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Good quality bike compass

Old 09-28-10, 04:04 AM
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Good quality bike compass

Dear friends

I'm looking to buy a bike compass that will attach to my handlebars. I have bought several of these: https://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Bike-Bicycle-M...item3f035d0793

They are incredibly cheap and hence fall off or break within 5 minutes. However to be able to just look down at your handlebar is so much easier than having to pull out a compass from your bag every time you get to a fork in the road. Does anybody know anyone who sells a better version?

My many thanks.

D.

Last edited by davos lamos; 09-28-10 at 04:05 AM. Reason: Inaccurate print
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Old 09-28-10, 05:31 AM
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Not sure how your's are falling off, I've one of those for over 5 years and it's as secure as the day I put it on. I can't be sure it's the same manufacturer, but it looks the same, mine cost $4.00

Having said that I mostly use it for the bell and don't completely trust the ball compass. I have built-up a flat area on the top of my handlebar stem where I Velcro several different items, a real compass, radio, thermometer, or phone. My radio is in the photo. So.......... you might find a spot on your bars or handlebar bag to Velcro a real compass.
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Old 09-28-10, 05:35 AM
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I don't know of a better version. I used one of those for less than 5 minutes, the steel bolts in the stem caused too much inaccuracy. I use drop bars so the compass had to be within a few inches of the stem.
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Old 09-28-10, 08:11 AM
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There's a new product we've seen called a Stem Captain. It's goes on the bike in place of the top cap on a threadless steerer/stem setup. You can get them in different versions. One is a thermometer, one is a clock, one is a compass, etc. I've seen the thermometer and the compass, they're high quality-

https://www.stemcaptain.com/
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Old 09-28-10, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by davos lamos
to be able to just look down at your handlebar is so much easier than having to pull out a compass from your bag every time you get to a fork in the road.
Where are you touring that you need a compass to help decide to go left or right at a fork?
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Old 09-28-10, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by rogerstg
Where are you touring that you need a compass to help decide to go left or right at a fork?
When I did my cross country tour using some of the best touring maps made (ACA) I used my compass many times. Make a turn and cycle for a few miles, then things don't look right for what ever reason, with a quick check of a compass you can determine if you made the correct turn. Many times on country roads, maps are not clear and a compass really helps.
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Old 09-28-10, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by well biked
There's a new product we've seen called a Stem Captain. It's goes on the bike in place of the top cap on a threadless steerer/stem setup. You can get them in different versions. One is a thermometer, one is a clock, one is a compass, etc. I've seen the thermometer and the compass, they're high quality-

https://www.stemcaptain.com/
That's awesome. I've bookmarked that and added it to my wishlist. I think I'll be putting that on my LHT build in a few months!
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Old 09-28-10, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by rogerstg
Where are you touring that you need a compass to help decide to go left or right at a fork?
I frequently need a compass just getting around my county if I don't have a map. Roll out of town, end up on some curvy road for a few miles and then get spit out on a straight road, for instance SE 53rd Street. If it's cloudy I have to wonder which way is east and which is west if it's a road without many houses on it. It's kinda nice not to have to go a mile out of your way 'til you find the next address or numbered cross street.

I gotta get a stem captain, too!
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Old 09-28-10, 12:58 PM
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That stem captain is awesome.Now to decide weather I get the compass,thermometer or Bob Marley.
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Old 09-28-10, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by well biked
There's a new product we've seen called a Stem Captain. It's goes on the bike in place of the top cap on a threadless steerer/stem setup. You can get them in different versions. One is a thermometer, one is a clock, one is a compass, etc. I've seen the thermometer and the compass, they're high quality-

https://www.stemcaptain.com/
just read about that compass they say it needs to sit level on the stem for it to work properly and you would need to change the bolt emm not worth the effort pity it does look nice.
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Old 09-28-10, 04:37 PM
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Have one of those bell compasses , its crap, I know where north is, at home, and it never did.
Just wrong from the start.

Question is how well does it work after being close to all those steel things around it on the bike, bolts and such.?


