20 April, 2011

Slow Sellers

Lots of VO components and accessories sell well beyond our expectations, but I thought I'd write about a few that don't. I really like these and don't understand why they are not more popular. Maybe if I explain why I like them?

Rackaleurs should be a lot more popular. I used one of these in my youth and loved it. As a poor student, I could only afford one bike and that was my race bike. But even then I liked long rides in the country and being able to carry a few luxuries such as a jacket and camera. So I'd slip the Rackaleur over my bars, strap on my TA handlebar bag, and set off on an all-day ride. There is more info on how it works in this post. Based on manufacturing cost, they should be about $45, but we lowered the price to $30 in hopes that enough folks would try them and spread the word.

VO Deep Half Clips are actually pretty popular and sell well enough, but I think they should be one of our top products. They are just so nice on city and utility bikes. Of course you can't pull up, as with toe straps, but being able to spin fast without slipping off the pedals is a big deal to me.


Finally, we put our sprung saddles, the Model 5 and Model 8, on sale. These are great saddles not only on city bikes, but also on touring bikes. They really help smooth out potholed roads. The only downside is the added weight of the springs and frame, a small price to pay for comfort if you're not in a hurry.

What's your favorite non-mainstream bike bit?

29 comments:

Jon said...

A thought on the Rackaleur: I test fitted one from a local dealer of yours, and it did not fit well on a positive rise quill stem. (The bike in question is an old, steel Trek mountain bike-turned-townie featuring VO Porteur bars.) I think the Rackaleur is a great concept, but that fitment issue kept me from purchasing. Not sure if there is an easy way to work around that, though.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Jon, The Rackaleur only works with classic (zero-rise) quill stems.

Kellen said...

My two main bikes have a headlight mounted right where I would place a handlebar bag. I also just prefer a saddle bag.

I agree with your sentiments on the other products though and I own a pair of VO Deep Half-Clips and a Model 8 saddle :).

Alex said...

I would also buy the rackaleur if it cleared cross levers and was able to be mounted to high rise stems such as Salsa(Petaluma).

Anonymous said...

Love the half-clips myself. Perfect for commuting.

riggs said...

Everyone we tour with loves the little springy thingy to prevent your front wheel from flopping over. Or to help with hands free riding on occasion. Funny how a small thing like this cures such an annoying headache of your bike flopping over. Now, make it for bigger tubing!

Mr Nouveau said...

Testimonial:

We use all of these on one or another of our family bikes.

The half clips are particularly good for city stop and go, as you can peddle clear of an intersection using the "wrong" side of the peddles. The shortness of the half clips means they don't drag on the pavement. Once out in the country, you get a nice consistent foot placement.

The Rackaleurs make it easy to move bags to different bikes, and I overcame the angle problem on one by judicious use of a bench vise and elbow grease. :.)

The sprung saddles, especially in combination with narrow tires, really do help smooth out the bumps. Love Em!

Mark said...

My wife loves here model 8 sprung saddle, and I love mine except for one thing: it is annoyingly squeaky. I tried taking it apart and greasing all the metal-metal surfaces, and that quieted it down for about 2 miles, and then it was back to squeak, squeak, squeak. Is this just the way it is or is there a remedy?

Non-mainstream items I also love: inverse brake levers, wald handlebars (really!), dual kickstands, chainguards, metal fenders, and shimano adamas pedals (like MKS GR9, but bigger).

enzo said...

I've recently purchased a rackaleur, first it took a lot of bending to get the angle right, then I realized that it wouldn't fit well with the short stems I have on several of my bikes. I wish it didn't need so much time in the vice to work well. It is also just a little too wobbly even when tethered to my head tube with a toe strap. You feel a lag pulling up out of sharp leans.

masmojo said...

I think the half clips might be more popular were it not for the number of people who ride clipless pedals. I used to run full clips on my old racing bike and was considering half clips when Shimano introduced the SPD pedals. So now I either run clipless or platform pedals. Casual bikes get platforms and my faster bikes get clipless.

I have tried spring saddles, but the last one I bought (Brooks) the springs were so stiff that it did not seem like it helped much and for the considerable extra weight they carry it did not seem "worth it" to run one. I am a little heavier now so maybe I will give that saddle another go, but ideally sprung saddles need to be appropriate to the weight of the rider, because I have ridden others that were too squishy! I don't consider myself a weight weeny, but they ARE HEAVY!

Anonymous said...

My favorite non-mainstream bike bit? The VO Ring Lock. I had a ring lock on an old Dutch bike and liked the concept so much I bought one for my new Trek.

Apis said...

Rackaleur doesn't fit 1⅛" stems. Otherwise I'd be all over one.

diagonal man said...

Mark, I had the same problem with the sprung saddle squeakiness. I thought it was something with my drivetrain at first -- couldn't isolate the noise and it seemed related to my pedaling cadence, so I assumed it must be coming from the drivetrain. Eventually, through a process of elimination, I narrowed it down to the saddle. I'd also like to hear about any proposed remedies.

bubba said...

Grant at Rivendell devoted a post to slow sellers a while back and promptly sold out of one of the underappreciated items. Hopefully you'll get a similar bump.

Grant also devoted a post to the surprise hot sellers. I hope Chris does the same.

Anonymous said...

Chris-

I am in the market for a big, wide sprung leather saddle. I don't myself have experience with VO saddles. They are very attractive, and I like the idea of supporting your business, which I think has done a lot for the elegant re-fitting of classic bikes. I do want you to succeed.

