21 July, 2016

The Boyz Ride in The Park

By Chris and Igor,

Feeling a little cooped up on a beautiful summer day Igor, Clint, and I decided to play hooky for a couple of hours today. We took a ride in the park looking for blackberries.
Blackberry stop.
Locals eyeing us.
Chris swings.

A VO Six Pack Rack is perfect for Igor's camera bag
Jungle scene

Art at the community garden plots.
My Piolet
Clint's Spinaci bars, so aero
Down by the Farm
Igor and his Campeur on singletrack
Grinding sand.

13 July, 2016

Best Era for Cycling

by Scott

Our shipper Brandon here at VO has a game of "what time period would you like to live in"?  He and his girlfriend have discussions at home debating the best time period in history to have lived in a place or to have experienced certain things. I thought we'd expand that to cycling.

I'll limit the option to decades after WW2. Let's take a little look at the decades and some of the highlights:

1950's - Post war Europe starts to recover. French constructeurs ramp up production of bikes that were stopped or reduced during the war. Simplex derailleurs dominate the industry. US road bike building start with Schwinn at the front of the market. Raleigh starts importing bikes to the US. Era of travel by sea is ending as air travel becomes more popular and affordable.

1960's - Perhaps the pinnacle era for French constructeur bikes. Schwinn Paramount production starts in the US. Gear clusters go past 5. Hostel touring popular in Europe as incomes go up and rationing in Europe is ended. Sun Tour introduces the Slant Parallelogram derailleur making shifting easier and more reliable. TA introduces the Pro 5 vis crank set.

1970's - Mass introduction of French and Japanese bikes to the US. The rising cost of fuel pushes the first US bike boom. Bike Centennial starts up promoting the Trans Am bike route across the US. US frame building takes off. Richard Sachs and Peter Weigle begin the custom frame building tradition of the NE US. Campagnolo Super Record Gruppo introduced. Dura Ace introduced as the Japanese alternative.

1980's - Mountain bikes become mass produced. Index shifting arrives and gears go up to 8 in the rear. Aero brake levers and clip in pedals become standard items on racing bikes. Pastel neon frame colors becomes popular for a year or two until we realize our mistake. Cassette bodies become the norm and freewheel hubs start a downward spiral. Mainstream US media takes notice of cycling after Greg Lemond wins the TDF.

1990's - Carbon and Titanium start to become within reach, price wise. Intergrated shifting and brake levers become popular, cycling seen on TV stations that don't have 3 digits in the channel number. Yen drops off and manufacturing moves to Taiwan from Japan for frames and most components. Garish colors for MTB's are the rage despite the 80's. Anodized purple becomes the go to color for US made CNC'd products. Campy introduces a MTB gruppo. Discontinues gruppo a couple years later.

2000's (noughts) - Shimano and Campy continue to battle it out to see who can put the most gears on a cassette, Carbon shows up on lower and lower price points of bikes. Multiple wins in the TDF results in the "Lance" effect: an uptake in road bike sales and sales of USPS jersey's.

2010's (teens) - Gear cluster battle reaches stupid levels, Camo becomes a "thing" color wise, steel bikes make a resurgence in major manufacturer lineup's. Women are welcomed as customers and offered products designed for them rather then just a different color scheme. Bikepacking offers lightweight touring to the masses and hipsters a new place to drink bourbon.

What era would you prefer to ride in?

07 July, 2016

Front Loading Basics

by Igor

Whenever I think about a typical cycle tourist, I always conjure up an image of a mid-80s steel bike, rear rack loaded to the brim with a stuck-in flag happily waving in the breeze. This is close - Scott touring Sweden in 1993 with Canada flagged panniers on a Rocky Mountain Sirrus:

By the way, Scott's bum bag (fanny pack for us in the Colonies) game is on point.
From numerous years of trial and errors, my preference has swayed to a front load only. This has developed due to a combination of a minimalistic approach to carry and packing, easier in-saddle accessibility, frame design, and surpassing environmental hurdles.

It is worth mentioning that the Campeur has lower trail than the majority of production touring bikes. This makes for neutral handling when loaded with no wheel flop and downright lively when lightly loaded or unloaded. Bikes with high trail have more difficulty with a heavier front load due to introduced wheel flop when going into corners.
So let's say your bike is designed to handle a front load well. Why should you front load? First, your rear wheel will thank you. It will be much less susceptible to spoke heads breaking, pinched tubes, and uneven tire wear since your carry weight will be distributed to the front wheel.

Second, when making efforts out of the saddle a front load does not introduce any luggage sway. Standing out of the saddle with a heavy rear load flexes the frame and rack side to side causing the front end to wander, which zaps energy during sustained climbs.

Similarly, during high crosswind conditions a loaded rear end has a tendency to make the front end wander if the front isn't loaded. Solution? A front load bias plants the front end and crosswinds have a drastically diminished effect so you expend less energy keeping straight. This is very different to a deep section front wheel in which the extremely lightweight front end wheel acts as a sail.

Fourth, you can monitor your luggage to ensure everything stays put safely. The last thing you want to happen is to hit a bump and lose your flipflops or worse get something stuck in the rear wheel without noticing.

Lastly, your gear and food is more easily accessible while you're in the saddle. Your handlebar bag is right there, ripe for the rummaging. Grabbing stuff out of the pannier while riding is definitely more of an acquired skill, but it is possible with lots of practice and gumption.
Non-drive side to show the tent setup.
There is one hitch with front loading. You really need to have your panniers balanced well, otherwise the bike will want to pull to the side with the heavier load. If you're doing a short commute with uneven weights or one pannier, don't worry about it, but anything longer and you'll want to distribute weights evenly.

