20 June, 2008

My Pass Hunter

My pass hunter arrived today (after 6-weeks at the powder coat shop). And YES; the decal is on the top tube! That was obviously an error. Otherwise I think it looks great and I can't wait to build it up and ride it.

The Passhunter is our new affordable semi-custom frame. Though it's a bit less affordable now because we'll be switching to the Spectrum shop to powder-coat the frames; 6-weeks is too long to wait. But Spectrum is the best powder coat shop in the US and they will also be clear-coating the frames. Otherwise it's a TIG welded frame from Ahren Rogers, who also builds our fillet brazed city bikes.

Looking at the photos you'll see that the welding and brazing are exceptionally smooth and neat. There will be a few very minor changes on the next frames though. We'll set them up for Nitto M-12 front racks and we'll use the same rear cable stop as on our rando frame, and we'll put the decal on the damn down tube.

Maybe that decal placment isn't so bad after all. What do you think? I don't want to wait until it's repainted to ride it ;<(

There are a few more photos here.


zoovegroover said...

Is this a 650b frame? Does it have cantilever posts? How much? If all of the above is yes, I wish I waited for this instead of the kogswell p/r I got...great ride - ugly frame...

C said...

What color is that?

Chris Kulczycki said...

This is 700c frame. The cost will be $1350.

The color is a green/gray I chose. It's inspired by plaster made with mud from rice paddys. It's was used and prized in traditional Japanese construction for it's elegant and understated color.

C said...

What's the actual brand/color #? Been thinking of getting one of my bikes repainted and that's the shade I want.

Chris Kulczycki said...

C, I'll dig out the file with the color specs and get back to you. It's at my home office.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. There are so many cool details (seatstay attachment, head lug, fork crown, rear canti brake cable holder, etc.), and the welds are so small and tidy that one doesn't notice the welds andthe frame looks like it's actually lugged.

Karl said...

Is the price a function of U.S. construction?

I ask because the Japan-built Jitensha All-rounder is priced at $1400 with lugged construction, or $1500 with a custom color. If I recall correctly, you have an orange Jitensha yourself.

I guess my question is why $1350 for a TIG bike that is very similar to a high quality lugged bike that can be had for $50 more?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Karl, this bike is built to measure.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I think the top tube decal is sorta funny at first, just because I know it's a mistake. But it could be interesting. I'd like to see it built up.

I have an '86 madison, and there's no downtube decal, but it's otherwise got schwinn written all over it, but the font looks like it's written with vertical blinds. Point is, alternate decal themes are cool, and I think underdone. Fonts only are too popular. So the top tube may be interesting. (from Owen)

Xavier said...

Sweet frame!

lamplightsg said...

I'm sure the powdercoating helps, but those are definitely some of the nicest looking welds I've seen. They almost look like tiny fillets, even. Great color too! I think this would make a great bike for a hard-core wilderness excursion, with Nitto Campee racks and beefy tires.

Joel said...

Ahren, Jon and Zach were setting up their own powder coating system while making the bike. Would the wait still be six weeks now that it is up and running?

In any event, I have a bike p'c'd by Spectrum and agree they do quality work.

Anonymous said...

What's up with the vertical dropouts? Why not horizontal?

Gunnar Berg said...

I have one of Ahren's bikes. His welding is very nice.

And, after having my eyeballs actually burned out of the sockets by a recent paint job (exactly what I asked for), I would have to say that the color you chose is very nice and will be easy to live with.

Ian Dickson said...

The frame looks excellent. Build it up!

I'm curious: why not use that cable stop? The semi-circular design isn't the prettiest I've seen, but it's still nice, and it looks sturdier than the ones on the rando frames.

I think the M-12 is a good choice for this frame. It's a very solid, very nice looking rack. On the other hand, I do like how that fork crown looks with no hole in it.

Regarding the decal: Take a look at the down tube. Doesn't it look good without any big decal intruding on all that pretty green paint? Mightn't the frame look best with only the "VO" on the headtube, and no "Velo-Orange" decal at all? I think that would be a nice option for those of us who dislike decals in general, and it would be consistent with the elegant simplicity that I associate with Velo-Orange. Think about it.

