24 November, 2010

Free Shipping On Orders Over $100

 As we did last year, we're offering free shipping over the holiday season. From November 25th through January 2nd, we're offering free ground shipping on all orders over $100. This offer does not apply to wheels and frames (because they are over-sized), and it only applies to orders shipped to the continental USA.

Happy Thanksgiving

Velo Orange will be closed from 4pm today until 9am Monday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We wish all of you a pleasant holiday and hope you have time to get out on your bikes.

If you get bored waiting for the big meal, check out the Velo-porteur-ancien blog. In French, but great photos and lots of examples of how porteur bikes should be set up.

Velogibe is another neat French blog. And you might enjoy collection de vélos anciens Gilbert FAUTRIER and Tonoton Velo.

Anyone know of other cool non-English language sites? Please post.

19 November, 2010

Saddle Days Coupon Code

Our first coupon code "flash sale" was so successful that we decided to do another. This time VO saddles and the Grand Cru seat post will be 20% off. The sale lasts from 12:00am Saturday, Nov. 20 until 11:59pm Sunday; that's EST time zone.  

The coupon code is "saddledays".  Click on "My Cart" (not "Checkout") on the top right of the screen to enter a coupon or a gift certificate.

We also have gift certificates again, just in time for the holidays.

15 November, 2010

Still More Nice Bikes and a Few Notes

Nice Bikes

  • One of our Japanese customers sent us a link to his blog that describes his building-up a VO Rando frame. The build is super as is that flashlight and holder. I love blogs like this.
  • Here's a flicker set about installing a Grand Cru crankset.
  • How about this tandem that's based on am old Gitane frame. I like the linked VO chainguards.
  • In case you missed them, check the comments section in this recent post for more links to pics of cool bikes.
  • Prices for Japanese products continue to rise along with the value of the Yen. If you need Nitto, Honjo, Ostrich, or Sugino products, it might be wise to buy them sooner rather than waiting until Spring. Would that make you a currency speculator?
  • We're occasionally asked if any VO products are made in China. One of our bottle cages is. About 90 percent of our products are made in Taiwan. A few are still manufactured in Japan, the USA, or various other places.
  • Some of our products are being stocked by Quality Bike Parts, or QBP, the worlds largest bike parts distributor. So over 4000 bike shops now have access to them.

12 November, 2010

Grand Cru 110 or Alpina

The question we get is, "Which of the high-end compact double cranks should I put on my new bike?" Since we've been long-time fans of the Sugino Alpina crank and now we make what is seen by many as a competing crank, the Grand Cru 110, it's a question we must often address. The Alpina is regarded by many as the best compact double available today, the successor to the discontinued TA Zephyr. How to choose? I'll try to be objective about this and do a point by point comparison.


This is the most obvious difference between the two cranks. The Alpina is a modern design while the Grand Cru could have been designed in the 1960s. Since this is strictly a matter of taste neither crank has an advantage.


The Crand Cru double has a q-factor of about 140mm; the Alpina's is 159mm. Both use 110mm square taper BBs. So the Grand Cru has significantly lower tread, which some cyclist believe results in less knee pain and a higher power output.


A 172.5mm Alpina crankset weighs 702g. The Grand Cru 172.5mm crankset weighs 683g.


Both cranks have very well made 110bcd CNC cut chain rings made of 7075 alloy. These have superior wear characteristics compared to the chain rings found on lower cost cranks like the Sugino XD and regular VO cranks. Shifting is great with either, perhaps a touch faster with the Grand Cru. Both are 6-10 speed compatible.

Note that the Grand Cru is also available as a triple, while the Alpina is only a double.


Both cranks have arms that are cold forged and polished. The slightly wider width of the Alpina means that it's probably a little stiffer.

Note that each size Grand Cru crank has different crank arm length, while the various sizes of the Alpina cranks all have the same arm length, but with the pedal hole drilled in a different place. Look at the first photo in the post to see what this means.

Fit and Finish

The close up photos below show the differences better that I can explain; click on them to enlarge. The fit is clearly tighter on the Grand Cru cranks. This is most evident where the the chain rings meet the spider. I'd judge the Grand Cru's polish to be a little shinier, while the Alpina has more of a satin finish.


The Alpina currently costs $175. The Grand Cru runs $190.


So there you have it. The biggest differences are style and Q-factor, but these are very significant for many cyclists. If you need a much lower Q or like the classic style, the Grand Cru is the obvious choice. If Q is unimportant and you like the more modern look, or want to save a few dollars, the Sugino is a very fine alternative. It's hard to go wrong.

10 November, 2010

Do you really need a new frame?

Do you really need a new frame? Why not fix up a nice old high-end bike instead? My favorites are upper-tier Motobecanes and Uragos. But there are plenty of  other well-made and sweet-riding frames available for next to nothing on E-bay, Craiglist, or the local thrift store.

If you're thinking that it's too hard to find those odd sized seat posts, BBs, and headsets, that's no longer an issue. In addition to our French and Italian and British and threadless BBs, and our French and British threaded headsets, we now have seat posts in most of those odd old sizes.

The new posts are the well known UNO seat posts that are basically copies of an old Campagnolo design. It's actually a darn good design that was also used by Nitto, Ritchey, and a dozen other companies. Now there is no question that the $20 UNO post is not as nicely finished as a Grand Cru or Nitto post, but for $20 it's not bad. What is important is that it's available in: 25.0mm, 25.4mm, 26.2mm, 26.4mm, 26.8mm, 27.0mm, and 27.2mm. So the vast majority of old steel frames are covered.

