13 December, 2019

Velo Orange's 2019 Year in Review and a Peek into a Busy 2020!

by Igor

As we close 2019, I wanted to thank all of our customers, readers, followers, suppliers, and partners. It's because of you that we're able to invest in new projects and endeavors that we hope encourage more touring, commuting, randonneuring, and in general, ridership.

I also wanted to give a big thank you to the VO staff. VO is a small team. We're hard-working and dedicated to product development, timely order fulfillment, and top-notch support. A devotion to excellence is very important to us and is an aspect of our business we're proud of.

2019 was another super strong year for VO. Business is good and folks are happy about the new products we've launched and are in the midst of developing. Let's review this past year before jumping into 2020.

Neutrino Launch - The debut of the Neutrino was without a doubt our biggest undertaking this year, and we're very pleased with the response and positivity about the bike. We sold out of our pre-sale before we even received the frames and have seen builds all over the world. We'll have another production round in February.

Mini-Rando Bags - These have been my go-to's for lightweight, rackless builds. They'll fit on any drop-bar bike and the capacity is surprisingly large (7 seltzers). Paired with a Day Tripper Saddle Bag, you'll have generous storage for all-day, all-road riding.

Tubeless Voyager Rims - A good tire and rim interface is essential for a tubeless setup. And once it's set up, flats that would have put a damper on any ride are a thing of the past. We like this, so we developed a strong and elegant tubeless compatible rim, dubbed Voyager, for tires ranging from 38mm to 2.4".

New Fenders - Fenders are our bread and butter. In addition to the 20" Mini Fenders for the Neutrino, we also released a 38mm 700c Smooth and 58mm 650b Smooth offering.

Complete Bikes - These were a long time coming and have been fairly popular. We actually ended up doing more custom builds rather than completes due to changes customers wanted. The bike build idea juices started flowing and soon enough we were incorporating dynamo lighting, different shifters, racks, etc...

31.8, MTB Rated Crazy Bars - These were one of the most highly requested product redesigns. They've been super popular for both bike-packers and gravel tourists.

Pass Hunter Prototypes - The Pass Hunter has always been a more modern offering within our frame lineup and this has gone whole hog in the most recent re-design, with flat mount disc brakes, tapered headtube, thru-axles, and carbon fork compatibility - all while maintaining proper fender, front rack, and triple cargo cage mounts. We've been riding these a lot since we've gotten in the first samples, and the next round of pre-production samples will have some fit and finish updates that will make them ready to go into production. We should have production frames in around mid-Summer.

Anjou Velo Vintage - Our first time doing this ride and festival. It was such a blast. Great food, wonderful people, fun route, and if you can make it over to the France, I'd highly suggest going. Sign up immediately after the window opens as slots tend to fill up in one day.

Rustines Factory Tour - It was fantastic to see the factory and meet the people that make Rustines rubber products. While the company has moved on to commercial/industrial work being their main business, their heritage division of bicycle products is a labor of love, and we're thankful.

2020 is going to be stellar. We have so many projects and events in the hopper!

XXL Neutrinos - The tall people spoke, and we listened. In the next production round due in February, we'll have XXL sized Neutrinos for riders between 6' and 6'4". Due to the frame size, it won't be airline packable, but still more convenient than a full wheel'd, large-sized frame.

Crankset - We've been secretly working on a more modern, but still stylish 2-piece crankset for all-road riding. I can't post a final picture yet, because it is still in development. But it will be forged and have very generous gearing options in the 2x and 1x format.

Thru-Axle Hubs - I'm sold on thru-axle hubs. This new rear hub shell is a custom design with a ratchet housing based off the classic, smooth-lined Record (my favorite). The design will retain our tool-free disassembly and maintenance and will include QR endcaps for those who are using QR disc hubs. We'll have rim brake hub options, too. Pretty much all of our wheel builds have gone to 32 hole, but would you want a lower spoke count offering for lightweight builds? Like 24 or 28h?

Domestic Expos - We'll be doing Philly Bike Expo and the New England Builders Ball. Both of these shows are a blast and are arguably the best ones on the East Coast. Philly is a larger show which caters to a bigger crowd which is great for exposure and showcasing our brand to new customers. NEBB is a very intimate, smaller event where we can really dig into the nerdy details of touring, randonneuring, and commuting designs. We'll also be scouting out Sea Otter for the first time.