Used a Silva compass I could take away from the bike with the map, to get a better reading .

on the bike I have a ball shaped clip on compass, secured it better by sticking on a bit of velcro
on the back of the clip and sewing on a matching patch of velcro on the bag..
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Old 09-28-10, 04:45 PM
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I've got one that I bought mainly for the bell about 10 years ago. First had it on my Bike Friday folder but the compass didn't work there due to the steel stem. Now it's on my touring bike and does work ok - but I rarely check the compass since I almost always have my GPS on the handlebars which gives me the compass bearing as well as showing my position and heading on the street map. Not sure why yours are failing - this one has many tens of thousands of miles on it.
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Old 09-28-10, 04:59 PM
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Hrmmm. I can do with out a stem cap, so not worried about the bolt there, unless a stem cap is required to mount the Stem Captain onto. However, my stem is at the top of the stack and it has steel clamp bolts and I have steel steerers.
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Old 09-28-10, 05:17 PM
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The bell/compass combos I have tried are junk. I don't have one to recommend, but I will say that if there is any steel close to it you likely won't get a decent reading.

That said I carried a Silva hand compass for the entire Trans America, my Santa Fe Trail tour, and the southern half of the Sierra Cascades route and I don't recall ever taking it out and using it. It is usually pretty easy to have at least a general idea of which way is North and South even on a cloudy day by paying attention to the time of day, the lay of the land, and direction the light is coming from. For road touring that is usually enough.
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Old 09-28-10, 05:27 PM
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Even when I'm only using my GPS as a computer to track distance, I'll still use the compass feature with my maps or cue sheets. It pretty much lives on my handlebars while I'm on tour.

I ended up doing this because both of my touring rigs have steel frames, which doesn't mix well with a compass.
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Old 09-30-10, 08:30 AM
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I've just checked the eBay link provided. Having lived in China (where these items are made) for over three years, and traveled by bicycle a lot there; and having gone through a few of these compass bells, I can report with confidence on these items. The model depicted (with florescent green font) is great to see when riding at night but lean on the bulb/compass part of the item and it will snap off with the slightest pressure applied to it. Just brushing past it will break this particular item and it starts to leak an alcohol-like substance.

Look for the exact same item, at the same price but with yellow, Times New Roman font (https://cgi.ebay.com.au/Bike-Handleba...item20b3cfaeaf). The quality is completely different and it will last for at least six months. I broke one but that's because I was fiddling with its position on my handlebars and snapped the plastic ring, not the bulb. They are so cheap that you can buy half a dozen and pay the one postage fee to have a couple spare. It sounds ridiculous, but I had a conversation in Shanghai about these very bells with a Chinese eBay-equivalent online seller in his distribution warehouse earlier this year When you bid/win/buy the item, insist on receiving a bell with yellow lettering, not green! It's not as attractive but will not break.

Personally I think these are a fantastic item that I do not go on tour without. Sometimes when touring, roads are signposted with different names to the map. Sometimes I do not have a high quality, small scale map of the area I am travelling through. I know my last town/city was X, and I should be travelling in Y direction but my map only has the main roads, and this road I'm on is unsignposted, and starting to look a bit like a minor road. Am I travelling East instead of South?? A quick look at my compass bell and I know that the road name doesn't matter: I'm going the right way for the next town and will get back onto the major road when I go through the next town . It is very re-assuring.

Good luck!
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Old 09-30-10, 09:54 AM
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to use a compass accurately you need to be away from the bicycle. bring a silva.

if you can't determine your desired direction as you roll up on a fork in the road, its time to stop and get off the bike anyway for a little map reading and introspection, because you are already lost!
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Old 09-30-10, 09:54 AM
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I only need my compass about once a week, so it's no big deal to pull it out of the handlebar bag.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:38 PM
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Silva handheld compass.Cheap,tough,dampened,accurite
Like this for direction


Like this for plotting
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Old 09-30-10, 02:13 PM
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"to use a compass accurately you need to be away from the bicycle. bring a silva."

