19 March, 2019

Essentials for Eroica California

by Igor

This year's Eroica CA is April 6th and 7th. Last year's ride and show was a ton of fun, and we're looking forward to another great event. If you're getting your bike buttoned up and more comfortable, we have what you need to get your ride rolling!

Here's my Campeur that I'm going to riding this year for the new course. While it isn't a vintage road racing bike, it is allowed because it is vintage-inspired. Every component complies with the rules, fits right in along with the peloton, but stands out just enough to raise the interest of fellow riders.

Some of these climbs are pretty darn steep and sandy and you'll spend more time pushing your bike up the hill instead of conquering it. I get it, your bike looks really cool when it is fitted with a 53/43 crankset and 11-21 corncob cluster. But I guarantee you're going to feel like a million bucks when you ride up the hill past your buddies who are waving their fists into the air.

Depending on your aesthetic preferences, I'd recommend either our 50.4 crankset with 46/30 chainrings, or our Drillium with 48/34 chainrings. Either one will make your ride a lot more comfortable without losing anything on the top end.

Good tires are vital for mixed terrain rides like these. If your ride can fit them, the Fairweather For Cruise, 700x38 tires are a great choice for those loose climbs and washboard, gravel roads. There are also some narrower 32mm and 28mm options with slight, herringbone tread.

This may sound like sacrilege, but I don't ride with foot retention. My feet like the freedom of being able to move around and the Sabot Pedals makes this a reality. They're chunky, spinny, shiny, and toe-clip and strap compatible. What else could you want?

One of the cornerstones of bike fit is a proper stem position. The Grand Cru Quill Stem uses a -17 degree angle for a classic number 7 look. It also has a bell mount! For a more upright position, check out the VO Quill. It has a +17 degree rise and will make your back happy.

Last year I saw lots of ways to carry gear. Of course there's the classic "stuff in jersey pockets", but I also saw tube sock, the Sunday Funnies, and sewed up t-shirt sleeve. For a more, ehm, "put-together" look, our Day Tripper Saddle Bag can take everything you need for a day-trip into the country. Sound familiar?

See you at Eroica CA!

13 March, 2019

Fresh Container: Major Re-Stock and Lots o' New Stuff!

by Igor

We were greeted this morning with the most beautiful container brimming with equipment you all have been waiting so patiently for. In addition to the restock, we are introducing several new products!

Noir, 700c 63mm Fluted Fenders

Our 63mm Fluted Fenders are the perfect fit for 700c Road+ tires. Think gravel, all-road, and other buzz-worthy words. They'll swallow up tires up to 53mm to keep your backside and drivetrain clean.

Noir Fender Reflectors

Following up on more Noir offerings, we're now offering Noir Fender Reflectors!
Grand Cru Quick Release Levers
These QRs are very reminiscent of my favorite downtube shifter: the Simplex SLJ (I even have one on my keys). They feature an external cam with a lovely brass insert for durability. The opposite side has a neat, knurled barrel for easy adjustment. Did we have to make a Quick Release Set this fancy? Absolutely.

Captain Dashboard Handlebar Mount
Between strap-on handlebar bags, lights, cue-sheets, and GPS units, you might find yourself running out of room on your handlebars for gizmos and gadgets. These Handlebar Mounts are super versatile and can help position things to better serve you during rides. Each kit comes with two removable barrels, so you can utilize one or both on the bars, or detach one to use elsewhere. The barrel could then be mounted on another threaded point, for example as a light mount on your Rando Rack. Here is another idea: flip it under the bars and use it as a stand-off for a strap-on handlebar bag. The beauty is that you can get two sets and use them for vastly different applications. What will you come up with?

Course Water Bottle Cage
The keenest VO followers will note that we actually used to offer these in the past. The story is that the factory made a few hundred more than the last order cycle, and these were aged (read: sat around) waiting for the perfect opportunity to make their re-debut. Like our other cages, they're made from stainless steel and have an exceptional polish. We aren't making them again, so get them while you can. Once they're gone, they're gone (unless they find another box kicking round in 10 years).

In addition to the cool, new stuff, we had a nice restock of popular products! If you signed up for back-in-stock alerts, you should be getting an email any minute now. Here's a fairly comprehensive list of everything that is now back in stock:

01 March, 2019

Fender Hardware Hacks

By Scott

Loyal readers will recall a post I wrote last June about multiple uses of fender stays. We thought with spring rapidly approaching, that perhaps it was time to share some more little "hacks" and ideas of how to use fender hardware to spruce up your bike/clean up the overall look of your bike.

