30 January, 2008

Tom's New VO Gentleman Bike

Tom saw my VO Gentleman bike at Cirque last year and was impressed enough to order a frame on the spot, even though he already had a city bike on order from another builder. He also got the first one in the new brown color, which I really like. The frame was fillet brazed by Ahren Rogers.

Here are a few quotes:

"The ride is something spectacular, I've never ridden a frame that had fork trail and rake that allowed such a short slow turn that didn't also handle badly in higher speed turns , or feel like the bike could only track well in a straight line, but not the case with this frame , the ride is just terrific."
And later:
"The bike is now in one configuration the I call "light errand" and one such errand was ridden today in light rain and wet roads to pick up by car from servicing. Later when it is warmer I'll install a front rack for regular runs to the winerys in the area to have lunch and pick up a couple of bottles of wine. ( The bike is so light right now I am almost reluctant to add any other weight.) The ride today was the first test of 650b tires (Panaracer Col de Vie) over rough surface, railroad crossings , and wet roads, all of which I am familiar with on my other bicycles, and the contrast is remarkable, what a nice ride."
And what a nice build, neat saddle bag, Belleri Portuer bars, CLB guidonet levers, Simplex 440 long cage dérailleur, Suntour shifter... The photos speak for themselves. Thanks for sending them Tom.

As always, click on the photos to enlarge them.

25 January, 2008

Basket Case

Finding really good bike baskets is hard. Many of the cheap Asian baskets are just plain junk, though there are a few good ones. In addition to the Amish baskets we stock, we now have a couple of Basil models.

Who says bike baskets have to be wicker or wire? The BLOSSOM-BASKET (top photo) is made of a tough woven fiber material. It has a steel frame and carrying handles. The stable double hooks can fit over your handlebars or rack, allowing the Blossom to simply lift off for carrying. This a fine example of stylish, yet practical, Dutch design. Everyone who has seen this basket so far really loves it.

The BERN front bike basket is made of steel, mesh and has a removable carrying handle. It has double handlebar hooks, and a cut-out for a headlight. This is another very practical utility basket that can be removed in seconds. And at $24 it's very affordable.

Baskets like this make any bike practical for a quick trip to the market or even for the occasional commute. We'll probably order some rear rack baskets too. Take a look at the Basil site and see if there are other products you'd like us to stock.

23 January, 2008

Dutch Panniers and VO Handlebar Bag

I've been waiting a long time to get these. They are top-of-the-line Dutch style shopping/commuting panniers from Basil.

This is from the Basil site:

KAVAN II NATURAL, double rear bag, strength.,strong and water-repellent canvas w. leather,no interference heels/bag through rounded sides, cover 'Soft Filling',reflective str.on all sides,topside two leather bands for LED/straps/child's seat.

Dimension: each bag is 37*17*35; 45L
I am very impressed with them. One immediately notices that they are rugged, very large, and rather heavy, but obviously made to last for a very long time and withstand the rainy Northern European climate. The workmanship and materials are very nice. As with many natural materials, I suspect that the canvas and leather will wear for ages and develop a beautiful patina as it does.

As for the down side, well they will be too big and heavy for some. Unless you really shop on your bike or need to carry a fair amount on your commute, they may be overkill. The two bags are linked by a the central straps that go over the rear rack, so cannot be used separately. And they are not cheap.

We'll be getting a few more Basil products soon, but the supply of these panniers is very limited. We probably won't get another case of them until Spring.

The second photo is of the latest VO handlebar bag prototype. It still needs some work, but it's getting there; one more prototype round should do it.

22 January, 2008

NITTO R Cages are Back in Stock

This is just a quick note since so many people have been e-mailing asking when the next shipment of what may be the world's most beautiful water bottle cages will arrive.

We also have a new VO bottle cage mount that fits on, yes just as you requested, handlebars. It's made of extruded aluminum and are intended for city bikes, so fit bars up to 25.4mm. The cost is $3.50.

(I know some of will want to use them on the 26mm "sleeved" road bars. In that case you'll need to file just a touch off the top edge of the "hinge" section so it opens a little wider. Of course, it's no problem to use them on "bulged" road bars or beside the sleeve.)

Ciclovia and "StreetFilms"

Ciclovia is a program in Bogotá, Columbia to open the city's streets to bicycles and other recreational uses. If you've followed Bogota's recent history, you know that this city that was once known mostly for it's role in the drug trade has undergone a remarkable transformation into a progressive and eco-friendly modern city. It has one of the most extensive and comprehensive network of bike paths of any city in the world.

