20 February, 2007

A Blue Frame

Here are a few photos of a blue Velo-Orange Randonneur frame. As always, click on them to see the full size shot.

Notice the new fork tangs and the new seat stays caps. I really like the wraparound look, very French.

This frame will have sidepull brakes so there is a different brake bridge. The brake bridge reinforcements, however, will be used on all the frames.

I still don't think we have the shade of blue quite right. One shade lighter might look better. The photos don't exactly capture the color which has just a hint of green in it. This paint is also thicker than the silver gray and I love the non-metallic look. By the way, we now offer white decals outlined in dark brown as a no-cost option.

I'll take some photos of it built up in a week or so.


Anonymous said...

Very nice blue imo. Nice contrast with Orange lettering. It looks like a robust paint as well. And it shows the lugs without pin stripes easily.

Anonymous said...

Looks like there's a screw-on taillight attchment. Any plans to offer a tail-light to go with it?

Anonymous said...

Looks like there's a screw-on taillight attchment. Any plans to offer a tail-light to go with it?

Chris Kulczycki said...

We're working on a tail light for the seat tube and will be testing a couple of prototypes.

joel said...

Very nice metal work. I love the seat stay cap.

Agree with anon1 above. The orange lettering on the blue looks very good.

You and Mr. Coast are really on to something here.

Anonymous said...

Are those spare spokes on the chainstay? Could we se a close-up?

Anonymous said...

Those aren't spare spokes, they're a leather (or rubber) slap-guard. Look at the pics from the first VO frame, I think there is a close-up there.
I like the blue, but you're right, Chris, it might be better in a lighter shade. Also, I really like the idea of a screw-in tail light. I can't wait to see a black frame with Honjos!


Andy said...

Gorgeous. The brake bridge and wrapped seatstays are really really nice. -AB

nv said...

The wrapped seatstays are REALLY nice - I'm wondering if I made the wrong choice in sticking with the concave caps on my frame - oh well, they're both super.
To my eyes, the paint on the blue frame looks a little thick - the paint on the silver frame looks right - the lugs look crisper.
Chris, do you suspect all future non-silver frames will have thick paint?

Anonymous said...

Look at a nice German Recumbent with a REAR mount light generator using a cateye mount. Very nice.


The rear should track straighter and have less wheel travel. Why does no one in US utilize these?

This sure look like an ultimate vehicle setup to me. Nice bike! Notice the plasic pipe around the chain beside the wheel too.

Chris Kulczycki said...

NV, I think the paint on my frame is a bit thin and this one has paint that is a touch too thick. But the photos may make it look thicker than it is. Getting the paint just right seems tricky. I would say that short of a $400 Joe Bell job, it's about as good as is available. It's certainly better paint than on any production bike I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee that blue will look that good for a much longer time than that silver will, with no base paint in metallic paints. Silver is the worse for acid rain and ultra violet light. That blue looks perfect to me, or a red, white, or any opaque color.

Metallic colors have the potential to leave a bad impression on potential customers on the road after a couple of years. The darker metallics last better than the lighter metallics of course.

travis said...

The paint does look a bit wet... Like they hosed it on, held the gun too close, or just had the material know cranked way out. Painting bike frames is a bit tricky mostly if you are using single stage paints without clear. But yeah it should be fixable... $400 for a joe bell paint job, maybe i shouild start painting bike frames.

joel said...

Anon #10:

Your link does not work.

In any event, placing the dyno on the rear tire of a recumbent makes sense. Recumbent geometry means it is much easier to reach the dyno and flip on the tire when it gets dark if the dyno is on the rear.

On the other hand, reaching around back on a regular frame bike is a pain in the neck (literally).

As you can see scrolling half way down this link, the very German Tout touring frame has its dyno braze-on on the front fork:


Germans preferring to bend foward while riding a regular bike just like we in the US and all.

Anonymous said...


The link works fine, just double click it and put link in your browser. Let Tinurl do its thing for a few seconds.

You act like you must be sitting on bike when you turn it on. Its not like a repetitive act of bending and reaching contstantly. Its only one possible time per day. Otherwise, you are off the bike if its already dark. One time per day does not qualify for carpal tunnel or repetitive trauma disorders (rtd).

In return for none to one turns per day though, it will constantly track truer and straighter. It will have less shock from fronts hitting obstacles in street, and rear dragging over them with a weighted effect. As well, look at the bike above. The plastic may be in question, but it has dual fasteners level on rear fork and his bike looks immaculate otherwise. Some plastics absorb shock as well. Cateye is decent manufacturer I believe. But the wheel forces are questionable depending on lateral hub forces. I don't know where will be able to find that data out.

