14 January, 2019

Doug's Sportif Pass Hunter with 105

by Igor

Doug approached us with a vision of his Pass Hunter build: sporty, lightweight, wide 700c tires, fenders, and the perfect mix of modern and traditional. Of course that sort of build is right up our alley!

Starting with everything that rolls, we went with front and rear VO Touring Hubs laced to RAID Rims. Panaracer's 700x38mm Gravelkings present a confident and comfortable ride for the varied terrain Doug plans on riding through. They measure a bit narrow (36.5mm), but that was expected and leaves enough room for the 50mm Snakeskin Fenders we sneaked in.

We selected Shimano's 11 speed 105 component group. That level has been Shimano's workhorse for a very long time and has never let us down. This generation's shifter body is supremely comfortable and pairs exceptionally well with the 44cm Nouveau Randonneur Bars. Don't mind the uncut steerer tube. Doug requested it be left as is so he can do the final fit when the bike arrives. It's currently all done and capped with a VO Knurled Stem Cap.

I think every multi-purpose bike should have fenders. They don't weigh much and add a ton of value to the bike's function. In addition to keeping your backside and drivetrain significantly cleaner, it also makes a more "filled in" visual appearance. Form and function. Function and form.

The Pass Hunter was really intended for 45mm wide fenders, but with the added size of the tires, we needed to step up to the next fender width of 50mm. To make them fit accordingly, I dimpled the fender slightly to sit snuggly against the chainstay and within the fork crown.

An additional fender strut was mounted to the front fender as well. Notice how both fender stays are parallel. It's the little things that take a bike to the next level.

Matching Rustines Rubber Bar Plugs add a nice touch of color.

This turned out to be one terrifically versatile and fun ride. If you want your own VO build, simply shoot us an email and get the process started!

You can find the complete build list right here.


You may be wondering what's up with the Pass Hunter. It isn't being discontinued. It's being shelved for now and is in the process of a total refresh. We'll provide more details as we have them. But for now, if you're interested in a Pass Hunter and are between 5'9" and 5'11", now is the time to get your 55cm Pass Hunter. They're on sale and we won't be getting more in.

07 January, 2019

A Polyvalent Made for Two

by Igor

Our recent New Year's Instagram post brought up several questions from readers regarding setup, fit, and handling using a stem-mounted kid's seat. We went back and forth about the pros and cons between a trailer and a seat for a long time. We finally decided on the seat for the ability to talk to him during the ride - which is an invaluable learning and bonding experience. After having gone on many, many short and long rides with him, I thought it would be a good time to talk bike setup and well as tips to keep both you and your kid happy.

A low trail front end design is a must. Kids are heavy and only get heavier. And while the weight isn't in the same position as a front basket full of groceries and a 6-pack, they still weigh quite a bit and you wouldn't want your wheel and handlebar flopping around. The handling of the Polyvalent is predictable and easy. It's such a fantastic ride, that it allows me to forget about the bike completely and really enjoy our shared flying-through-space experience (even if it's just down the multi-use path).

Upright, swoopy handlebars are your friend. Your arms need to clear the seat's sides and your chest needs to clear both the back of the seat and the kid's head + helmet, so the more upright you are, the better. I prefer the Curvy One Handlebars for their back sweep and width. An aluminum alloy stem would probably be ok (nothing specifically was stated in the instructions otherwise), but just to be safe, I paired those bars with our steel, 90mm Removable Faceplate Stem for an upright, visible, and safe position.

After the first spin around the block, I realized that my knees were touching the corners of the seat. I blame my long femurs. I'm probably not the first to find this out, but the solution is pretty simple. You can either go with a wider spindle (what I did), pedal extenders, or an MTB crankset. The important thing is that you need to get your Q-factor (tread) fairly wide.

Wide, cushy tires - I chose 650bx47mm WTB Horizons. They're not fancy, but they're not supposed to be. They are terrific work-horse tires. They're hearty, take lower pressure, and aren't terribly susceptible to punctures as very supple tires are. Please don't change your tube or re-fill your sealant with a toddler on the side of the road. Pro-tip: I use these tires tubed and add 3 oz of sealant to each tube. No worries about a blow-off and the puncture probability is down to nearly nil.

You won't be able to mount a front mounted basket or handlebar bag due to the leg extensions, so attach a saddle bag or pannier for snacks, change of clothes, diapers, and wipes - basically a mini baby bag. You're probably not going to be out long enough to necessitate a full sized bag, but bring the essentials just in case - you never know... Thank me later.

Of course, a positive attitude is a must! Sing silly songs, point out birds, go over some bumps, take breaks to look at horses, and go to the park. Have fun and happy riding!

03 January, 2019


By Scott

I was listening to a podcast yesterday on the way home. It was an interview with Alton Brown, the Food Network host, author, and generally interesting fellow. The podcast/interview centered around watches and food - the watch website Hodinkee was the host - and one of the themes that came out was emotions.  In the context of the interview, it centered on why someone would obsess/fixate on a specific watch/model/style when they were buying or looking at watches. This got me thinking, as one can, about how emotion relates to bicycles.

I think for some, emotion and bicycles relates to the act of riding a bike. The joy, the feeling of flying, of moving around a city or place at a pace that is directly controlled by your efforts and that of the machine you are riding.

For others, the emotion of bicycles is the bike itself. The interest in the lugs or paint on a frame, the details of the derailleur mechanism or the other little features that only become evident when you examine the bike close up.

I mean, there is no logical reason for someone to spend time and money to restore an old Peugeot UO-8 or Schwinn Letour. One can go to a bike shop and buy something that is lighter, more reliable and compatible with modern parts for not much more then what some folks have dropped over time with new parts on a bike made in the late 60's/early 70's.

So why do we do it? Well that is where I think emotion comes in.

For me, it is a love of an all-rounder bicycle - an historically British style where the bike could be used for touring, both on and off road, and for commuting to work. For me, the Polyvalent is the modern progression of this style. Equipped with braze-on's for everything one might need and room for wide or narrow tires, it can be anything you want it to be. The feeling I get riding it over rough roads/tracks is fantastic. Knowing that I'm independent of anything or anyone else is very empowering as I explore the smaller paths and roads of Maryland.

I know of customers who obsess over certain brands. They collect and ride a variety of bikes from one maker and become very knowledgeable about the details and features of that brand/model.

So what emotion gets you when we talk of bikes? Is it the feeling of riding, an interest in a particular brand, model, or something else?