21 December, 2017

Happy Holiday Wishes, 2017 Recap, and 2018 Plans

by Igor

We wanted to wish all of our customers, suppliers, and readers a Merry Holiday season and a Wonderful New Year.

We've had another prosperous, fun, and very busy year here at VO. In 2017, we released several products that have quickly become favorites!

Removable Faceplate Quill Stem - The removable 31.8mm faceplate allows for a seemingly endless combination of cockpit setups in a simple and elegant package.

Klunker Bars - These take a long time to make and both runs sold out really quickly, but fear not! We're getting lots in our January container.

Redesigned Randonneur Front Racks - For today's rough and tumble touring lifestyles, we updated our front racks to be more stout while including more flexible mounting options.

New Website - What an undertaking! Thanks to everyone who provided us feedback when we went live. We're continuously working on dialing in the site.

On a personal note, Adrian and I welcomed our first son, Theodore, into the world in October. He's one super rad little dude and a heck of a looker. I can't wait to start outfitting my Polyvalent as a #dadbike for family adventures once he gets a bit older. I'll welcome any and all suggestions for build ideas!

We've worked on a bunch of projects and are looking forward to seeing them through in 2018! Here's a quick snapshot of what's to come:

Polyvalent and Piolet frames - These have been the works for two years and we're ready to get them in April. They're available for pre-sale now!

Nouveau Randonneur Handlebars - These have quickly become a favorite bar of mine. Ovalized tops, 31.8 clamp, a bit of backsweep, and nice flare.

Made in USA luggage - A cohesive design for randonneuring and touring. Can't wait to work on a few more accessories for the line!

650b x 58mm Wavy Fenders - The perfect fit for 650b tires ranging from 42 to 48mm. Ultimately, they will be polished, but I kind of like the raw look (they'll patina nicely).

Curvy One and Curvy Too Bars - Handlebars that walk the line between classic and modern. 31.8 clamp, generous width, and long grip area for modern components. They'll be available in flat and riser (with more sweep), and in silver and Noir finishes.

11 Speed Compatible Hubs - With 11 speed configurations becoming more and more popular and affordable, we've had customers asking for them. These will be available early in the year in rim brake and disc brake varieties. Don't worry, for those still running 7 and 8 speed cassettes, you'll still be able to use them with spacers, just like our current 10 speed freehubs.

Additionally, I wanted to thank our team here at VO for being continuously amazing. I'm lucky enough to work with a small but hard-working and devoted group that likes to design and ride fun bikes.

Finally, as we do each year, VO will be closed starting December 25th and re-open on January 2nd to give our staff time off to visit family and enjoy the outdoors. If you needed to get anything sent out before then, place your order before 3pm EST on December 22nd.

Happy Holidays and see you in 2018!

18 December, 2017

"650b For Your Hands"

by Igor

Way back, when we first brought in the Constructeur Grips, we sent over a care package to famed constructeur, Peter Weigle. At the next Philly Bike Expo, he told us about how comfortable they were on the drops of his road bike. Jokingly, he said it was like "650b for his hands".

Having ridden his Raleigh 650b conversion at this past French Fender Day I can attest to how cushy it really is. It smooths out a lot of the road noise that you otherwise might feel when you're in the drops - especially if you have little in the way of padding besides a thin layer of cloth tape.

Now, this setup isn't new. I've seen it on French Randonneurs and British Path Racers of the 40s and 50s, but the style has all but disappeared from mainstream favor. Sometimes dirt drop riders use these style grips for the same reasons, with the additional benefit of a chunkier grip for leverage during punchy climbs.

This installation is easier to do on handlebars with long drops such as our Rando or Course Bars. With modern ergo models, the grip may bunch up on the acute curves of the bars.

So off we go!

First, you'll need to unwrap your bars since you won't be able to slide the grip over your existing wrap. Next, use rubbing alcohol and slide the grip all the way up the drop. Where the grip ends is where you'll start your wrap.

I cut a diagonal in the bar tape to make the first wrap since it was close to the hook and I wanted it to be as flat as possible.