Gravel Rides - We're planning on participating in some rad gravel rides both locally (at least reasonable by car) and further away once the winter wanes. While the weather outside is frightful, friend us on Zwift :)

Overseas trips - We're planning on going both to Eurobike and Taipei Bike Expo this year - the two biggest cycling shows in the world. It will be a good chance to have face-face meetings with our international partners as well as check out new trends. Anything in particular you'd like to see?

Thanks again for another spectacular year!

04 December, 2019

Is It That Weird? A Very Speedy Pass Hunter with Carbon Bits

by Igor

"Whoa that's weird. But everything makes sense." That's what Adrian said when I first unveiled my completed Pass Hunter. I knew I wanted a lightweight bike, and this Pass Hunter would be the perfect testbed for such a rig featuring some major carbon components. It will be my road bike (I know, bad word today), credit card tourer, I'm-late-for-work commuter, and fast all-roader. Needless to say, as long as I have the legs, it'll be very speedy and fun. Now let's dig in.

One of the design intentions of the Pass Hunter was to ensure carbon fork compatibility, hence the tapered (1 1/8" to 1 1/2" ) headtube. We selected the Whisky RD9+ fork for a variety of reasons including: axle to crown and rake similar to the steel fork, nice fender mounting, easily obtained, and consistently stocked. I'm very pleased with the ride quality of the front end. It feels light when you throw it into a corner or around obstacles, confident on descents, and planted for long days in the saddle.

The wheels feature VO prototype thru-axle hubs laced to Nextie "gravel" 45mm deep-section carbon rims. Tommy of Cutlass Velo in Baltimore laced them up with Pillar PDB1416 spokes and brass nipples. He reported that they tensioned up well. He tubeless'ed them up with Rene Herse Babyshoe Pass in their Extralight carcass-way.

While the benefits of carbon rims are limited mostly to light and stiff, my real 'want' was the sound. That is, when you put the hammer down the hollow whoosh-whoosh-whoosh-whoosh sound the wheels generate is really intoxicating.

The wheels are all wrapped up with our Noir 58mm Wavy Fenders. The rounded details of the bike's tubes and bends pairs nicely with the flowy design of the fenders.

The bike features Campagnolo Athena 11sp inter-grifters, dangler, and pusher. This group, in my opinion, is the last generation of the beautiful and elegant shifting components. I really hope they bring a fully polished silver group back in the future, as I find the ergonomics of their inter-grifters are superior to other offerings.

The crankset is our 50.4 with 46/30 rings and the rear features a corn-cob of 11-25. I would have chosen an 11-29, but I already had the cassette from another build.

The cockpit features our Nouveau Randonneur Bars, Comfy Cotton Tape wrapped in our Leather Tape, and Alloy Bar Plugs.

A Mini-Rando Bag paired with a vintage Trek Bomber Saddle Bag is the perfect capacity for a moderate amount of stuff.

The perch features two VO prototypes. One is a medium setback post, and the other is a saddle with a cutout. The seatpost is good. The saddle will take more time to evaluate. Adrian is testing a different one with a cutout that has already become her saddle of choice.

While this build isn't for everyone, we (VO) must try new technologies and designs to see what they're about and how we actually feel about them. Dying on a hill without even giving something a chance stifles our growth as people and as a company. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to deviate from what you've grown accustomed to, and that's normal.

For example, I wrote a blog post nearly three years ago about tubeless rims and tires. I wrote it after a bad experience with a certain setup and frustration with the lack of standards. But then I gave it another shot with a new setup and with new prototype rims we had been developing. And you know what? Tubeless is pretty awesome and suggest it for most applications.

From a personal and business perspective, I've always been one to have a positive attitude with regards to different styles of bikes and builds. I'm happy to give my opinions on things, though. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say.

27 November, 2019

Some Videos to Watch as You Digest

By Scott

We'll be closed Thursday and Friday of this week for Thanksgiving. We'll be back in the office on Monday, Dec 2nd at 9 am.

Normally, I'm all for the world of the written word - I've recommended books and such in the past, but I thought perhaps I'd throw some videos into play this year. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkness is falling and unless you have skookum lights like the one Igor has on the Pass Hunter, you are likely still spending more time inside rather then out.

So here are some movies/videos/features to watch over the next while. I'm not trying to encourage anti-social behaviour (watching these around the dinner table may get you hairy eyeballs) - but I think these are entertaining for even the non-cycling members of the family.

I Just Want To Ride - Lael Wilcox's story of this years Tour Divide from Banff, Canada down to the Mexico border. Some great views of a wonderful part of the country and a very interesting person to get to know over the 38 minutes of the movie.

