Myth 2: Titanium is Lighter than Steel

In part 2 of our series ’12 Myths in Cycling,’ we’ll look at why titanium isn’t always lighter than steel. I can hear you saying, “What? Everybody knows that titanium has half the density of steel.”

That much is true: The same part made from titanium will weigh half as much as the equivalent from steel. But titanium has only half the stiffness, so the part will be half as stiff. To make the parts of the same stiffness, you need to use twice as much material with titanium, and the weight will be equal. The same applies to aluminum, which is one-third as heavy and one-third as stiff. (These numbers are for the high-strength alloys; raw aluminum, titanium and iron are not strong enough to be used for cycling applications.)

For example, if you made a titanium rack, it would weigh the same as a steel rack with the same load capacity. That is why the best racks are made from steel: Other materials don’t offer any advantages.

So why do people use titanium at all? There are other considerations than stiffness. Frame tubes are a good example. The larger the diameter of a tube, the greater its stiffness-to-weight ratio. However, with steel tubes, you run into limits, because a frame tube cannot be made with walls much thinner than 0.4 mm. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to dent, and braze-ons will just rip out of the ultra-thin tube.

A way around that problem is to use titanium. With half the density of steel, if you double the wall thickness, you get a tube with the same stiffness and weight as a steel tube. But you don’t need the walls to be that thick, so you can use larger-diameter tubes. Many titanium frames are both a little lighter and a little more flexible than steel frames. Especially with smaller frames that often can be too stiff for their riders, this can make for a better-performing frame.

The advantage of titanium frame tubes turns into a liability in the one place where you cannot increase the tubing diameter: at the chainstays. Chainstays have to fit the narrow space between the tire and the cranks. Because of this, making titanium chainstays as stiff as their steel equivalents is difficult, especially on a bike with wide tires. My Firefly (above) uses super-beefy chainstays that probably contribute to its excellent performance, but as a result, standard road cranks don’t fit. The photo above shows it with its original CNC-machined cranks, which resulted in a wide Q factor and cross-chaining in the gears I use most. Since then, I installed forged René Herse cranks and filed the ends of the cranks, so I can use a shorter BB spindle. That improved the chainline and (almost) eliminated the cross-chaining, and the Q factor is acceptable, too. Everything had to be optimized very carefully to make it work to my satisfaction, because it is such a tight fit.

Will a titanium frame provide superior performance for you? My Firefly (above) feels very similar to my steel bikes, and the small weight advantage of the frame is lost amongst other factors, such as the added weight of the disc brakes. I love the bike, but a similar one made from steel would perform the same. It may be a different matter for small riders: Even a lightweight steel frame may be too stiff (small frames inherently are stiffer than larger ones). A carefully designed titanium frame may offer more flex in the right places and thus ‘plane’ better…

What about titanium bolts and other small parts? If you just replace a steel part, say a bolt or a bottom bracket spindle, with a titanium one, it’ll be far less strong. That is what Campagnolo found out when they introduced their Super Record bottom bracket – many of these broke. Of course, all parts have a margin of safety built in, and sometimes, you can reduce that margin without failure. A smoother-than-average rider probably can ride a titanium bottom bracket without failure.

The same applies to titanium bolts – if tightened carefully, they can work OK. But then you wonder why you don’t redesign the part with smaller steel bolts. They have the same strength, but go into a smaller hole, which allows you to make the mating part smaller, saving further weight… It’s one example where a well-designed part with steel bolts actually is lighter than one using titanium hardware.

There are a few places where titanium bolts make sense. The eyebolts that hold the brake pads of our brakes (upper bolt in the photo above) are large not because they need extreme strength, but because the post of the brake pad needs to fit through the head. This means that a titanium eyebolt weighs half as much, yet has sufficient strength. And that is why we offer them as an option to reduce the weight of our brakes to just 75 g per wheel. That is lighter than any currently made brake, and yet we don’t give up any strength.

