03 October, 2013

Testing the Camargue

Bike packing style.
We're doing a bit more testing with the large size Camargue. Casey is leaving on a 5-day solo bike packing trip in West Virginia today. It involves dirt roads, fire roads, single track and even a little pavement. He'll be riding about 50 miles a day. Casey promises to write a blog post when he gets back. Here are a few shots of his rig and gear taken at VO world headquarters as he was packing this afternoon.
All the gear Casey is taking.
Those crazy bars again.
Sabot pedals with Hold Fast straps.
When Casey returns, Igor is off to do some hard singletrack and then I'm off on a tenkara fly fishing trip via a couple of abandoned dirt roads in Western Maryland. Scott is tasked with gravel grinding on the 26"-wheeled version. One benefit of working at VO is bike testing trips on company time.
That's a big saddle bag.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someone please enlighten me to the virtues of bikepacking. I know the obvious benefit of traveling lighter, without racks. But what's the advantage of strapping everything to the bike instead? Do you now have a 39 lb rig instead of 41? Since I view VO as a purveyor of fine things, this is not a pretty setup.

Unknown said...

The bike looks great. Good luck on the trip.

I must admit, as a hard core bicycle tourer of over 3 decades, I don't grok bike packing. I certainly get minimalist packing, but why not mount an appropriate rack and use small panniers?

In other words, carry the weight in a location and manner that the whole setup (bike + racks) was designed for.

Wes Ewell said...

As a big advocate of internal gears, I eagerly await reviews of the Alfine hub on this bike. I use them on two bikes and plan to use one on my Camargue.

VeloOrange said...

The reason we're testing the bike in bike packing mode is because that's how many Camargues will be used.

I plan to do some serious bike packing before passing judgment. Racks and panniers are very convenient in practice, but the compact and light bike packing setup certainly has advantages. We're also messing around with some minimalist "bike racking" ideas.

Guitar Ted said...

@Anonymous: Bikepacking bags are part of a bikecamping/traveling philosophy where less/lighter is the goal. Racks are unnecessary in this scheme. Additionally, bikepacking typically takes place in the back country, on single track, where traditional racks have been shown to be prone to failure, and the width of panniers to be a problem. Strapping everything to the bike is not all that unusual either. Take a look at any late 19th Century overland cyclist and you will see similar set ups to what is used today. Our materials and techniques are refined, that is all.

Farouk Rojas said...

What are those crazy bars?

ol'grumpy said...

Both "traditional" touring setups and bikepacking setups have their positives and negatives, based on the context of use or intended use. Sort of like low versus mid/high trail frame design.

Based on personal experience it is nice to be able to get your bike to be slimmer in profile when riding in single/double track and some of the more remote roads. Having a bag catch on something at speed sucks, as does having to worry about this for more than 100 yards at a time. I have noticed though, that one does not save a lot of weight just because one is using bike packing gear. It also can be as annoying and cumbersome as racks and panniers. One of the things I like about bikepacking, is you look like an REI hobo out in the wilds.

The frameset looks pretty cool VO. Good job.

Brendan said...

Is that a VO randonneur front rack with a strange canti stud adaptor?

Unknown said...

Wonderful! Looking forward to the updates, especially on how the Camargue handles singletrack. Glad there's still demand for a good old fashioned rigid, rim-brake mountain bike (though I can see you getting pressured for disc brakes on future versions).

On bikepacking, as I understand it, rackless setups started as a way to accommodate fully suspended and disc braked mountain bikes for touring. But the setup definitely has advantages in the bush, as Guitar Ted stated. I think you're smart to test it that way, since it is the main way people are offroad touring these days. The Camargue's nice, large front triangle ought to allow for a commodious frame bag, which is a plus for rackless bickpacking. In fact, you should sell one that matches the Camargue. Something classy, naturally.

Adam Booth said...

I'm confused about why the opinion that "this is not a pretty setup" means it isn't a fine thing.

For a long time, I didn't like sushi. I appreciated the art and skill that went into it and I value it for that...even though it isn't my taste.

I think this is a fine bikepacking bike.

VeloOrange said...

The bars are a new VO design that should be here soon.

Yep, That's an experimental rack to canti adapter.


Don said...

One question: do you use a step-ladder or a stack of boxes to mount and dismount that saddle?

keepridingabicycle said...

Is this model uses 29" tyre ? I noticed it used 26" before.

joy machiner said...

do i spy a Tarptent?

Michael_S said...

another advantage to the bikepacking bags, especially in the rear, is that it's easier to push up a steep dirt road with a seat bag. Rear panniers get in the way if you are pushing.

With the lower trail geometry of this bike you could run some small front panniers along with the bikepacking bags for extra capacity w/o affecting the steering too much.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of some VO fenders that would fit the fat tires? The widest, decent looking ones out there are te 60mm Berthouds and it would be nice to have a wider option - especially if they aren't black plastic. It would be interesting for those of us running fat tires on other frames as well - hardly anything fits a decent snow tire.

