29 May, 2008

Something to Think About

From Paul Krugman's blog:

As he says, "we're number one"!

Then there is this. And this.

We're Moving

I'm a bit behind on posting. It's been busy here, bordering on totally crazy. So we're hiring a couple of more folks and moving to a bigger shop.

The spaces pictured at right will house VO and VO Imports. It's still within a mile or so of downtown Annapolis, but now we have plenty of parking and storage. We'll move at about the end of Summer.

You'll notice that this is an exceedingly elegant structure in the early penitentiary style. The landscaping seen in this photograph might be described as minimal, however we have a large yard in back. It is done in the style of an un-raked Zen garden with rusty machinery and oil drums evoking mountains and islands. Perhaps we should add a koi pond?

Interestingly, the other end of building houses my old company, Chesapeake Light Craft.

Also, we got another, and probably our last, shipment of the very interesting Modolo Grand Fondo Handlebars.

22 May, 2008

Sneak Peak

I just finished building up the prototype multipurpose frame, well almost. It still needs fenders and racks.; I wish someone had 650b Le Paon fenders in stock. In any case, I've only ridden it around the neighborhood so far, but I really like it.

You may notice a few odd items on this bike. The bottle cage is a new high polish version of our Moderniste cage that should arrive in about two months. The saddle is one of four models, in three colors, of the new VO saddles. They should be here in about 3 months. The bars are old French bars I wanted to try out.

There are a few more photos here. BTW, the chain guard in one of the photos is a model that works with a front dérailleur; it's not attached yet. It's actually plastic, but not as awful looking as some. We might stock it.

21 May, 2008

City Bike Decision and New Items

Thanks for all the great opinions regarding the city bike. I've placed to order for a production run of TIG welded frames. We will also have them in a Mixte version if that prototype looks good. The Rando frame and the multipurpose frame will both be lugged. I'll post photos of the multi-purpose bike in a few days.

A perfect accessory to a city bike is shopping panniers. The Basil Kavan panniers are beautiful and popular, but expensive. So we decided to stock a simpler style Basil city bike panniers, the Memphis. The Memphis is a double rear pannier in the Dutch style. It's made of sturdy and waterproof imitation leather. It has a cut-out for luggage carrier straps and spring clamp and double reflective stripes front and back. 33 x 12 x 30cm (each bag).

I really like bike baskets and we have a few new Basil models. The Davos is a large open basket and the Denver is an oval model with a lid. Both have handles for shopping. And we now have the very well received Blossom basket in blue.

We also have some inexpensive double track straps, for you animals who want to race to the farmer's market.

16 May, 2008

A Proper Mixte

Lesli sent some photos of her VO Mixte and it's simply stunning. This frame was built by Johnny Coast. Lesli wrote:

More formal ride/commuting report to come but I can tell you right now that the frame fits perfectly and is a total pleasure to ride. I'm amazed at how light and sporty the bike feels. It's definitely a distant, sports car cousin to my old Raleigh 3-speed. I can promise you that I'll be taking this bike out on a late season 200k just to test its randonneuring credentials. Louis Orsini did amazing work to put the bike together. Lots of small build/adjustments to make those old parts fit together (drilling, filing, shimming, etc). One special detail: he built me up one of his "special" derailleurs: coupling the body of an old Campy rally derailleur to the short cage of a Campagnolo Super record.

The chainguard is a VO prototype and I like it so much I'm going to start bugging Taiwan to hurry up and put it into production. The bars are Bellari Porteurs drilled for NOS CLB inverse levers. There are more photos here. Thanks Leslie.

15 May, 2008

What Are Lugs Worth? UPDATED

I received final pricing for the city bike from the factory today. It would raise the final price of the city bike by $160 to $200 to have it built with lugs, rather than TIG welded. The TIG welded frame and fork would cost about $400. Both versions includes fender mounts, semi horizontal dropouts, chainguard mounts, and all the other braze-ons you would expect from a VO frame. The tubing is double butted and the quality of either is as good as is available in Taiwan, which is not far from a modern production Japanese frame. Both the brazing and welding is very clean and there are no signs of overheating. So the question is, are lugs worth the extra expense?

As I see it, a city bike should not be too expensive or you'll be afraid to leave it out on the street. And a TIG welded frame rides almost as well as a lugged frame. Some say they are indistinguishable.

On the other hand, I think a lugged frame feels just a touch nicer. And it is certainly a lot nicer to look at. There is no question that most folks reading this would prefer a lugged frame, but is it worth the extra cost in this application.

The floor is open.

UPDATE: I wanted to add a few words to answer some questions and offer some explanation.

This is a low trail design with capacity for significant front loading. We are working on less expensive portuer style racks for it. But it is a real city bike for commuting and shopping, not a porteur optimized for a 50 pound front load. A portuer like that will not handle as well when unloaded.

