10 February, 2011

Rando Impressions


It occurred to me that I should ask Alec to write up his impressions of his new VO Rando. Alec is a good person to ask about this since he is a very very experienced long distance cyclists.  He's put about 25k on his Cross-Check, including a circumnavigation of Iceland. I thought this might help those considering a new frame:
I wasn't certain at first, since I've grown so used to my Cross-Check over its 25k or so miles, but the Rando proved itself to be a different bike immediately.

It's lighter and more comfortable. Part of that feeling is the long chainstays and traditional-diameter tubing, I think. It seems to soak up bumps and float over sketchy patches instead of transmitting the shocks straight to my body and wearing me out. The Rando has lower-volume tires but still feels very cushy. I've only done two centuries on it so far, but I haven't felt beaten up after any of them.

The allure of the Rando is that it just goes, without complaining. It climbs well and responds when you hammer. Strangest, though is that it feels sluggish on the descents. I thought at first that I was descending slowly, but I nearly broke 40mph. What feels like sluggishness isn't at all - it's stability. The Rando doesn't bounce and twitch at high speeds and doesn't lock into a line; it feels slower, but you can safely go faster. It's a very nice feeling to not be locked into a line; the Rando doesn't wander or twitch, but it doesn't feel like its on rails either.

It also doesn't complain about my handlebar bag. I like to carry a lot of food and clothes with me because I ride to the ride starts, so I usually have 10 or so pounds up front.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

i'm strongly, strongly considering buying the build kit in the next few months, so was wondering: how much longer to you intend to offer the kits? will they be a long term thing? i don't want to miss out if i wait too long.

Anonymous said...

The shower cap and booties make it look like he just stepped out of a "clean room".

Anonymous said...

I noticed on the geometry page that their are two different rando forks, with different amounts of offset, one for smaller frame sizes and one for larger sizes. If someone wanted the increased offset of the fork for the smaller frame size to go with a larger frame size, would that be possible?

Chris Kulczycki said...

The current Rando frame and build kit will be offered until we run out of the current production run, probably later this year. We might make a few minor change when we do the next run, but there may be a period when we're completely out of them.

Each fork is designed to match each frame size. It's not a universal fork like on most modern frames. So no switching allowed.

Anonymous said...

I too was curious about the alternate fork option as a means to getting a little lower trail on the bike. Also, is it possible to get the frame without decals? Good looking bike frame.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response about fork switching, that's what I figured. Can I ask what minor changes are being considered?

Anonymous said...

What is "traditional diameter tubing" sizes.

Garth said...

It seems written on the wall that we'll see even more bikes with low trail. Surly, Soma, and bigger companies that watch all corners of the market; bianchi, trek. Surly and Soma are in the advantage that they could simply offer a low trail fork as options for their bikes. Too bad Kogswell isn't around. The resurrected Heron would do well to go with less trail along with their intention to go with standard diameter tubing, though i don't know if 531 is necessary.

Bob Torres said...

Last year I posted my comments on my VO Rando bike and it's nice to see another cyclist with the same impression. Last year I put over 2200 miles on my bike. Rode a few 100 milers on it, in the Princeton Event I managed to average 18.5 mph, not my fastest but still fast enough! I have also ridden 3-200km, 1-600km and the Endless Mountains 1000km in Pa. which had a total climb of around 44,400 ft. This bike climbs well and feels light, it makes my commuter and light touring bike feel heavy and slow even though they weigh about same. Alec's comments on the decent is how I feel about this bike. It does not feel fast but I have hit 50 mph a few times, very stable and comfortable. The rando bike is really a joy to ride. I ride with the bag on the front and I forget that it is there while riding which again says how stable it is. Of all of my bikes that I currently own, this is my favorite. I hope to see more VO Rando bikes on the roads this year.

Alec said...

Anon 9:08: - I'm no materials expert, but I meant 28.6/28.6/25.4 as opposed to the now common 28.8/28.6/31.8 which is often even supplanted in favor of things like 31.8/31.8/31.8 etc...

Bending stiffness for a tube (assuming wall thickness and materials are constant, and also remember that a tube can be a lever, so bigger frames with bigger tubes will also be more flexy than small ones) is usually assumed to increase by the square of the diameter of a tube, and torsional stiffness by the cube of the diameter of a tube. So, increasing a tube's diameter will exponentially increase the stiffness. A little change can be a big big deal with that kind of relationship. The reasoning behind ever-increasing tube diameters is that less deflection means that more power will go to the cranks instead of deflecting the tubes, so your muscle power will propel you forward more efficiently. It really doesn't feel that way to me, but I spin a high cadence and can't put out hardly any power at all, so I don't think I'm bending any tubes all that much. Really strong people probably have a different experience than I do. Also, people who sprint out of the saddle and get their arms into it, throwing the bike back and forth instead of spinning along and plodding up hills seated or with a gentle & consistent standing climb, probably need a lot of stiffness around the bottom bracket, but these people aren't me, and they might not be any of us here.