But if I had a choice and I don't, but finally saw this first, I would not consider the front due to wear and tear on the generator and efficiency as well. The razor adjustment should be much easier obtained on stable rear tire than the whirling bouncing front tire, in relative terms. Otherwise, digging in front tires is common even with rubber from what I've read. His German tires show wear, but the tires are also flat, so it has done well.

The only reason they are on the front is its easy. The rear will definitely take individual engineering efforts as in the German pic.

My pedals have toe clips I stick my feet in but have to lean on something to start out safely without screwing around. But it works like magic immediately when I go. I'd rather not rationalize my actions based on trivial prerequisites or marketing accomodations, and lose efficiency in the actual working of a device. But that's just me. It is harder and takes much longer granted. But on a bike, its usually safety related or health related and I take few short cuts in those matters. imo

Anonymous said...

Joel, there may be a space at the end of Tinyurl.

neil m berg said...

Blue. Bright colors are eye catching. Over time I think duller colors tend to wear better. You don't need a lighter blue. You need a more leaden blue. A grayed down blue. My opinion.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction was: paint is too thick. But don't worry, it'll wear in, probably. I like the wraparound stays, but I'd also like the teardrop shaped piece covering the seat stays to be clearly defined. It's getting there!

joel said...


The only bike I have with a dyno is my custom built camper.

The builder would have put the dyno braze-on wherever I wanted. I chose front and am glad I did.

When touring, I try to ride as much in the daylight as possible. Sometimes I fail to reach my destination in time and have to switch on the light.

I am usually tired by this point and want to limit my stop time as much as possible. With the dyno in front, it is simply a matter of stopping, reaching forward with my left arm, flipping it, then starting up again. (I use toe clips too. I don't see how clip or clipless would make reaching in the back easier or harder)

Moreover, as I have larger bags in the back, reaching the dyno would be complicated by the load.

I use Schwalbe Marathons with a dyno strip on my camper. I really don't notice any of the vibration problems you point out.

Seems to me if you are concerned about the limits of a dyno, the better bet is to go with a Schmidt (for serious touring or commuting) or the less expensive Shimano generator hubs.

Anonymous said...

I'm really starting to want one of these frames!
I think the changes from the silver prototype are improvements, certainly the wrapped seatstay caps - very nice. I will also second the opinion that the blue needs to be dirtier, just dulled down a little -its looking a little obvious right now -for my tastes - a bit Gios. I think the paint is definitely too thick for a frame with filed lugs. Is there a way these frames could be built without the extended headlug? I don't like it and I don't need it, I can get my bars where I want them on a traditional frame with a horizontal top tube and no headtube extention -so long as its the right size, and its the one part of the frame which doesn't ring true for me. Otherwise its left me trying to justify buying a new frame, and then I'll need some wheels and then there's the chainset and.....
Simon uk.

Anonymous said...

I'm really starting to want one of these frames!
I think the changes from the silver prototype are improvements, certainly the wrapped seatstay caps - very nice. I will also second the opinion that the blue needs to be dirtier, just dulled down a little -its looking a little obvious right now -for my tastes - a bit Gios. I think the paint is definitely too thick for a frame with filed lugs. Is there a way these frames could be built without the extended headlug? I don't like it and I don't need it, I can get my bars where I want them on a traditional frame with a horizontal top tube and no headtube extention -so long as its the right size, and its the one part of the frame which doesn't ring true for me. Otherwise its left me trying to justify buying a new frame, and then I'll need some wheels and then there's the chainset and.....
Simon uk.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips Joel.

If I forget to turn my full time flashing lights front and rear on (3 presses each), its easier to stop and get off near a pole so I can mount my pedals with my size 13 softball cleats (bike shoes) tight fit in toe clips again.

The Lightspin in the German photo seems like an interesting option as well. It is supposed to tilt vs shut like a door (which I don't fully understand yet) and is supposed to work without so much pressure, so the plastic brackets will work as indicated on the German bald tires.

(Real) Lighting is more complex than originally thought. The way I look at it is if yours is working great, don't touch it. I am leaning towards one of the German or Swiss made ones but still need to research further. You are decades ahead of me in bike technology, so I'm a little slow catching up with my old bike.

I'm trying to apply things I learn here and on Sheldon's site, so its challenging with nothing fitting. Forgive me being opinionated to match my constraints, since its done to motivate me to do it: one step at a time.

Thank You for your expertise!

Chris Kulczycki said...

Neil and others, You are right; the next frame will be more of a grayish blue. We spent some time last night looking for stuff that was exactly the right color.