Other questions: What size is this frame? On future frames, will the tops of the seat stays better match the joint between the top and seat tubes?

This is a great looking frame. I'm glad I ordered one. And now this green has me all confused about which color to choose.

Joel said...

Responding to anonyme 20/06 2258:

Unless the bike is solely for track use, vertical drop out are always the better choice. Even with a street single speed, vertical dropouts provide a lot more flexibility for wheel placement and component selection. In my opinion, many of the new frames designed with vertical drop outs are doing their market a decided disfavor.

As it is, the bike in question is a 'Pass Hunter'. Meaning designed expressly for riding up and down mountain roads. Unless the rider really enjoys walking on mountain roads - and then why buy a bike in the first place - this bike is going to have multiple gears.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion for a non-obtrusive alternative to the standard decal placement: have decals only on the front of the head tube and the front of the seat tube. With this arrangement, the decals essentially vanish when viewed from side-on, and the front of the seat tube becomes the panel for identification (the traditional place for tubing ID decals, world championship rainbow stripes, bicycle licenses, and the decal of the shop that sold the bike).

Nice color.

James Black

Jonathan said...

Beautiful frame and design. Tremendous value IMHO. I'd be in line for one if I didn't have a custom with almost the same spec. Can't wait to see it built.

Joel said...

During my second time around checking the pics of this wonderful bike (can't get enough!) I got to thanking that lovely rear brake bridge looks familiar.

Sure enough, check out the bridge on my Trek restored by the same talented bunch in Madison:


Chris, I really have to give you a lot of credit. Between Ahren and Johnny Coast you have managed to form relationships with a couple of very fine young builders.

Greg said...


Ever think this bike will be shouldered? If so maybe the brake cable braze-on might work better on the other side of the top tube.

Want to justify the decal placement? Just say that's the way you do it on the prototypes. You've just made it rare, and worth more to boot ;)

Ian Dickson said...

"Ever think this bike will be shouldered?"

Good catch, Greg. Mine definitely will be shouldered now and then. I have a picture of a Toei pass hunter that has internal cable routing, which I don't like, but maybe it would make sense to rout the cable above the centerline of the top tube.

It Depends said...

I would *love* to see the rear brake cable stops on the other side of the top tube -- for those of us who like to use our right hand for our primary (i.e., front) brake, shifting those braze-ons would really improve routing aesthetics and function. (And for righties who think the idea's nuts -- don't knock it until you've tried it; Sheldon was a believer, after all. Lefties get a pass.)

Emily said...

And for righties who think the idea's nuts -- don't knock it until you've tried it; Sheldon was a believer, after all. Lefties get a pass.

As a lefty... I'm not sure handedness has anything to do with brake placement. The more important factor is which hand does your signaling. If you do signals with your left hand only, then you absolutely should not have your front brake controlled by your left hand. It's just asking for trouble.

In a country where "keep left" is the rule, righthanded signals are more visible. Then you want your left hand to control the front brake.

As far as I can tell, countries have a traditional hand for the front brake, and it has nothing to do with function.

Yohann said...

It looks like an Alps, and the colour is promising... I can't wait to see it built-up.
As Greg and Ian said, a passhunter could be carry on shoulders. The braze on could be above the top tube. My 25 years old touring bike is designed like that and it's useful when it's time to shoulder it.
By the way, I've see a japanese passhunter with a gizmo between the top tube and the vertical tube dedicated to make easier the carrying for the shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, shoulderable cable routing please. No reason to do it any other way on anything that could possibly ever be taken offroad. I know this is a passhunter, but sometimes there are fire roads conveniently located near the passes.

Boo on the unfilled tubing vents. Ahren is a competent builder, I never get how details like this get missed on otherwise high end/high value bikes.

Objectively I like the color, but unfortunately at least in the pics it's a little too close to the gangrene/dirty celeste that Bianchi has used on the Volpe for the fast few years as well as some of the newer Pistas. If I saw this thing from a distance I'd think it was just a debadged Volpe, which is a nice bike and all but not something I'd want a custom bike to be easily confused with. Maybe save this color for something a little more distinctive.

