17 January, 2008

The New VO Passhunter Frame


VO Rando frames have been very popular and as a result there is now a long waiting list for them. They have also gotten a more expensive as we now actually try to make a small profit on them.

So it's time to launch a more affordable custom frame, the Pass Hunter. The new frame has the same geometry as the Randonneusse, uses fairly similar tubing, and is also built to measure. But there are major differences; this frame is TIG welded by Ahren Rogers. It uses a wider fork crown so it can fit tires to 35mm, and it uses cantilever brakes. There are no options on this frame, other than paint color, orange, brown, black, and green. The "paint" is a high quality powder coat with a clear coat.

The idea is to build a very versatile machine that can be used for all around riding, brevets, inn-to-inn touring and, yes, pass hunting.

The price is also a big difference. The first few "semi-prototype" frames will be $999 and then the price will climb to around $1250. The lead time for the frames is currently about 4 months and will undoubtedly climb if they prove popular. Order quickly if you want the lower price.

The photo is of a little Basque town in Spain, right in the middle of the Pyrenees. It would be a good base for some serious pass hunting.

27 comments:

Michael S said...

Other than being built by Ahren instead of Toyo, what is the substantive difference between the Pass Hunter frame and the production Randonneur?

Michael S said...

(and tigged instead of lugged)

rory said...

will the pass hunters have braze on centerpulls for dia compe or mafac brakes?

Adam said...

Rory -- I believe Chris pre-answered your question.

"it uses cantilever brakes"

elvisVelo said...

What did michael s mean by "Toyo" ?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...
Powdercoated, canti brakes, wide fork crown, TIG'd....
Sounds like a SomaSurly at 3x the price. Yeah, custom geo and a color option or two more but thats still a very big price difference.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm... Powdercoated, canti brakes, wide fork crown, TIG'd....
Sounds like a SomaSurly at 3x the price. Yeah, custom geo and a color option or two more but thats still a very big price difference."

I agree with this comment. I'd think about buying this frame were it lugged. But tigged and powdercoated -- very little appeal.

Michael S said...

I hope my comment didn't lead to comparing this frameset to a more expensive Surly or Soma.

A handmade frame by a highly experienced builder like Ahren is certainly different than a mass-produced cheap frame, or even one made by Toyo.

I was thinking more along the lines of pass hunters normally being extra lightweight, with more clearance but slightly different geometry; i.e. chainstay length, trail, bottom bracket height, etc.

I guess I was also thinking that the intro price point was close to the targeted intro price for the production Randonneur, and I was thinking that the Pass Hunter sounded like a pretty good deal.

It doesn't matter to me, I'm getting a Rando frame. I was just interested, that's all.

elvisVelo said...

anonyme says...
>>Hmmm...
>>Powdercoated, canti brakes, wide >>fork crown, TIG'd....
>>Sounds like a SomaSurly at 3x the >>price. Yeah, custom geo and a >>color option or two more but >>thats still a very big price >>difference.

You make it sound like it is almost an apples to apples comparison. But to me, they are far too dissimilar to dismiss the VO like that. It seems like the choice is about, on one hand:
a custom geometry/tubing, a rando-focused design, and hand-building, to achieve ride and handling characteristics appropriate for the intended use.
...and on the other hand a mass-produced frame with less focused performance characteristics, that costs a little under half of the VO model (your Soma needs a fork).

I can easily see both sides of the decision, and if I wanted a commuter/beater, I would go cheap. But,I also value qualities of professional design and craftsmanship, and if I wanted a rando-performance in a bike, that's a no-brainer to me.

Michael S said...

Also, compare the price of the Pass Hunter to other custom TIG'd frames-

ANT Club Racer: $1500+
IF Club Racer: $2k

...?

Anonymous said...

What's the name of the Basque village?

Anonymous said...

Please no Cantilevers! And 35mm is on the skinny side for pass hunting. Although that IS the size of the official pass hunting tire: the Panaracer Col de la Vie Passhunting! It WILL fit 590/584 wheels, right?
I don't see a big advantage of this over the Kogswell P/R at half the price. (except of course the orange color!)
tys

Joel said...

A-A-D

Yes. There are many people who cannot tell the difference between something mass made by a wage slave and something hand made by a master - young master but a master none the less.

Obviously VO's market does understand the difference - thus the long waiting list for its many products.

Yes this is TIG not lugged. But look around. AntBikeMike makes only powder coated TIGs and has more than a 10 month wait list.

Quality mean something. Whether you want to pay for it does not mean there are others who understand and will.

Anonymous said...

"Quality mean something"

My surly is excellent quality. I'd put it up against an ANT bike any day - it's 98% the quality at 25% the cost - and yes, these numbers have been obtained empirically! ;)
I'm not saying this passhunter will not be a very fine bike or that nobody should value and support this endeavor. But country of origin aside, I bet a surly will come pretty close to this bike in terms of quality, aesthetics and performance. Buy whatever floats your boat, I was simply stating that I'd probably pick up a surly and have it built up for the entry price of the frame on this bike.
Chris makes great stuff, I own a bunch of it and this bike will be real nice too I'm sure.

James said...

If this were a german, danish or japanese blog no one would have to defend a reasonable price for a top quality semi-custom frame.

This is an example of one of the many cultural differences that separate a producer from a consumer society and it is one of the reasons why they still design, build and buy domestic goods worth buying and we don't.

Toei sells luggless semi custom frames for $900. Germans and danes routinely buy semi-custom or even standard bicycle with frame that cost as much, but in that part of the world you have an understanding on the part of consumer and producer about why good design is and why it is worth paying for. Both my be lacking here.

In such a situation, you have intelligent consumers who pay for and benefit from superior design and more importantly people who can make a living designing and building something really good. As opposed to marketing a lesser good designed and built by somebody else.

