28 November, 2007

A Quick Update

Just a quick update. I know a lot of you have been waiting for Ostrich handlebar bags. They just arrived and they are the updated VO model with a rear strap to fit over a rack's upright loop. They also have a strap on the bottom and a clear map cover.

We also received more Japanese brass bells, including a new model.

Finally a big box of Honjo hardware arrived, which we won't have time to unpack until tomorrow.

Also, we did a little house cleaning and are putting some odd bits on the specials page, including a few great deals

27 November, 2007

New Old Products

We have a few new items for your approval.

The Simplex Super LJ 503 front dérailleur is one of the best and most elegant front dérailleurs of all time. They are especially good with TA Pro 5 Vis and Stronglight 49D cranks because of the flat outer cage plate. The seat tube clamp is a lovely casting with the sunburst Simplex "S" logo, but don't over tighten the clamp; they can snap. Last time we found a box of these they sold out quickly.

I found a few of these old bag supports; they're not really decaleurs, or maybe they are. In any case, I used one for many years and they are fine for a light load, but the weight is too high up for more than a few pounds. They are good because they can be changed from one bike to another in seconds and they allow you to use your handlebar bag on almost any bike.

We also have another new handlebar. The Tourist bar is a "North Road" style bar rendered in polished aluminum alloy. The bulge is 25.4mm, width is 54cm and it has about 7cm of rise. And at $20 it's a great deal.

Dropout adjustment screws often get bent or lost and replacements are hard to find, so we decided to stock them. These are brand new Algi standard 3mm screws and they are available in 25mm or 35mm length.

We also found a case of Huret single lever stem mounted shifters. These are new-old stock shifters that are terrific for city bikes with only a rear dérailleur.

Chainguards are Art

The photo on the right shows some of the chainguards in my little collection. Since I don't have enough on my plate, I've decided that it's time to design a VO chainguard. I've been looking at various chainguards made in Taiwan and none even come close to the style of these old Dutch and French designs. Chainguards are not only essential on a city bike, but they can be a bit of industrial art.

I thought I would ask for opinions. What should the new VO chainguard look like? Should we go for an ornate design, or would a simpler model like the Lefol guard in the second or third photo be more appropriate? I've already ordered prototypes of chainguards that look like those in the third photo. We might use that style on the production city bike.

By the way this is a link to a large .pdf of a 1950 Lefol catalog. It's from Joel's Blackbird site; Thanks Joel. It really is fascinating.

Just don't request a hammered chainguard. I did ask Honjo about making them, but with a 6 month waiting list for fenders, they don't seem very interested in a new product.

In case you were wondering, the chainguards in my collection are for sale, but only with a semi-custom city bike frame.

23 November, 2007

Fun Links and A little News


Nerdy pant clips for would-be superheroes.

Magnificent city bike collection, and it's for sale. Check out this Bianchi. (Thanks for the tip Joe)

A retro Italian city bike.


The latest shipment of Ostrich handlebar bags, that we keep selling out of, will be here next week.

The Courier racks will arrive in about a week.

We ran out of brass bells, the first time that's ever happened, but we'll have another shipment in a few days.

We are working on a VO seat post. Goals include good setback, smooth adjustment, forged alloy construction with (if possible) a butted tube, and a shiny finish. I'm hoping for a price of around $40.

We might soon have news about a new VO road pedal with really nice bearings, a grease port, replaceable road cage, and a reasonable price. I should have word on whether someone can make these in a week or two. If the road model can be sourced, we'll try to get a touring cage that will fit on the same body.

We are still waiting for the Herse-style cable hangers and the VO water bottle cages. Both projects have been delayed by the need to fix or review little details. But both projects are well underway.

I hurt my back and will be in bed for a few days. I know a lot of folks were planning to drop by the VO showroom today. Sorry that I won't be able to meet you. But Annette and Heidi are holding down the fort.

20 November, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We'll be closed Wednesday and Thursday and we'll reopen on Friday. Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

19 November, 2007

More Handlebars

We are stocking a new city bar. I call this the Milan bar because it's a great bar for converting old Italian racing frames with a short top tube. Actually it's great for converting any frame with a short top tube into a city bar. Folks who like a more aggressive position on a city bike will like it too. The width is about 59cm, there is around 25mm (one inch) of rise, and the bulge is 25.4mm. The material is polished alloy. The price is only $19. You might consider cutting this bar down a few centimeters to make it narrower. European city bars are actually not very wide, better to fit between cars and scooters.

