08 July, 2015

The Piolet Frame is Here

The Piolet, our new adventure touring frame, is here. It's designed for off-pavement touring, including dirt and gravel roads, dual track, single track or no track at all. We built it to be sturdy, simple, and very capable.

Note the bosses for racks and fenders.
As with our other frames, it's built from double butted chrome-moly, including the fork. The seat stays are a cool mono-stay design. The fork is also our own segmented design and loaded with bosses for mounting racks, water-bottles, gear cages, and even fenders. Both the frame and fork were tested to meet MTB standards.

The non-suspension corrected fork looks great.
The Piolet frame is not suspension fork corrected. This really improves the appearance and helps us optimize handling.
So many eyelets!
It uses disc brakes. You can go with hydraulic brakes, but we prefer the simplicity of mechanical (cable) actuation.

The small and extra-small sizes use 26" wheels (easier to find than 650b in remote locations). The larger size frames all use 700c, or 29er, wheels. The Piolet is designed for 2.4" tires, but larger tires will fit.

You can also use 650b (27.5") wheels on the larger size frames (M, L, XL). We find that 650b x 2.8" wide tires have almost the same diameter as 700c x 2.4", so handling will be as intended and there is sufficient tire clearance.

Again, note all the eyelets and bosses.
There are mounts for five water bottle cages. Two of these are on the fork. The Piolet has full mounts for front and rear racks. You can set it up like a traditional touring bike or bike packer style. The mid-trail geometry allows for front or rear loading.
Fender boss and front derailleur cable stop.
There are proper fender mounts; this is a VO frame after all.

We've designed the Piolet to work equally well with drop bars and with flat bars.

Here's the technical stuff you or your mechanic will need to know when building it up. 135mm rear spacing with vertical dropouts. IS mount disc brakes, cable or hydraulic actuation.  27.2mm seat post. Bottom pull and bottom swing front derailleur. 73mm standard British, or ISO threaded bottom bracket.  1-1/8 inch headset.

The geometry chart can be found here.


Jean-Francois Caron said...

Very nice, but what's with the chain in the second last photo? It looks like it's nearly dragging on the ground!

Vincent said...

It looks great, sadly I got tired of waiting and bought a Salsa Fargo three weeks ago.

Ray Day said...

What's the fork's axle to crown length? I'm wondering if the smalls would fit narrower 650 tires well for when the bike is ridden locally.

VeloOrange said...

@J-F C,
Landing from a big jump!

@Ray Day,
Axle-to-crown for the 26" sizes is 400mm.

Dobry said...

Beautiful bike, I'm looking forward to learning more.

I love the color as well.

Corey Sullivan said...

Am I able to run a front derailleur if use a 650x2.8 tire, or will I get tire rub on the chain/derailleur? Every setup I've seen has been a 1x.

onelegmatt said...

Your size chart could use a Wheel Base number. Great looking bike.

VeloOrange said...

If you run 2.8 tires and a regular MTB BB you'll want 1x. A derailleur just rubs. That's why fat bikes use wider chainlines, but then you get a huge Q-factor.

nordic_68 said...

How do you define reach (geometry chart)? Care to elaborate on frame size selection for drop versus flat/riser MTB bars?

Coline said...

What is the obsession with straight forks!? Whatever happened to a curving taper which is less tiring? Is it all about current style?

Where were you all those years ago when I needed something like this? I too love the colour in a world where colourless seems to be what most manufacturers offer.

Dobry said...

I agree with onlegmatt above w/r/t the wheelbase curiosity.

VeloOrange said...

Coline, This fork uses disc brakes so withstands huge forces at the end of a long lever arm. It must be rated for MTB use. It must be strong enough for loaded single track touring. It has to be so strong and stiff as to hardly flex at all. We also love curved forks, but we love efficient design more.

onelegmatt, As for wheelbase: If it's a centimeter longer or shorter that is just not very important in the larger picture. Some folks really think they can tell how a bike rides just from a geometry chart. Sure they can get a general idea, but in the end you have to trust the designers to make everything work. And I think we have the best all-around handling frames in production. Nonetheless we added wheelbase to the chart, but please don't think that it will tell you all that much.


VeloOrange said...


