04 August, 2006

Pssst.... Wanna buy a frame?

Preliminary Specifications for the Velo Orange Semi-Custom Randonneur Frame

  • Each frame is made to measure based on rider's body measurments, weight, and preferences.
  • Kalavinka lugs
  • Extended head tube (15-20mm)
  • Trail of around 45mm
  • BB drop of about 75mm
  • Fork blades bent in the “French fashion”
  • Vertical dropouts with single eyelets
  • Set up for Paul Racer brakes on studs (Velo Orange will offer these at cost)
  • Setup for side pull or regular center pull brakes is a no-cost option
  • Flat fork crown
  • Tubes choice based on frame size and rider’s weight
  • Silver brazed in the US
  • Constructeur style slap guard
  • Room for fenders and 32mm tires
  • 1-degree top tube upslope
  • Silver-gray paint, or one of three optional colors
  • A custom front and and rear rack will be available
  • Extra long Honjo fenders made for this frame are planned.
  • 700c wheel size (possibly 650b on smaller sizes)
  • 3 simple and elegant decals under clear coat

Braze-On List:

  • Top tube cable stops at lower left
  • Down tube shifter bosses
  • Rear derailleur cable stop
  • 2x water bottle
  • Brake cable hanger
  • Chain hanger
  • Pump peg
  • Slap guard
  • Fender attachments on bridges and crown
  • Centerpull brake studs for Paul Racer brakes
  • Front rack eyelets on fork blades
  • Stud for rear light between the seat stays as on Weigle frames (if we can source the proper lights)
Price: $1450.

A full custom version of this frame with choice of lugs, color, tubing, and just about anything else will also be available.

A production version is planned for next summer and the cost will be about $1050. These will be made by a very well respected builder in Japan.

Delivery time: 5-6 months

The images on the left are of frames by Johnny Coast, the builder of VO frames.

Nominal Geometry (to be modified for custom fit by builder)

Frame Size (c-c)







Top Tube







Head Angle







Seat Angle







Chain Stays







Fork Offset








Anonymous said...

The description looks great. ~$1K sounds very good for the production bikes. The timing for Spring 07 works with the budget as well.

What really amazes me is that your readers could tell the differnce between Kalavinka and say Heny James lugs. I spent over an hour on the web before noticing anyt difference.

Anonymous said...

why all the secrecy regarding who is doing the building?

whats a slap guard? that big rubber band thingey on the chainstay?

what is a "french bend" in the fork blades?

Anonymous said...

Why the 1 degree upslope on the TT??? I know what you are after but with the extended head tube it should not be needed if you buy the right size!

Velo Orange said...

There is no secrecy about who's building them. It's just that no one has asked.

Yep, the slap guard is the chainstay protector, but we may use leather instead.

Look at the way forks on older French bikes had most of the bend down low near the dropout. That's what we're after.

The 1 degree upslope is barely noticeable when looking at the bike, but some of us old guys like the bars a little higher with it looking like we're trying to get them higher ;<)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Chris: Will the seat stay caps (top eyes, if you're a Brit) be the big, open "Masi California"-type as shown on the orange bike in the photos? I hope so! I think the seat cluster follows only the fork crown and rake in importance of creating a visual statement.

Personally, I'd prefer brake cable guides brazed in the "12:00" position, but that's hardly a deal-breaker.

Will the fork be threadless?

I'm trying to justify the purchase of an Ebisu "road fixed" frame, and it seems to me that this is the same mold. Very, very nice, and quite reasonably priced.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll bite: Who's building the frames? I too like the 12:00 cable guides--never understood the current trend of unsheathed cable. And the slap guard things just seem goofy to me. But that's me.

I too will probably have to wait for the Spring production models, but I'm still thinking about this offer. Very tempting.

Velo Orange said...

Johnny Coast of Coast Cycles is building the frames. though he is best know for track and fixed bikes, he is very interested in, and has built some, French style bikes.

