Compass Tires Back in Stock

The container with Compass tires has arrived, and all sizes are now available again. We thank you for your patience as we continue to work hard to keep all our products in stock. Enjoy the little video of our Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ Extralight tires in action!

Click here for more information about our tires.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Tires Have Landed – Pre-Order Now!

We try to keep our products in stock. For us, bicycles are necessities, and their parts should be available at all times. So we are really sorry that some of our tires have been out of stock. We simply hadn’t planned on demand in Europe taking off as it has. And making tires by hand takes time, so we couldn’t just ask Panaracer in Japan to make more at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, our most popular sizes have been in stock all along.

We are glad to report that the NYK Nebula that carries the container with our latest tire shipment from Japan has docked in Tacoma. After unloading and customs’ clearance, the shipment will arrive at the Compass warehouse next week. Then, Compass tires will be in stock again in all sizes, including the new tubeless-compatible Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm.

Many customers have asked to be alerted when the tires arrive. We are now taking pre-orders, so that you can be among the very first to get your tires. Your credit card will be charged now, and your order will be shipped as soon as the tires arrive. At that time, you’ll receive a shipping confirmation, so you know your tires are on the way.

Or you can just wait until the tires are in our warehouse. We’ll make another announcement then.

Click here to order your Compass tires.

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Paul Components Interview

7 Questions with Jan Heine, of Bicycle Quarterly

We always enjoy to learn how others see Compass Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly. Paul Component Engineering has been making CNC-machined bike components in Chico, California for over 25 years. Like Compass, Paul focuses on quality, craftsmanship and making parts that last a lifetime.

Paul’s monthly email newsletters show how their components are made, provide stories of rides and events, and interview leaders in the bike industry. Past interviews have included Steve Rex, Curt Inglis, Mark Norstad (Paragon Machine Works), Ira Ryan and others. When Paul Components asked to interview me, I was delighted to say yes. Some of the questions were quite unexpected. Here is the interview as it appeared in the Paul Components newsletter. Enjoy!

Paul has been a fan of Jan’s for a long time, especially after discovering a shared interest in vintage sports cars and, of course, vintage bikes.

Bicycle Quarterly has great photography, it’s never dumbed down, and that’s one of the main reasons people like Paul love it – because it’s smart.

Because Jan gives scientific explanations as to why something works or doesn’t work. It’s a slightly more serious, more technical publication, a niche much appreciated and needed. You learn things from reading Jan.

So we want to learn a few things about him:

1. Your original magazine was Vintage Bicycle Quarterly – Where did the idea come from for starting that magazine?

I wrote for a bunch of other magazines back then as a hobby – Bicycle Trader, On The Wheel, Rivendell Reader. One by one, they stopped publishing, but I had all those amazing stories about French cyclotourists, builders and their bikes. I wanted to share them, so I decided to put together a little newsletter for a few friends. Grant Petersen published a note underneath my article in his Reader, and I had 150 subscribers before I even had put the first word to paper. I realized that a xeroxed newsletter wouldn’t do, so I took the plunge and made a real magazine. Over the last 15 years, it has grown steadily from there – we now have more than 15,000 readers all over the world.

2. One of your biggest campaigns was that skinny, high pressure tires don’t roll any faster than a fatter low pressure tires. How does it feel to be vindicated on this?

It feels good that so many people enjoy their rides more, because they don’t have to choose between comfort and performance any longer. The latest “Allroad” bikes we test for Bicycle Quarterly are so much fun to ride, because they can go on any road – paved, gravel and even single-track – without giving up anything in speed to a classic racing bike with narrow tires. This has changed how we ride, and it’s gratifying to share this experience with cyclists all over the world.

3. Tell us a little about the progression from writing about bikes to actually producing and selling products? What inspired you to take that leap?

It’s easy to be a critic, much harder to do things better. I love riding bikes, so instead of bemoaning that the parts I wanted to use weren’t available, I decided to make them – starting with supple high-performance tires in useful widths, and continuing with handlebars, cranks, racks and other parts. Each product we sell or import starts with our own riding experience, where we ask: “Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a part like this?” And then we make prototypes, test them, modify them, and finally OK a new component for production.

