27 September, 2007

Interbike Report, Day 2

It's been a day of meetings and I'm totally knackered, so this will be short.

I had a very long meeting with Tetsyu-san, President of Toyo. Our production VO rando frames should be here late next May. VO city bikes in both men's and mixte configuration are on the way, well the samples are.

We may soon have VO long reach caliper brakes. I have samples in my briefcase. We will have VO canti brakes soon.

The VO water bottle cage samples look a bit rough to my eye, but everyone else loves them. Prototype VO gloves and handlebar bags are still not finished, but will be soon.

We may have found a manufacturer for Rene Herse-style stems. He says he'll try and his company makes some amazing products.

I bought some Strida folding bikes.

Gotta run now; it's time to rest up for dinner with the Japanese contingent. Hope there's no karaoke. I sing like a wounded moose.

26 September, 2007

Interbike Report, Day 1

I just got to Interbike and I've already found a few products that might be worth stocking.

Parsons saddles are made from water buffalo hide (I'm not kidding) in India. The quality seems OK and the price is right. They might make a nice budget saddle.

Brooks has some new panniers, messenger bags, toe clip straps, and a few other new products. I was underwhelmed. And the prices are totally nuts. More info here.

I think we may carry Strida folding bikes. I really love the design.

The Suntour Superbe crank is back. I'll wait for a sample before deciding, but they do look nice in the display case. If the price is right it might be a nice alternative to the Sugino cranks we stock.

Dia Compe had some interesting brakes and levers that are worth a second look. I also like their Gran Compe crank and seatpost.

I'm meeting with several Japanese and Taiwanese manufacturers tomorrow. We'll try to clear up the last few details of the VO production rando frame and order a sample city bike frame. We'll also have several smaller projects to discuss. Maybe we'll soon have have a replacement for the TA pedal, but made in Japan using NJS quality sealed bearings and spindles. And we'll chat about possible VO brand tires to compete with Gran Bois.

I forgot the my camera cable so these are press release photos; sorry.

25 September, 2007

Interbike, E-mails, Eco-Junk, and Neoliberalism

I'm flying off to Las Vegas for Interbike later today. That means e-mail responses to technical questions may be delayed a few days. I spend 2-4 hours a day answering e-mails so there simply won't be time to get to all of them while at Interbike. Orders will still go out in a timely manner though. And I'll try to post from the show about neat new bikes, components and accessories.

By the way, why is North America's largest bike show held in a city where the main sports are leaning on a bar or playing a slot machine? Why not is San Francisco or Portland or Boston or Denver?

Since we haven't had a good off-topic conversation for a while, I'll offer a link to this piece, entitled Eco-Junk by George Monboit. Another column I recommend is, How Did We get Into This Mess; it's about neoliberlism (The British use the term "liberal" primarily to identify free market advocates, not political progressives as we do here.) You may agree with Monboit or not, but you must admit that his columns are usually fascinating and always fodder for a lively discussion.

24 September, 2007

New Arrivals

Just in:

ViVa bag supports
are very light and work perfectly with Ostritch and Carraidice saddle bags. They can be installed without removing your seat post. I'm selling my Bagman!

ViVa bag loops allow you to add bag loops to any saddle.

Rubber chain slap guards are standard on many classic constructeur bikes. Unfortunately they are no longer being made and may soon be very rare. We are trying to restart production. The black and brown ones are all gone.

Modolo Gran Fondos bars are back in stock.

Constructeur front racks are back in stock.

Bicycle Quarterly Reviews the Velo Orange Randonneur

Bicycle Quarterly reviews the VO Randonneur in it's current issue. To say that BQ's Editor and reviewer, Jan Heine, offers a positive assessment is a bit of an understatement. I would call it great, perhaps even fantastic.

A rule of thumb in journalism is that you can quote about four paragraphs of an article as "fair use", that is without violating copyright. So here are some quotes:

It combines competent handling with good performance and beautiful build quality. I found it to be a bike that fades into the background, and always seemed to do exactly what I asked it to do.


