01 August, 2022

Growtac Reviews and Sale Items

By Scott

We've had a great response to the Growtac Brakes that we introduced to the US market in April. We've been overwhelmed by the kind words folks have sent after getting their brakes, installing them, and realizing their actual power and braking abilities out on the trail. Additionally, the diversity of colors we offer has really livened up people's bikes and allowed for a lot of customers to brake out (see what I did there) of just plain black brakes for their bike.

We've also had lots of folks test out the brakes and publish their findings. The great people at Outpost Richmond wrote about the brakes here. Russ Rocca did a video comparison of the Growtac brakes vs the Paul Klampers vs the Yokozuna brakes here. And last, but not least, Bike Rumor did a review of the brakes on their site here. Some great comments there and all unsolicited from us.

We've also being sorting through products here at VO HQ and we have added some more items to our Specials Page. We have some Diamond Polyvalent frames there, plus we have 26" Snakeskin and Stainless Steel Fenders, Randonneur Handlebars, Noir Porteur Bars and Diamond Handlebar tape. So take a look and see if something there tickles your fancy.

20 July, 2022

Quiver Killers Don't Exist. Change my mind.

Editorial by Scott

There is a term in the outdoor world - the Quiver Killer. The term refers to a bike, ski, or a kayak (and so on) that can do so many different things that it does away with the need for multiple bikes/skis/kayaks, and all you need is THIS ONE. "The one bike to rule them all" is often the sub headline or line in the opening paragraph describing the product. Well, I'll call folks out on that one. I don't really think one bike can do it all. Why - it has to compromise on something. Let's look at it from a couple perspectives.

A Polyvalent with generous clearances, mounts to carry stuff, and stouter tubing for reliability does really well as a tourer or commuting bike. But ultimately as a super go-fast roadie, trying to keep up with the fast kids on their carbon bikes? Not so much. To ride a heavier steel touring bike at that speed requires too much power to keep up with them for an extended period of time, at least for most riders.

I think people look at the idea of a quiver killer as a way to save money, to justify buying that one bike that will do everything, but the reality is that any bike, kayak, or ski that claims to do everything is ultimately a compromise in some way. To make a frame work as a touring bike, there are design aspects that have to be taken into account. And many of those aspects are not the same if we wanted to design a, for example, mountain bike. There are core elements of both styles that don't overlap in a bicycle categories Venn diagram.

Now if you're the type of rider that focuses on only one type of riding, let's say credit card touring, you could ostensibly have one bike like a Pass Hunter. It could be built up with some zippy components and be ridden on the road stripped down, gravel with some moderate knobby tires, and for a few overnights with some rackless bags

I know some folks will say, "but you work in the bike biz, so it's all good and well for you to tell us to buy more bikes." What I'm saying is that if you want a bike to go mountain biking on, don't kid yourself and buy a flat bar road bike and think you can go ride rough, rugged mountain bike trails on it. Once you get past a smooth stretch of single track and onto a trail with rocks and roots, you'll be pining for the travel of a hardtail or tire volume of an ATB. Likewise, buying that older "race" bike that someone on Craigslist put up for sale and then trying to put racks and fenders on it, may be an exercise in frustration due to the limitations of the frame and its set up.

I'd love for there to be a quiver killer, but in reality, one bike that purports to do everything will do only some styles of riding well. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments and we'll see how folks feel about it.

01 July, 2022

Finding Peace in Achill, Ireland

by Igor

Achill Island is situated on Ireland’s West Coast about 15 miles Northwest of Westport as the crow flies. With an ancient history that dates as far back as 5000 years, there are ruins of farms, homes, and churches that dot the landscape virtually everywhere you go. And amongst those ruins, sheep, stone walls, and lush vegetation, you’ll find the Great Western Greenway Trail.

Immediately after landing in Dublin, we hopped in our Space Tourer and headed out to the West Coast.

After a day of acclimation in Westport, we drove out to Mulranny. Just East of Achill Island and right on the Greenway Trail, Mulranny was the perfect jumping-off point for our ride out to Achill Sound.

44km of completely off-road riding was right at the doorstep of our hotel. With Adrian on her Neutrino, and me on a rented Giant hybrid (with only 2 working gears - the salty and damp atmosphere does wonders to bikes) towing the kiddo, we set off.

