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

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!

28 January, 2019

Decaleurs: What Are They and What Do They Do?

By Scott

So what exactly is this thing and why does it play an integral part of mounting Randonneur Handlebar Bags? Well, a decaleur (deck-ah-lure) is part of an overall system that is designed to prevent a handlebar bag from flopping around. The idea is that the bag would rest all of its weight on the front rack while the decaleur exists to support/affix the top portion of the bag to prevent it from tipping off the side of the rack. One of the misconceptions of a decaleur system is that the decaleur is there to support the weight of the bag. That is not the case, that is the rack's job. I want to stress this. The rack supports the load, not the decaleur.

There are two parts of the decaleur system: the receiver and the bag mount. The receiver is most often mounted to the stem or headset and the bag mount is bolted directly to the back (facing the rider) of the bag. This makes for an effective and easy to use quick release system for securing the bag while also having the ability to quickly remove the bag from the rack to enter a restaurant, cafe, or office. While the likelihood of a bag bouncing out of the receiver is extremely low, we suggest using a toe strap or the integrated strap that goes along with our Randonneur Handlebar Bag to secure the bottom of the bag to the rack.
The Anatomy of a Decaleur

An alternative to the separate rack and receiver is a system where the decaleur is a part of the rack: the "Integrated Decaleur". This is our preferred system as it provides a stronger, simpler, and lighter system than a separate decaleur and rack system. The integrated system is best for medium to large handlebar bags like our Randonneur Bag. Note that our handlebar bag has pre-installed grommets so you don't need to drill, punch, or use a soldering iron on your new, fancy handlebar buddy. We have these available for cantilever brake studs (which also works with V or linear pull brakes) as well as braze-on styles (which also includes p-clamps for forks without rack mounts).

There are two other benefits of the Integrated Decaleur system: 1) it creates a standardized distance from the rack to the bag mount, thus making mounting and installing a medium/large handlebar bag a total cinch - just bolt the bag mount on the bag and slide the bag mount into the receiver. 2) it eliminates the potential issue of small frames not being able to take handlebar bags.

So! All decaleurs and parts have been put back into stock and are ready to receive your Rando Bags!

An absolute unit of a Rando Bag: http://treetopbags.blogspot.com/2016/01/14-tall-randonneur-bag.html

23 January, 2019

Randonneuring 101

By Scott

Randoneuring is a great way to get out and see new places and meet new people. We thought with the rando season either underway (you folks in So Cal are lucky in that regard) or about to commence, a brief primer on what is randonneuring would be appropriate.

We'll start out by saying that the best resource for randonneuring (if you are reading this in the USA) is RUSA. They are governing body for randonneuring in the US and have links to all the clubs who run rides around the US.  If you're outside the US, a quick google search will land you the name and contact details for the organizing group in your area.

So, now that we have that out of the way, what is randonneuring? I'd go with an organized ride of a distance equal to or greater then 200 km (125 miles) along a set route with a series of check points (controls) along the way. Time limits exist for the rides. A 200 km ride has a limit of 13 1/2 hours to complete it, which works out to an average speed of 15 km/h. As the distance goes up, the time limit does as well.

Rides start with Populaires - typically a 100 km (62 mile) event with one or two check points/controls to introduce cyclists to the principles of randonneuring.
Brevets are the traditional distances of 200 km, 300, 400, 600 for a series. Complete all four rides in one season and you get a lovely medal from France. Brevets also include longer events of 1000 km and 1200 km's all the way up to mega distance events like the Around Hokkido event in Japan that is 2400 km long! (If you want to know how to pronounce a word in the randonneur lexicon, just pretend to be Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies)

(Part way through the Inaugural Cascade 1200 in WA state in 2005)

Every fourth year is the grand daddy/momma of randonneuring events, Paris-Brest-Paris. PBP is a 1200 km event that attracts entrants from all over the world. At one point, PBP was professional road race, but transitioned in the 60's to a randonneur event. Lots of randonneurs plan their year(s) out in order to take part in this great event. I've never managed to get to France for PBP due to a variety of factors, but I certainly know lots of riders who have entered and all come away with a great deal of respect for the distance and an affinity for the French people who line the route during the event to cheer them on even in the middle of the night.

Randonneuring also has a team event called the Fleche (arrow in French). Teams of riders - at least 3, but no more then 5 bicycles - ride a route of their own choosing over a 24 hour period, with all the different teams arriving in the same end location, typically for a breakfast together. The ability to create your own route and the communal finish spot is one of the aspects of the Fleche that makes it very popular amongst riders.

