25 July, 2008

VO Closed for Move, and DC levers

Velo Orange will be closed next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (July 30-August 1). We'll be moving into our new and bigger space. That means that orders that come in after Tuesday morning won't be shipped until the following week. If you need items quickly, please order soon. I'll probably not have time to answer e-mails that come in during this period.

Our new address will be: 1819 George Avenue, Annapolis MD, 21401.

Also, many of you have asked us to stock non-aero lever. We now have Dia Compe 204 brake levers with gum-color hoods. They even have a built in quick release. $24 a pair.

24 July, 2008

An Economical Dyno Hub?

I wonder if there is a market for a $50 (or less) dynamo hub. The quality looks to be about like the very hard to find lower-end Shimano hub. They are available with nutted or QR axles.

I don't think these will interest serious randonneurs, but for commuters and city bikes they might be a nice option.

The downside is no spare parts availability (though there is not much to go wrong) and more drag than a top-of-the-line dynamo hub.

We're about to start testing them.

23 July, 2008

VO Saddle Problems, UPDATED

As we get into the VO Saddle shipment we are finding serious quality control problems. Some of the leather is too soft and some is incorrectly riveted. I've decided to pull the saddles off the site and we won't be selling this shipment. Of course anyone who ordered one can get a refund. That's the way it sometimes goes with new products. Sorry.

I should note that the VS-6 saddles are the one model that seems to be okay, so those may be for sale again soon.

UPDATE: It took a long time but the rivet placement problem and leather issues have been solved. The new saddles are due in spring 2009. The model 6, 7, and 8 saddles were not affected.

22 July, 2008

Sugino's Best

If you asked knowledgeable cyclists what the very best aluminum compact, 110bcd, crank set ever made was, I'll bet the majority would say it's the TA Zephyr. The Sugino Alpina, or Cospea in Japan, would probably be a close second. Unfortunately the Zephyr was discontinued several years ago, but various versions of the Sugino are still in production.

Since there are several versions of the Alpina cranks we asked Sugino to make the best possible model for us. Of course, we wanted cold forged polished silver arms. Sugino also makes numerous grades of chainrings and we speced the finest available, CNC cut chainrings with all the shifting aids for 9-10 speed chains (though they work perfectly with 5-8 speed as well). Then we asked Sugino to polish the rings!

The result is this lovely VO-spec Alpina. 48/34t rings, $165; 110mm BB; Q-factor is around 160mm, about 665gm.

We also received some Sugino chain ring guards, the sort that fit on the crank. They cover 44-46t rings on a 110bcd crank. They will work with any derailleur that has a fairly flat outer cage, like the FSA we stock. On some cranks you may need to file a bit off the little pin that prevents the chain from dropping between the arm and the outer ring, on other cranks you can simply unscrew the pin. $20.

21 July, 2008

More VO Saddle Photos and Details

The new VO saddles have generated a lot of interest and requests for more photos. So I've posted more images in this album.

I've also been asked about future models. Our next model will be a wide sprung city bike saddle in both men's and woman's versions. Beyond that, we'll wait to see how folks like the current models before making any decisions.

Also, I'd like to thank Grant Petersen for mentioning the saddles on the Rivendell site. He might be stocking them too!

17 July, 2008

Darn Nice Saddles

Velo Orange saddles are made of the finest Australian cowhide. The frames are sturdy chrome plated steel with rails that allow more adjustment than Brooks saddles. The nose adjustment bolt takes a regular Allen wrench (included) rather than a proprietary spanner. A special anti-stretch material is laminated to the underside to increase life. The midsection of all the aprons are is riveted together underneath so the saddle won't splay out over time. Darn nice!

All models are available in black and natural; some are also available in brown. Note that the natural color is lighter than Brooks honey and allows the natural color variations of the hide to show through. But like all leather it will darken with age and lighter leathers tend to darken more.

Our standard touring saddle is the model VS-2. It's 310mm x 170mm and has a top with a traditional apron.

The VS-6 is a narrow racing saddle. It has a fully trimmed apron. It's about 285mm x 150mm. It's a bit like the Brooks Swallow.