The film below is a heart-warming production from StreetFilms, a small video production house with a wonderful body of work concerning urban transport, bike use, and other issues that concern us all. Ciclovia, both the idea and the video, will certainly put a smile on your face and make you wonder why we in the US don't have such innovative and simple urban ideas.

If you're interested in watching other bike related videos, you might check out:
Physically Separated Bike Lanes, How to use a Bike Box, and Berkeley Bike Boulevards. The StreetFilms site also links to: A Great Bicycling Video from Copenhagen and at least a dozen other short films worth watching.

If you find other must-watch stuff on the site please leave a comment.

21 January, 2008

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show will be held in Portland, Oregon February 8-10. This should be a truly spectacular show, probably the biggest ever. If there is any way at all that you can attend, you really should.

Velo Orange won't be exhibiting this year; it's not like we need more frame orders; but I'll be there to see the bikes and chat with other builders. I'll also be meeting with a couple of our Japanese suppliers who are flying over to attend.

VO will remain open and orders will continue to be shipped while I'm gone.

Hope to see you there!

18 January, 2008

More about the Pass Hunter Frame

Here are some more details about the Pass Hunter frame:

  • Each frame is built to measure based on your measurements, weight, and riding preferences.
  • Columbus, Dedacciai, or Reynolds tubes; tube choice based on frame size and rider’s weight
  • Slightly extended head tube (10mm)
  • Head tube and seat tube angle: 73-degrees, Trail: 43mm
  • BB drop of about 75mm and chain stays of 44.5cm, but dimensions are adjusted slightly to suite frame size
  • Fork blades smoothly bent in the “French fashion”. (Fork crown type still to be determined, probably the same as on our city bike.)
  • Vertical dropouts with single eyelets
  • Set up for cantilever brakes. I feel the power of cantis is needed for a pass hunter and canti's give you the most stopping power for the buck. Centerpulls have better modulation, but this is meant to be an affordable frame and Paul Racers are very expensive.
  • TIG welded in the US by Ahren Rogers, who builds our fillet brazed city bikes and formerly built bikes for "SEVEN". The quality simply cannot be compared with any Taiwanese TIG welded frame I've seen. Also remember that weld quality is only part of the picture; alignment, for example, is just as important.
  • Room for VO 45mm fenders and 35mm tires. Again In keeping with the VO philosophy of trying to absolutely nail the handling, we recommend a rather small range of tire sizes, 28-35mm for this frame.
  • 1-degree top tube upslope
  • Loops on the fork for a VO rando constructeur front rack.
  • 700c wheel size.
  • Simple and elegant decals under clear coat.
  • Very high quality powder coat finish. Powder coating is more environmentally friendly and tougher than "wet paint". And since we don't need to keep the paint thin to define the lugs, powder coat is the best choice.
Braze-On List:
  • Top tube cable stops at lower left
  • Down tube shifter bosses
  • Rear derailleur cable stop
  • Two sets of water bottle bosses
  • Brake cable hanger
  • Chain hanger
  • Pump peg
  • Fender attachments on bridges and crown and the bridges and crown are carefully placed for a perfect fender-line. I think this is a very big deal and something I still don't see on many frames.
  • Front rack eyelets on fork blades
The photo is of our son, Alec, in a triathlon, not on a VO bike though.

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.

14 January, 2008

Bike Related News

Here are a few news stories that caught my eye:

From ASAHI SHIMBUN comes a story about very sensible new bike related laws taking effect in Japan:

Proposed revisions this spring will ban cyclists from holding an umbrella, listening to music, gabbing on the phone and riding in other reckless ways, sources said.

In particular, wearing headphones while listening to a music player or talking on the phone and steering with one hand will be banned.

"Triple-riding," an unsafe practice in which a rider carries two children on a bicycle in attached front and rear seats, will also be prohibited.


Parents will be required to ensure their children wear helmets while riding their own bicycle or when riding as a single passenger on a bike.

Other more minor infringements, such as constantly ringing a bicycle bell while riding on a crowded sidewalk, will also be discouraged.