4. Did you come from a publishing background and then acquire the business acumen later or was it the other way around?

Actually, I came from a science background. For my Ph.D., I studied climate change on a fellowship from NASA. And I have always loved riding bikes. So it was natural to do real scientific studies of how to make better bikes for the type of riding I love. I really don’t know much about business. Compass just makes the parts that we need for our own adventures, and we hope that others want them as well. We make them to the highest quality possible, rather than to a pre-determined price. That is our entire business plan, and so far, it’s worked out OK.

I also know very little about publishing, so I started a magazine that is financed by subscribers rather than advertisers. Everybody says that is the wrong way around, but it is liberating not to worry about advertisers when writing articles or doing research. We did our first tire tests during the Lance Armstrong years. I doubt a mainstream magazine could have asked the question whether wider tires roll as fast as narrow ones, when the bike industry was pushing narrow-tire racing bikes.

5. Where did your love of vintage bikes come from and was it a tough move to move into more contemporary bikes?

I love riding bikes. That is really what has inspired all my work. I love the stories and photos of riders on lonesome gravel roads high in the mountains more than vintage bikes that you also see in these photos. Even our best-selling book about the French constructeurs – The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles – is really about the stories that these bikes tell, and not so much about the bikes and their components.

These stories have inspired us to seek out old gravel roads in the Cascades, and we’ve found that sometimes, classic components work better for this type of riding than new ones. That is how I came to discuss centerpull brakes with Paul, which led to the development of the Paul Racer… Or we discovered that certain classic handlebar shapes work much better for long rides, so Compass offers them again.

Now that modern bikes once again are suitable for the type of riding I love, it’s natural that you see them in Bicycle Quarterly more. It’s not about modern or classic – what I want is a bike that beckons me to seek out little mountain roads that lead into adventure.

6. You’re a lover of vintage sports cars – have you worked in that field at all? Do you currently restore old cars or have other project on the burner in that area?

My love for cars is almost entirely platonic. I admire the beauty and creative engineering solutions of many great old cars. A friend is restoring an amazing 1940s Cisitalia that is made from bicycle tubes – the first car with a spaceframe, which revolutionized race car construction. I have a similar appreciation for steam locomotives, but owning one of those would be even less practical than owning a classic car. For photoshoots and book projects, I do get to work on classic bikes. I love the machines made by the great French constructeurs: René Herse, Alex Singer, Jo Routens, Daudon. They have taught me a lot about bicycles, and especially that the current way of doing things may not always be the best!

7. On a scale of 1-10, how afraid of the dark are you?

Zero. I love the dark. I love riding my bike across the mountains during full moon nights. Sometimes, I turn off my headlight and ride by the moonlight alone. I am a great fan of the night-time photography of Ansel Adams, Winston Link and Jim Shaughnessy (the latter two photographed steam railroads).

Further reading:

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Better Headset Spacers


Spacers with a flat surface on the inner diameter can help prevent your headset from loosening. Just to clarify: If your headset stays put as it is, then don’t change it! It’s just that my headsets kept loosening on two different bikes, and so I was looking for a solution.

Classic headsets use a locknut at the top to maintain the headset’s adjustment. It’s essential to prevent the upper headset cup and locknut from turning together, as this would loosen the headset. A keyed washer between the top cup and nut stops that rotation – in theory. In practice, this system does not always work: The keyed washer tends to turn anyhow, because the key is too small. And you cannot make it bigger without weakening the steerer tube.

When the washer is made from steel, it can mess up your steerer tube’s threads if it turns (very bad). With an aluminum washer, the steerer tube simply cuts new threads as the washer turns (not good). In both cases, the key is not sufficient to stop the washer from rotating.


The solution is simple: Use a flat surface on the steerer tube, and a matching flat surface on the spacer, to provide more material area than a narrow key. French bikes (and some British ones) used that system, and it worked better. The headset cup doesn’t turn with enough force to cut threads into all that aluminum.

Compass made the spacer taller than a simple washer, which provides even more material to resist the turning torque. And since the spacer is so effective in preventing the system from rotating, it’s not necessary to tighten the headset locknut with force. A little more than finger-tight is sufficient to keep it from loosening. You can use a single headset wrench: Tighten the top headset cup first, insert the spacer, then (lightly) tighten the locknut. Don’t overtighten the locknut, otherwise, the spacer can jam.


