31 August, 2009

Last of the US Porteur Racks, Updated

We have one last small shipment of the USA-made Porteur Racks. These are stainless steel and un-drilled. These are still hand made in a two man shop in Wisconsin Once these are gone we will not restock them. These racks typically sell out very quickly, which is why we are moving production to a factory with more capacity.

The Taiwan-made pre-drilled Porteur Racks should be here within a few weeks.

UPDATE: The shipment is all gone, but we found a few seconds in the warehouse that have either a minor blemish or were slightly bent in shipping (We straightened them). They are now on the site at a discount.

25 August, 2009

Nutted Brakes

So many of you have been asking for nutted brakes to fit older frames that we asked Tektro to make some for us. This means that you can now easily convert older frames to modern dual pivot brakes without drilling out the fork crown and seat stay bridge.

We ordered the Tektro R538 (with a 47 to 57mm reach) and the Tektro R556 (with a 55 to 73mm reach) in traditional nutted versions. Both brakes are modern dual pivot designs with excellent stopping power. They both include re-fillable cartridge type brake shoes, barrel adjusters with O-rings, and cam type quick-releases. The finish is polished and anodized aluminum. The quality is equal to that on many much more expensive brakes.

The R556 is very popular for converting older frames to 650b wheels.

For some reason the little Tektro logo is silver on the front brake and black on the rear.

And, YES, they are available to shops through VO Imports Inc. As is my habit, the first order of any new item is small, so they probably won't last too long.

19 August, 2009

Mixte Prototypes

A few VO Mixte frame prototypes have arrived. As with most prototypes there are a few small problems, fork bend, missing cable guides, etc, but overall they look great.


  • Around $700 including fork
  • Lugged, double butted, chrome molly, frame.
  • 50cm, 54cm, 57cm sizes
  • 700c wheels
  • Extra long reach brakes
  • 38mm max tires
  • Were shooting for Jan 2010 delivery.
Here are a few more photos.

17 August, 2009

VO Touring Saddles by Air, Updated

We had to arrange a special air freight shipment to restock a couple of popular items, so we included a few cases of the new VO touring saddles. It's cool to get new products ahead of schedule for a change.

Like our other saddles, these new models are made of the finest Australian cowhide. They have a special anti-stretch layer laminated under the top. The frames are sturdy chrome plated steel. The midsection of the aprons are tied together underneath so the saddle won't splay out over time. The Models 3 and 5 have copper rivets and the edge of the skirt is skived. The top is embossed with a slightly textured pattern. The rails are about 10mm longer than on Brooks saddles.

The Model 3 saddle is 170mm wide and 285mm in length. This is a size that most will find ideal for long distance touring and casual riding. It is particularly appropriate if your handlebars bars are set at, or above saddle height.

The Model 5 saddle is a sprung version of our Model 3 saddle. The sprung frame is more comfortable on rough roads and extended tours.

Since we only shipped a few boxes by air, we'll probably run out before the ocean shipment arrives in a few weeks. So order soon if you don't want to wait.

This completes our basic line of VO saddles. We'll wait a while to see how they sell and how folks like them. I'm especially interested in how folks find them compared to the Brooks B-17, B-17 Special, and Flyer. If all goes well we'll start designing new saddle models this winter. What styles of saddles would you like to see?


It turns out that the factory used copper-plated rivets instead of solid copper rivets in the saddles. Damn! They function perfectly, but the copper color will wear off over time.

We'll try to get the right rivets in the next production run. This explains why there was so little additional cost for the new rivets.

Also, we ran out of Grand Cru seat posts last week, but we now have more.

14 August, 2009

Performance Sam

Sam, budding bike racer and VO order packer extraordinaire is going back to college. In honor of Sam's last day I'm linking to the video below, partly because I suspect that the guy behind those glasses may actually be him.

Update: Sam just came into the office and said, "That video is so TRUE!"

13 August, 2009

Copper Rivets

The type of rivets in your saddle is hardly a significant issue. But hand-set copper rivets do look rather nice. And, in theory, they distribute the load better so may make a saddle last longer. When the factory that makes our saddles told us they could install them, I speced them right away. We try to keep making little improvements, just as with the fenders. I think that the models 7 and 8 are now as good as any city bike saddle available.

As we replace models with the new copper-riveted versions we're clearing out the old styles. You can save some money on the older type if you act quickly.

We hope to have our mid-width touring saddle here around the beginning of September. It'll also have copper rivets and be available in brown and black. A mid-width sprung saddle is in the works.

The photo below is of our Model 6 racing saddle.