The other side of the trade-off is that the same loss of compliance that makes a stiff bike supposedly more efficient means that the knocks that bike takes from the road are transmitted by the stiff tubes and propagate through your body.

So, it's a question of balance and priorities. We might not be strong enough to bend a certain frame tube enough to notice, but that pothole up ahead sure is, so the ideal bike would be bendy enough to get over that but not too bendy for our own legs. For me, the Rando sits within that ideal margin of stiffness.

Anonymous said...

next idea
http://www.flickr.com/photos/49353569@N00/4023139183/in/photostream/

yup

Anonymous said...

The CrossCheck looks great. Is the Rando is all ways better?

Unbiased Bob said...

anonymous, No the Rando is not always better. One must consider the source of the 'opinion'.

Chris Kulczycki said...

I don't think it's easy, or even very useful, to compare a Cross-Check to a Rando. They are so very different.

The Cross-Check is basically a budget cyclo-cross bike, just look at the geometry and specs. If you race cyclo cross or do that sort of riding it's a good choice. Robert, our inventory/ordering manager, races a Cross-Check and does pretty well on it. If I were to race cyclo cross or ride mostly on unpaved roads I might buy one myself.

The Rando is, obviously, a randonneuse, a road bike built for spirited long distance riding and credit card touring. It's designed to handle perfectly and be very comfortable on paved and smooth unpaved roads. So it has a completely different design and mission from the Cross-Check. The other huge difference is that it's a low trail design, which works great with a front load.

For what it's worth, I'm thinking of buying a Surly for myself, a Karate Monkey.

Alec said...

To follow up on the is-the-Rando-better-than-crosscheck-in-every-way question, I hope I didn't give that impression - I compared thetwo because they're the two bikes I owned, and I like the crosscheck so much I didn't think I could like another bike more.

What the crosscheck has going for it is versatility. On a weekend tour it's great on gravel and dirt and it can carry a bunch of weight and rides well without the weight also. The high bottom bracket and quick steering make it pretty good on rough stuff. Some day it might turn into a fixed gear city bike or a bike for light duty mountain biking.

But when I wanted a bike for speedier & comfier long days, the Rando was the huge improvement I was hoping for. It helps me cover more distance - it's a better roabikes. It's pretty comfy as a commuter bumping over potholes, too.

But I'd never use it as a mountain bike or carry camping gear up steep gravel roads in the middle or nowhere with it or purposely seek out rutty old fireroads and powerline trails. It's absolutely wonderful at what it does, but it doesn't transition to unlaced riding the way the crosscheck does. It's bit the sort of okay-at-anything, excellent-at-nothing all-rounder that the crosscheck is. Each of these traits is a great strength, though. That's why I ride both (though never at the same time).

Willis said...

Alec,

Nice riding with you on the 200K last weekend. Was it the Rando you were on? I can see how spirited is an excellent choice of descriptors in choosing a randonusse..I was riding the green Nashbar touring frame with the matching rack you asked about (and the $1.49 wicker basket from the thrift store). Obviously, it's a tourer and even with those 45mph winds blowing us around I felt pretty good afterward but the next day ordered a bunch of parts to finish a more "spirited" build I am currently working on right now for 200k and under rides (my frame I am building up is a little too spirited for anything more than that and that would require carrying a load, pretty sure it is Tange 1 tubing and I can see the BB flex when I hammer and the stays as well, very light but not good for carrying me at 6'3" 200+ and 300k of food, water, etc). The touring frame I ride was great but was a little on the relaxed side for the ride we did. As you pointed out it's great as an all arounder like the cross-check (I use it as a commuter on a 6 mile commute here in Richmond that involves some gravel paths and (very) "lite" single track. Your bike looked great and as someone who totally digs having access to food, water, jackets, etc in the front having a frame designed with that in mind has got to be worth it on a Brevet. Hope we can ride again soon!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. The Rando is such a pretty bike - nice to know it functions great too! I'm wondering, though, if Rando mightn't be a good choice of a clydesdale type (north of 200 lbs). Given that one rider's "smooth ride" is another rider's "flex" and since the Rando seems to ride to smoothly with the standard diameter tubes and all, might it be too flexy for a heavier rider? Or is that not really as issue? Thanks.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Anon, There are certainly many 200 pound folks riding bikes with standard size tubing. I am one of them. I suggest you simply try out an older bike with standard tubing. It won't ride like the Rando, but the stiffness should be about the same unless it's a super light racy bike.