It’s easy to retrofit your bike with this system: Machine or file a flat on the back of the steerer tube that matches the inside of the spacer. This doesn’t weaken the fork: You only remove the raised portion of the thread, which didn’t add any strength to the steerer.


I’ve used prototypes of these spacers on my Mule for thousands of miles and dozens of Rinko disassemblies. They have performed great, and they’ve solved the loosening of the headset on this bike.


We now offer the spacers in 5 mm and 10 mm thickness. If you need an in-between thickness, just add standard headset washers (without tabs) to make up the difference. Or cut a few millimeters off your steerer tube to match the spacer, as I did on my Mule.

Click here for more information or to order these spacers. As I said before, if your headset works fine, don’t change it. But if it keeps coming loose, this may be the solution.

Posted in Stems | 32 Comments

Using Handlebar Bags on Modern Bikepacking Bikes

Bikepacking is popular because it allows you to go places where bikes with panniers face difficulties. Bikepacking bags are inside the outline of the bike, so you can go anywhere an “empty” bike can go. Pushing the bike is easier, too, when there are no bags hanging off the sides.

The only problem with bikepacking bags is that their carrying capacity is limited. Frame bags must fit between your legs, making them very narrow. Top tube bags are even smaller, plus they can get in the way of your knees when you rock the bike while riding out of the saddle. Large saddlebags hold a bit more, but they can give the bike that dreaded “tail wagging the dog” feel.

That is why more and more riders adopt handlebar bags as part of their bikepacking luggage. Handlebar bags fit inside the handlebars, so they don’t encumber the bike in rough terrain. Shaped like a cube, they offer an excellent volume-to-weight ratio. Putting the load on the front helps keep the front wheel on the ground during steep climbs, yet the wheels are easy to lift across logs and other obstacles on the trail.

Handlebar bags have one drawback: They work best when supported by a small front rack. How do you fit a rack on a modern bike?

The Compass UD-1 rack was specifically designed for this purpose. (UD stands for “Universal/Disc”.) The rack is adjustable to make it compatible with many bikes. It is available with two lengths of struts, depending on where the braze-ons are located on your fork. The extra-long struts work even with eyelets on the front dropouts. The rack is lightweight, yet strong enough to support a large handlebar bag.

I recently mounted a UD-1 rack on Bicycle Quarterly‘s Specialized Sequoia test bike. Installation was easy: I used the standard-length struts. After mounting the rack, I marked where the struts extended above the rack platform, then removed the struts to cut them to length. With a file, I rounded the ends of the struts. After mounting the struts again, the bike was ready to roll.

The UD-1 rack’s simplicity is key to its strength and light weight. The platform is made from ultra-strong and lightweight CrMo, while the aluminum struts are easy to shorten to the required length. The rack platform sits level above the front wheel, and it incorporates a mounting point for a front fender.

Key to the rack’s elegance is the strut attachment on the inside of the platform, rather than on the outside as on many other racks. Compared to the other Compass racks, we widened the platform to make it all come together functionally and aesthetically.

The crown of the Sequoia’s carbon fork has a countersunk hole, so I used a brake nut (above) to attach the rack. That provides a very clean look, as the nut is recessed into the fork. For the Sequoia’s large fork crown, I used an extra-long nut (not shown).

With the rack installed, the Sequoia became much more versatile. With a handlebar bag, I finally could carry the gear I needed for my rides with ease. And I found that the Sequoia’s high-trail geometry tolerates a front load well.

The next step to make the bike even more enjoyable would be installing the Compass light mount, a headlight and a generator hub. Then I could enjoy the bike even after the sun goes down.

The UD-1 rack is a great solution for bikes with disc or cantilever brakes that aren’t specifically designed for rack mounting. As long as you have eyelets on the fork blades or on the dropouts, and a hole in the fork crown, you should be able to mount this rack. And yet it’s not a compromise solution: It offers performance, durability and beauty similar to other Compass racks.

Click here for more information about Compass racks.

Posted in Racks/Bags | 45 Comments

Ride to the Tulips

Guest post by Natsuko Hirose, Bicycle Quarterly.

On a rainy Sunday, I visited a farmers’ market in Seattle, instead of going cyclotouring. I saw many tulips for sale. Often, I forget about the seasons, because I am so busy. I wondered why there were so many tulips. Jan explained: “It’s the season of tulips.”