In our experience touring the West Coast of Ireland (this is our second trip there with bikes), one thing you’ll need to know about the weather in Ireland is that it will rain. Sprinkles, drops, and mist is the major extent of daily rain. At night it can pour, but during the day, bring a rain jacket or waterproof shell and accept you’re going to get rained on.

And with that rain, the landscape is lush, green, and vibrant. We took our trip during the flowering of the Rhododendron bushes that line the scenery and segmented maze of stone walls and fences that (mostly) keep in sheep and livestock. We also got used to making way for families of brightly marked sheep roaming the countryside.

The trail is easily navigated with directional signs at intersections and the terrain is crushed gravel. You could absolutely ride the trail with a skinny tired road bike, but leave your deep-section wheels at home or you’ll be steering a sailboat with the constant wind - only the lucky ones get to have headwinds both ways.

At the end of the trail in Achill Sound you do have to get on the road for a mile or so, but drivers are courteous and give plenty of room for passing. Make sure to stop at Kate’s Cafe for a refueling stop before heading back.

We love off-road trails. Rail trails, gravel, canal paths, you name it. If it’s offroad, we’re down. After years of road riding and touring, we’re pretty much through with sharing roads with cars. I don’t want to go too in depth into the problems we have today with distracted and/or drunk drivers but it is becoming increasingly evident that separating cyclists with even a curb is the way to go. Sharrows aren’t enough. Bucolic countryside trails far from even the sound of cars are ideal.

While we weren’t shredding the gnar, shralping, braapping, or enduring a sufferfest, we did have a chance to clear our heads, travel, and enjoy the ride. Sometimes the most memorable rides are the ones where you are enjoying the ride for the places you visit, relationships you grow, and the unique experiences shared.

No matter how you ride, you’re awesome. But do take time for the chill rides - those are an important part of your journey.

Are those Al Pacas? Heck yes they are and we walked them on the beach. I couldn't NOT include this picture.

Quick note: VO will be closed Monday, July 4th in observance of Independence Day and re-open on Tuesday, July 5th. 

01 June, 2022

Installing Freehub Bodies on VO Hubs

 by Scott

One of the great things about VO Hubs is their tool-free disassembly. This gives you the ability to swap out the freehub bodies, replace a driveside spoke, or remove the cassette for travel all without the use of any cassette tools - a key feature of convenience and roadside serviceability on our hubs for years. How easy is it to do it? We'll use this short blog post to illustrate how easy it is.

The first step is figuring out what you are starting with. The stock freehub body that comes on our current-generation disc rear and cassette rear hubs is the HG11 spline for Shimano/SRAM 8-11spd.  If you want to run something other than an 11 speed cassette, you'll need one of these spacers to allow for a 8/9/10 speed cassette to sit properly on the freehub body. We'll next look at the two other freehub options for you to change to:

Campy - This freehub allows you to use any 9/10/11 speed Campagnolo cassette on it. Campy did not change the overall spacing of their cassettes over the years like Shimano did, so you can use a variety of speeds on it without the use of an adaptor spacer.

SRAM XDR- This freehub body is designed by SRAM to allow use of a 10 tooth cog in the smallest position on the cassette. Taking up the same width as a Shimano HG11 freehub, it allows XD and XDR cassettes to be used on our hubs built into wheels designed for road spacing.

Now that we've established what we have and what we want to change to, lets get going on changing the freehub body. We're going to show how to switch out to the SRAM XDR to show how and when to use the spacer described above.

Start by removing the installed freehub body- Grab onto the freehub body or cassette and pull it outward. Clean off any excess grease to enable a solid grasp. The dust seals may be tight, but it will come off.

                                                                        Freehub on

                                                   Freehub off (the axle does not come out)

Be sure to take this time to inspect your bearings (if you're making this switch after a period of use). Also be sure to remove the freehub barrel that fits around the axle and rests in the back side of the freehub body. These barrels are specific to the freehubs, and you'll want to be sure you use the correct one.

When the freehub body comes off, don't let those endcaps wander off. 

