29 October, 2018

Introducing the New Velo Orange Small Wheeler!

by Igor

We're pleased to introduce the first prototype of the upcoming Velo Orange Small Wheeler. Whether you're a frequent traveler, apartment dweller, multi-modal commuter, or just enjoy a fun N+1 bike, the Small Wheeler will fit perfectly into your heart.

Let me back up a bit for how this project came to be. We often travel to our cycling starting point by airplane, train, car, and bus. Overage fees for checked bags, storage, and transportation add up quickly and are a real drag. We started investigating different options for bike travel, with several requirements in mind including ease of use, affordability, flexibility, and everyday riding. We looked into couplers, full-suspension mountain bike systems, folding bike designs, and mini velos. Some are cost prohibitive, others are too restrictive in their applications, others don't ride well, and of course, we're weighing heavily on the fun factor. While the dimensions are physically small, the applications are huge for a ... mini velo!

Specifically for traveling, going with a 20" wheel makes the overall package much smaller since the biggest part of the package is the frame rather than the wheel. So when the bike is completely disassembled, it fits within the maximum checked baggage allowance. We're working on developing a semi-soft case for the bike, so keep your eyes peeled.

The name, as a side note, is inspired by the Jack Taylor 1960's Small Wheeler. While their bike's lineage was short, their designs were very neat and quite interesting! You can find more info and photos on Bob's Flickr album here.

For city and apartment dwellers, you'll get great acceleration for stoplight racing as the wheels spin up quite fast. When you've reached your destination, getting the bike into the building, walking up stairs, and parking it in your apartment is so much easier because the physical length of the bike is greatly reduced. You can much more nimbly negotiate stairwells and since it's warm and cozy inside, you don't have to worry about it getting ripped off overnight.

For multi-modal traveling, it's easier to take the bike in a train car without taking up a ton of room and attracting disdainful looks from fellow commuters. Oh and Rinko. Forget cutting fenders, removing handlebars, and wheels. Just loosen the stem, turn the handlebars 90 degrees, and put the whole thing into a Rinko bag!

To be completely honest, the Small Wheeler is a blast to ride around. It looks funny, people don't get it, it's fun, and it rides completely like a normal bike. We carefully tweaked the geometry to obtain a completely normal riding bike without any drama. Mini velos and folding bikes can ride oddly. They are often very twitchy, use super flexy tubing, have a lot of proprietary components, or little to no accommodations for racks, let alone fenders.

Now that we have the intended use out of the way, let's go through some of the frameset specifics!

  • 4130 double butted chromoly frame and fork that accepts fenders and rack
  • Unicrown fork with accommodations for fenders, Randonneur Rack, and even a Mojave Cage or a bikepacking-style cage
  • Seattube, downtube, and under-downtube bottle cage mounts. We considered doing more, but that would have been ridiculous.
  • 406 Bead Seat Diameter wheel size. That's BMX, so high-quality rims and tires are cheap, plentiful, and strong.
  • Clearance for 2.3" tires WITH fenders. Holy cow!
  • Sliding, 135mm QR dropouts for geared, single speed, or internally geared hubs
  • Disc brake mounts (POST rear, IS front). We suggest 160mm rotors. 
  • Full length, external cable routing
  • 1 1/8" threadless steerer
  • 27.2mm seatpost. We may go to 31.6, but that is still to be determined after lots of testing.
  • Paint is TBD. I'm leaning towards something fairly neutral with a ton of NJS sparkle. 
  • Price is also TBD, but expect the frameset to be around the Polyvalent and Piolet pricepoint, about $725USD

As we get nearer to finalizing the details and design, we'll keep you updated! Where will you take your Small Wheeler?

22 October, 2018

Come to Philly Bike Expo to See a New, Prototype VO Frameset

by Igor

Philly Bike Expo is a favorite show of ours. Great audience, seminars, friends, exhibitors, and food. It's an all-around positive and family-friendly experience. The show is being held October 27th and 28th this year at the Philadelphia Convention Center, so make sure your calendar is free!

This year we're trying something different. We just (seriously, within the past few days) got in samples of a new frameset we've been working on that we're super excited about. We are holding details and photos until it is revealed at the show. So! If you want to be the first person to see this unreleased, new VO prototype, come to the show. It's a weird one, I promise.

