Happy Holidays!


I wish all our readers Happy Holidays! I’ve enjoyed all the interactions with readers. The technical discussions are stimulating, but most of all, it’s nice to read about so many people enjoying their bikes on great rides! Thank you all!

Photo credit: Fred Blasdel

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Why Do We Make Custom Chainring Bolts?


Recently, we received our custom René Herse chainring bolts (above). Why in the world would we go through so much trouble and expense to make custom chainring bolts?

They are pretty significant little bolts, because they are the finishing touch on the René Herse cranks. René Herse chainrings are 1 mm thicker than most chainrings. This is to make them stiffer, compensating for the small bolt circle diameter. However, modern chainring bolts are designed for thinner chainrings. They are slightly domed to make their heads deep enough for full engagement with the 5 mm Allen wrench, but their edges don’t sit flush with our René Herse chainrings.

Classic Herse cranks had flush chainring bolts. We don’t know whether the “Magician of Levallois” had custom bolts made, too, or whether bolts with a thicker, flat head were available off the shelf back then. I do suspect that he would have the “correct” bolts custom-made rather than compromise. And so that is what we did.


Our new bolts have a flat surface and sit flush with our chainrings. It’s a small detail, but to us, it’s important. As custodians of the René Herse name, we have to strive for perfection…

We also offer the new bolts separately. That way, customers who bought their Herse cranks with the “domed” bolts can upgrade their cranks to the Herse bolts. The new bolts also are useful for restorations of René Herse bikes.

Click here for more information about René Herse cranks and chainring bolts.

Posted in Rene Herse cranks | 11 Comments

Rinko Parts – Useful not only for Train Travel


Since our first visit to Japan last year, we’ve been fascinated by Rinko, the Japanese system of packing bikes for train travel. The Rinko system developed by the builders Alps and Hirose is especially elegant and results in the smallest possible package for the bike.

It still amazes me that a fully equipped randonneur bike, with a 60 cm frame, fenders, racks and generator-powered lights, can be disassembled in 12 minutes into a package that is no larger than the frame. Drape a bag over it, and you can carry it on trains, buses, and subways, or load it into even the smallest economy car. Put it in a padded bag, and you can travel on many airlines without paying extra fees. Best of all, there are no couplers or other parts that add significant cost, complication and weight.


After building my own Rinko bike, the “Mule” (above), I realized that every bike could benefit from being Rinko-compatible, even if only to remove the rear section of the rear fender when you transport a the bike inside a car…

The Winter 2015 Bicycle Quarterly includes a photo feature showing the details that make a bike Rinko-compatible. Small things make it easy to disassemble your bike. For example, slotted cable stops that allow you to remove the handlebars with the brake cables attached. There are only a few special parts needed to make a Rinko bike, and Compass Bicycles now offers them.


A key part is the “Rinko nut” (visible at the top of the fender). The rear fender is cut in half, a piece of fender is inserted into the rear portion, and the Rinko nut allows you to secure the two halves after you have slid them together.

A constructeur will cut the tongue that joins the two fenders from a third fender (since they can use that fender to make tongues for multiple bikes), but you can also shorten the bike’s rear fender by a few inches to get the material you need. Preparing a hammered fender so its halves slide together smoothly isn’t easy, so most Japanese builders use smooth fenders on their Rinko bikes.

FendCmRinko_3419The Rinko nut is threaded on the outside, so you can attach it to the fender with the supplied (thin) hex nut. It also is threaded on the inside. This is where the bolt goes that holds the two fender halves together. It’s a simple part, but if you have to machine it yourself, you’ll spend some time. So we had a batch made to save you the trouble.


A part that is useful not just for Rinko are the Ostrich tube covers. These pads wrap around your frame’s tubes to protect them during travel. The pads are thin, so they can be carried in a handlebar bag when not in use. They close around the frame with Velcro.

The “long” version (above) measures 450 mm, while the “short” version is 240 mm long. The pads fit around standard and slightly oversize frames, but they are not large enough for extremely oversize tubes.


Rinko pedals aren’t required for travel, but they make disassembling your bike much easier. The stub remains on the cranks, and the pedal can be removed without tools. Available as clipless (above) and platform versions (below). The models we sell have MKS’ super-smooth bearings that are nicer than any other currently-made pedal I have tried.