This step is optional, but Peter said that knocking down the ridges made for a more comfortable shape. I ultimately decided not to do it since I found it comfortable as is, but will probably take some time over the winter break to reduce the end ridges a bit. You could use sandpaper, but a bench-grinder would be a better tool to use.

Finish up your wrap, and that's it!

13 December, 2017

Bike Build Ideas: Winter Road Bike

by Igor

Now that we've had our first snowfall of the year, I'm seeing an influx of social media posts showing riders dragging their winter bike out of the shed/garage/stack of other bikes.

Thermos', great for keeping coffee hot as well as bikes upright
While winter bikes are frequently under-appreciated, each part and accessory is chosen and built with under-appreciation in mind. That is, if your chain gets rusty from the salt and sand mixture on the road, it isn't a big deal - just get another cheap one and ride the bike. Tire shredded from debris after a big melt? There's another hanging in the shed, aging. So what if the color doesn't match?

The biggest difference between a winter bike and a not-winter bike is the meticulous curation of components and accessories to give you maximum enjoyment without breaking the bank with upkeep.

First, make sure your steel frame (do they make other kinds?) is frame-saver'd. Our frames are prepped out of the factory, but if you have an older frame and fork, or don't know if it has been done, it's worth the afternoon and do it before building it up.

Sometimes you just need a reminder
Most obviously: fenders. Full coverage fenders are a must-have for winter and the rain. They'll keep you, your drivetrain, and, more importantly, your riding buddies clean and happy. If you've ever ridden behind someone without fenders during a rainstorm, you know what I mean. No one likes road grime to the face. I've selected the 700c Facetted Fenders for this build - they're a favorite of mine. I've also added a low-hanging mudflap on the front to protect my feet against stray washouts.

I've selected a few components that are cheap, plentiful, and have been serving me well for years. They come with the added benefit of cheap chains and cassettes, so I don't feel bad dropping a few dozens of dollars on a basic Shimano 10 speed cassette and KMC chain.

To stop in the slop, disc brakes are a must. You'll never worry about frozen pads and rims like on rim brakes and disc pads only get more bite when they've got road junk in them. These cable actuated Spyres are really good. Hydros are better, but I'm not really into messing with hydraulic brakes.

As the sun gets lazier and the days get shorter, lighting is even more important. Winter bikes need to have integrated lighting, at least in the front. I have a cheap and surprisingly not bad light up front matched to a Shutter Precision disc hub. For the rear, I have a bunch of reflective gear and a very bright blinking light with extra batteries in the saddle bag.

Truthfully, I'd be happy to ride this on a warm Spring day or on a blustery December morning like today, so I don't really know if it is a true "winter bike". I think it's simply a great road-ridin' bike to just hop on and explore backroad twistys and climb some hills regardless of the weather.

Do you really need to have a winter specific bike? What makes it special for you?


P.S. There are only a few days left in our 20% off Winter Sale!

11 December, 2017

Dirt Drops - a Setup Guide

By Scott

I've long been a fan of dirt drop style handlebars. My buddy Kevin and I were typical mountain bike riders of the early 90's in BC. Our bikes had super narrow flat bars to enable us to ride between trees on the narrow single track trails of the area. A bike shop owner in Whistler, who had all the cool parts from the US that we'd only seen in magazines, convinced us to try drop bars. The bars were a hoot to use. On flowy single track, they felt more precise than traditional flat bars. The dirt drops also gave my bike an unconventional look, that helped it stand out in a sea of bikes in BC.  I don't think we saw anyone else with them in years of riding in BC and the western US. I used them on my Brodie  for off road riding, commuting, and touring for over a dozen years.

An original set of WTB off road drop bars circa 1987(?)

Fast forward to now and you'll see a proliferation of drop bars with flare being used for all sorts of bike builds. So you've seen them on builds on sites like The Radavist or Cycle Exif and you've gone and bought a set of bars. Now, how do you set these up? Well, let's work on that shall we.

