Tire Pressure Take-Home

un-meeting_uphill

What is the “correct” tire pressure for your bike? The simple answer is: Whatever feels right to you. Confused? Here is how it works:

In the past, many riders inflated their tires to the maximum pressure rating. Now most cyclists now recognize that the optimum pressure often is much lower.

But what is the right tire pressure? At Bicycle Quarterly, we’ve done a lot of research into the rolling resistance of tires at various pressures, and on various road surfaces.

BertoPressChart

Frank Berto’s tire pressure chart (above), first published in Bicycle Quarterly many years ago, has received much attention. (Note that the weights are per wheel, not for the entire bike.)

Berto made the chart in the 1990s, when tires were much narrower. Hardly anybody today still rides on 20 mm tires, and even 23 mm are on their way out! At the other end, 37 mm no longer is huge, as many of us ride 42 mm tires on pavement, and even wider ones on gravel. How does it all translate into the modern world?

tire_drop

Much of it depends on the tires you run. Berto measured the tire drop (above; how much the tire deflects for a given load and pressure) for dozens of tires. He then averaged the values, and drew his chart for a tire drop of 15%.

The 15% as desirable tire drop was based on the recommendations of several tire manufacturers, but not on actual testing. So the chart shows how much you need to inflate an average 1990s tire to achieve a tire drop of 15% – nothing less and nothing more.

A few years ago, Berto sent me all his original data. Looking over his measurements, it’s clear that supple tires – back then pretty much only the Michelin Hi-Lite – deflect much more than stiff ones, at the same pressure. This means that specific tires can vary quite a bit from the averages shown in the chart.

golden_gardens

To get the same tire drop with supple tires, you would need to run them at higher pressures. But is 15% tire drop really what you want with supple tires?

The answer is “No”. The 15% tire drop is an arbitrary value. However, even if it’s only by coincidence, the values in Berto’s chart actually work quite well for Compass tires. They’ll result in more than 15% tire drop, but that is OK: Comfort and speed are optimized. And that is what really matters.

track_tire_test

The biggest surprise of all our testing (above) was this: For supple tires, pressure makes little difference in performance. We tested three Vittoria tires (Rubino, CX clincher, CX tubular; all 25 mm wide) and found that the supple CX models roll as fast at 70 psi as they do at 130 psi. (For the rest of the world, that is 5 bar and 9 bar.)

The reason is simple: Higher pressure decreases the energy required to flex the tire. Less energy is lost due to internal deformation (hysteresis). But higher pressure increases the losses due to the vibrations of bike and rider. More energy goes to suspension losses. The two effects cancel each other. Whether you pump up your supple tires super-hard or ride them squishy-soft, they have the same resistance.

On the other hand, truly stiff tires feel sluggish at 15% tire drop. The stiff tire is much harder to flex, so it’s useful to minimize that flex by increasing the pressure. For stiff tires, the suspension losses do not vary as much with pressure – they’re always high – since the stiff casing transmits a lot of vibration at any pressure.

Recently, Velo-News confirmed our results: The performance of a hand-made tire with cotton casing did not change at different tire pressures. And a stiffer tire rolled slower at lower pressures than at higher ones. (It’s nice to see that our results, after having been highly controversial for years, now are becoming generally accepted.)

It can be hard to believe this, because higher pressure feels faster. Here is why: When you go faster, your bike hits more road irregularities per second: The road buzz increases in frequency. Most cyclists know: higher speed = higher frequency.

Higher tire pressure cheats you into thinking that you are going faster, because it also increases the frequency of the vibrations: higher pressure = higher frequency.

It’s natural to assume that this means: higher pressure = higher frequency = higher speed, but that is incorrect. Instead, you are looking at two different mechanisms that both increase the frequency of the road buzz.

