Too often we mistake a bike that's built to accept any number of different components, wheels, racks, and drivetrains for a good all around bike. But that sort of frame is more often just a compromise. A good all-arounder is best built with very specific components and accessories in mind.
I've been riding my Ebisu a lot lately; it's about the only bike I ride anymore. With it's 30mm tires, wide gearing, small front rack, and mix of old and new components it can do almost anything. I ride it fast on paved roads, enjoy the gravel-like towpath on the C&O canal, I potter over the brick and cobble streets in our 350-year-old town on it, and I can go inn-to-inn touring. All this and I never change anything on the bike, other than occasionally hanging the larger handlebar and saddle bags. The trick to a good all-around machine is in building both the frame and the bike with great care and as an integrated unit, not as a collection of interchangable parts.
I've been thinking about this a lot as we plan the Velo Orange randonneuse frame. It will be a frame designed around very specific parts so it can do a lot of things well. Being a moderately low trail design will force the rider to use a handlebar bag as the primary piece of luggage. Big rear panniers will compromise handling. That may seem like a limitation, but this geometry will also make the bike more stable and more precise in corners.
The tires for our bike should be between 26 and 32mm wide and not pumped up too hard; go too wide or too narrow and the bike won't ride or handle as it should. The fenders should be 43mm Honjos, which we will stock. Sure, other fenders will fit, but they won't look quite as nice. The front rack will be small and made especially for this frame. The current rear rack will also fit, but a slightly smaller and lighter version will be made just for this frame. The recommended brakes will be such that good modulation, not simply maximum stopping power, is considered.
If this sounds like a constructeur bike, well, that's the idea. The plan is to start by having a few semi-custom prototypes made by a first class US builder. These will not be inexpensive frames, but by making them all almost identical the price will be well below that of a full custom bike. Interested?
Eventually we'll try to duplicate the geometry and features in a production frame. A production constructeur bike? Will Herse and Singer be rolling over in their graves?
Oh yes, one final detail: they will be silver with orange lettering.
UPDATE: The cost for the first few prototypes will be around $1200. You get custom fit and tube selection in a handmade silver brazed frame with Kalavinka lugs.
01 August, 2006
Posted by Velo Orange at 5:47:00 PM