The lower photos show a very rare 44mm Phillipe randonneur in a shiny black finish. The engraving is filled with white. I usually don't like black components, but this bar is just beautiful.

The final photo shows the very pretty engraving on a French racing
bar made by a manufacturer I've never heard of. Anyone recognize those logos?

BTW, I'm starting to post Follis/Pinto tandem photos here.

16 November, 2007

Handlebar Heaven

Handlebar heaven is, as you would expect, way up high. It is the top shelf of a tall storage rack at a certain wholesale company. Over the years that's where they've tossed all the sample handlebars and stems sent by various European and Japanese manufacturers. There are old bars from Nitto, TTT, ITM, Atax, Belleri, Phillipe, etc.

You'll be glad to know that you can buy your way into heaven, at least into handlebar heaven. I bought the whole lot with the idea of having reproductions of some of these old bars made.

The first photo shows some of the city bars in my new collection. I'll sell the ones we don't choose to reproduce and have solid works drawings made of the best examples.

The second photo is of a bar I particularly like and am sending plans of it off for quotes.

The third photo is of a lugged chrome French Pivo stem, but this one is unusual because it's 22.2mm x 25.4 mm, not the usual French size.

The last photo is of a modern Origin brand bar I think we'll stock. Anyone like/hate it?

So what sort of bars would you like to see Velo Orange sell?

ALSO, We just got more VO Croissant and Baguette bags. And the Follis tandems arrived a few minutes ago. Photos soon.

13 November, 2007


Here are my answers to a few questions that I often get asked.

When will the VO handlebar bags finally arrive?:

I wish I knew. The photos are of the latest prototype. So we are making progress, but it's taken over a year to get to this point. Maybe by spring?

The other VO bags are out of stock at the moment because the manufacturer of the waxed cotton fabric we use ran out of it. I don't know when they will make more, but it shouldn't be too long.

When will the production frames arrive?

I was told that late May 2008 was possible for the rando frames and that we might see the city bike frames a bit earlier. But we all know how often production delays make such estimates guesses at best. When we get closer to delivery and the date seems set we'll accept deposits for the frames.

By the way, the production lugged rando frames will use the same geometry and tubing specs as the semi-custom frames and they use standard long reach caliper brakes. The geometry is tuned for 28-32mm tires. We are shooting for a price of just under $1000. But the Japanese Yen has been rising relative to the dollar in the past few weeks, so it's hard to say what the final price will be.

Is something in stock and how much will it cost to ship?

If an item in our store can be put into the "shopping cart", it is in stock. Otherwise you'll get a "item not available" message.

The store web site will calculate US shipping costs prior to asking for your credit card info. For very light items we often charge less shipping than the store site calculates.

If you live outside the US we will send you an e-mail telling you the shipping cost when you place an order. You can then accept the shipping cost or cancel the order.

I don't mind if you e-mail me about shipping or availability, but it's much faster to simply check the store site.

Where are the STRIDA 5.0 folding bikes?

They arrived yesterday.

How about the new style bell mounts?

They arrived today. These will allow you to use a stem mount-style bell even on classic bikes. They are polished stainless steel and made for us by a manufacturer of yachting hardware here in the US. They are available with, or without, the bell.

Now my question: So how do you like the bag?

12 November, 2007

TA Pedals and VO Frames, Good and Bad News

The good pedal news is that TA pedals are once again available, or will be in a few weeks when our order arrives. Here is what I wrote about them last year:

TA Specialites pedals are, arguably, the nicest pedals ever made. TA pedals were an expensive and rare upgrade on Rene Herse and Alex Singer bikes.

They are completely rebuildable. The cages and "flick tabs" are replacable. They use inboard roller bearings. They have grease ports so you don't need to dissassemble them for re-greasing. They are, in a word, superb.

We stock them in both road and track versions. the track model has gray cages, the road model has silver. These may be in short supply; in fact it's surprising that a product like this is still made. So get them while they are still available.

We can sometimes get these in French thread; please e-mail.
The bad news is that the our price has gone up to $157 per pair; list price is over $200 now. The price will likely go up again soon, so you can reserve a pair from this shipment if you like. The other bad bit is that finish on the pedal bodies is still not up to current Japanese standards, but mechanically they are as good as ever.