As with all VO frames the emphasis is on perfect handling. I'm confident that there is no production city bike frame that will handle as well. My goal is offer the ride like of a top-of-the-line French constructeur city bike in a frame selling for between $400 and $580. Surlys, Somas, and other current frames are not like this. The Kogswell is a nice bike, but I think it's more like the upcoming multi-purpose frame. The VO has a longer top tube and is designed specifically for city bike handlebars, not drop bars.

This is a 650b frame; that is the best tire size for this sort of bike and I won't compromise on that. A bike like this is not for someone who will be happy on a converted mountain bike. It's for someone who lusts after a $6000 vintage Singer city bike on E-bay, but knows the Singer is far too valuable to lock to a parking meter.

Picture Day

A couple of very nice photos of bikes found their way into my in-box yesterday.

The first is of Mark's lovely Fuji Randoneuse. There are more photos here. He writes:

The only thing original on the bike is the frame and fork. I built-up everything else with either new or NOS parts. Wheels are shimano 105 hubs DT Swiss R1.1 rims 32-spoke laced 4-cross. Tires are Grand Bois 700x32 (thanks out to Jan Heine). Besides short touring, I made the mud flaps out of 1/8" sheet rubber bought at a hardware store. I epoxy-glued one end of these to the inside Honjo fenders, clamping them with a wine cork on the inside to make it fit to the curve of the fender. Then I drilled and through bolted the flap with a small stainless steel bolt/nut.

I've used this bike to carry photo equipment to photograph stages of races like the Amgen Tour of California.

I'm currently retrofiting a second later quad butted del rey frame as a campee bike (it's dark green).

Then there is this stunning Myata built up by David. Click to enlarge the photo; there are lots of nice details. Maybe David will chime in with more info.

Finally we have a less-than-stunning prototype VO "Type C" or city bike. This is a perfect example of why we build prototypes. The fork length is an error. I spec the length from the bottom of the crown because this allows for perfect fender lines, but the manufacturer assumed it was from the top of the crown. Good thing we caught it now. The color will change to a very very dark green. The chain guard was not drilled for this frame, but rather it was an old one that already had some holes in it. In fact, most of the parts were simply bits we had lying around; I'll rebuild it later. This one is in Annette's size; I haven't photographed mine.

By the way, we have VO handlebar water bottle cage mounts in stock again.

13 May, 2008

In Stock, Low Down Type 2

This is just a quick note to let those of you who have been waiting for the Type-2 Low Down light mount that they have arrived. These are hot off the lathe and allow you to mount a dynamo light to your front wheel skewer. You can also mount them on the light eyelets of VO racks. The Type-1 , for battery light has been selling well and gotten good reviews from those who have tried it.

We also have some nice new chrome Japanese round spoke wrenches for a great price.

And we have 8 speed KMC chains in stock Again. I don't know why there was a run on them and we kept selling out. They are very good chains, but still?

09 May, 2008

A Few New Products

I thought I'd take a break from building up the production city bike prototype and post about a few new products.

We just got new Honjo 45mm x 700c fenders that are based on the famous French Lefol Le Paon fenders. They are highly polished, terribly retro, and one of the most beautiful fender styles ever made. Our VO 650b Le Paon fenders are finally on the way as well.

Another new item is the FSA Gossamer Front Dérailleur that's designed for compact cranks. They have a flat outer cage so they work well with TA Pro-5-Vis, and other older-style, cranks. They clamp onto 28.6 and 31.8mm seat tubes. All hardware is stainless steel. And, yes, they do work perfectly with 9 and 10 speed chains.

And then there is the new Sumo horn. Give him a good squeeze and he'll honk. Wouldn't you? One can't always be elegant. Mounts on most handlebars.

06 May, 2008

New Brakes

We just recieved a prototype VO long reach caliper brake in our special polished, but not anodized, finish. This matches the finish of TA Pro-5-Vis cranks and many other classic components. I've mentioned these brakes before, but here are the specs. They have a reach of 47-57mm, they are CNC made from 6066 T6 alloy, and their weight is 367gm per set. You'll also notice that we now have matching cartridge brake shoes that take any standard pad. They are super stiff and very smooth. The price is not yet set, but they will compete with the better Shimano long reach brakes. I'm working on the black hardware issue. Any thoughts?

02 May, 2008

Brett's VO Rando Bike

Just as I was trying to think of something to post about comes a great e-mail from Brett, who just finished building up his VO frame. And he has done a splendid job of it. He writes:

I took a few photos of my VO Randonneur frame built except for the lighting system (it will be a few months before I do that). The ride is superb and the frame is stunning. I've thought about building this dream bike for years but Velo Orange is what really made it possible...

...It took about 20 hours for me to assemble everything and the final weight is less than 25 pounds which includes the heavy Schmidt SON hub.

The quality of the frame is equal or better than many custom frames that cost thousands more and have 2-3 year waits. Even at the current price of $1850 it seems like an incredible bargain. What's more important is that you're supplying the necessary parts to really make it happen from racks to the roller hangers all at reasonable prices!

The rest of the photos are here. I think that's a beautiful build. Great job Brett. By the way, the wait for a frame is now 2.5 years, sorry.