That eyebolt is an exception. Most bolts are dimensioned for the loads they need to withstand, like the bolt that attaches the brake to the pivot (lower bolt in the photo). We won’t offer a titanium version of that bolt because it might break, with disastrous consequences.


Titanium’s stiffness-to-weight ratio is the same as steel’s. Titanium’s density is lower, which can be an advantage when you need or want to make large parts (oversize frame tubes, eyebolts), or a disadvantage when space is limited (chainstays, bottom bracket spindles). Titanium’s lower density saves weight only in places where the dimensions of steel parts are constrained by other factors.

Further reading:

Posted in Framebuilding supplies, Testing and Tech | 60 Comments

Lyli Herse, 1928 – 2018

Lyli Herse would have turned 90 years old today (January 6) – and this post was written to celebrate her life that has inspired so many of us. But alas, I have to report instead that Lyli died on Thursday after a very short illness. Despite the great sadness of losing her, let’s celebrate her anyway, because that is what she would have wanted.

Until just a few days ago, she remained healthy and happy, living with her dog in the house built by her father, the famous constructeur René Herse, near the finish line of the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race. These two elements – her father’s bikes and cycling competition – were the defining elements of Lyli’s life.

Lyli first entered top-tier competition at the tender age of 16 years, when she raced in the 1944 Poly hillclimb race, which had categories for professional racers, randonneurs and mixed tandems. She told me: “Some people said that I was too young to compete… The famous Docteur Ruffier gave me a medical exam before and after the Poly.” Her heart rate actually was lower after the race, because she had been so nervous before the event! Partnering with Simon Feuillie, she placed fourth against many strong teams.

It was in the Poly where Lyli made her mark. For nine years, from 1948 until 1956, she was unbeatable in this tough event. Except when the team crashed in the sharp turn at the bottom of the ultra-fast descent… Lyli broke her collarbone, but that didn’t prevent them from finishing the race – only to be disqualified because their rear fender had broken in the crash. Lyli recalled: “My father then designed his fender reinforcement. He didn’t want that problem to happen again!”

She has many memories from that event: “My best captain was Prestat. He worked as a porteur de presse [newspaper courier]. One year, we set the fastest lap of the day, ahead of the professional racers.” The photo above shows her and Prestat during that record-setting ride, climbing the 14% grade smoothly with a single 46-tooth chainring on the front. And they never even used their largest (22-tooth) cog on the rear!

In 1955, Jean Lheuillot was organizing the first Tour de France Féminin, and he wanted Lyli to be part of the international field. It took some persuading, but he didn’t regret the effort: Lyli won two stages and wore the leader’s jersey for much of the race, before finally finishing fourth overall against accomplished riders like the British stars Beryl French and Millie Robinson. Despite her success, Lyli longed for her days as a cyclotourist: “I always felt more at home with the cyclos. The cutthroat competition of racing wasn’t to my liking.”

The best way to stay out of the fray was to ride off the front, which she did with much success, winning no fewer than eight French championships. She wanted to retire in 1966, but she placed third in that year’s championships. She recalled: “I didn’t want to stop racing after a defeat. […] So I said: ‘Papa, I’d like to give it another try.’ Papa had to make some sacrifices to give me more free time for training and such. That year, I won.”

Just before Lyli retired from racing, a few young women asked her if she could coach them. Lyli formed a team that was sponsored by her father. One of the racers, Geneviève Gambillon, told me, “Lyli was a tough master.” Lyli confirmed: “I told them, ‘Training for me starts at 5 o’clock in the morning, because I have to go to the shop afterward.'” When Gambillon complained about the hard workouts, Lyli told her, “I am 18 years older than you, and I am riding with you, not following in a car behind. If I can do it, so can you!” Lyli’s methods were questioned by some in the French Cycling Federation, but they brought results: Gambillon won two world championships and more than 20 French championships on road and track.