Even after years of riding supple, wide tires, this “placebo” effect sometimes plays tricks on me. A supple tire absorbs vibrations better, so it can feel slower – until you look at your speedometer.

hahn_un-meeting

What does it all mean? Here is the take-home summary:

  • Stiff casings always will be slow. They are even slower at lower pressures.
  • Supple casings are fast, and pressure doesn’t matter.
  • On smooth roads, tire pressure is a matter of personal preference (at least with supple tires). High and low pressures offer the same performance.
  • On rough roads, lower pressures are faster. So if you want to optimize your speed on all roads, including rough ones, go with a relatively low, but safe, pressure.
  • Your tire pressure needs to be high enough to avoid pinch flats. If you get pinch flats, increase your tire pressure, or better, choose wider tires. Pinch flats are rare with wide tires.
  • On pavement, your pressure needs to be high enough that the tire does not collapse during hard cornering.
  • The minimum safe pressure is higher for more supple casings. Stiff casings hold up the bike more, and thus require less air pressure.
  • On gravel, you can run lower pressures than on pavement. On loose surfaces, the tires don’t collapse as easily, because the cornering forces are much lower.
  • Don’t run your tires so low that the casing cords start to break. That happens only at very low pressures, but if you start seeing multiple lines across the casing where cords have broken, inflate the tires a bit more.
  • Berto’s chart still is a good starting point. Inflate your tires to the pressures it recommends, then experiment by adding or letting out some air.
  • See what feels best to you. That is the optimum tire pressure for you. Don’t worry about tire pressure any further! At least on paved roads, you won’t go faster or slower if you change your tire pressure.

Even simpler, here is a summary in two sentences:

  • Ride the tire pressure that feels good to you.
  • When in doubt, let out some air.

It’s really that simple!

Further reading:

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 46 Comments

Early-Season Ride: Hood Canal and Tahuya Hills

road_forest

The Bicycle Quarterly Team’s early-season rides usually head into the Cascade foothills to our east. There are plenty of quiet roads that seem to dead-end in the mountains… until you realize that they are connected by gravel roads! This allows us to string together a variety of rides – free of traffic and in beautiful surroundings.

We love those rides, but sometimes, a change of scenery heightens our sense of adventure. When Mark suggested a ride along the Hood Canal and through the Tahuya Hills, it didn’t take much to persuade us. Especially since he promised some gravel in the mix.

ferry

Steve (black), Mark (yellow) and I met on the 6 o’clock ferry from Seattle to Bremerton. By the time we prepared to disembark, dawn announced the new day. Spring is coming, and the days are getting longer!

clouds_hood_canal

The first kilometers along a busy highway were quickly forgotten, because we soon found ourselves on smaller roads. From Belfair, we headed along the Hood Canal into the Tahuya Hills. This is a favorite road that we’ve traveled during many a Seattle International Randonneurs brevets, usually in the middle of the night.

This morning, the scenery was especially spectacular. We saw three layers of clouds hovering above the sound. The water in the distance was still blanketed by a thick layer of fog. Above were low clouds (or perhaps dissolving fog), with a high cloud cover above. And best of all, the sun was shining on us!

eagle

A little further, we surprised a huge bald eagle by the roadside. The eagle looks big in the photo, but you cannot see its wingspan: It was at least 1.8 m (6 ft). I did not realize how large these birds really are, until one flew right by my shoulder!

peek_through_the_trees

Soon we entered the Tahyua Hills. This time, we did not take paved inland route, but a gravel road that hugs the coast line. We had seen only three or four cars since leaving Belfair, and now we had the road entirely to ourselves.

steep_gravel

A coastal route may sound flat, but the Tahyua Hills deserve their name. Cyclists whisper about these hills – most have heard about them, but only the hardiest actually have ridden here. I reality, the Tahuya Hills are fun – a rollercoaster of ups and downs with tight turns that test the skills of the riders and the quality of their bikes. Mark and Steve’s randonneur bikes were up to the task. The terrain was a bit more challenging for my Specialized Diverge long-term test bike, but I made it fine, too.

fog

We rode into the fog that we had seen in the distance, just as it started to lift. We were glad to have fenders, because the previous day’s rain had left the gravel muddy. (A gravel bike without fenders makes little sense around here, even on sunny days.)

bay

We rode along beautiful bays, now back on pavement, but still away from traffic. Time flew by, with spirited pedaling and animated conversations to distract us. It was a typically wonderful ride with friends.

seabeck

Just as we were getting hungry, we reached Seabeck with its general store. Weekend rides like this one aren’t timed events, so we stopped for a leisurely lunch.

small_road

After lunch, we soon turned off the main road again. Flanked by the Puget Sound on one side and a Navy base on the other, there was hardly any traffic until we reached Bainbridge Island.

