Price Reduction for International BQ Subscriptions

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Good news: We’ve found a less expensive way to send Bicycle Quarterly to our international subscribers! Our readership has grown so much that we are now able to access bulk mailing options. We are passing on that reduced mailing cost to our subscribers and have lowered our international subscription rates.

Click here for Bicycle Quarterly subscription rates.

 

If you subscribe now, your Winter issue of BQ will be included in our “mid-term” mailing between two issues, and you have a good chance to get your first BQ by the holidays.

For U.S. subscribers, we’ve made similar efforts to keep the subscription price low. Consider this: When Bicycle Quarterly first started 13 years ago as a slim 24-page black & white issue, the annual subscription price was $ 32. Today you get full-color, 90-to-100-page magazines for just $ 36.

Click here for information about Bicycle Quarterly subscriptions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Bicycle Quarterly Flip Book

flip book

To give you a better impression of Bicycle Quarterly, we have created an 33-page flip book online with a sampler of articles from recent issues.

Click here or on the images to get a virtual look at Bicycle Quarterly. In the flip book, you can read samples of a bike test, a technical article about tire performance, a historical article on women in randonneuring, a product test, and our “Skill” and “Icon” columns. The flip book provides an overview over the range of articles and the quality of presentation you can expect from Bicycle Quarterly.

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We often hear from new readers how surprised they are about the superb quality of photography, writing and printing in Bicycle Quarterly. We wish we could show the magazine to more potential readers…

One of the challenges for small magazines is that our newsstand presence is very limited. Newsstand sales typically make a loss, but they bump up circulation numbers, so magazines can charge their advertisers a higher ad rate. We are financed more than 90% by subscribers and less than 10% by advertisers, so we don’t benefit from artificially high circulation numbers. Of course, being financed by subscribers, rather than advertisers, is part of what makes Bicycle Quarterly unique…

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The flip book gives you an impression of Bicycle Quarterly, even if it cannot show the heavy archival paper and beautiful print quality. Enjoy the paging through the articles, and forward the link to your friends who may be interested in Bicycle Quarterly:

http://www.bikequarterly.com/about_BQ.html

And if you like what you see, please subscribe. The risk is small – we offer a “Money Back” guarantee for the unused portion of your subscription, if you decide to change your mind.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 10 Comments

Fuji Super Randonnée 600 km

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I like climbing, and I like mountain scenery, so I was excited when the Audax-Club Parisien introduced the Super Randonnée 600 (SR 600) brevets a few years ago. The idea behind the SR 600 is simple: Over 600 km (373 miles), the route climbs at least 10,000 m (33,000 ft). The best courses for me are not pure climb-fests, but beautiful routes with a good rhythm of climbing and descending.

The Super Randonnées have taken off in Japan – little wonder in a country with so many mountain roads. A year ago, Hahn and I attempted the Nihon Alps SR 600, but had to abandon at the half-way point due to a variety of factors, not least the navigation problems when we could not read the cue sheet and our phone’s GPS stopped working (BQ 51).

This autumn, while staying in Japan, I wanted to make another attempt at completing a SR 600. Unfortunately, the Nihon Alps route is currently interrupted by a landslide on Iida Pass, so I opted for the Fuji SR 600 instead. This route includes more than 11,000 m of climbing, so you get an extra 2 hours beyond the standard 50 hour time limit. 600 km in 52 hours – that should be do-able!

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I brought the “Mule”, my Rinko bike, to Japan. Like the Japanese, I took the train to the starting point with my bike in its Rinko bag.

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An hour after leaving Tokyo, I assembled my bike at the Takao train station and started my ride. The first part went through relatively densely populated areas. This time, I had opted to bring a GPS system. Fellow randonneur Tak Kawano had helped me set up the Fuji SR 600 route.

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In addition to the route sheet (which was all in Kanji), the organizers’ web site had pictograms for each change of direction. Lacking a printer, I copied them onto several pieces of paper. A little over 100 turns seemed manageable for that long a ride.