Anonymous said...

I light of the recent thread, I've been thinking quite lot about colours and graphics, particularily how they are often ascetically distracting. In the future, I think all your colours should be should have minimal saturation, even approaching achromatic. Also, as decals are invariably distracting, the obvious place for them would be on the underside of top tube.

Agent Provocateur

It Depends said...

I like the idea of setting up the frame for the Nitto M12 (although I'm not really sure what that means beyond canti posts and a proper fork crown hole). I'd love also to see mid-seat stay braze-ons for what Rivendell calls the "Nitto Top Rack R14" (best viewed mounted in the fifth-from-top Hilsen photo) -- the Pass Hunter would then really be ready to take a saddle bag in addition to a handlebar bag.

Ren Earse said...

japanese pottery you can ride.

Anonymous said...

lovely bike. . . I actually think it would be difficult to pick a Jitensha over this. this has many nice touches for pragmatic reasons, it really works. I prefer the cable stops where these are. On top they snag your shorts way too often in a 700c format; they're bad enough on a mtn frame, even given the increased comfort on the shoulder. I think you're just trading one problem for another. . . and internal routing isn't what you want for a bike like this, which you'd expect to get dirty often and would need a lot of upkeep. I think the seatstays are really elegant, skirting the weld very tightly as they do. And I like open vent holes, too, again for maintenance, just squirt in some framesaver, and good to go. Overall a terrific bike for a real rider. I kind of agree it might be nice to go without any frame decals.

michael white

Anonymous said...

I like the downtube decal on the top of the downtube, in the Alex Singer style. Very understated and elegant. Please don't change it!

Anonymous said...

Color looks just like Bianchi's 2006 "Gang Green" on my Pista (which I hate-the bike that is)



K Matthias said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K Matthias said...

This is the most lugged-looking TIGged bike I have seen, with the very attractive seat stays and the head tube caps. It almost looks lugged, which IMHO is a good thing. The price is attractive and I dig the color. Nice work on this Chris!

Also, for people asking about the vertical drops, they MUCH easier for removing wheels with fenders. It can be pretty hard with horizontal dropouts and big tires.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations. You just made a very expensive Surly Cross-Check.

Anonymous said...

cross checks have horizontal drop outs. Chris' bike also has a few other brazed on bits that distinguish it. Also, my guess is that it is a fair bit lighter. Love my CC, though.
m burdge

Anonymous said...


Can you discuss your notion of "semi-custom?"
What choices will buyers get in specifying the details of this frame?


joel said...

Perhaps Surly pays people to go around comparing well designed and executed bikes to their product.

Like saying a Kia is as good as a BMW. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Someone who cannot differentiate between a low-trail custom frame from a top builder and a Surly might as well buy their bikes at Walmart. I saw a bike there that looked like a Surly and was only $300. It must be as good.

Chris Kulczycki said...

This frame has few options in order to keep the price reasonable. It is built to measure and the tubing is selected for your weight and riding style. Of course you can choose paint and decal placement.

Gunnar Berg said...


$1350 is cheap, REALLY cheap for a U.S. made custom sized bike. As soon as we say "custom", it means that the builder cannot cut a number of seat tubes all the same gauge and same length. It's one at a time. Buy or not, it's your choice, but don't bitch about to price.

Anonymous said...

Very nice...it reminds me of my 60's F W Evans...a "real pass hunter"! The rear brake bridge and front fork lamp bracket are just about the same. The Evans is painted that deep dipped black colour though.
I'm confused about the "horizontal" drop out issue. The bike I see has what I would call fixed or vertical drop outs. I prefer true horizontal, front facing drop outs, like Campy brev or Simplex etc. I think folks are confusing these with "track ends" which are horizontal but face to the rear...for fast wheel changes on the track, but which do indeed make wheel changinfg with fenders very difficult. No problem changing wheels with true horizontal, front facing ones. And you can vary the chain length/wheel base if you change tire sizes, which can't be done with vertical drops. No problem if you use a big tire all the time though.
D Wagner
Richmond, KY

K Matthias said...

