14 October, 2021

New Crazy Bars Have Arrived!

by Igor

That's right! The Crazy Bars are in stock and ready to go out. Full disclosure, we get emails about these daily so we expect them to go fast.

If this is your first time hearing about this new version, here's the details:


Starting off, the bars have been widened to 780mm and the sweep has been reduced to a comfortable 35 degrees. This combo creates the perfect balance of leverage for out of the saddle climbs and natural wrist positioning for regular riding. Additionally, there is more room on the grip area for varied grip lengths and brake/shifter compatibility.

Accordingly, the horns have also been shortened to 110mm, but still retain the ability to mount bar end shifters. This allows significantly easier access to all of the positions without having to reach to the extremes of the bars.

We also introduced a bit of rise to the bars, 40mm. They're touring bars, so you deserve some rise.

They're MTB tested and will be available in bead-blasted silver and Noir finishes.

We do have a horn-less Seine Bar version, too! More will be here in December.

We also restocked on a bunch of other items:


07 October, 2021

Low Kickers and More Back in Stock

by Igor




Low Kickers have been a very popular frame offering and we've seen them built up in so many different styles ranging from commuter to gravelleur to tourer and everything in between. Well, they're back in stock and ready to go out!

If you're interested in build ideas for the LK (or for any other VO frame in general) check out our build ideas page.

We also got a restock of several parts and accessories you've been patiently waiting on. A lot of these items will go fast, so don't snooze on them! Highlights include:
Next gen Crazy Bars are state-side and we should be seeing them early to middle of next week.

22 September, 2021

Disc Brakes 101

by Scott

Disc brakes have really made major inroads into road cycling since they were first introduced about 15 years ago. Where once the idea of a road bike using disc brakes was laughable, we've now reached the point where a large percentage of road bikes come with disc brakes. We'd done a blog post about the pro/cons of disc brakes awhile back, so we're not here to rehash an old argument, but rather try to explain what you need to get in terms of brakes and bits if you want to build up a new bike that takes disc brakes.

Let's start with the mounting style of the brake caliper. This is the key to buying the right parts for your bike. There are three main styles you'll read about: IS, Post, and Flat mount. In your bike's description, it should state what sort of disc brake system the frame and fork uses.

Frame and Fork Mounts

  • IS mount uses an unthreaded tab welded to the frame or fork. "IS brakes" do not exist anymore. The Polyvalent and Piolet use IS mounts. What you need to buy is a post-mount brake and an IS adaptor for your rotor size. Generally speaking, when you choose the rotor, use the adapter the company who makes the rotor suggests. 
  • Post mounts are welded tabs that have internal threading. The brake screws right into the mount in the frame. You get adaptors to account for the size of the rotor. These were designed for mountain bikes, so you can get adapters to work with rotors from 160 mm to 203 mm. Our Neutrino mini velo uses this system for the rear brake and an IS for the front.
  • Flat mount is flush/flat with the chain stay or fork. It was designed for road and gravel bikes but is making its way into MTB. Typical rotor sizes are either 140 and 160 mm. Our Pass Hunter has flat mount brakes.


Moving on to Calipers...

There are generally two styles of caliper. The first is single piston, where one side moves the brake pad and pushes the rotor against the other pad on the opposite side of the caliper. The other is dual piston where a single arm actuates pistons on both sides of the rotor (more like your car's brakes). Either is fine, but we prefer to use dual piston for more consistent wear and performance of brake pads and rotors.


There are several types of actuation among disc brakes. Perhaps the most common are mechanical, cable-actuated calipers. These are nice for swapping cockpits and brake components. Alternatively, you can also get hydraulic brake calipers. These offer greater stopping power and better modulation, though you generally can't mix and match components from different companies, or even series from the same company. There are also more specialized tools for installation since you're dealing with hydraulic fluid. The third type is a cable actuated brake with a hydraulic reservoir. This type of brake offers the benefit of being able to mix and match calipers and brake levers, while also offering greater stopping power and modulation than a standard mechanical caliper. Simply put:
  • Cable actuated: easy to install and service, able to mix and match, good braking
  • Hydraulic actuated: harder to install and service since you need specialized tools, essentially no ability to mix and match, superior performance and modulation
  • Cable actuated with hydraulic reservoir: easy to install and service, able to mix and match, great braking, though more bulky than the other options because of the added reservoir

And Rotors...

