We wish all our readers Happy Holidays!
We wish all our readers Happy Holidays!
At Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Cycles, we take thousands of photos on our rides big and small. Only a fraction make it into the magazine or onto our web site. Many of the others are just too precious to vanish into our archives. Instagram provides a great way to share them.
Most of all, I really enjoy Instagram. With each photo that pops up on my screen, I participate for a few seconds in somebody’s adventure. Some of these amazing rides go over familiar roads to Babyshoe Pass, Takhlakh Lake or Carbon River. Others are from places that I dream of visiting some day. Each is like a mini-story, and it brightens my day!
In Seattle, the cycling season has ended. Snow has closed most mountain passes. Our bodies welcome a little rest from the long adventures. The time has come to pour a cup of tea and review the rides of this year.
Here are some of the most memorable rides of this year. Click on the links to read blog posts (blog) or see Bicycle Quarterly issues with these rides (BQ), where available.
My season started with a great ride up Yabitsu Pass in Japan. It had snowed that week, but the road was (mostly) passable. I enjoyed having the mountain all to myself, and as a bonus, I crested the pass at sunset and was treated to a most glorious view of Mount Fuji. (Blog)
February saw us explore a local favorite, the Tahuya Hills, on a part-pavement/part-gravel road that we hadn’t ridden before. We were rewarded with a fun ride, great views, and a huge bald eagle flying next to us. (Blog)
In March, Hahn and I embarked on our biggest adventure yet: We climbed the 4000 m-high Paso de Cortés in Mexico on Enduro Allroad bikes. It was an amazing feeling to cycle almost as high as the top of our Mount Rainier. The loose volcanic soil provided a great test for our ultra-wide tires. And the night-time ride into Mexico City was an adventure all of its own. In the process, we discovered that the central highlands of Mexico are a great place to ride a bike, and remarkably accessible from the U.S. (BQ)
Spring is a great time to ride almost anywhere, and there were many wonderful rides. One that stands out was a trip to the mountains in Japan with a group of friends who’ve been touring together since college. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, the small mountain roads were beautiful, the conversation was full of laughter – it was a great two-day ride with no thought given to speed or distance. (Blog)
In May, I entered what is billed as the “hardest bike race in Japan”, the Otaki 100 km Mountain Bike Race. Since the race goes over gravel roads, I thought that a mountain bike would be overkill, and I brought my Enduro Allroad bike with its 54 mm tires. I was in for a surprise: The roads were incredibly rough, and the organizers weren’t kidding when they recommended full suspension bikes.
What happens when a road cyclist on a road bike (albeit with wide tires) enters a full-on mountain bike race? The full story is in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
Right after that epic race, we enjoyed a tour of the Hanto Peninsula. It was a beautiful place, off the beaten path and yet easy to reach from Kyoto or Osaka, and with just enough tourism to provide the services we needed without ever feeling remotely crowded. (BQ)
June saw a great all-day ride with the “BQ Team” as we tried to find the “Lost Pass” in the central Cascades. We did not find the elusive connection between two valleys, but our ride was a great test for the Litespeed T5g Allroad bike. And this winter, we’ve already identified a few more promising roads on our maps: The search for the “Lost Pass” continues! (BQ)
The Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting was another unforgettable experience. A great variety of riders came out for a great weekend of riding off the beaten path. The weather turned sunny just in time for the Un-Meeting, but on the way to the gathering, many riders crossed the rain-soaked Cascades for an added dose of adventure. (Blog and BQ)
A few days after the Un-Meeting, I headed to France to participate as a judge in the first Technical Trials since 1949. It was exciting to meet young and established constructeurs, who are continuing the great tradition of French cyclotouring bikes. Riding with them over challenging mountain roads in the heart of France was a great experience. (Blog and BQ)
A trip to France would not be complete without visiting Lyli Herse. My tandem ride with the 88-year-old daughter of the great constructeur was one of the shortest rides this year, but also one of the most emotional. To pilot her not far from the roads where she used to dominate the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race during the 1940s and 1950s was a great experience, especially since we rode a tandem built in 1946 by her father! (Blog)
A summer ride to Bon Jon Pass sounds like a great way to test a modern Allroad bike, but the weather forecast’s “slight chance of showers” turned into solid rain. Despite the inclement weather, Ryan (left), Gabe (right) and I had a great ride. The full story and test of the Moots Routt are in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
September saw me back in Japan, where I discovered the ride to Utsushigahara. With beautiful scenery, challenging climbs, a gravel road above 2000 m, and the most incredible (paved) descent, it’s one of my favorite rides anywhere. (Blog)
Japan offers a wonderful mix of challenging adventures and beautiful rides at a more casual pace, like this weekend ride in the mountains near Fukushima. (Blog)
October saw a great ride over an incredible mountain pass. Since the story and bike test will be published in the Spring 2017 Bicycle Quarterly, I cannot talk about it without being a spoiler. Suffice to say that it was another highlight in a year full of great rides.
