Compass Elk Pass vs. Pasela Tourguard, Part I

I recently had an experience involving a flat that restored my faith in Portland cyclists, and maybe in humanity itself.  I was riding to work on my beloved Terry Symmetry, which is equipped with 26″ (559) wheels front and rear.  While crossing the Tilikum Bridge, I experienced a flat, so pulled over to get out the tools needed to install a new tube.  Unfortunately, the tube I was carrying would not hold air.  As I contemplated my fate, thinking I would walk the bike, or take the Max train, a friendly cyclist rode up to ask me if I needed anything.  I mentioned that my replacement tube was compromised, and she reached in her bag to offer her spare tube.  Taking a quick gander at her bike, with its flat bars, I mistakenly assumed that she was riding 26 inch wheels.  She rode off before I could even offer payment for the tube she supplied, and that is a favor I intend to pay forward.  However, the 700c tube (622 mm) I had in my hand needed to go into my 559 mm rim.  Well, it did.

I barely inflated it, and gingerly installed the Pasela TourGuard folder back onto the rim, and was reminded why I carry FOUR tire irons in my tool kit.  The Paselas are a tight fit on these Mavic X221 rims, both on and off.  While I was underway with getting the bike back on the road, using very low pressure for the too large tube, a nearby construction worker asked me whether flats are a common problem.  To which I replied, no.

I have had more flats on my Terry, with its Pasela Tourguards than on any other tires I ride, but that is too say only once every year or two.  Even so, as I was thinking about the fact that the only tires I ever have flats on are these Paselas on the Terry, maybe it was time to consider something different.

Compass Elk Pass 559s

Pasela TourGuard 559s

Based on Georgena Terry’s recommendation, I ordered a set of Compass Elk Pass tires.  As you can see above, these tires have no tread at all, and have a kind of cross-hatch pattern on the very flexible side wall.  The logo is understated relative to the Pasela’s.  Both tires are made by Panasonic.

Elk Pass width – a little over 28mm

Pasela width – a little over 30mm

I was hoping that the Elk Pass tires would be at least as wide as the Pasela’s, but that was not that case.  The Elk Pass tires mounted at a little over 28mm on the Mavic rims, whereas the Paselas are a little over 30 mm in width.  Both tires are marketed as 32 mm tires.  I suspect that the Elk Pass tires will widen over time, but probably they will never be 32mm on my rims.

I also questioned my sanity when I read this warning on the Elk Pass packaging:  “This tire is made of very sensitive material.  Never use the tire when you drive on unpaved road, mountain trail and waste land.  Please be careful of flat tire due to side wall cutting by fallen rocks…”  Hmmm…are these tires so delicate that commuting on them will rip them to shreds?  I am not sure, and hope that this is just a wacky result of over zealous product liability advisors.

Now that I have the Elk Pass tires mounted, which involved over-inflating them so that they would seat properly on the rims, then bringing the pressure back down, I am going to test them out on my Portland commute, which includes occasional rough roads and some gravel riding.  I will follow up with a second post once I’ve ridden these tires for a few hundred miles.  As far as tire pressure goes, I am going to start with 70 psi rear and 60 psi front, which is the tire pressure I have used on the Pasela’s.  We will see how that goes.

1990’s Georgena Terry Symmetry

A Terry Symmetry frame, built up to my specifications.

About 8 years ago I bid on a NOS 1990’s Terry Symmetry steel frame on eBay.  I was at that time searching for the perfect bike to fill the gap left by my crashed (in 1999) 1976 Centurion Pro Tour.  I had purchased and ridden quite a few bikes since then, but none of them “took”.  I won the auction for the Terry frame, but when it arrived, I saw that one of the downtube shifter bosses was damaged, and perhaps that was why the frame had never been built.  The seller was shocked that he hadn’t noticed this, and he reimbursed me for the costs I incurred to have the frame repaired.

Damaged shifter boss

Nice hand lettering on the Georgena Terry logos

I took the frame to Oregon Manifest winner Tony Pereira, who re-brazed a new downtube shifter boss.  That involved removing the existing lavender sparkle paint in the immediate area around the shifter braze-ons.  His painter was not able to match the paint exactly, so instead came up with the perfect solution of using an accent color.  You can see in the above photos the new blue accent color and the perfectly executed hand-lettering of the Georgena Terry logos.  Now my Terry frame sports a custom paint job!

Georgena Terry is an engineer by training.  She is an avid cyclist, and after the frustration of not finding a bicycle appropriate for smaller cyclists, she began building bicycle frames in her basement, and by 1985 introduced the first steel Terry hand-built bicycle, designed specifically for the dimensions and stature of women’s bodies.  If you don’t know anything about her, you’ll be amazed by this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDRbinNduhM

If we use the term “womankind” to signify all human beings, as is always done with the term “mankind”  then we would have bicycles sized for such beings – who are on average about 5’4″ in height.  Such bicycles would have appropriately sized wheels (probably 26 inch or smaller), and bicycle frame geometry would reflect the correct dimensions of such a human.  Georgena’s initial frame geometry solution was to keep the big 700c wheel at the back, which was the industry standard at the time, and to use a smaller wheel on the front – a 24 incher.  This meant that the steel frame for the rider could be quite large, with a hefty headtube, but still be “as fast” as any other bike out there due to the 700c rear wheel.