I often think of music when describing cycling routes. Rolling courses can be light-hearted like a Schubert Waltz, mountainous ones often have the drama and pathos of a Beethoven symphony. The Nihon SR 600 course reminded me of the modern composer Stockhausen, with a disjointed rhythm that was hard to discern. Just like Stockhausen’s music probably puts exceptional demands on the skills of performers, I found the Fuji SR 600 to be an exceedingly challenging ride.

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The first 125 km included a very nice mountain pass (above), but otherwise were mostly flat. How could this be on a Super Randonnée 600? Simple math dictates that the course had to climb at an average of 3.7%, if one assumes that half of it is up, and half is down! I already had covered more than 20% of the distance, and yet hadn’t really started climbing yet.

The answer became apparent during the first night, which turned into a surreal, vertiginous ride that went from almost sea level to more than 1800 m (6000 ft) – multiple times.

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It started with a very nice, 25 km-long climb. SR 600 rides have control points where you take a photo of your bike, complete with the red-and-white SR 600 plate. Control Point 3 was this amazing viaduct. It’s incredible to me that a railroad used to go up this huge mountain pass!

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Night had fallen by the time I reached the top. I stopped at a convenience store to eat dinner. Japanese convenience stores offer a decent selection of deli foods, so this was no hardship.

Then the climbing started in earnest. I went up and up for hours, then down at incredible speeds, before launching straight into the next climb, over and over again. I passed through a town built around Onsen hot springs that smelled like sulphur, then climbed a few hours more. Sometimes the gradient was so steep that I had to rise out of the saddle. Most of the time, I worked hard to crank my smallest gear. This is where the course was making up for the flat portion during the first part of the ride!

Without much rest, my legs were getting tired.

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The night was clear, but there was no moon. As I gained elevation and left the trees behind, I saw an incredible panorama of stars. The Milky Way stretched almost from horizon to horizon.

There was hardly any traffic, but when a car passed me, I got to experience a “musical road”. Tiny grooves had been cut into the road, perpendicular to the direction of travel, at varying intervals. When a car went over these grooves, the tires made high-pitched sounds. If the car went at the recommended speed, it all coalesced into a recognizable piece of music. Only in Japan! It added to the surreal effect of the ride.

When I reached the highest point (above) in the early morning hours, I saw a sign indicating a temperature of -1°C (30°F). I had 1600 m (5200 ft) of vertical descending ahead. I didn’t waste much time at the top. I donned all the clothes that I had removed during the steep climb before launching into the abyss.

The cold air and lack of pedaling made me sleepy. Once I reached lower elevations, I stopped at the first convenience store, ate, and then napped for an hour.

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The next day saw another climb above the clouds. This was another beautiful road, frequented mostly by sports cars.  When a car passed me every ten minutes or so, there was a 50% chance that it was a Porsche, Lotus, older Nissan GT-R or other interesting machine, all driven respectfully.

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A few hours later, I was on top of the world again, with a view down onto clouds and mountain ranges (photo at the top of the post).

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The descent was amazing, with the autumn colors out in full force. What followed were a long set of rollers, for lack of better word, except that each roller was 3 miles long and climbed rather steeply. By now, my legs were most definitely getting tired.

When I pined for a cold drink, I followed signs to a small pass slightly off the course, surprised to find a full restaurant. Two old ladies were cooking, and in my broken Japanese, I asked them what would be quickest. Almost immediately, they brought a steaming bowl of soba. What a great second breakfast!

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The relentless up-and-downs took me to the Yatsugatake Mountains. This volcanic range is one of my favorite landscapes in Japan. Its dry, loose soil makes for a more open landscape and more even gradients. It’s an area of grand vistas and great roads.

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Night was falling again when I reached the second-highest pass of the ride. The exhilarating descent went through switchback after switchback. Then the course joined a major highway that wound its way through the mountains. Without warning, the road plunged downhill for another 25 miles (40 km). In the dark, I jockeyed for position with cars while coasting downhill at probably more than 60 km/h (40 mph) for more than 30 minutes. It was intense!