However, my impression of the internet buzz is that your saddles stretch much and rapidly (at least, I have seen multiple vocal people say this, though it may not be a very large number). I honestly don't know if it's just a few off or a problem endemic with that maker (or Brooks' agents provocateur).

I'm sure dealing with internet rumor is a frustrating problem if your product really is solid. And I like the idea of an American entrepreneur giving Brooks a run for their money. But when I think of some of the reports I've seen, I think that on the balance, I'm willing to pay a $30-$40 premium for your competitor's reputation.

jimmythefly said...

I think the rackaleur is a case of having a great experience yourself and being convinced that others should and will share that great experience in the same way.

I personally do this all the time, and it's hard to do anything but share experiences as I personally experience them. BUT, I can't force others to have my experiences.

In the rackaleur case, I believe backpacks, messenger packs and hydration type packs have taken the spot of "bag I can move from bike to bike easily and take a few things with me". If I'm going to get a device to mount a bag to one of my bikes, I'm going to do it right and just get a front rack. If I'm a cheapskate with only one bike that I don't want racked, I'll just take my messenger bag along for cargo needs.

jimmythefly said...

Not-quite mainstream bike bits:
-Dirt-drop style bars.
-Cannondale octalink 44/29 double crankset.
-Efficient Velo Tools helmet mirror.
I'm tempted to give rainlegs a try.

Anonymous said...

I have thought many times of getting one of these, but frankly it looks too big for the smaller sized bags I would hang from my handlebar.-Tony

Chris Kulczycki said...

Regarding saddle squeak. I would just tighten everything up and use very heavy grease or wax on anything you suspect squeaks.

The very early VO saddles had a stretch problem because the leather was incorrectly attached. Those were recalled and destroyed. several local riders have put many thousands of miles on our saddles and said they last much longer than the Brooks saddles they previously had. But we have all seen bad leather in a Brooks saddle that stretches out in a few hundred miles, the same thing can happen to a VO saddle if the hide and cut isn't right. Of course we'll gladly replace the saddle if it does.

Mike & Sherry said...

Favorite non-standard bike parts?

1) A plastic go-to-summer-camp soap dish that I keep my repair kit in (held closed with a rubber band).

2) A CompUSA plastic bag with head and arm holes cut in it that stays neatly rolled up in my bag for those unexpected showers

3) The big heavy old "La Poste" leather bag that sits on my front rack.

4) The clear packing tape that covers the holes in my helmet in the winter. Just the front holes.

Timo said...

I think the reason the Rackaleur doesn't sell well is because it looks like a funny little man.

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased the VO Model 1 saddle but I haven't gotten a chance to ride it much yet. Just based on my inspection of it compared to my Brooks Pro, I would expect it to be less likely to sag or stretch than the Brooks. The leather is considerably stiffer and harder, and the "webbing" on the underside seems to contribute quite a bit to this. It seems like it would take much longer to break in, but also remain taught for longer than the Brooks (which has deformed a little unevenly after no more than 1000 miles). I guess I'll have to actually use it to see if my suspicions are correct. Also, this is a fine looking saddle! Appearance wise the only thing my Brooks has over it are the larger copper rivets. The leather of the VO saddle is, IMO, much more handsome.

Bill said...

I like the idea of the rackaleur - but it would only fit on one of our bikes, which kind of defeats the purpose. I do think that you might sell more of them if they were listed in "racks and bags" rather than in "accessories".

MarcosLagoSalado said...

how about lugged bicycle stems? a longer verson of gb spearpoint? btw i have 2 of your VO sprung saddles, they're nice

Plain_Jim said...

Why NOT a rackaleur for a 1 1/8 stem?

As for my favorite non-standard dingus, it's the shim I made of a Coke can that I needed between my VO six-degree stem and my probably-a-bit-less-than-spec 26mm handlebars. I cut the aluminum so that the flowing Coke script showed through the "window" in the stem, until it got dinged up; then I cut a new one and put it grey-side out.

Hurra! Bier! said...

I can not recommend the Rackaleur high enough and actually, I believe it can be fitted on without removing the handlebar stem. I always keep an eye out observing other bikes and one night, I believe I saw someone's trusty ol' Schwinn roadbike sporting one. That settle it that I needed to get one. It works magnificently to hold a handlebar bag and I have used it in 2 extended organized rides.

The rackaleur is close to being the most practical item I have purchased from VO. I think actually I've even been able to put one of the Minnehaha seat bags on it.

Anonymous said...

I own a rackaleur, because I too had one many years ago that mounted an Eclipse bag to my old Schwinn.
However, I find that none of my bar bags fit it properly - almost all are too short to be supported at the bottom by the bracket.
It also only fits one bike, as the other bike has a 1-1/8 stem.
If you were thinking about changing it, maybe you could make it in 2 pieces, with a decaleur connection, so someone could by a different hanger piece depending on their stem...

Brianna said...

I saw the sprung saddles on sale and snapped one up - I'm building up my first frame-only purchase for a big distance ride and it was just the thing!

I'd been leery of spending the money for something I wasn't sure I'd like, but at that price I couldn't resist - earlier that day I saw an old sprung Brooks on a Bianchi, and you don't realize how nice they look until you see them in person!

I might have pulled the trigger sooner if there were a few on-bike pictures available, linked from the product page, for scale.

seth said...

i've found that springs make a huge difference in saddle comfort for me, and your sprung saddle is gorgeous. i've also been vegan for over a decade and i'm not gonna buy a leather saddle. personal philosophies and aesthetic preferences and all that aside, if you come up with a way to make a similar saddle using synthetic leather (lorica is one of the better varieties) there is definitely a market for it.