Matt, from our local Bike Doctor, recently came by on his new custom, all-road bike made by local builder, Brackish Cycles. His ride is pretty darn modern with thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes, dropper post, dropped seatstays, and carbon fork. He cleverly decided on using several fender eyelet bolts as cable/hose guides for various external routing. I think it's a pretty slick alternative to clamps.

Igor helped him out with mounting a front fender on his carbon fork to keep the spray off him and his drivetrain. Why only a front? Because Matt is a self-proclaimed (and I quote) "selfish cyclist". This bike is specifically designed for speed; and since there isn't much room in the back, Matt opted to use one of those plastic ass-savers as a way to keep the grit and grime off his backside. When working on the fender, Matt noticed our long leather mud flaps. It was a bit longer than the ass saver he was using, so he used one of those and a long rack strut underneath to support it and voila: a more stylish and hearty ass saver, that blends in well with the finish of his new bike.

When running dynamo lighting, the routing of the wires is something that can look, well, ungainly. With a custom fork, you can always have a hole drilled at the top and bottom to run the cable through, but for those of us running stock forks, how does one keep the cables nice and neat, without having to use zip ties? R-clips of course! Screw these into the fork eyelets and run the cables through them to keep everything nice and neat. Here is Igor's setup on his Polyvalent.

Finally, we have P-clamps. Such a simple and versatile item. We used them a few years back as a way to attach a wine crate to a Porteur rack.

Does anyone have any non fender uses for fender hardware that they'd like to share? Drop us a line in the comments and we'll share your knowledge with the world.

21 February, 2019

Polyvalent and Neutrino Soak in the Rays and Salt

by Igor

Last week, the three of us (Adrian, me, and Theodore) packed up my flat-bar'd Polyvalent and her Neutrino (formerly known as the Small Wheeler) and journeyed down to Florida to get a good base tan in preparation for the season.

It was my first time packing up the Neutrino into a small frame box for actual plane travel. We're still dialing in a proper bag/case, but we were able to save a few bucks by declaring it as a checked bag rather than a bicycle. We could also add some of our gear as the total weight was much less than a full-sized bike with accompanying equipment - so win/win. Theo (the micro-manager) was there to lend a helping hand during assembly of my bike.

One of the highlights of the trip was riding on the beach. The sand is super fine and extremely compacted so you can ride on the beach for miles in either direction. To ride safely on the beach, I aired my 47mm tires down to 30-ish psi and Adrian's 2.3" Grifters to about the same. Theo had an absolute ball. Since there were hardly any vehicles, we could stop anytime, play in the sand, and walk around.

Our rides weren't anything epic or long. Just some fun family time, riding bikes, in a warm place, where memories can be made.

18 February, 2019

Cork Spacers for Fender Mounting

By Scott

Pro-tip: display stained-side out where possible
Cork is a very versatile material. In addition to its application as a forgiving flooring, coffee shop message board, and drink coasters, we also use it in our Cork Grips. It provides a natural feel and wears into the hand position of the rider. More recently, we've used it on our upcoming Neutrino mini-velo to take up space between the fenders and mounting points.

Now, if you're someone who perhaps doesn't drink wine, or your wine comes with a plastic screw top, don't despair. Many wine shops have bowls of corks about for free or you could ask around your neighbors for a couple. Some of the fancy Belgian beer bottles are using corks now, too, rather than flip-tops.

So on to the nitty gritty of cork spacers.  Most of it falls back to the idea of measure twice, cut once. You can cut cork with a variety it devices - an X-Acto knife works great for most folks, Igor uses a small saw to cut down ones for his builds. Just remember to be careful and keep the fingers away from the sharp blade.

After you've cut the spacer to the desired thickness, take the appropriate size drill bit and drill a hole for the bolt to go through.  You can get all precise, drawing a line through each axis on the cork to get the exact centre, or you can just eyeball it and it should be close enough for non-concours work.

Igor suggests using wide spacers where you can such as between the cork and a braze-on lest you crack the spacer by creating a stress riser. The cork should rest upon the fender specifically to compress and match the curvature of the fender. The good thing is that they are super easy to make, so if you need another spacer, you can probably use the leftovers from the cork you've already cut up.