I was glad to reach Kofu and start a long tour of this major town, fortunately on backroads. Now in the second night of my ride, a beautiful climb up a deserted river valley was greatly enjoyable. A surreal element was an abrupt mile-long, brightly lit tunnel that was totally deserted, which brought me to the high-elevation lakes on the flanks of Mount Fuji.

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The Fuji SR 600 derives its name from the fact that it circles Mount Fuji. At Lake Yamanaka, I was supposed to take a photo of my bike in front of the majestic volcano. In the pitch-dark night, all I could do is position my bike in front of the characteristic fence, and hope the ride organizers would accept this as proof of passage.

I traversed yet another small mountain pass, and then entered the final descent. Hahn and I had ridden this road during our first visit to Japan (BQ 48). It was even more fun at night, since there was hardly any traffic. I freewheeled for most of the next 45 km (28 miles) as the road lost almost 1000 m (3300 feet) of elevation, punctuated once in a while by a short burst of effort to crest a roller.

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It was starting to rain as I approached my goal, but it didn’t matter any longer. I had intended to catch the last train from Takao to Tokyo at midnight, but instead, I was on the first train in the morning, at 4:30. I had just enough time to Rinko my bike and eat a little before I boarded the train back to Tokyo and fell asleep, just like many of the early commuters.

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It took me 42:40 hours to complete the course – more than the Volcano-High Pass SR 600 that includes 110 km of gravel roads; more than the Raid Pyrénéen that climbs as high, but is more than 100 km longer. Why is the Fuji SR 600 so challenging?

I think it’s the rhythm – the climbing is concentrated in the middle portion, and it’s very steep. This means that you face the last third of the ride with tired legs. Add to that the cold nights in October, and it’s a true challenge. Each Super Randonnée 600 is different. They all are challenging, and you get a great sense of achievement when you complete one.

And for those not keen on riding almost non-stop, there is the Touriste version, which requires just riding 80 km (50 miles) a day, until you have completed the ride.

Further reading:

If you have ridden a Super Randonnées, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

Posted in Rides | 22 Comments

Thankful for Family and Friends

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On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my family and friends who have helped me so much over the past two weeks, since my accident in Taiwan. I am spending the holidays with my parents, who came to Seattle from Germany to take care of me. (The photo shows me with my mother during our Thanksgiving Day walk.)

I have much to be grateful for. I suffered only relatively minor injuries, considering that I flew head-first at 30 km/h (18 mph) into the side of a car that turned suddenly in front of me. Just as importantly, the healing process has been going well. I no longer need to wear my neck brace, since my broken vertebra will heal on its own. 28 stitches were removed from my ear – the Taiwanese doctors (plastic surgeons?) did an awesome job stitching my ear back together. My hearing is not affected, and scarring should be minimal. My concussion is clearing up nicely, without memory loss or other issues associated with head trauma, but I will still need to be very careful in coming months to not have a second impact while this one is still healing.

The bandages on the incision where my clavicle was bolted together came off the day before Thanksgiving. It’s healing well. I have to keep my left arm in a sling (broken scapula), and limit the movement of my right arm (also broken), but otherwise, I am fine. My broken ribs are healing well. Soon, I’ll be able to cough without much pain. (Fortunately, a relapse of a cold I had before the accident was narrowly averted.) I even can type with 10 fingers…

I am thankful that the road to recovery has been smooth so far. Through all this, I was supported by wonderful family and friends: Stefan who accompanied me through various hospitals in Taiwan; Natsuko who came from Tokyo to take me back to Seattle and support me through my hospital stay; Hahn who organized my surgery here in Seattle and helped in many ways; my parents who came from Germany to take over my care.

Seeing their concerns and smiles kept my morale up even when things were difficult. I owe them much, and I am grateful for everything they did and do for me. Thank you!

