30 November, 2020

From Russia with love

By Konstantin Simakin

Note: since posting this article, Konstantin has rebuild the wheels with carbon Nextie Rims and cassette hub, changed the gearing to a 1x11 drivetrain, and added drop bars. While the build is different that what's ahead, the modification to the frame for the special bag and the care in painting and building it all up warrants its own post.

Today we have a guest post from one of our Russian dealers, Konstantin Simakin of Planetarki in St. Petersburg. Konstantin has been a great supporter of our products in Russia for many years. This is his story of how he came into creating his own version of a mini-velo based on our Neutrino frameset.

The way to mini-velo is different for everyone. Some might get a mini-velo for the aesthetics of its design, or maybe their home has little room to store a full-size bike. I came to mini-velo via a folding bike.

It all started in the summer of 2018 when I first bought a Brompton bike. Brompton is a pretty expensive, but awesome English folding bike. It has wheels with a diameter of only 16 inches, folds down to an incredibly compact size, and has a very wide functionality - especially in the city.

In addition to the ultra compact folding, it has fast acceleration, sharp steering, and compactness when maneuvering in the city - these are qualities of the mini-velo I fell in love with and could no longer imagined city riding without it. Also, I could not have imagined riding in the city without this stunning front bag that holds all the things I need during the day. As for the folding function, no matter how practical it is, it greatly affects the rigidity of the frame and I did not like it, so I immediately began to think about the non-folding mini-velo.

At the end of the summer of 2019, I became the owner of an elite English mini-velo called the Moulton TSR 22 - this is a rather serious bike located in the middle of their lineup. Everything would be fine, but there is always a but!

For the company that sells Moultons, I had to make a comparative video review of two Moulton TSR 22 models and the top Moulton NS Speed, which cost more than $ 20,000. During the filming of the video review, I rode a lot on the Moulton NS Speed, and it turned out to be just an amazing ride. The suspension performance there was fantastic. After growing accustomed to the NS Speed, I simply could not ride my Moulton TSR 22 as the suspension and other characteristics in it were not the same quality. In addition, it was not possible to install a quick-detachable front bag like that on the Brompton. This was another reason why I decided to get rid of Moulton. There were thoughts of a complete redesign of the TSR 22, but it was a complete bike, rather than a bare frame, and there would be considerable amout of work that would be required because of the suspension. In the end, I decided to sell the bike as it did not really fit my needs.

All this time, when I was having fun with my Brompton and Moulton, I looked at Velo Orange  Neutrino mini-velo, but for some reason, I did not take it seriously. In the photographs, the bike seemed somehow awkward and heavy to me. Then I had not yet held his frame in my hands and could not imagine how cool it really would be.

By the fall of 2019, when such unexpected disappointments in the elite British bicycle technology overtook me, I clearly understood that I could no longer live a normal life without a mini-velo. Which mini-velo do you think I chose next? Of course it was Velo Orange Neutrino Mini-Velo! Since it was a bare frame, I immediately told myself that this time the game would be by my rules!

At the end of autumn 2019, I was holding a brand new Velo Orange Neutrino Mini-Velo frame in my hands and was amazed at how light and cool it was. The first thing that attracted me to it was the sliding dropouts. I have long wanted to try the German Rohloff internal hub and of course, this project was the best fit for this precisely because of the sliding dropout design.

The Rohloff was not supposed to be the only highlight of this project. I wanted to transfer to this frame my favorite Brompton front bag with its convenient quick release lock. To do this, I had to joint the bag's base to the head tube to install their quick lock, which means the frame would need to be repainted.

I was able to successfully join the base for the front bag lock. The place for the bracket was chosen so that the headlight (powered by the front dynamo hub of the SON28) could fit between the front wheel and the bag. Then, I layed down the VO orange paint to the frame. I asked my friend, the artist pinstriper Graffix, to hand-paint the inscription VELO-ORANGE on the down tube and the inscription NEUTRINO on the top tube with a brush, as well as draw a micro-metropolis after the word Neutrino. He did an excellent job. 

Naturally, I chose a bright orange color, which was painted in the most successful bike in my opinion, the Velo-Orange - Pass Hunter Disc. The only bike Velo Orange made that combined elements of the first classic Velo Orange frames and modern trends, but has since been discontinued! Now we need to narrow down some component choices.

I am also very grateful to Scott from Velo Orange for helping me get the strong, 20" Velocity Cliffhanger Rims.

We have a company in Russia that makes high-quality crank sets, this company is called Neutrino Components. I really love their products. So it was easy to select a crankset from them! So, plunging into this amazingly balanced concept, I started working on this bike.

It turned out to be a very tough and aggressive bike, so I chose the black Fairweather B903 Bullmoose Bar. I have long legs, so I had to find an extra long seatpost from a Cannondale Hooligan. After much work, my new Velo Orange Neutrino mini-velo was ready.

The Velo Orange Neutrino mini-velo is the most amazing mini-velo I have ever had. It has a very rigid frame, excellent acceleration dynamics, sharp steering, and good maneuverability. I can say with confidence that it works better than the elite English Mini-Velo. It combines the aggression and power of a BMX, the dynamics and performance of a modern road bike, and the practicality and utility of a city bike. Moving around the city on this bike, I get the thrill of jumping off high obstacles, its wide tires pass through soft grass and mud. Now I don't have to look for roads in the city, but choose directions and go wherever I want. At the same time, thanks to the rigidity of the frame, each of my trips on it is a serious training that improves my condition as a cyclist. When a few years ago, Neutrino mini-velo just appeared, I could not imagine that the time would come and that it would surpass and replace English 
brands for me, but it was so. 

A small spoiler for the next part - I didn't like Rohloff as much as I though. I am an aggressive cyclist, and this thing is for those who are not in a hurry. Now, as I write these lines, there is no Rohloff on my Neutrino mini-velo. Rather, the next incarnation of my Neutrino mini-velo is a drop bar, SRAM 1x11 gravel transmission, and a lot of carbon. But that's a completely different story for next time...


Maynard said...

Konstantin - your English is terrific! I saw your photos on Instagram and rushed to the Velo ORANGE Blog to read more about you and your bike. Thanks for your honest evaluation and enthusiasm! I look forward to reading more about your bike as you change it to make it perfect for your use! Hello from Denver, Colorado, USA!

Jeff said...

I love the idea of being able to use Brompton bags on the Neutrino. Any chance that a Brompton compatible head-tube lug could be added to the next batch?

Unknown said...

GREAT looking bike. How did you prevent the Rohloff from torquing? I didn't see if you used a Monkey bone or ???

James Thurber said...

I love the bike but how did you keep the Rohloff from "rolling" because of torque? I wonder if there is a Monkeybone in there that I'm just not seeing.

Great job!

Konstantin Bike-Master said...

I modified the OEM2 base plate and hooked it onto the slider dropout bolt, I put the bolt longer than the standard one. I didn't need the monkey bone. I did this because I used the ROHLOFF TS, and there is no Post Mount adapter for it, which is installed on this frame