps the most photographed spot in the Cascades, but it seems impossible to tire of the spectacle…

…of Mount Adams’ reflection in the beautiful lake.

From Takhlakh Lake, it was a quick descent to Babyshoe Pass, and then further downhill to Trout Lake.

Trout Lake is dwarfed by its scenic surroundings, but it’s a cute town in its own right, with fabulous huckleberry shakes and pies that invite for a rest. But beware, there is a Sasquatch hiding behind the general store…

The climb up to Goose Lake seems to be hot every time I ride it, and the lake invites to a swim.

Several racers took advantage of the cooling waters.

After cresting the last big climb, a sinuous descent brought participants to the finish at the Carson General Store after 166 km / 103 miles. The full route is at the bottom of this post.

As the ride finished, we could see the smoke rising from the Eagle Creek fire that had started on the other side of the Columbia River earlier in the day. The two first finishers returned to Portland that night, having completed a two-day ride/race from Portland to Packwood and back via Mount St. Helens on the way out and via Mount Adams on the way back. Chapeau! Others headed to the campground to join the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting, with great camaraderie and beautiful riding over this long weekend.

Rider continued to trickle in until late in the evening. We don’t have all results yet, especially from the riders who completed the ride over multiple days. Please e-mail your photos and arrival time to Some riders were unable to complete the ride. Fortunately, Jerry, Pat and Jean from Branford Bike in Seattle were on the course to help riders in trouble. Thank you for the support!

Here are the results so far:

One-Day Ride/Race

  • David Wilcox 8:56 hr (avg.: 18.6 km/h)
  • Ryan Francesconi 9:01 hr 
  • Jan Heine 9:04 hr
  • Larry Kaufman 9:45
  • Tim Clark 11:05
  • Scott Sattler / Daniel Wynn 11:30
  • Brent Shultz 13:10

Multi-Day Challenge

  • Jeff Angeley
  • Chris Behrens
  • Parker Couch
  • Jason Miller
  • Steve Tatge

Here is the full route of the Volcano High Pass Challenge. Click here for a link to the RidewithGPS file. If you missed this year’s event, it’s a great ride on your own.

Photo credits: Ryan Francesconi (Photos 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 14), Tim Clark (Photos 6, 8), Larry Kaufman (Photo 12).

Posted in Rides | 5 Comments

BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

Smiles all around: That is perhaps the best summary of the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. A couple of dozen cyclists met in Carson, WA, for a weekend of exploring with like-minded cyclists.

This year, the weekend started with the Volcano High Pass Challenge, an unsactioned ride/race over 103 miles (166 km) and 10,000 ft (3000 m) of climbing. Fifteen riders set out on Saturday morning, plus others had started earlier to enjoy the beautiful course over several days.

Riding along the flanks of Mount Adams on gravel roads made for a beautiful ride after the challenging initial climb out of the Cowlitz River valley.

The number of riders increased further for the actual Un-Meeting itself. A forest fire brought smoke into the mountains, so we changed course, but the routes we discovered were at least as nice as those we had intended to ride.

Riders came from all over the United States – as far as Colorado, Wisconsin and Philadelphia – with Monica even coming directly from riding the Tour Divide from Canada all the way to New Mexico. Everybody had great stories to share, and the day passed all too quickly.

Monday saw many of the riders return to Portland in small groups. It was another fun Un-Meeting, and I can’t wait for the next one.

For the participants of the Volcano High Pass Challenge, we ask to please e-mail your photos from the controls, together with your complete name and arrival time in Carson, to Results and additional photos will be published as they come in.

Posted in Rides | 4 Comments

Final Details: BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

Volcano High Pass Challenge (Saturday, 9/2)

Part race, part scenic ride with friends, this unsanctioned event challenges riders of all abilities. The distance is 170 km (105 miles), with half on gravel and half on pavement, from Packwood, at the foot of Mount Rainier, to Carson, on the Columbia River.

Anyone is welcome: Just ride the course and have fun. For the one-day ride/race, show up at the start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, in front of the Packwood Library. Whether you compete for the fastest time, ride with friends, or start early and complete the ride at a more relaxed pace over multiple days, it’ll be an unforgettable experience.

Riders will need to be self-sufficient as no services will be provided. Be sure to review the route and print a copy of the cue sheet (links below). A few pointers on the route:

  • A third of the total climbing is during the first 25 km (16 miles). Don’t despair – it gets easier (and even more scenic) later.
  • The last climb to Walupt Lake is very steep, but short. Don’t be afraid to walk, if necessary. The view of the lake is worth it.
  • There is no water between Walupt Lake (km 38 / mile 23) and Trout Lake (km 108 / mile 67). Plan accordingly. We will try to have water at Takhlakh Lake (km 66 / mile 41), but don’t count on it.
  • Great blackberry shakes in Trout Lake at the restaurant/gas station. Don’t miss it.
  • The last 30 km (20 miles) are downhill! Make sure your brakes work and enjoy!