The VS-5 is a single rail sprung saddle. the top is 310mm x 175mm. It has two chrome coil springs.

We also have a narrower 295mm x 150mm VS-1 with a skirted top. This is the one model I'm not sure about. The shape is not exactly what I wanted and it is the one model I ordered without a seeing a production sample (the others looked great so I thought...). We'll sell just a few of them at first to folks who ride a lot, hundreds of miles a week, and are willing to give us some feedback. E-mail if you fit that description and want a good deal on a saddle.

The only flaw we've noted in testing is that you might need to put a drop of Locktite on the nose bolt so it doesn't loosen. Compared to Brooks saddles, I think VO saddles will change shape more as they are broken-in and take longer to break-in. I hope they will also last longer. In the future we plan to have models with oversize copper rivets, skived skirts, and other aesthetic features.

VO Headset and Bottom Brackets Arrive

Some, but not all, of the new VO headsets and bottom brackets are here.

We now have the Grand Cru bottom bracket. It has oversize sealed bearings, a boron steel hollow axle. The cups are alloy. There has been a dearth of top-of-the-line square taper bottom brackets since Shimano reduced their offerings. These will fill that void.

The new Grand Cru 1-1/8" threadless sealed bearing headset is now available. It is polished silver and has the VO name laser engraved. If there is sufficient interest we may do a version without the logo and a gold version as well.

We also have the basic ball bearing VO alloy and steel 1-inch headset. This is very good quality headset a nice price.

The Grand Cru 1" headset with the annular contact sealed bearings is still in production. I really can't wait to see those. We need a superb 1" headset at a reasonable price.

Is there anything else we need?

New Grand Cru Brakes and Adjustable Shoes

We received a huge shipment of components this morning. There were VO saddles, BBs, headsets, brakes and other cool stuff. I've photographed the brakes and shoes first. I'll do the BB and headsets later this afternoon and try to get to the saddles tonight or tomorrow.

Judging from the many e-mails we've received, there are a lot of folks waiting for the VO adjustable brake shoes. Here's what I wrote about them previously:

They are straight post replacement cartridge shoes that allow toe-in, and other, adjustments. This is accomplished with a sort of ball-joint in the shoe. It's locked down with the 8mm nut at the base of the post. Now you can give your old Mafac, Dia-Compe, Wienmann, or Universal centerpulls brakes the adjustment of modern brakes. And you can use any pad compound you like.
The new Grand Cru Gold cantilever brakes are also in stock. The gold color is a nod to the special gold version of top-of-the-line Mafac brakes. Those gold Mafac brakes were often found on finest French rando and racing bikes. These Grand Cru brakes use the adjustable shoes mentioned above. Plus, they have straddle wire adjusters so there is no need for barrel adjusters on your cable stops.

We also received the very impressive new Grand Cru long reach (47-57-mm) caliper brakes. They are super stiff, perhaps the stiffest long reach brakes ever made. And flexibility is the downfall of long reach brakes. With a stiff brake you get accurate modulation and more power. The Grand Cru brakes use a very smooth dual pivot design. The finish is hand polished, but not anodized; that way they can be re-polished 25 years down the road and look great forever.

In other brake news, we are looking at a complete line of VO brake shoes using a new rubber compound that is absolutely guaranteed not to squeal, ever. It is also much less abrasive than most compounds, and it has, based on our preliminary testing, stopping power equal to any compound made including the one that's the color of a certain fish.

Let me know what you think of these new components.

15 July, 2008

VO Water Bottle Cages are Here

The VO retro water bottle cages are finally in stock. Getting these produced has been a big effort, but I really like the design.

As I wrote previously, These cage is based on an old TA design from the '40s or early '50 (see the original drawing at right). It is a regular 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 oversize bottle. You can also squeeze the cage in for better fit with a metal water bottle.

The cages are made by hand from single length of solid 3mm stainless steel rod, then electro-polished. This first batch has some very minor alignment issues. It's nothing you would notice when the cage is on a bike, but if you examine it closely from all angles you'll see that it is, indeed, hand made.