Notice cork spacers under the fork crown as well as between the rack and fender (all made from the same cork)
Now line up the fender, the cork spacer and the bolt and thread away!

15 February, 2019

Mark Your Calendars For the Spring VO Garage Sale - March 9th, 2019

By Igor

Update: We wanted to thank everyone who was able to stop by HQ for the Garage Sale and hang out! Happy riding!

I know, I know. You're probably thinking to yourself, 'Spring? We're still uncovering ourselves from the last bout of snow!' For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Meteorological start of Spring is actually March 1st. So since we'll be well into Spring, we're hosting our Annual Garage Sale at VO World Headquarters on March 9th, 2019 from 9am-Noon EST.

We'll run it with the usual story of various bits and pieces for sale - bikes, prototypes, frames, parts, accessories, all for cheap. We'll also offer a 20% discount for all in-stock, non-garage sale items to folks coming to the shop.

We'll have our usual supply of coffee and donuts for you to sip and munch on while perusing our vast wares.

Address for your GPS Unit:

1981 Moreland Parkway
Building 3
Annapolis, MD

(Turn into the industrial park and go to the right, almost all the way to the end. We're three doors from the end on your left side. Big VO sign out front.)

If you're on Facebook, let us know if you're going to make it so that we can get lots of snacks, coffee, donuts, holes of said donuts, and teas: https://www.facebook.com/events/618751121899274/

Hope to see you all there!

05 February, 2019

VAR Tools

by Igor

Ok, tools may not be the flashiest or Instagram-able part of your bike setup or shop, but having dependable, accurate, and easy to access tools makes for quicker builds and repairs. Everyone has had a frustrating experience on the side of the road doing a repair in the rain or just having lost that screw in the grass. Your portable toolkit should be the least of your worries. These VAR Tools are highly precise, easy to use, and actually quite handsome.

This Pro Wrench Set has all of the sizes from 1.5mm to 10mm, for tiny set screws, rack hardware, crank arms, hex stem bolts, bottle cage screws, chainring bol...well you get the picture. The insertion and removal is so exceptionally smooth, you'll find reasons to loosen and tighten screws and bolts all around your bike and house. So smooth when I showed them to Master Mechanic Tommy of Cutlass Velo, I saw a smile of the largest proportions appeared on his face - it was confirmation enough for me. In addition to the regular flat hex side, it also has a ball-end for hard to reach places like bridges for fender installs.

Out on the trail, this lightweight and minimalist multi-tool has all the necessary items for on-the-road adjustments. At only 80 grams, be careful it doesn't float away!
This Chainring Nut Driver is a nice piece of kit for folks who often change chainrings either for themselves at the track or for customers' bikes in the stand. Since the prongs are on the end of the shaft, you don't have to worry about getting your forearms jabbed by shark-toothed chainrings.

The last piece of kit is this VAR Tool Bottle. But it can, in fact, hold other items as well. Hard to believe right? In addition to your multi-tool it can also hold your credit card, cash, power gels, 400-speed film, or bandana. It fits in a standard bottle cage and weighs a meager 48g.

All three tools are made in France and the bottle is made in Taiwan. 

01 February, 2019

An Interview and Bike Ride with Igor - xbikingSuperNice

by Igor

When Jared, the moderator of the /r/xbiking subreddit, asked me about doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything), I was excited. While we here at VO try to be as transparent and approachable as possible, it isn't often that we get to take questions about anything in real time from people all over the world. It was a blast and gave my fingers one heck of a workout: typing furiously answering questions.

Later on, Jared told me he was planning on launching a blog which would house links to all of the wonderful upcoming and past AMAs, display his touring and riding photos, and introduce general musings.

We had a nice break in the weather - after snow, pre-polar vortex - when we were able to schedule a ride and VO tour to chat about anything and everything including VO's identity, goals, and how to get more people on bikes. Here are a few excerpts and photos from our ride and chat. Be sure to jump over to the xbikingSuperNice website for the full interview!

"The friendly and accommodating nature I remembered about Igor from those earlier interactions was again on display during my shop visit to Velo Orange and bike ride with Igor this past Friday. His favorite Bambi mug in hand, Igor was happy to shepherd me around Velo Orange’s office and shipping center in Annapolis, MD, and to introduce me to the members of their six-person operation."

