27 January, 2020

Are E-Bikes the Apple Watch of Bikes?

by Scott

Wolfgang's Pol-e-valent with a Velogical e-bike kit

Loyal readers of this blog may recall my comparison a few years back between watches and bicycles. I was thinking back to this comparison this week when I was listening to a podcast discussing the most influential watches of the past decade - watches that came out in the past ten years and the impact on the market and in some cases on wider culture and such. One of the watches mentioned was the Apple watch. When one looks at the sales numbers for these watches, an estimated 23 million of them were shipped out in 2018, you can see why it is on a list of the decade's most influential watches.

For the first 15 years of this century, watch companies had bemoaned a drop in sales. Many felt this was due to younger generations forsaking watches for smartphones. Why have something on your wrist to tell time, if you have this telephone/computer/camera timepiece to tell you what time it is and if you are late for an important meeting? With the rise of smart watches in general (I type this with a Garmin fitness watch on my wrist), and the Apple watch in particular, the trend of wearing a watch has come back.

So what does this have to do with bikes you ask? Well, I see an analogy to bicycles. Currently, one of the only areas in the overall bike business that shows significant growth is e-bikes. When we go to industry trade shows, the vast number of booths show either e-bikes or parts for e-bikes. Most of these products do not have much to do with us, but sometimes parts can have a cross over aspect to them. Our Happy Stem is one product that was designed and tested for e-bikes, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it.

 Electric road bike, e-bike

The bigger question I see is will the e-bike bring people back to cycling? Will e-bikes open up opportunities for people to ride more/longer than a standard non e-bike? With companies like GM and Harley Davidson looking into e-bikes, will the situation in 10 years be where e-bikes become the standard bike being sold, and non e-bikes are for the enthusiast only? I don't have a crystal ball (believe me if I did, I'd be sitting on a nice warm island having picked out the 6/49 lotto numbers) so I have no idea how this will go, but it sure will be interesting to see what happens. Where do you see e-bikes in the market - on the rise or on the fringe? Let us know in the comments.

20 January, 2020

Neutrino Pre-Order is Live!

We're receiving our next production run of Neutrino mini-velos around mid-February. As they tend to get claimed fast, we thought now would be a good time to open up the pre-order for Neutrino framesets and completes! We're also happy to do custom builds if you want something different than the stock complete build.

All the specifications have remained the same, but we have introduced a new size, XX-Large. This frame size is good for tall folks up to 6'4". Note that due to the increased frame size, though, it does not technically fit within the 62 linear inches the airlines require for a standard checked bag. But! Some airlines have reduced or eliminated the bicycle oversize charges, so check with your airline regarding baggage fees prior to booking.

If this is the first time you're hearing about this wonderfully fun and versatile offering, here are the details:

Whether you're a frequent traveler, apartment dweller, multi-modal commuter, or just enjoy a fun N+1 bike, the Neutrino Mini-Velo will fit perfectly into your heart.

For city and apartment dwellers, you'll get great acceleration for stoplight racing as the wheels spin up quite fast. When you've reached your destination, getting the bike into the building, walking up stairs, and parking it in your apartment is so much easier because the physical length of the bike is greatly reduced. You can much more nimbly negotiate stairwells and since it's warm and cozy inside, you don't have to worry about it getting ripped off overnight.

For multi-modal traveling, it's easier to take the bike in a train car without taking up a ton of room and attracting disdainful looks from fellow commuters. Oh and Rinko. Forget cutting fenders, removing handlebars, and wheels. Just loosen the stem, turn the handlebars 90 degrees, and put the whole thing into a Rinko bag!

Traveling with the Neutrino is also a breeze. Since we often travel to our cycling starting point by airplane, train, car, or bus, overage fees for checked bags, storage, and transportation add up quickly and are a real drag. To take full advantage of the traveling abilities of the Neutrino, the bike can be disassembled and inserted into the cardboard box that it comes with - so tell your shop to hang on to it! We're working on a bag and video on how to pack the bike up.

Simply put, the Neutrino is a blast to ride around. It'll put a smile on your face every time you throw your leg over.

For additional details about fit, geometry, and travel, check out Clint's Neutrino Build and Travel Tips! We also have some bike build ideas for the Neutrino to get your creativity flowing.