There are two versions of our cage. The type 1 is based on the original while the type 2, on the left, has a hook. The type 2 may be preferred by those who often ride very bumpy roads

A cage based on this design is also made by Toei in Japan, but their cage costs $95 while ours costs $18.50. In all fairness, the Toei cage is a little nicer with slightly better polish and alignment.

Steve's VO Randonuesse

Steve sent some photos of his newly built and very pretty VO frame. He now has about 800 miles on it and seems to like it a lot.

He describes the build:

The wheels (SON front, Phil rear, 365 spokes and Mavic MA-3 rims) came
from my old Rambouillet, as did the pedals, Schmidt E6 light, cassette
(Harris Century Special 13-30), shifters, Nitto stem and Deore XT rear

New are the XTR M900 crank (24/36/46), Paul Racer brakes, the Campagnolo
Racing T front derailleur, Honjo fenders, rack, Brooks B.17 and Nitto
S83 seatpost, and the Nitto 44cm Model 176 handlebars with Fujitoshi
leather wrap. Tires are Grand Bois Cypres 700x30/

The Berthoud decaleur and Paul Cross levers came from members of the
iBOB list. I've had the bell since 1975, and this is the 4th or 5th
bike it's been on. The Kirtland bag came from a neighbor, new old
stock. I'm surprised how well it works with the decaleur attached,
sitting on the VO Randonneur rack.

There are more photos here. This really is a nice and practical build.

14 July, 2008

Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille day. A bit of French news today, The New York Times published another encouraging article about Paris' VĂ©lib bicycle program. I know I've written about this before, but I just think this is such a great program and one that would work in many American cities. I was just chatting about it with, legendary bike importer, Mel Pinto, who recently returned from Paris. He was amazed at the success and the general resurgence in biking in France. He mentioned that a friend who was about to sell his bike related business in France had reconsidered do to the recent boom.

Washington DC is trying to start a similar scheme. Here's an article from USA Today. The recent rise in gas prices is obviously encouraging city bike use. In fact, I think we're seeing a new paradigm, perhaps this is the start of the slow death of the suburbs?

As for VO news, I've just heard that several big shipments are on the way. We'll have Velo Orange saddles, VO bottom brackets, VO track pedals, Grand Cru brakes and a bunch of other components arriving over the next couple of weeks. It seems that several factories finished our production runs in the same week. And I'm told that several other components will be finished next week or the week after. I'm sure glad that we have that big new warehouse.

09 July, 2008

Ikea Bike Trailers

This struck me as a great idea. Ikea is apparently working with Velorbis to offer the rental bikes and trailers to its Danish customers (from Inhabitat).

Of course, this won't work here if Ikea continues to build their US stores in the exburbs.

Inhabitat also had a post about a student who designed and built a $30 cardboard bike. Perhaps he could make them out of chipboard and Ikea could sell them.

02 July, 2008

Semi-Custom Rando Frame Waiting List

We've temporarily stopped accepting orders for VO semi-custom rando frames. The wait has simply gotten to be too long. We'll be happy to put you on the list to be notified when we start accepting orders again-- that will happen when the wait drops to 12 months or so.

Gentleman, Madame, and Pass Hunter frames are still available.

You Asked for Them

One of the items that's been most often requested from VO is this special bolt set for mounting racks, like the Nitto M12 and Campee, on cantilever brakes. So we finally got some of them in. In all honesty, I think regular bolts work fine in this application, though you do need to check them for tightness once in a while. The advantage of these bolts is that, at least in theory, they should not loosen. And they look very cool, which is paramount.

Speaking of tightening cantilever bolts, don't overdo it. It's very easy to distort the braze-on and then the brakes won't pivot smoothly. It's better to use some Locktight.

We also got some inexpensive track grips in various colors. They are great for city bike handlebars and some folks even use them on track bars.

In other news, our Grand Cru water bottle cages have been unloaded and should clear customs and be on the way to us in a week or so. Also, the VO stainless steel fenders are done and looking for a ship.