Just Another Road!

Here is a little video we made in Mexico during our trip to the Paso de Cortés. Compass doesn’t have the means to air it during the Superbowl, but we think you’ll enjoy it nonetheless. Click on the image above or watch at this link. Make sure you watch it full-screen!

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Remembering Naches Pass


Recently, I cleaned out old files on our computers, and came across this treasure trove of unpublished photos from Bicycle Quarterly‘s “Secret Pass” adventure.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.


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.


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…


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.


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 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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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?


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.


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).


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?


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.


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.


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!



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.


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

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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


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.


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 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.


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!


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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