All her adult life, Lyli worked in her father’s shop, shown above in 1962 with Lyli’s first five French championship victories proudly listed on the window. As a teenager, she rode across Paris to pick up parts from distributors. Then she learned to build wheels, and from then on, she was responsible for this important part of the magical bikes her father created. She also ran the shop and distributed Velosolex mopeds on the side to augment the meagre bike sales during the difficult years of the 1960s, when most French dreamed of a car, and not a custom bicycle.

When her father died in 1976, followed a few years later by her mother, she took over. She married Herse’s master framebuilder, Jean Desbois, and together they kept the shop running until 1986. When the word spread that Cycles René Herse was closing, many customers placed orders for one more bike. Lyli and her husband worked for two more years out of the garage of their house until all the orders were filled, and they finally could retire.

I first met Lyli after riding a 1946 René Herse tandem in the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris. She was delighted that we had continued the legacy she had worked so hard to build. As I visited her many times during the research for my book on her father and his bikes, we became friends, and she asked me to carry the René Herse name forward. I learned a lot from her and her late husband about the machines her father built. We organized annual reunions with the old riders of her father’s team, who also had much information to share.

Five years ago, to celebrate her 85th birthday, she asked to ride one more lap of the Poly. We found a René Herse tandem, and I had the honor to pilot her around the course together with a number of riders from her father’s team. I was apprehensive about climbing the famous 14% hill on a tandem with an 85-year-old lady, but Lyli had trained by riding thousands of kilometers on her stationary bike. On the climb, we dropped all the others, except my friend Christophe, who had been an strong amateur racer. And even he had to work hard to keep up. The slack upper connecting chain in the photo above says it all: Lyli was contributing more than her share of the power. 14% climbs have rarely felt so easy, and I suddenly could almost imagine how, 55 years earlier, she had ridden eight laps of this difficult course at an average speed of 35 km/h (22 mph).

Lyli continued to train every day, and she kept a log of every ride. When I called her on the phone, she often was out of breath: “Excuse me – I was training,” she explained. Always the champion, she wasn’t slowing down even as she approached the age of 90.

I had hoped to go for another tandem ride with her during my next visit – above a ride we took on our René Herse tandem two summers ago. Now Lyli is gone, but she’ll continue to inspire us!

Posted in books, People who inspired us, Rides | 24 Comments

12 Myths in Cycling (1): Wider Tires Are Slower

When we started to publish Bicycle Quarterly 15 years ago, it seemed that most of the technical aspects of bicycles were well-established. And yet, as we tested many different bikes, we started to question many of the things we had accepted as ‘facts.’ To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we’ll look at some of these myths. We’ll explain why we (and everybody else) used to believe them, and how things really work. Let’s start this series with the biggest one:

Myth 1: Wider Tires Are Slower

For almost a century, cyclists ‘knew’ that narrower tires roll faster. Some people realized that in theory, wider tires are faster due to their shorter contact patch, which deforms less as they roll. But the thinking was that in practice, the lower pressure at which wider tires must run limited their performance. If you wanted to go fast, you chose narrow tires.

That is what we thought when we started testing tires almost 12 years ago. And yet, as long-distance riders, we wondered whether the narrowest tires, pumped to the highest pressures, really were optimal for us. What if wider tires were a few percent slower, but their greater comfort reduced our fatigue? Remaining fresh toward the end of a long ride would help us put out more power, so we might go faster in the end. What we needed to know was how much speed we would give up by going to wider tires.

Real-Road Testing

So we started by testing 20, 23 and 25 mm tires (same tire model). Imagine our surprise when the 20 mm were slowest, and the 25 mm fastest. This wasn’t what we expected! And yet, when we repeated our tests with a different methodology (power meter vs. roll-down), the results remained the same. There was no doubt that the narrowest tires are slower than slightly wider ones.