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

BQ Un-Meeting (Sunday, 9/3)

Camping: We have a group tent site at the Wind River RV Park and Lodge in Carson for Saturday and Sunday nights. Cost is $15 per tent per night. In exchange for this reduced group rate, the campground asks for a single payment, so please give Theo cash before setting up your tent. There will be enough space for everybody who wants to camp.

On Sunday we’ll have two rides:

Weigle Hill

To Trout Lake on the Volcano High Pass route, then circling Weigle Hill and Buck Mountain on beautiful gravel roads. This route covers approximately 150 km (93 miles), almost all on gravel. Route details are subject to change.

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

Calamity Peak

This is a mostly paved course (with a little light gravel in places) on one of the most amazing mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest. This is an out-and-back course, allowing you to shorten or extend the ride as you like. The distance is 70 – 90 km (43 – 56 miles), depending on where you turn around.

Route on RWGPS
Cue Sheet

Return from the Un-Meeting (Monday, 9/4)

Carson to Portland

On Monday, after the Un-Meeting, many of us will ride to Portland via the Bridge of the Gods and Historic Highway 30 in the Columbia River Gorge. This is a wonderful scenic, paved route of about 100 km (62 miles). There are many waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. Bring  $1 to pay the bicycle toll after crossing the Bridge of the Gods. There is a staircase about 19 km (12 miles) into the route where you will need to carry your bike.

Route on RWGPS

Photo credits: Theo Roffe (3, 4)

Posted in Rides | 14 Comments

BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

The Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting and the Volcano High Pass Challenge are just a little over a week away! These separate events will take place consecutively on Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 2-4). You can do one or the other, but of course, we hope you will join us for both!

The Volcano High Pass Challenge is a race or ride – as you desire – from Packwood at the foot of Mount Rainier to Carson on the Columbia River. The route climbs steeply out of the Cowlitz River Valley, then skirts the majestic volcano of Mount Adams, passes through quaint Trout Lake (with excellent huckleberry shakes), climbs another gravel pass, before dropping down toward the Columbia River in a vertiginous descent along Panther Creek. It’s one of the most scenic routes in the Cascades, with spectacular views of Mount Adams and stops at the beautiful Walupt and Takhlakh Lakes.

The distance is 170 km (105 miles), with half on gravel and half on pavement. Much of the pavement is during descents, so you’ll spend most of your time on gravel. The ride is unsupported, but our partners Branford Bike will be at Walupt Lake (after the first and biggest climb) with limited mechanical help, just in case. However, you’ll be riding outside of cell coverage, so please be prepared to ride on your own. The Challenge is an unsupported ride, so please no support cars…

The Volcano High Pass Challenge is open to everybody. We offer two options:

  1. One-day ride/race. Start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 2. These riders will get their time recorded at the finish.
  2. Start as you want. If you prefer to do the ride over several days, finishing on Saturday, you’ll be recorded as a finisher.

The start is at the Packwood Library. At each control, including the start, you take a photo of your bike:

  • Start: Sign at Packwood Library or Hotel Packwood.
  • Control 1: Walupt Lake: Sign for the campground.
  • Control 2: Takhlakh Lake: View of the lake with Mount Adams.
  • Control 3: Trout Lake: in front of general store with Sasquatch peering over the roof.
  • Control 4: Goose Lake: Photo with lake in background
  • Finish: Carson General Store

Record the time when the photo was taken. (Most digital cameras do this automatically.) At the finish, show us the photos, or, if you finish late, e-mail them.

The road conditions vary between smooth and somewhat rough gravel. I know of riders who have ridden on these roads on 35 mm tires, but I prefer 42s or wider. It’s a fun course, but as the name “Challenge” implies, it’s more strenuous than most “centuries”. Pace yourself and enjoy it!

The following day is the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. As in the past, it’s a simple formula: Show up and enjoy a day of riding with like-minded cyclists. Start is at 9 a.m. at the Carson General Store. There are no fees, no registration, and no services. Simply show up and join us for the ride. There will be two rides:

  • To Trout Lake on the Volcano High Pass route, then circling the Weigle Hill and Buck Mountain on beautiful gravel roads. This route covers approximately 150 km (93 miles), almost all on gravel.
  • Calamity Peak. This is a paved course on one of the most amazing mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest. This is an out-and-back course, allowing you to shorten or extend the ride as you like. The distance is 70 – 90 km (43 – 56 miles), depending on where you turn around.