The Suilven Escape by Alastair Humphrey's is a great example of multi model travel- Train, bikes and pack rafts, with a bit of hiking thrown in there. Al does great videos and this little 7 minute movie will get you looking at Scotland and train schedules quickly

Last Woman Standing- a movie not cycling related at all, but a great story of persistence and fortitude. It's a movie about one woman- Nicky Spinks from the UK- and her attempt to finish the Barkely Marathons. Its a trail running race in Tennessee and it's one of the hardest events to finish in the world.

This is one of my favorite one-shot, continuous videos. It features Brandon Semenuk, a world-renowned slopestyle rider doing what he does best.

The Stars and The Water Carriers is a documentary following the 1973 Grio d'Italia. If you haven't watched classic cycling races, this is a great one to get into the mindset.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! We'll see you on Monday!

25 November, 2019

Flat Bar Pass Hunter with 9speed Microshift Advent

by Igor

Whenever we get in frame prototypes, we build them up in a variety of ways to make sure all of your (pointing at you) weird builds will go smoothly and ride as anticipated. So we'll do drop bars, flat bars, alt-bars, commuter, lightweight, touring, and single speed (frame dependent). It's a great opportunity to test out new groupsets and new setups we have been eager to try. Enter Microshift Advent.

We've built up bikes with Campagnolo, SRAM hydro, Shimano GRX, dynamo lighting, and other neat setups, but I've been particularly excited for this oddball 9 speed groupset. The idea is to create an affordable 9speed, 1x setup with a clutch'd derailleur and wide range, 11-42 cassette.

Worth noting is that the 9 speed Advent groupset retails for $120. For comparison, $120 buys you just the pulleys of a SRAM Red AXS rear derailleur. Just the pulleys!

New 11 and 12sp setups can be fiddly because everything is narrow and a slight bit of cable tension adjustment can make a perfect or mediocre shift. With 9 speed, the amount of slop is refreshing. I use "slop" in a good way here. The actual shifting is crisp and consistent, but the wider tolerances of the cogs and chain makes for super easy and quick setup with absolutely minimal futzing.

While the clutch engagement can be turned off, I don't know why you would in exchange for never having to worry about dropping your chain. Shifting requires maybe 5% more thumb strength, but think of it as strength training, really.

The cable exit on the rear derailleur is a little funky on the higher gears (straightens out on the low side), but it doesn't seem to have any effect on shifting performance at all. It's probably designed this way to skirt any patents that the Big 3 have.

I've ridden the bike a lot this week and I really, really like the setup. It's zippy, fun, simple, and lightweight. I'll likely add a basket and bag at some point, but am happy with how it is set up for now.

PS. Tektro makes a flat-mount dual-piston actuated brake (model MD-C550) that's virtually the same as the TRP Spyre, for half the price. We really are in the golden age of cheap n' good components.

08 November, 2019

A Robo-Neutrino with SRAM Force eTap

by Igor

When Brook from SRAM emailed us asking about getting a Neutrino, I was incredibly intrigued. Is this a personal commuter? Traveler? Are they coming out with mini-velo components? Turns out, they wanted a fun and approachable bike to showcase their new eTap AXS Wireless Force components both at their booth and seminar for Philly Bike Expo. Enter Robo-Neutrino...

The idea is that while SRAM often shows these items on high-zoot mountain and road bikes, they haven't really told folks about the benefits and flexibility of the wireless platform on a bike that will see more practical urban use. While I cannot speak to the long term reliability (I'm sure it's good), the performance and ergonomics of the system is really fantastic.

The rocker button is in a perfect place for your thumb, leaving plenty of room for your hand on the grip. Additionally, the shifter can tell the derailleur to dump gears up and down simply by holding the respective button. It's pretty neat.

On the left side side sits the remote dropper lever. It's just a button. Press it once while sitting on the saddle and the post goes down. Press it again and the post goes up. It's a nice speed too. Putting a dropper on the Neutrino makes the bike that much smaller when space is at a premium. 

It also had a Force crankset and SRAM Hubs.

Stopping is handled by their Level Hydraulic Brakeset. It stopped those tiny wheels with ease and comfort.

The part that brings the whole kit together is Sram's controller app for your phone. You can program all the buttons, monitor component readiness, update firmware, and personalize component behavior. It's all pretty trick.

What do you think of this Robo-Neutrino? Whether it's Mavic Zap, SRAM eTap, Campy EPS, Shimano Di2, or otherwise, have you tried electronic shifting?