Simon, it's easy to make the frame without a head tube extension. In fact I've been thinking of cutting down the extension by half on all the frames. Opinions?

Andy said...

Chris, Whatever you think is best for the head tube extension. I must say, on the blue frame it LOOKS too tall. But on your silver frame, everything looks just right. -AB

joel said...


I think bikes designed with shorter head tube extensions, and are still high enough to allow shorter stems, look best.

Maybe I am in the minority. Rivendells which are considered quite good looking really push the long stem and have head tube extensions on the longish side.

Anonymous said...

I think that ideal bike geometry varies a little depending on whether you tend to ride on the hoods or drops. If you are more comfortable on the drops a little extra elevation is nice.
Incidently, not everybody thinks Rivs are good looking or that he/Grant is the end all guru that some feel he is. He has streaks of opinionated crackpot in him, which I find rather charming. God bless his sweaty ol' wool jersey.


neil m berg said...

I know we're discussed this before off line. Still my Imron choices for traditional Frenchy blue, in order:
1. 92095
2. 58360
3. 96581
4. 43500

Glenn Ammons said...

That's a nice frame; I agree that the head lug could be a tad shorter.

joel said...

O. Crackpot:

Good point.

I prefer swept back bars myself, so a real high head tube is not that important to me.

People who like to lean into their ride naturally have a differing perspective.

Perhaps this means the VO City Bike should have a lower head tube?

Anonymous said...

It means that every rider should get what he deserves.


TC said...

I like the headtube extension. I doubt there are that many riders for whom the extension would prevent them from getting bars as low as they wish. It's more common for a rider to have trouble getting the bars up as high as they might like. The headtube extension allows getting the bars up without a mile of quill showing, or a giant stack of spacers. I think breaking up the vertical distance from toptube to bars via headtube extension, spacers, and quill allows the bike to look more pleasing proportionally by not drawing so much attention to that area. YMMV.

frederick said...

Maybe if the general populous rode correctly sized frames headtube extensions would be unnecessary.

Alas, a preoccupation with the nonsense known as standover height has everyone and their mistress riding frames at least two inches too small.

nv said...

Please don't cut down the HT extension on mine! It certainly looks better IMO than a stack of spacers or a long quill. Seems like most folks here really prefer the wrapped stays and I'm wondering if that's simply in keeping with French tradition - to my eyes, the concave caps on the silver frame are the bee's knees. I have looked at the photos of the blue & silver frames back to back at length and the blue paint still looks thick to a fault if I'm being completely honest. look at close-ups of both seat clusters back to back. The blue paint is obscuring the lines on the nicely filed seat lug.

joel said...


That is where I am coming from on the issue.

A properly fit frame should get the bars where the rider needs them without a long head tube extension or long stem quill.

I think the larger frame looks better than a smaller frame with either of the above solutions.

nv said...

Joel & Frederick
I have several frames that fit very well and one or two that put the top tube right up in my crotch and I still need a Nitto Technomic or Persicopa stem to get the bars level with my saddle (my personal preference). I don't think it's as easy as saying "Ride the Right Size" - maybe it's my body - I'm 6'with long legs and short torso. The only frame I've owned that I could use a standard length quill stem was a Rambouillet - and that had both a slight upslope of the TT and a HT extension.

joel said...


Point taken.

Real quick on the sloping top tube, Bruce Gordon, Mike Flanagan and Sarah Gibson at Acme Bicycle in KC all have used sloping TTs to minimize HT extension and stem length.

Aesthetically, I prefer getting the fit from the frame. But I understand as all bodies are different, it would be hard to expect one solution to fit all.

Anonymous said...

headtube extensions are a very very good thing when you need them, and not a big deal if you don't.

the wrapped stays are nice, like my 70's french bikes. the hype then was that it strengthened the lug and was a performance thing. (ha.) but elegant.

the fork crown also, yes.

the color, no. I wouldn't do blue at all, unless it were a riviera blue. on that bike, I mean. inmo.


Anonymous said...

The blue color unfavorable observations are an optical illusion. Look at the photos in black and white. They may still have a slight bias due to shades. But adjust the shading to converge easier in black and white, and they will look identical.

That blue is cool and its different. So what? The light metallic color paint jobs are planned paint obsolecense. So if you are not supporting paint industry, I'd go with this as a possible alternative. That paint will look good for a long time and will be easy to touch up.

Frederick said...

NV, I'm also 6' with long legs in comparison to my torso. Most people of our height range are built this way. This used to be(still is in places) catered for by a shorter top tube, say 58cm or so on a 62/64cm frame.