The rotor is the actual disc that the brake caliper pinches to allow you to stop. Generally speaking, when choosing rotor size, larger rotor equals better heat removal and better stopping over short/intense braking (MTB) and longer downhill braking. Smaller rotor equals less weight and fewer parts. Generally speaking, the bikes we built fluctuate between 160mm or 180mm depending on the application and bike. The next size up is 203mm, but that is pretty exclusively for MTB and downhill.


Rotors come in two mounting styles - 6 bolt (on left) or center lock (on right). 6 bolt is the style we use on our hubs. The big advantage to 6 bolt is that you can easily remove the rotor if you are packing the bike up or need to replace the rotor out in the wilds of Iceland's interior, using only a T25 Torx head wrench.

The center lock system, which is primarily used and licensed by Shimano, uses a center spline with a lock ring to keep the rotor in place. You need a cassette lockring tool plus a good size wrench to get it off. This is nice for installation but is a pain for traveling.

Finally Adaptors...

So let's look at a fork to get an idea of the parts needed for it. This fork uses IS mounts, so we went with a set of Post mount TRP Spyres and the mounts for a 160 mm rotor. Notice that the fork mount is unthreaded, and the adaptor is threaded in two directions: left and right to attach the caliper to the fork mount, and front and back to attach the caliper to the adaptor.


Flat mount is a little different. For the frame, you need bolts that pass through the frame and screw into the caliper. Depending on the frame design, you may not need any shims for a 140mm rotor. For a 160mm rotor, you'll very likely need one. For the front, it also screws directly into the fork and uses a special mount. Some brake sets come with all of the hardware and others don't come with any (and you have to buy a la cart). 



Post mount is the easiest as the caliper screws directly into the frame or fork mount. You should only need shims to accommodate the rotor size.



So, those are the basics of disc brakes! You're welcome to debate the pros and cons of each style of brake mount in the comments or tell us what sort of set up you've used on your disc brake bike build. 


25 August, 2021

The Many Manners of Touring

 by Connor

    It seems like every year in this industry, someone comes out with another sub-category of cycling to differentiate their product or their experience from the others. Be it the advent of the "down-country" mountain bike (Short travel, slack geo), to the "all-road" bike (just a gravel bike?), everyone wants to name their slice of the pie. 

    Velo Orange has been making touring bikes since its inception. Granted we've offered different specs and styles over the years, but the moniker never really changed all that much - life's simpler that way. Our Pass Hunter may be our one exception to this, being what would widely be defined as an "all-road" bike, but it can still take front racks, fenders, bags, and 650Bx42mm tires. 

Kevin's Pass Hunter, sans Rando Rack

    However, in today's cycling world, even touring (perhaps the most general and least-finicky flavor of cycling) isn't safe from subdivision. There's Credit Card Touring, Sport Touring, Traditional Touring, Bike Packing, Nomadic Touring, and Randonneuring, just to name a few. So what gives? You're putting your stuff on your bike and staying someplace - is it not all the same? No. At least that's what Scott tells me, so let's dive in.

    While mountain bike categorization is generally based off of amount of suspension travel, geometry, and frame kinematics, the differences in touring bikes seem to be based more on how much stuff you carry, and less on where you're going. From what I can glean, here they are listed from lightest to heaviest load:

Credit Card Touring

Light, fast road touring bike. You maybe have a small handlebar bag with a change of clothes, you're staying at hotels/BnBs, and you're paying for everything (food, shelter, utilities) on a credit card, hence the name. In theory, you could step outside your door with your bike and credit card and go for a tour.

Sport Touring

Slightly more gear, perhaps this is a longer trip, a few more changes of clothes, and you'll be staying at multiple places. Still a lighter duty bike, designed less for load carrying, and more geared towards speed.

Randonneuring

Photo courtesy of Morgan of Found in the Mountains

This is probably the "fastest" form of touring because you're dealing with a time limit. Similar to Sport Touring, but with more paperwork. See Scott's blog post here.

Traditional Touring

More tire clearance, maybe you're hitting slightly rougher roads, carrying your full load including your food and shelter. Think racks and two to four panniers.

Bikepacking

Photo courtesy of Brad from RoadRunner Bags

You're fully loaded, going on and off road, running wider, knobby tires. You likely aren't running racks, hanging bags fore and aft, and you're camping in remote areas not necessarily set aside for camping. About as remote as it gets.

Basketpacking


Perhaps a bit of a backlash from bikepacking luggage and its often times over-complex system of straps, pads, enormous saddle bags, more straps, lashes, plastic holders, and straps, basketpacking is a happy medium between the practicality of traditional touring bags and the out-of-the-way-of-obstacles afforded by bikepacking bags. Through, you do need a front rack and basket, so there are some hard mounting points to keep in mind for those seeking rougher terrain.

