25 November, 2020

Thanksgiving Holiday Closure

The Velo Orange showroom, office, and warehouse will be closed Thursday, November 26, and Friday, November 27, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Orders placed during that period will begin being fulfilled and shipped starting next Monday,  November 30. Regular customer support hours will resume on Monday, as well. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday!

13 November, 2020

Runwell Tools are Made in Japan

by Igor

We are pleased to be an official importer of Runwell Tools! Since 2011, Runwell has making absolutely top-notch bicycle tools and lifestyle gear, all in Japan.

I stumbled across Runwell during a doomscrolling session on Instagram when my finger was stopped in its tracks thanks to this post by Parallel Handbuilt in the Netherlands. And since then, we've been working on getting their product into the USA.

Hammered Top Cap

These threadless headset top caps are part of a collaboration between Runwell Tools and master copperware craftsman, Mr. Kazuya Watanabe. They are exquisite and quite literally works of functional art.

15mm Wrench

Look, we've all used cheap tools. That's what they are. They're cheap, disposable, not terribly well made, but they usually get the job done. Hopefully you don't round a nut off.

There is something completely different about a nice tool. The weight is perfect. The finish is flawless. The ergonomics are perfect. And the tool's end fits without slop. This is a tool that you know the maker has made with care throughout the entire manufacturing process. This is a tool that you will enjoy using and sometimes, even look forward to using!

This 15mm Wrench is that nice tool. It features a 15° bend at the head, so you don't hit your knuckles on the fork blade or spokes. It also has a 3-dimensional tapered handle that retains torque strength at the head, while having a flatter, more comfortable, and natural position in the hand.

Portable Allen Wrench Sets

Following along Runwell's unique and top-notch tooling, they have constructed a few allen wrench sets that are great for the shop and on the go: 4-Way, 4/5mm with Belt Clip, and 4/5mm with Paracord.

15mm Pedal Wrench

An absolutely beautiful and perfectly balanced pedal wrench. The paracord wrap gives a proper cushion and grip for installing and removing pedals that have 15mm flats.

Track Tools

Runwell's bicycle history has deep roots in track and fixed gear criterium racing. And as such their tools reflect mechanic and maintenance needs for trackside repairs.

This Cog Tool makes adjusting gearing a breeze. Runwell found that many European track riders don't use lockrings, so they developed a tool that can remove and re-install 12-15t and 16-18t cogs quickly to adjust for track and rider conditions.

NJS-certified chains use a different end connection process than regular quick-links. They use a bolt and nut. So Runwell developed this nifty and compact tool for NJS chains.

Around the House

Imagine you own a tool company, right? Why would you NOT make gear and accessories that have the same high quality form and finish that your tools have, but for use around the house err...bar.

Bottle Opener + 10mm Wrench

A beautiful and hearty 10mm allen wrench with a notch cut out for opening bottles.

Set of Four Stick Stirrers

You don't actually need to use your greasy screwdriver to make a Screwdriver. These Stirrers are made from stainless steel and feature a glass bead-blasted finish. They also make super fun drink identifiers.

Charcuterie Picks, Set of Three

Also made from stainless steel, these pokers feature knurled ends and an impressive finish. Step up your finger-foods game!

Something you've never seen before

Punk's not dead! Stick it to the man with these studded bolts by turning those unused rack and water bottle cage bosses into tools of anarchy. You'll need to make sure your threads are very clean before installing. They simply thread in, but there aren't any flats for installation/removal. Super clean design.

And lastly, this could be the most unique Bicycle x Automotive crossover we've ever come across. Change out that shift knob and attach your favorite 22.2mm grip with this Shifter Knob Grip Kit! You'll want to consult your car's manufacturer or the online forums to see if it will work on your vehicle.

10 November, 2020

Wheels, wheels, wheels and Tapered Headsets

We just posted some new complete wheel builds using our new hub designs!