Here, we split up. My companions were keen to get home, so they continued on the busy highway. I preferred the backroads for a wonderful spin over the narrow, twisting two-lane blacktop. It’s hillier and thus takes longer than the highway, but for me, it was a nice end to a great ride.

bainbridge

I would have caught the same ferry if I hadn’t stopped at the store in Winslow to buy a second lunch. The sun had come out, and I enjoyed my picnic at the ferry dock. An hour later, I was riding home along the Seattle waterfront. These are the best kind of pre-season rides: interesting, enjoyable and thoroughly low-key.

Posted in Rides | 22 Comments

Enduro Allroad Bikes Are Taking Off

2016-NAHBS-Hunter-Enduro-All-Road

The big story of last weekend’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show were Enduro Allroad bikes – road bikes with tires wider than 45 mm. These bikes are great on paved roads, but their true element is gravel. Even on smooth gravel, these extra-wide tires roll better than narrower ones. On loose and rough gravel, there simply is no comparison. Instead of grinding through the gravel, you float over it! It’s amazing what ultra-wide, supple tires can do.

outback_04

The idea for the Enduro Allroad bike came during the 2014 Oregon Outback (above), where even my 42 mm-wide Compass Babyshoe Pass tires sank deep into the soft gravel. I hunted from the left side of the “road” to the right, trying to find firmer ground. I could see the tracks of the rider ahead of me, Ira Ryan, who won the race. He was fishtailing all over the place (below).

outback_09

As I tried to keep up the pace on this difficult stretch, I realized there was a solution: A wider tire would float on top of the loose stuff. It would be much faster and also make the bike easier and more fun to handle. The idea of a road tire that was even wider than my 42s was definitely pushing the envelope at the time. The big makers were still trying to figure out whether the ideal gravel tire was 28 or 32 mm wide.

The idea was good, but there was a problem: Nobody in living memory had ridden an extra-supple tire that wide. The closest thing in existence were the FMB tubulars that professional cross-country mountain bike racers use – but not on pavement. (Making a tire that wasn’t supple would have defeated the purpose of the exercise. After all, the goal is more speed and comfort, not less.)

weigle_shaving

Before we could commit to making tire molds, we had to make some prototype tires. But without molds, you cannot make tires! We found a solution to that problem. Panaracer made a few mountain bike tires with our Extralight casing. Then Peter Weigle shaved off the knobs to create ultra-wide slick tires. Talk about hand-made tires!

enduro_allroad_cobbles

We tested these prototypes extensively. On gravel (above), we could not believe the new tires’ performance. Just as importantly, the sidewalls held up to the abuse of riding over rough ground at ridiculously high speed.

enduro_allroad_web1

But the big surprise came on pavement: The new tires offered incredible cornering, because they put so much rubber on the road. And on the straights, the ultra-wide tires rolled extremely well, too. Whoever was riding the Enduro Allroad bike had no trouble keeping up with the riders on narrower tires.

Any drawbacks? Tire pressure becomes much more important. Whereas I can ride a 42 mm tire anywhere between 35 and 65 psi without trouble, the 54 mm tires require more careful pressure adjustments. Put in too much air, and the tire starts to bounce a bit on some undulations in the pavement. Let the pressure drop too low, and the sidewalls begin to collapse during enthusiastic cornering. For me, the pressure range on pavement was between 25 and 30 psi. Fortunately, that range worked equally well on gravel and on pavement, so at least there is no need to adjust the pressure in mid-ride with tires this wide.

Compass_650Bx48

As a result of this research, we introduced the first two Enduro Allroad tires last year. The Rat Trap Pass is a 26″ x 2.3″ tire (54 mm wide). The Switchback Hill (above, named after the first climb of the Oregon Outback) is a 650B x 48 mm. Our customers’ reaction was surprisingly positive, considering that this was a product that nobody had expected. The idea of the Enduro Allroad bike appealed to many riders.