Nomadic Touring

You have sold all of your possessions and now indefinitely are touring, riding where you please, making home where you roam.

    So maybe it does have a little bit to do with where you're going. I feel like most "Bikepacking" bikes I see have more in common with modern long wheelbase hardtails than they do traditional touring bikes, and they're often pictured in remote, wild areas with no trace of civilization in sight. Despite this, they're still far removed in essence from mountain bikes. 


Scott and Melissa's setup during their Iceland tour

    I would challenge anyone to convince me that what we call the "modern touring bike" isn't just a gravel bike with bits and bobs bolted onto it. Endurance geometry compatible with flat or drop bars, wide tire clearance and a little room for fenders and/or bags? Sure sounds like a gravel bike to me. Recalling that gravel bikes were once your off-season cyclocross bikes with big tires squeezed in, and that the early 'cross bikes were cantilever tourers with knobby tires glued on. You see how things begin to seem a little muddled?


       Photo Credit: https://www.velonews.com/news/cyclocross/commentary-ive-been-racing-cyclocross-for-50-years/ 

Alan Hills riding his Peugeot UO-8 in an early-1970's cyclocross race. If you haven't read his 50-year saga in the 'cross scene, it's definitely a must-read for enthusiasts, and can be found here.

    I think that the modern tendency to categorize everything has its benefits - it allows people, concepts, and designs to stand apart and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Concerning bikes, however, does it not also create a whirlwind effect where there are too many categories to choose from? I recall my time as a bike mechanic and salesperson back when the gravel boom exploded. The average customer didn't know what to make of this new category. Was it a road bike, a 'cross bike, or a hybrid (or a combination of all three)?  The customer is sometimes lost in a sea of subdivisions and thus ultimately put off by the process of buying a bike.  

    This begs the question; does touring (and cycling as a whole) benefit from this kind of categorization? Or is it just another barrier to entry for folks interested in cycling and/or more specifically, touring? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

19 August, 2021

Do You Name Your Bike?

By Scott

Sometimes the objects we own become more than just things. Bikes aren't just tools or a device, but for a lot of us, a source of joy and pride. When my wife bought a Pass Hunter frame this spring, she named the bike Diana, after the Roman goddess of the hunt. 


It makes it easy when she has names for bikes. When we are getting ready for a ride, she can say that she is taking Diana or Mari (her other road bike) out and I know which to prep and ensure it is ready for the ride.

Back when I worked for GU in 2007/2008, I rode my touring/brevet/sportif/only bike to work most days. My boss there had a very nice Lightspeed road bike. He would refer to my bike as "the truck". With fenders, racks and lights on it, it was certainly more "truckish" then his svelte road bike. I went out for a staff lunch ride one day, and my bike certainly felt more of a truck than either of their two lightweight road bikes over the Berkeley hills.

I started calling it The Truck after that. Eventually I got a lighter road bike to ride and that bike became "The Jag" - lighter, smoother, and more reliable than the car.

(The "Jag" . Sorry for the non drive side photo, but I was 400 miles into a 750 mile ride)

So here's the question - do you name your bike and what sort of convention do you use?

Ps. If you're interested in the complete build list of Melissa's Pass Hunter, you can find it here: https://velo-orange.com/pages/pass-hunter-build-list-sportif-with-whisky-carbon-fork

14 July, 2021

New Seine Bars and Rubbery Bar Tape!

by Igor

Seine Bars Float In

The new Seine Bar is an offroad-worthy riser bar featuring a super comfortable position with loads of real estate and leverage for long days in and out of the saddle. 

Straddling the line between touring and full-on MTB, these bars are wide - 780mm to be exact. This width allows you to select climbing lines with ease and navigate bumpy descents without drama. If they're too wide for your trail or your commute, they can still be cut down to really dial in your fit.

The rise is a cool 40mm and sweep is 35°. So while these were mainly designed to satisfy off-road touring enthusiasts' mixed terrain needs, they are an excellent option for commuters and flat-bar gravel connoisseurs alike. 

They're currently available on the VO webstore in a bead-blast finish in Silver and Black.

Rolling out Rubbery Bar Tape

Handlebar tape selection can make or break your bike's comfort. So we're pleased to offer this grippy, cushy, and beautiful Rubbery Bar Tape.