"'We'll always have that vintage aspect of Velo Orange's identity - just by virtue of what we appreciate in bike aesthetics. But more recently I think we've been offering new, more modern components, accessories, and frames that do still evoke that vintage aesthetic,' Igor explains. 'Everything we design and put in production arises from a practical concern from one of us at VO. Everybody at VO has cycling experience, and subsequent opinions about wants and needs in bike components and accessories. Even if an idea initially seems off-the-wall, we assess what the real utility of that product is, what sort of market we think exists for it, and if we're satisfied in our assessment, we just go for it.'"

"The simplicity of this scenario, though, betrays the reality of Igor's family's initial journey to the United States. Igor was himself born in Moldova during the Soviet era, and as a young child immigrated as a refugee to the United States along with his parents and grandparents. As Russian Jews in the Soviet Union, Igor's family was part of a marginalized group and faced hardships unique to their marginalized status. The Shteynbuks' synagogue helped to facilitate their journey, and upon arriving in America, they made a home in Maryland. Igor has resided there ever since."

[About offering complete bikes] "'There's definitely a lot in the works,' he says, 'it's just a matter of getting the gears to match up and the wheels turning.' Note the choice of analogy - spoken like a true cyclist."

31 January, 2019

Bike Build Ideas: Dirt Research Kenai Basket-Packer

by Igor

Fully rigid MTBs from the last century make excellent townies and commuters. They're affordable, capable of clearing wide, 26" tires with fenders, and often have rack mounts to boot! They're also not so precious that you'll feel bad about throwing it around during your commute or errand run.

Here we have a mid-90s Dirt Research Kenai frameset that I picked up from our good friend, Sukho in PDX. Admittedly, the build took a bit longer than expected because I waffled between three directions we could have gone: bring it back to its former glory as a fully rigid MTB, dirt-drop Cigne'd off-road tourer, or Klunker'd basket'd townie. I think the right direction was chosen.

Dirt Research was a brand developed and designed by Tom Teesdale, the legendary framebuilder who built bikes under TET Cycles for the likes of Ritchey, Kona, Dean, Fisher, etc... Not a whole lot of information is available online about the Dirt Research brand as it seems that it was around for only a couple years in the mid-90s. Additionally, this particular Kenai frame seems a bit elusive as it has some fancier cable routing around the seat cluster and different colored decals than other, similar models I've seen online. The routing looks like it was grabbed from the Pecos, perhaps it was repainted? If any sleuths reading this have any additional info regarding the frameset, please let us know in the comments!

Here is that super neat cable routing. Since this is a 1x drivetrain, one of the brazed-on cable guide is unused. I'm not sure if this is better or worse than the a regular cable stop, but it sure is cool! I imagine this was specifically designed for cantilever brakes rather than V-brakes as the cable's positioning makes the exit right down the middle of the stays, perfect for our powerful Zeste Brakes.

The frame is built from Columbus Nivacrom tubing, which is their offroad racing tubeset. It feels fairly lightweight and springy for their oversized profiles. According to the label it's "extra leggera", extra light. The fork uses 4130 Tange chromoly steel with a lovely unicrown.

All-in-all this was a fun build up that provided us numerous opportunities to use VO components and accessories in a slightly different way than usual. The rear end and fork do have fender mounts, so I used an L-bracket to get the necessary clearances and solid mounting. Since the clearances were slightly different between each end, I gently shaped the rear L-bracket around the seatstay bridge. Not really necessary, but makes for a lovely, custom mounting detail.

The front end got a Cantilever Randonneur Front Rack with a Wald 137 Basket firmly zip-tied to the platform. A Transporteur Bag keeps all the stuff in. Add a butt-rocket bag or a rear rack and you'll be good to go for an overnight or a couple day long tour!

Shifting is taken care of by Shimano's SLX 11 speed system. Pairing the Shimano ZEE Crankset's 36T chainring with the 11-40T cassette provides enough gearing to climb a tree. The derailleur also features a clutch, so chainslap is a thing of the past. You can also turn it off, which makes shifting slightly easier since you aren't fighting the powerful spring for each shift. This option is very useful for offroad vs city riding.

I'm happy with the way this turned out. It's a ton of fun to ride, and I am happy to keep an older, obscure bike back on the road, even if its current setup isn't exactly the way it was intended to live its life!

The bike is for sale with everything you see here for $1850 shipped anywhere within the contiguous USA. If you're willing to pick up locally, let us know and we'll knock off some $$$ since we don't have to pack or ship it. If you're outside the US, shoot us an email and we'll get you a shipping quote!