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.)

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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

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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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Bicycle Flea Market


Visiting Japan is fun, in part because I meet so many different cyclists. There are the cyclotourists, the randonneurs, the collectors…

Bicycle collecting as a hobby has a long tradition in Japan, and there are many events for collectors. The Keiokaku Bicycle Flea Market is one of them.


It’s a popular event that is held on the grounds of a Keirin race track on a weekend when there are no races there. The selection on display is amazing.


Looking for some rare JOS lights for your 1950s René Herse or Alex Singer? You’ll probably find them here.


The first-generation Campagnolo Super Record derailleur was made only for a short time, so it’s ultra-rare. This one is brand-new, but with a twist: The date stamp on the body is incorrect. It appears that somebody found a few outer plates as spare parts and assembled these derailleurs. If you put it on a bike, few will notice, and the price is a bit more affordable than a genuine one.


Much cheaper are these cable ties, used to tidy up the brake cables on traditional, non-aero brake levers. Here is how they work:


“No tools needed” – they just fold over. Never heard of Sinad? Neither had I.


Three generations of Dura-Ace cranks remind me of my early cycling years. That was a time when components still were getting more beautiful with every iteration. The oldest cranks are on the right, the classic 7400 model on the left, with the early 1990s one in the middle. These old gems don’t do the modern Shimano crank in the upper right corner any favors.


The Campagnolo freewheel is one of the craziest bike components ever made. It was superlight, with everything made from aluminum. It came in a wooden case, with its own set of beautifully made tools. I’ve never taken one apart, but old mechanics told me that the bearings ran straight on aluminum surfaces, so it really was suitable only for special events, because it wore out so quickly. But what a gem!


It was a time when everybody copied Campagnolo, so of course, the Dura-Ace freewheel cogs (made out of no-nonsense steel for durability) also came in a wooden case…


… as did Regina’s Futura freewheels. These are neat in that the freewheel body was installed on the hub the normal way, but the cogs could be removed by hand, making it easy to swap ratios.


And then you come across something totally unexpected, like this Mini-Mini-Velo that looks like it’s intended for a circus clown.


The best part about these events is meeting old acquaintances and making new ones. It was nice to see Hiroshi Ichikawa, one of the foremost experts on Campagnolo, with whom I had written an article detailing the development of the first Campagnolo rear derailleur more than 10 years ago.


It was also nice to meet Hideki Sasaki, whose illustrated catalogues of derailleur brands are a true labor of love. (We are currently working on an order from him – hurry if you want a copy of his books on Campagnolo, Simplex or Suntour.)

If you happen to be in Japan during the Keiokaku Flea Market (Spring and Autumn), it’s worth a visit!

Further information:

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A Book about SunTour


Many Bicycle Quarterly readers wrote to tell us how much they enjoyed Takayuki Nishiyama’s in-depth article about SunTour in the Summer 2016 Bicycle Quarterly (above). SunTour was one of the world’s most innovative component makers, yet little has been written about this company. SunTour went out of business in the 1990s, but the company still is fondly remembered by many cyclists today.


Now Hideki Sasaki has added new books on SunTour to his “Derailleurs of the World” series. These books are the most complete catalogues of classic derailleurs. Every derailleur is shown in photos, with dates and a few specs. His latest work on SunTour is a real tour de force. SunTour was so prolific that their derailleurs require two volumes! Of course, front derailleurs and shift levers are included as well.

Paging through these volumes reminds me of SunTour’s genius and, sometimes, madness. Their first derailleurs were straight copies of the same Huret derailleurs that René Herse used on his bikes. Even though they were made from stamped steel, their quality was excellent. For the wider gear ranges of cyclotouring bikes, they worked better than most other derailleurs. Junzo Kawai, SunTour’s charismatic chairman, had decided that if he was to copy, he should copy the best.


The copying lasted only for a few years, before SunTour improved on the originals with its immortal slant parallelogram. This solved the problems of inconsistent chain gap that had bedeviled derailleur makers ever since they had started to attach parallelogram derailleurs to the dropout instead of the chainstay. Even today, all modern derailleurs for multiple chainrings use a slant parallelogram. The SunTour book shows a few fascinating prototypes, including one made from folded sheetmetal (above).

The slant parallelogram was pure genius, but what about the adjustable cage length of some models? Perhaps it was intended for riders who wanted to use a straight block one day, and mountain gearing the next? Swap your freewheel, adjust the cage length, add a few links to the chain, and off you go! Genius or madness?

Sasaki’s book are very detailed: The classic Cyclone derailleur that took the American market by storm during the bike boom is shown in no fewer than 18 variations. With its slant parallelogram, it handled wide-range gearing better than all other derailleurs of the time, yet it was inexpensive, simple and reliable.


SunTour was one of the first companies to offer mountain bike derailleurs. The Mountech GTL was SunTour’s answer to the Huret Duopar, with a third pivot that kept the chain gap constant on wide-range freewheels.

Paging through the book, I learned that the Superbe Pro rear derailleur on my bike (the Mule) is one of the last, made from 1986 until 1994. It sold for the equivalent of $ 120 in Japan – three times the price of the less expensive models.


I was amazed that the immortal Power Ratchet bar-end shifters remained unchanged from 1972 until 1985. I expected at least half a dozen iterations, but there is just one entry (above in the middle). Why change what works so well? If only SunTour had applied that lesson to their other products! Perhaps this much-missed component maker would still be with us.

The photos may not have the sparkle of the best professional studio images, but they are clear and informative.The descriptions are brief, and unfortunately for most of us, they are in Japanese. Yet the important details are easy to figure out: model number, weight, dates made, and price in Yen. We can marvel at the sheer variety of SunTour’s output, but without knowing what makes them so special, it can be hard to appreciate them. Fortunately, after having read Takayuki Nishiyama’s Bicycle Quarterly article, I recognized many derailleurs, and I was able to fit many of the derailleurs in the new book into their context. That way, SunTour’s fascinating story emerged in ever-more detail.

The “Derailleurs of the World” series now has three titles:

These books are printed in very small quantities and are difficult to find outside Japan. We are placing a one-time order for the SunTour book, as well as the earlier volumes on Simplex and Campagnolo. If you would like a copy, pre-order it by October 20. We won’t stock these books, so please order now if you want one. The books will be shipped in November.


Further information:

  • Compass Bookstore for ordering the Derailleurs of the World books.
  • Bicycle Quarterly 56 features Takayuki Nishiyama’s article on the history of Suntour.
  • Bicycle Quarterly 45 explains how SunTour PowerRatchet and Simplex Retrofriction work, with great drawings by George Retseck (above).

Update 10/21/2016: The order for the Derailleurs of the World books is now closed. The Bicycle Quarterly issues mentioned above are still available.

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