Photo credit: Klaus Heine

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

Gift Ideas from Compass Bicycles

It’s that time of year, with the holidays fast approaching, when many relatives and friends wonder what to give to their favorite cyclist. Here are some great gift ideas you can use, or forward them to anybody who asks: “What would you like?”


For The Allroad Cyclist

The Allroad Cyclist is an inveterate randonneur, a gravel-seeker, an adventurer. They are the rider in your life who collects unknown roads and always goes the distance. For this person, nothing beats the highest quality gear, no doubt destined to be put to the test in all conditions.

ClotWlLsLxBicycle Quarterly wool jerseys are distinctive and comfortable. The long sleeve version will keep your cyclist cozy in the winter and the extralight short sleeve version is perfect for hot summer days.

 

 

Tire650x48CmSX_1504-300x300Wide and supple Compass tires to take on all conditions for bikes with 26″, 650B, or 700C wheels. The Allroad Cyclist will appreciate the speed and comfort on pavement, dirt, and gravel roads.

 


For The Traveler

The Traveler is always on the go, seeking adventure in new places, and riding the world over. For this person, packing and unpacking a bike for travel is a recurring chore, one which could be much more fun with the right tools.

Ostrich frame pads were designed for Rinko, but work well with a wide variety of packing systems. Whether your cyclist uses a coupled bike, rinko, or a large bike bag, these are the prefect pads to protect their bike's finish.

Ostrich frame pads were designed for Rinko, but they work well for all packing system. They’re thin enough to carry on the bike once you reach your destination.

 

 

BQ54_cover_sqBicycle Quarterly — our ride stories inspire you to seek out new destinations and our technical articles show how to make a bike that’s easy to pack for travel.

 

 

PedlMkUSBRi_1598-300x300MKS Rinko Pedals use a special quick release system, so you can quickly remove the pedal without tools. They also feature the best bearings of all pedals today. Also available in non-Rinko versions.

 


For The Reading Cyclist

Be inspired by the passion of those who came before us!

BookBQRHEnCoverRead about the passion of great rides, wonderful friendships, and beautiful bikes. René Herse, “the magician of Levallois”, made more than just incredible bikes, he was at the center of a world where cycling was not a mere pastime but a way of life. Hundreds of action photos from the René Herse archives bring this incredible story to life.

BookBQGAEn1-300x300The book that inspired the current trend towards real-world bicycles: admire 50 bicycles that are works of art, but also designed to be ridden hard. Learn the stories of their builders and riders and be inspired by the passion that created them.

 

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Paul Fournel does not talk about bikes, he talks about why we ride bikes. He describes the sights, sounds and smells he encounters while riding, and the secrets of cycling: “To descend well, you’ve got to have an excellent knowledge of the road – a kind of complicity with the engineers who built it, an instinctive and rapid grasp of the terrain. Every road is a design, and every descent is a design within a design.”


For The Touring Cyclist

For this cyclist, the journey is as important as the destination. And the destination is often far.
HBarCpRand_1496-300x300Compass Randonneur handlebars provide unmatched comfort  with curves that support multiple hand positions. These are our favorites for long-distance riding.

 

 

bags_gb25_blue_front-300x300Berthoud handlebar bags are a beautiful, classic way to carry your gear. Easily accessible while riding. Waterproof. Develop wonderful patina over decades of use. Make sure your cyclist’s bike is equipped to carry a handlebar bag.

 

 

Compass-Bicycles_2036-copy1-210x210Compass Knickers ensure that you’re well-dressed both on and off the bike. On the bike they disappear, off the bike you’ll be one of the more stylish people at any restaurant, pub, or evening stroll.

 


For The Spirited Cyclist

Spirited Cyclists enjoy le goût de l’effort – a taste for effort – and like to push their limits. Fast tires, smooth pedals, cranks with perfect gearing all make sure that their bikes are spinning along as smoothly as possible.