WTB_Enduro_Allroad_tire

Not quite a year later, the Enduro Allroad Bike is entering the mainstream. Last weekend, WTB introduced their new “Road Plus™” 650B x 47 mm tire (above). It’s interesting to see others follow our lead: The WTB tire even uses a tread pattern that resembles our Compass tires. (The “chevron” ribs are designed to interlock with the road surface as you corner.) And there finally seems to be a consensus that a knobby tread is of little use when riding on gravel. (The rock “layers” move in relation to each other, rather than the tire slipping on the top layer of gravel.)

The WTB tire may look similar to our Compass tires, but it doesn’t duplicate our efforts. At 515 g, it’s about 100 g heavier than our Switchback Hill, and it seems to be intended more as a utility tire.

map_rambonneur

With more tire choices, more Enduro Allroad Bikes will be built. Above is MAP’s “Rambonneur” with our Switchback Hill tires.

Masi, Miele, Rawland and Brodie have announced new models designed around 650B Enduro Allroad tires. It’s taken less than a year for the new concept to enter the mainstream. That also attests to the inherent appeal of the idea. It’s not something that needs marketing. Anybody who’s ever crested a deserted mountain pass on a gravel road, before launching into an exhilarating descent, understands.

BQ54_coverphoto

Last autumn, I tested the Elephant NFE for Bicycle Quarterly (above). On the loose gravel of the Iron Horse Trail, I appreciated the extra floatation of the big tires. Where riders on narrower tires were struggling, I felt like I was on a road ride. The road may have been gravel, but the sensations were still those of a road bike. The “Road Plus™” name is not inappropriate, but since it’s trademarked to one company, it’s unlikely to catch on.

We chose the name “Enduro Allroad” to show that this type of bike is a logical extension of the “Allroad” bikes we’ve been riding for years. The new bikes are more geared toward gravel and rough stuff, whereas standard Allroad bikes with their 38-42 mm tires are better on pavement. Both categories overlap on smooth, hard gravel, where they offer similar performance. The new bikes don’t replace our existing ones, but the two categories complement each other.

hahn_enduro_allroad

At last autumn’s Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting, I was surprised how many riders already were on Enduro Allroad bikes. Above is BQ‘s Hahn Rossman on his converted Bontrager (with a new fork and disc brakes) with our 26″ Rat Trap Pass tires, in front of Denny Trimble on a Soma Wolverine.

I am not in favor of segmenting the bike world more than necessary – one bike for all purposes remains my dream – but I know that when I return to the route of the Oregon Outback, I want to be on an Enduro Allroad bike!

Photo credits (Hunter and MAP): http://www.theradavist.com, used with permission.

Posted in Product News | 75 Comments

René Herse Cranks: 177 and 165 mm

3_lengths

The photo above shows raw forgings for Compass René Herse cranks. Perhaps you will have spotted that they are all different: Their length varies in 6 mm steps. We introduce René Herse cranks now available in 165 mm and 177 mm lengths, in addition to the 171 mm we have offered in the past.

Why 6 mm steps? Everybody seems to agree that crank length differences of 3 mm or less are unnoticeable even for the most discerning cyclists. If you usually ride 175 or 180 mm cranks, our 177 mm will be perfect for you. The 171 mm covers 170 and 172.5 mm. And if you prefer shorter cranks, we now offer 165 mm as well. Together, these three lengths will satisfy 90% of cyclists.

cnc_factory

Last autumn, I went to Taiwan to discuss the final phase of this new project with our suppliers. I love visiting with the people who make our components. The man on the right is our engineer, who works full-time in Taiwan to supervise the production of our components that are made there. (Many other components are made in Japan, and a few are made locally in Seattle.) In the center is one of the engineers from the CNC company who machine our cranks and chainrings.

forging_hammer

Seeing our components being made is exciting. Like most high-performance cranks, the Compass René Herse cranks are forged. It’s a very involved process: You need a huge forging hammer (above). For scale, you can see two workers in the photo. On the right you see two pallets with raw aluminum pieces that will be turned into components.