A brifter shifting set up

The basic tenant of using dirt drops is that unlike traditional drop bars, you want the brake hoods to be at least the same height as the saddle, preferably higher. The idea is that you can ride with your hands on the hoods for comfort and you can get into the drops for "rough stuff" and still maintain control. You'll see that many dirt drop bars have a fair amount of flare, compared to road drop bars, and this extra leverage gives you more control in those situations where finesse is needed- threading the needle on single track trails or trying to get through a mud pit on a remote gravel road in western PA.

Getting your bars up high is key to taking advantage of dirt drop bars

So you should look at your current cockpit set up. If you are running a threadless set up, you might need to get a new stem. Something like the Cigne stem would help to move your new drop bars up into a higher position. If you are running a threaded headset, using a Cigne adaptor lets you use the Cigne stem or you could use a removeable face plate quill stem to move the bars up higher.

What else to think of when switching to dirt drops? Shifters would be the other thing. You can set up shifting in three different ways. You can use traditional bar end shifters. The Dia Compe ones we sell work great for up to a 9 speed set up. You can do with "brifters" like Igor did on his Piolet build. Or you could be more unique and go with the thumb shifter mounts and put them up by the handlebar clamp area and shift with your thumbs on the flat section of the drop bars.

What's your set up with dirt drop bars? Let us know in the comments.

06 December, 2017

New Tires and Grips Replenished

By Scott

In spite of it being close to the end of the year, new stuff keeps arriving here at VO HQ.  This time it's a new size of the popular Fairweather Cruise tires - now in a 650b x 42 mm size. These tires use the same tread design as the other Cruise tires (the traditional Pasela PT tread) and Fairweather's more supple casing. We brought in the Brown tread and the Cream tread, both with a traditional tan side wall.

Measuring them on a Diagonale Rim, with 40 psi and at 150 feet of elevation, they measure a pretty spot on 42mm. Fairweather has hit a home run with their Cruise line. They provide a comfortable ride, nice grip on the rough stuff, and long life - what more could you want? Weight wise, they weigh 474 gr.

Also arriving yesterday was a restock of our very popular Rustines Constructeur Grips in Gum. These grips have proven to be the most popular color of the variations we offer. It might be the subtlety of them that allows them to work well with almost any color scheme you might have going on.

See they even work with this wild color scheme

04 December, 2017

Polyvalent and Piolet Pre-Sales are Live

The pre-sales for the Polyvalent and Piolet are up! While the retail price of both framesets is $725, the pre-sale price is $675.

Here is the fine print for the offer:
  • Frame and fork in Deep Emerald Green for Polyvalent and Poppin' Purple for Piolet
  • Pre-sale cannot be combined with any additional promotions or discounts
  • Early April 2018 arrival
  • Pre-sale concludes January 15th, 2018
  • Shipping fees for orders outside the contiguous 48 states will be quoted and billed separately at time of shipping.

In order to keep pre-sales nice and tidy, one thing we'd request is if you're placing an order for other items now, please place one order for the frameset, and another for everything else. All other products will be shipped immediately.

Can't wait to see how you all build them up!

30 November, 2017

A Bike Nicknamed Lilac and Upcoming Pre-Sale Details

by Igor

When we get in prototypes of frames, each size is a different color. We often get tube samples of paint we like, but seeing a whole frame and fork really lets us envision how the rest of the bike will flow.

Sometimes a color we thought to be perfect, isn't, and sometimes a color we select as an off-the-wall trial is perfect (Poppin' Purple Piolet).

This bike we've nicknamed Lilac is a Polyvalent prototype that turned out to be just lovely with polished silver components.

The paint isn't something you'd commonly see on a stock bike, but it's fun to see what happens when you don't have limitations on your color palettes. We'll put this one in our collective back pocket for later.

The components are all taken off the last Polyvalent we took on tour to Eurobike, with the addition of the Rando Handlebar Bag and Day-Tripper Saddle Bag - which have been marvelous.

