12 November, 2009

Branding and Saddles and Great Growth


Eco Velo, a truly lovely blog, has a mini-review of the VO model 3 saddle.  I especially like the photography. Thanks Alan.

I've been thinking about the VO saddles and a few of our other products lately, specifically about their branding. Let me explain.

Our saddles have been getting better with every shipment. The attachment problems of the first run have been completely solved, the rail-to-frame junction is being strengthened; the setting of the rivets is getting better; the leather quality is more consistent. And we may get titanium rails soon. In short, I think they are now about the equal of any saddle. And as we continue to improve them I hope they will be the best available. But I worry that the perception is still that they are a step below that big leather saddle brand. I am concerned that they appear to be just a "house brand".

Now it's true, as most of you know, that VO saddles are made in a factory in Taiwan, one that I've just visited. The factory specializes in high-end leather furniture, mostly modern-style chairs, that are sold in some very fine European stores. But it's owned by a cyclist who decided his knowledge of leather and metal work could be put to good use in making a better, and less expensive, leather saddle. Not having a brand name or distribution channel, he decided to build saddles for other companies. VO and Merry Sales (Cardiff) are the two main US companies he works with. We each spec the saddles the way we think they should be made. On some models we stick with the factory's basic design while on others we make changes. Soon we will have some completely new models exclusive to VO.

VO decided to use our own name on the saddles while Merry Sales made up a new name and a company story, Cardiff. In retrospect I wonder if we should not also be paying more attention to branding. Maybe our saddles should be called "Invernnes", or "Edinburgh", or "Smythe & Biddington". I could write some stuff about saddles inspired by the single malts of the Scottish highlands; or maybe not. But the point is that many companies do just that, Rivendell with their bags, several classic Italian companies with frames made in Taiwan (you would be amazed), and good old J. Peterman with just about everything. Of course car companies are masters at this; a VW Phaeton and a Bentley are very much the same car. We all love a good story. And it's human nature to see more value in a product with a unique name and story.

So I plan to follow their example and break out "Grand Cru" as a separate brand and company. Grand Cru means "great growth" a term applied to some fantastic French wines. It's the top tier of classification in some regions. So Grand Cru Components will strive to make great components which are often based on classic designs. My hope is that eventually GC components will be as good as those from companies such as Chris King, Phil Wood, Paul Components, and White Industries. Of course it will take time. Meanwhile we have a brand that cyclists may come to associate with great components, if we do a good job on those components that is. Yeah, that logo still needs work.

108 comments:

sasha e. said...

Chris,

I notice that the list of companies you're striving to compete with are all US-based manufacturers. Do you have any intention of attempting to manufacture any of the GC goods on US shores rather than Taiwan?

reverend dick said...

Yes. King, Phil Wood, Paul Comp, White Industries...all MADE IN THE U.S.

It matters.

nordic_68 said...

Good idea with GC Chris. I like the concept. It was coming off that way anyway, so why not formalize the name and capitalize on the cachet...

Chris Kulczycki said...

We have made and continue to make parts in the US, as well as in Taiwan, Europe, and Japan. We will continue to make them where we feel we can get the best components. Location is based on (in order of importance) quality, ability to supply promptly and finally, price. I was born in Europe and have traveled extensively, so I consider myself a citizen of the world. Thus I believe that craftsman and manufacturers should be judged by their products and ethics, not by their nationality.

Yangmusa said...

Good luck with the rebranding. I have to say, though, that VO is already a name that I associate with high quality and great value for money. My bike has an ancient Brooks saddle on it (yeah, that other saddle manufacturer..) but when it wears out I've decided to get a VO saddle.

Elliott @ Violet Crown Cycles said...

I think experimenting with marketing is smart as long as you keep making the great, well made and stylish components you are making now.

Anonymous said...

and soon, like PRS you will move out of Annapolis.

ongdesign said...

I'm a big believer in product-based differentiators, not just brands. I buy Brookses because they are comfortable, not because of their branding. And when I can pick up a new B17 for $70 or so, I need a good, practical reason to use your saddle instead.

There may well be some good, practical advantages to your saddles, but they've never been effectively communicated to me. I have a Selle An-Atomica, which I bought for two reasons: 1) it's waterproof, and 2) it's really comfortable. I read all their pseudo-scientific claims on their site, and believed it enough to get one. It works!

doc said...

'gotta agree with Yangmusa. I see "VO" and it's a known quantity (quality), whereas "Grand Cru" really doesn't tell me anything more.

David said...

Could you use a different label for less expenisive parts and call it "Plonk?" :-)

stevep33 said...

Creating a separate brand GC is a win win. Those familiar with the VO relation see GC as a fine VO product. Those who want a little bit of a story or an ideal in a brand name will find that too.

WCrawford said...

Chris, I think this is a really good move. I definitely think VO has some great products, but buying a VO saddle always felt a little like buying the Safeway-brand cereals. Putting some attention into the branding, logo, and (yes) advertising is sure to pay off.

I look forward to being able to buy Grand Cru bags, saddles and parts.

Steve said...

Would GC be reserved for the top of the line components, with VO applied to the "vin ordinaire"? Or will all components currently branded VO be called GC instead?

John B. said...

I love VO products, and I like the Grand Cru branding idea. Actually, I already thought Grand Cru was your "premium" brand, so its working already. I really like your commitment to excellence and I have always been pleased with VO products I have bought. For the most part, they are unavailable other places.

One note though. I don't think that its relavent that King, Phil, Paul, et al manufacture in the US. But they do manufacture in house. Same with Brooks for that matter. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that's my understanding. Makes it a little hard to compete on that level. When you buy one of those products, you're not just buying the brand name, but also the craftsmanship that went into it. Not to say that craftsmanship doesn't go into Taiwanese made stuff - I know it does. But its just different. I mean, Brooks has been making saddles the same way for over 100 years. There's a lot of heritage there that goes beyond marketing and branding.

cm said...

Creating a name that is supposed to sound like maybe it might be made in, or has some connection to, the country where the product that it is trying to compete with is awful (ie Cardiff is a crappy name). Please dont do that.

I like Grand Cru-- go with it.

Cheers,
cm

Theron said...

I realize you just revamped your website, but it would tremendously valuable to pay a proper graphic designer to develop a well suited and classy web page. I'd even argue it would pay dividends into you developing a wider respected brand.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Grand Cru will only be a small number of top of the line products. The vin ordinaire will still be VO.

I like the "plonk" label.

Gunnar Berg said...

Drop the "VO" off of the Grand Cru line.

Anonymous said...

I agree with John B. -- I thought Gran Cru was already your premium stuff, and I think it's a fine idea.

Disagree with Theron -- please keep your website as it is: simple, accurate, up to date and leave the Flash and other expensive bells and whistles to the other guys. Put your energy and focus on the products, as you are doing wonderfully.

The only thing I'd consider is maybe some better photos.

Anonymous said...