It is stable even at very low speeds, requiring little attention to keep on a straight line. When asked to turn, it does so immediately and with precision. Adjusting one's line in mid-corner is easy. Even with XL toeclips, the Velo-Orange did not exhibit toeclip overlap.
And here is a bit more:


Built from standard-diameter steel tubing, the Velo-Orange offered good performance for me, expecially when compared to other production bikes, which usually are made from oversize tubing. I found that it "planed" well for me during hard efforts. Chris Kulczycki suggested that for a light rider like me, he would specify lighter-gauge tubing, which should further improve the Velo-Orange's performance.


The Velo-Orange "Randonneur" appears well-built. Its handling inspires confidence, and its performance is excellent.
And here is quote from Mark Vande Kamp's "Mark's View" a short review:
During my ride, the bike simply felt right and never drew negative attention to itself. I can't think of any reasons why I wouldn't be happy to set off on any brevet riding the Velo Orange. There are very few bikes I can say that about, and even fewer with price tags anywhere near as low as the price of the Velo Orange.

As we rode along our usual test route, I remarked to Jan that testing pleasant bikes like the Velo Orange makes the test rides enjoyable, but makes it harder to write a capsule review. It is harder to write interesting things when the test bikes have few flaws to critique.

20 September, 2007

Building the Long Distance Bike

David Rowe is a persistent fellow; he's been asking me to read and mention his new e-book for months. Well, I finally read , A Rider's Guide To Building the Long Distance Bike I am glad that he is.

The book is based on the transcript of a panel discussion at this year's North American Handmade Bike Show. The panel included President of Independent Fabrication and former race mechanic Matt Bracken, Frame builder Steve Rex, Race Across America director Terry Zmrhal, and Matt Eames, Head Technician, Shimano Multi-Service program.

There's lots of good advice here. Most of the discussion is related to event bikes, RAAM, Brevets, but it also applies to light touring. Much is stuff you probably knew, but may have forgotten you knew. In any case, A Rider's Guide To Building the Long Distance Bike is well worth reading for anyone contemplating a new bike.

A Rider's Guide To Building the Long Distance Bike is available from RoadBikeRider.com. David also has an excellent site called Ready to Ride.

19 September, 2007

Velo Fashionista

I think the fashion business is one of mankind's sillier creations. A massive industry is based on consumers (not customers) throwing out perfectly good clothes just so they can look like the anorexic models, both male and female, featured in the latest fashion shows and magazine ads.

The New York, Paris, Milan, etc, designers have created a paradigm of absurdity, yet cyclists have managed to exceed even their silliness. Not only do many cyclists strive to dress like Tour de France riders, but they pay absurd amounts for kit plastered with advertising. Think about it, the advertisers pay the pros to wear jersey's advertising plastic flooring (Quickstep), hearing aids (Phonak), early pregnancy tests and lotteries (Predictor Lotto), and TV channels (Discovery). Most riders, however, actually pay big bucks to buy the same clothes; in other words they pay for the privilege of advertising for these companies. Is this all in hope that they might be mistaken for Lance?

Beyond the obviously ludicrous, there is the question of stomping about in road racing shoes when stopping for lunch because MTB or touring shoes you can walk in aren't deemed cool on a road bike. Plus, many of us no longer look our best in tight fitting Lycra.

As usual, the Japanese are a bit ahead of the curve in this. As this International Herald Tribune article explains how bicycle fashion is being recreated by some Japanese designers.

Also in Nakameguro is a shop called Hosu, where the doorway is flanked by a beautifully assembled Italian bicycle and a heavy-duty, multitiered tool box. Like PedAL.E.D., Hosu's clothes are all originals and geared toward the fashion-conscious, urban bicyclist. Hosu designs are marked by an understated edginess, like tweed or wool-like pants that are, in fact, made from polyester (for fast drying and easy wearing). They come with small slap-on coils that go around the left hem of the pant leg. This is so the pant hem will not get tangled in or soiled by the gear chain. The coils attach to the belt loops with an attractive metal ring, also good for hanging keys and other paraphernalia.