Also, I noticed that there are a decent amount of spacers stacked up to get the bars high enough. I don't have any great understanding of frame geometry ... but is there a reason why the top tube couldn't slope upwards more, or that the headtube couldn't be taller, to allow for a higher default handlebar position? (before adding a lot of spacers) I

Anonymous said...

I forgot a question I had in relation to keepridingabicycle's post: Is there any chance of larger frame sizes that take 26' wheels?

B. said...

Could you specify what kind of dry bag/saddle bag set-up you have mounted there? I purchased a set of similar roll top dry bags earlier this year for occasional canoe trips. I've seen bike packing set-ups before but not like you have there with the dry bag and saddlebag support system. Are they sold together or separately... makes me wonder if I could try something similar with my existing dry bags. Thanks.

VeloOrange said...

As mentioned in previous posts, smaller sizes use 26" wheels; larger sizes us 29" (700c).

That is a Tarptent.

We plan to have wide fenders for these bikes.

I don't know exactly which drybags Casey used, but the bags are from Relevate.

Anonymous said...

The tent or whatever that is dangling out of the saddlebag makes it "look" awkward. Maybe strapping that along the top of a rear rack would keep the narrow profile and possibly be more stable. Keep everything else the same without panniers. Other than that, looks cool and hope you have fun!!!

Jeff said...

I'm all for IGH but you mention Alfine. Alfine is designed for disc brakes but the frame is not. You can save almost $500 if you use a nondisc Nexus 8 vs an Alfine 11. Sure you could lose a bit on the high or low end, but choose a different sprocket/crank combination to get you the gear you want most and you'll be good.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, There is also a non-disc 8-speed Alfine hub.

Seattle Plastic Surgery on Lake Union said...

Cool bike.

- Revelate makes some larger frame bags.
- The water bottle is about to become incredibly soiled
- Agree with comments about panniers on narrow single track or even a rough fire road - the 'shake and rattle' would drive me crazy.

gypsybytrade said...

I appreciate this conversation, as my transition from pannier systems to soft-luggage has been gradual, and I've made every argument above. It is not that panniers cannot accomplish some of these off-pavement rides, or that bikepacking luggage necessary makes a significantly lighter bike, but the ride quality can be much improved when packed in this way. I don't need to lighten my bike by two pounds, but I do want it to ride quietly through the woods, on narrow, rough tracks.

For those of us that explore the minutiae of tire casings, tubing dimensions, and steering geometries, loaded off-pavement packing/handling is just another discussion on the way to a better riding bicycle.

Surely, the bike will be pretty when it returns home covered in mud and adventure. Looks great Casey!

VeloOrange said...

@Seattle Plastic Surgery on Lake Union

These are my personal bags and I had limited accessibility/funds, a larger bag would have been nice.

That water bottle did get dirty, but I was drinking out of a platypus, I only had the bottle because it is compatible with my water filter

-Casey

Wes Ewell said...

So, what do you think of the Alfine hub?

Brian Holesapple said...

IMO - Bike packing setup vs. touring rack and panniers allow for a more balanced loaded ride. This balanced approach is a requirement for off pavement (Single track) adventures.
Commuting to work...nothing beats my panniers. Hucking down rocky single track with three days worth of gear - I prefer the bike packing setup

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity: where does the food go? And how much food will he be carrying?

Jan Nikolajsen said...

A bikepacking set-up is very often lighter, by many pounds, compared to rack/pannier systems. Why? Because you simply cannot bring a lot of stuff using only a bar roll, a frame bag and a saddle bag. Typically a small backpack also needs to be used, but as any experienced tourer knows this implementation cannot be weighty at all and still provide a fun trip.

In other words, step one in a successful transition from hard to soft attachments is a complete rethinking of an already minimalist gear list. Many things considered essential before will have to become optional. Food and water capacity is limited to an even greater degree. Compactness is now more important than light but often, off course, these two criteria go hand in hand. Camp life comforts will likely be compromised in this paring down of equipment but the gain is a better handling bike without rattling connectors and shifting loads. One you actually ride on technical terrain. And, in my opinion, that is where all this is leading: the ability to take a mountain bike, even a full suspension variety, and go off in the wild for days.

Without this desire or need to leave pavement and gravel behind, I would probably not recommend anybody converting their regular, well functioning pannier equipped touring bike to soft packs.

VeloOrange said...

The majority of my food went into the saddlebag. I also carried a 18L flash pack with a platypus in it. All of the gear that you see laid out I was able to fit between the frame bag, front rack, and my backpack.

As Jan pointed out, a very minimal gear list is necessary. I was carrying much less then I normally would for regular touring or backpacking.

Neck Pain said...

Wow a you wore a backpack? Eesh.