Reach is the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket and the center point at the top of the headtube. It's a good way to get a ballpark estimate for a framesize, although we prefer to use effective toptube for this. Reach is more useful for aggressive bikes (like tri bikes) where you are more forward on top of the bottom bracket. If you'd like more info on the reach for this frame, there's a short description of it in the comment section here https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=24415034&postID=6623006516952140548

As far as drop vs flat, I would decide what you are primarily going to use this bike for. Bikepacking rig, do it all shredder, or badass utility bike. That should determine how upright/stretched you want to be and what hand positions you want. This is why effective top tube is, in our opinion, easier to use than reach. Consider stem length, toptube length, and dropbar reach (if applicable). In general, err on the small side if you intend to use drop bars and large for flat/swept back bars. I know that's a lot of ins, outs, and what-have-yous but it's a large chunk of frame fitting. But to make things a little easier, stand over clearance is fairly generous on this frame.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the geometry chart -- does the Medium have a steeper head tube angle (74 degree) than the Small (73)? Also, the L and XL have identical head and seat tube angles, yet with a 10mm difference in effective top tube, the stated reach between the two differs by only 1mm, is that correct?

VeloOrange said...


XS and S have slacker head tube angles to correct trail on the smaller wheel size and allow for toe clip clearance. And yep, the difference in reach is 1mm between the L and XL. Reach isn't very important for a bike like this.

Augsburg said...

Two questions.

1) Can the frame accommodate an IGH? I've had good luck with my Alfine 11-speed.

2) With the straight bladed front fork designed for disc brakes, can it accommodate upsized discs? I run 203 mm on the front of my current bike and they barely fit. I notice many bikes are limited to 160 mm or so. On the rear of my current bike I could not upsize. Will this frame allow larger discs (front or back) for big brutes like myself?

VeloOrange said...


1) No reason you can't run an IGH. As long as you use a tensioner. We decided to use vertical dropouts on this frame cause we found that sliding dropouts, eccentric BBs, and other moving parts needed for single/IGH setups are kind of a bother to work on, especially if you're touring out in the middle of nowhere. You could end up with some slippage, creeks, and squeaks.

2) The fork is meant to take up to 180mm rotors. 203mm rotors probably fit, but I'm not going to recommend them. The fork is really tough. We've tested it to mountain bike standards which are intended to be beyond what the average person can do to the frame. That being said, it's still not intended for larger rotors and 203mm rotors are going to put extra torque on your frame and fork.

Hope that helps!

Augsburg said...

Thanks for the quick response. So a chain tensioner is needed for an IGH and the bottom bracket won't accept an elliptical. I've been running an elliptical BB and in my case it has worked very well, but I know a number of people have had issues - depending on the design.

Regarding the issue of a larger rotor damaging the fork. I know a lot of people in the bicycle community believe this. It's counter-intuitive, but the larger rotor actually places less force on the fork than a small rotor. That's because the caliper has more "leverage" for braking - more leverage means less force required. Rim brakes are the extreme, they place the least force on the fork. With a larger rotor, more force can be placed on the connection of the rotor to the wheel hub, however. In my case, I have Shimano centerlocks on my hub with the 203mm disc, and they have stood up to my abuse. In any case, your frame and fork can at least take 180 mm, which is better than many out there.

VeloOrange said...

There are several different ways to go about the rotor size question. I would throw out the rim brake comparison. I've heard people say that the rim is essentially just a large disc rotor, but you would have to oversimplify the two mechanism for this to be a valid comparison. It is generally agreed that disc brakes have more stopping power than rim brakes and that larger rotors provide more stopping power. Now the classic disc vs caliper argument comes in. The rim is the largest rotor size possible on a wheel, but it isn't as powerful as a disc brake rotor for several reasons. First, there is flex in the tangential direction. Spokes are flexible by design. When you clamp down on a rim brake, before locking up the wheel, the spokes flex a little bit. There is a bit of braking power lost in this. Second, is flexibility in the lateral direction. You can put way more compressive force on a disc brake rotor than you can on a rim. Rotors are generally solid pieces of steel and rims are generally thin, hollow carbon or aluminum. Besides a better gripping surface, these are probably the top two reasons why disc brakes have more stopping power than rim brakes.

