31 August, 2016

Bullmoose Bars and Wider Traveler Tires from Fairweather

by Igor
Our friends from Fairweather in Japan have been hitting it out of the park with their newest offerings of tires and handlebars. Their new 700x32 Traveler tires use the same herringbone tread pattern as their 28mm variant, but with a bit of added air volume for comfort on long days of mixed terrain conquering. They weigh 267g, but who's counting?

Like the 28s, the tread colors (pictured left to right) come in Algae (my favorite), Black, Rust, and Asphalt.

These Bullmoose Bars in Noir and Silver will add a touch of retro flair to any build, whether it's a roadie-townie conversion or a bikepacking rig. At 710mm, they're wide but not too wide. The integrated stem makes for a 90mm extension and just the right amount of sweep for a neutral riding position. They're made for 1 1/8" threadless steerers, but they work well with our Threadless Adaptor.

If you need to defend your honor, it also makes a good, improvised bat'leth.

19 August, 2016

Where has summer gone?

By Scott

Well here we are at the middle to third week of August and one has to ask, where has summer gone? I heard on the radio today, people talking about kids going back to school in a bit over a week from Monday and then everyone getting back into their "normal" routines of commuting and such.

Here in the Mid Atlantic, temperatures are still up in the 90's. The C & O is still in it's full green zone, with lots of overgrowth. The afternoon thunderstorms tend to make the trail a bit mucky at points, but a day or two without rain, they dry right out.

I've been keeping my rides down to 30 miles or so, done first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and humidity of the mid afternoon. Chris has been bike fishing to avoid the heat as well.

Our prototype drawings of the Mk4 Polyvalent have been signed off, so now we wait for the prototypes to be made. Hopefully we should have them for late October, just in time to show them off at the Philly Bike Expo at the the start of November.  The Cigne stems are just finishing production, so those should be done around Labor Day and we're going to air freight those in due to the high demand we have for them.

Any plans for the time before Labor day? Anyone have a good tip on reducing the impact of the heat other then hibernating in the basement?

BTW- we got some cool bamboo tops for the Klean Kanteen bottles. An easy way to update an older bottle.

09 August, 2016

Our Shifters go to 11 and Other Minor Updates

by Clint

Dia-Compe 11-speed downtube shifters have landed. Retail is $85. Here they are on the site.

These are so much more than 11-speed downtube shifters. With over 50mm of total cable pull, these shifters will work with just about any derailleur. We've tested them on Shimano 11-speed road and Shimano 10-speed mountain.  Here's what you need to know:
  • Designed for 11-speed, but will work with fewer speeds;
  • Better option for 10-speed drivetrains than our other Dia-compe levers;
  • Non-indexed, micro ratchet design;
  • Right barrel is larger than the left for more cable pull;
  • Not compatible with bar end or "thumbie" mounts because of the oversized barrel.
For nerdy eyes only:
To calculate the amount of total cable pull your drivetrain requires use the following formula
total cable pull = cable pull of intended shifter * (s - 1) 
Where s is the number of speeds of your cassette. If the total is less than 50mm, these shifters should work.

More about these on my previous post; I'm still running this setup on my Passhunter.

They're compatible with all sorts of derailleurs and they look pretty spiffy with a pair of these.

In other news, the Cigne stems are due in soon, hopefully within the next month. We're thinking these will be $80 retail. As for the Polyvalent 4, we're still pretty far out and waiting on first prototypes. The time scale will depend on how these turn out and what we want to change.

05 August, 2016

New Rustines Shifter Covers and Slap Guards

by Igor

These are nifty little shifter covers from Rustines that add a nice bit of grip and flare to your downtubebar-end shifters, and quick releases.

Do you need them? Yes. They'll make you go faster, you'll be more attractive, and flowers will blossom as you ride by. They're compatible with any classic downtube or bar end shifter, with the exception of those big, paddle Huret shifters.

These Constructeur Chain Slap Guards are for bikes with brazed-on prongs. Unstretched, they are 222mm from center-to-center. If you're getting a custom frame made, give the builder the slap guard beforehand so they know where to place it.

I'm thinking we should bring back the slap guard mounts for the Polyvalent, what do you think?

Lastly, check out this lovely mini, die-cast, 1965 Jacques Anquetil. He's one of a series of "Road Giants". Maybe a good Christmas stocking stuffer?

27 July, 2016

Projects and Ideas

By Chris

One of things I most enjoy at VO is seeing new projects come to fruition. We always have a long list of stuff that we're working on. The project list on my desk has 31 items this week, they include frames, handlebars, racks, etc. In some cases the projects are simply improvements of an existing product, but most are new. Of course not all of these will work out; we often get to the drawing or prototype stage and decide that whatever it is we were working on isn't all that great after all. In any case, I thought I'd offer a few projects for your amusement or suggestions.
  • The Cigne stem we mentioned a few weeks ago is now in production and should be here in about a month if all goes according to plan. We'll have them in 70mm and 90mm extension and black, nickle and raw finishes.
  • We're waiting for prototypes of an adapter so you can use the above stem with a threaded 1" fork.
  • The 11-speed hubs have gone through many revisions and prototypes. We're now waiting for the, hopefully, final pre-production samples. I think these are amazing hubs, comparable to any.
  • We're working on some retro "klunkery" adventure touring bars
  • We've ordered prototypes of the new disc Polyvalent. 
  • There may be a mixte version of the Polyvalent. We're still pondering the wisdom of this; while there's a very vocal pro-mixte crowd, in reality high-end mixtes don't sell well.
  • We are designing some new mounts for our bells. This is a lot harder and more expensive than you might imagine.
  • We're revising disc brake mount on the Pass hunter to make it compatible with more brakes. This is done and we're just waiting for ISO testing, but it's delayed the next production run of frames.
  • We're testing some new leather saddles and dreaming of a super secret laminated vegan saddle.
  • We've asked Rustines to make some rubber shifter and quick-release covers for us. Those should be here in a few weeks.
Obviously that's not the whole list. But as we check some of these projects off, what do you thing we should add to the project list?

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?