Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bicycle Quarterly: My favorite piece of mail by far.

As the new issue of Bicycling Quarterly arrived in the mail the other day, I was again reminded of how much I love this journal with its esoteric preoccupation with classic French and English mid-century randonneuring bicycles. Jan Heine, the journal’s editor and principle writer, is a seemingly tireless advocate of all things rando and Bicycle Quarterly rarely disappoints.

BQ is part bike porn, part how-to-manual for the D.I.Y. set, part product review compendium and part travelogue. The crisp black and white photos of classic and modern handbuilt frames are drool-worthy and the high quality paper on which BQ is printed ensures that back issues will land on a special place on a bookshelf for future perusal rather than in the recycling bin like so much else being published about bicycles today.

Major features of BQ are the bike tests and product reviews undertaken by Jan and his friends in the Pacific Northwest. The bike tests have a decidedly scientific methodology and read like a cross between a scientific paper and an episode of "Mythbusters." Jan and his crew tackle the big issues of bicycle efficiency like aerodynamics, the impact of rider weight on speed, tire width on comfort, etc.  Many of their findings seem counterintuitive, like the fact the wide tires are generally faster than skinny tires; that shock absorbing forks are not as effective as wide, soft tires at shock absorption along with many others. Having developed tons of bad habits over the years, I have recently changed aspects of my cycling technique as a result of the BQ articles I have read. I now break with my front break almost exclusively and my handling skills are better than they’ve ever been on descents and elsewhere.

The reviews of equipment and gear of particular interest to randonneurs like lightweight baggage and lighting hardware are peerless. What material is best for waterproof luggage: canvas or synthetics? What lights are better for fast descents at night: LED or HID, dynamo or battery powered? The pages of Bicycle Quarterly are also filled with exciting stories of epic rides both recent and historical from around the globe as well as profiles and historical essays on epic races, bike builders and their products.

I walk away from every issue of BQ inspired, having learned something important and immediately applicable about the sport I love. What’s more, BQ is validation of the beauty found in the esoteric corner of the cycling world known as randonneuring. As I sit here in mid-winter contemplating the season ahead, BQ provides me with inspiration and specific tips to make this year my best ever.

BQ is a must-read journal for all cyclists interested in randonneuring, touring or cycling generally for that matter. BQ does what all great journals can do – provides engaging entertainment, accurate and hard to find information and even creates community. If you do not subscribe – do yourself a favor and sign up today. Subscriptions are $30/year (US) and $55/year (International).   More information can be found on the BQ website.

1 comment:

  1. also my favorite piece of mail. The focus on rando and cyclo touring fills a void...