The long orange tunnel is an oven to pre-heat the parts. You heat the aluminum a little bit to make it more ductile, so it flows better when you smash it with the big hammer inside the tall machine. The “hammer” slams down onto the aluminum shape with a force of more than 1000 tons. That is the weight of 25 fully loaded semi-trucks!

forging_dies

The forging dies are stored in long racks. These are the tools that are smashed together, with the aluminum in between, and the result is your part. It’s that simple, except the forging dies must withstand huge forces during the forging process. No wonder they cost so much!

Why are parts forged, when the tooling is so expensive? Another process is to machine the parts, or basically carve them, out of big blocks of aluminum. To machine a part, you don’t need any specific tooling. The same milling machine that can make all kinds of things. Yet forging has two advantages:

  1. For huge production runs, forging can be less expensive. You waste less aluminum, because you only use as much as as you need for the shape of the part. (This also is better for the environment.) And forging is fast – just a second or two per part, rather than 30 minutes or more on a CNC machine. If you can amortize the cost of the forging die over millions of parts, it’s quite inexpensive. For small runs, the forging dies add significantly to the cost of each part, so CNC-machining usually is cheaper.
  2. Forging makes a stronger part. Forging reshapes the “grain structure” of the aluminum, whereas machining interrupts it. Imagine a part made from wood. If the wood grain runs the same way as your part, it will be very strong (forging). If you cut across the grain when you make the part, it will be very weak (machining).

High-end bike parts are made in small numbers, so forging is more expensive per unit. However, the higher strength means that forged parts need less material, so they are lighter and more elegant.

Most small crank manufacturers use a combination of forging and machining. The reason is simple: They want to make multiple crank lengths from the same forging die. That is a compromise, because the grain structure is interrupted right where the crank can break (at the pedal eye). When you machine a crank to length, you lose many of the advantages of the forging process.

rh_crank_die

Above you see the forging dies for the René Herse cranks. They look like negative imprints of the cranks. This is called “net-shape” forging, and it is a better way to make cranks. The advantage: You don’t machine off anything that would interrupt the grain structure. The disadvantage: You can make only one crank length from each forging die.

We use net-shape forging because it’s the only way a lightweight, classic crank meets the highest EN “Racing Bike” standards for fatigue resistance. We know that our Compass René Herse cranks are ridden hard, and we want to make them as strong as possible.

new_dies

This means that for each crank length, we need a new forging die. It’s expensive, and we thought long and hard before adding new lengths to our program.

If you look carefully at the two raw forgings above, you’ll notice that we didn’t just change the length. We also added a little material to make the 177 mm cranks a bit stronger. Longer cranks have a longer lever arm for the pedaling forces. And taller riders tend to push harder on the pedals (but spin at lower cadences). Two reasons why they need stronger cranks. When you machine cranks to length, the longest cranks are also the weakest. It’s an additional disadvantage!

crank_machining

With net-shape forging and three raw forgings, we also need separate fixtures for each crank length, when the threads and other details are machined.

Adding new crank lengths is a large project! But it’s worth it: We want our cranks to be the best in the world. This means that we will not compromise on their performance or quality.

al2014

The new lengths aren’t the only change for the Compass René Herse cranks. We also went to a stronger aluminum. The 6066 aluminum we used until now offers great corrosion resistance and is easy to work with. That is why it’s used extensively in the bike industry. It’s also plenty strong for most riders.

However, with a superlight crank like ours, we feel more comfortable with a greater margin of safety. The 2014 alloy that we now use is stronger, yet it isn’t as brittle as the even-harder 7075 alloy that is unsuitable for bicycle cranks. (Our chainrings are made from 7075 aluminum to resist wear.)

2014 alloy is ideal for making cranks, but the heat treatment is more difficult than with other alloys. We worked with our suppliers to ensure that they mastered the process before using this alloy in our cranks. We have tested multiple samples of the new cranks, and they exceed the most demanding standards (the afore-mentioned EN “Racing Bike” standard). We are now confident to offer them to our customers.

rh_tandem_crankset

We now have all three lengths in stock. They are available as single, double, triple, and even tandem cranks (above), with chainrings between 52 and 24 teeth. They are compatible with drivetrains from 5-speed to 10-speed.