Which method do you prefer: Front, rear, 4 points? Or are you on the side that says, "People still use racks? It's 2016, get out of the Mesolithic Era!"

01 July, 2016

Closed for Fireworks On The Fourth

by Scott

We'll be closed on Monday, July 4th to celebrate Independence Day. This weekend is looking nice in the mid Atlantic, so we're all be getting out and about and enjoying all that this area has to offer.

We'll be back in the office on Tuesday at 9:30 to answer the phones and start replying to emails.

Anyone else have plans for the long weekend?

30 June, 2016

Bicycle Touring Ireland's Coast

by Igor and Adrian

Ireland's West Coast has some of the most breath-taking views imaginable, one of the major reasons it is often the backdrop of epic films and TV shows. In terms of cycling, it is a challenging mix of steep climbing, perilous descents, crosswinds, headwinds, narrow lanes, and constantly overcast and unpredictable skies - but each challenge is consistently and equally rewarded with stunning vistas, friendly towns, and intriguing wildlife. 

Our plan was to arrive in Dublin, stay with friends a couple days for a tour of the city, train to Cork, ride to Westport, then train back to Dublin. Due to traffic controller strikes at the Iceland airport, we were forced to shave 2 days off our trip. No biggie, we made the best of the time we were stuck in Iceland by riding a different kind of steed.
Finally we made it to Dublin, unpacked, got caffeinated, and explored the city by cycle.

The next morning, we jumped on the train and hopped off at Cork. How could we not stop at the Butter Museum? We also climbed up St. Anne's Tower to ring the bells and gain a terrific viewpoint.

Apparently, we accidentally rode over some of the highest peaks in Ireland. There is a distinct lack of switchbacks out on these roads.
After visiting the Blarney Castle and House, we continued to the Dingle Peninsula. Inch Beach is a spectacular beach, extending off the main land and flanked by a cliffside to the North and mountain views across the ocean inlet.
Ballybunion is a small seaside town with golfing as the overwhelmingly popular sport. We skipped golf and moseyed on down to the beach and cliffside walk. But first a snack.

Pro-tip: Clip your helmet inside the tent for more storage space.
Hopping back on the bikes, we headed up to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a rather tough but short climb by bike, but we were in good company and in fact accidentally joined the paceline of a large cycling event.
From there we ferried to the first of a string of tiny islands accessible only by ferry or small aircraft. We loaded our bikes onto the ferry for Inisheer just as the weather began to kick into high gear.
Shipwrecks were explored.
Galway on through Westport was a great wind-down complete with the only tailwinds of the trip, and afforded us the opportunity to see such local recreation as urban fly fishing and a hurling match. The route was perfect, the people friendly, and the riders extremely satisfied. We will definitely return for more riding in the Emerald Isle.

Here's a quick summary of Igor's carry:
-55cm Campeur
-46/30 50.4 crankset
-11-30 cassette, 10 speed
-Dia-Compe friction shifters
-Campeur Front rack
-Velo Transit Panniers
-Grand Cru Handlebar bag
-REI Half Dome 2 Tent
-Big Agnes Fish Hawk sleeping bag and sleeping pad
-Lightweight inflatable pillow

and Adrian's:
-49cm 26" Campeur
-48/34 Drillium crankset
-11-32 cassette, 9 speed
-Shimano 9 speed indexed bar-end shifters
-Campeur Front rack
-Ortleib Panniers
-Grand Cru Handlebar bag
-Big Agnes Roxy Anne sleeping bag and sleeping pad
-Lightweight inflatable pillow

Do you have an upcoming tour? Where would you want to go?

24 June, 2016

In Coming and Camping Out This Weekend!

by Scott

Our latest container is here. It had a ton of product on it including some items that had been out of stock:

Remember, if there is something out of stock, if you click on the "sign up here to get notified" button on the product page, you'll get an automatic email when it comes back into stock.

Also a reminder that the big Swift Campout is this weekend. A great excuse to get outside and go camping for a night or two. We have some folks out camping this weekend, so stay tuned next week for some photos of our camping adventures.
Clint's set up for camping this weekend
Any one heading out this weekend?

22 June, 2016

Dia-Compe Shifters on 11 speeds and Dynasys

by Clint

We'll be carrying these new 11-speed downtube shifters from Dia-Compe.  They're the same as any 10 speed shifter, but with a larger barrel for extra cable pull.  The shifters have a ratcheting mechanism, but they aren't indexed.
Stock photo from Dia-Compe
If you're not into 11 speed stuff, you might still be interested in these shifters.  I was tinkering around the shop yesterday and figured out they have enough pull for 10 speed Shimano dynasys rear derailleurs.  Shimano mountain components are nice for touring.  They're rugged and their cages are long enough to wrap around a large cassette .  
XTR is short for xtreme.
Here's my Pass hunter now.  10 speed XTR rear with downtube shifters.  I figured I'd try out some flat bars too.  They're trendy now.  

Besides 11 and 10 speed mountain, they're also good for 7, 8 and 9 speed Shimano.  I haven't tried it yet, but they might even work with some SRAM stuff.  If you're curious about compatibility, check out this article on Art's Cyclery's blog.  It's a bit technical, but it's thorough and fairly up to date.  I couldn't word it better myself.  
So what do you think?  Could you use these?