The disc variants include quick release and thru-axle endcaps, so the are flexible in their applications. They're all built in the USA using double-butted spokes.

We also got new, tapered headsets! They're designed for bikes that use 1 1/8" upper to 1 1/2" lower  external cup (EC) like the Pass Hunter. They're available in Mirror, Silver, and Noir.

02 November, 2020

Taking Time to Vote and an Update on Recent Orders

Here at Velo Orange we believe every vote should be heard and that one of the easiest ways to increase voter engagement is to remove the barriers that might otherwise prevent people from casting a ballot. With this in mind, we will be closed November 3rd for Election Day to allow our employees time to head to the polls. 

This is also a friendly reminder that if you have not already mailed in a ballot or participated in early voting, tomorrow is the day to cast a vote for the causes you believe in and the representatives that support them. While you no doubt are well aware of the national issues this election will decide, as cyclists it is important to take a good look at the leaders and policies represented in your state and local elections, as these could have an impact on the future of cycling in your community. Infrastructure changes, traffic laws, and the emphasis on inclusive transportation could all be at stake. We hope you take this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Shipment Delays for Recent Orders

Last week we received a huge restock of many popular products. The influx of newly back-in-stock items was met with eager demand, so we have been dealing with a larger order volume than is typical. This has led to longer lead times than usual as we catch up in the warehouse. We are working through orders as quickly as possible. Those with orders placed last week should begin to see shipment notifications within the next few days. As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out. We are quite literally overwhelmed by your support and appreciate your patience!

Pass Hunters, Piolets and More

October's restock was long awaited, but this month will be bringing even more. In late November the next generation of Pass Hunters will arrive. We'll have pre-orders covered plus more frames available for those that missed out on reserving one early. Along with the Pass Hunter framesets, we'll be receiving another restock of parts and accessories to fill the shelves just in time for the holidays. 

In mid-to-late November we will also receive a second shipment with another run of small and medium Polyvalent Low Kickers. Both sizes sold out quickly, so be sure to sign up for a product alert to be notified as soon as they become available again. 

Along with the Low Kickers will come a new batch of Piolet framesets. These Piolets will be the same as the current generation with a new dark metallic blue finish. We've also got a few new and updated products coming in this shipment, including 26" fenders in Noir, Happy Stems in Noir, stainless steel cargo bike fender sets, and "shorty" threadless stems in lengths down to 40 mm. Keep an eye out for more details throughout the month.

27 October, 2020

Polyvalent Low Kicker and More Fall Arrivals at VO

by Kevin

The Polyvalent Low Kicker has landed. After many, many months of design, development, and testing, we are beyond stoked for the arrival of the latest addition to the Velo Orange lineup. The Low Kicker is a major update to our Polyvalent platform that introduces a low-slung top tube for easy riding while retaining a "do-it-all" design ready to tackle everything from paved commuting to gravel touring. 

We will begin to fill pre-orders in the coming days. For those that missed out on the pre-order, the Low Kicker is now available for order direct from our online store.

And the Low Kicker didn't come alone. As the weather cools down and the days grow shorter, a new shipment of Velo Orange essentials has arrived just in time for your fall and winter bike projects. 

Crazy Bars are back in stock in silver and black. We've received no shortage of questions about when more would be in. A close second, however, is the Klunker Bar, and we're not here to disappoint. Klunkers in their noir finish have also been restocked. We've also received more Left Bank handlebars in 22.2 mm and 23.8 mm sizes as well as Granola Bars in silver and black. 

On the topic of handlebar swaps, if you have been looking for an easy way to convert that old threaded fork to use modern threadless designs in a variety of clamp diameters, our Threadless Stem Adapter is also back in stock. 

We've received more fenders in a variety of popular styles and sizes. 650b x 58 mm fenders are back in black in Smooth and Wavy finishes along with 700c x 52 mm Zeppelin Fenders in Noir. 

And the list goes on. More items back in stock: 

We have also received more stock our Comfy Cotton Bar Tape and Colored Brake Cable and Derailleur Cable kits to add a splash of color to that fall/winter bike build. 

If you have been waiting for something in particular and don't see it in stock, we'll have even more arriving within the next month or two, including the brand new Pass Hunter, a new colorway for the Piolet, and more. 

16 October, 2020

Kevin's Gravel Packer Pass Hunter

by Kevin

As we near the launch of the new Pass Hunter, we have received a number of questions from customers interested in racks and bags to pair with the frame. We envision the Pass Hunter as an ideal "sport touring" bike, well-suited for a spirited weekend jaunt unencumbered by heavily loaded front and rear panniers. Pushing the concept a bit further, I wanted to see how the frame could perform as a pseudo-bikpacking rig. With a weekend gravel tour as the test, I dreamed up my minimalist gravelpacking (is this a thing or did I just make that up?) setup.

I primarily am a road cyclist, and so my original Pass Hunter build was designed around Shimano's Ultegra R8000 drivetrain and a set of 700c wheels with TRP Spyre brakes. I went with the widest Ultegra cassette offered and paired with our compact Drillium crank. I wanted a build geared for road climbing--this is a Pass Hunter, after all. And that noir Drillium crank just looks sweet, doesn't it? (The crank is on sale now, by the way).

For bars I went with our Nouveau Randonneur drops mounted to our Tall Stack stem. A 0 Setback Seatpost and Brooks C15 saddle round out the cockpit. The Cambium saddles can be a bit divisive, but I've had mine for years and tend to swap it around between my touring setups. Our noir Moderniste bottle cages complete the black and blue look, with a gold seat collar and brass stem cap (a close enough color match) providing a dab of glitz. 

When preparing the bike for gravelpacking, I swapped out the 700c wheels for a set of Shimano GRX 650b wheels. These were ready to go with a set of Teravail Rampart tires (tubeless) in 47 mm. For me, this was a major jump from the 32 mm max I am used to. I've never claimed to be down with the #supplelife, but I have to admit the supple lifers might be onto something. 

For luggage, I wanted to keep things simple and compact. I reached out to our friends at Roadrunner Bags and settled on their Jumbo Jammer handlebar bag and Fred saddle bag. This proved to be just enough space for a three-day tour, with room for my camping gear, a change of clothes, snacks, and some other miscellaneous gear. If needed, a frame bag or some fork-mounted cargo cages could easily expand carrying capacity.

After a weekend in the mountain backcountry (read my ride report here), I at times found the road groupset to be a bit outmatched. A gravel-centric 1x system might ultimately be the only change I'd make for a similar tour in the future. Otherwise, I was quite pleased. I don't see myself going back to a rack and pannier system anytime soon. Check out the complete build list under our Bike Build Ideas page.

14 October, 2020

Sampling the Rockstar Challenge

by Kevin

I first heard of the Rockstar Challenge a couple months back. A fall bicycle tour was in order, and after one too many rides on the C&O Canal Towpath it seemed a new route was called for. My good friend and touring partner Lee Cumberland was finishing prep for the Shenandoah 100 mountain bike race and caught wind of the Rockstar ride from others in that circle. 

A brief history: the Rockstar Challenge began as a trail ride catering to the hardcore mountain biking enthusiasts of the Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys in western Virginia. It’s part bikepacking route, part all-out race that ties together some of the more challenging MTB trails in the area as it cuts a path from Harrisonburg, once known as Rocktown, to Roanoke, ending at the Mill Mountain Star. Rocktown to the star - Rockstar. You get it. 

The mountain bike trail is notoriously grueling, and in the years since it was first mapped both gravel and road options have been routed. I long ago decided mountain biking wasn’t for me, but I figured it was time I give the gravel life a go. The gravel route sounded like a good opportunity to form a proper opinion on the fad that has swept the industry over the past few years. It was also a great chance to push the capabilities of the new Pass Hunter frameset as a lightly-loaded touring steed. 

I swapped out the 700c wheels and 32 mm tires I had on the Pass Hunter for a set of 650b Shimano GRX wheels with 47 mm tires. I outfitted the bike with a couple of bags from our friends at Roadrunner. I went with the Jumbo Jammer and Fred Saddle Bag, two styles not offered as part of our VO luggage line. I packed in my camping hammock and quilts, a change of clothes, enough food to last a day or so, and water. We also brought a Sawyer filter to pull fresh water from the mountain streams we’d cross. The route does a good job of meeting up with towns and services when possible, but it is largely a backcountry ride with limited access and poor cell phone service. With proper planning of distance and timing, you could probably get away with relying on restock points along the way. 

As a disclaimer, due to time limitations the intention was never to ride the entire route. We cut off the first 50 miles or so by staging at the Stokesville Campground with plans to pick up the gravel route nearby. We’d discover that even the time we had allotted would end up being not quite enough. 

The first day began with about 10 miles of gentle climbing on paved roads in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains before reaching the first gravel road of the day. From there on, it was mostly fire roads and access roads leading to electrical towers. East coast mountains aren’t the towering behemoths of the western US. The climbs tend to be shorter but much steeper. And here the steep climbs on shaky gravel roads became both a physical and mental challenge. The first major climb traversed a bombed-out doubletrack before forking off on an overgrown road following a mountain ridge. The waist-high grass hid the obstacles below, including a large branch that caused my first (and thankfully only) wreck of the trip. With the initial bruises out of the way the next curve ball arrived: a dead-end. 

The route said go forward, but there was nowhere to go but densely overgrown woods. With no desire to backtrack we forged ahead, eventually bushwhacking our way to the yellow blaze marking a singletrack mountain bike trail. So much for the gravel ride. Needless to say, there was more hiking and less biking at this point. The day was already growing long and not much ground had been made up. 

The trail eventually gave way to another gravel road making its way down the mountainside. At the bottom it was time to go up again. Did I mention that this route packs 27,000 feet of climbing into 260 or so miles?  Luckily the trails were a bit more “gravel” than “mountain” from that point on. The rhythm of the ride became apparent at this point as the rest of the day followed a similar pattern of climbing to the ridge, dropping into the valley, and then climbing back out, crisscrossing from the eastern to western faces of the mountainsides. The day ended at the top of one such ridge with camp being set up in the nearest clear patch of woods. We only managed about 40 miles or so of what we had hoped would be at least a 70-mile day. 

The second day of the three-day excursion began with an undulating descent out of the mountains to a brief respite on paved roads. The hope was that a gas station or market would materialize for refueling, but the route continued to find us deeper in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, eventually back on gravel and once again climbing up into the mountains (the Sawyer filter was clutch here, allowing us to refill our water bottles from a fresh mountain stream). With supplies dwindling and significantly off-pace to finish the gravel route in three days, we made the decision to jump on the alternate road route around Douthat State Park. This was about 40 miles into the day with a plan to knock out about 40 more before setting up camp. 

At a much needed dinner at the Dairy Queen in Clifton Forge, VA, we set our sights a little off route for a campground with running water, bathrooms, and hot food. We called ahead and learned, much to our delight, that the evening would also feature live music and the undisputed number-one recovery drink: beer. The sun was setting and the destination was perhaps a bit ambitious given the added distance, but a couple more hours winding through the mountains in the dark and we made camp. I can confirm the beer was very good.

The third and final day was mostly easy riding on the road. Switching paths to the shorter paved version of the Rockstar Challenge left us with only about 50 miles to cover to reach Roanoke. It was not without a few challenging climbs as we crossed the mountains one last time before descending into the Roanoke Valley and finding ourselves making quick time to the city. Tired from a few long days on the bike, the last few miles were business-like with a singular mission to cap things off with one or two more cold brews and a good meal (which luckily did not require too many extraneous miles to locate).

We never did make it to the Mill Mountain Star--we stumbled upon a brewery before getting that far. With this abbreviated, alternate routing I can’t say I successfully bested the Rockstar Challenge this time around, but I had a taste and perhaps will tackle it again in the future. Gaining this little bit of familiarity will certainly help for preparations for any next attempt. 

A solid plan and the best intentions do not always make for smooth riding. This is a fact I should have learned by now, but--surprise--I haven’t. I accept that there will always be a certain level of self-inflicted torture involved with bicycle touring. I think most bicycle tourists have a slightly sadistic streak. That or some philosophy about the impact of suffering on character. 

30 September, 2020

Building a Parts Bin Roadie

by Igor

Trek 760 with Velo Orange Components

I picked up this 1984 Trek 760 frameset more than a year back with no particular build idea in sight. It's a very cool frame and fork spec, and in my size! The frame is made from Reynolds 531c (c is for 'competition') tubing and has a 531 fork. It's very lightweight and great for a noodle-bike project.

Original listing picture

I first thought to build it up with all vintage components like Mavic hubs, Simplex shifters, and matching derailleurs. Then I thought to do a 650b conversion. But in order to get the rear tire to fit, I'd have to crimp the rear chainstays. This tubing is pretty thin, so crimping might actually crack the stays. So, that plan went out the window.

The frame sat on my shelf some more until we got final pre-production samples of the new hubs. Tommy from Cutlass Velo built up a wheelset using a 130mm Rear Cassette Hub and a Front Hub, both laced to Enterprise Rims. Now I have a rolling 700c chassis.

Now, the keenest observers might realize that this frame is spaced for 126mm, freewheel hubs. I've done a whole bunch of these 126mm -> 130mm conversions for both myself and customers back in the day. There are two options to make this conversion work: 1) you can cold set the frame to 130mm by expanding the dropouts using some 2x4s and bolts and nuts or 2) simply pull the dropouts open 4mm and shove the hub in. I chose the latter. I've done it this way for years without consequence.

Now what to do about components....

We have some pretty deep parts bins here at VO HQ. Hoarding, QC test mounting, component compatibility, frame handling with drop and flat bars, component testing, etc... stuff that we use mostly to test our frames in the stand and in the real world. And general hoarding. You know the drill.

The handlebars, shifters, and rear derailleur are all from my previous Piolet build. The crankset and bottom bracket is from our test fitting stock. Seatpost is from the hoard. The cassette and chain is used from some other build. The tires are from test fitting. The tubes are patched and put back into commission. The Mini-Rando Bag and Day Tripper bags are prototypes. The headset was included with the frameset purchase. The stem and adaptor is from the hoard. The saddle is a prototype from ages ago. The Moderniste Bottle Cage is a silver one I painted to see what it would look like in Noir. The Sabot Pedals are from our test ride stash. The front brake is a lone Grand Cru brake I found in the brake bin. The rear brake is from my hoard.

So the rear derailleur housing stop is supposed to use a step-down housing cap. At the time we didn't have any in stock. So I found this Problem Solvers Clamp-on cable stop that we used for the very first prototypes of the Piolet way back in in 2015 or so. The bike now has full housing along the chainstay thanks to some perfectly placed zip-ties. Seems fine

I knew I was going to run a bell on the bike and I wanted to make sure it looked as aged as the frame. So sometime in January I found a Brass Temple Bell in the hoard and disassembled it. I scuffed it, lightly hit it with the drill, scratched it, smacked it, dropped it, and then left it outside. I completely forgot about it until I went to build up the bike! It had developed just the right amount of patina while.....aging...... I cleaned it and finished it with a few coats of glossy clear before remounting it on the unused downtube shifter boss. I love the look. 

This build was a bit of a catharsis personally. I can sometimes be really picky about the way my bike looks and how things are oriented. So to just throw all those things that would have bugged me out the window and have two different color tires, brakes with pads all the way up the slots, and a brown saddle with black tape - it felt good. At least the bags match.

I've been riding it for a while now and really like it. It fits me well and is great for the riding I enjoy: not too fast not too slow.

If you want to check out a very complete build list, click here!

28 September, 2020

Keeping the Wheels Spinning - New Hubs and Fall Project Update

by Igor

New Hubs

We received a mountain of new disc and rim brake hubs on Friday. They feature designs we've been working on for a long time and they're finally here! In Polished Silver and Smooth Noir finishes, no less!

The new Rear Disc Hubs are now convertible between 12mm, 142mm Thru-Axle and 135mm QR. This is accomplished using endcaps that don't require any tools to swap. Additionally, these new hubs retain our tool-free cassette removal for maintenance and drive-side spoke repairs.

For the rim brake Rear Hub variant, you can also swap endcaps for 130mm and 135mm. You do need to take a bit more care building this rear hub because the non-drive-side endcap is the one that adds or subtracts 5mm of spacing. So you'll likely need to re-dish the wheel if you move it between 130mm and 135mm spaced frames.

Up front, we have more swap-ability with our Front Disc Hub. It includes endcaps for QR, 12mm (thruaxle), and 15mm (thruaxle) - all 100mm spacing. 

We keep it easy for the rim brake Front Hub. Just QR. 

They all features high-quality sealed cartridge bearings and tool-free dissassembly. Additionally, we are now offering three freehub body options: Shimano 11sp (HG), Campagnolo 11sp, and SRAM XDR. The last one is the Sram spline that allows you to use a 10-tooth cassette - very popular with MTB and touring bikes and allows you to have just that little extra top-end gear range with a 1x drivetrain.

When you buy the rear hub, let us know which Freehub Body Spline you want and we'll make it so. It default ships with Shimano HG, so if you don't put it in the comments or email us otherwise, that'll be what you get.

Medium-ish Bag Re-stock

We also got a bunch of VOxRRB luggage back in stock including:
We also got some extra Shoulder Straps. They are nice, simple, and lightweight and can be mounted on nearly anything that has a loop. So you can use it on non VOxRRB bags, cameras, water bottles, etc...

Projects Worth Noting and Happenings

Polyvalent Low Kickers are aboard the boat and are still planned to reach us by mid/late October. The first run of Small sizes sold out pretty quickly, but we have another small round arriving about a month after.

We're getting Diamond Polyvalents around January. They'll be the exact color and geo as the Low Kicker, but with a horizontal top tube (albeit with a couple degrees of slope). 

More Neutrinos are also planned for January/February. They'll be in the Pistachio Green color and will be dropper post compatible. Everything else is the same. 

More Piolets are slated for delivery around November/December. They'll be the same geo and specifications, and will be wearing a spiffy dark metallic blue paint with reflective VeloORANGE downtube decal.

We're also getting Cargo Bike Fenders for bikes with 26" or 650b rear wheels and 20inch front wheels. Both widths will be 58mm and they'll be made out of stainless steel. We went back and forth about stainless vs aluminum alloy, but settled on stainless. Stainless steel is tougher and more dent resistant than aluminum alloy. It's heavier, but let's be real here. If you're riding a cargo bike, the weight of your fenders shouldn't be a main concern in overall bike weight.

More Crazy Bars will be here in October as well. We sold out of the last production run in under 3 hours. It was not a small amount either. Probably the most we've ever gotten in one go. So the moral of the story is that if you're interested in getting them, sign up for the product alert. You'll get an automated email when they are put back into stock.

We're getting a shipment of parts and accessories in mid/late October. And then another in December or maybe late November depending on the dock timeline. And then another in January, and another in February. Needless to say, this season has been absolutely nuts!