Here are all the details about the frameset:
  • 4130 double butted chromoly frame and fork that accepts fenders and rack.
  • Unicrown fork with accommodations for FendersRandonneur Rack, and even a Mojave Cage or a bikepacking-style cage.
  • Seattube, downtube, and under-downtube bottle cage mounts.
  • 406 Bead Seat Diameter wheel size. That's BMX, so high-quality rims and tires are cheap, plentiful, and strong.
  • Clearance for 2.3" tires WITH fenders. Holy cow!
  • Sliding, 135mm QR dropouts for geared, single speed, or internally geared hubs.
  • Disc brake mounts (POST rear, IS front). We suggest 160mm rotors. 
  • Full length, external cable routing.
  • 1 1/8" threadless steerer.
  • 31.6mm seatpost, compatible with external droppers.
  • Paint is Cool Gray with Galactic Glitter.

10 January, 2020

Jay's All Terrain Piolet in Classic Blue

by Igor

Jay wanted to build his Piolet to handle both the rigors of riding the C&O Canal as well as taking care of daily errands around town. He wanted the bike to float over gravel, have fenders to keep him and his drivetrain clean, and have a Randonneur Bag fitted for quick access. Introducing Jay's All Terrain Piolet!

This frameset started life out as a Gen 2 Piolet prototype painted in the Desert Stan color. He loved the frame but didn't love the color, so he got it powder coated the 2020 Pantone color of the year: Classic Blue. The contrast with the Rust Randonneur Bag and the mix of silver and black components really makes this a stand-out ride.

The build is very similar to our standard complete (SLX 1x11 drivetrain, Deore Hydro Brakes) with a few notable exceptions. He selected our Granola Bars for a better view over traffic in the city, as well as a more upright position for rail-trail riding.

This neat seatpost is a Cane Creek Thudbuster. It features an elastomer which smooths out all the small bumps and gravel chatter that you'll experience on a somewhat maintained rail-trail. I built a few bikes back in the day with these, mostly for stokers on tandems. The elastomer can be replaced and dialed in to the rider's weight, position, and style which makes it a really flexible platform for all sorts of riding. I really wish they made it in silver, but c'est la vie.

The Schwalbe Thunder Burts in 29x2.1 are a favorite of mine for packed earth and general mixed terrain riding. The smaller knobs don't buzz on asphalt, but hook up really nicely on washed out gravel. They're also lightweight and tubeless, so they won't hold Jay back at all.

The 700c 63mm Fluted Fenders wrap around the wheels nicely. Plenty of room for mud clearance and plenty of coverage to keep everything clean and tidy.

The Randonneur Rack with Integrated Decaleur is mounted directly to the front fender and is rock solid.

Most of the Piolet builds we do are on the more off-road, singletrack end of the spectrum, so it was nice to build one up with more utility for everyday use but also capable enough for a weekend tour. Happy Riding, Jay!

Check out the complete build list here: https://velo-orange.com/pages/copy-of-piolet-build-list-jays-classic-blue-all-terrain-rider

07 January, 2020

Holy Bells!!

By Scott

I'm a bit young, not by much, but still a bit young, to remember the whole drillium craze of the 70's. Losing weight was the be all, end all of that time frame. People would drill out their chain rings, derailleurs, brake levers, etc. It's where we got the inspiration for the drillium cranks. It was 100% a racing thing. Touring cyclists never jumped on this trend, but lately I've seen a couple pictures of folks drilling out our bells! I wondered, hmmm, how tough is this and does it change anything as to the actual usage of the bell? I mean, it's all good and well to drill the bell out for the looks, but if the tone goes off, it isn't worth it as I do need the bell to be useful/effective in its job.

For reference, the weight of the bell prior to the holes being drilled (with the clamp) is 57 gr.

Some lessons I learned while drilling out a brass bell:

1- Mount the bell in a vise. Trying to drill the bell while holding it in your hand will not end well.

2- Marking where you want to put the holes is ideal. I eyeballed it in terms of hole pattern, so a couple are a bit off the others. I used a sharpie to mark where I wanted to drill the holes. If I wanted to be more precise, using a paper template of where to put the holes would be helpful.

3- Start small. Use a small (sharp) drill bit to start with. The domed/curved nature of the bell means the drill bit can skid about if it is not at a 90 deg angle to the surface. A good sharp bit can dig into the brass a lot easier then a dull one. Use the small hole as a pilot hole to go a size or two up, depending on what sort of look you are going for. As with anything involving drilling- make sure you have proper eye protection.