For your logo, check out the design work of Jessica Hische (jhische.com). She does, in my opinion, hands down some of the best typography & neo-classic design out there.
-clifford

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just weird, but when I see a house brand product from a quality purveyor like VO priced at about the same as a third party product, I generally think the house brand is a better value since there's no middle man. Part of that, though, is that VO's prices are generally fair. I hate to take a shot at Riv, but I do have that "eeew, house brand" reaction to their stuff because their prices are generally as high as the market will bear. Higher, really -- I've never bought anything from them despite wanting several things they sell, and I've spend hundreds at VO including a house brand saddle just this morning. However, I do think there might be something to creating a seperate GC brand so that other vendors can sell VO stuff without dilluting VO's reputation as a retailer.

I'm not going to argue with those who want their stuff made in the same country they happened to be born in as we always tend to talk past each other, but as for who the competition is it's important to remember that the "Made in the USA" companies mentioned all make pretty much only one category of things. King makes round things with bearings in them, I'm pretty sure they don't make the bearings. Phil makes round things that definitely have Asian-made bearings in them; they also dabble in private labeling marine bearing grease. Paul makes small CNC and occasionally forged things and then puts Asian bearings in them. White makes both CNC things and round things with Asian bearings in them. Nobody mentioned Thomson but they make long, tubular CNC things. VO is trying to sell frames, saddles, bags, racks, rims, brakes, bottom brackets, small parts, and other stuff I may be forgetting, and is investigating hubs, cranks, and plenty of other things. I'm not sure where there's a fair comparison to be made.

Anonymous said...

Velo Orange, Grand Cru... it doesn't matter a hoot to me, so long as you keep the quality high, the value sound, and the branding unobtrusive. Let me repeat that one: anything with a large logo is a no-sale. I don't want my bike to shout your trade name from its saddle, handlebars, and cranks, even if I bought each of them from you. If I want loud branding, most manufacturers and distributors are happy to meet that need. If VO/GC continues selling to cognoscenti, I don't see that as an obstacle to sales: your typical buyer, I would guess, is someone who recognizes your products by their unique new-classic look and high quality, not by the name stamped on them.

Matt Madden said...

The Grand Cru idea sounds OK. It's sorta working for you now. Rivendell's phony back stories give me the creeps a little bit. I don't really like the names of their products. Whatever you do, keep the VO sensibility (I love your openness about how you do business) and simplicity. I like the VO brand.

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Chris, whatever name(s) you decide to use, I will continue to buy from you as long as you do what you've been doing. That means offering fine products that aren't readily available at fair prices, and being an overall ethical business person--and person.

I, too, have seen a few Riv products I'd like to have. But they're always overpriced for what they are and I agree with Matt: the back stories put me off a bit. Plus, I'm not crazy about the fact that they used Frost River to manufacture their bags, then put them out of business with a frivolous lawsuit.

By the way, I like your website as is. Some of the photos are nice, and the overall look is unpretentious.

BeatnikBeat58 said...

What's in a brand name? Early to mid-80's I worked in a bike shop. We sold TONS of Cannondale bags and panniers. We even had Cannondale sleeping bags, Jackets, rain gear, etc. Then Cannondale started making bikes and another shop got the dealership. The owner then banned Cannondale accessories from our shop as not to advertise for Cannondale bikes.

Same thing with Specialized. Their clincher tires were our biggest seller until they released a line of bikes. Again, another shop got the dealership and we dropped anything with Specialized on it.

So, some dealers might not carry Velo Orange products if they don't carry the bikes. The GC line might have a broader appeal in some cases. Just sayin'. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Love all the work _except_ the name! To be frank but (I hope) constructive I think using a wine term for bike parts is, well -- just phony and kinda dumb to my ear.

Sorry.

I'd prefer plain old Kulczycki, or CK, or Annapolis bike parts -- whaddevuh.

But again, cool stuff well delivered.

Will Rodger

Fred Blasdel said...

I've seen the same suite of saddles sold as "Gyes" at lower markup without the embossed branding.

If you do make a new logo that gets laser-etched into your products, could you make it at least a little symmetrical this time?

The lopsidedness of the VO logo upsets me — the varying width of the stroke, the O being much wider, the different vertical offsets of the letters...

Maybe have it be somewhat globular?

ToddBS said...

I love the GC idea. Will your frames be branded as GC or will they stay VO? I rather like the idea of the frames being GC. Makes me feel like I have a Grand Bois for half the cost :)

Anonymous said...

An unsolicited crit. Components Grand Cru label looks like it should be on a wine bottle.

Mercutio Stencil said...

Just a little thing I've noticed from the world of artisan food that I think would apply well here; when you buy a product, some local cheese lets say, you not only buy the cheese itself, but also the story behind the cheese.

The very best artisan creameries all follow the same basic story. A big city lawyer, one of the best in his field (Doctor also works) decides to leave his high stress but incredibly lucrative career to return to his childhood dream of having a farm. He struggles a bit, but then finds some wise sage to guide him, and in a few years produces small amounts of delicious cheese. And no, he doesn't miss the hustle and bustle of city life at all.

You need one of those to really sell a premium product. The tale of the saddle maker is pretty good, but you need to write your own narrative better. I know it is a little J Peterman, but it's what seems to work

Andrew said...

If you look at some of the finest French bike parts, they have little to no branding on them, but are still instantly recognisable to those who know what they are. I can spot an Ideale 90, a Maxi Car hub, a Herse stem, a Jubilee rear derailleur and a deep Phillipe handlebar from a mile away. I think that is part of the reason that the Japanese guys will pay so much for these things, they are aesthetically perfect, and happen to work quite well too.

And as for saddles, a copy of the Ideale 90 would be fantastic. I'm a convert, mine is easily as comfortable as a Brooks Pro.

Andrew said...

On the topic of "Made in", a little birdy told me that it is quite likely that the Velocity Synergy rims are actually made in China or Taiwan, not in Australia as the manufacturer asserts.

At least VO are quite open about the source of their gear.

patrick said...

the story is way more important than the brand. not the lies, but the how the where and the why.
I know that my trust in your company is based on the transparency you project on your blog. Your search for the better thingamajig in real time is inspiring.
but this selling a seat with a silly british affectation kindof hurts. if youre proud of your manufacturer, name it after something more appropriate, the little horses the mongolian hoards sat on, for example (i can imagine a horse stamped into the side..)or a chinese character that means.. journey. leave the single malts to brooks and bring us something different. put a different name on everything.. youve done such a good job so far, just keep it up.
also, i agree, you need better photos.

David said...

So instead of Grand Cru, Mao Tai?

Richenough to Care said...

I tend to buy American because I wish to donate my money toward improving the manufacturing potential of the US. It seems like it would save fuel and shipping costs and contribute to our society.

Alan Cross said...

Grand Cru is a great name. I say go for it.

Going to your website is like going to a hidden bike store with no advertising, no window displays. Works for me.

But I bet if your website looked like the one for handsome cycles, you'd sell more stuff.

Kaptain Amerika said...