In November, the end of the cycling season was approaching quickly, so I snuck out for a last ride over the gravel passes of the Cascades. Snow was already accumulating on the ground at the higher elevations, but the sun came out and bathed my favorite landscape in a beautiful light. It’s always bitter-sweet to enjoy the mountains for a last time, before the snow closes my favorite roads for 6 months.
And just when I thought the cycling season was over, I found out that the Washington State Cyclocross Championships were in early December. So I dusted off the old Alan, checked that the FMB tubulars still held air, and headed north for my first ‘cross race in more than a year. What fun it was, and what a great way to close the season!
And after this encore, the season now is truly over. Memories keep the dream alive. Now it’s time to pull out the maps and start planning next year’s adventures!
What were your favorite rides this year?
Photo credits: Carlos (Photo 4), Toru Kanazaki (Photo 6), Natsuko Hirose (Photos 10, 11, 15, 17).
Over the last few years, Bicycle Quarterly has tested quite a few titanium bikes. There is a simple reason for this: Titanium is a great material for an up-to-date, thoroughly modern bike.
In recent years, the pace of innovation, especially with respect to tires, has been incredibly rapid. Just a few years ago, “gravel grinders” were riding 28 mm-wide tires. Today, many riders use 32 mm tires on the road, and much wider ones on gravel…
Carbon bikes require expensive molds, which take time to engineer and manufacture. That is why most carbon bikes available today were designed 3 or 4 years ago. Metal, on the other hand, is more easily shaped, so new bikes can be introduced as the technology evolves. And titanium builders have been especially keen to make bikes that perform equally well on gravel as they do on pavement.
Since Bicycle Quarterly has provided much of the inspiration behind the current “Allroad” bike trend (together with visionaries like the organizers of D2R2 and a few others), it’s only natural that we’ve been testing these exciting machines.
All the titanium bikes we’ve tested have been great machines. That has allowed us to take them on some amazing rides. Not only are these adventures great tests of the bikes, but they also make for a great read, even if you aren’t in the market for a new bike.
The Firefly impressed me so much during our ride over the 4000 m-high Paso de Cortés in Mexico (above) that I bought the test bike! It’s designed as a racing bike with ultra-wide (54 mm) 26″ tires. Riding the bike all over the place, I found that it really has delivered on the promise of combining the best of a racing bike with the go-anywhere ability of wide tires.
The Litespeed T5g was great fun during our search for the “Lost Pass” in the Cascades. Built up with 650B wheels, the bike’s nimble handling was impressive, and the smaller wheels allowed fitting wider tires than with 700C wheels. A win-win scenario made easy with modern disc brakes.
The Moots Routt was another machine that offered amazing performance. Intended as a classic “gravel grinder” (if there is such a thing), it was equipped with 700C x 35 mm tires. Our ride to Bon Jon Pass seemed like a perfect mid-summer adventure, until the heavens opened and drenched us with a deluge. But the rain was warm, and the Moots was fun until the end.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Jones 29er, which looks like a mountain bike, yet was able to climb with the fastest bikes we’ve tested. Most of all, riding the Jones to a deserted cabin in the wilds of the snow-covered Olympic Peninsula was a great adventure. (Thanks to Fred for designing a perfect test for this bike!)
These four bikes cover the spectrum of modern titanium Allroad bikes, with 700C, 650B and 26″ wheels and a variety of frame configurations. If you are in the market for a modern Allroad bike, you’ll learn much about these bikes, and about what to look for in a modern bike in general, by reading these four issues.
We now offer these tests in a convenient Bicycle Quarterly 4-Pack at a special price. Click here to find out more or to order your set.
Photo credits: Fred Blasdel (Photos 1, 6), Duncan Smith (Photo 2), Hahn Rossman (Photos 3, 4).
To make the wonderful story of René Herse available to a larger audience, we’ve decided to list our book René Herse: The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders on Amazon.com. The story has inspired our readers. René Herse is fascinating not just because of the amazing bikes he built. At least as inspiring are the riders who rode them: impeccably turned-out cyclotourists, randonneurs in search of personal bests, racers who rode Herse frames to victories and championships…
Many were larger-than-life characters, and their first-hand accounts and photos in the book really bring the story to life. It’s been fascinating how every reader discovers their very personal connection. A friend’s wife commented how she loved the book for the clothing the riders wear. Another friend enjoyed studying the facial expressions of the riders, whether it’s a smile as they ride by the camera or the look of intense concentration as they battle for victory on the 14% hill of the Poly de Chanteloup. And of course, the bikes also are spectacular…
Since you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you’ve read the book already. So perhaps you’ll consider writing a review on the Amazon page, if you enjoy that kind of thing. Our biggest challenge has been to convince readers that they’ll enjoy the story. Too many think a book about René Herse must be intended for collectors, when it’s actually written for a much larger audience – anybody who enjoys an inspirational story.
