18 January, 2007

VO Course Route and Pass Hunter


Alec, our 7-year old, loves to take a 10-25 mile spin with me on weekends, but he is disappointed if I ride a rando bike; it must be a racing bike. His heroes are TdF racers. He even has a poster in his room signed by Eddy Merckx. On one of our first family bike rides, when he was four and still on a tag-a-long, he says, "Now Dad; lets hammer! Drop Mom."

This has me thinking -- Herse, Singer, Toei, etc, built "course route", or racing bikes. Toei also builds those wonderful pass hunters. So what if we took the Randonnuese frame and lightened it a little. Perhaps we could shorten the chain stays by 1 cm, use slightly lighter tubes, leave off the front rack mount (you could still use a Mafac/TA rack) and add a touch more trail. But we would leave the tire clearance. I would run 25mm Michelin's on mine, but there would be room for 32mm cyclo-cross tires in case one wanted to pass hunt on unpaved roads. The brakes would be the same fantastic braze-on mounted Paul Racers.

We could build this bike in steel, or in titanium. What do you think?

The Herse photo is from the superb reneherse.com site.

30 comments:

Joel said...

I had an early 1980s vintage steel French racing frame for a while (Hit by a car. I was fine, the frame totally bent.)

If I could find room for an occasional frame, I wouldn't mind having a classic racing style bike for warm Sunday afternoons when I just want to ride fast. I could see using your compact double crank and maybe a real clean 7 gear cassette or free wheel.

Titanium frames always seems like overkill to me. I know some people really like them. A nice steel frame with tight geometry will be suitably fast for the majority of your customers.

Anonymous said...

Chris, do you have any photos of any of the other bikes in the works?

david_nj said...

Seems to me that would just be converging on many, many, many other bicycles currently in production. The randonneuse clearly has a unique and terrific sensibility to it, and similarly for the city bike you have planned, but I can't see how this stripped down version would have all that much uniqueness. Just my $.02.

Chris Kulczycki said...

But David you don't understand. I want one for myself ;<)

david_nj said...

I don't know, I really like just having one all-purpose road bike. If I didn't have the Kogswell (which I'm not crazy about but perfectly content with) it would be a VO Randonneuse, but in any case I've ridden if off-road, in very high speed group road rides, on paths, night commutes, etc. etc. and it has proven to be fine, with one set of fat-tire generator-hubbed wheels and one set of race wheels, as well as clipped and clipless pedals.

I don't know if I could stand having a lot of extra metal lying around at this point in life. I used to have two road bikes, a fixed gear, a time trial machine, two English 3-speeds, etc. but it cluttered up my workroom and my brain too much. Just the one is perfectly okay. It looks a little wierd to be on a fast group ride with the fenders and such but it's hardly a big deal. No one could care less as long as you can keep up.

Phew, I clicked through to that Rene Herse site. This one's so sweet it made my knees buckle: http://www.reneherse.com/1984-Rene-Herse-Cyclo.html . Wow!!

Anonymous said...

Chris,

This RH is not what I would call a pass hunter....just a racing bike.
With the gearing on it, you won't be getting up many of the passes I've seen. Needs "more of what you need, less of what you "want".

Chris Kulczycki said...

Yes, obviously it's a race bike, but try finding a photo of a Herse Pass hunter ;<)

Anonymous said...

I am all for a pass hunter. If I were to make comparisons with Ebisu, VO Randonneuse is like Ebisu All-Rounder and a pass hunter is like Ebisu Road.

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of a lighter weight steel lugged frame with a slightly more aggressive geometry. As someone who tries occasionally to keep up with the disco riders on their flashy ultra-light carbon and titanium machines, while chugging away on my (not entirely lightweight and more relaxed) Rivendell Romulus, such a bike might make the task marginally easier.

But since such fast-paced rides are not my primary activity, it would be hard to justify plunking down serious wads of cash on such a lightweight bike.

Thus, for me to buy such a frame it would have to clock in a prices below or competitive with the Ebisu Road (which someone mentioned in another post), and well below other existing lightweight steel frames currently in production, such as Cinelli's Supercorsa, Tommasini's Tecno and Sintesi models, and Pegoretti's Luigino.

Whether producing such a frame at an affordable price point is possible is of course another question altogether.

Anonymous said...

Kogswell is going to come out with a new lightweight lugged frame for standard reach brakes (or maybe Rivendell's Silver brakes) pretty soon, and will be $800

http://www.kogswell.com/bijoux.html

I don't know how light or how soon...

Chris Kulczycki said...

Annon, You don't really buy your frames based only on price? Well lets see if we could compete. I think that only the Ebisu, and the $3100 Pegoretti Luigino, frames are close to the VO in quality. Actually the PL has one of the most gorgeous fork crown ever. The Tommasini and Cinelli are nice enough, but they are really production bikes which puts them in a different class, and their geometry is different. I think that the Ebisu can take wider tires, I'm not sure about the Luigino. In any case, I think that the semi-custom VO would come in a little lower in price than semi-custom versions of those frames.