These pedals are useful not only for Rinko, but also for bikes with S&S couplers, or if you want to switch between platform and clipless pedals on the same bike. (If you just want super-nice pedals with great bearings, these pedals also are available in standard, non-Rinko versions.)


The Compass Rinko brake is functionally the same as the standard Compass centerpull brake, but one arm has a different shape, so that the straddle cable unhooks on both sides. That way, you can remove the handlebars and brake cables as a unit. (With the standard centerpull brakes, one end of the straddle cable attaches to the brake.)


The special straddle cable has two barrels that hook onto the brake arms. The cable comes with a second end that gets silver-brazed onto the wire (arrow). That way, builders can set the straddle cable height as they like, for example, to clear a taillight. A minor disadvantage of the Rinko model: After wheel changes, you have to hook both ends of the straddle cable back onto the brake (rather than just one end).


The Rinko Headset Tool is shown here on the headset locknut. It looks like a cat, is made from lightweight aluminum, and weighs just 14 g. You can tighten your headset by hand, or use an 8 mm Allen wrench for extra leverage (above). The other socket measures 10 mm. This tool also is useful if you want to take a headset tool on a ride or tour, where the 8 and 10 mm sockets also can come in handy.


Rinko bags are used to cover the Rinko bike package during travel. The carrying strap attaches to the bike frame, so the bag doesn’t have to carry the weight of the bike (see photo at the top of the post).

The Ostrich L-100 (above) is designed for the Alps/Hirose system of Rinko. Made from sturdy materials, it weighs 310 g, yet when not in use it fits into a pouch that is the size of a small water bottle.


The Ostrich SL-100 has the same dimensions as the L-100, but it’s made from ultralight SilNylon. It weighs just 200 g and packs very small. The SL-100 is not as strong as the standard L-100 bag, so it is not recommended for “Rinko beginners” who may try to stuff their bike into the bag, rather than just pull the bag over the Rinko’ed bike package.


Both Rinko bags come with three straps for packing the bike, a shoulder strap and a pouch to carry the Rinko bag on your bike. (SL-100 shown above.)


The Ostrich OS-500 Airplane Bag is padded for air travel. It is designed to work with many Rinko systems, so it is significantly larger than the L-100 and SL-100 bags. The Rinko’ed Mule fits into the OS-500 bag with room to spare. Taping the bag to reduce its volume allowed it to meet the luggage requirements for All-Nippon Airways (ANA) without requiring a surcharge.


Now that I have enjoyed travel with a Rinko bike, I don’t want to be without one. Considering how little it takes to make a custom bike Rinko-compatible, I know that from now, all my new bikes will be ready for Rinko. Being able to take my bike almost anywhere opens great possibilities.

Click here for more information about Rinko parts from Compass Bicycles Ltd.

Further reading:

Posted in Product News, Rinko | 54 Comments

Rides to Remember


As the cycling season draws to a close, I look back over the memorable rides that I have enjoyed. This year, my cycling season ended abruptly when a car turned in front of me in Taiwan, but my recovery has been helped by remembering many wonderful rides. It’s been a fun-filled year with everything from contemplative cyclotouring to ultra-fast brevets, with loaded touring and even a little cyclocross thrown into the mix.


After a 6-week winter break from riding, it’s always amazing to see the mountains again and get out of Seattle for day-long rides. Last January’s gorgeous weather made these early-season rides even more special.


Over the years, these early-season rides have incorporated more and more gravel, and now it’s a rare ride that doesn’t venture off the pavement for the fun and solitude that is found on these forest roads. As much fun as it is to cycle with all over the world, my hometown friends are absolutely the best.


2015 was a “PBP year”, which meant making sure to ride the 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets. This was no hardship: The courses of the Seattle International Randonneurs get better every year, and there are plenty of great people to ride with. Thanks to excellent teamwork, several of us were able to qualify for the Cyclos Montagnards’ R60 honors. The brevets were fun, and they helped us to get in shape for the big ride in France.


April saw me in Japan, where I had been invited to join a team for the 24-hour Flèche team ride. In addition to that memorable experience, I enjoyed lovely mountain rides with friends. The cherry trees were in full bloom, making Japan even more special than usual.


