30 April, 2008

This and That

A few random notes:

The New York Times had a nice article about the bike lending scheme in Washington DC. I'm a huge fan of these programs which have been fairly successful in Europe. Actually, some early attempts had problems, but the newest models seem to be working.

Our TIG welded production city bike prototype will arrive late next week. I'm very excited.

We will also get the frame that may be the basis for a possible multipurpose bike. I'm still working on this concept, but the idea is a bike that's halfway between a city bike and a touring bike, wide 650b tires, wide gearing, light lugged frame, porteur bars, chain guard... It'll be fun to build up. Any ideas?

25 April, 2008

Stupid Bike Lanes

Annette found this mildly amusing video about stupid bike lanes. Just the thing to waste a few minutes on a Friday afternoon.

And here is Part 2.

24 April, 2008

More VO Products and Fender News

My trip to Asia is starting to pay off. We now have a number of new products on order including:

  • A silver VO two-bolt seat post with very generous setback and fine adjustment.
  • Very pretty and fairly priced all silver polished aluminum no-logo stems for 1-1/8" threadless forks. This is something a lot of folks have asked for.
  • VO 1" threaded headsets with sealed angular-contact bearings. It's time to move beyond the recently discontinued Stronglight A9 and Delta and these should prove even more durable and weatherproof.
  • VO 1" alloy high quality ball-bearing headsets.
  • Beautiful VO 1-1/8" sealed-bearing headsets. You'll be pleased at how nice and fairly priced these are, but some current high end HS manufacturers may not be too happy.
  • A range of VO sealed-bearing square taper bottom brackets with alloy cups and boron axles.
  • Replacement dérailleur jockey wheels made from a special high-wear low friction composite.
I'm still working on hubs, pedals, and a bunch of other projects. The items above will start arriving in 2-3 months.


The 650b VO fenders have been delayed by a few weeks. There was apparently an issue with our new tooling and some adjustments were needed. It was one of those cases where I was not told until well after they should have arrived. The factory says they are very close now.

We've also ordered a run of 45mm polished stainless steel fenders. If they look good, and the samples looked very nice, we may also make them in 50mm.

We are also getting some wide 26" VO fenders that should take tires up to 2.25". A number of you have asked for these.


We received the following comment in an e-mail:
"Straddle wire hangers - fantastique!

I ordered two sets of your straddle wire hangers and just wanted to let you know that they are WAY better than the originals on my '64 Herse..."

22 April, 2008

The New VO Crank

OK, it's not really the new VO Crank, but I found some of these new-old-stock Universal Aduprat 3-pin cranksets.

I know that there is no good reason in the world to use cottered steel cranks today. As for not so good reasons, they are very slim and elegant, they are chrome plated, they definitely look retro, and they will not break.

Anyway, I couldn't resist and we bought a few. They are 170mm with 48/40 rings. The British thread BB is included and they take French thread pedals, though they can be tapped to British. If you want a set to restore an old bike or just to be different, they cost $55.

We also now stock Salsa "Halter Top" brake levers and And Tektro RT345AG brake levers. The Halter tops are a very well made and nicely polished inline brake for touring or cyclo-cross. The Tektro Rt354AG is a nice, but inexpensive brake for city and MTB bars.

21 April, 2008

Frame News

Here are a couple of shots of frame prototypes.

The fork is the prototype of the one for our production TIG welded city bike. This bike will be very similar to the VO Gentleman frame that we now offer. A mixte version is also in the works. This frame is, more or less, on schedule and I still hope to see them this summer.

The lugged frame is another prototype that's much like our city bike, but may eventually morph into an all-around model. It may become our third production model.

The production Rando frame has hit a roadblock. The Japanese company we ordered the frames from has simply taken too long. So I just canceled the order and gave it to a company in Taiwan. The design work is done, lugs are selected, so I'm hopeful we can get it into production soon

We also plan to offer this frame as the basis for a complete bike that will include a generator hub, Brooks saddle, front rack, etc.

16 April, 2008

VO Roller Hangers are Here

And they look great, maybe better than the originals. These were the style of hangers used on some of the finest constructeur bikes. You'll see them on bikes by Singer, Toei, Routens, Alp, Reyhand, Goeland, etc.

The workmanship is beyond my expectations and the polishing is much nicer than the photos show.

Annette and Heidi say they'll make nice earrings for those of you who don't have the right bike.

They are $20 a pair in the VO store. Used originals sell for well over $100 and the only reproductions made previously sell for $75. They are also available to other bike shops at wholesale prices through VO imports.