Good idea. Here goes my 2¢: I'd also keep the VO out of it. Just let it be GC, a different brand, not a side- or sub-brand. You're the parent, not VO. I strongly suggest also taking your sweet time on the logo. I think we'd all love it if you pored over the old European bike logos and made yours carry on that spirit, as the products do. What you've got does make me think "wine," and I'm sure that was the intention, but it seems like it could say "fine cycling equipment [playing off wine terminology!]"... Once you've got a vision, I'd hire a good illustrator/designer with a classic sensibility to draft five versions, then refine your favorite (or see if they can combine your favorite elements). I'm sure you'll end up with a fittingly iconic image.

Here's a great collection of classic head badges for inspiration:

http://bit.ly/3tzt6K

And a few more:

http://bit.ly/18x4al

Thanks for everything you do, as always.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing I'd consider is maybe some better photos"

Yes, please. This should take priority over anything else.

You've got a million customers out there who would be proud to contribute high-quality images. It's tough to make a decision on, say, a rack, without seeing it on a few bikes.

Anonymous said...

"The lopsidedness of the VO logo upsets me — the varying width of the stroke, the O being much wider, the different vertical offsets of the letters..."

It's particularly hideous on the headset (sorry, Chris!)

Ian said...

just for saddles —

does someone own idéale now? could resurrect that one, since it already has the story.

but j'aime le « grand cru » , je peux pas l'attendre.

Anonymous said...

I know you like to ask your customers for their feedback, and that is ace, but shouldn't this kind of thing happen behind your closed doors, instead of telling everyone. When you discuss that you're going to create a high-end brand, the magic goes out of it a little. i think you should 'just do it' and wow people....instead of saying 'this is what i'm thinking of doing' to us, the general public. go for the WOW and the surprise! then we'll all be excited and get our wallets out.

david_nj said...

To compete against those guys the stuff has to be rather insanely good. I'm not sure the VO saddles are the same thing, but I recently purchased one of those Cardiff saddles. It's just not nearly as high quality as a Brooks. It doesn't have the gravitas or the eternalness, either.

It just seems like one so often comes out on the losing end, quality-wise, when sourcing products from the far east. I don't know if it's that there's a lack of corporate culture infusing the products, or what, but it's often palpable.

The separate branding seems like a very good idea but I personally find "Grand Cru" more than a bit pretentious. I mean I am, in theory, French and even I would find it a little annoying!

Justin said...

I like VO because you make quality, durable, and good-looking stuff at affordable prices. I'll likely continue to buy your stuff as need dictates.

That said, I like Surly for the exact same reasons. Surly, I think, even has a one-up on VO: Surly never appeals to class aspirations. They make good stuff and sell it at affordable prices.

I fear that "bicycle culture" (a term that leaves a bad taste in my mouth) has moved increasingly toward ostentatious displays of "class" while abandoning what matters about handmade. "Handmade" is increasingly a style divorced from its craft: Electra guiltily capitalizes on this with their Ticino line; but I think it's a trend also fed by VO. Sure, Electra's stuff looks nice and might be well-made; VO's stuff definitely fills both conditions. For me, the point is that when "handmade" becomes an aesthetic rather than a process, everything special about "handmade" dies. The most important thing about handmade goods is their connection to a direct craftsperson. That connection is lost when production moves to an overseas factory (not because of national pride, but because of the nature of mass-production). Moreover, "fine" parts become a way of displaying wealth -- an aesthetic -- rather than a way of actually supporting individual craftspeople.

Lest I be accused of ranting, I'll come to the point: the problem that I see with narrating a story about the heritage of VO goods is that it feeds this already bourgeoning tendency among bicyclists to celebrate displays of wealth (in the same way that one would buy a BMW instead of a VW Golf). Frankly, there's enough of that in American culture, and even among bicyclists (weekend warriors' fondness for 11 speed drivetrains and the newest gear comes to mind).

Now I know that VO, or any company, has to tell some kind of story about their product. How about this one: we make functional, good-looking, affordable parts for people who ride their bikes daily. To me, Surly takes that line, and I think VO has more or less taken that line until now. I'd much rather VO divorce themselves altogether from discussions of class; or else if divorcing oneself from class is impossible, come down on the side of poor folks.

I'll repeat: I like VO's stuff for all the same reasons as everyone else. I'll likely continue to buy VO's stuff. But I don't think VO needs an imagined heritage in order to succeed. Such an imagined heritage only feeds the showy class aspirations of cyclists.

TN said...

Exciting stuff, but will the value equation stay the same? Once you start doing the marketing thing, it feels like only short steps to running ads in Bicycling, sponsoring racing teams, and including special fabric bags for each part that you sell that never get used.

I think the VO brand is flexible enough to accommodate higher end components, and you could always do as others do, give it a sub-label like Ralph Lauren and Jonnie Walker do with "Black Label" or "Grand Cru Line" to indicate that these are parts that are lustworthy (but then they had better be lustworthy).

Anyway, I have my eye on a VO saddle right now, especially with the decline of the "other" brand. Now your hints make me wonder whether I should wait.

John B. said...

Please, for goodness sakes, DON'T "resurrect" an old cycling brand. Leave that to bikesdirect.com. I like VO's down-to-earthiness, which seems so rare in the bicycling industry. Most labels are trying to be too hip or too unhip or just putting out pretensions. I think VO already has become a great brand image; it already stands for great looking, great performing, and well made bicycle parts for great value.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion. I agree with the anonymous poster regarding discussing this behind closed doors... maybe if you delete this thread, then we'll all be considered part of the focus group.

Anyway... I think the house brand comparison issue only comes out when you are going up against something well-established. (such as the long-standing British saddle manufacturer) To me, it seems the VO brand stands out above the rest when you're making parts that aren't available elsewhere (such as the beautiful PBP rims, the constructeur racks, or the French thread BB's) these are things that folks want, and you've really honed in on that. We're beginning to know that if you need something well-made that's nearly impossible to find elsewhere (like say, some cyclotouriste crank$ or some other part that's disappearing from the ebay world), then Velo Orange has it or may be developing it. But top quality leather saddles are not something I'm looking for an alternative to yet...

- JAke

Tom said...

I've been a little nervous about how our VO saddles would be perceived. We expected comparisons to the big B and speculation about quality, warranty, workmanship etc.

After over a year of selling our Models 6, 7 and 8 saddles, and introducing the new Models 3, 5 and 8, I think the concerns about quality and workmanship have proven to be just that- mere speculation. We have hardly seen any returns for bad quality (perceived or otherwise) or any reason really. For sure have had some come back, but it's an anomoly- truly a manufacturing defect- and we cover it under warranty, no questions asked.

There are many comments and questions about VO saddles (and other brands) on forums and lists. So far, there hasn't been feedback posted here or elsewhere, saying riders were disappointed that their Velo Orange saddle wore out after 2,000 or 5,000 miles or they hated the aesthetics and will return it, etc. Consider this: we have been selling them for over a year with little if any negative feedback. I think that silence is speaking volumes. The VO saddles are becoming accepted and are valued for what it is- a reasonably priced leather saddle that is an upgrade from $30 plastic seat you find on most bikes these days.

Tom said...