D Wagner said:

"No problem changing wheels with true horizontal, front facing ones. And you can vary the chain length/wheel base if you change tire sizes, which can't be done with vertical drops. No problem if you use a big tire all the time though."

Front-facing, horizontal dropouts can be a problem if you are running fenders and your tires fill them. The geometry is such that you may not be able to slide them forward enough to remove them without deflating the tire or messing around with your fenders. It is often a close fit. You'll be glad about these nice vertical drops if you run fenders. And unless you are running fixed gear, there is no reason to run horizontals. I do like how they look and they are definitely vintage, but I think verticals make a lot more sense.


SJB said...

What's makes a bike a Pass Hunter?
Chris, could you speak more to the design goals of the frame?
How would a Pass Hunter differ from a randonneur or sport touring frame?

When you describe the frame as made to measure, does that ean no stock sizes?


joel said...

Chris' 17 Janvier 2008 blog entry:

"So it's time to launch a more affordable custom frame, the Pass Hunter. The new frame has the same geometry as the Randonneusse, uses fairly similar tubing, and is also built to measure. But there are major differences; this frame is TIG welded by Ahren Rogers. It uses a wider fork crown so it can fit tires to 35mm, and it uses cantilever brakes. There are no options on this frame, other than paint color, orange, brown, black, and green. The "paint" is a high quality powder coat with a clear coat."

Anonymous said...

@ Joel -
So you're saying saying that some "semi-custom" TIG-welded and powder coated frame is a BMW?

Unless you have some kind of freakish body type that necessitates a custom frame, then I don't see how anyone could justify buying one of these. What does this frame offer that a number of other frames costing a fraction of this price don't? Vertical dropouts? Clearance for wide tires? Cantilever brakes? Lightweight steel? Assuming that you do have some crazy body type, then for less than the cost of this, you could easily have a near carbon-copy TIG-welded for you by Gunnar or any number of other custom builders. Hell, you could probably even gets lugs for that much.

Also Joel, it's clear that you have no idea what you're talking about when it comes to dropouts.

A) Vertical dropouts offer significantly less flexibility for riders in terms of wheel placement, and that should be apparent to anyone who isn't blind.

B) Horizontal dropouts are never for "track use." Most velodromes won't let you through the gate with a conversion.

C) The significant advantage of vertical dropouts, as others have pointed out, is that it allows the rider to remove the rear wheel much quicker, and it also ensures that the wheel, when replaced, continues to align with the brakes/fenders/rack as it was intended.

Anonymous said...

hmmm . . .

well, I am not opening my wallet for bikes very often these days, but still feel invested and interested in VO and its success. I would say that if a buyer feels the VO offers nothing of note over a Gunnar, then that buyer should buy a Gunnar. No need to apologize for that decision, Waterford makes tons of bikes and they do a good job too. Maybe a Gunnar is the very best frame for the money in the world! I wouldn't be surprised.

But I personally don't feel that way at all. My normal example of how good a tig'd steel bike can be is my Steelman, and it's the one I reach for over most of my lugged bikes. It really is that good. There are differences that transcend the obvious categories (such as lug vs tig, level vs. sloper, etc.)--not only transcend them, but render them irrelevant. I suspect that VO buyers are more into bikes like this: for whom the normal distinctions don't quite register.

I am very hopeful that practical, artful bikes can make it in a small corner of market, and that's why I root for VO.


michael white

AH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SJB said...

What about rear rack options?
I don't see any braze-ons.

Joel said...

Anonyme: Seems the nasty comments are always by people who do not use a regular name. Wonder why that is?

A good custom Tig welded bike will have a tube mix appropriate for the bike and rider, clean welds, carefully aligned brake posts, seamless braze ons. The cheap Taiwan steel bikes use whatever tubing costs less, often have mismatched posts, sloppy welds. Threaded posts tend be low quality and strip.

If you do not appreciate the difference, then it would seem you are wasting your time coming to VO, unless of course you consider annoying people who do appreciate the difference a good use of your time.

As for my earlier drop out comment, I must admit in my hurry I assumed the OP was wondering why not track fork ends. While my word usage was not accurate, context should have made my point obvious.

Curious that careful word choice is important to you, but careful build quality is not.