Testing bikes to the limit is memorable, no matter what. A trip with Ryan to the San Juan Islands culminated with climbing Mount Constitution at midnight. A few weeks later, Mark and I went on a “fast camping trip” to the end of the road at Carbon Glacier on Mount Rainier. We encountered some pretty rough terrain, but the lasting memory was how much fun it was to get away for 24 hours of fast-paced touring.


The big event of the year was Paris-Brest-Paris. While I was in France, I was able to enjoy other memorable rides. We rode a lap of the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb course with 1965 PBP winner Robert Demilly (above on the left).


Together with my friend Richard Léon (himself a veteran of many PBPs), we visited Jean Hoffmann, a randonneur who turned professional and rode in the Tour de France, before returning to the ranks of the randonneurs and riding PBP several times. (He is in the center of the photo above, holding the stem of Lyli Herse’s bike.) Now aged 81, Monsieur Hoffmann took us on a ride over a small mountain pass, displaying the form of an ancien professional. (The full story with photos from his career is in the Winter 2015 Bicycle Quarterly.)


A highlight of returning to Seattle was the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting (above) – a weekend of riding on paved and gravel roads in the company of riders who quickly became friends. What fun it was!


There were more memorable cycling adventures, like exploring the old roads near Kobuchizawa in Japan (above), touring in the Cascades (photo at the top of this post), and other rides in Washington State, Japan and Taiwan. One theme that weaves itself through most of these rides is that they’ve been enjoyed in the company of friends. For me, that is the best part of any ride.

What were your most memorable rides of the past year?

Posted in Rides | 30 Comments

Our Books – So Much More Than Collectors’ References


Books about bicycle history and classic bikes are easily misunderstood: Are they intended for bicycle collectors? Do you need to be an aficionado of René Herse to enjoy reading about him and his riders? Our books are written for readers who want to learn from and be inspired by cyclists passionate about our sport. It really is that simple, and it has little to do with the difference between first- and second-generation Huret Allvit derailleurs.

Of course, I am not opposed to collecting bicycles and bike parts. Without collectors, we’d have little information on how past bicycles were built and how they ride. Collectors have helped us make our books, because they saw a larger purpose in their collections. Old bikes can provide windows into a past that still has the power to inspire us. In other words, our books are less about the bikes than about the stories they tell:


Our first book, The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles, features 50 of the most amazing bicycles ever built. Of course, amazing bikes come with amazing stories. Stories of rides so far out of the ordinary that they required extraordinary bikes. Stories of builders whose passion for the open road made them perfect their machines to a point that no longer was commercially reasonable. And stories of riders who loved riding so much that their exploits matched the exceptional bikes they rode.


We take you alongside Vélocio on the mountain passes that early-1900s racers considered insurmountable. Vélocio rigged up dual drivetrains, so that he could use one for the up-, the other for the downhills. Peek into the world of André Reiss, the builder of the amazing Reyhand bikes, who almost single-handedly invented the modern constructeur bike in the 1930s. See Alex and Maria Singer, dressed oh-so-stylishly, during a spirited winter ride in post-war Paris. Witness Jean Dejeans and Paulette Porthault flying during the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race (above).

Collectors also enjoy The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles, since we made sure that each of the 50 bikes shown is as close as possible to its original specification (and we list parts that aren’t in an appendix). But to me, the passion of these bikes is not about their rarity or their individual components. It’s about the rides and friendships they inspired.


For our second book, we turned our attention to Competition Bicycles, but again, it’s not a book intended only for fans of racing bikes. The bikes tell stories of human adventures, like the contrast between Gino Bartali’s bike for the 1949 Tour de France – still stuck in the 1930s with long-trail geometry and a derailleur that only touched the chain when he shifted (below) – and Fausto Coppi’s machine for the same race, a thoroughly modern Bianchi that used derailleurs as we know them today. The bikes reflected these racers’ world-views. Examining them in detail, I understood why Italy was split between the urbane, modern fans of Coppi and the traditionalists who were devoted to Bartali. Most of the bikes in the book tell equally fascinating stories, having been ridden by famous champions.