The caps will be a little like those in the photo, but not as long. I'll post a photo if I can find it.

Cable guides are not out of the question. We need to think about this.

Dad said...

I don't reckon those Paul brakes are any better than good old Mafacs ... and the latter are so infinitely much cooler. On doit se demerder by eschewing all that CNC-ish stuff, no? ;-)

And, as I emailed CK, my personal preference would be for a nice Herse-esque internal brake cable. And no decals, just handpainted insignias etc. Just like The Man himself did it.

One minor, fiddly thing is to not have the dropout eyelets threaded, but rather to allow M5 bolts to pass freely through. That way you can use those cool draw bolt fender fixings, which look swell IMHO.

And I think having the TT dead horizontal would be more elegant. You can just extend the head tube a bit higher if need be. 1 degree is actually noticeable; it looks almost like a mistake.

Lastly, it would be cool IMHO if the fork was threadless, but the stem was held down by a threaded nut rather than a normal star washer and top cap. That's how those ancien regime guys did it. And I think how Peter Weigle does it sometimes.

Just my $.02 on the matter ...

Anonymous said...

"Look at the way forks on older French bikes had most of the bend down low near the dropout. That's what we're after."

Like what GP designed for Rivendells, you mean?

In the Atlantis brochure he writes:

"The Atlantis fork has a nice-looking radius that begins at the bottom of the blade and continues all the way through the dropout."

I'm having a hard time visualizing, but I'm guessing that you must be referring to the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to sound huffy, and I know CK asked for feedback, but there comes a point when a designer has to lay down some definitions--after all, he is the one putting up the money. Custom builders may be more than willing to accomodate particular needs/wants, but a production rig needs to be salable to more than one person.
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

Love the concept so I'd like to understand more.

1.) Looking at the photo of the chainstay bridge (which I love, by the way) I'm confused; the chainstays would appear to be shorter than the stats in the chart would indicate. Assuming the curve is intended to wrap around the front of a Honjo fender, I can't imagine the stay being very long at all.

Looking at one of my own old bikes (56cm c-c), fitted with Honjos and with stays measuring 45cm from center of BB spindle to center of rear axle, the front of my rear fender sits
right around 90mm from the BB spindle. That's quite a big area between the seat tube and the fender. Just eyeballing my frame, I should think you might need the fender set back around 65mm from the back of the BB shell, just to allow enough width between the stays to clear the 43mm wide fenders, as mentioned.

2.) I see you're going with below the BB derailleur cable routing. Will the BB guide on these frames just be a plastic thingie bolted on below the BB?

3.) Have you and the framebuilder designed with ample clearance for the front fender to clear shoes or perhaps even toe clips? And could something like this be factored in when designing the frames to also allow for slightly longer crank arms on larger sized frames?

4.) You mentioned perhaps using "oversized" tubing on larger frames would this mean larger diameter than 28.6mm on the seat tubes as well?

5.) Top tubes seem rather conventionally long. Have you given some thought to taller frames with shorter top tubes - like what I've actually seen on several "old school" randonneuse framesets - or is there a problem producing such frames in a non-custom format?

~ I ask because my absolute MOST comfortable frameset happens to be a late 1980s Japanese frameset.
Surprisingly, it was a production frame, designed and built as a dedicated "racing" bike, yet the top tube is 56cm (c-c) and seat tube 59cm (c-t)... Perhaps just a wonderful fluke of a design, but it certainly has sold me on that sort of differential for comfort on those very long rides.

Again, I truly LOVE the entire concept and hope it works out well!

Velo Orange said...

The photos in the post are of other frames by Johnny. They are NOT of the Velo Orange frame.

Top tube length is a compromise. I like longer top tubes so that's what I put down. These are just nominal figures for the semi-custom frame, a starting point.

