What´s the most striking parallel between Bicycle Quarterly and this blog? Correct, the lapse in publication of three months or so.
Recently the new issue of Jan Heine´s Bicycle Quarterly arrived, alas in the midst of yet another hectic week so that I just could not find the time to read it properly. When I did it was another great experience, even more so than the preceding issues. As usual, both photography and language are crisp and precise, there is an academic approach not found in any other cycling mag I am aware of, and Jan manages to keep his cycle parts business and his journalistic standards apart by using his famous disclosures that BQ´s sister company sells the product reviewed. In fact, his impartiality in testing has broken friendships and led to concerns that no cycle manufacturer would submit any more bikes, which is quite something.
The whole project of a bicycle mag about mostly French randonneuring cycles developed from a series of articles in the Rivendell Reader in 2002. While I don´t (yet) have the issues in which Jan´s articles appeared, here´s a snap of two comparable covers, #19 the earlier, and #29 the later design, of course:
The copy used by Grant Petersen was entertaining to read, though sometimes a little stressful; wanting to be different at any cost, getting across the Californian style of cycling, a touch of esoteric stretchiness. Why do I mention this? Look at the first two issues of Jan´s VBQ:
Do you notice the similarities in design? Masthead, loads of copy on the cover page, a headline in between. Both of course tie in with a number of other publications, especially scientific reviews, but still. However, Jan´s texts were different from Grant´s right away – in the beginning Jan didn´t sell any goods and he applied a strictly scientific style of writing. Small wonder looking at Jan´s background.
What a development to the latest issue, in full colour and sporting 74 pages:
So, what makes this, the latest, issue special? I guess first there is a high personal longing level on my side with a number of articles resulting from Jan and his co-worker Hahn Rossman´s visit to Japan.
Their article on a tour of the Japanese Alps describes something I would really, really like to repeat some time as a visit to Japan and its progressive cycle industry is a dream I have harboured for a long time. Jan describes Japan as a thoroughly fascinating country and its inhabitants as just as thoroughly friendly and blessed with a sense for coping and having great ideas as the result.
For instance: What do you do when you have one of the most highly developed train systems in the world but when this system doesn´t cater for cyclists? You develop an ingenious idea which makes the solution look simple:
This then goes into a bag which meets Japanese train requirements. A complete bike was reduced to what you see in the photo in 12 minutes with the help of two Allen keys only, and even though the owner of the bike performs this little wonder regurlarly, there is hardly a scratch on it, due to the Japanese knack for packing things. Note how the rear mudguard separates just aft of the brake bridge. Also the headset comes to bits without any special tools. And I love the quick release pedals.
The people behind all this are some of the world´s best and most famous steel frame builders. Names like Toei, Nagasawa, Hirose and Zunow come to mind instantly, but also Grand Bois (the make Jan and Hahn tested when they toured in Japan) and Iribe are not to be forgotten. There is a good list of them on the Velo Orange Blog.
The next big issue is the myth busting article regarding Campagnolo. I can already hear a number of long-standing Campag collectors grumbling, but as per ususal Jan´s findings are well-documented and his approach is not clouded by the uncritical behaviour induced by too many advertisements which keep staff on many cycling mags on their toes not to cross any ad customers.A number of contemporary illustrations accompany the text – like this one showing two precursors of the famous Campa Gran Sport derailleur (right): The 1946 JIC, incorporating a return spring, and the 1937 Nivex, introducing the parallelogram principle. Jan asks himself if Tullio Campagnolo knew about the JIC – that he bought two specimens of the Nivex seems to be certain.
Lastly, I personally am glad that despite the huge development that Jan´s magazine has taken over the last 12 years, the hand made, personal feel is still there. The test bike isn´t ready yet? OK, let´s put it through its paces it without mudguards. After all, it should work just as well. An accident? It can´t mar a major article on another bike – the copy will be adapted so that the reader still knows all the important facts. I hope this way of publishing will continue for a long time.
Disclosure: I have not been paid for writing this post. Sadly, I have not been paid for any post so far. There must be something wrong with my blog.
All the photos, except my crummy snaps of the old mags, are courtesy Bicycle Quarterly.