Joel said...

SJB: There are threaded braze on's above the drop outs.

VO racks are designed to attach at the top to the fender, so the hour glass braze on's beside the brake bridge are not necessary.

No need for a full on Tubus touring rack for a pass hunter.

Joel said...

Precisely Michael White.

It is not the weld, lugs, or even steel, that makes a fine bike fine. Rather it is the execution.

While the early lugged Treks are special, when they switched lugs around '84 or so, they started the long road down.

ANT, Sycip, Inglis, and now VO are doing some real nice TIG work. Jeff Jones (using Merlin to do the mfg. now) is making some real nice Titanium bikes.

Michael S said...

I agree with Joel that if you're going to be snippy in your posts you should at least extend the courtesy of signing a name to your post.

Joel said...

At risk of belaboring a point, as stated above, horizontal drop outs are a very good choice on a bike meant for fenders.

I recently restored an '82 Trek 728 with the vertical Campy drop outs. The plan is to use the bike for touring, so I installed some sks fenders.

It was one thing installing the fenders on the work stand. Today I had a mishap while riding and had to remove the wheel. Ultimately I had to spend a lot of time and effort loosening the fender (not easy with the wheel in the way) before I could the wheel off.

This was on a lightly used area of a paved bike path on a gorgeous summer day. Had I been on a the shoulder of a highway in a down pour, I might have been tempted to abandon the bike and hitch a ride home.

Steve said...

joel said:

At risk of belaboring a point, as stated above, horizontal drop outs are a very good choice on a bike meant for fenders.

I recently restored an '82 Trek 728 with the vertical Campy drop outs. The plan is to use the bike for touring, so I installed some sks fenders.

It was one thing installing the fenders on the work stand. Today I had a mishap while riding and had to remove the wheel. Ultimately I had to spend a lot of time and effort loosening the fender (not easy with the wheel in the way) before I could the wheel off.

This was on a lightly used area of a paved bike path on a gorgeous summer day. Had I been on a the shoulder of a highway in a down pour, I might have been tempted to abandon the bike and hitch a ride home.

Interesting. Not my experience at all. I currently have a Saluki and a VO Randonneur with vertical dropouts and fenders. I've also had in the past a Rambouillet, also with fenders and with vertical dropouts.

In all cases, open the QR, open the brakes, move the derailleur out of the way, the wheel drops right out.

I also have a Kogswell P/R with horizontal dropouts. With that bike, to get the back wheel in and out I have to deflate the tire. Same was true of the P-15 Paramount I used to own in the 70s and 80s, which also had horizontal dropouts.

It's actually not surprising it would be more difficult to get a wheel out with horizontal dropouts: to remove the wheel, the tire has to get closer to the seat tube and the fender. With vertical dropouts, it does not.

So my experience accords with a common sense view of how you'd expect things to work. I'm quite mystified that your experience is completely contrary to mine.

I'm also a bit puzzled by the reference to vertical Campy dropouts. Maybe I missed them along the way, but all the Campy dropouts I can remember seeing were horizontal.

Anonymous said...

> unless you are running fixed gear, there is no reason to run horizontals

There's also the possibility of hub gears, like the Rohloff. Yes, you can use a chain tensioner (which you can't for a fixed gear), but you probably don't really want a workaround like that on a semi-custom frame. On the other hand, if you want derailleur gears, you probably don't want your semi-custom frame compromised just in case someone wanted to use a Rohloff, and someone who does can buy a different bike.

Joel said...


I was tired the night I wrote that having been stuck on a path fixing a problem and got horizontal and vertical in my post. I guess I am an idiot.

The Trek is the 728 with traditional road horizontal drop outs. Getting the wheel off with fenders turned into a pain with out the right tools.

On the other hand, I also have a Hilsen with vertical drop outs and removing the wheel is no problem.

Joel said...


I also have a bike with a Rohloff hub. I think the only drop outs one should use with the hub are OEM such as those made by Paragon.

You can get a Rohloff onto bikes with other dropouts, but it takes a lot of compromising.

Of course those Rohloff OEM dropouts are not going to be all that amenable to other hubs should I later get sick of the Rohloff.