There are also jackets that come with small, detachable buttons that glow in the dark and alert drivers that a cyclist is on the road.

Jun Kurokawa, 34, a Hosu fan and rookie cyclist, said: "Just because I'm into bicycles doesn't necessarily mean that I have to dress the part. I like Hosu stuff because you can't really tell they were designed for bike lovers. It's a little bit like being part of a secret society."

The PedAL. E.D. shop also creates clothes that work both around town and on a bike. But more importantly their clothes are made of organic cotton, hemp, and other "responsible" fabrics. If you watched the talk by Yvon Chouinard that I linked to a few posts back, you know that non-organic cotton may be the most environmentally destructive crop in the world. And most plastic clothes, Lycra, pile, polyester, are made from oil, yet recycled polyester is one of the least harmful fabrics. Even wool raised on non-organic industrial ranches is questionable.

By the way, some of the best advice I ever received was: "Don't date women who wear gold shoes or say their hobby is shopping." And, "Style is not the same as fashion."

18 September, 2007

A Mixte by Johnny

David originally ordered a Velo Orange 650B Randonneur frame for his wife. But as the months passed they decided that since most of her riding was in town, a mixte might be more appropriate. After many e-mails we arrived at this city/rando bike.

What's most interesting is that since there are no high quality mixte lugs available these days, it was decided to build the frame using half-lugs on the head tube. This is a difficult and time consuming combination of fillet brazing and lugged construction. I think Johnny did a magnificent job of it.

The other unusual feature is that Johnny Coast uses an oversized down tube on this very small frame and did not run the mid stays past the seat tube. This is the way he builds all his mixtes. Why not follow the example of the constructeurs? Because he feels this makes the bike laterally stiffer and lighter with little decrease in vertical compliance. Having examined some classic mixtes Johnny felt there was room for improvement.

There are more photos here.

17 September, 2007

Derek's Velo Orange

Derek sent some very nice photos of his new frame, which was built up for fast riding. Here's what he said in the e-mail:

The bike is lovely, and although it was a bargain, I cannot imagine anybody finding fault with it at any price. It certainly can hold it's own against custom frames costing many times more and the restraint and elegance in lug choice, lug filing, decals and paint color and execution make this bike, IMO, second to none in both aesthetics and build quality - not to mention value!
I can honestly and quite happily say that it exceeded my expectations.
Let me know if you would like any further info...

Build as follows:
Dura Ace 9 speed brifters
Nitto Noodle Bars
Nitto Dynamic 2 stem
Tange headset
Shimano 47-57mm reach brakes
9 speed Ultegra hubs laced to Torelli Master rims
Non-Tourguard 32mm Paselas
Sugino AT crank, Tange bottom bracket, Shimano SPD pedals
9 speed Dura Ace RD
105 triple FD
Sram 12-26 cassette
Nitto Jaguar post
Regal saddle
Salsa cages
Here's an album with the rest of the photos. Thanks Derek!

Mounting Lights and a 60th Anniversary Mercian

I've been promising to develop a little mount to attach B&M mounts to VO (and other) racks. Here are a couple of photos. You could probably make one yourself; it's basically just a strip of stainless steel with a slight "S" bend. As soon as I return from Interbike, I'll meet with a US manufacturer we sometimes work with and have a bunch made. They should be under $10 each.

I'll also ask if they can make the VO handlebar mounted water bottle cage adapter.

Several folks have asked about mounting B&M Retro lights on fenders. All you need to do is remove the included light mount and reverse it as in the photo on the right. Be sure to use a large washer under the fender.

On another subject, does anyone have an opinion on which brand of moderately priced LED blinkey and LED handlebar mounted LED light is best? We're thinking of stocking the B&M models, but are there others we should try?