And what's with all this talk of Velo Orange being a 'house brand' of Chris company Velo Orange??
Is Gucci a house brand of their holding company?
Is Topeak a house brand? What about Serfas- are they a house brand of Serfas Inc?

A 'house brand' (at least in the bike biz) is a marque that is put on commodity items and not supported with advertising or marketing. The house brand is used to support the larger brand in a non competitive way. Origin8 (J&B Importers) pedals, Bontrager (Trek) grips, Specialized (....)headsets come to mind. Most of the time it's a basic part that is specified on bikes to meet a certain pricepoint. It's hotpatched for 10 yuan more and it's a 'Raleigh' grip or 'Trek' tire.

I'd like to think that Chris and staff are adding value to stuff, designing new racks, making sure our fenders are the best high polished aluminum fenders for the money, and chasing down other items that are simply not available and we are crazy enough to actually sell them. That's not the work of a house brand. That's the endeavour of a person with a passion for his business (bikes and riding).

sweetanticipation said...

Dare I sing the choir, Velo Orange has thus far done quite well in the niche you have created or perhaps void you have filled. Keep up the good work.

As for the branding issue, be very careful!! when cementing it in place. Once, you commit, you will find it impossible to return. For example, GC reminds me of Grande Compe and while creating a logo it will be very difficult to visually separate yourself. Yes, great stories sell merchandise but, as a few people before me have mentioned, you already have a story.

Any information on the new crankset and fillet brazed stems will be greatly appreciated! I am trying to hold off on a build and would rather support you than finding some T.A. cranks on ebay.

Thanks,
Steven

Joel said...

Justin: In my opinion Surly marketing is far worse than those you compare it to. Surly is part of QBP, one of the largest companies in the U.S. cycling industry.

Surly very consciously markets itself as a counterculture street product when it is anything but. The bikes are designed by well paid professionals and manufactured by large Taiwanese (perhaps even some Chinese companies now) concerns. You can bet there is an accountant who diligently works out every last penny in expense to potential profit figures.

Surly is to bikes as Saturn was to automobiles - a piece of a much larger concern that nevertheless sells itself as something different from the herd.

The bikes are decent enough value for the money. As far as I am concerned, I would just as soon Surly have bland homogenized marketing such as current Schwinn than all the 'we are so alternative' stuff they bounce around.

Gary said...

As to Surly, I don't think they market themselves as anything they are not. Their story does not rest on the people behind the company, but rests in their products.

They are 'alternative' and 'counterculture' because they offer a two speed fixed cog. They offer a bike that will fit 4" tires.

Surly appeals to 'counterculture' customers not for their people or story, but because they make unique parts, they fill a niche very few others will.

Joel said...

White Industries also offers a two speed cog. And a double double set up as well. White's web site is dour and to the point. White does not have booths with loud alt pop blaring at bike shows. White does not give its products alt-cool names like Karate Monkey, Big Dummy and Pugsley.

Jeff Jones and several other equally low key builders who pioneered the ultra wide tire continue to make their offerings with none of the above.

Again, nothing against Surly's product. But it very consciously markets as alternative. It would appear it does such a good job that many alternative types don't notice.

Bravo for the marketers.

Justin said...

Joel:

You're right to point out that Surly taps into the counter-culture story. Like I point out, everybody has to tell some kind of story. I, like you, would be perfectly happy if they had bland, or no, marketing.

As Gary says, Surly doesn't sell some imagined connection to heritage or quality; they aren't selling "handmade" as an aesthetic. Surly is not selling process. They may sell counter-culture, but only to the extent counter-culture means functional, inexpensive, and no frills. They don't pretend that their products are made by punks in an abandoned warehouse. Moreover, plenty of folks outfit their Surly rigs with VO and Riv parts. It doesn't seem like the counter-culture stigma sticks to Surly.

What Surly does, and what VO does, is make quality products, and that's all that needs to be said. Creating a brand and a heritage around that product seems nasty, especially when that involves a self-consciously imagined heritage that, let's be honest, preys on feelings of class superiority. Like I said, if you can't divorce yourself entirely from class, at least come down on the side of populism, not elitism.

David said...

Surly makes one of the best touring bike frames, with all the proper eyelets and braze ons. Yes, its heavy, but it is a product that sells outfitted for less than a Riv frame. And, they actually use touring geometry, instead of road geometry. They do niche products well. So does VO

Anonymous said...

Not sure how we got on Surly, but they don't really try to hide that they're a division of the big evil Q. They're certainly more forward about it than Soma or Origin8 are. Nothing wrong with any of it, certainly hasn't kept me from buying Surly or O8 stuff (Soma not so much, they're a little pricey). Surly has functioned as something of a skunkworks for QBP, and because of their existence there are excellent products that you can buy in pretty much any shop in the US that you probably wouldn't be able to get at all otherwise. But to bring it back to the current subject, those products would probably never exist if it wasn't for the brand. I can imagine buying their awesome little stainless wire rear cable hanger as a QBP house brand product; a $125 rack as a house brand product not so much, though if you've seen them you know that they are indeed nice racks.

Anonymous said...

Wow. As I read all of this, it occurs to me that the readers and commenters for this blog include some of the world's foremost bicycle snobs ... er, I mean, EXPERTS in all that is related to excellence in bicycle components.

I never seem to read comments about the incredible rides you all have each day, using VO bikes and parts (or any other manufacturer for that matter). Nothing of the sheer joy of riding a bike, be it extended tours, commuting, shopping, riding a trail, etc.

No ... here in this blog, the comments are all about whether or not the inside surfaces of a crank bolt have been properly polished ... whether or not the logo is perfectly placed/sized/colored ... which factory a part was made in ... and so on, and so on, and so on.

It's as if you all spend your days LOOKING at your bikes, rather than riding them, and simultaneously throwing rocks at the very companies who work tirelessly to create the very products you pine for.

Honestly ... I couldn't care less how a product is marketed. Does it do what I need it to do? Does it last? Is it a quality product? Does the marketing truly answer those questions, or is the proof in the product itself, along with the people who make/design it?

I don't buy VO products because of the marketing. I buy them because they often are the only products that fit my needs. Whether or not it's a "classic french design" or "vintage styled" piece is irrelevant to me. Yes, style is important ... but only in the sense that I like the way it looks, not in that it carries period-proper materials or fits into any pre-determined mold.

I suppose, though, that if the products are all of those things, and if that is your intended market, then you must, of course have a "proper" marketing campaign. It's too bad that market seems to be people who are never quite happy with anything, and always look to find the flaws ... real or imagined.

Sorry to be negative ... but it just seems to me that the bulk of the comments here have turned to simple snobbery ... rather than about the pure joy of riding a bike. That's too bad.

I hope Chris and his team will continue to do all of the wonderful things they do ... even amidst the flurry of ridiculous criticism.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Schwinn had Schwinn Chicago and "Schwinn Approved." The idea that you didn't call something your brand name if you didn't produce it yourself in a factory you own - how quaint.

Dan

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 3:09 pm.:

Your comment was the first on this post that I noticed that was obviously arrogant and snobbish. I had thought up to this point that people were commenting on the original post and keeping to the topic; that is, branding and what it means to the marketing of bike parts.