4- Fine sandpaper is your friend. You can use it to get into the inside of the holes to smooth them out. Small round files also help to clean out the inside of the bell and can help channel your inner Peter Weigle.

Ideally, I'd use a drill press for this, but I had a portable drill and it worked fine. I think a sharp bit is one of the keys to drilling the hole.

So in the end, I drilled it out and...how does it sound? The tone is a bit lower then the non drilled original. Our resident musicologist Kevin stated that, "because there is less metal, there is less to vibrate and therefore it has a lower tone." Weight saved (3 gr with the holes I drilled out), cool factor increased, and it still works as a bell. A win/win/win all around.

13 December, 2019

Velo Orange's 2019 Year in Review and a Peek into a Busy 2020!

by Igor

As we close 2019, I wanted to thank all of our customers, readers, followers, suppliers, and partners. It's because of you that we're able to invest in new projects and endeavors that we hope encourage more touring, commuting, randonneuring, and in general, ridership.

I also wanted to give a big thank you to the VO staff. VO is a small team. We're hard-working and dedicated to product development, timely order fulfillment, and top-notch support. A devotion to excellence is very important to us and is an aspect of our business we're proud of.

2019 was another super strong year for VO. Business is good and folks are happy about the new products we've launched and are in the midst of developing. Let's review this past year before jumping into 2020.

Neutrino Launch - The debut of the Neutrino was without a doubt our biggest undertaking this year, and we're very pleased with the response and positivity about the bike. We sold out of our pre-sale before we even received the frames and have seen builds all over the world. We'll have another production round in February.

Mini-Rando Bags - These have been my go-to's for lightweight, rackless builds. They'll fit on any drop-bar bike and the capacity is surprisingly large (7 seltzers). Paired with a Day Tripper Saddle Bag, you'll have generous storage for all-day, all-road riding.

Tubeless Voyager Rims - A good tire and rim interface is essential for a tubeless setup. And once it's set up, flats that would have put a damper on any ride are a thing of the past. We like this, so we developed a strong and elegant tubeless compatible rim, dubbed Voyager, for tires ranging from 38mm to 2.4".

New Fenders - Fenders are our bread and butter. In addition to the 20" Mini Fenders for the Neutrino, we also released a 38mm 700c Smooth and 58mm 650b Smooth offering.

Complete Bikes - These were a long time coming and have been fairly popular. We actually ended up doing more custom builds rather than completes due to changes customers wanted. The bike build idea juices started flowing and soon enough we were incorporating dynamo lighting, different shifters, racks, etc...

31.8, MTB Rated Crazy Bars - These were one of the most highly requested product redesigns. They've been super popular for both bike-packers and gravel tourists.

Pass Hunter Prototypes - The Pass Hunter has always been a more modern offering within our frame lineup and this has gone whole hog in the most recent re-design, with flat mount disc brakes, tapered headtube, thru-axles, and carbon fork compatibility - all while maintaining proper fender, front rack, and triple cargo cage mounts. We've been riding these a lot since we've gotten in the first samples, and the next round of pre-production samples will have some fit and finish updates that will make them ready to go into production. We should have production frames in around mid-Summer.

Anjou Velo Vintage - Our first time doing this ride and festival. It was such a blast. Great food, wonderful people, fun route, and if you can make it over to the France, I'd highly suggest going. Sign up immediately after the window opens as slots tend to fill up in one day.

Rustines Factory Tour - It was fantastic to see the factory and meet the people that make Rustines rubber products. While the company has moved on to commercial/industrial work being their main business, their heritage division of bicycle products is a labor of love, and we're thankful.

2020 is going to be stellar. We have so many projects and events in the hopper!

XXL Neutrinos - The tall people spoke, and we listened. In the next production round due in February, we'll have XXL sized Neutrinos for riders between 6' and 6'4". Due to the frame size, it won't be airline packable, but still more convenient than a full wheel'd, large-sized frame.

Crankset - We've been secretly working on a more modern, but still stylish 2-piece crankset for all-road riding. I can't post a final picture yet, because it is still in development. But it will be forged and have very generous gearing options in the 2x and 1x format.

Thru-Axle Hubs - I'm sold on thru-axle hubs. This new rear hub shell is a custom design with a ratchet housing based off the classic, smooth-lined Record (my favorite). The design will retain our tool-free disassembly and maintenance and will include QR endcaps for those who are using QR disc hubs. We'll have rim brake hub options, too. Pretty much all of our wheel builds have gone to 32 hole, but would you want a lower spoke count offering for lightweight builds? Like 24 or 28h?