Kyle just received a new Mercian 60th anniversary frame. If you like beautiful bikes you might want to see this page and this one too. It's nice to see the VO bits on it Kyle; and thanks for sharing.

13 September, 2007

Links, Updates, and a Question

I've come across a few links you might find interesting:

As for updates:
  • Umm, those 650B Velo Orange fenders I said would be here in a few weeks won't. Why? I forgot to send the purchase order. Duh!
  • All the extra long Honjo fenders and hardware are still expected at the end of the month.
  • We've ordered some neat little clips that allow you to add bag loops to any saddle. Think these will sell well?
  • We are getting highly polished 45mm x 700c stainless steel VO fenders. They will cost under $40 with all hardware.
Finally a Question:

Recently, as VO continues to grow, we've been air freighting some products from Asia to keep them in stock. Air freight is the most environmentally damaging way to move goods, and expensive. Transport by ship is the best way, followed by train and truck. So I'm thinking of making it a VO policy to only use ship and, train, truck transport, except for samples and , occasionally, very light goods. This would mean a longer wait when we run out, but a much lower environmental impact. It might also help keep our prices a bit lower. Plus, I'm getting better about ordering stuff far in advance. What do you think? Would you be willing to wait longer knowing the goods were being transported in a more responsible way?

11 September, 2007

Good Old Bikes

There is a magazine called Good Old Boat about restoring and sailing older boats. There really should be a similar publication about bikes. It could focus on bikes like these:

It's not hard to find nice used bikes on E-bay or elsewhere, but finding a high-end mixte is another matter. There were simply not that many really nice classic mixtes made. Julie owns one, this Motobecane Grand Record. This is a very well designed and nicely built Reynolds 531 frame. Many would say this was the "sweet spot"in Motobecane's line, good construction with rando-like geometry and Nervex lugs. And are those the lovely new Velo Orange fenders 45mm that we see? There are a few more photos here.

Mike found a lovely blue '86 Nishiki Riviera GT (Grand Touring). It has cantilever brakes and full rack mounts. There are even fender mounts for the Honjo fenders he just bought. Nice bell too, and tapped right into the stem.

Mike also built-up a neat Bridgestone T700 for his wife.

09 September, 2007


Two articles in the Guardian last week caught my attention and stayed with me. So this post has nothing to do with bicycles. It is about ice. It is also about global warming.

Let me say up front that global warming is not, or should not, be a political issue. There are virtually no reputable scientists in the world that deny its existence. To do so for political gain is the most shameful and immoral conduct imaginable. Yet there are still politicians who do exactly that. There may, however, be some reasonable dispute over its speed and effects.

The most recent article, Scientists fear ice caps melting faster than predicted describes the speed at which the Greenland Ice Cap is melting. A few quotes:

The glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago.


Prof Correll, director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington, said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report were conservative and based on data two years old. The predicted rise this century was 20cm to 60cm, but it would be at the upper end of this range at least, he said, and some believed it could be two metres. This would be catastrophic for European coastlines.

He had flown over the Ilulissat glacier and "seen gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them."

He said ice-penetrating radar showed that this melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a lake 500 metres deep which was causing the glacier "to float on land. These melt-water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic.

The second article, Loss of Arctic ice leaves experts stunned, discusses the melting of arctic Ice cap, all that stuff floating in the arctic ocean. Quotes:

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced.

Experts say they are "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone.

So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month.

If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

It is important to remember that the melting of floating ice does not raise sea level. However, it may well cause a far more serious disaster, the likely collapse of the Gulf Stream. This, in turn, would cause profound climate change for the US east coast and Europe.

"This summer we've got all this open water and added heat going into the ocean. That is going to make it much harder for the ice to grow back."

Changes in wind and ocean circulation patterns can help reduce sea ice extent, but Dr Serreze said the main culprit was man-made global warming.

"The rules are starting to change and what's changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases."

This is too complicated a topic to fully discuss here, but I urge you do a bit of research on your own.