As for the fork blades, flip through Jan Heine's book or the Herse site linked on the left. Look at the two blue 1969 bikes. You'll see exactly what we mean. Just looking at the Riv. site, I would say those bikes have fork bends which, while nice, are not exactly what we're shooting for. As an ex boat designer, I get a little obsessed with perfect curves.

And I don't think we'll have any toe overlap on even the smaller sizes.

Anonymous said...

How about a custom Johnny Coast stem, a la Herse, with built-in cable guide for front brake? Simon Firth at Bilenky Bicycles also makes a sweet stem.

C said...

I like the Paul brake option. I too think the Mafac look better. However, they stopped making them a couple decades ago. Yeah, they pop up every now and then on e-Bay but finding spares for them can be difficult. Also brake pad adjustment is downright arcace compared to the Paul brake! The Paul is an instance where function needs to take precendence over form.

Anonymous said...


What value do you see VO adding to Coast's frame?

Velo Orange said...

Velo Orange frames are not Coast frames exactly. Like all production or semi-production frames they are made to a specific design and standardized to a degree. This way the builder can efficiantly build frames and not have the very time consuming customer interaction and design work involved in full custom frames. Tubes, lugs, braze-ons can be ordered in quantity, there is no hassle with paint colors etc. The racks are made in another shop and the special fenders will be made in Japan. And there is no issue with being paid promptly, which is not always the case with custom orders.

That's why Curt Goodrich, Mark Nobilette, and others build for Riv. That's why several builders work with Hampsten Cycles, and why Waterford works with Ben's and Heron. I like to design things, develop products, source them, and promote them; it's fun for me. Most bike builders are more like artists, they like to create things, usually frames.

Steve Hampsten said...

I'm with Chris on this one: there are framebuilders and there are bicycle designers and very rarely are they one and the same. Each arena requires a specific set of skills which have a certain amount of overlap, but to design the type of bike that Chris is discussing here is pretty far out of the realm of most framebuilders.

Not to take anything away from Johnny Coast but you could just as easily fixate on who paints it, or what tubing is used, or who cast the lugs. Who brazes the frame is important, but once you have a well-brazed frame with no voids that rides straight, what more could you want? And any number of builders could do that, right?

The real issue, at least to me, is specifying all the little details: bridge heights, tube selection, geometry, sizes, lugs, paint, decals - everything that goes into making a successful cyclotouring/randonnee frame.

What makes a particular framebuilder a pleasure to work with is finding one who will meet or exceed your expectations, who will find novel solutions to the inevitable design problems that crop up, and will deliver a frame on time that you can sell at a reasonable price and for a fair profit.

It ain't easy.


peter weigle said...

I think my pal Steve needs to give frame builders a little more credit here.
Sure, if you go to a racing bike or a fixed gear builder, and ask them to build something they are not familiar with,like a rando frame, then you might have to tell them where to put the braze-ons and the bridges.
But if you go to an experienced rando builder who has studied the finer points of building this type of frame,they will know what to do and how to do it.
I don't think Rene Herse, Alex Singer or Ernest Csuka had some guy behind a desk telling them how to build their frames.
I have a nice Curt Goodrich rando frame in here for paint,,, and I know Curt designed it, speced the tubes and fittings, and built the frame all by himself. No big deal, but the builder did his home work, and happens to be passionate about this style of bike, and it shows.
Yes, some contract builders will need guidance, but the builders who love rando bikes, have probably taken it upon themselves to do the research, will design and build their frames without need for outside assistance.

As Steve said,, "it ain't easy",
but it is possible.

Will Rodger said...

Chris --

I think you've hit the nail on the head.

The seven o'clock cable guides are a good choice -- paint wear and guide rust made 12 o'clock guides go away, so there's no reason to bring them back.

I'm not crazy about the 1% slope, either.

But -- so what? You've come up with a particularly good set of measurements that should fit almost everyone, even long-waisted, aggressive riders like me.

Keep the Paul brakes (polished finish, please) an option rather than a requirement and you have a world-beater.

So -- what's the decal set look like?