Then we tested wider tires, and realized that, once you go wider than 25 mm, the performance of tires doesn’t change as they get wider. Since then, we’ve tried to figure out how wide a tire can be before its performance begins to drop off.

We’ve used the results of our testing to develop our Compass tires, which are optimized for performance and comfort on real roads. And since we now have very similar tires in widths from 26 to 54 mm, we could do controlled testing of all these sizes. We found that they all perform the same. Even on very smooth asphalt, you don’t lose anything by going to wider tires (at least up to 54 mm). And on rough roads, wider tires are definitely faster.

As we did more research, we realized that cyclists used to know this. When pneumatic tires were first invented, the fast-riding ‘scorchers’ used wide tires, because they rolled over road irregularities better. And in the 1920s, Vélocio, the editor of the French magazine Le Cycliste, discovered that as long as wide tires had supple casings, they rolled as fast as narrow ones. But all this was forgotten in later decades, as racers went to narrower and narrower tires.

Why did it take almost a century to rediscover this? There are two reasons why cyclists used to believe that narrower tires were faster:

1. Laboratory tests on steel drums eliminate the rider and thus the suspension losses. If you look at hysteretic losses alone, narrower tires run at higher pressures and thus flex less, meaning they absorb less energy.

We tested on real roads, with a rider on the bike, and found that the increased vibrations of the narrower tires caused energy losses that canceled out the gains from the reduced flex. These suspension losses are mostly absorbed in the rider’s body. Imagine a bean bag that drops on the ground without bouncing back – all the energy is absorbed by friction between the beans. The human body works similarly. Studies by the U.S. Army found that the more discomfort vibrations cause, the more energy is being absorbed.

2. Placebo effect: The faster we ride, the higher the frequency at which our bike vibrates, because our tires encounter road irregularities at a higher speed. However, narrower tires also increase the frequency of the vibrations they transmit. Basically, a bike with narrow tires feels faster even though it may actually be slower. Inflating your tires harder is a simple way of tricking your brain into feeling that you are going faster, but if you have a bike computer, it’ll tell you that you haven’t actually increased your speed. Conversely, wide tires vibrate less, and thus feel slow to most cyclists.

So for almost a century, narrow tires felt faster, and they tested faster in the laboratory. There was little reason to question whether they actually were faster. It took Bicycle Quarterly‘s real-road tests to show that a vibrating bike (and rider) is absorbing energy that reduces the bike’s speed.

What all this means is that you can have your cake and eat it, too. If you run wider tires at lower pressures, you increase the flex of the tire (negative), but you reduce the suspension losses (positive): the two effects cancel each other, and your speed remains the same.

This also explains why supple casings make such a huge difference in tire performance: They are easier to flex, so they absorb less energy. And they absorb vibrations better, which reduces the suspension losses. So they use less energy on both counts. Talk about a win-win scenario! And of course, since they absorb vibrations better, they are more comfortable, too.


What about the aerodynamics of wider tires? Many riders believe that wider tires will be slower, because they have more wind resistance. We tested this in the wind tunnel and found that the difference between 25 and 32 mm tires was too small to measure reliably in a real-world scenario. The German magazine TOUR built a sophisticated setup with a motorized dummy rider and found that a 28 mm-wide tire had the same wind resistance as a 25 mm tire when the wind was coming from straight ahead. With a crosswind, the wider tire was very slightly less aerodynamic. Even then, the wider tires required only 5 watt more – on real roads, the reduced suspension losses probably make up for that.

We tested our tires on smooth pavement at 29.5 km/h (18.3 mph), and found no speed difference between narrow and wide tires. If you ride much faster, then it’s possible that wider tires roll a little slower, but the difference will be so small that it’ll get lost in all the other factors that influence your bike’s speed. On the other hand, if you ride slower, then the advantage of wider tires will be even greater.