Somewhere in Dagenham and Köln there are some Ford engineers who must be pretty damn proud of their new Mondeo and somewhere in Detroit there are some Ford engineers who wish they had the opportunity to design something that good instead of making "marketing realities" out of recycled old mazda parts for consumers who are more interested in big grills, exaggerated wheel arches and the promise of off roading than anything real.

garu said...

Good points, James, spot on...ah, but I don't know about Dagenham, mate...

Anonymous said...

"Germans and danes routinely buy semi-custom or even standard bicycle with frame that cost as much, but in that part of the world you have an understanding on the part of consumer and producer about why good design is and why it is worth paying for."

If we didn't have that here, too, VO, Riv and others wouldn't exist. Not to mention that the US has more high end bicycle builders than the rest of the world combined.

"In such a situation, you have intelligent consumers who pay for and benefit from superior design"

I'm sure some stupid folks have bought good bikes too, And this also implies that people buying Taiwanese bikes are of lesser intelligence. Maybe they are simply of lesser means.

Joel said...

A-A-D 1/18 9:16

I have no argument with someone saying they bought a Surly (or Soma, or Kogswell for that matter) over an Ant, Sycip or now the new Passhunter because they either could not, or would not spend the extra money.

I do disagree with the statements above suggesting the buyer is not giving up something when they buy a mass produced bike.

I have owned many mass produced bikes. I now have a new custom, a semi-custom, and an antique custom. The differences in fit, ride, handling, and appearance are palpable. It took me no more than a few minutes on the bikes to fully understand the difference the extra cost meant to the bike.

Perhaps the problem getting the point across is that many view bikes as utilitarian objects.

I see the difference between a custom bike and a mass produced not unilike the difference between my Swiss made manual watch and a digital watch. Digital watches have all sorts of swell features that serve their owners well. But the hand made manual watch has certain inborn quality that the digitals will never have.

I do not tell people they are goofs for buying a digital. But I sure do not accept people telling me my manual is somehow a bad value. Same with bikes.

Curious in Austin said...

I still would like to know the name of the Basque village...

Anonymous said...

"I do disagree with the statements above suggesting the buyer is not giving up something when they buy a mass produced bike."

Which statement would that be? I suggested that you do give something up - it's just a small something. Is it worth paying many times the cost of a fairly comparable frameset for? For many, sometimes myself included, the answer is yes. For many it is no. There is no right or wrong here. My initial feedback to Chris was simply that, IMO, his new offering was a little too close to something that I could get for much less, say a Kogswell. I recognize there are differences and I know what they are - but for me it's a little too close.

Michael S said...

Perhaps we can also re-iterate the request for non-anonymous comments...

Felkerino said...

Well done Chris!

Let's see, a handbuilt frame from Ahren Rogers, made to measure, for $1K to start? Amazing. Appears all we give up are lugs and caliper brakes.

If I had not already got in line for a VO randonneur, I would get this bike.

Does this bike replace plans to offer a lower-cost lugged randonneur bike from Toyo?

Ed Felker
Arlington, VA

Le Zman said...

While I am 180 deg apart from Chris on his politics, I absolutely applaud his abilities and vision as a business person. He is bringing to market many useful and well-made products that serve a need that companies like Riv cannot come close to matching, apart from frames.
I you/I disagree with where something is made or what it costs, you only simply need not purchase it. This market, like water will seek it's own level. I'm in line for a Rando, and if I like it I may (almost certainly will) by more frames/bikes. I like his vision and can see him offering a complete bike of VO brand/sourced bikes, and not just the same old nice frame hung w/ Shimano/Campy stuff that everybody else is doing. Would I like to see him keeping Americam job-shops busy with these projects? Sure, but that's a different discussion.
Bravo, Chris, keep going for it.

C said...

Sorry but anyone who automatically assumes that a mass produced frame is lower quality than a handmade custom is a fool and clearly has never worked in a bike shop or held a torch! Reality is most of the builders in the Asian factories have more experience with a toch than most of the custom builders out there. Proficiency and expertise are earned in part through repetition. Doubt this? Ask Doug Fattic or Richard Sachs both of whom worked as "wage slaves" when they were starting out. Also making a blanket statement that TIG welding is easier than lugged construction is another sign that you really don't know what you're talking about. I've tried both and found TIG to be much more difficult. I've also seen enough poorly built lugged frames to know that lugs are a great way to hide shoddy construction.

My point is that building frames isn't easy but at the sametime it's not nearly the art form some people make it out to be. You also can't judge quality with the naked eye. Just because a frame has clean looking lugs or tidy TIG welds doesn't mean it's well built.

As for comparing the Pass Hunter to other existing models, I think the closest competitor would be Gunnar: TIG welded, good tubing, production builds, and good workmanship. They're also made here in the USA and that will always add to the cost regardless of quality.

Chris Kulczycki said...

I can't remember the name of the Basque village. Too much rosado and tempranillo no doubt. I'll have to dig out my maps from that trip.

I'll write another post later today that might answer some questions about the Pass Hunter.

elvisvelo said...

>>Blogger C a dit...
Sorry but anyone who automatically assumes that a mass produced frame is lower quality than a handmade custom is a fool and clearly has never worked in a bike shop or held a torch!

It seems as though you are assuming that mass-produced bikes are all handmade.

I don't think anyone is saying that the asiaBikes being referenced aren't pretty good frames, especially for the $ involved.

However, it is quite a stretch to assume that they have the same qualities as purpose-built semi-customs. That they might be "close enough" for many folks is understandable. But why some of those folks feel the need to drag others through their cost-benefit analysis as though it were a virtue puzzles me.

Anonymous said...

elvisvelo-
life is puzzling. that's all we have.