Compass Rene Herse Chinook Pass Extralight Tires

The title is rather lengthy but that is because Compass has re-branded itself in the time period in which I have been hoarding these tires. When I received the tires as a birthday gift from my siblings 3 years ago, Jan Heine’s company was called Compass and the line of tires made for them by Panaracer of Japan were branded Compass accordingly. The renaming of the company occurred in 2019 but these tires are essentially interchangeable with newer stock except for the sidewall labels.

The Chinook Pass tires I installed remain a listed item in the company’s catalogue and can be seen here:

The tires are available in two versions, the Standard which has a slightly more robust casing (248 gm) and the Extralight (229 gm) which is the subject of this article. At the time of writing, the Endurance casing is not offered in the Chinook Pass line. The difference in the two offerings is about 20 gms/.5 ounce. According to the on line catalogue specification, the inflated tire measures 28 mm on a 20 mm rim with the Extralight being slightly larger. More on this later.

What prompted the tire change was the not so gradual deterioration of my Avocet Fast Grip slicks on my black Bertin C 37 randonneuse. Originally purchased in 2006, the bike looked looked this on Maillard Helicomatic wheels.


The following year, having collected the requisite parts and cash, I spent C $1,100 restoring and modifying the bike. One of the changes was a new set of Avocet Fast Grip 700C x 32 wire bead tires since I intended to do randonnees with the Toronto Randonneurs/Randonneurs Ontario.  At that point, the bike looked like this:

The Avocets were excellent tires for the period, 300 gm (actual) in wire bead with a nominal 700C x 32 mm sizing. I say nominal because no tire I have ever installed actually measured the rated size once seated and inflated to the manufacturers’ specs. The actual size of the Avocets when inflated to 90 psi/6 BAR (rear) and 75 psi/5 BAR (front) was 28 mm when on Rigida 1320 alloy rims and the measurement was the same when I had new HF Maillard 700 wheels built with Velo Orange PBP alloy rims and then installed the Avocets.

The current problem with the Avocets was age. Over time, ozone attacks the rubber as does the UV radiation in sunlight and the rubber compounds off gas the solvents that initially keep the tire flexible and grippy. I knew 3 years ago that the end was near but the passage of time had made an option into an imperative.

The Avocets looked like this at replacement time:



Between tread cracking and accelerating sidewall delamination, it was past time to replace the tires but I hate installing Kevlar beaded tires so I had procrastinated. Since I was installing new Michelin tires on another project, I decided I would simply do the Michleins one day and the Compass Chinook Pass the next.

The next day, the 300 gm Michelin Dynamic Sport wire bead slicks went onto Rigida 1320s in a straight forward manner. (Very nice, well made, reasonably priced tire.) The next day was the turn of the Compass tires. At the start, they looked like this in the bags with the Extralight clearly marked on the packaging. At the time this is written, a Chinook Pass EL tire is US $83/C $112 so I was appreciative of my family’s generosity.


Unpackaged, the clean molding and careful workmanship became quite obvious with the tire even having an easily pealed cover over the sidewall model label visible as a shiny surface over the label in the next photo.



At this point the difficulties began. These tires appear to be flat molded which means there are no stresses built into the casing as the curved tire is molded to the wire beads. Instead, the Kevlar cord beads flex and flop around since these tires have exceptionally fine fabric in the casing. The tire was a challenge to get onto the initial rim bead of the front PBP rim which I thought might be due to my retention of the original Velox fiberglass reinforced rim tape (outstanding product, by the way). Nonetheless, the tire succumbed, seated itself on the rim and I began the tube installation. The tubes were butyl Kendas with 35 mm Presta valves in 700C x 28 sizing. These had come out of the Avocets and I foresaw no problem with their reuse.

Problem. The tubes could not be made to fit within the Compass’ casing. No matter what, as the second bead began to seat, the tube would pop out somewhere due to the flex in the Kevlar. After an hour of trying, I determined that I would use a 700C x 25 tube since that was what I had on hand but I was quite concerned about durability since over speccing tubes into larger casings leads to the tire being flat prone since the inner tube is overstretched and more likely to puncture, tear or have valve stem separations.

