This is a review sent in by VO customer, accomplished randonneur, and former racer. It's reprinted here unedited and in it's entirety. Thanks Mike!
by Michael Ross
"...she was a no-nonsense little donkey of a bike, but
rode easy and straight, not a drop of bad manners."
– Alec Burney, recently hit by a car in Philly, noted long-distance bicyclist, sage, and sooth-sayer...
Let me jump right to the conclusion: I have ridden the Velo Orange Campeur bike about 1500 miles at this point, and without hesitation I can say that I have never been on a better bike.
I am lucky enough to live in Washington, DC, and have access to Velo Orange World Headquarters whenever I can ride myself out to Annapolis, Maryland. Much to the horror of VO Staff, I make the pilgrimage often. I was at VO about a month ago when the Campeur showed up.
(Digression for bicyclists who care about democracy and quality of life in the USA: I can't bear driving out to VO, as driving, at its best, is so often a regrettable, forgettable exercise in brute utility, as it surely does not engage any great joy, or aesthetic pleasure...much less economic or ecological responsibility. I'm not anti-car, although I am anti-totalitarian transportation, and the car culture – including its many unjustified subsidies – counts as totalitarian despite recent advances made to improve transport options. To date, bicycle advocacy nationwide has only achieved the low-hanging fruit of infrastructure change. The real battles over sane transportation are just beginning...)
I didn't need a new bike; and I am not a consumer. I don't need a “new” anything to make up for excitement lacking in other areas of my life. I'm over that – I'll be 50 in December.
But I kept looking at the frame and fork closely, and couldn't help but think this bike was an improvement. And the price is unbeatable. Yes, I've ridden some great bikes, including many customs, race bikes and touring rigs, made from aluminum, titanium, plastic, and fancy steel with fancier stickers. But the Campeur stood out.
Depending on configuration, on which handlebars, wheels, shifters, crankset, cogs and derailer...it can carry you fast and long; or slow and steady, carrying a heavy load, front or rear. I've had heavy loads on both ends, on just the front end, and in large, fully loaded panniers in the rear. Frame geometry is not a subject for beginners, nor is “low-trail” philosophy, but if you are interested and informed you can look at the frame specifications and realize that this is an excellent, well chosen, set of compromises. The good news is frame geometry is not relevant at all if the bicycle performs well when ridden. Good frame geometry can be *felt* when ridden; it puts the rider at ease. The Campeur has not a drop of bad manners. Under any conditions. I hit 54mph in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania...and no wobble, no problems, no worries. The Campeur rides great, load or no-load, hands-on, or hands-free (at 30 mph it was totally comfortable riding no-hands.)
Some key Campeur points, in no privileged order:
*It looks good!! The tubes are narrow and elegant, although the down-tube is oversized. The gray paint job glimmers with small specks of color in the sun. The gray color is neutral enough that your color choice of bar tape, fenders, etc., will not clash with the frame. The paint itself is much higher quality that that seen on comparable bikes. The fork tips, rear dropouts, and fork crown are lugged; the head-tube and seat-tube have nice reinforcements – little details that look great (and are strong). The flat-crown fork and curving lower legs are a lyrical delight to look at! We live in era where the sheer volume and intensity of quotidian ugliness can lead a sensitive person to depression. Can you say Anywhere, USA? We spend our lives unavoidably in, or avoiding, such spaces. If you are going to use your bike as much as you should, you have to like looking at it. And it has to reward your looking at it by being interesting and elegant. Depreciate the aesthetic in this life at your own risk. Of course, the biggest compliment I can give VO is that they think beautiful form and extremely useful, long-lasting function are not enemies. Just look at their component and accessory choices. The Campeur is no exception.
*Relatedly, the geometry is such that there is no front wheel overlap with the pedals when making sharp turns, slowly, with the wheel turned at an acute angle. This may be amoot point out i the country, but in an urban environment sharp turns are sometimes necessary and unexpected, and no front wheel/pedal overlap is *good.*
*All of the sizes on the frame (BB, headset, seat-post, etc.) are standard! Hooray. You use your old (good) stuff. Or buy good new stuff, easily found.
*Note the low rack placement due to the on the correctly placed mounting eyelets! This is a necessity, not a luxury! It keeps the rack low, the load low, and maximizes the top-shelf use of the rear rack. You will be able to nicely mount the fenders to a variety of racks out there, especially VO constructeur-type racks.
*The rear hub takes a 135mm wheel easily. I use the VO cassette hub (bellisimo!). Say hello to easywheel changes. Say a big hello to a super strong, no-dish rear wheel, if you use an off-center rear rim; or a near dish-less rear wheel if you don't.
*There is a kick-stand plate. Yes! And long chainstays, so even big feet don't hit big rear panniers fully loaded.