Spinning up

Wider tires are a little heavier than narrow ones. The difference is smaller than many cyclists imagine – air doesn’t weigh anything – but a wide tire has a little more rubber and casing. Won’t this make the wider tires harder to accelerate? The answer is “No.” The reason is simple: Bicycles don’t accelerate very quickly. Even a professional bike racer’s power-to-weight ratio is far less than that of the slowest economy cars, and those don’t exactly push you back in the seat when you floor the throttle. Bikes don’t accelerate fast enough for small changes in wheel weight to make a difference. That is why professional sprinters can use relatively large wheels (which inherently are heavier) and still win races.

The UCI requires a minimum wheel size of 55 cm, yet racers use 700C wheels that are 10 cm larger than required. If wheel weight mattered as much as most cyclists imagine, then pros using the smallest wheels would win every race. And yet, even though many have tried smaller wheels, all have returned to 700C wheels – probably because the larger wheels handle better due to their optimized rotational inertia. (But that is a topic for another post.)


What this means for us riders is that we can choose our tire width freely, without having to worry about performance. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a wide ‘touring’ tire will perform as well as a narrow ‘racing’ tire. Casing performance determines 95% of a road tire’s speed, and to get good performance, you need a supple high-performance casing. (The other 5% come from the thickness of the tread.)

Tire width influences the feel of the bike, but not its speed. If you like the buzzy, connected-to-the-road feel of a racing bike, choose narrower tires. If you want superior cornering grip and the ability to go fast even when the roads get rough, choose wider tires.

Further reading:

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 53 Comments

Happy New Year!

All of us at Compass Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly wish you a Happy New Year and many great rides for 2018.

Posted in Uncategorized

Past Year of Bicycle Quarterly

“What? I have to wait three months for another Bicycle Quarterly?” In various forms, we hear this comment quite often. New subscribers enjoy their first issue, and they want more. Yet as a quarterly publication, BQ appears only every three months. That is how long it takes to put together another issue – with a more frequent schedule, it would simply be impossible to maintain the high quality with our small staff.

However, there is a solution to the problem: One of our most popular products is the ‘Past Year of Bicycle Quarterly,’ which consists of the last four issues before the current one. The articles in BQ are timeless, and this is an excellent way to catch up on the great adventures, technical articles, and historical features that preceded your first issue. The BQ’s of the last year have been an especially good ‘crop.’ Read on for some of the highlights.

My own favorite is the incredible ride across Kurakake Pass in Japan. Imagine a spectacular road up a perfect mountain pass, abandoned many years ago. We were told that it had been rideable 20 years ago, but would we still be able to get through? We knew it would be an adventure, but we got a little more than we bargained for.

For years, I’ve searched for an elusive passage across the Sawtooth Ridge in the Cascade Range of Washington. My most recent attempt came as the first winter snow began to make the high roads impassable. I had checked maps and satellite images, and the forest road I wanted to take seemed rideable. But things don’t always turn out as planned!

Join us as we take a Moots Routt to Bon Jon Pass. What seems like an easy ride on the longest day of the year turns into a race against the fading daylight. The Moots performs great, but will it be enough to beat the setting sun?

We ride the Open U.P. up (and down) the highest paved pass in Japan. We came here to test how a modern race bike with ultra-wide tires handles some of the most challenging paved and gravel roads on the planet. In addition to pushing the bike to its limits, we discover a magical landscape and a wonderful mountaintop hut where we spend the night.

Matt Bryant takes you on a ‘packbiking’ adventure around Mount Baker – combining road riding with portaging bikes on unmaintained mountain trails for a true adventure that pushes the limits of what we could even imagine.

Renowned constructeur Peter Weigle tells the story of building a superlight bike for the Concours de Machines

…and riding on small mountain roads in Japan. He provides a unique perspective about taking part in these ‘BQ adventures.’

Bicycle Quarterly brings you stories you won’t find anywhere else. Daniel and Madeleine Provot’s life revolved around cyclotouring in mid-century France, and their story has inspired us and many of our readers as we enjoy our cycling.