It is true that rim brakes require less force because they have the lever advantage, but this has very little to do with forces on the fork. A rim brake is going to put forces on a fork in a different location than a disc brake. It's easy to picture this if you imagine the fork as a beam. The top of the fork and the point of contact between the brake and braking surface (when locking up your brakes) are two points on the beam. When stopping with disc brakes, you have the top of the fork to the disc mount to bend. With a rim brake, the distance between the hub and the brake contact point can be considered a rigid body during a lockup. The fork has less distance to flex over.

Back to rotor size. Larger rotors require less force from the brake lever because of their mechanical advantage. In other words, with the same amount of input from the user (a force) you can yield a higher torque. If you assume a constant torque between rotor sizes, then the force will be smaller, but I think it is a better assumption to assume that the input force is what remains constant and not the resulting torque. Assuming both rotors are designed with similar tangential flexibility, this is going to put more stress on the fork. At the core of it, you can't have more braking power without putting more stress on the fork. Additionally, increasing stress on the hub also increases stress on the fork.

Having seen prior iterations of the fork and where they failed during testing, I think the beam analogy is fairly applicable. This is probably way too much detail for an answer, but I just though I would share my thoughts on the matter.


Coline said...

Thanks Clint, not too long at all, in fact it is good that someone laid down the facts, except the one about forks failing!

It was nearly forty years ago that I was getting a frame made, previous bike having been taken without permission! I asked my bike shop if I could have disc brakes like some tandems were using and foolishly was convinced that solo bikes "never" had discs... We never got round to the discussion about how they worked so my thoughts never got to how forces would act on the fork itself.

Clearly I was born a little too soon to take advantage of new possibilities...

Augsburg said...

Thanks VO - Clint, I appreciate that you folks are willing to discuss so much detail! Many vendors and manufacturers are not willing and this tells me you guys are real bike guys. I love the products I have purchased from VO! BTW, we have three pairs of the Grand Cru Sabot pedals and think they are a wonderful mix of beauty and performance!

I was coming at the question of the rotor size from two standpoints. 1) the physics involved, 2) my experience converting from 160 to 203 mm.

From the standpoint of the physics, for a given "job" of scrubbing energy via braking, the larger rotor takes less force due to the increased leverage the caliper and rotor can exert on the hub. The spokes are still subjected to torque and may flex as you point out, absorbing a small amount of energy. That said, the increased distance for the caliper to the mount on the fork also increases leverage and even through the caliper may exert less force on the rotor, it could increase stress on the fork mounts - so I can see the fork failing at that point, And as I mentioned, the rotor can theoretically exert more force on the hub, as the caliper has more leverage to work with.

From a practical standpoint, I have about 1,500 miles on my set up since converting to 203's. Since I ride hilly terrain with long downhill descents, and I am built like an NFL lineman, I expect there is no human on the planet that provides more of a torture test for the larger rotor shoehorned onto a bike. So far, everything works great. My fork is chromoly. Plus, I notice my pads last twice as long on the front wheel with the 203mm rotor compared to before and compared to the back wheel with the 160mm rotor. I know brake wear is affected by many factors including the swept area on the rotor and the ability to shed heat, but I think the reduced wear is also because of the reduced force on those pads needed to do the "job".

The bottom line for me is you folks tested for rotor size and have designed for 180mm, which is way better than the "Big Box" bike companies (they would have just stuck on a 160mm and called it good). Thanks for such a thorough response and thanks for developing this frame - I will look it over closely.

VeloOrange said...


Forks failure is a good thing! You can learn what to strengthen.


We spend a lot of time thinking about these things. Glad it wasn't too wordy!


Kyle Messier said...

Would like to run this frame as 29 x 2.5, with a triple mtb crank on it. Would I have rub on the derailleur with that set up? Thanks -- kyle

VeloOrange said...

Kyle, No; that should be fine.

Eric Hansen said...

I've sorta jumped the gun on this frame and already ordered some parts for building it. This frame ticks 90% of my boxes for a universal commuting bike. It would appear to handle summer's heat as well as winter's snow. It can carry books or groceries. It can mount tires large enough to ride some place in the most direct manner possible, over curbs, lawns, and "features".

One thing I may run into a kink with is chainline. The IGH I want to use requires a chainline of 41.8mm. That would appear difficult to accomplish with a 73mm BB. I can't flip the cog, because the shift motor would interfere. It seems like tire width is going to come into play here, too.