VO folks: keep up the great work. You make good stuff AVAILABLE (there are other notable brands out there that are great at vaporware and not much more). You fill a huge niche. Thanks.

Mike, Bay area

Jesse Schmal said...

Wow cool! I was just going to say that from a design standpoint, the VO type and logo doesn't deliver as far as a modern classic look, but you're many steps ahead of me as it were! Can't wait to see more versions of the logo. I've always loved the old Cinelli and Nitto ripoff of the same. Crests and shields...mmmm

Anonymous said...

I hate your politics, but love your business sense. We will take you when you tire of the progressive cause because you'd make Machiavelli proud! Nice Grand Cru concept!!

Tom said...

I do wonder who all of you are, and what you do for a day job. Are we all bike industry hacks? 'Marketing gurus'? or people who ride the bikes we love and love the bikes we ride?

Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes the comments sections goes off on some bizarre tangents, that are hardly related to the original post. But all in all it's a good thing.

Joel said...

Anon 3:09: It would never have occurred to me to think the response section to a bike merchant's blog should rightfully be a place for ride reports. I know for a fact that many of the regulars who reply here do have their own riding blogs full of detailed ride reports while others have posted reports in more appropriate on-line places such as Crazy Guy On a Bike and the IBOB.

Moreover, I have read many (including some of my own) replies to VO posts that say why particular part helps ones riding or why a part might help.

This particular post concerns VO looking to create an upscale brand designation. Responses about upscale brands make a lot more sense here than your complaint about snobbery.

Justin, I agree pretty much with your post. And again, I mean no slight to Surly products or people who buy them. Nor do I think Surly is the only big company that uses a street theme to sell its merchandise. Nike - McDonalds anyone? To the extent anyone making a living manufacturing bikes or components could ever be street, I would suggest companies like Chicagowig, CetmaCargo or Capricorn Bikes. Tiny operations basically working out of garages. And, as it happens, none of them try to affect counter culture tones with their modest marketing efforts.

Typenschild Delete said...

Chris, VO is the brand. Grand Cru is the level, much like 105/ultegra/dura-ace. Go ahead and differentiate and market the G.C. stuff as a cut above, but no need to separate it from VO, if fact I think it should stay part of VO.


Anon 3:09,

This is not the only cycling blog, and this is not the only place that many of us comment. The responses seem appropriate to the posts, and as this is about a component company, naturally the comments veer that way.

You seem some sort of odd reverse-snob. The attitude I get from your post is that if it doesn't matter to you personally, then it's somehow unimportant and shouldn't matter to others? Sort of a "I'm above such vain concerns as style" "I'm more pure because I only care for function". Give us a break.

The joy of night riding and exploring with friends, a story:

7pm rendevous
sparks
city streets
liquor store
industrial area streets and alleys
hobo park by the river
tequila
bike path, alleys, bridges, streets
supermarket
donuts
hooters
ipa
casino
back across the bridge
side roads
fire pit down by the river
pallets
fire
tequila
streets
karaoke
heinekin
bad karaoke
really, excruciatingly, bad karaoke
best tailwind I've had in months
home at 3:05 this morning

I'd give the long version but my head hurts.

Tom SVDP said...

The Sun never set on the British Empire: Raleigh, Phillips, those were World beaters, did these guys feel they had to call their products something that came from India when they started making them there? Or call something with an African or
Dutch type of name when they sold in these areas? There is a lot to learn from Land's end to John O'Groats.

David said...

I buy from VO not because of snob appeal, but actually from the reverse. Many tried and true products have fallen from favor from lack of carbon fiber coatings, titanium or unobtainium content, etc. Basically, while the world falls prey to 4K carbon bikes with helium filled frames, 74 speeds, 5 spoke rims and 400psi tires, some of us still ride steel, use friction shifting, and like products that are well made with pleasant design.

VO serves my needs quite well. People stop and ask where I got my quill to threadless converter, where I got the nice Nitto bars, and so forth. Once you move from the local bike store to VO you find products meant for riding, not to turn you into a Lance Armstrong wannabe. For those of us who are quite tall, or have special requirements, VO fits the bill quite well. I could have ridden a poor quality ill suited bike from my LBS that they tried to sell me on my ride from Pitt to DC. Instead I used VO parts and put together a very comfy bike that performed well and fit exactly. No snobbery in that.

Doug said...

I am a young guy working in a co-op grocery store making a bit over $20k a year. I like VO, Surly and other brands mentioned for one reason only. I can afford it. Even so, I buy Riv stuff occasionally.

For some reason, the idea of Surly being a sold out arm of a giant US bike conglomerate doesn't quite bother me. It doesn't bother me because their bikes work and that's what matters. But then -- you won't ever see me on a Civia, because that's for the richies with more money than sense.

Ian Dickson said...

To me, your instincts for products are much better than your instincts for names and graphics and such. Thankfully, your branding has been very toned-down up till now. What there is, I don't like, but it's inconspicuous, and it won't keep me from buying your excellent products. (I have a Pass Hunter. It's my favorite bike ever.)

I do not own a Rivendell, and probably never will. I really like them. They've always been nice and helpful, and I think they've done a lot of good things for cycling in general. However, I hate Tolkien, and these new, vaguely old fashioned-sounding names (Sam Hillborne, Phineas V. Crackepyppe, etc.) don't do anything for me, either. If they gave their production frames simple, descriptive names (like "All Rounder") or even model numbers, I would own at least one of them by now. But I'm not going to spend $1000 on something with conspicuous and embarrassing branding.

I'm not saying you're going in that direction, but I do want to beg you not to go in that direction. I like your stuff because it's practical, attractive, affordable, and performs well. To me, that speaks for itself.

Off topic: Whatever happened with that Sugino Gran Fondo crank?

Matthew said...

Living in Minneapolis and knowing a couple of the QBP guys, thought I should respond regarding surly, as far as it corporate pretending to be counterculture. The dudes who work there that I know all are big time riders happy to design and market innovative products for people who ride. Whatever you want to say about Q, the Surly division is unafraid to market products that don't have a built-in market. They innovate and build great frames for the price.

Uncle Ankle said...

To those who like to view the VO brand identity as something simply utilitarian and affordable: I think you are in denial/projecting your own philosophy.

VO is very much about nostalgia.

From the constant Herse/Singer namedropping and the (sadly gone) vintage parts to all the mirror polish, VO is squarely into bike necromancy, even more single-mindedly so than Rivendell.

For better or worse, that is VO's unique selling point, and it would be silly not to build on that fact should they feel a need to develop their brand.

Anonymous said...

I actually had to google "necromancy" just now, and I have a PhD in English and teach writing at a university. Using such a word in this context seems a bit much to me, but so does a lot of the other commentary above. Well, it's nice that people dig their bikes. The branding of VO or Rivendell shouldn't really matter so much: you'd think it was Vatican 2, to read some of this stuff. . .

michael white

Anonymous said...