To get you into the mood, check out our previous show reports from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013!

16 October, 2018

Maximum Weight on VO Racks

By Scott

"How much weight can does the Randonneur rack take?" is a common question we get. Frankly, it depends on several factors including how it's mounted, what type of road or un-road you plan on riding on, the bike, and what kind of gear you plan on hauling. With people moving towards more  front loading, we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about max weight recommendations for our racks.

Polyvalent at the beach with just the essentials

All our racks are made from polished stainless steel tubing. This makes for a very strong design and if tested statically (not moving), a medium sized person could sit on a front Campeur rack and it wouldn't break. Dynamically, where the load can be affected by acceleration (in all directions), impacts, and general jostling, the maximum weight it can take becomes much lower.

When we initially tested the Campeur Front Rack, the testing protocol was to load the rack up with as much weight as we could put on it and ride it lots. So we put 50 lbs of stuff into panniers and rode it lots. We discovered three things: 1) it is actually really difficult to load your panniers up with 50 lbs of modern bicycle touring gear, so we resorted to dictionaries and other large books, 2) when you approach that weight, your arms (and mind) fatigue quickly trying to keep the bike straight, 3) even low-trail bikes lose their handling confidence, especially at low speeds. Therefore, we'd recommend a maximum weight of 40 lbs.

Loading up the rear rack with too much weight can create "luggage sway". That's the rack and frame flexing which can travel up to the front end and make handling challenging. Usually, you'll feel the bike want to go the opposite direction than where you want it to go, obviously not an ideal scenario. This effect most often manifests itself during out-of-the-saddle efforts, but is also evident negotiating obstacles such as potholes or debris, as well as seated difficult climbs. Using a rear rack with lowriders such as the Campeur Rear Rack can mitigate the above effect, but having a properly balanced load front to back makes your bike handle best. Or you can simply take less stuff! For the Campeur rear rack, we'd recommend a maximum weight of 40 lbs.

With our Randonneur Racks, we tell folks that the weight limit is about 12 lbs. Placing more then 12 lbs on most bikes, at that height above the axle, will make the steering feel heavy and you end up muscling the steering rather then gently steering the bike.

Most medium-sized Rando bags out there won't take much more then 12 lbs due to their size, i.e. it can be tough to physically put more than 12 lbs of stuff into the bag. If you want to carry a lot of heavy stuff, then the best answer is the Porteur Rack. Using the Surly rack struts to give it four points of contact, we've had folks carry a case of beer on it (about 40 lbs) without issue.

(Or a dog in a basket)

What's the oddest package/item/thing you've ever carried on your bike? Let us know in the comments and don't be shy.

12 October, 2018

Great Alt-Bar Comparison Website - WhatBars.com

by Igor

Comparing handlebars can be a test of your mental fortitude. Bends, reach, angles, rise, grip lengths can make you go crazy - especially trying to compare alt-bars styles that may have non-traditional dimensions. If only there was a way that you could overlay a bunch of options at once on a computer screen...

Whatbars.com makes the selection of flat/riser/alt bar so much easier. By having a simple top-down overlay of the bar, you can compare sweep angles, grip lengths, and the general fit with ease. There are also columns to view the width, rise/drop, sweep, reach, weight, and a link to where you can find additional details of the bar on the respective company's website.

It's a very clever and lightweight program that is an undoubtedly useful tool for those looking to adjust and dial in their cockpit - and we're very happy to be a sponsor of Chip's endeavor.

Check it out!

10 October, 2018

2018 French Fender Day and the Future of Vintage

by Igor

Another French Fender Day is in the books! This year, I think, was the best one yet. Lots of new people, fantastic bikes from several generations, terrific weather, and great riding through the gorgeous New England countryside. This year was particularly of interest to me as we had our little guy, Theodore, with us. In addition to having him with us as well as seeing a really good turn out of young people, I thought a lot about the future of vintage and how to continue the knowledge and traditions we've developed - you can find my notes about this at the bottom of the post after jumping in to all the cool stuff.

This Jack Taylor mixte and the blue diamond framed one next to it are sequentially numbered units!