On the frame front, the semi-custom Velo Orange Randonneur , and other lugged steel frames are selling like the proverbial hotcakes (crepes?) . That's good for us, but it means that delivery time is over a year for new orders and will probably soon rise to 18 months. There will also be another frame price hike this winter. Johnny and I think that the newest frames are really getting dialed-in and are even better than the well-received early frames. Johnny's already superb work is getting better with each frame. I really appreciate that he is concentrating on build quality and ride quality rather than on over-the-top embellishments. I find his clean and minimalist style very refreshing and it meshes perfectly with our own VO aesthetics..

Bob's visit to the 2007 TOEI Owners Meeting

Bob R. was kind enough to write this report of his visit to the 2007 TOEI Owners Meeting in Tateshina Japan. There are more photos here and here. Thank you Bob.

On September 16-17, 2007, my wife and Louise and I participated in the 10th Annual TOEI Owners Meeting at Lake Tateshina. This year marked our 25th wedding anniversary, and we decided to celebrate in Japan; we decided to visit in September so that we could attend the 2007 TOM. We visited Japan in 2004 to visit our bicycling friends Tsuyoshi Nakahori and Manabu Kikuchi, who share my interest in classic bicycles and parts. On that visit we visited the TOEI shop and met the men of TOEI, and that is when I had the dream to attend one of these TOEI meetings. Seeing the beautiful TOEI 50th Anniversary bicycle frames and carriers and meeting these gentlemen planted the seed for me to own a TOEI in the future. I have ordered a TOEI 650B randonneur bicycle.

The generosity and friendship of Tsuyoshi and Manabu made it possible for us to attend the 2007 TOM and we had a wonderful time. Tsuyoshi was very generous to drive us and host us at his home, and Manabu was very generous to allow me to ride one of his beautiful TOEI bicycles. Their generosity and friendship mean a lot to me and made our trip very special.

The meeting was great fun, of course. Seeing many beautiful TOEI bicycles gave me ideas for the TOEI 650B bicycle that I have ordered. Staying at a wonderful chalet near Lake Tateshina, with that fresh mountain water and delicious food, was all that we hoped it would be when we planned our vacation. The group bicycle ride was very scenic and, even in the rain at the finish of the ride, a fun ride. And enjoying good food and beer afterwards at the banquet, with a strong feeling of friendship and laughter, is always a joy. I just wish I had won a TOEI frame display prize…

Best of all, I enjoyed meeting the owners of these beautiful bicycles. I found many owners who share my enthusiasm for fine workmanship and interesting details. I also found some owners who share my interest in vintage cameras and jazz music. This allowed me to talk about more than bicycle parts and bicycle riding, and I appreciated that. But I also enjoyed talking about bicycles, and even though I do not speak Japanese, I was able to communicate because of my excitement to be there and the willingness of everyone to speak with me. This is a very friendly group. The event organizers, Mr. and Mrs. Koizumi, treated Louise and I like old friends: they were very nice and happy to see us there. And my new friend Sato-san was very helpful in translating for me. I was happy to finally meet Akuta-san, our ride leader whose website I visit often. And of course, this was another chance to be with Tsuyoshi and Manabu, which is important to me. The TOEI owners made us feel like old friends, a wonderful feeling-thank you.

Before the meeting I decided to say thank you to everyone and explain how important I think the bicycle is to bring people together. I wrote a short speech and our friend Keiko translated my English into Japanese, and explained the correct pronunciation of the words. I studied well because my talk was well received and appreciated. It was a small way to tell everyone how special it was to be there, and how it was made clear again that the bicycle has the power to bring people of different cultures together. Now that we are home in California, I look at my TOEI water bottle, my TOM pin collection, and my photographs from the 2007 TOM, and I have very good memories. I also know two things: I am very lucky to have attended this event and I must return to participate at a future meeting. The power of the bicycle is too strong to ignore.

Note: The next to last photo is at I's Bicycle shop.

Also, Ernest, from Japan, sent us the following link to the Grand Bois blog with some must-see photos of new models. Click on them for larger versions. The Model M, for multipurpose, is just fantastic. (BTW, we hope to soon have VO handlebars like those.)