Chris:

I agree with some of the minority posts. VO already has a good name. You risk confusing customers by adding a new name - of course, if that's your goal then fine. What makes some of the VO components seem off brand is that they are made by some anonymous company and resold by you - it's not always the name. After all, I don't think that your frames or unique items are considered off brand.

I have two early VO Model 6 saddles and a Brooks Swallow. I recommend the VO saddles but, I'm sorry, the Brooks is made better (at least made better than the earlier VO saddles). At the price of the Brooks, it better be made better. Calling your saddles a "gran cru" or other unpronounceable European sounding name isn't going to change the item's intrinsic quality.

You mention the auto manufacturers but, aside from the easily mislead (who don't seem to be your customers), we all know that Chevy=Pontiac=Buick and all the marketing garbage and cheesy grills doesn't change that.

You should be proud of VO and its name.

-Ken

Anonymous said...

Happy owner of a Surly LHT luxuriously adorned with VO components and accessories, including a Nitto rando bar and Brooks Flyer that I got from Chris because he always has the best prices on that stuff too. I hope neither company ever changes (much). I want to build up a red Karate Monkey with those golden Grand Cru canti's - that would rock!

Patrick said...

Chris,
A big part of the reason I don't instinctively jump on the VO saddles is because of that large VO logo on the side of the saddle. For the Grand Cru line, can you make the branding more subtle, say on the rear lip of the saddle like Brooks? Or if it stays on the side, something much smaller? To me, big logos just scream cheap. A small well-placed logo is much more iconic and memorable.

David said...

When it comes to bike design, and some of the products that are of classic design, I think about classic sports cars.

Some people drive their cars, others are trailer queens. For those of us who ride or drive their product, VO is great. Many people like the classic TR6 just because they do, and remember the feel of something other than a generic Japanese suspension, etc. To each their own!

Anonymous said...

No too happy with the VO graphic either. It is gawdy on the saddle to say the least.

sdedalus1 said...

Yes, I would agree that Grand Cru should be a 'premium' line that need not drop all reference to VO.

Re: logo design, I still like the VO inside an oval (even if this could be refined a bit more), mostly because it makes me think of "version originale" en français (used in france to designate foreign films shown in their original language, rather than being dubbed). The phrase seems especially apt not only because it captures the cultural crossover of an american company drawing so much from french cycling--that is, distributing products with concern for fidelity to the original--but also because it lends itself to a more literal and infelicitous translation, that the company produces its own original products, and is "an original" as we say in english. VO is both of course--a faithful reproduction and an original production--and I like that the phrase captures both aspects.

So I like the idea of keeping the VO logo...

Eric Meyer said...

As someone who has built several brands...Vision Street Wear, Simple Shoes, and Medium Footwear... I suggest that rather than confuse folks with multiple identities... you should focus on a single brand. Velo Orange is a great name.... VO is not as good as Velo Orange. What you need to develop GREATLY is the graphic design quality of the logo and corporate Identity. Your product is fantastic... excellent!.. but your logo's absolutely hurt your brand at this juncture. Velo Orange has a unique spot in the cycling world... with a french Randonneuring feel... but the corporate ID is amatuer... and the logo placement is unsophisticated and bland. I LOVE your products... and could care less where they are made... I just think that along with quality manufacturing... folks really care about the aesthetic of their bikes. Your product feels french... your branding feels Huffy. (sorry)

Rather than trying to create a fake identity... Haagen Daz esque... or Bartles and James... etc... Just find a deeply knowledgeable Graphic Designer... and develop a Corporate ID and branding strategy that follows in the randoneering style of old french cycling. Rebour.. etc. You are already doing this with your philosophy and psychographic associations... so just take it to the next level with your graphic design.

You have a brand equity with Velo Orange. Don't confuse the public with multiple brands... you will lose their attention. Focus on one great name. I would skip the separate wholesale and retail names... your distributors may whine... but your brand will be better for it over the long run.... and the brand awareness will be vastly greater under one common name.

lastly : You should embrace the reality of your manufacturing... We would love to hear about the factory owner that is a cyclist... so brag about him... rather than worrying what the public thinks. There is nothing wrong with Taiwan... we are all humans on the same planet. The future is inclusive... not exclusive.

Eric Meyer

Anonymous said...

Call yourself " Fench stuff made in taiwann" or "crabby"

Uncle Ankle said...

@michael white: I agree it was a bit overly colourful. I was trying to be quirky; trying too hard I guess.

But I stand by my statement that asking VO to tone down the nostalgia aspect is useless.

They are a company that primarily provides modern bicycle components that are carefully selected to not look too out of place on a restoration. Which is mostly excellent. And is readily marketed in a "ye olde" fashion.

No offense, but what's the crucial difference between a Taiwanese "Cardiff" and a Taiwanese "Belleville"?

Anonymous said...

Dear Uncle,

I really don't know the answer to your question. I am often confused by the way people act with their bikes, obsessing, hoarding, fetishizing, signifying with subtle stylistic cues and etc . . . I know people who are recreating replica bikes for obscure personal reasons, and honestly, to me it feels like a form of imaginative atrophy.
I try to simply:

1) buy a great bike that makes sense and 2) ride the snot out of it till it falls apart. This is not out of reverse snobbery but simply because that's what I need to do to maintain a healthy relationship with my stuff. VO, of course, can serve either the user or the hoarder.

best,
mw

Anonymous said...

"A big part of the reason I don't instinctively jump on the VO saddles is because of that large VO logo on the side of the saddle. For the Grand Cru line, can you make the branding more subtle, say on the rear lip of the saddle like Brooks? Or if it stays on the side, something much smaller? To me, big logos just scream cheap. A small well-placed logo is much more iconic and memorable."

I agree with this sentiment. If the Grand Cru logo was ornate, like a family crest or something, then it would still look classy from a distance but have the writing up close.

john k novack said...

what eric meyer said...
the name that "got" you here is perfectly good and classy.
very nice free consult, eric!

Tom SVDP said...

Using as an example "Gran Compe" is imho, a poor example, first off, because the company was "Dia Compe" and Gran Comp was their top brake and secondly, in fact, because Dia Compe is an Italian or Latinized type of name used, by a Japanese company. So, it would appear to me, they are doing a bit of a VO Gran Cru marketing bit some decades ago. Look at how highly venerated Dia Compe brakes are nowadays. It seems the example worked a bit in reverse.

Seeing that Gran Cru label to me builds on tradition and sometimes, tradition is to be honored, it is not a "fake identity." It also sets a bit of an ambience about a product. If I want a "bottom bracket", will I trust a Bell French measurements bottom bracket or would I feel more confident about a bottom bracket with a French name for my bike made in St. Etienne? Even if it were manufactured say, in the Far East.

When the sun starts to set early here for Autumn and Winter, I can get into the car and for some reason, French Canadian radio out of Quebec City and Montreal pours out and it is thoroughly enjoyable. A lot of this is a state of mind besides. I have a vintage French bike and it's really rather untouched with anything but with what was being used in that make when manufactured in about 1974+/-,
Weinmann brakes and then everything else is French, so it's a bit of a time capsule.