And the wretched tube slipped into place without pop outs or unseating as though it had been made for that size of tire. The final seating of the tire onto the rim was brutal. The Kevlar seems to not stretch or accommodate and it required three tire irons and brute force to get the tire seated. (As an aside, I talcum powder all my inner tubes and the interior of any tire to prevent the tire/tube combination sticking together. This is not done universally anymore but I have seen adhered tube/tire combos and this is an easy precaution.) Full marks to Compass/Rene Herse as a full colour, highly detailed, multi page photograhic installation guide was included with the tires that looked like the the illustration on the left. The newest version is linked here.

Once on the rim, lightly inflated and carefully seated in the rim beads (as per the illustrated instructions) the tire was gradually brought up to pressure while repeatedly being checked for bead seating and potential rim blow off. The front tire’s initial pressure was 80 psi/5.5 bar and the width was 25.5 mm measured with digital calipers.

The rear tire and tube installation went much smoother without the long and frustrating attempts to stuff an overly large tube into a too small tire casing. Nonetheless, the final several inches of the the Kevlar bead were a real struggle and a tire jack would have been quite useful. Again, the tire was inflated in easy stages, the tire bead to rim seating repeatedly checked and then the tire brought up to full pressure. For the back tire this was 100 psi/7 bar. At that pressure the tire’s width was 25.7 mm. It is clearly evident that tires are over measured for width calculations and therefore, it easily explains why the wretched 28 mm Kenda tube would not ever have fit into the Compass/Herse tire casing.

I installed the newly shod wheels into the Bertin’s frameset and allowed them to sit for a week, intending to check air pressure leak down with the new butyl tubes. After the full week, the front Chinook Pass was at 60 psi /4.1 bar and were 25.4 mm on the Velo Orange PBP alloy rim. The rear tire was at 75 psi/5.2 bar and measured 25.7 mm.

As a rider, with specific ideas of tire size and pressure related to your personal use of your tires, you should be aware that tire sizes seem to constantly end up undersized when installed. The original Avocet Fast Grip slicks were labelled as 700C x 32 but measured 28 mm when installed and at pressure. The Michelin Dynamic Sports  I mentioned earlier sized 700C x 23 measured 22 mm at pressure. And finally, the Compass Chinook Pass tires, installed on the PBP alloy rims, measured 25.5 – 26 mm when at the final pressures I settled on for my immediate riding use. When selecting tires, it may be prudent to actually up size your tire selection when intending a direct like for like replacement. If you want 28s get 32s, if you want to up size then go to 35s, but whatever you select, be aware that you will not fully know your tire size until the product is installed, set at your selected tire pressure and stretched out.

The Bertin now looks like this with the Compass/Rene Herse Chinook Pass tires installed: (click to enlarge for details)

As you can see from the profile photo above, the tires have very accurate molding and follow the fender contours at least as well as the Avocets. What worried me, initially, when I saw the effectively smaller tire sizing was that there would be visual gaps between the tires and the fenders. Thankfully, the tires sit within the fenders and fill them sufficiently full enough that you cannot see through the fenders which also means reduced splash from spray because the fender edge drop will be sufficiently to hold water within the fender.

Ride Evaluation:

Having done the installation and then the one week long pressure retention check, I was rather in a hurry to get out on the bike. I set the front tire pressure to 75 psi/5.1 bar and the rear tire pressure to 90 psi/6.2 bar. On the day of the ride I weighed 185 lbs (84 kg). The ride was on a previously ridden, fairly flat course and the wind was the same velocity and direction as the ride the previous week before the tire change. A disclaimer, if I may. I was sceptical of the enthusiastic and effusive comments I had read of the Compass/Herse brand tires performances. My experience with the Chinook Pass ELs is that this tire line is worthy of every ecstatic comment made about them. They are absolutely amazing. They roll with incredible ease, they swallow pavement buzz equally amazingly and they attenuate impacts very well indeed. There is a clear differentiation coming up through the seat and bars as you roll over different paving textures but it is muted. One odd difference where these tires under performed compared to the Avocets was on freshly rolled black asphalt. On the course I rode, fresh black top had been laid down on two side streets. I rode up one and down the other to even out wind effect and the Chinook Pass tires rolled slower than the Avocets. I put it down to the fresh, sticky rubber in the Compass tires compared to the older, dried out Avocets adhering easily to the oil and tar in the fresh paving. In every respect and by substantial margins, the narrower Compass ELs out performed the old, wider wire beaded Avocets. If you are considering randonneuring, if you just love the ride of a quick supple bike, if you wish to improve performance for the cost of a pair of tires buy these things, they are absolutely excellent!


A London Bertin C 10: Update

Back in 2017, Stuart Windsor of London was kind enough to share a series of before and after photographs of his Bertin C 10 city bike. This was a follow on to a C 37 restoration he had done and I was glad to be able to share the photos as racing/sport Bertins tend to get a lot of the attention and effort in regards to preservation  or complete restoration. The bike, as finished at that time, looked like this:


The C 10 after refurbishment


However, time moves along, things change as items are replaced, wear out or are upgraded. Since the photo above, Stuart has been busy adapting the bike to its urban life. Practical additions like a kickstand, rack, saddle upgrade with tool kit and a cargo box make it more useful around the neighbourhood. He’s been kind enough to forward me some photos which I have added here below:





Just a comment about the “trunk” on the Bertin. I live in the middle of one of Canada’s best known wine producing areas and that “trunk”  is suspiciously like the size of our local two wine bottle format gift boxes. Perhaps it’s only for baguettes from the local bakery…



Bertin C ?? Demontable

Recently, I received a request from a reader in Europe who had just acquired an older, small wheeled Bertin bicycle. It was a small wheel bike that looked like a folder but wasn’t. Normally, Bertin, like many French manufacturers, built folding (pliant) bikes which hinged in the middle or lower end of the down tube to permit compact storage in campers, boats, lockers or automobiles. The bike Nikola shared with me was a model with a frame which disassembled at the down tube joint to permit storage.

The bike had a quick release arrangement for doing this and looked so familiar I did a search through the blog and found a post with a similar bike from almost 10 years ago. In that case the person inquiring was from Berlin not Croatia but Norbert was equally curious about what it was that he had. The full post is here.

That bike was much less original than the current example but is the only other I have seen and I have never seen them catalogued. The 1974 catalogue lists the C 53, the C 55 and the C 59. Only the C 59 is non-folding and it has a rigid central tube and can not be disassembled. Nikola was kind enough to provide detailed photos of his bike which had a very narrow escape. When it was rescued, the bike was in the hands of a scrap metal seller who sold it to Nikola for 20 Euros, its scrap metal value. Amazingly, the bike is little used, the seat was covered and appears original, there does not seem to be any excessive rust and even the tires are original to the bike. Check out the details in the photos below:





Judging from the World Championship seat tube bands and the other decals, I would estimate that the bike is from the mid-1970s. During that period, Bertin’s folding/demountable bikes were often identified by number based on the bike’s wheel size. So a Bertin C 53 would have 530 diameter wheels and a C 55 would have 550 size wheels in turn. There are exceptions like the C 59 with 550 wheels and the children’s folding C 9 with 400 series wheels. Nonetheless, completely arbitrarily, without any direct proof, I’m going to call this demountable Bertin a C 50 based on its 500 A wheel diameter. Perhaps someone in the next nine or ten years can write to me with a correction. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy looking over the details of Nikola’s Bertin C 50 Demontable.

Cycles Andre Bertin Etsy Poster

While searching through Etsy the other day, I found a Cycle Andre Bertin poster that was quite familiar. For those of you who do not know Etsy, it is a sales site for those with craft items, art work, hand made jewellery and vintage items to sell. People have shops within the site and list and sell items from them. If the poster below looks familiar to you as well, it should because it is a reproduction of an original that I posted about back in 2017 as part of an occasional series on Bertin advertisements.