11 August, 2009

Fender Sale

Since we just received several models of our upgraded fenders, we're putting some of the existing stock of old style fenders on sale. Here are the differences:

  • Our new fenders are all polished, maybe not quite as shiny as Honjos, but darn close. The older ones were matte finish.
  • They now include Daruma bolts instead of L-brackets for the front fenders, but we will have optional VO L-brackets soon.
  • The sliding bridge is stainless steel and slightly thicker so as to better resist rattling.
  • The eyelet bolts are a closed design that's stronger.
  • VO stays are shinier.
  • The R-clips are narrower to better clear the second dropout eyelet on some frames.
  • We have a new 37mm smooth model.
With these improvements I think we've really narrowed the gap between VO and Honjo fenders. Of course the old fenders are still very good and you might pick some up at bargain prices before the rainy season. All the new hardware will also be available separately.

We will continue to sell Honjos because they offer some unique styles and their quality is still the best.

10 August, 2009

New Stuff

We have a big shipment from Taiwan with new stuff including:

We also got a bunch of stuff we were out of.

It'll take all day, maybe longer to photograph all this stuff and get it into inventory. I'll add links as things are added to the VO Store. Shops can order everything here through VOI. And you may notice considerable price drops on a couple of items.

I remember when a shipment contained 20 or 30 boxes. This one had 160 boxes!

07 August, 2009

Weight Weenies

I've been thinking about weight today.

I weighed the chrome fillet brazed stems and the quill stem actually weighs about 40g less than a similar size Nitto Technomic. But when we make the quill a little longer the difference will be smaller.

Someone asked about the weight we list for our cranks, not the first time. Why is it that it's higher than some other companies list? That's because we include the weight of the crank, and chain rings and chain ring bolts. Some shops simply list the manufacturer's stated weight, which is often for the arms alone.

By the way, we have two electronic scales. One of them is certified and said to be super accurate, so I'm pretty sure of our weights.

One thing that surprises me is that that some parts can vary in weight by 10% or even 20% from one piece to another. I've also found that some stated weights, mostly for racing stuff that we don't stock, are just plain overly optimistic.

I've decided to cut down on carbs and lost 10.5 pounds in the last four weeks. And without ever feeling hungry. I find that amazing. It's a lot more weight than I could ever shave off my bike.

I actually don't think that bike weight is very important. Most cyclists worry way to much about it.

06 August, 2009

Help Wanted

Dynamic bicycle retail/wholesale company needs warehouse help in order fulfillment, shipping, and stocking. Knowledge of bikes a plus.

One of us is returning to college. Plus we need another to keep up with ever growing orders. These are entry level jobs, but you get a substantial discount and better pay than at most bike shops. Probably beats working at Starbucks.

If you have experience in the bike industry, we'll also soon be looking for someone to increase our office staff and help with ordering, inventory and shipping management, and technical support.

Send an e-mail.

04 August, 2009

Zen and the Art of Making Stems

Like many growing up in the late 1970s, my introduction to serious philosophy was reading Robert Pirsig's bestseller, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In it Pirsig explored the "metaphysics of Quality", though he says that Quality itself is indefinable. He also attempts to unite classical and romantic (Zen) perception. I admit that it was a struggle to understand. And to this day I struggle with many issues of Quality, though the current problems are not quite as deep.

A case in point is our chrome-plated fillet-brazed stem project. You may remember my mentioning them in early spring. We're finally considering placing an order after seeing some production samples. Custom made fillet brazed stems, or any fillet brazed stems, are incredibly expensive. Johnny Coast made them as an option for our semi-custom Rando frames. The photo below shows that they are very high quality indeed, as they should be given the $450-$500 price.

The stems below are made in Taiwan and at first glance they look similar. The polishing and chrome on the top are pretty good. Given the cost of somwhere between $60 and $80, it's darn nice.

But flip them over and you'll see that there is little finish work underneath. The area around the bolts, which must be finished by hand with a small file also looks rough.

So the question I face is whether we should we accept this level of finish and price? Or should we insist on the bottoms being filed and polished and, perhaps, doubling the cost? On one hand, I know they could be nicer. On the other, I want to make them accessible to everyone.

So long as I'm throwing out questions, should they be 6-degree angles or have a higher rise? And does anyone have further insights on the "metaphysics of Quality"?

03 August, 2009

Guidonnet Levers

We just got the new Dia Compe Guidonnet levers. Many cyclists have asked us to make these, but the tooling costs were too high for VO. Fortunately Dia Compe picked up the tab and this great style of lever is once again in production. The quality is nice and I find the details and shape very pleasing.

You might have seen guidonnet levers on old French cyclo touring and camping bikes. They allow easy braking from the top of the bar, but can't be used from the drops.

They are also ideal for city bars, like the VO Bellville shown in the photo. You can brake from either the traditional grip area or from the front of the bar. This allows two safe positions in city traffic, a low aerodynamic position and a traditional upright position.

We only received a small shipment of these, so they might sell out quickly. Cost is $30 a pair and they are available in both road bar size (23.8mm) and MTB size (22.2mm)

We also have silver Tektro inverse levers in stock again.

Below is another view of our new PBP rims. The quality and finish on these is really remarkable and we're selling a lot of them to shops that build wheels.