It is good to honor some past traditions of the past, that they should not be lost. I will give another example.

Over at the classiclightweights.co.uk website, there is an article about Claud Butler and how CB was once one of the premiere bike makers in the UK. You see, when you see and now there is a newly revived Raleigh Clubman bike as other British bikemakers had their own "Clubman" back in the day as well, it in part, recalls the day of Club cycling in Great Britain. Apparently, this really was a popular major form of recreation and it sounds fantastic. Bike clubs really were a big deal to go on day/weekend trips, camping, sight seeing, what have you. Those
Clubs really were an active community and had a great culture immediately after World War II, probably before as well, But then, a more modern age came, television and other trends and people started doing other things and some of these traditions were largely lost. So, without sounding like we want to live in the past, there are some very fine ways of the past that we should not lose and we should keep them alive and indeed, possibly expand on especially since it often seems to me modern day France is more enthralled with Motor Scooters after all. I really wouldn't get hung up because something is made in Taiwan or something. I do understand one having problematic issues with some other regimes concerning human rights, etc.

Lastly, I've shellacked and it's fine, but why have the Brits never taken after that tradition with all the rain there is over there??

TC

brainwashvictim said...

I always thought Vision Street Wear was all branding--those logo shirts just seemed like wearable billboards. Those first Simple shoes were a complete 180.

On the other hand, I can barely remember what an Alex Singer logo looks like (I know it's kind of cool looking, though), but I think I can identify the bike, unpainted. Rather than emulating those old French logos, just keep doing what you've been doing. Keep the branding amateur and the quality supreme. I do wish you'd lose the laser etching though.

Chris LePort said...

drop the Logo completely. Mystique is always better. Ther is nothing prestigious about a Logo when that Logo is on a taiwanese product.

rob said...

"it would tremendously valuable to pay a proper graphic designer to develop a well suited and classy web page."

"What you need to develop GREATLY is the graphic design quality of the logo and corporate Identity."

I couldn't agree more.

john said...

Slightly off topic, but what bike does the owner of the factory in Taiwan ride?

Brian said...

Personally, I take logos off just about anything I can.

I figure I paid for them, I have no desire to advertise for the people I bought them from.

If someone really wants to know where I got my headset, they can ask me. My ultegra rear derailleur works just as well without a screen-printed logo as do my shimano brake levers. A little steel wool goes a long way.

Here's a thought: If yer gonna have a grand cru line that's slightly more expensive or higher quality, Make that line sans logo. If I'm paying more for something, I don't want a logo on it. Never understood the desire for a logo on something you paid for- someone gives me a shirt, I don't care if it has a logo. I buy a shirt, I don't want to advertise.

ROD said...

Chris:

It's smart marketing to use a brand name but "Grand Cru" is filled with soft syllables, whereas many distinct brands have hard syllables in their brand name. Just a thought.

By-the-by, I just installed a set of 43 mm Honjo hammer fenders on my Miyata 1000LT touring bike - purchased at VO. They look awesome. Thanks for bring back the components from the golden age of cycle touring.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Eric Myers comments 100%

Cyclo Carpenter said...

FWIW. Please do not dilute or confuse by offering GC products. I spent 11 years with Patagonia and can name three different sub-brands that they launched, none of which still exist.

Beware of price point products (in either direction) in order to appeal to a larger audience. You will drive away authentic, long term customers for fad-followers. If fad followers choose to buy high quality products, more power to them but they are just gravy.

Yes, everyone loves a story. And VO has a story. Keep running with it. I also caution against a total redesign of the identity. As it stands, VO wreaks of passion for cycling and the good life. Keep VO, VO.

Tom SVDP said...

"As it stands, VO wreaks of passion for cycling and the good life."- Cyclo Carpenter

Most of what this reviewer said, very well stated and "wreaks of passion for cycling" but I don't know if I've ever had "the good life" which sounds a bit like living in the lap of luxury.

But Velo Orange, I know, it is very catchy, not just talking about French bikes, but the symbol for Netherlands/Nederland/Holland is orange a symbol per William of Orange (I don't mean to get off on a tangent, but that is what I think of often when I see VO items, especially at first), Orange is the color of Holland and of Dutch Royalty seemingly, I don't know if VO intended to infer that but it does come out like that to me some (interestingly, in the UK, I guess there is a mountain bike company called Orange and in Sweden, for a long time, premier Crescent bikes tend to be Orange, so Orange speaks a lot when talking about bikes in the first place).

For more on this, websearch out the Orange Army of Dutch football/soccer and images... ('Hup, Hup, Holland' is a bit of their 'USA, USA, USA' chant) or better yet, an in depth treatise on the subject of the sport in Holland is in fact, 'Brilliant Orange' ( http://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-Orange-Neurotic-Genius-Football/dp/0747547084 , I don't know what links are acceptable but you'd find the cover of the book intriguing ) speaking of which, Holland has it's football hooligans as does England and all the other European countries. I talked about the Clubman bikes in the UK in my prior post and the great cycling clubs in the UK that were very popular in the past. I've got to think, to a large extent but not totally by any means, they got away from their great bike-making history and many towards their "football is life" philosophy and which tends to lend itself more to tribal conflicts, Nationalism, etc.

Bottom line, I can be on my bike and the idea of VO via it's entrepeneurial style is inspirational. Not only do I purchase some products per VO; it gives one ideas just like written on the VO site, that giving some eloquent fenders to some bikes can make even some otherwise unremarkable bicycles look real elegant, this kind of a thing, I mounted a light on my fork per the same kind of reasoning which has worked out in an outstanding way on a trial run. Now maybe, one would see some of this in places like in France, Holland or even Japan, giving them their due but I haven't seen it much stateside. VO has a wide appeal while some of the other "specialty" shops do seem to cater to a narrow elitist type of mentality.

Sorry, I just had to write that little bit, I was going to keep it to myself and then, I saw my book of "Brilliant Orange" on the shelf and decided I'd go ahead. I had some things to say about Belgium as well which might be an untapped resource, but that's for another day, I thank you for the good graces to allow my comment.

The passion, I think Sheldon had it and it's not like the passion is a novelty of a few, I think the 'American bike boom' largely had it in the '70s and '80s, check out some older Bicycling magazines, they had it, the new magazine 'Bicycle Times' which I noted VO advertises in has it too on conditions from what I've seen. From the issues I have seen they seem to run with a lot of the well-worn ideologies out of the Northwest/maybe Boston too so far with their Univega-this and Bridgestone-that while, not to be patronizing, I find VO to be refreshing and different, outside the box.

'Hup, Hup, Velo-Orange'

TC

Cyclo Carpenter said...

Very well stated, Tom SVDP.

My perception of "the good life" is not the lap of luxury, but simple plesures on a regular basis. I feel the VO home page intro sums it up beautifully... relaxed, comfortable style, centuries, inn-to-inn, dirt road rambles. Ahh...

Keep the name. Keep improving quality and don't applogize that quality does, in fact cost something. Nobody can afford cheap stuff. That is a real problem that the American consumer needs to face. Alas, I digress.