For mixed-terrain rides where things can go from chill to loose at a moment's notice, having a handlebar wrap that you won't slide off of is paramount. 

Quick specs: 200cm in length, 3.5mm thick (that's thick), and available in three colors (Brown, Black, and White). 

13 July, 2021

GRUSK - Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob

by Connor

        About two months ago, my fiancĂ©e and I took a road trip down from DC to Seneca Rocks to camp for a weekend. West Virginia, for those of you who haven't been, is absolutely gorgeous, and is undoubtedly one of the most (if not the most) beautiful states on the east coast. I think it all comes down to how undeveloped and untouched most of the state is - no sprawling cityscapes, no mile wide highways, and no McDonald's every 2 miles. Quite honestly, the state is so covered in rolling hills and mountain ranges, it may never be able to be developed nearly as much as it's more suburbanized East-coast neighbors like Virginia and Maryland. 

        On this trip, we ended up taking a detour from Seneca Rocks to hike off the summit of Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, and the tallest mountain for hundreds of miles around. Upon our return to the lot, I noticed a son and his father absolutely suffering on their road bikes up the last stretch of the climb to the peak, and I thought to myself "that looks like no fun, I'm not sure I'd ever come down here to do that."

...cut to this weekend.

        I signed up for the GRUSK (Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob) on a whim about a month ago, right before registration closed. I wasn't sure about the course profile, but I knew I wanted to do the standard 82-mile event and I knew I wanted to race in the single-speed class. I arrived in Circleville very late in the night on Friday, and crawled my way up the rocky mountain road up to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, a privately-owned outdoor learning and camping area. 

        One thing to note if you plan on racing this event - bring a truck. Or an SUV. Or anything but a Volkswagen Golf. The roads up the mountain were by no means paved and I scraped the underside of my car multiple times on the way up. The camping/parking areas were mowed fields, and as I slowly rolled along the rows of cars already parked for the night. I bottomed out my car on a rut and got it stuck on a hump in the field. I then spent the next 10 minutes or so waking the entire campground late at night trying to get un-stuck, burning up my clutch, and ultimately breaking free after a little help from an annoyed neighbor. I got my tent set up, and hoped the next morning would be less bleak. What i woke to far exceeded my expectations;


        The rolling foothills of West Virginia greeted me with a cool breeze and fair skies, telling me that I would, in fact, have a great day after all. I managed to move my car to a less treacherous part of the field closer to the start area, and brewed up some coffee sent our way from our friends at Ruby Roasters out in Wisconsin. The new trend of instant-coffee steeping sachets seems a little gimmicky, but it beats the hell out of dealing with the mess of a French press or the like. Not to mention it makes a damn fine cup of coffee.


        One thing that really stands out about this event is how well-supported it was, and how involved the race organizers and volunteers were in the proceedings from start to finish. The venue was a nice little tucked away hangout on a nearby section of the property, and acted as a good gathering place for race starts. It was a great spot for folks to convene with fellow riders as they crossed the finish line and made a beeline for the beer line. People were hanging out, chatting, recalling race stories from days of yore, and coming back to cheer on finishers crossing that line.



        Finally, 10am rolled around, and after a moderated rolling start out of the campground, the race was on. A relatively double file line took a hard turn right and exploded into an all-out sprint down the first descent. Bottles getting jostled loose flew to the side of the road, the sounds of punctured tubeless tires whirring in the distance and shouts all around. The course profile really seems rather tame on paper: 


And that 2000ft climb to the summit looks fairly lengthy and intimidating, but the hardest parts were actually the short, steep, punchy climbs. My 42-18 gear ratio was way too tall, and I spun out on the downhill sections anyways, so I likely could've run a 40-20, or a 36-17. That flat section in the middle was great and I was hauling for most of it, but as soon as I hit those shorter punches up, I got to the point where I almost couldn't physically turn the gear over. Hindsight's 20/20, I guess.


   

        Jammed in between these few challenging areas, however, were dozens of miles of rolling hills, fast and loose gravel descents, farm roads and shady forest service roads. There honestly wasn't a mile in this race that wasn't surrounded by a sprawling nature-scape. If you didn't look up from time to time, you'd miss the beauty of it all. This was only compounded by the great attitude shared by everyone out in the field. Comments of disbelief and support for one of the 5 single speeders out on the course were abundant, and my VO-spec'd-out Nature Boy was the center of attention at every rest stop and the miles in between. I can honestly say this race had the "happiest" overall attitude among its participants of any cycling event I've ever been to. There was still a competitive air about it, but everyone wanted everyone else to do their very best and finish. I get the sense that this may have been due to the number of separate fields available at registration. Rather than just a "men's open" and a "women's open," there were probably half a dozen categories each, and a few other odds and ends like single-speed classes. More opportunities for podiums, more fun to share, more love to go around. 