14 April, 2008

New VO Rando Frame Photos

Here are a couple of brand new VO rando frames.

The first is for Kathryn in a custom creme color. I wasn't sure I'd like this color, but I think it looks great on the finished bike. The paint is so shiny the photos appear wavy. More photos can be found here.

The second bike is Steve's and is now being painted. These photos show the just brazed frame. The next step is sanding filing and cleanup prior to painting. Note that while all the lugs are silver brazed, the fill in the dropout attachment is brass because of the gap to be filled. More photos are here.

11 April, 2008

Low Down Light Mounts

Steve and Dick make light mounts. They make them one at a time by hand on a lathe here in the US. They start with a solid aluminum rod, turn and drill it and press in a steel insert so the threads won't strip. Then they neatly wrap each one only in thin paper to cut down on packaging. They call them "Low-Down Light Mounts".

They are tiny and they replace the nut on you hub skewer allowing you to quickly mount a handlebar type light on just about any bike, even one with a big front load that would block a normal fork crown or handlebar mounted light. The light is a bit lower than is ideal, but then a bar mounted light is far too high to be ideal. A lower light does better illuminates the texture of the road than a high one making it easier to spot road hazards. For $27 they should be polished, but otherwise they look great. Yes, I know that Nitto sometimes makes a mount like this, but those are unavailable at the moment and the last price was $37.

The photo shows the Type 1 mount which is for a battery light. I hope I'm not giving away industrial secrets when I tell you that they will soon have one for dynamo powered light, the Type 2. I have prototype and it's really neat because it accepts a Spanninga, or B&M light with no bar mount. And you don't need much wire if you have hub generator.

Speaking of light mounts, we've made small batches of our of our VO rack-type light mounts and they keep selling out. I guess folks like them. So we're making a real production run this time and will probably have them in stock for a long while. We'll also sell them, and the Low-Down brackets to other shops through VO Imports.

And finally, we may get some of the coolest light ever made from Japan. They are hand made in a one man shop and some Japanese/American friends have been working with me to import a few. The price will make you choke, but you will like them. No photos yet, sorry.

09 April, 2008

New French Style Handlebars

We just received two new models of VO/Nitto handlebars.

The first of these is the Montmartre bar. Montmartre is an area of Paris known for its cafes and artist's studios. The Montmartre bar is a very traditional French city bar. It accepts bar end shifters or inverse brake levers. It does not, however, accept MTB levers or shifters. As you guessed, the diameter is the same as on road bars.

Like most traditional French bars, the Montmartre bar is narrow, 42cm center-to-center. The streets of Montmartre are narrow and it wouldn't do to knock over a drink at a cafe table or snag a Citroen's rear view mirror with the wide Harley-style bars that seem so popular on this side of the Pond. Besides, a proper low trail city bike has geometry that allows it to hold a straight line with almost no input, yet turn with only the gentlest touch. We are piloting a fine bicycle, not driving a tractor!

The rise on the Montmartre bar is about 6cm. We do want to sit up so we can enjoy that greatest of all Parisian pursuits, people watching, even when cycling.

We went a bit wild with the second bar's design. It is a full 49cm wide and the grips flare outward a bit to appeal to the less restrained cyclist. Given its radical nature it can only be named the Left Bank Bar, after that section of Paris, the Latin Quarter on the left bank of the Seine, that was historically populated by students and leftist philosophers. The Left Bank Bar is also made for inverse levers or bar end shifters, and not for MTB bits.

These bars are made by Nitto exclusively for Velo Orange and both display Nitto's usual superb workmanship and finish. The clamp diameter is 25.4mm on both and the bars are bulged, rather than sleeved, so they will not squeak.

I recommend traditional grips on these bars, either three layers of cloth tape or leather grips. We already have a leather grip kit for them.

Both bars and grips will be in the store later today. We also just received Nitto S83 seat posts and Sugino "old logo" triple cranks.

08 April, 2008

V0 Retro Cages

Two factories, two countries, four prototypes, and more than 6 months later, the VO retro cages are ready. Ready to go into production, that is.

You see two versions. The one on the left is based on the original design and is also the model that's currently copied by Toei of Japan, though their version costs $95 and our will be under $20.

The one on the right has a loop to further secure the bottle. I thought this might be needed for folks who ride unpaved roads, but after playing with the prototypes I don't think it's necessary.