Domestic Expos - We'll be doing Philly Bike Expo and the New England Builders Ball. Both of these shows are a blast and are arguably the best ones on the East Coast. Philly is a larger show which caters to a bigger crowd which is great for exposure and showcasing our brand to new customers. NEBB is a very intimate, smaller event where we can really dig into the nerdy details of touring, randonneuring, and commuting designs. We'll also be scouting out Sea Otter for the first time.

Gravel Rides - We're planning on participating in some rad gravel rides both locally (at least reasonable by car) and further away once the winter wanes. While the weather outside is frightful, friend us on Zwift :)

Overseas trips - We're planning on going both to Eurobike and Taipei Bike Expo this year - the two biggest cycling shows in the world. It will be a good chance to have face-face meetings with our international partners as well as check out new trends. Anything in particular you'd like to see?

Thanks again for another spectacular year!

04 December, 2019

Is It That Weird? A Very Speedy Pass Hunter with Carbon Bits

by Igor

"Whoa that's weird. But everything makes sense." That's what Adrian said when I first unveiled my completed Pass Hunter. I knew I wanted a lightweight bike, and this Pass Hunter would be the perfect testbed for such a rig featuring some major carbon components. It will be my road bike (I know, bad word today), credit card tourer, I'm-late-for-work commuter, and fast all-roader. Needless to say, as long as I have the legs, it'll be very speedy and fun. Now let's dig in.

One of the design intentions of the Pass Hunter was to ensure carbon fork compatibility, hence the tapered (1 1/8" to 1 1/2" ) headtube. We selected the Whisky RD9+ fork for a variety of reasons including: axle to crown and rake similar to the steel fork, nice fender mounting, easily obtained, and consistently stocked. I'm very pleased with the ride quality of the front end. It feels light when you throw it into a corner or around obstacles, confident on descents, and planted for long days in the saddle.

The wheels feature VO prototype thru-axle hubs laced to Nextie "gravel" 45mm deep-section carbon rims. Tommy of Cutlass Velo in Baltimore laced them up with Pillar PDB1416 spokes and brass nipples. He reported that they tensioned up well. He tubeless'ed them up with Rene Herse Babyshoe Pass in their Extralight carcass-way.

While the benefits of carbon rims are limited mostly to light and stiff, my real 'want' was the sound. That is, when you put the hammer down the hollow whoosh-whoosh-whoosh-whoosh sound the wheels generate is really intoxicating.

The wheels are all wrapped up with our Noir 58mm Wavy Fenders. The rounded details of the bike's tubes and bends pairs nicely with the flowy design of the fenders.

The bike features Campagnolo Athena 11sp inter-grifters, dangler, and pusher. This group, in my opinion, is the last generation of the beautiful and elegant shifting components. I really hope they bring a fully polished silver group back in the future, as I find the ergonomics of their inter-grifters are superior to other offerings.

The crankset is our 50.4 with 46/30 rings and the rear features a corn-cob of 11-25. I would have chosen an 11-29, but I already had the cassette from another build.

The cockpit features our Nouveau Randonneur Bars, Comfy Cotton Tape wrapped in our Leather Tape, and Alloy Bar Plugs.

A Mini-Rando Bag paired with a vintage Trek Bomber Saddle Bag is the perfect capacity for a moderate amount of stuff.

The perch features two VO prototypes. One is a medium setback post, and the other is a saddle with a cutout. The seatpost is good. The saddle will take more time to evaluate. Adrian is testing a different one with a cutout that has already become her saddle of choice.

While this build isn't for everyone, we (VO) must try new technologies and designs to see what they're about and how we actually feel about them. Dying on a hill without even giving something a chance stifles our growth as people and as a company. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to deviate from what you've grown accustomed to, and that's normal.

For example, I wrote a blog post nearly three years ago about tubeless rims and tires. I wrote it after a bad experience with a certain setup and frustration with the lack of standards. But then I gave it another shot with a new setup and with new prototype rims we had been developing. And you know what? Tubeless is pretty awesome and suggest it for most applications.

From a personal and business perspective, I've always been one to have a positive attitude with regards to different styles of bikes and builds. I'm happy to give my opinions on things, though. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say.