We take you right into the action as we visit the makers of the bikes and components we enjoy: Panaracer’s tire factory (above);…

…Gilles Berthoud in France, who make beautiful bags and leather saddles (above); Paul Components in Chico, CA;…

…and Schmidt Maschinenbau in Germany, makers of the SON generator hubs and Edelux headlights (above, one of Schmidt’s testing tools).

We continue our famous technical research that has shaken up the bike industry: How wide can tires get before their performance drops off? We test tires from 32 to 54 mm under closely controlled conditions to bring you the answer.

Stunning studio photos of modern and classic bikes round off each issue, but of course, there is much, much more.

Like the ride through the mountains near Cuernavaca in Mexico, and… There is really no way to do a whole year of Bicycle Quarterly justice in a single blog post – with close to 100 pages of content, each issue is more like a book than just a magazine.

If you already have some of these back issues, you can customize your own 4-Pack and select the Bicycle Quarterlies you want to read – check our full table of contents that also includes photos from every Bicycle Quarterly.

Order your ‘Past Year of BQ’ today and enjoy many hours of reading as you dream up your own adventures.

Photo credits: Isabel Uriarte (Photo 3), Matt Bryant (Photo 6), Rob van Driel (Photo 7), Duncan Smith (Photo 14), Natsuko Hirose (Photos 2, 5, 8, 11).

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues | 4 Comments

Happy Holidays!

All of us at Compass Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly wish you Happy Holidays!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Around the Coastline of Britain – Interview with Andrew Mathias

The top of Bealach na Ba Pass

This autumn, Andrew Mathias rode around the entire coastline of Britain in one setting. Many of us followed his beautiful journey on Instagram. Now I had the opportunity to interview Andrew about his epic journey.

JH: Congratulations on riding around the coastline of Britain. It was fun to
follow you on Instagram. You rode 5000 miles (8000 km) in 64 days?

AM: Thanks very much, and I’m glad you enjoyed following the journey. I really enjoyed updating and creating a small mini log via Instagram. I rode 5,000 miles in 61 days. The original plan was to do the ride in 64 days, however, I finished ahead of schedule.

At the start of the 5000-mile ride

JH: How did you get the idea for this ride?

AM: For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore several areas of the UK coastline on two wheels, especially the west coast and the islands off the shore of Scotland. As I delved into planning and research, highlighting places I wanted to visit, it soon became clear that it was an option to do the whole coastline in one go. Once the idea entered my head it was always going to happen!

JH: Did you ride every day? No rest days?

AM: Yes, I rode for 61 consecutive days. I had multiple chances to have a day off, however, with no pain or injuries, and wanting to keep the momentum going, I just kept plodding on.

The first night at Aberystwyth

JH: And you did it self-supported! Where did you sleep?

AM: Yes, I rode solo for the entire tour and was self-supported. I camped using a tent I carried for most of the first month. A few areas were close to friends, so I stayed with them. I used hostels/bunkhouses and some bed & breakfasts. I also used Warm Showers, which is basically the bike-touring equivalent of couch surfing. I met many interesting, like-minded people this way.

Portpatrick Stranraer

JH: I really enjoyed your photos. I realize that riding along the coast, you
had plenty of great views, but I still was amazed by the beauty of your

AM: Thanks, I loved stopping to take photos! If I had stopped every time I wanted to take one, then I’d still be on the road! I knew there would be spectacular scenery in places, however, I was genuinely amazed almost daily at how underestimated the UK is in terms of beauty. I am massively lucky to have had the opportunity to undertake this journey.

Lake District

JH: It seems that the weather was OK despite your riding in late autumn?

AM: October and November worked best for me in terms of taking time away from work. However, it’s very nearly the worst time of year to do this ride. I was incredibly lucky with the weather. It was a risk for sure, but I’m a big believer in the statement “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit.” Having only had around six days of constant rain, I can’t complain whatsoever!