I find the best fit for me(i.e not miles of flexy quill/steerer)is a 64cm frame with a shorter top tube. Of course, one cannot straddle a 64cm frame, but then pre-80's one would not be expected to.

The racing scene turning to much smaller frames has given birth/intermingled with this idea of standover height.

Read any good cycling book prior to this time and you'll find people were required to stay seated, take one foot off a pedal and lean over until their foot was planted firmly on the road.

This way of cycling has been forgotten/buried, possibly because it's thought of as old hat. Lest we forget, you'd never see ye ol' English clubman with much more than three inches of quill exposed, as he was riding a correctly sized frame!.

neil m berg said...

I'm with Frederick, in theory if not always in my practice. Stand over height is silly, a least for me. A sloped top tube raises the head tube, but then you end up with a really long seat tube. So we have three choices: long stem and/or head extension, long seat tube, or no standover. The last option certainly looks better in a classic way.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The final choice in bar height is to remain flexible and not need to set your bars so high. I think a lot of folks set bar height higher than it really needs to be in order to be instantly comfortable. I'll bet that if they set it an inch lower and endured for a couple of weeks they would get used to it and still be comfortable. This pays a fair dividend in aerodynamics. I'm not saying everyone should ride in the same position as a racer, but I wonder if the pendulum hasn't swung a bit too far in the other direction.

nv said...

I understand where Neil, Frederick and Chris are coming from with these last 3 comments...
and Frederick, I too prefer a tall bike with shorter TT.
Horses for courses, I suppose.
I don't think I could ride a 64. I once had a 61.5 c-t-c Holdsworth that fit and rode on the tall side and I didn't enjoy that fit at all. And regarding adjusting to a lower stem/more aero position on the bike - that I can do, and had done, for a long while. I'm 33 and on the lean side and rode racing bikes for several years before I gravitated towards my current preference of "bars near saddle". The aero bit doesn't concern me as I've intentionally slowed my pace and riding style over the years and I find a more upright position feels much better on the neck and shoulders.
Whatever works - we are really talking a few inches here, man we must come across as completely obsessive or extreme nerds to the masses! :)

nv said...

I also wanted to say thanks for publicly sharing the stages of product development so candidly with us. It's rare and special that we can discuss something we are all passionate about and, in a way, develop it together. You truly listen to your customers opinions, criticisms, need & wants (more or less on a daily basis). The VO blog is a treasure and is usually my second stop on the net after an email check. I cant help but want to attribute at least some of VO's success to your open and frequent line of communication. I know that I personally would like to see this a LOT more from other special interest/"niche" suppliers I buy from (both inside and outside of cycling).

As Woody Allen says in Annie Hall when he pulls Marshall McLuhan from behind a movie standee "Boy, If life were only like this."


neil m berg said...

It's interestnig that we all(well, most) have opinions on colors and head tube extensions, but nobody wants to jump in and flail away at "trail". And I had my "low trail isn't necessarily better" speech all ready to unlease on the world too.

Frederick said...

"Whatever works - we are really talking a few inches here, man we must come across as completely obsessive or extreme nerds to the masses! :)"

Stuff 'em, they don't love bicycles like we do.

Anyhow, if I have more than a passing interest in something, I want, nay need to know every minute detail in and around it. If that makes me a nerd, so be it.

Frankly, I can't understand people who are the opposite. If ignorance is bliss the masses are welcome to it ;).

Anonymous said...


I was a nerd before it was cool. I think nerds are almost a majority and always have been. But I liked that blue because it brought out the blue color in my eyes :-)

Anonymous said...


Is this blue frame for you? Or a VO customer? If from a customer, I'd love to hear his/her comments...

ralph said...

are you going to be selling those type of chainstay protectors? I need on for a bike. I didn't see them on your site.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The blue frame is for Annette and she promised to post about it soon.

Right now we only offer slap guards with our frames. The problem is that they are too cheap. So no one wants to bother to export them from Japan unless we buy a 50-year supply. I'm going to try to work up an order from the company that includes a lot of other neat small stuff they have. Hopefully it'll be big enough in total to bother with. Jitensha Studio usually has a few.

AN said...

I am the owner of the Blue Frame.

I will be spending more than most of you other potential VO frame owners, as it will soon be stripped and repainted a palatable color.

The difference between the Imron color I thought I chose and what I got, to my eye, is considerable. We chose the color off the actual Imron chart, not a pdf of it, so I'll get my hands on the chart again to compare potential to actual. (Hopefully I get to blame Chris for telling Johnny the wrong color code).