*Big tires are easily fitted. I found I could fit 45mm tires easily with full fenders. [Chris' note: I think Mike has 40mm tires; will check]
*Fender attachments are threaded under the appropriate bridges at the bottom bracket, fork crown, and rear brake bridge. Yes! It makes the fender stronger, wobble less, and easier to mount and adjust for height. (As well as easier to silicone a wire on the inside if you use generator lights and use a wired tail-light. And you know you should...).
*The head tube is extended and reinforced. This is crucial. It takes away from the ugly look of a too-tall stem. And allows for a higher handlebar height, which is extremely important for comfort and control. Most folks ride bikes at least a size too small...
*There is a one-inch, “traditional” head-tube, for a “traditional” threaded stem. This is good. And the fork is *not* cut too-short, a common failing! Since VO makes the beautiful stem adapter for “thread-less” stems for threaded headsets, it affords lots of good options for the bar/stem interface. And, of course, I use the excellent and super long lasting VO cartridge headset...with split fork crown race....awesome...the headset rolls on and on like butt'ah.
(Digression #3: Is pencil use primarily for marking -- or for later erasure? Is the essential nature of fire to destroy and sterilize -- or to make a house warm and cozy as it crackles in the fireplace? Is the true nature of the acorn to grow into an oak tree? What if the acorn is picked up by a squirrel and stored for winter food? Did the squirrel mess with the Universe's Grand Plan? At the atomic level a bullet is mainly empty space...but if it's shot at you from the barrel of a gun, I'd duck. Is the bullet essentially hard, or hollow? Atom bombs, computers, and nuclear power depend on the latter theorization, however counterintuitive.
Add to these questions: Which is better -- the 1-inch threaded headset, or the 1 and 1/8 inch threadless? See my point? Leave your arrogance at home. The answer, here, across the board on all substantive matters of concern, even beyond bicycles, is: it depends...)
*The front fork has through-bolts for a low-rider front rack. Both ends of the bike have multiple rack eyelets. And a beautiful bolt-hole through the crown that is the right size. Put your headlight there...or a front rack to hold a handlebar bag.
*All the included bolts on the bike are stainless steel.
*Multiple full-sized pump placement possibilities. Do not take this lightly... (There is the traditional pump peg on the head-tube.)
*No squeal braking! The front fork has a flat crown...and I mention this as it may render the fork strong enough, resistant enough to flex, to render brake-use squeal-free. Maybe. Anyhow, what I do know is that unlike many competing brands of similarly tasked bicycles, this bike simply does not have any brake squeal, regardless of the pads used. I used three different kinds on the canilever brakes: salmon Kool Stops, black Shimanos, and black Swiss-stops. VO has wonderful noise-free brake pads which are a blessing if you have howling brakes (they do wear rims slightly faster, but nothing outrageous – about 7500 miles before the rim needs replacing), to gain a squeal-free ride...I have reviewed them in the past on the VO Blog.) The Campeur rides quietly even under extreme braking, front and rear, with standard, off-the-shelf, anybody-makes-em pads. HOOO-RAY!
*Customer Service matters! The folks at VO are nice. They are rational. They answer questions quickly. “I don't know” is part of their repertoire of responses. This is a strength, not a weakness. How refreshing in these days of know-it-all business enterprises. If you need help or if something goes awry you can count on them to help, not hinder. Contemporary life has enough headaches. Bureaucracy, not democracy, is what we all spend so much time navigating. It matters where you buy your bike, and bike stuff.
So: What are you waiting for? The Campeur is great bike and rides like a dream. Not like a donkey.
Reviewer background; or, who I think I am:
I am a completely biased reviewer of all things bicycle, at least when I get the chance to do so. I don't like stupid crap, especially if it's made to last one season or is over-priced. I do like progressive technological innovation. But so little stuff is progressive or innovative. Jobst Brandt is a straight-talking hero. I've been on the road for more than 25 years at this point, always averaging at least 10,000 miles a year, in many locations in the USA. I've traveled around a fair bit, and usually by bicycle. I raced on the road when younger, and was in some Pro/I/II races with Lance Armstrong, as I'm about 9 nine years older than him. I didn't use to mention this, but now that LA is a doper I finally admire him. Anyone who's ever had a beer to take the edge off, or had an aspirin, should do likewise. Although I must admit LA's palmares pales compared to Amish women who bicycle through the winter in skirts carrying groceries on mixtes. I dragged my child to school for many years on a bike...which must not have been so bad as she now has a boyfriend who works in a bike shop (I'm undecided on whether that's good or bad...I dislike 99 percent of bike shops. I'm not undecided on how much more I love her every day.) I like thinking about learning, education (which is much more than learning), biology (especially noncognitive evolutionary adaptation), the built environment, transportation, economic justice (or the lack of it), and high-fructose-corn-syrup addiction. I try to be involved in bike advocacy in my hometown of Washington, DC. I like destination rides to food, and noodling around urban environs with friends Ed and Mary, and buddy Lane. I have a beautiful, hot, big-brained, fun wife who tolerates me, and allows me to ride her around on a Da Vinci tandem. She also rides a Soma Saga, but that's only because the Campeur wasn't available at the time...