JH: What did you carry on the bike?

AM: The main items were a few pairs of bib shorts, a few jerseys, rain jacket and wet-weather gear, tent, mattress, limited casual clothing, spares and tools. I tried to pack very minimally and include things only if they could be used for multiple purposes. Anything I needed en route I could buy, and anything surplus to requirements could be left behind.

Harbour town of Kippford

JH: Did you get your bike and equipment for this ride, or did you just ride
a bike you had?

AM: I spec’d the bike specifically for long days in the saddle with lots of miles. It was built with touring in mind, however, the frame that Triton Bikes and Cloud9 Cycles built is super-versatile, meaning that, with small changes, I can use it for pretty much anything. I’m now making the change to ultra-endurance race events; the bike will also be perfect for this, too. I bought the Apidura bags specifically for the journey and was massively happy with the way they performed.

JH: Any equipment trouble?

AM: One of my tent poles snapped a few days in. Not ideal, but I was able to improvise. Apart from that, I was extremely lucky with how the bike and my setup performed.

John O’Groats at the northeastern edge of Britain

JH: You rode Compass tires. How did they perform for you?

AM: This was the first time I used Compass tyres. In fact, it was the first time I ran anything larger than 28 mm tyres on the road. I went for the 35 mm Bon Jon Pass tyres and set them up tubeless. Within 20 miles I had already fallen in love with how comfortable I was. The low rolling resistance was a big asset: They were super quick once momentum had been gained. The grip was great in both dry and wet conditions. I ran around 4.5 bar (65 psi) front and rear, and I experienced only a minimal drop in pressure overnight. I covered around 2,500 miles (4000 km) before getting my first puncture! I was carrying a new spare which I changed over to shortly after this. I picked up a few more punctures before the end. However, I was massively happy with the way they performed, so much so that I will continue to use them for definite. I will find it very hard to go back to anything smaller than 35 mm tyres, especially with races next year totalling over 200 miles (320 km) a day… Comfort is key!

The bottom of Bealach na Ba Pass

JH: Tell us about some highlights of your ride!

AM: There were many highs as well as many lows, all adding up to create an incredible journey. My biggest highlight was Bealach na Ba Pass. This is a renowned climb in the Scottish Highlands. It takes you through the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula. A hurricane was forecast for the day I reached the pass. The wind was strengthening as I a approached Applecross, but the scenery was spectacular. I was lucky to get clear skies, so I could enjoy jaw-dropping views during the ascent. The climb itself is around 6% average for 3-4 miles, followed by four 20% switchbacks at the summit. I felt a massive sense of relief and achievement before enjoying a hugely fast descent.

Approaching Applecross during a hurricane

JH: And what were the hardest parts?

AM: As well as being a highlight, Applecross was also the hardest physical day on the bike. The fact it was so difficult made it even more of a highlight. From a mental point of view, keeping morale and motivation high was difficult. Taking every day as it comes is all you can do. Enjoy your surroundings, and the freedom that your bike gives you, and the mind will look after itself.

At the westernmost point of the ride

JH: If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

AM: The obvious answer is to do it in the summer! However, doing it in the cold, wet and, at times, dark conditions added to the challenge. Seeing areas like west Scotland in its raw and rough state was something that I will never forget!

JH: I was glad to see that just after finishing your great ride, you already
were back on your bike. Any plans for another big adventure?

On the white cliffs of Dover – almost at the finish!

AM: For sure! I was out and about the day after finishing, and have been a fair bit since. I’m currently training for the TransAtlanticWay, which is an ultra-endurance race in Ireland next year. However, I want to explore Europe for six months or more by bike. That is also in the pipeline!

JH: Good luck on those endeavors. I look forward to hearing and them!

You can see all of Andrew’s photos from his trip on his Instagram feed at mathias0487.

Posted in Rides | 1 Comment