Do you have any tips or experience regarding a set-up like this?

VeloOrange said...


That's gonna be one helluva utility bike! If you need to bring your crank in closer, I would just use a shorter spindle or maybe take the inside chainring of a double. If you're moving in the spindle, just make sure the Q factor is sufficient to clear the chainstays. If you're still unsure, just use a slightly more flexible chain.

As far as tires, you should be fine up to 2.4". You can run a triple with 2.4" tires without any problem.

Eric Hansen said...

I thought of a thing that could help me plan. Can you give the distance from the center of the BB spindle to the chainstay at 41.8mm from the centerline?

I had a customer want to go up 6 teeth each ring on his triple one time, and had to space the crankset out to an unreasonable Q-factor to clear the chainstay.

If I can get that distance, I can figure out the tooth diameter of various sized chainrings, then see if there's one that'll fit, that will mount to a crankset at that chainline, and if there is a driver cog at a 2.0-2.25 ratio with it.

VeloOrange said...


There's a little over 60mm of clearance at that point on the chainstay.

Anonymous said...

really great concept and execution throughout, also really like the colour

dropouts kind of look similar to surly disc trucker ones. So i have to ask: is one of the left eyelets made for rohloff oem2 axle plate compatibility? Looks quite like it, but i haven't found any info about this aspect.

so please clarify!!! would really make this frame best in its class for me

VeloOrange said...

The Piolet was not designed with the Rohloff hub in mind. It might work, but we have not tried it.

Jason Greene said...

Now that I own one, I am very surprised to hear that it WASN'T designed to work with one. There is a threaded boss present on the NDS which is not present on the DS and it happens to work PERFECTLY with the rohloff OEM2 axle plate. I hope this helps!

Ann Pai said...

Will the small frame handle a 2.5 inch tire? I'm looking at the Surly Extraterrestrial. BTW, LBS thinks I'm nuts for building a bike with 26" wheels ("going the way of the dodo") - but I'm glad to have found it. There weren't many frames that ticked all the boxes for me (steel, disc brakes, drop bar, brazons) and were well sized for a smaller rider. I'm looking forward to the fun.

VeloOrange said...

@Ann Pai,

26x2.5 would fit well. You may need to run a 1x drivetrain to clear the tire on the lowest gear depending on the crankset you choose.


Anonymous said...


this frame just ticks all the boxes for my up-coming "do-it-all" bike.

One question though:
are there any pictures with this frame equipped with "narrower" tires? I would partly want to use it for commuting,
and at the moment I'm running 33mm and wondering if the frame would look "dorky" with such narrow tires?


VeloOrange said...

@Anon 5/9/16 5:16am,

The Piolet is designed around 2.4" tires. That said, for commuting I would suggest going with a smooth treaded 2.0" tire. That size will soak up road potholes and vibrations while keeping the handling neutral.


William Hoffmann said...

I recently rode a friend's Piolet built with 29x2.4 knobbys, a 1x10 drivetrain, and the VO dirt drops. Freakin loved it! I'm a big guy (6'1" 240lb) who also happens to be legally blind. I need a do it all (commuting, light off roading, centuries) bike thats very sturdy (sometimes I hit obstacles without warning). I'm thinking about building a Piolet with a 1x10 drivetrain, VO dirt drops, and 29x2.5 Maxxis Hookworms. In your opinion, would that build suit my needs?

VeloOrange said...


If you're looking for a surefooted tourer, 2.5" hookworms sound great!

Cory McHale said...

I found the axle to crown dimension posted above for the small-26" wheel fork. Do you have that dimension for the large-700C fork? Thanks.

VeloOrange said...


430mm for the 29er.

Unknown said...

With a medium sized frame and 27.5er wheels, think you'd be able to squeeze panaracers fat b nimbles(3.5") on there?

VeloOrange said...


We have those tires on a Medium here. They measure out closer to 3" on Dually rims. Tire clearance is great, but you'll need a single chainring up front.

Alan said...

Y'all don't sell the 26" fork separately, or have any leftovers from shipping incidents, do you? I have a cross bike with a 400mm axle-to-crown fork that I would like to do some front-loaded light touring on, and it looks like the specs on that fork would result in a nice mid-trail setup on my bike as well.