The Competition Bicycle shows how modern performance bikes developed, from racing high-wheelers to Tony Rominger’s lugged steel Colnago hour record bike (which bridged the gap to the modern age with its carbon-fiber disc wheels). Competition is not limited to racing bikes, and some of the most captivating machines were built for the races of the Paris newspaper couriers, for mountain biking (Jacquie Phelan’s Cunningham), for the first Race Across America (with the then-fashionable aero components), and for Paris-Brest-Paris (which was a competition during the 1950s). Assembling and curating the incredibly rare machines for The Competition Bicycle was one of the biggest projects I’ve ever undertaken, but I think it was worth the effort.


Our biggest tome so far has been been René Herse: The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders. Again, some Herse aficionados were a bit disappointed, because we don’t dwell on when Herse went from pressed-in stem caps to screwed-in ones. Instead, the photos and text convey the passion that Herse and his riders felt not so much for their bikes, as exquisite as they were, but for the rides that these machines made possible.

Randonneuring, touring, or competitions like the Poly de Chanteloup (above) – for these riders, cycling was not just a pastime, it was a way of life.


Even the studio photos of the most amazing Herse bikes are not just for collectors. Anybody who enjoys beautiful bicycles will marvel at the elegant design and flawless execution of the machines made by the “magician of Levallois”.


It’s been especially gratifying that some of the most positive comments have come from readers who are anything but collectors. A friend’s wife enjoyed the book because of the stylish cycling clothes these riders wore. Others loved the tandeming couples shown in the historic photos.

Constance Winters summed it up in her blog, Lovely Bicycle:

“Although normally I am a fast reader, it took me weeks to get through René Herse. Not because it was hard-going (quite the opposite), but because it made me strangely excitable. In the process of reading it, I was given to sudden urges to jump up and pace the room at random. Other sections forced me to pause and mull over the information, even take notes. Far from a dry academic volume, it is a book that is thoroughly alive – bursting with stories, information and ideas.

“Nevertheless, if you are not the bookish type, be assured that it gives satisfaction also as a picture-book. The photos [are] as stunning in their variety as they are in their narrative qualities.”

You can read her full review here. “Bursting with stories, information and ideas” – I am happy that Constance was touched by the René Herse book in the same way as I was when I researched this amazing story.


Some day, I want to write a René Herse book for collectors. There is a wonderful story there, too, as Herse refined his bicycles in every detail until they were (almost) unimprovable. From Herse’s archives, we can trace which employee was building the frames during each period. We have good estimates of how many bikes Herse built each year. The different catalogues, order forms and other correspondence have an aesthetic quality that matches that of the bikes. It’ll be a neat book, but until then, we hope that all readers enjoy the passionate story of René Herse, his bikes and their riders. This story has little to do with bicycle collecting – it’s all about the beauty and joy that cycling brings to our lives. I hope it will inspire future generations as much as it has inspired me!

Click here for more information about our books.

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Compass Knickers: Back In Stock, and in New Sizes


The Compass knickers have been our most popular product ever. The gray color sold out within days, and the tan ones weren’t far behind!

Our local supplier worked overtime, and we now have the second batch of gray knickers in stock. (To save time, we limited ourselves to only one color for this rush order.)

Matt, who makes the knickers right here in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, reports that they are devilishly difficult to make, with their hidden, adjustable, elastic cuffs. He is the only one at his company who can sew them, and we are glad he did an awesome job for us once again.


We are now offering the gray color in sizes 38 and 40 in response to many requests. People had specific concerns about how sizes larger than 36 should fit, so we prototyped those sizes and had 2 cyclists test the size 40. They both really liked them, and they fit well. The cut of the knicker is on the roomy side on the sides of the thigh, so the fabric doesn’t constrict you when cycling – it’s a bit hard to see it in the photos above, but it was one thing that our testers noticed while they stood in front of the mirror, before they took them out on the bike. Once on the bike, they really liked the fit, and the loose fit didn’t billow in the wind or slow them down otherwise.

The tan color also is available in the sizes from our introductory run, sizes 28 through 36, but not in the larger sizes 38 and 40 yet.

The top photo shows the knickers in summer, but as you can see in the bottom photo, they also work well when worn with tights underneath. The knickers don’t have a pad – wear them over your normal cycling shorts. When riding, they disappear (I did the last third of Paris-Brest-Paris with them, and they never slowed me down), but off the bike, you look stylish and presentable.

Click here for more information or to order your Compass knickers.


Posted in Clothing | 4 Comments

Price Reduction for International BQ Subscriptions


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.

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