Now, the chances of finding an original of this 40 year old poster are quite slim but these reproductions are printed on lighter gauge watercolour paper with fade resistant inks and are shipped to buyers in tubes to avoid damage.

There are six poster sizes which vary from 11″ x 17″ (28 x 43 cm) at C $29.77 to as large as 43″ x 60″ (109 x 152 cm) at C $255.61.  Should you be curious, the Etsy shop link is here:

The seller also has a link on the site to his PosteraPosters site with a vast range of bicycle brand and themed posters as well.

Mafac LS, LS 2 and LSX Brake Pad Replacement Part 2

Once the restoration of my 1973 Carre/Bertin C 37 was finished, it only took until the first ride to discover that the stock OEM Mafac pads were hard, high effort and unsatisfactory, especially compared to my 1960s C 37 equipped with Mafac Competition centerpulls with aftermarket black, Kool Stop pads. The search was on to try and find some kind of workable replacement.

Mafac Pad Front View

The Mafac LS series shoes are angled to create toe-in when the shoe is mounted on the LS caliper arm. In addition, they have a nut inside the OEM alloy brake shoe to accept the brake shoe attachment bolt which means a replacement pad has to have a notched or relieved center section to fit. See the accompanying photo on the right of the screen to view both of these features. Also problematic are the tight tolerances in the brake shoes and pads themselves. Having measured pads around the workshop like generics as well as Weinmanns, I could not find an exact dimensional match to the Mafac LS pads. Consequently, I decided to take the easy way out and simply replace the whole shoe/pad assembly.

The easy way was not easy. I ordered, on line, an inexpensive set

Mafac Pad Side View

of YST shoes with chevron shaped braking surfaces to echo the Mafac pad shape. Once they arrived, the steel brake shoes looked comparatively poorly finished and once installed they did not toe in well or look the part of a high end brake as one might expect with such an inexpensive product. However, the pad rubber was soft and once sanded clean of mold flash, the shoes did stop the bike better than the 40 year old OEM Mafac pads. Brake feel and modulation was not great but the bike would stop and did so with less lever effort than the original pads. Faint praise.

YST Pads On Jagwire Bag

Part 2 of the easy way was to order another shoe/pad combination set but this time from Jagwire in the Weinmann X pattern pad configuration. A big name in brake components should yield big results. Not so much. The Jagwires were better finished and cleaned up the mold lines with relatively little sanding. However, even with the LS caliper arms designed in toe, the Jagwires were still nearly parallel to the rims’ braking surfaces. The stopping was adequate, better than the OEM but not enough and they didn’t look right as mounted.

Part 3 of the easy way was an attempt to open up the Jagwire pads and extract one to test fit in a Mafac alloy shoe. The steel shoe on the Jagwires was reluctant to open which basically meant destroying the shoe to get the rubber brake pad out only to find the pad dimensions wrong for the Mafac shoe. At that point, I determined to find a pad that would fit the OEM Mafac shoe.

I searched through the technical specs for pads on the Kool Stop site but found nothing that looked close enough. While searching on the EBay USA site for Kool Stop, I came across a Scott/Mathauser ad offering Type M pads specifically for Mafac and and early Dura Ace. They could not have been for regular 4 dot Mafac centerpull brake shoes because the photos of the package clearly showed a Campyesque pad that looked quite different from the usual 4 dot Mafac pads found on Racers, Competitions and 2000s. So, I ordered a set which were quickly delivered from Ebay by Canada Post. When I opened the package, the Scott/Mathausers had a superficial look of compatibility with the Mafac LS OEM pads. Like I did with the Mafacs, I measured the Scott/Mathauser pads with my digital calipers.  I found the measurements to be slightly larger but within .5 to 1 mm of the Mafacs’ measurements. The one exception was the relief area on the top of the pad which in the Scott/Matthauser pad was 15 mm long compared to the 12 mm for the Mafac.