We also have the Grand Cru triple 110bcd cranks in stock, which looks perfect on a classic lugged frame and has durable 7075-alloy chain rings that may outlast the frame. The double version is back in stock too and available in 165mm, 170mm 172.5mm, and in 175mm lengths. And we'll have the less expensive VO cranks back in stock in a few weeks.

I guess a fellow who's company sells frames really shouldn't be suggesting that you not buy one. But times are tough for a lot of folks, and all those cool old frames are just waiting out there, and it's a lot of fun to fix up a nice old bike...

Have any pics of cool bikes you've fixed up? Feel free to link in the comments.

09 November, 2010

Restocking and Yard Sale

This is why we need more space. Anyone who was here for the yard sale saw that the middle part of this warehouse bay was almost empty. All these boxes are from one 40-foot container. And there is another 40-footer already at sea and yet another soon to be loaded.

Here are some of the items that we were out of and are now back in stock (or will be tomorrow).
We also have a bunch of new products that I'll write about in the next few days.

Speaking of the yard sale, it was a great success and lots of fun. We met a bunch of very nice customers and saw some old friends. Both the warehouse area and the showroom were packed shoulder-to-shoulder for the first hour and pretty darn busy for the rest of the morning. We sold about 80% of the yard sale items and a lot of you got spectacular deals. Thanks for coming!

04 November, 2010

Yard Sale Loot

Here are a few photos of stuff we'll be selling at the VO yard sale this Saturday.

We'll have some VO frames that are scratched or are prototypes. There are also a few classic frames, including a Mercian Superlight, two Motobecanes, a Jack Taylor Tandem, a Bottechia Pro that are owned by staff members or were used for reference.

There are a bunch of fenders and a few tires. Many wheels too.

 TA and VO chainrings, saddles, CLB brake levers, cranks, handlebars, racks, decaleurs, prototype gloves...

Kate, our company barista, will be pulling shots.

Finally, we put a few more things on the specials page.

03 November, 2010

About VO, Part 1

We've had a lot going on over the past 8-weeks or so here at VO.  We went to InterBike as an exhibitor for the first time, shipped off our biggest order ever to the largest bike distributor in the U.S., got some new employees, lost one of the best (we'll miss you Perry!), and launched a new website. And had our best ever retail sales week.  Needless to say, all of this change makes me want to take stock of things.  

So, it seemed like a good idea to write a little history–from the conception of VO to where it stands today and where it might be headed. Looking back at where we began 4-1/2 years ago and seeing where we are today is pretty amazing, if not a little scary.  I'll write four posts on the subject, beginning with the origins of the company and concluding with where we are today.

About 11 years ago Annette and I sold a company I'd founded and decided to take a few years off. We traveled a bit and also enjoyed lot of cycling. Eventually, I went looking for a new bike. Having raced a little in my youth and owned several racing bikes, as well as a couple of touring bikes, I wanted my new bike to be something in between. I knew that my racing days were long over and that we now preferred staying at B&Bs to camping. So this new bike would be for credit card touring and long rides alone in the country, and also for the fast club rides I went on almost every weekend. What I wanted was a rando bike!

At first I thought I'd just order a sports touring bike from a well known California company; I rode one and it was nice, but not exactly to my tastes. I'm just not a fan of fancy lugs, two-tone paint, and ornate decals. I also preferred the ride and geometry of several older French bikes I'd owned. I got a Kogswell Model P as an interim bike. I soon sold it and bought an Ebisu, which I think was, by far, the best production (or semi-production) frame available at the time.

It was during this bike search that I realized just how scarce some of the components and accessories that I wanted to use were, and how difficult it was to find a production frame that rode the way I liked. Plus, I was getting the itch to start a new company. So, I decided to form a really small company to source various parts I thought were both cool and useful. I never intended to make much money from it or to grow it beyond one or two employees. It was just  something to keep me off the streets, to have a little fun with and, most importantly, to provide a service to other cyclists who shared my tastes. I formed an LLC and deposited the hefty sum of $6000 into its bank account.  That was 4-1/2 years ago.

The business plan, if you can call it that, was to import some hard-to-find parts, make a few small items like bell mounts and decaleurs, and maybe to eventually to have a semi-production frame made. That was the extent of our plan. The name came from my orange bike, which was in our living room when we were trying to think up a name over a few glasses of wine. I'd had zero experience in the bike business, had never sourced anything overseas, and didn't even want to work full time. The only thing I was sure of was that there was a need for practical, well, made, attractive, and reasonably priced components for cyclists who wanted an alternative to the racing-style bikes and parts that, at the time, dominated most bike shops.

Many of our first items were new-old-stock (NOS). We bought most from an old acquaintance and parts distributor. We soon started making contact with European distributors who had stocks of interesting NOS parts. Then came some new stuff from Japanese and European firms including MKS, Stronglight, and Ostrich. Next we started to having racks and decaleurs made by a local metal fabricator and then bags, flashlight mounts, and more leather goods. This was fun and the company was starting to grow rapidly.

Reading the 685 posts on this blog will give you a pretty detailed history of what's happened since, but I'll write about some highlights in Part 2.