PedlMkRX1_1584-300x300MKS RX-1 pedals have the best bearings of all pedals ever made. Hand-adjusted to NJS-approved precision, these beautiful pedals will keep spinning year after year.

 

 

René Herse cranks are not only beautiful, they’re highly functional. Your cyclist can customize their gearing with any combination of chainrings. Available in single, double, and triple configurations as well as double and triple for tandems.

 

Tire700x28CmBSX_1797-210x210Compass Extralight tires make your bike hum over every road surface. Superior speed and unmatched comfort make every ride an event. Available in many sizes, including 700C x 26 mm, 700C x 28 mm, and 700C x 32 mm.

 


For Every Cyclist

There are some gifts that every cyclist can appreciate. Choose a book full of inspiring stories, open their mind to new ideas and adventures with a subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, or let them choose the perfect thing for themselves.

 

cage_nitto_r80-300x300Nitto Bottle Cages are functional works of art. They hold your bottle securely, look beautiful, and last a long time.  For a complete gift, combine with a Compass water bottle.

 

 

 

BQ_sub_giftBicycle Quarterly is an inspirational magazine with ride stories, technical articles, and product tests. Gravel riding, randonneuring, light-weight touring — the topics we discuss have shaped the direction of cycling culture.

 

 

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For the hard-to-please cyclist, a Compass gift certificate allows them to choose from our great program of components, books, and clothing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I was lucky, but still…

 

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My trip to Asia reached a premature end. During the descent from Hehuanshan Pass, the highest road in southeast Asia, a car going in the opposite direction suddenly turned left right in front of me. Even though I was going at moderate speed, I could not avoid it. I hit the car’s side head-first…

I was very lucky to escape without life-changing injuries, but the impact was hard enough to break my shoulder, my arm, one or two vertebrae and a few ribs. Stefan, our German engineer in Taiwan, accompanied me to the hospital, first in Puli and then in Taichung. Care in Taiwan seemed overwhelmed by these complex injuries, and I was lucky that my friend Natsuko immediately came from Tokyo and got me on a plane to Seattle. The 20-hour trip was a bit of an ordeal, and we were so happy when we saw Hahn at the Seattle airport. He already had made arrangements, so we checked into the hospital, and a few days ago, surgery bolted my collarbone back together, so that my scapula can heal as well. (Two fractures had my left arm no longer connected to my torso by bones.) I am extremely grateful to these friends who have ensured that my outlook is as good as possible. Fortunately, a full recovery is expected.

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I am encouraged that all the healing happens simultaneously, so the multiple injuries don’t mean it’ll take much longer to heal. I am looking forward to riding with my Seattle friends when the new cycling season starts again.

Meanwhile, the awesome crew at Compass Bicycles will fill your orders and handle Bicycle Quarterly subscriptions with their usual efficiency. Sometimes blog comments and other areas that I handle may take a bit longer in the coming months as I focus on healing first and foremost.

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As I work through this long road to recovery, I remember the great cyclotouring adventures of the past month-and-a-half. One memorable trip was a 5-hour ship voyage to a mini-Hawaii off the Japanese coast, where we spent two beautiful days of cyclotouring organized by the Tokyo Cycling Association.

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I’ll think of the amazing bikes and great company at the Hirose Owners’ Meeting. I’ll recall riding a 600 km Super Randonnée with 11,000 m of elevation gain through the autumn leaves of the Shinshu and Yatsugatake Mountains. I will cherish touring through the clouds in the mountains above Kyoto.

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Visiting the factories that make our Compass products in Japan and Taiwan always is instructive, and discussing new ideas and projects was fun. And even the climb up the 3,422 m (11,227 ft) Hehuanshan was a great experience until it’s premature end. I’ll be busy writing all this up for Bicycle Quarterly and this blog over the coming months.

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In the mean time, wish me well, and ride safely!

Click here for an update on Jan’s recovery.

Posted in Rides | 183 Comments

Why Wider Tires Corner Better

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In our last post, readers noticed the image above and asked about cornering. How am I able to lean the bike so far?