                                                                  Barrel inside freehub body

                                                          Barrel removed from freehub body

Now install the new freehub body - Remove your new freehub from the packaging. You'll notice that the freehub comes with a plastic retainer ring around the pawls. You will need to remove this ring before installing the freehub. 

                                       Ring installed from factory - You'll need to remove the ring
                                                                    Ring removed

After removing the ring, put a little bit of light oil or grease on the pawls. Slide the new freehub body's barrel into the freehub body. Then slide the new freehub body assembly on to the axle (rotating helps the pawls to click into place), and slide on the silver super thin washer onto the outside of the freehub body. Finish up by popping the end cap on top of the washer and you are good to go!

There you have it - quick and hassle-free freehub replacement, and if you run into any trouble, don't hesitate to reach out at info@velo-orange.com. 

20 May, 2022

Using Onions to Patina Your Opinel?

by Igor

Folks typically associate patina with years of use, visible wear, and long-term care. There is an aura of warmth and satisfaction when you see a beautifully patina'd Leica, lock-up bike, vintage car, tool chest, or leather bag. Adrian found a fun article describing different ways to patina Opinel carbon steel and so we had to try it out. Some techniques involved chemicals and such, but we decided on a more natural method - stabbin' onions. 

VO has been carrying Opinel knives for several years now. They're popular for their affordability, simplicity, and storied history as the go-to for French farmers, backpackers, and foragers. The carbon blade option does require more care and sharpening than their stainless steel offering, but carbon can take an edge easier. And because carbon is uncoated, they develop a nice patina over time. From Opinel: "Patina is completely normal and will help aid rust resistance of your carbon blade."

Here's what you need to create a beautiful patina on your carbon blade Opinel without years of use:

  • Opinel knife
  • Onion - white or red will do (we found no discernible difference in our test). Keep in mind you will be disposing of the onion once this process is done, so don't expect to use it in your next French Onion Soup or sandwich.
  • Water
  • Towel
  • 48 hours

Literally, stab the onion in the middle - all the way down the lock. We tried orienting the blade horizontally and vertically with respect to the layers of the onion and found inserting parallel to the root produced a circular pattern, while perpendicular was more wavy. Each of them is very cool. 

Now, the hard part. Put it down somewhere safe and where someone won't ask, "Why is there a knife in this onion?" Now leave it alone. The original recipe called for 24 hours, but we forgot and did 48 hours.

When the prescribed time has elapsed, pull the knife out. I will warn you, the knife will smell like onion. If you lived in an onion for 48 hours, you'd smell like an onion, too. But trust me, rinse it off with plain water and wipe it down. The smell will dissipate over the next day or so.

Behold your newly patina'd Opinel! 

After doing this experiment, Adrian found some more articles about creating patina on Opinels. My favorite was simply drizzling McDonalds spicy mustard sauce over the blade and letting it sit for a bit. 

I'm thinking about how to patina the Blue Lug Brass Spacers. Any ideas?

16 May, 2022

Now Back in Stock!

Velo Orange 50.4 bcd Crankset on Polyvalent

Back in Stock!

Today's email is a quick one. We just got a fresh shipment of parts and accessories! Here's a list of what's back in stock:

We also updated our About VO page, so be sure to give it a quick read! As always, thank you for the support. 

Happy Riding!
Velo Orange Klunker Bar on Piolet with foam grips
Jump over to the VO Webstore!

09 May, 2022

One Very Classy Pass Hunter

by Igor

When the new Growtac Brakes came in, we knew we needed to do a special Pass Hunter build - something classic, sophisticated, and useful. And this has it has it all: Campagnolo, loads of silver, and hints of brown.

Don't let the fenders and racks fool you - this is a rocket ship!

Speaking of, Connor did a bang-up job mounting the fenders and front and rear racks together in a very Constructeur style. It makes the connection rock solid over rougher terrain.

Peep those cut down aluminum alloy tubes for the screws.

These new tire offerings from Conti have a very nice ride and feel. They also have a classic tread design that would look at home on any classic rando or roadie. They would even class up any modern, big tube carbon roadie. Should we bring some in? We have some of the other Conti gravel offerings on personal rides and they are really nice.

Nothing is lighter than a hole, right? It's pretty fun seeing the frame's paint through the Drillium chainrings holes.