While I waited for the Scott/Mathauser pads to arrive by mail, I had been cleaning the Mafac shoes and removing the original pads. Removing the pads entailed levering them up at the end with a straight bladed screw driver followed by using pliers to wrench the pads the rest of the way out of the shoe. The shoes were wiped down and then run through an ultrasonic cleaner with some dish soap. The result was as set of clean shoes ready for the installation of the new pads. When the pads showed up, I checked the details on the reverse side of the plastic pack before attempting a trial fit or the installation.

Once the shoes were cleaned and ready, I attempted a trial fit of the Scott/Mathausers in the Mafac LS shoes. Even with the use of dilute dish soap as a lubricant, the pads did not fit into the shoes since the angle of entry of the pad was too extreme, the pad edge hung up on the round nut within the shoe and the pad would not settle under the rear stop at the back of the shoe.

The failure of the easy fit lead me to a few conclusions: that the .5 to 1 mm oversize difference of the Scott/Mathauser pads made a difference and you might want to do a little file work on the pads; the forward edges of the new pads need to be angled or rounded off to fit over the embedded nut within the shoe and finally, the rear tab of the brake shoe must be broken off to fit the new pad.

To get the pad rounded off like the center pad in the photo to the right, use a file or 120 Grit sandpaper as seen in the photo. It is also necessary to remove the rear retention tab of the alloy Mafac brake shoes. I tried a hacksaw but the result was poor and recommend bending the tab upwards with pliers until it yields and then snaps off. Once the retention tab has snapped off, put the shoe in a bench vice with padded jaws to avoid damaging the finish and take a fine file and dress the broken end thoroughly being sure it is de-burred and smooth to avoid fouling during the pad installation.

Be sure to carefully identify which end you will remove as the shoes are directional and the forward facing arrow must go to the front with a closed end but also to permit proper toe-in in combination with the LS caliper arm design. Once the shoes have been correctly opened and cleaned up, prepare a soap and water solution to act as a lubricant when installing the new pad into the Mafac alloy shoe.

Once you have lubed the inside of the alloy shoe, add the soapy mixture to the nose of the pad and to the crease along both sides. Slide the pad on an angle over the internal nut in the shoe until it is stopped by the front of the pad holder. It will now be sitting at an angle with the rear of the pad protruding from the  alloy shoe. Place the shoe/pad assembly into the padded vise jaws and slowly tighten down until the pad slips into place. (You may need to reverse the shoe in the vise to get the back section to fully seat.) Once the pad is seated, rinse the shoe to get rid of the soap solution from the installation and then follow the same procedure for the other three pad/shoe assemblies.

Having cleaned and dried  the assemblies, use your 120 Grit sand paper to abrade the braking surface of the Scott/Mathauser pads until the shiny surface is removed and the surface appears dulled to the eye.  Trial fit the retention screws and washers before doing an installation. The finished pad/shoe assembly should look like this:


The assemblies, once installed, should show an obvious toe-in when viewed from above. See the following photo:



Seen in profile, the installed assembly looks convincingly original and discreet except for that tell tale orange colour peeking through the brake shoes:




The Scott/Mathauser M pad is the only one that I have found that installs properly in a Mafac LS, LS 2 or LSX alloy brake shoe. The fit is tight and installation could likely be eased by a slight filing along the edges of the pads in addition to the sanding described earlier. Toe-in is stock and so is the side profile appearance. Functionally, the pads are superb. There is no squeal, stopping remains higher effort than my Mafac centerpulls, as one would expect, modulation is easy and completely linear and progressive. Braking from the hoods is comfortably possible and is very strong from the drops. I highly recommend the conversion if you have Mafac sidepulls and wish to experience a major improvement in your braking quality.


The bike has not and will not be ridden in the wet so I cannot comment on that aspect of brake performance. Before the upgrade as well as after, the Carre/Bertin C 37 was fitted with Velo Orange lined cable housing and mandrel drawn stainless steel cables.