The key with randonneuring events is that they are not races. There is no prize for the first finisher and everyone gets the same medal or pin celebrating the completion of that distance. The BC Randonneurs that I rode with for many years had new pins every year that celebrated various aspects of cycling or the Province. So there is a camaraderie between riders on brevets that would not exist in a racing situation. All the riders are the in same boat when it comes to the weather and the terrain and lots of riders work with other riders to overcome the issues of day and complete the event.

One of the tenents of randonneuring is self reliance. Riders are on their own to deal with punctures or issues with their bikes. A solid, reliable bike is valued by many over a fragile, ultra light weight bike. Also, riders must at some point during rides like the 300, 400, or 600 km events deal with riding in the dark. There is lighting and reflective requirements set down by RUSA and other governing bodies, but riders must come up with their own way to see the road as well as the route sheet that they navigate by.
(Scott's old rando bike during the Endless Mountains 1240 in PA in 2009)

So if this sort of event appeals to you, get in touch with RUSA or your local group and try out randonneuring this year. Has anyone already made plans for attending PBP this year? Let us know in the comments and come August we'll be dot watching the event and cheering you on.

17 January, 2019

Introducing the 2019 Luggage Lineup!

by Igor

We're excited to offer two new colors to our luggage lineup that we think you'll enjoy: Rust and Avocado! In addition to these new colors, we've done a few subtle updates to the designs of the Transporteur and Day Tripper Bags that makes them even more practical and clever.
The Transporteur has received removable lower straps. The idea is that if you take the bag on and off the bike often, the lower straps can be affixed to the bottom of your Porteur Rack or Wald Basket. That way you can quickly connect and disconnect the bag without the need to string the lower straps through the openings, which can be a pain if you're using a basket with a small grid pattern. You also won't have anything dangling from the bottom of your bag when you walk through the office, grocery store, or cafe. You can also keep the straps attached to the bag if you frequently lock your bike up on the street for extended periods of time.

Thanks to Chip of WhatBars for the push to get this design change into production!

The biggest change for Day Tripper Saddle Bag is that it receives a super sturdy buckle for the rear flap in lieu of the Version 1 drawcord. It makes cinching down loads simpler and allows easier access even with gloves.

We also dialed in the fit and position of the strapping to keep even the most fully-loaded bags super stable and secure over the roughest terrain.

While super-modular Randonneur Handlebar Bags, Snapper Sacks, and Cell Phone Pouches remain unchanged from last year, they all get the new color treatments.

Color-wise we are retaining Black and Burgundy for 2019. Design-wise, if you want to scoop up some Version 1 Transporteur and Day Tripper Bags, they are available on super-sale while supplies last. They're all perfectly good and functional bags, they just have fixed lower straps and draw-cord closure, respectively. Jump over to the Bag Collection for deals on last year's colors and styles.

14 January, 2019

Doug's Sportif Pass Hunter with 105

by Igor

Doug approached us with a vision of his Pass Hunter build: sporty, lightweight, wide 700c tires, fenders, and the perfect mix of modern and traditional. Of course that sort of build is right up our alley!

Starting with everything that rolls, we went with front and rear VO Touring Hubs laced to RAID Rims. Panaracer's 700x38mm Gravelkings present a confident and comfortable ride for the varied terrain Doug plans on riding through. They measure a bit narrow (36.5mm), but that was expected and leaves enough room for the 50mm Snakeskin Fenders we sneaked in.

We selected Shimano's 11 speed 105 component group. That level has been Shimano's workhorse for a very long time and has never let us down. This generation's shifter body is supremely comfortable and pairs exceptionally well with the 44cm Nouveau Randonneur Bars. Don't mind the uncut steerer tube. Doug requested it be left as is so he can do the final fit when the bike arrives. It's currently all done and capped with a VO Knurled Stem Cap.

I think every multi-purpose bike should have fenders. They don't weigh much and add a ton of value to the bike's function. In addition to keeping your backside and drivetrain significantly cleaner, it also makes a more "filled in" visual appearance. Form and function. Function and form.

The Pass Hunter was really intended for 45mm wide fenders, but with the added size of the tires, we needed to step up to the next fender width of 50mm. To make them fit accordingly, I dimpled the fender slightly to sit snuggly against the chainstay and within the fork crown.

An additional fender strut was mounted to the front fender as well. Notice how both fender stays are parallel. It's the little things that take a bike to the next level.

Matching Rustines Rubber Bar Plugs add a nice touch of color.

This turned out to be one terrifically versatile and fun ride. If you want your own VO build, simply shoot us an email and get the process started!

You can find the complete build list right here.


You may be wondering what's up with the Pass Hunter. It isn't being discontinued. It's being shelved for now and is in the process of a total refresh. We'll provide more details as we have them. But for now, if you're interested in a Pass Hunter and are between 5'9" and 5'11", now is the time to get your 55cm Pass Hunter. They're on sale and we won't be getting more in.