Of course some of our friends in London, Seattle, and Portland may see more of a need for brollies than we do. Speaking of Portland, the New York Times had a piece about efforts there to prevent bicycle traffic fatalities. While I applaud these efforts, I would also like to see bikes viewed as real vehicles, at least in city centers where speed limits could be set at 15 or 20mph. That is, they should occupy a full traffic lane, as does a motorcycle or scooter.
“Ghost bikes,” riderless and painted white, were placed at two busy intersections in Portland, Ore., last October, makeshift memorials to two bicyclists killed when they were hit by trucks in accidents that month.
This spring, at those same intersections and at 12 others across the city, “bike boxes” will be laid out on the roadway to provide a clearly designated place for cyclists, in front of and in full view of drivers, to wait for traffic lights to change. The boxes will be marked with signs and wide stripes alerting drivers to stop behind them at red lights.
The Europeans really know how to encourage bike use. From the very very cool Copenhagen Bike Culture Blog:

Employees in the southern region of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration [Statens Vegvesen] are rewarded for riding their bikes or walking to work. They can look forward to an extra week of holiday per year.

Senior Engineer Rune Gunnerød rides to work more or less all year round. The right clothes, a good bike and good, cleared bike lanes have made it possible - now it is just pure pleasure.

The offer from Vegvesenet is part of a larger environmental strategy. Employees who bike or walk to work recieve 4 hours free each month and that adds up to a week of holiday in the course of a year. In addition, the employees must exercise four hours a month in order to qualify.
In Denmark, the Socialistisk Folkeparti [SF] - one of the nation's largest political parties - has always been known for it's environmentally friendly policies and proposals.

They came up with a clever one eariler this year, aimed at reducing illness. In short, reducing VAT on healthy foods and paying people to ride their bike to and from work.

Danes should be healthier and illness should be prevented rather than treated. SF proposed paying cylists 1.78 kroner [€0.23 / $0.36] per kilometre to commute by bike. Companies and the city would pay the wage which should be tax-free for workers and tax-deductable for companies.

Lorna's Mixte

Here are a few photos of the VO "Madame"mixte that Gunnar built-up for his wife, Lorna. Pretty nice job, I'd say.

From Gunnar's blog:

It has an 8 speed, internal-geared Sturmey-Archer rear hub, 650b wheels, Honjo hammered aluminum fenders, a vintage Perle chainguard, T-A crankset, Paul centerpull brakes, and a Brooks saddle and bag. The handbars are covered with laced-on elkhide, tough, yet soft to the touch. Our friends Eli and Lovina Hershberger, an Amish couple from Viroqua, made the basket.

10 January, 2008

New Item Photos

Here are some photos of a few new products.

Our new 45mm Velo Orange pre-drilled and anodized fenders have a lovely light silver satin finish, like that on some Sugino cranks. All the holes are drilled and the fork crown bracket is attached, so they are very easy to install.

We also now have 52mm smooth fenders for 700c bikes.

The second photo shows our new leather bar tape which is available in honey and in black. With Brooks bar tape selling for about $70, you'll be happy to hear that the VO version is only $40.

The TA Tevano cranks I wrote about a few post down arrived.

TA finally sent our pedals and we know have plenty in stock, but don't delay ordering them. The next shipment will be considerably more expensive.

We also have some new soft brown rubber grips. I liked the shape and color of these and they are very comfortable. They might look just right on an all-weather city bike.

Circus Bikes and Yellow Tape

One type of bike we've never discussed here is the circus bike, you know, the type that clowns ride. Now some of you may consider that a good thing, but I bring this up because I keep answering e-mails about the shortage of yellow cloth handlebar tape. Recently a large and internationally known circus company bought our entire stock of yellow Tressostar handlebar tape. That was over 500 rolls! And they asked if we knew where they could get more. I know; I should have asked why a circus needed 500 plus rolls of yellow bar tape. That's a lot of clowns on little circus bikes.

We'll have more yellow tape in a few weeks.

If anyone has more to add regarding circus bikes, please leave a comment.

08 January, 2008


I'm back from vacation and completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of e-mails to answer and orders to process, and a ceiling-high stack of deliveries to open. Here are some of the items that arrived:

We have the new VO leather handlebar tape in honey and black. It looks really nice, cleanly skived (beveled) with good quality mounting tape and nice consistant color. There is a diagonal joint in each piece as on Brooks tape, but it's nicely sewn. I'll take photos and have it on the site soon.

We have a new model VO fender for 700c and 27" wheels. It's like our current 45mm fender but with a satin finish anodized finish and these are pre-drilled so mounting is very easy.

Our 650b fenders are not in the shipment as they should have been; I'll investigate.

We have a new VO bar plug that's a bit like the Velox plugs, but nicer.

We recieved our new expandable silver VO aluminum bar plugs.

I'll write more tomorrow and try to post a few photos of these and other new products.