Later that day, I researched places to go cyclotouring near Seattle. I asked Jan: “Where is the Skagit Valley?” – “Not too far from here.” Jan explained that it was a popular tourist attraction, so he had never seen the tulips, because cyclotourists often try to avoid the crowds. But I am a tourist, so I wanted to visit!

The next Sunday, we were greeted by sunny weather as we started our ride in Mount Vernon. I was surprised how much traffic there was, and tulip symbols were everywhere. I was excited – it was a clear sign that there would be many tulips to see. And we hoped to avoid the traffic by staying off the main highways.

We rode on back roads and even atop a levee, and we had the roads to ourselves. Cycling here was fun. And it was sunny! Finally, after all the rain in Seattle, it felt like spring had arrived.

We passed Jackpot Lane, and saw a classic car for sale. “Comes with spare engine” said the sign on the windshield. In Japan, cars usually are sold at dealers, so this was an interesting discovery.

The fields were colorful with yellow flowers: dandelions. Spring really had come. But where were the tulips?

We joined a road that was marked as part of the Tulip Route. But still no tulips!

Our hearts beat faster when we saw yellow blossoms in the distance, but they turned out to be daffodils. Beautiful, but no tulips!

Finally we saw a long line of parked cars in the distance. And to the side were colorful fields. We had found the tulips!

For me, it was an amazing sight. After the gray winter in Seattle, seeing so many vivid blossoms reminded me that life can be full of color and joy!

The tourists all gathered in one place where the tulips were in full bloom. We explored dirt paths and found the fields where workers were picking the tulips that we had seen at the farmers’ market. The blossoms had not yet opened. They looked so fresh and crisp. We realized that the other tulips were planted for the tourists, to show how beautiful tulips can be. These ones were going to bring joy to people’s lives all over.

We left the tulip fields behind and continued to the fishing town of La Conner, where we ate lunch on the bank of the Swinomish Channel.

The Skagit Flats are really flat and criss-crossed by the many arms of the Skagit River. Around Tokyo, the flat areas are densely populated and not so good for cycling. But here, we could find small roads that had no traffic. It reminded me of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. It was very romantic.

The sun was almost setting when we returned to Mount Vernon. It had been fun to meander through the fields, cross the rivers and channels on high bridges, and cycle on quiet backroads.

We had bought postcards from a local artist at a small store in the countryside, so the tulips continued to ride with us.

Now I remember the tulips we bought on that rainy Sunday, which led us to explore the Skagit Valley. It was a fun ride, and of course, we bought more tulips. They continue to brighten our dining room. Tulip season continues. Enjoy the spring!

Posted in Rides | 8 Comments

“I’m practically living in them” – Compass Knickers Review

I really like our cyclotouring knickers. They are based on a design I discovered in Japan. The ones we offer are a development from that, a little lighter and even better for spirited riding. I’ve been wearing mine on almost every ride since we introduced them. So it’s no surprise that I like them – I developed them!

That is why it’s important to get independent feedback. The ideal reviewer would be somebody who isn’t interested in Allroad cycling or cyclotouring. How about a mountain biker who is into 29ers (not 650B mountain bikes!)? Enter the blogger “Grannygear” at

Not only did he review the knickers, he even bought them with his own money. The first we found out about the review was when it was published. (I got permission to quote him, but the photos are our own due to copyright restrictions.) Here is what had to say about the Compass knickers:

“I not only wore them for an 8-hour road trip, I practically lived in them. […] I really, really like them. On the bike, they never bind or pinch or ride up or ride down. Pedaling is easy. […] They breathe well in hot temps and dry fast.

“They are cut slightly higher in the back at the waist, so they do not ride down at all. They do pack up very small, and I can’t get them to wrinkle no matter how much I stuff them when stored.”

Dislikes? The small openings of the pockets. We agree, by the way, which is we’ve already enlarged the pocket openings since his knickers were made.

He wrote: “Other than the pocket openings, I can’t think of anything I do not like about them, and they are made right here is the U S of A.”

Thank you, Grannygear!

You can read the full review here, and you can order your own Compass knickers here.

Posted in Clothing | 37 Comments