Simon of Transport Cycles in Philly measuring up a skirt guard

Bonus Jan of Compass/BQ and Matt of Crust. Great to see them both out here for the event.
Dulled Zeppelin Fenders with paint matched striping on the above 650b'd Raleigh

Gorgeous striping, box lining, and logos on this Weigle

This picture is actually one from last year's event as context for the next.

And this one is from when Mark pulled me aside and showed me how the bag mounts. Quite clever and exceptionally secure!

Postino Bars

Peter's new-to-him support Volvo

Daniel's rig was properly weird and I love it.

Left shifter controls the internal crankset gearing, right one is for the rear derailleur

Segmented fork

Volvo and the VO Bus. The show was not relegated just to bikes.

Anodized stem

Surprising amount of Rustines Grips on the drops!

VO abounds at this gathering.

Super neat and clean internal wiring channel.

Flat topped fenders with two simple leather straps for newspaper retention

Color matched fenders

Jay with his VO'd Raleigh. Be sure to check out the DC Tweed Ride he organizes!

Woody from Trophy Bikes and her Lilac Polyvalent! We actually saw the crew riding through Cape Henlopen last weekend. 

Dave from Waxwing Bags
Corey Thompson's personal tourer. Gorgeous black and red lug and box lining. A beauty with many, many miles!

I noticed something this year that either I was not yet, perhaps, acutely aware of in years past: fresh faces. And that doesn't just mean people we haven't seen before, but rather that of younger folk. Even though I am technically part of the millennial generation, I have been into vintage bikes and cars for most of my life, and can speak fairly fluently about details, history, and technical aspects. But it is different if that isn't how you were brought up.

Throughout my life, I've gone to car events focused on both new and old, worked on my own vehicles (and sometimes others'), worked in a bicycle shop that did high-end customs and restorations, and currently attend/exhibit at shows that cater to our niche of the bicycle world. In the world of vintage, you cannot fully learn things simply by reading them in a book or even seeing them online. You need to ride a bike with downtube friction shifters, learn how adjust a loose-ball bearing bottom bracket, ride a 10-speed bike that has ten speeds total to really grasp how far we have come as well as the context as to why these things even existed. And often, learning by osmosis is paramount. Once the context lines up with the technical aspects, then you have knowledge. With the basis of knowledge and accessibility to resources, hopefully an interest will blossom and, with it, an appreciation of vintage cycling - and that is future of vintage.

Seeing an old bike, to some, may be a novelty or on the other side of the spectrum worse, garbage. We need to keep the younger audience in mind when we have these super neat events such as French Fender Day, Philly Bike Expo, Builders' Ball, NAHBS, and smaller regional shows. It may be easy to misread a lack of knowledge as disinterest, when in reality, it is simply hard to enter into a conversation when you are unable to articulate a question or interject with additional information. I've been a part of this industry for long enough that I can tell when someone I talk to has that spark of interest, but doesn't yet know some of the terminology or why a certain accessory even exists. It's exciting to see that ah-ha moment when they can understand the desire for frame/fender/rack/lighting integration and can see why Rebour identified and illustrated particular items on a Constructeur's frame.

Owning and using a vintage bike is a labor of love. They aren't as light and don't shift as crisply, but they exude a style and flair that is often lost on modern, wunder-bikes. There is a story behind the bike, even if you don't know it. The scratches tell how the bike was used, the stickers tell you where it lived, and the design tells you what the fashion was. There is something unique about riding an old bike (even with new VO components) that shows your personality and your desire to keep perfectly good old things in use rather than in the landfill or recycling plant.

We need to ensure we are open to all types of cyclists and expose those who may have never ridden toe-clips to these simple and wonderful machines. And that means being open, honest, and also accessible. Perhaps it's something I've learned though reading parenting stuff online, if you don't know something, rather than saying, "Because" or "I don't know", say "hmm, let's find out together". There are various forums and internet resources that house an amazing wealth of information from frame identification, part compatibility, and period-correct selections. Use it. And make sure others know about it as well.

And with that, I would like to implore our readers to comment with at least one resource, forum, show, or event that you find extremely useful in your daily vintage bike life. I'll start with two sites I use every day. Whether it is to answer questions from our readers or to satisfy my own curiosity, they are jewels of resources.
  • www.velobase.com
  • www.sheldonbrown.com