Just to be clear, this cage is based on an old TA design from the '40s or early '50. It is a one-handed cage; you put in the bottle just like on any other cage; but it holds the bottle very securely. The little tabs allow you to spread the cage for an oversized bottle. Say you're in Belgium and need to carry a pint of beer.... We at VO try to think of these eventualities.

Please don't ask when they'll be in stock, 2-3 months maybe. Do you think it was/is worth the wait?

04 April, 2008


RFP is "request for proposal", a term that's often bandied about in our near-the-beltway town. I'm looking for feedback, proposals, on the BCD to be used on new VO cranks. Since the the comments in the previous post degenerated, or generated, into a discussion of various crank preferences and BCDs I thought this would be the perfect time get into this.

My inbox often contains messages with ideas for new products including cranks. Here are some options that have been suggested.

  • 86bcd, the old Stronglight 99 pattern. The smallest ring possible is 28t. The person who suggested this is a well known frame designer/manufacturer.
  • 50.4bcd, this is the pattern used on TA Pro-5-Vis, Stronglight 49d, Nervar, Sugino PX, etc. It's also the oldest BCD still made. The smallest ring is 26t.
  • 110/74bcd; we all know this one and VO is already sourcing this crank, but using an existing mold to keep cost down. It may have outboard BB bearings! The RFP is for a crank using new molds. And though I like the TA Zephyr we won't make a copy; the Sugina Alpina is close enough.
  • The old Rene Herse BCD, 3-pin, is a very pretty crank.
  • 94/56bcd. I've never used this size.
I am currently leaning toward using 50.4bcd. It seems to be the most practical; it's very light, allows a low q-factor, looks nice, and takes a huge range of chain rings. The arms can be set up as a single, double, triple, or quad! We would also make VO chainrings in the most popular sizes, 48,46,30,26... This would ensure a supply of rings from two manufacturers. The shape of the arms would loosely resemble the Stronglight 49d. Waddaya think?

In other news, The RH-style roller hangers are done and on the way. The TA/Toei-type water bottle cage is ready for production, based on the latest sample photos. And those 650b fenders should finally be ready.

03 April, 2008

Tom's Toe Clip Straps

Some of you may not understand why it takes so long to get new products made. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I do. But here is a little conversation with a toe clip strap manufacturer to give you some idea of how even the simplest products can be very complicated.

I saw a very nice range of toe clip straps from a small manufacturer I had not previously heard of. Tom, who works with me on developing and sourcing new products, and I decided to have a chat with them. C is me, T is Tom, M is the manufacturer. Of course this is all condensed from memory and just meant to illustrate the complications involved.

C: We'd like to get a quote on some of the straps you manufacture. We're most interested in the thicker ones with stainless steel buckles. Can you do colors other than brown and black.

M: These are our best straps. We can probably make them in other colors for a large order.

T: These buckles are stainless?

M: Yes, of course.

T: Is the rivet stainless?

M: Yes.

T: Chris, what do you think about the way this rivet is set? Maybe the washer could be larger.

C: Hmmm.

T: Is this spring stainless.

M: The spring can be stainless or not as you wish.

C: Wouldn't a non-stainless spring retain it's "spring" longer?

M: I don't know, but I'll find out.

T: Is the buckle roller stainless on this model, and how about on this other model?

M: One roller is a stainless spring type roller, the other is chrome plated brass.

T: The brass one has a nicer shape. Could we have it in this buckle?

M: Yes

C: Americans have huge feet, can we adjust the strap length.

M: Yes, we can make them any length.

T: I don't like this attachment method. The one on this model looks much stronger. Can we have this metal reinforcement on the other model?

M: Yes; we can do that.

T: Would it be stainless?

M: I have to check with the shop, but I think so.

C: What about leather? I see two types.

M: This is split hide and this is full grain. The full grain is more expensive.

C: Is this one artificial?

M: No this is another type of split grain hide.

C: Is there any problem with getting an embossed logo?

M: No problem.

T: OK. Please send us samples and pricing for the model we've outlined. I'm sure we'll think of a lot more questions later.

C: Now lets talk about the track style straps...

Imagine a conversation about a new crankset.

01 April, 2008

The VO Taillight

The VO Taillight can be mounted on a seat tube braze-on, on a seat stay using the clamp, or on a chain stay.

They are hand machined from a solid aluminum billet by a small shop here in the US. We are having them made because I had the prototype on the blue bike in the photo and got a bunch of e-mails requesting that we make them. So far as I know, this is the only seat post boss taillight made today.

Many people have French constructuer bikes with a mount for one, but the price of an original JOS light is over $600

The price for our version will be about $48 (sorry). It should be available next week.