Constance Winters wrote on the Lovely Bicycle blog:
“I am stunned by the Rene Herse book. I cannot put it down. This book is much more than I expected. The amount of work you must have done to do this research and put together this narrative, with all the photos and illustrations… Just amazing.”
If you don’t have the René Herse book yet, it’s a great thing to put on your holiday wish list!
Click on the links for
When I returned from my first ride to Utsukushigahara, I was ecstatic about the amazing climb, the wonderful scenery and lonesome gravel road at the top, and the incredible descent where hairpin turns followed one another so quickly. But Natsuko was a little disappointed: “You didn’t go on the other gravel road.” It’s true, I had missed the turn-off for the “beautiful” gravel road that she had indicated on the map. I had realized my mistake only when I was already half-way down the mountain. So just before I left Japan, I snuck out for another ride to Utsukushigahara.
Two-thirds up the first, hour-long climb, I stopped at the stone statues that guard a particularly steep hairpin turn. It was autumn now, and clouds were covering the mountains. It seemed prudent to say a quick prayer and ask the gods for safety on this ride.
On this ride, you gain elevation quickly, and soon I was above 5000 ft.
I passed the little restaurant where the owner had given me two tomatoes with salt and pepper during my first ride, saying: “You need vitamins!” I recalled this nice gesture fondly, but on this weekday, the restaurant was closed.
I’d love to photograph the incredible road that scales the steep cliff wall leading to the plateau of Utsukushigahara, but without a helicopter, it’s impossible. Except when you ride a bike, and the hairpins unfold in front of your eyes as you cycle them, one by one.
The sun came out just as I reached the top, offering great views of the surrounding mountains. Up to here, I had just retraced my steps, but now my challenge was to find the “other” road to Matsumoto.
I had to try a few of the roads that led down the mountains before I found one that looked promising. I still don’t read enough Japanese to understand the wooden sign, but the forest track went in the direction indicated on my map.
It was the right road, and it lived up to Natsuko’s description. Flowing along the mountainside, it was fast and smooth in places…
…a bit rough in others, but always fun and challenging.
And when the forest opened up, the views were stunning. In fact, I enjoyed this road so much that at the end, I turned around, rode back, and then enjoyed the incredible descent to Matsumoto as a bonus.
The mountain road took me right to Matsumoto – I almost could have coasted to the train station. It was autumn now, so I just barely made it before it got too dark to ride safely without lights.
After dinner on the Azusa Super-Express – the Bento boxes sold on Japanese trains are excellent food – I arrived at Shinjuku Station in the middle of Tokyo. To think that just two hours earlier, I was still riding the old gravel road high in the mountains…
We recently decided not to reprint Bicycle Quarterly back issues any longer. In the past, we’ve reprinted issues as they sold out, because we wanted to keep the great content available: amazing bike builders like Alex Singer, Charlie Cunningham, Jack Taylor, Reyhand, Hetchins, Charrel; the incredible French technical trials; original technical research that has revolutionized our understanding of bicycle tires.
The historic photos, but also the great adventures and bike tests, have inspired many cyclists. It’s been rewarding to see readers on social media who’ve ridden to Babyshoe Pass, Bon Jon Pass, Naches Pass (above) and even Rat Trap Pass.
With more than 3600 pages, the back issues of Bicycle Quarterly contain a huge amount of information, of stories, of photos… To make it easy to find your way around, we’ve put the complete table of contents of all issues on the Compass Cycles web site. It’s easy to search and find that article you are looking for. It also helps you to select the issues you want to order. Or simply buy them all, by taking advantage of the special price for issues 1-50.
With 58 issues published so far, it’s simply too much to keep every single magazine in stock at all times. For most issues, we still have good supplies – it’s not like all this content will go away overnight. But some issues are running low (that is why we had to make a decision), and when they are gone, you’ll have to hunt for them in Used Book stores and on eBay…
Another publication that will be sold out soon is the Limited Edition of our René Herse book. The René Herse book (also available in a “standard” edition) has been exceedingly popular, with more than 1300 copies sold. This isn’t a book for collectors, but a fascinating story of a time when cycling was a way of life. The bikes, as beautiful as they are, provide only the backdrop for the adventures and friendships that they made possible.
The 150 copies of the Limited Edition come in a beautiful slipcase with four otherwise unpublished, ready-to-frame art quality prints of amazing photos from the René Herse archives. You see Lyli Herse with Robert Prestat in full flight as they dominated the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race, a young Yves Cohen shifting the lever-operated front derailleur of his René Herse, riders on the Herse team during the 1950s, and Lyli with friends posing during the 1940s.
If you love beautiful books (or are a fan of René Herse), the Limited Edition is the final touch on what many consider the most amazing cycling book ever published. (It’s amazing because of the incredible photo collection of the Herse family that made this book possible.) The standard version (without the slip case and special photos) is a wonderful book in its own right – the contents are the same, of course.
So if you’ve been thinking about getting the book or some Bicycle Quarterly back issues…
Click on the links below for more information: