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.