Georgena Terry Classic – courtesy of georgenaterry.com

While I am one of those cyclists that prefers the look of a bicycle with the same sized wheels front and rear, this design proved wildly successful and womankind was pleased, as finally they had bikes to fit their bodies.  Since then, Georgena has researched the anatomy and physiology of women riders, and has incorporated her findings into her latest endeavor:  Hand built steel bicycles – both custom and off the shelf, built by Waterford and engineered by Georgena, having sold her interest in Terry Precision Bicycles back in 2009. All of the bikes she builds now feature the same sized wheels front and rear (559s usually), plus many frames designed with a sloping top tube.  They are typically built with Waterford OS2 double butted steel. Her bicycles have some unique characteristics:  large head tube, very little BB drop, steep seat tube angle, slack head tube angle, vertical drop outs, long chainstays, and minimal fork rake. Some of these characteristics are not necessarily what I seek in a bike frame, yet the Terry Symmetry that I ride regularly is one of my most comfortable and treasured bicycles!

One of my theories about this bike’s amazing comfort is the large head tube – made possible by the almost negligible bottom bracket drop of 35 mm.  The frame is “square” meaning that the seat tube and top tube are the same length – 51 cm.  With the minimal drop, there’s a high bottom bracket -about 28 cm.  You’d think I would hate this frame, but instead, having all that steel (Tange tubing which is TIG welded) under me helps to absorb road shock, and is much more flexible than a smaller frame would be. The frame is a bit tall for me – but, who cares?  I often ride pretty tall frames. The most important measurement for frame comfort is the top tube.  In this case, it’s only 51 cm – much shorter than many “smaller” frames, and that’s why I feel so relaxed on this bike – my hands naturally connect with my Nitto Rando bars with no effort at all.

I set this bike up with some of my favorite components:  Shimano bar end shifters, Shimano side pull brakes, Shimano brake levers, and my 1984 Shimano 600 crankset and front derailleur (taken off my old Davidson) which apparently will never wear out!  I ordered a Harris custom 8 speed cassette after riding the bike for a while with an off the shelf unit.

I built the wheels myself (Mavic X221 32 hole rims on Shimano hubs), converting the bike from its original 650c wheel size to 559, and after years of service my wheels have never gone out of true.  Because this bike has minimal clearance (it was built in the sad “racing” days of yore), I needed to mount my fenders over the top of the fork and rear brake bridge.  I cut up an ancient Bluemels fender set which was pretty long in the tooth.  But, the fenders are holding up well.  Recently, I switched out my p-clamps on the front fork (which had no eyelets), for a Velo Orange fender bracket.  The bracket cleans up the look on the front end, but makes front wheel removal much more finicky. I use Panasonic Panaracer Tourguard folders on this bike which have been comfortable and reliable.  Georgena Terry is now recommending Compass Elk Pass 559 Road Tires for her bikes (also made by Panasonic), so I may try those out whenever the Panaracer’s wear out.  But, meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy this wonderful bicycle which I always look forward to riding.

 

Look Ma, No Clearance

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Yes, I sliced up a set of funky vintage Bluemels in order to safely get full coverage fenders on my regular commuter – a 1990’s Terry Symmetry.  At first I had mounted them intact underneath the brake bridge and fork crown – leaving me about 4 mm of clearance, and that was after I switched to narrower 28 mm tires.  I knew I was tempting the clearance gods, and sure enough, a small piece of debris got wedged in there while I was traveling very slowly (thank those gods), and that was enough to convince me that it was time to try a different solution.

Fortunately, many have heard the call of frustrated road bike riders who want full coverage fenders but who purchased their machines during the dark, racing-fad era that finally ended just a few years ago. Such bikes are typically built with inadequate clearance for fenders, and no clearance at all if you want to run wider tires.  Now, you can find conversion brackets at a number of outlets that will allow you to essentially use modified rack mounting brackets to mount fenders over the top of the rear brake bridge and on either side of the fork crown.  River City offers a set for a mere $15.

Since I already had a bunch of these brackets lying around, I decided to make use of what I had available.  I also needed to create some more of Sheldon’s “fender nuts” which involves tapping the recessed brake mounting nut (not too far down), and using a short bolt.

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After measuring, I cut a small section out of the rear fender.  I didn’t like the look of two giant brackets, so for the seat post side of the rear fender I used a small bracket from a hardware store and modified it, which gives a cleaner look.  That took about 10 minutes.

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For the front fender, I did not remove any material, but cut it directly in front of the fork crown mounting bracket.  That way I could get more coverage around the front wheel.  The front section is cantilevered over the tire, and it does rattle every now and then, but not excessively so.  The mount behind the fork crown was more problematic.  I needed to get the fender up higher than the original bracket provided for, so I mangled up another hardware store bracket to come up with this unattractive solution.  I’ll replace this with a simpler and prettier solution (someday, maybe, when I get around to it, probably, eventually).

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Meanwhile, the fenders are doing their job.  My homemade mudflap is picking up the debris that would normally hit my bottom bracket, which now looks pristine, even after a rainy, muddy ride.  And the fenders themselves feel very securely mounted – I’ve had no trouble with them at all.  Even better, I was able to remount my 32 mm tires, which I much prefer to use, especially during the winter.  And, it’s nice to be able to ride around with some vintage Bluemel’s, which look great on the Terry, and add to its fun mix of new and vintage components.

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