Everybody is welcome at both events. Please make sure your bike is in good condition – there will be no support and no sag wagon.

Riders organize their own accommodations. We have reserved a group tent site at the Wind River RV Park and Lodge in Carson, first come, first served, for $ 10 per night.

On Monday, many of us will ride to Portland, from where trains and other transportation are available… Start for the “Ride Back” is also at 9 a.m. at the Carson General Store.

I hope to see you there. Stay tuned for route sheets for these rides early next week…

Posted in Rides | 7 Comments

15-Year Anniversary BQ: Largest Issue Ever!

With the Autumn issue, we celebrate 15 years of Bicycle Quarterly! Fifteen years is a long time, and much has changed in the bike world since 2003. Most of those changes – wider tires, compact cranks, Allroad bikes – have been for the better, and BQ has played at least a small part in that. So we decided to celebrate not just 15 years of the magazine, but also the industry’s shift toward bikes that are more fun to ride in the real world.

What better way to celebrate than to team up with Peter Weigle, one of today’s best constructeurs, and enter a bike in this year’s Concours de Machines technical trials? The idea was to take everything we’ve learned in those 15 years and test it against the best bicycles on the toughest roads.

The Concours was a great adventure, with more than enough stories and images to fill an entire issue. Peter Weigle talks about how he built the lightest bike to finish the Concours, an amazing machine that weighs just 20 pounds (9.1 kg) fully equipped with wide tires, fenders, lights, rack, bottle cages, pump and even a bell. Making a bike this light is difficult enough, but the real challenge was doing so without compromising performance or reliability.

You’ll read the exciting story about how the bike completed the challenging rides of the Concours without penalties and won the vote of the jury, as well as the silver medal.

No fewer than 24 bikes were entered in the Concours. Builders came from France, Sweden, the UK, the U.S., Slovakia and even Japan. The variety and ingenuity of the bikes were truly amazing. We feature them all  in Nicolas Joly’s beautiful studio photos – above, the winning PechTregon – and we tell you how they performed on the road.

To put the Concours in perspective, we bring you the history of these amazing events. Discover how the “Technical Trials” pioneered aluminum cranks, cantilever brakes, low-rider racks and cartridge bearings – things we now take for granted. Above, Lyli Herse signs in at a secret control during the 1947 Concours. You’ll be amazed at the light weight of the bikes 70 years ago (Lyli’s bike weighed less than 8 kg/17.6 lb) and the speeds at which they were ridden.

You don’t have to be a fan of classic bikes to be mesmerized by the amazing Pitard bike that competed in the 1949 Concours. More than half a century ago, it already featured an aluminum frame and many interesting details.

Another way to celebrate our anniversary was to make this the biggest Bicycle Quarterly yet, with 25% more pages. That way, we could also bring you the story of Paul Component Engineering. We take you right into the factory in California where the famous brakes, stems and other parts are made…

… and we talk with Paul himself to discover the story behind his company and what makes it special.

BQ would not be complete without bike tests. For our “First Ride”, we took a Steve Rex monstercross bike to the limit. Is it a ‘cross bike with bigger tires, or a mountain bike with drop bars?

We also rode a Chapman “light tourer” with generator-powered electronic shifting. How did this amazing machine fare on a challenging 300 km randonneur ride that included everything from smooth asphalt to gravel roads?

To top off this action-packed issue, we take you across one of the most awesome mountain passes anywhere. Kurakake Pass in Japan is a mountain road like I had envisioned in many daydreams. Imagine my surprise when I found that this imaginary road actually exists! Traversing the pass was an true adventure: When you venture this far off the beaten path, you never know what you will encounter!

These are just a few of the features in the Autumn 2017 Bicycle Quarterly. When we started BQ, our dream was a quarterly book, rather than just a magazine. This 124-page issue comes closer than ever: It’ll provide many hours of reading enjoyment.

The magazine is at the printer and will be mailed in early September. Subscribe or renew today to get your copy without delay.

More information:

Photo credits: Nicolas Joly (Photo 1, 3, 4, 6), Rob van Driel (Photo 2), Natsuko Hirose (Photos 8. 9. 11), Duncan Smith (Photo 10).

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 4 Comments

Let’s End the Pedal Wars!