Wider bicycle tires corner better than narrower ones. This may run counter to what many cyclists believe, but it’s easy to explain. The reason is the lower pressure at which you can run wider tires without risking pinch-flats. This has two effects:

1. Wider tires run at lower pressures and thus have a larger contact patch. This simply puts more rubber on the road and increases cornering grip. While simple physical theory suggests that friction should be independent of tire width – narrower tires are pushed onto the road with more pressure – in practice, wider tires provide more interlocking surfaces between road and tire, and thus provide more grip. If you don’t believe this – after all racing bikes use relatively narrow tires – look at racecars or racing motorcycles.

2. Wider tires absorb bumps better. This keeps the wheels on the road and provides more consistent adhesion. A narrow, high-pressure tire skips over the surface, which limits its grip. Even the smoothest asphalt is surprisingly rough. That is why race cars and racing motorbikes have suspension, and why they run their tires at 35-40 psi. If you inflate your tires to 90 psi or more, you are giving up a lot of cornering adhesion. (For the same reason, tires with stiff sidewalls don’t corner as well, because they don’t absorb the vibrations and bumps like tires with supple sidewalls.)

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So much for the theory – how does it translate into the real world? A few years ago, we tested two titanium racing bikes against a 650B randonneur bike. We raced two bikes side-by-side up a steep hill (above), then turned around and rode back down the twisty descent.

I have talked about the uphill part of this test elsewhere, but the downhill part was equally surprising: In the corners, the racing bike with its 25 mm tires could not keep up with the randonneur bike on its 42 mm tires. The riders changed bikes, but it was always the randonneur bike that went down the hill faster. There were two corners, one extra-smooth with new pavement, the other bumpy. The wider tires were better in both corners. Not surprisingly, the advantage was magnified in the bumpy corner. And since the randonneur bike exited the corner faster, it also went faster on the straight that followed.

How did it feel riding the racing bike? I was one of the riders, and I consider myself a good descender, so I wasn’t happy when second tester Mark distanced me while he was on the randonneur bike. While I was riding the racing bike, I had to try hard to keep up. The first, smooth corner felt a bit unsettled, but then I really frightened myself in the second corner. I picked a good line that avoided the bumps, but my front wheel started skipping across the surface. I had to open the radius of my corner and went about a foot into the oncoming lane at the corner exit. In the same spot, the randonneur bike’s wide front tire simply keyed into the surface and rounded the corner without drama. (Both bikes were equipped with Compass tires, so the tread compound was the same.)

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Of course, you can’t just slap wider tires onto any bike and expect it to corner like a machine custom-designed to optimize the handling. Here are some of the issues:

  • A wider tire’s larger contact patch stabilizes the bike. (This is called pneumatic trail.) If your bike’s geometry isn’t designed for wide tires, then your bike can feel sluggish in its response to steering inputs when you increase the tire size.
    Solution: Decrease the geometric trail to account for the pneumatic trail of the tires.
  • Wider tires tend to be a bit heavier, and thus have more rotational inertia. This makes the bike more reluctant to turn into a corner, or to change its line in mid-corner.
    Solution: Reduce the wheel size as the tire gets wider, to keep the rotational inertia within the range that gives the best handling.
  • Wide tires run at low pressures, but too low pressures can allow the tire sidewall to collapse under the cornering forces, which is not good at all.
    Solution: Make sure your tires are inflated enough to prevent sidewall collapse even under hard cornering. Especially supple tires don’t have much sidewall stiffness, and need a little more air pressure to hold them up.

Beyond that, technique can help. On bikes that are too stable because their tires are wider than is optimal, you may need to actively countersteer (that is, push the handlebars to the outside of the curve) to get the bike to lean. On optimized bikes, you do that, too, but you never notice it because the amount of countersteer is totally intuitive.

Overall, there is little doubt that wider tires corner better, all things being equal.

Further reading:

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 41 Comments