Oh those hubs! Obviously I'm a bit biased, but I think our hubs match their superb looks with excellent function. 

Lastly, pedals! I'll admit it's been several years since I rode with Road Pedals, Toe Clips, and Straps. While they're fun and look really nice, they don't really work with the style of sneaker I usually wear. I'll stick with my Sabots (more are coming in 1.5 months).

Scott managed to find a single VO Toe Clip Button in his bin of little bits. They're great for pulling your strap tight once you get going on the road, but they're not so great for making any money. Hence why you won't find them on the site any longer.

This was a really fun build. If you're interested in building a bike up similar to this one, check out the comprehensive build list on the website!

04 May, 2022

Growtac Brakes are Now Available!

by Igor

We are pleased to announce that VO is the official importer of Growtac Equal Mechanical Disc Brakes into the USA! We currently have them available in Flat and Post Mount brake styles.

If this is your first time hearing about the company, Growtac is a small engineering and manufacturing firm out of Tokyo, Japan that specializes in cycling products for indoor training - think trainers, rollers, and accessories. More recently, they developed a flat mount disc brake that struck my attention when I stumbled across them on an obscure Japanese Instagram story. 

Function and Feel

As soon as I saw these, I emailed Growtac and ordered up some brakes for evaluation. A few weeks later, they arrived. We unboxed them, mounted them up on my Pass Hunter and got to work testing them out. Immediately, I found a huge difference in stopping quality compared to the previous calipers. When I say quality, I mean the combination of several things including modulation, stiffness, and lever feel.

Brake modulation is the ability to precisely and accurately control the amount of clamping force on a disc rotor with a given amount of lever input. So, the more lever you pull, a similar amount of deceleration should occur. The rider should be able to feather the brakes to scrub speed, stop firmly before corners, and live comfortably on the edge of peak braking before lockup. Over the years, I've used many different cable actuated brakes from nearly every vendor out there, over a wide range of prices. The Equal brakes have an excellent level of brake modulation compared to other cable-actuated brakes and even some hydraulic set ups.

When you actually squeeze the lever, how does it feel through the pull of the lever? Is it rigidly stiff, is it noodly? I think the easiest way to describe the lever feel is stiff, but forgiving. The lever movement is natural, forgiving to hand muscles, and you never feel like you're going to run out of lever throw. At the same time, properly adjusted, these brakes offer a consistent and reliable bite point that acts as a natural end of the cable pull, without room for additional cable flexion at the caliper.

Please note that the stiffer/stronger the levers you use are, the better these brakes are going to feel. Our Grand Cru short-pull brake levers are a great match for these brakes on flatbar builds. Likewise, the  lever feel is going to depend on what dropbar levers you use.

In the past, I've used some brake setups that feel super stiff and good in the stand but lack modulation under moderate braking. I've also tried others where you worry you're going to run out of lever before they get to peak braking. These brakes really seem to be the best we've tried in terms of modulation, lever feel, and adjusting bite point.

What's in the Box?!

When you open the nice, "Build Your Own Bicycle" box, you are greeted with two calipers. We currently have them available in Flat and Post Mount and a variety of colors. Quick side note: at the time I am writing this, the Silver and Black Post Mounts and Black Flat Mounts are in production, but have not arrived yet.

  • 2x Growtac Equal Flat Mount Brake Calipers - peep those beautiful calipers!
  • 2x road brake cables
  • 2x mtb brake cables
  • Flat Mount version: 1x front flat mount adaptor for 140mm or 160mm rotor
  • 2x compressionless housing (stiff)
  • 2x non-compressionless housing (flexy)
  • Bunch of housing endcaps
  • Mounting hardware specific for flat mount or post mount
The housing uses a combination of compressionless (stiff) and non-compressionless (flexy) lengths. The idea is that you use the flexy length for the aero-routing of the housing under the bar tape. It makes installation for drop and alt-bars super easy compared to full compressionless - all without any perceptible performance difference. It's a nice touch.

We will be carrying our own VO branded flat mount and IS/Post mount adaptors, but it may be a few weeks before they actually arrive. In the meantime, pretty much any vendor's mounts/adaptors should work to mount these brakes up if you have a specific setup or brake mount standard.