Sometimes, it feels as if cyclists are divided into two camps on many issues. One of these divisions concerns pedals. There are those who believe that if you don’t have clipless pedals, it’s hardly worth taking your bike outside. Others fervently believe that any foot retention will ruin your enjoyment of cycling.

I’ve never understood this “either – or” attitude. On many of my bikes, I ride clipless pedals (above in Paris-Brest-Paris 2015)…

… but I’ve also ridden 400 km brevets with toeclips and straps. I can’t say that there is a performance difference between the two. I’ve set personal bests and course records on either type of pedals. If you look at the times in Paris-Brest-Paris or in pro races, you’ll see that when clipless pedals became widespread, there was no noticeable jump in speeds.

For me, the advantages of clipless pedals are that my feet don’t get numb on cold days, even after many hours of riding. A disadvantage is that the shoes transmit all the pedaling power, so they must fit perfectly and be tightened just right. If they are just a tad too loose, my feet slide around, which is unpleasant. If they are too tight, they constrict my circulation.

Toeclips and straps have the advantage that I can ride in any shoes. Their disadvantage is that I must remember to open one strap slightly when stopping, so I can remove my foot from the pedal. Natsuko (top photo) prefers half-clips, which allow her to put a foot down anytime, yet they still offer good power transfer.

For shorter rides, flat pedals work great for me. Actually, for quick trips around the city, I often ride in street shoes, even on SPD pedals. It’s not ideal, but it works fine at moderate speeds.

If you don’t use clipless pedals, classic touring pedals are hard to beat: With platforms on both sides, they can be used with street shoes. Add toeclips and straps, and they perform like racing pedals.

Despite their versatility, high-end touring pedals always have been few and far between. Now MKS has updated their popular Sylvan pedals with same silky-smooth cartridge bearings as the company’s other high-end pedals. The new model is called “Sylvan Next” to distinguish it from the lower-end “Sylvan” that has cup-and-cone bearings. (Compass only carries the top-quality MKS pedals. Gritty bearings may not slow you down, but you can feel them as you pedal. A smoothly-working bike is much more fun to ride.)

The Rinko version of the Sylvan Next allows removing your pedals without tools in just seconds. With the EZY-Superior quick-release system, you simply turn the ring on the spindle, push it toward the crank, and pull off the pedal.

Rinko pedals are convenient for travel or storing your bike in tight spaces. And if you want to ride with platform pedals one day and with clipless pedals the next, you can swap between the different MKS EZY-Superior models quickly and without tools. (The photo above shows the USB-Nuevo and the Urban Platform pedals.) We also offer the adapters separately, if you want to use the same set of pedals on several bikes.

The Sylvan Next pedals are now in stock. Click here to learn more about them and the other MKS pedals in the Compass program.

Posted in Components, Pedals | 41 Comments

Berthoud Open Saddles in Stock

We just received our first shipment of Gilles Berthoud “Open” saddles. In the past, I’ve tried many saddles with cutouts, but none were comfortable. While they relieved pressure in the center, the sharp edges of the opening were uncomfortable. So I was skeptical when I received a sample of the Gilles Berthoud Aspin Open.

I was surprised to find that I could not feel the edges of the cutout at all. As expected, there was less pressure in the center, but there also wasn’t a noticeable transition from the cutout to the leather. The curved shape of the hole and its beveled edges really worked to make a gradual transition.

Even after a long day in the saddle, the Aspin Open remained comfortable. In fact, I noticed that the cutout made the saddle a bit more flexible, and thus even more comfortable straight out of the box. As an added plus, the Open version is about 15 grams lighter…

On the downside, the more flexible leather top probably won’t have quite the amazing durability of the standard saddles. (My very first Berthoud saddle is still going strong after a decade of daily use.)

Underneath the leather top is Berthoud’s high-tech frame, made from a composite material that is stronger, lighter and more flexible than the steel traditionally used in this place. The saddles are available with stainless steel and titanium rails, in men’s and women’s models.

With all spare parts available from Compass, you can even convert a standard saddle to the Open version or vice versa, or replace stainless steel rails with titanium to lighten your saddle. These saddles rarely need service, but it’s good to know that all the parts are available.

With the Open version, one of the best saddles has become even more comfortable for riders who need to relieve pressure in the saddle area. And of course, the standard saddles remain an excellent choice for most riders.

Some may wonder why the superlight Galibier model isn’t available with the cutout. The reason is simple: With the cutaway sides, there simply isn’t enough leather to support the rider if the middle of the saddle is removed as well.

Click here for more information about Gilles Berthoud saddles in standard and Open versions. The Men’s versions are in stock now, the women’s saddles will follow this autumn.


Posted in Saddles | 8 Comments