When you enjoy the Compass René Herse cranks on your bike, you know that you aren’t just riding one of the most beautiful bike components, but also one of the best-performing. We feel that this is in the spirit of René Herse. His insistence on the highest quality and attention to detail earned him the nickname the “Magician of Levallois”.

Click here for more information about Compass René Herse cranks.

 

Posted in Rene Herse cranks | 67 Comments

Visiting Panaracer

panaracer_mt

As a child, I used to think of Japan as a densely populated place full of skyscrapers and freeways. Of course, those big cities exist, but much of Japan is very rural. So when I travel from Tokyo to visit the Panaracer factory, I get to experience that transition from city to countryside.

shinkansen

My trip starts with one of the incredible Shinkansen trains. These trains now travel at up to 320 km/h (200 mph). Their shapes are designed to reduce turbulence when two of these projectiles meet at full speed in a tunnel. (Imagine the pressure wave!)

fuji_shinkansen

On the way, the train speeds by Mount Fuji, and I am reminded why the Japanese revere this volcano so much. It really is stunning.

super_nozomi

In less than 2 hours, I am in Osaka, more than 500 km (310 miles) from Tokyo. But my trip is far from over. I now switch to the standard narrow-gauge Japanese railways, and board the “Kounotori Super Express” (above).

single_track

By American standards, it’s a fast train, and the trip through gorges and tunnels is spectacular. After 1.5 hours, I have crossed an entire mountain range, but my trip isn’t over yet.

green_orange_train

I now change to a local train, the kind that is used by schoolchildren and people going shopping in the next town. This train finally takes me to the small town where the Panaracer factory is located. From the station, it’s just as brief walk to the place where our Compass tires are made.

panaracer_mountains

What inspired our tires is also what the workers see when they look out of the factory gate: mountains.

panaracer_engineers

It’s always a privilege to meet Panaracer’s engineers (above). We present them with our ideas, they give us their feedback, and we discuss how we can further improve our tires. We discuss rubber compounds, casing materials, tread patterns, and other things that make our tires perform as well as they do.

yabitsu_tunnel

Several Panaracer engineers are avid riders themselves. All are as passionate about bicycle tires as we are, and I enjoy working with them immensely. And best of all, I get to enjoy the tires’ performance in the mountains that have inspired them.

Posted in Testing and Tech, Tires | 26 Comments

Compass Sale: Knickers, SKF BBs, Grand Bois Bars

knickers_un-meeting

We just received our latest shipment of our most popular product, the Compass Knickers. All sizes are back in stock, in the gray color (above).

We always look for ways to improve our products. The latest batch of knickers incorporates a few changes to make them even more comfortable.

By changing the elastic and belt material in the waistline, we’ve improved the way they fit. (Now they also run true to their listed size.) The new buckle is easier to adjust and slides smoothly, while still holding its position, so the belt stays where you put it. The old ones were great, the new ones are even better.

compass_knicker_tan

We still have a few knickers from the previous production run, and those are on sale for $ 99. (All sizes from the new production are at the regular price, $ 129.)

HBarGbRand_0914

Our quest for continuous improvement also led us to introduce the Compass Randonneur handlebars, with a shape that is further optimized over our previous favorite, the Grand Bois model. We are discontinuing the Grand Bois bars, and they are on sale for $ 79 (regular $ 115).

bb_SKFBRC

Today’s last item isn’t about improvement… SKF has discontinued their Italian-threaded bottom brackets. We bought the remaining stocks at a discount, and we are passing this along to our customers. They are on sale for $ 89 (regular: $ 149). When they are gone, there will be no more.