As for me, I'm going for a nice bike ride along a cool trout stream today. When I return I'll savor a little ice with a splash of pastis. Might as well enjoy it while we can.

06 September, 2007

Modernist Randonneur Bars

A couple of weeks ago we had a discussion of modernist design and bikes. So it was impossible to resist stocking a few of these NOS Modolo Gran Fondo handlebars. Imagine someone starting from a blank sheet and designing a rando or cyclo cross bar, someone with a strong taste for Bauhaus or perhaps Cubism.

Anyway, if you can get over the odd looks, these are great bars. They are made of very strong heat treated 6082-T6 aluminum, and you know how much Nitto heat treated bars cost. They have a super flat ramp, so they should be very comfortable when riding on the hoods. The drops also offer a nice flat place for your hands and a fair bit of flair. The tops angle back so you can really sit upright when you like. There is a single groove for aero bake cables. All in all this is a very intelligent, if bizarre, design. I'm saving a pair for the Toyo prototype.

They are available in 41cm and 43cm sizes. But wait, that's measured center-to-center at the tops. The ends of the drops flair to about about 7cm wider than the dimension given. So if we measured these in the usual way they would be 48cm and 50cm; like I said, "bizarre". The clamping area is 26mm.

The cost is $30 for now and we only have a small quantity. But if you like them I know of a little warehouse in Europe with a bunch more. So what do you think? Are they ugly enough to be cool?

05 September, 2007

Web 2.0, Corporations, Wikis, Socialists, Blogs, and Bicycle Design

Yesterday's Guardian has an article entitled The Wiki Way. It's about Don Tapscott and his book, Wikinomics, which I happen to be reading. The interesting thing is that it describes what we, that is the author and commenter on the VO blog, are doing.

Don and his coauthor, Anthony D. Williams, postulate that the effects of the internet have only begun to change business and society. This is due to the continued development of mass collaboration. From the article:

"Ronald Coase had noticed something odd about capitalism. The received wisdom, among western economists, was that individuals should compete in a free market: planned economies, such as Stalin's, were doomed. But in that case, why did huge companies exist, with centralised operations and planning? The Ford Motor Company was hailed as a paragon of American business, but wasn't the Soviet Union just an attempt to run a country like a big company? If capitalist theory was correct, why didn't Americans, or British people, just do business with each other as individual buyers and sellers in the open market, instead of organizing themselves into firms?

The answer - which won Coase a Nobel prize - is that making things requires collaboration, and finding and linking up all the people who need to collaborate costs money. Companies emerge when it becomes cheaper to gather people, tools and material under one roof, rather than to go out looking for the best deal every time you need a few hours' labour, or a part for a car. But the internet, Tapscott argues, is radically lowering the cost of collaborating. Companies - certainly big companies - are losing their raison d'etre. Individuals, and tiny companies, can collaborate without corporate behemoths to organise them."

Tapscott goes on to explain that while it is not unusual for companies to have input from customers "Collaboration can occur on an astronomical scale, so if you can create an encyclopedia with a bunch of people, could you create a mutual fund? A motorcycle?" Or a bicycle perhaps?

He uses the Chinese motorcycle industry as an example. This is an industry that produces 15 million motorcycles yet is not dominated by large companies such as Honda or Yamaha, but rather it is made up of hundreds of small companies: "Their representatives meet in tea-houses, or collaborate online, each sharing knowledge, and contributing the parts or services they do best. The companies that assemble the finished products don't hire the other companies; assembling the finished product is just another service. A "self-organised system of design and production" has emerged..."

There are some elements of this in the Taiwanese bicycle industry, and here at Velo Orange. Of course our example is not quite as developed, but by cooperating with Johnny Coast, Ahren Rogers, Mr. Yoshikawa (of Nitto) and many of our customers who post here or send me lengthy e-mails describing products they would like to see, we are creating a sort of Wiki. The new porteur rack, for example, is based on plans sent by a customer. I wonder how we can further develop this concept?

The photos are of the Ostrich panniers; a few folks wanted to see more detail.