09 November, 2007

Business News

Every once in a while I like to share my plans for Velo Orange. Of course these plans don't always work out, but it's good to get feedback and it adds perspective. So here is what's underway or being considered:

VO Imports

As you may know, Velo Orange offers some of it's VO brand products to other bike shops at wholesale prices. It seems to me, however, that this is too limited an approach. Most bike shops don't have access to the sort of parts that VO sells and imports. The obvious solution is to have a proper wholesale company that's geared to rando, touring, and city bikes. Starting or buying another company is not something I undertake lightly, but it seems to be something that needs to be done. I've started three serious companies in the past and a few very small ones so I know what's involved. In a mature market, like cycling, starting a successful company is very tough, but by using the same approach that has worked with Velo Orange, keeping prices low and not worrying about short term profits; finding products other companies don't have, listening to what cyclists say they need, and stressing customer service; I think there is a good chance for making a go of it. The working name of this new company is VO Imports.

I am considering buying an existing bike wholesale company, starting a new one, or both. On the first front, I'll be touring an existing company that's for sale and starting the "due diligence" process very soon. On the second front I'm working with a web designer to create a VO Imports site and with our agents to increase contacts with Taiwanese and European manufacturers. I think it's time for a trip to Taiwan and Japan too.

Increasingly our orders are coming from overseas. We ship to customers in Europe and Asia almost every day and often get inquiries from European shops. I have no illusions that this is not largely due to the weak dollar, but over and over I am told that cyclists can't get VO-type parts in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy... Having an American wholesale company that could sell French-style parts to European shops would add depth to our business, not to mention a bit of irony.

VO Pedals

We are considering the idea of a line of VO pedals. These would have traditional shapes, but incorporate high quality cassette bearings and replaceable cages. By having them made in Taiwan, I think they could sell for prices that are similar to Japanese pedals with ball bearings, non-replaceable cages, and similar finish quality.

VO Handlebars and Stems

Again, we are looking at traditional designs, such as those of the French bars and stems that we sell, but made in Taiwan. This idea depends on the future pricing and availability of Japanese and European products; there is no point in making our own products if we can buy them elsewhere. I'll write more about this in the future.

One underlying issue in my considering more products made specifically for VO is that we might soon see a significant rise in the long sluggish Japanese Yen. This would make Japanese parts more expensive, as has already happened with European parts. So it makes sense to look into having more high quality parts made in Taiwan and perhaps even in India and China. If the superb Thinkpad notebook I'm writing this on can be made in China, they should be able to produce a pretty good bike stem. The trick is stressing that we are looking for quality over price.


We are already outgrowing our Annapolis shop and have just signed a lease for more space that will be used for storage and shipping/receiving. We are also looking for a warehouse for VO Imports.

07 November, 2007

The Porteur Racks have Arrived

The long awaited Porteur racks have finally arrived. I'll have them in the store soon.

The second photos shows an optional and removable upper rail we are working on. What do you think?

05 November, 2007

Let's all Move to Portland and Other News

The New York Times has a major article and a video entitled: In Portland, Cultivating a Culture of Two Wheels. It's been on the NYT home page all morning! That the country's "newspaper of record" is paying this much attention and devoting this much space to bikes is terrific. The fact that a lot of local officials from around the country will see this piece and, perhaps, consider taking some of the positive steps to encourage cycling and sustainability that Portland has, is encouraging.

The article features quotes from and photos of Tony Pereira and Andy Newlands. The video shows a bike with a Berthoud handlebar bag. Bike culture has come a long way.

Speaking of Portland, Lesli sent a couple of photos of Sara's black VO Randonneuse at the "end of the season Oregon randonneur populaire up near Portland." Sara reports that "the bike is brilliant!" You might check out the the rest of Lesli's photos, lots of Ostrich bags, Honjo fenders, etc.

So, should we all buy the requisite hoodies and move to Portland? Is Portland the new San Francisco? And will it soon become too crowded and expensive, a victim of it's own success? It's one of the few cities in the US where I would consider relocating.

In other news:

We now have Strida folding bikes in stock, several orange model 3.2, and more are on the way. I really like the Stridas and have been riding one myself. I'll write more about them very soon.

The porteur racks have been delayed again, but only by a couple of days. The polishing wasn't quite up to par so some touch up was required. Sorry for the multiple delays and I want to assure you that these racks really do exist. I am not just imagining them ;<) We are working on a removable upper rail to make the porteur racks into a low basket for carrying awkward loads. We should have photos by next week.