Of course, seeing it first hand against the Silver Frame, the issues of how thick the paint looks, the appropriateness of the color considering the lugwork, etc., are even more apparent. Even though the frame is mine, I'd hoped it would in the VO stable of show bikes, but the color simply doesn't do it justice. I think we have to do a bit more research and head scratching on coverage of some colors over others to highlight the frame to its best advantage.

I was surprised, however, how good the decals look against the blue, better than with the silver IMO.

Of course, all plans for a new cycling wardrobe are on hold....

neil m berg said...

Those of us who know Chris even a little bit know that this bike is costing you a terrible price. ;>) Like my wife says about her rose garden. It's low- maintance. She just has to sleep with the gardener.

A neighbor kid and I built up an unidentified handbuilt that had been resprayed a similar color. He chose blue wraps, blue cable housing and blue tires. He calls it the Smurf Cycle and purely loves it.

Anonymous said...

i'm glad there's the option for no head lug extension.
i ride with my bars a good 2" below saddle top, my fixed bike has a 4 inch drop! but i understand that others like/need higher bars. however i too feel that the 'bars level with saddle' mantra is chanted too often. i'm going to keep riding a 2-3" drop as long as i can.

when did these headlug extensions become common? is it an american thing? most of my bikes are 50s and 60s british so maybe that's why it just looks odd to my eye.

incidently, have you ever noticed that what you consider a good looking, well proportioned frame seems most often to be the one that's your size? anything other than a 22 1/2" - 23 1/2" just looks wrong to me. ;-)

Chris, do your plans for the rear light mounting include internal wiring? how is that done on french constructeur frames? is the mounting bolt hollow?


Chris Kulczycki said...

The rear light will be a battery powered LED light. But we could do internal wiring if someone wanted it.

joel said...


Older bikes had higher standover than the newer bikes.

When racing geometry became the norm rather than the exception, the drive for 'optimal' standover lowered the head tubes.

If you read through the posts above, you will see that many of us agree bikes designed with higher frames will get acceptable handlebar reach without HT extensions.

The problem is the bike buying market is now so conditioned to look for standover above all else that bikes with your 1950s and 60s geometry will not sell.

Lesli L said...

I love the idea of the LED seatpost light. Is that something which will be standard on all the VO frames--or still in the prototype phase of production?


Chris Kulczycki said...

Lesli, Right now the lights I'm making use old French housings bought on E-bay. They are re-polished and I'm stuffing modern LEDs into them. It's far from cost effective. So until we find a manufacturer to make new ones, or get some that are being made in Japan, they will be for folks willing to do their own conversions.

Anonymous said...

i'm sure attention has moved from here along with the discussion. but i just saw your message joel and thought i would say
"geeze thanks for the history lesson!"

i had read all the posts above and below my first (which was the one that originally brought up the subject of the head tube extension).

it seems to me that lower top tubes and so lower head tubes are a function of fashion which in bicycles, as in most things is cyclical (geddit?). low and long top tubes were the order of the day in the 30's and are that way again (low anyway). i think this is more to do with the influence of mountain bike design than 'racing geometry becoming the norm rather than the exeption'. this gave birth to compact frames which are due also to aero brake levers giving safe predictable braking from the hoods. this has made 'on the hoods' the primary riding position for racers and most fast rec riders. increase in BB height is also a factor.

i don't understand the deal with stand over height, i can reach the ground comfortably with my toe whilst seated on all my bikes even my 54 gillott track frame which has a 50mm BB drop.
the 50s herses singers etc would only show a couple of inches of seat post and these were touring/randonneuring bikes, there is more need to stand on your bike when cycling long distances.

you don't need a head tube extention you need a bigger frame!

also they're are butt-ugly

and if 'my' 50's and 60s geometry wont sell it looks bad for VO!
kogswell seem to be doing well with their P/R unfortunately it also has a head tube extension.

maybe a little education is all that's needed, if people are inspired to buy these frames by jan heine's book and mid century french cyclotourist bikes in general, why would they be so resistant to riding a properly sized frame?


Anonymous said...

"why would they be so resistant to riding a properly sized frame?"

Simple answer: Proper is subjective.

Anonymous said...

yes proper is subjective, as is bike fit in general.
i was being a little facetious (sp?)
however, if the masters herse and singer, the taylor bros. or countless others would seat you on a frame with 3-4" of seat tube showing allowing handlebars to be level with, or slightly below saddle height, without silly long quils, headtube extensions, upsloping top tubes, 70 degree stems of any of the other works of beelzebub, then what is proper?


Anonymous said...

Silly is subjective.