Before VO I started and owned a company where one of my jobs was designing small boats. The photo is of an open water sliding seat rowing boat I designed. Like all boat builders and designers I developed a keen eye for curves. The various curves that make up a hull, the sheer, the stem, the buttocks lines, the diagonals, and a lot more, define both the performance and the appearance of a boat. I spent days tweaking lines in hull design software, on paper drawings, and in the shop to ensuring that each one was as fair and pretty as could be. Sadly there are few curves on bikes and my skills are now little practiced. So I devote considerable thought to the one curve there is, the bend in the fork. I'm rather proud of the nice bends on VO semi-custom frames, though the frame builders are ultimately responsible for them.
Traditionally the French builders had particularly nice fork bends. The blades were thin and the bend was low and smooth. A good example is the fork on my Motobecane Le Champion frame as shown below:
A really pretty fork bend is one of the bigger problems when having frames made in Taiwan. Heck, many custom builders in the USA and Japan don't get it right. It's pretty tough to explain the importance of this subtle detail to a fork factory that makes thousands of forks a month that their customers are perfectly happy with. That's right, forks are usually made in a separate specialty factory, not by the frame builder. One look at the fork delivered with our sample Rando frame illustrates the problem. This is not a bend: it's a bloody dogleg.
Still it's been possible to get a reasonably nice bend as on our city bike. It's not perfect, but certainly better:
We are going to continue working with the frame and fork factory, but I'm, frankly, not sure if they can do much better than the above. I hope to make it back to Taiwan this summer and visit a small fork manufacturer I met with last month who seem interested in this issue. I'll come bearing sample French forks and a check for the required tooling. If all goes well we'll have perfect forks, but not until next year.
On an unrelated topic, we have the rare and elusive canti rack mounting bolts again.
17 April, 2009
Posted by Velo Orange at 9:10:00 AM