On a side note, since we have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to, and demand for, the Polyvalent and Piolets, we will be doing a pre-order for all frame sizes starting Monday, December 4th. Retail price for both the Polyvalent and Piolet will be $725, but those participating in the pre-sale will be able to get a frameset for $675. Deep Emerald Green and Poppin' Purple are the production colors, respectively. We're looking at early-April delivery.

Pre-sale closing is still TBD, but it will be generous, and we'll give notice of its conclusion. 

26 November, 2017

20% Off Winter Sale

We're having a sale!

Starting today and going through December 15th, get 20% off the entire VO store. That includes in-stock frames, wheels, components, accessories - everything except gift certificates.

All you have to do is use the not-so-secret coupon code: Orange17. Here's how to get the deal:

  • When your cart is ready, click "Checkout".

  • Enter the discount code Orange17 and click apply.

  • Confirm the code has been applied, and finish checking out!

Happy Riding!

22 November, 2017

Closed Over Thanksgiving

by Igor

We'll be closed on November 23rd and re-open on November 27th to give our hardworking staff some time off to spend with their families and get in some long bike rides over the Thanksgiving holiday.

If you need an order shipped today, please place it before 3pm EST and we'll get it out the door.

Please have a safe and happy Thanskgiving break, and we'll see you bright and early on Monday!

Ps. We just got in these nifty Opinel No.8 Cyclist Knives! Stainless steel blade and classic Opinel design.

21 November, 2017

Update on Luggage

by Igor

For those who were able to make it to Philly Bike Expo, you were able to have a hands-on look at the upcoming luggage we've been working on in collaboration with our good friends over at Road Runner Bags in Los Angeles. It's a line that is intended to be durable, reliable, and straddles the line between traditional and contemporary. All of the following bag options should be here in the time for Spring riding, so stay tuned for any updates!

Randonneur Handlebar Bag

The Randonneur Handlebar Bag has a familiar shape and function, but has a bunch of modern design cues and construction techniques to launch it into this century.

In addition to the beautiful Cordura outside, the inside has an exceptionally durable and waterproof hi-vis truck-tarp liner - no more losing your wallet in a black hole.

The pockets are modular and use high-quality velcro straps so they can be mounted to the sides of the bag or facing the rider. Mix and match the pocket positions to dial in your riding preference!

The Cell Phone Pockets are sized to fit larger, modern smart phones. It gobbles up the iPhone 7s Plus (5.5" screen) with ease.

The Snapper Sack fits small point and shoot cameras, lenses, or anything else that might fit such as a waterbottle, soda, or 750ml wine bottle.

Both of these pockets can be mounted to your backpack's straps as well!

The bag is grommeted so that it easily works with our Integrated Decaleur system. No need to use a drill or soldering iron to install the bag mount.

Pricing will be $185 for the main bag, $30 for the Cell Pockets, and $45 for the Snapper Sack.

Day-Tripper Saddle Bag

Our Day-Tripper Saddle Bag is the perfect mate for an all-day ride. So pack up an extra layer, tools, mini-pump, camera, and film.

It uses a rip-stop nylon roll-top with a buckle for expandability and security. A simple flap holds everything snug as a bug in a rug.

There is Mega-Grip under the saddle rails and around the seatpost strap to keep everything in place for out-of-the-saddle efforts. The side pocket is sized for a minipump and also has Mega-Grip to keep it secure.

Pricing will be $95.

Transporteur Bag

It's so simple. The main cavity uses seam-sealed rip-stop nylon and is waterproof. While the bottom is flat and sturdy, the overall construction is not rigid so it can be compressed down or expanded easily depending on the load you're carrying.

There is also a small, forward facing boxed-out organizer pocket for your smaller stuff.

It fits on our Porteur Rack as well as the Wald 1372 Basket.

Pricing will be $125.

All of the bags will be available in Burgundy, Navy, Black, and Teal. We're really excited to bring in this cohesive line of bags that we designed to meet the functional needs of riders, while still looking great. A blend of form,  function, and some pretty sweet colors.