Click on the images above for more information or to order. Or click here to go to the Compass Bicycles Ltd. website.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Tokyo Hand-Made Bicycle Show

handmade_opener

A few weeks ago, I visited the Tokyo Handmade Bicycle Show. It was a lot of fun seeing what Japanese builders are doing these days.

parking_handmade

Before we entered the show, we parked our bikes outside. The bike parking area by itself was worth a visit: Virtually every bike was a special, handmade machine. It’s nice to see that they get ridden. Some had more patina than others, but all were remarkable.

wood_bike_handmade

Inside the show, the first stand (Sanomagic) showed wooden bikes. Wooden bikes aren’t so rare any longer, but these machines, built by a ship builder, also feature wheels, saddles, seatposts and stems made from wood. Most parts are made from wood or carbon fiber…

inlaid_handmade

…or a combination of both: The carbon-fiber Ergopower levers are inlaid with wood.

makino_handmade

The incredible workmanship continued with amazing steel frames from Level and Makino (above). Mr. Makino really takes the art of making bicycle frames to the highest level. His frames are simple, yet exquisitely crafted. The lugs are filed super-thin and crisp, and every part of the frame is shaped to perfection. We talked about a feature for Bicycle Quarterly about his bikes and his shop.

dobbats_handmade

Dobbat’s bikes feature neat details and a very cute logo.

montson_handmade

Montson adds a touch of whimsy with their panniers. They can be removed with one hand and carried as a briefcase.

montson_rack_handmade

Underneath is this complex rack, custom-made to support the bag.

ravanello_handmade

Most Japanese custom builders offer a cyclotouring bike with a bag-support rack – here is Ravanello’s machine.

toei_handmade

Toei showed that they don’t only build exquisite cyclotouring bikes: Their show bike was equipped with Shimano Di2 and Nitto’s new carbon handlebars. The frame was as beautiful as expected from these masters of their craft.

wood_disc_handmade

Wooden wheels made another appearance. I was told that these are both comfortable and fast. Maybe I’ll have to try a set!

hirose_full_handmade

C. S. Hirose showed a fully equipped randonneur bike with his own version of the 1920s Cyclo derailleur (10-speed compatible and super-smooth in its action), custom-made lights and many other interesting features.

hirose_mom_daughter_handmade

The other exhibit at Hirose’s stand was a very cute (and very pink) matching pair of bikes for a mother and daughter. The daughter’s tiny machine was fully equipped with cantilever brakes, derailleurs and even a light mount on the front rack.

hirose_detail_handmade

Hirose routed the derailleur cable via this custom-made little pulley, so the levers could be on the top tube – easier to reach for the little girl.

silk_demontable_handmade

Silk showed an interesting “Demontable” frame that comes apart with minimal tools. The bottom bracket shell just contains a bolt that holds the rear triangle. The rear triangle incorporates a second bottom bracket shell, in which the actual BB is mounted. The fork’s steerer tube and stem expander tube are one and the same, so when you unscrew the stem bolt, the fork can be removed. Interesting!

gokiso_handmade

What happens when a jet engine manufacturer makes a bicycle hub? Gokiso’s hubs are incredibly complex, exquisitely machined, and rated to spin at more than 320 km/h (200 mph). Unfortunately, the price also reminds one of jet engines…

watanabe_handmade

Equally exquisite was Watanabe’s show bike, made for a customer with the rarest of rare components, from first-generation Campagnolo Super Record components to a Stronglight crank and bottom bracket with titanium spindle. In Japan, some bicycle collectors like to order new frames which are equipped with classic parts.

tokyo_design_handmade

Gravel and cyclocross bikes are still fairly rare in Japan, but that is changing. The Tokyo Design School showed a ‘cross bike built by one of their students. The photos in the background show the student racing her bike.

cherubim_handmade

Cherubim is one of the most creative builders in Japan. The bike in the foreground doesn’t have a seat tube… They also build traditional frames, like the one in the background.

hirose_handmade

The show was a great opportunity to see acquaintances, among them the builder H. Hirose (left; with BQ contributor Natsuko Hirose)…

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… and Cherubim’s owner and head builder, S. Konno.

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Time passed quickly, and the sun was setting as the show ended for the day. The view from the rooftop, with Mount Fuji in the far distance, was amazing. Seeing where these bikes get ridden was a nice end to the Tokyo Handmade Bicycle Show. That they do get ridden was evident in the bike parking area…

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