May be true, though the same issue pertains to boats, aircraft, and there is a process for dealing with it called swinging the compass. Whether this works with bikes I can't say, you sure couldn't be moving you metal stuff around, if you have it. Just something like turning your fork might make the readings go nuts... Does seem like a case for a handlebar mounted GPS if you are prone to getting lost.
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Old 09-30-10, 02:16 PM
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I remember reading a story about Fred Bear, the great archery inovator and entrepreneur. He used to put these bubble compasses on his hunting bows. It drove him crazy that most people seemed to react to them as though they came out of a gum machine, but at the time they were really expensive, so he was sourcing them for like 5 bucks on a 50 dollar bow, and people though they were cheap junk.
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Old 09-30-10, 03:52 PM
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to use a compass accurately you need to be away from the bicycle
The assumption here is that the magnetic field will be strong enough to be affected by steel in the bicycle (frame). Um, think about that for a minute.. People have used compasses in their cars for decades - lots more steel in the chassis than in a bike. The US Army has used compasses with their tanks since the 1910's and did not require the tanker to dismount to do so; tank = big freakin' steel object. You probably DON'T need to actually get off the bicycle to use - at least it in my experience.

Simply riding by a large iron deposit underground can "spin the needle" or at least deflect it from true north. And there are "false norths" in various places in North America as a result of other similar metallic deposits.

So, the reality is - accurate use of a compass while bike touring "depends".
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Old 09-30-10, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by drmweaver2
TThe US Army has used compasses with their tanks since the 1910's and did not require the tanker to dismount to do so; tank = big freakin' steel object. You probably DON'T need to actually get off the bicycle to use - at least it in my experience.
At least for boats/ships, the compasses used there are calibrated and adjusted for anomalies.

https://www.ehow.com/how_5703914_adju...e-compass.html
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Old 09-30-10, 05:39 PM
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You couldn't be more wrong if you tried.

Originally Posted by drmweaver2
The assumption here is that the magnetic field will be strong enough to be affected by steel in the bicycle (frame). Um, think about that for a minute.. People have used compasses in their cars for decades - lots more steel in the chassis than in a bike.
Vehicles use electronic compensation systems. Those who've owned them will remember that they needed to drive slowly in a circle to properly calibrate it

Originally Posted by drmweaver2
The US Army has used compasses with their tanks since the 1910's and did not require the tanker to dismount to do so; tank = big freakin' steel object. You probably DON'T need to actually get off the bicycle to use - at least it in my experience.
Old tanks used a series of magnets to compensate (swing) magnetic compasses. Newer tanks used a higher tech version of the auto system

None of these have any similarity to bicycle compasses, which will be significantly affected by by a steel framed touring bike. If a person lacks the situational awareness to have an idea of which direction they are headed, they should get off the bike to use the compass.

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Old 09-30-10, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by rogerstg
You couldn't be more wrong if you tried...Vehicles use electronic compensation systems....None of these have any similarity to bicycle compasses...
Well done, you tried and succeeded in putting your foot very deeply in your mouth, down your throat and out the other end.

Bikes have been ridden with compasses (and vehicle have been using simple compasses without any of the crud/cra* whatever you mentioned) for decades. Don't tell me/others what can't be done, hasn't been done or how it was(n't) done when you weren't around while we were doing it.

No magnetic needle/ball-in-liquid compass I ever used in a car and certainly not on a bicycle EVER needed me to calibrate them. Tanks might be a different story - BUT I used that as a point of illustration and a counter-argument to the statement that one has to walk away from a bike to use a compass, something patently not true if compensation is possible which you yourself argued.

If you want to get into technicalities and magnetic theory and all that cra*, go elsewhere. It's not difficult to find an argument with a physicist. I'm talking reality. If your mileage varies, go a different route but don't try blowing smoke up anyone's butt because you haven't done it yourself and can't believe it works.

Originally Posted by njkayaker
At least for boats/ships, the compasses used there are calibrated and adjusted for anomalies.
While not requiring as much counter-argument as the above, again, you're missing the point. One doesn't HAVE to get off a bike, even a steel one, to use a compass - especially a non-steel one. It's that simple.
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