So that is why I think that there might be an unfilled niche here.

The Kogswell is an economy frame. It's not semi-custom, not silver brazed, no hand filed lugs, not the same quality. Production frames from Taiwan are simply not comparable to a frame by Johnny Coast. I applaud Matt for getting those frames made; they are exactly what many people want and they get the job done. But they are not what VO is about.

BTW, the Silver brakes are the Tektros that we sell for $59.

Anonymous said...

Chris,
You stated that part of the difference between the Rando and this proposed "Pass Hunter" would be lowering the trail? Why? I thought it would be the opposite - eliminating the front rack/bag and going for a sportier bike would equal higher trail than the current Rando...
?
Additionally, what is accomplished by shortening the chainstays 1cm? Simply a different feel?
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oops - I just re-read the original post and it does say "add a bit more trail". Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I think the only frames that would be similar are the Ebisu Road, the Heron Rally (which can't be made custom), some of the Tournesols, and perhaps a Waterford.
Looking at price (since it is important to me), an Ebisu custom is $1500 plus 8 weeks wait, whereas the Tournesol is $2200 in steel and $2800 in Ti. I think their wait is closer to 6 months.
If the price gets much higher than $1500, you're starting to run into the custom framebuilder prices (say, a Mariposa road for around $1700, and 18 months of waiting)

Michael

Joel said...

Chris:

The penultimate paragraph in your 4:10 post is what I really appreciate about VO's joint venture with Johnny Coast.

Kogswell (and Soma or Surly for that matter) are making some decent product for the price.

Your VO bikes, on the other hand, appear to really transcend the whole price argument to become an aspirational product on their own merit.

As I said above, a fast steel bike would fill a niche in my stable. Perhaps not a niche I would want to drop the cost of making a ground up custom on. But at the same time there is value in getting something more than a generic, albeit good, bike from Taiwan.

david_nj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
neil m berg said...

I think at some point, price is important to all of us. There is a danger in simply making something inexpensive though. Pretty soon you're competing with Walmart and you'll lose. Somewhere in the middle, between Walmart and Bruce Gordon, there has to be a nitch, particularly for touring type bikes.

neil m berg said...

I think at some point, price is important to all of us. There is a danger in simply making something inexpensive though. Pretty soon you're competing with Walmart and you'll lose. Somewhere in the middle, between Walmart and Bruce Gordon, there has to be a nitch, particularly for touring type bikes.

Anonymous said...

Most of my riding is what I would call "passhunting" and I think your Randoneuse or Cyclo-tourist bikes are already there. You need a front rack since you have to carry plenty of food and extra clothing for those remote passes. You need lots of tire and fender clearance for mountain roads and weather. Although if you want to make a light racey bike, more power to you!

Anonymous said...

So, . . . basically a cyclocross racing bike?

Anonymous said...

What you are describing is similar to the Legolas frame recently introduced by Riv.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Well imagine a Legolas that's semi-custom, silver brazed, has less trail, less TT upslope, has a cable hanger and other details that are more "French", has a 72.5 degree seat tube, with slightly shorter stays, uses a 28.6mm down tube, has no head badge, and costs less.

Andy said...

A V.O. Pass Hunter sounds just about right for what I'd want in an "all-rounder". A little snappier than the randonneur. But certainly not a back-breaker. But I might like the front rack mounts. Plus, with a name like the "Pass Hunter" it's got to be cool. I'd probably want steel, but I'd offer a Ti version, too.

As this Pass Hunter idea was partially inspired by your son, I'd love to hear more about bicycling with kids. I have a one-year-old and I'm looking forward to our rides together.

With the Pass Hunter (a mixte and a single speed?), the VO line-up is really something special. It's been a load of fun watching VO grow in the less-than-a-year that I've been reading the blog. Chris, whatever you want to make--do it. It seems as if there's a good following for everything you've done so far. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Chris,
Any idea when we may get to see some pix of VO Rando frames #2, #3...
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I know it's a matter of taste, but I can't stand Rivendell style of lugs. For me, that immediately eliminates Legolas from consideration, leaving Ebisu and VO. If Chris comes out with a frame designed to go fast -- but not race -- I'd put it on top of my shopping list.

StreetPhotosByRon said...

That's just the bike I'm looking for!

StreetPhotosByRon said...

it should be steel!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea. I have three nice lugged bikes now, including a Cinelli Supercorsa, and then some other stuff including a Merlin, so it's hard to pique my interest . . . but this is on target. I have panniers and handlebar/banana bags out the wazoo, but mostly what I love to do on a bike is ride. Honestly, I tend to buy practical bags and then leave them at home. And I do have a good eye for an elegant fork crown like the Luigino, but am too well equipped already to ever shell out that sort of dough. Basically, yeah to what Joel said.

michael white

Anonymous said...

Any pictures of the next couple of VO Rando bikes?

Chris Kulczycki said...

I'll have some photos of a very nice VO Rando frame built up with modern components in a few weeks.

We're looking at the possibility of building the Pass hunter using Reynolds 953 or Titanium right now.