Eric Meyer said...

Maybe Chris should start a brand called RED CHINA! and go with the whole communist party vibe from the early days... the propaganda posters etc. He could make some big rod brake cargo bikes..("smugbikes" bikesnobnyc calls them!)... or just the classic Chinese rod brake commuters like what 5 Rams in Guangshou builds. I'd actually kind of like to have a red star logo chinese saddle... with a little logo of Mao on the hangtag maybe... and the green beret hats with the red stars... maybe even the green pantsuits for the employees at the Hand Built Bike Show... Black boots...

I can see it now... everyone marching in unison singing...

Ok... no more beer for Eric...

BTW

BrainwashVictim... You are absolutely right... I am not very proud of Vision Street Wear's supergraphic logo usage... but it worked in the 80's... and was what sold unfortunately and was what the owner wanted me to make. Simple Shoes was a reaction to that... when I quit Vision to start my own brand.

Tom SVDP said...

Eric wrote: "I'd actually kind of like to have a red star logo chinese saddle... with a little logo of Mao on the hangtag maybe... and the green beret hats with the red stars..."

It's close to been done, these fixed gear types, I was out one day and I saw a bicycle parked and it was all painted red but for the headbadge was the hammer and sickle painted on in silver and painted well. I even pointed it out to a few people, "look at this". It wasn't a professional paint job as far as what we are familiar with but it looked like the fellow knew what he was doing, maybe powdercoating or something.

Also, per above that "Brilliant Orange" book, I wished to point out that if anyone goes over to amazon or anywhere else and sees that book (btw, 2 different editions, one has a different cover and also, should it really interest someone, amazon.co.uk sells it at a reasonable price, but it is a soccer book mainly after all), it is a bit creative that that is NOT an orange on the cover: that's a round piece of cheese, fromage with the orangish/reddish waxy covering cheeses have. A bit creative so I thought that might be of aid to some.

Tom SVDP said...

Eric Meyer: Respectfully, I myself having Polish ancestry would not appreciate someone telling me such things about "Red China", especially where a last name is Meyer. Of course, we're all Americans down to my Yuengling Brews.

Daniel said...

Wow, the Rivendell slight seems unnecessary. I don't think they're any less than honest about designing products in-house and having them manufactured elsewhere, exactly what you and many other companies do.

And I can't see how their branding is intended to mislead anyone with references to complicated imaginary backstories, as you're implying. "Sackville" is not particularly evocative. They're folks who ride, who design stuff for folks who ride. So are you, right? It seems reasonable to stick together.

Anonymous said...

The complicated backstories, whether imaginary or not, of characters such as Homer Hilson, Glorius, Saluki, etc, are imho mostly lighthearted, intended for those with a sense of humor. It's not too different from Gunnar the hound dog, say, or any one of a thousand other slightly silly product names. On the whole, I think too much time blogging is unhealthy, folks!

best,
mw

Chris Kulczycki said...

First off, thanks for all the great feedback.

As for fictitious back stories, they work and we enjoy them, though we may also realize that they are silly. I have nothing but admiration for those with the chutzpah to pull them off.

Anonymous said...

King, Phil Wood, Paul Comp, White Industries... just don't up the vo price tag for some silly name

k.sawyer said...

If you want any help from a graphic designer for that logo, Audrey Marier of Pendleton, OR is the woman you need. www.immers3d.com

Tom SVDP said...

Respectfully, I don't know you guys, on the main page I press the "Gran Cru" logo and get that enlarged picture, looking a bit like obviously, a wine bottle label maybe down to the moisture marks, I think that looks 'cool' or 'classy' maybe elegant too not to be trying to shine the VO people because I'm not sure if Gran Cru is the best sounding name, I think it's okay because that's the language it's portraying and being it's own thing and not indeed, copying others.

That's what I've always liked about the Campagnolo logo, it looks cool when you see it and I just mean the word itself in that written language and maybe it's a bit in Italian bike products, Giordano clothing for example with the Centaur with a bow and arrow, etc.

And some other logos tend to look real business-like, Shimano is a good example and I guess, they are actually a big company producing multiple products. Trek looks busy as well, Cannondale non-descript to me. Simplex is alright.

Andy M-S said...

I think that Typenschild Delete has it right--Velo Orange is the brand, GC is the level.

I was about to suggest a line of basic stuff for basic bikes called "plonk" since you seem to like that name, but I think I'd stick to VO and VO_GC (I'd go for GC as a superscript, actually).

One of the things I like most about the VO stuff I have is that it has little or no logoing--but people who know, know what it is. For more on this, read the novel Pattern Recognition.

As an example of the way to do things, I'd burn the VO logo into the *bottom* of the saddle. Nothing to distract from the thing itself. I don't wear shirts with labels on the outside...

Tom said...

All this talk of big ugly logos does not dissuade anyone from buying a brooks, nor do I see anyone sandpapering off the brooks embossing and popping off the metal plate to go logo free.

You like the saddle, ride it, use it, despite the letters on the hide. it doesn't make you a tool or a follower or an ordinary person.

Anonymous said...

Just to present an opinion on the matter, I think Grand Cru sounds really pompous. As a professional marketer I spend a lot of time splitting hairs over such matters and I think, in the case of bike parts, it's best to go with a family name. For example, Brooks, Paul, King, etc.

Bicycle parts can be artistic and beautifully designed, but ultimately they are utilitarian and functional. A family name, rather than a play on luxury item, emphasizes the fact that craftspeople designed and built the parts and believe in them enough to put their name on it.

Poppy H. said...

Chris -- Just received the Model 5 sprung saddle from V.O. Thank you. It's on my Trek 720 now ... hard as a rock, but already giving me a comfortable ride over bumps, pot holes (small ones), half-ass (phalt) patches here in the Twin Cities metro. Your saddle replaces a B-17 with about 1500 miles on it. I was a little reluctant to try VO, especially after investing so much butt capital in my Brooks. After reading the review on EcoVelo,however, and after only 25 miles in the new saddle, I'm psyched that I switched over to V.O. Not an ounce of buyers' remorse. Keep up the good work! Thanks again. Seth Hoyt, Long Lake, MN. hoytse@gmail.com

Rex said...

Commenting on another old post here... I'm about to order a model 3 saddle and I'm pretty stoked about it. A honey B-17 is on sale at Amazon right now for $83 but that means shorter rails, non-skivved skirt, no lace holes and most frustratingly, a hidden extra $10 or so for the spanner to adjust tension (vs. an allen wrench for the VO). Conclusion: the VO is better value. I'm not knocking Brooks. The reputation for quality seems unassailable and is no doubt well deserved, but I only have enough cabbage for one purchase so I gotta put it where I think it will do the most good.

As for the branding all I can say is that I only recently discovered VO and after looking through the on-line store in depth I'm amazed at the overall value. I will always look there first for anything I need and wouldn't hesitate to buy either Grand Cru or plain VO stuff. Keep up the good work.

Andrew said...

You can use a normal spanner for the Brooks tension nut, not that you ever need to turn it.