        One drawback of not having the summit be the finale of the race is once you get yourself to the top, you really don't have time to appreciate the views. I mean, you do, but you're in a race and you just watched the person one position ahead of you fly back down the mountain in the other direction as you finished your climb, and you can't waste time for a photo-op. Logistically, I understand it's obviously not a good place to finish a race, but you can't help but feel a little robbed of the opportunity to appreciate the incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 

        After absolutely dogging myself to get to the peak, perhaps the biggest challenge of the day laid before me; staying awake for the 8-mile descent off the summit to the final climb into the finish. The final punch in the gut is the last 2 miles up to the campground, followed by a bumpy, rocky, rutted out taped off course to the finish line. The food was still warm and the beer was cold, what more can I say? I finished 5th in the single speed class out of 5, which means I simultaneously podiumed and finished DFL. Nonetheless, the congratulations and support from strangers were abundant, and it just seemed like everyone was there to celebrate finishers no matter where they placed- an atmosphere any bike event organizer could strive to achieve, and one Travis did a hell of a job setting up. 

Gear Round Up:

        After having Sunday to recover and review notes about the race as a whole and my bike, I had a few things to note that I found mentionable.

        Daija Cycleworks Far Bar (and Splash Tape!)


This handlebar was absolutely the star of the show for me. Riding single-speed often requires more leverage during climbs and accelerations when you're standing up, to offer a wider grip and helping to counter balance up steeper sections. Additionally, the flat region on the underside of the shallow drop offered a spectacular amount of control at high speeds on loose terrain. Not to mention the numerous other hand positions the bar offers, something I came to appreciate on a 6+ hour ride.

The Splash tape offered a supple, cushioned grip that didn't sop up moisture from my hands and gloves, and stayed grippy all day. It comes in other colors but...why wouldn't you get Splash?


Velo Orange Zeste Cantilever Brakes


Offering more than enough stopping power and about as much modulation as you could expect out of a set of cantilever brakes, the Zeste brakes paired with the Dia Compe straddle hanger performed flawlessly throughout the day, almost being too stop-y at times. I could recommend them for any cantilever bike, and I'll absolutely be running these in the coming 'cross season.

        Velo Orange Touring Saddle (and pictured long setback seatpost)


As I mentioned in my last post about commuting on this bike, I've been riding our VO Touring saddle to and from work, a couple days a week for the last month. I hadn't yet had a chance to ride it for much longer than an hour at a time, so I was unsure about how my rear end would feel after half a day of getting jostled around on this thing. It offered plenty of cushion and was very forgiving in the bumpier sections, while not being too wide or feeling like a "traditional" touring saddle. I'd put this on any one of my bikes. Not to mention just how pretty that long setback post is- if you're considering one, I promise you won't regret it.


Velo Orange Retro Bottle Cage


I'll say that the retro cage was the only thing to cause me any trouble during this ride. At the very start, I did hit one or two minor-moderate bumps in the road by accident and the bottle in my seat tube cage promptly shot out of there like a rocket. This didn't happen for the rest of the race, but I did have to run back and grab my bottle, costing me precious seconds. I liked how simple and elegant the tab-less versions looked, which is why I chose them, but I perhaps could have benefited from running the versions with retainer tabs- just something to consider if you're looking at cages and may hit roads less than perfect. The moderniste cages would also have been a good choice.


The Sum-Up

        This year's GRUSK was probably my favorite organized cycling event I've been to in a few years, second only maybe to a handful of 'cross races. The venue was clean, spread out, quiet and spacious. There were facilities in each quadrant of the camping areas, and dorm/yurt options were available if you wanted to spring for that. As there was no cellular coverage on the mountain, the lodge on the property offered wifi, and folks were more than willing to answer questions and get you in the right direction. The race organizers, officials, and volunteers did a great job hosting and supporting the event (these were some of the best run aid stations I've ever seen), and the course was spectacular. My only complaint was that in the 4 days prior to the race, Travis sent out 6 emails with about as much information as you could possibly need about the logistics of the event, but he failed to mention how rough the road up and down was, and how poorly marked the camping areas were. I'm sure it's normal down there to encounter gravel roads on a daily basis, but I met people who traveled in from all over, and I was not alone in my surprise at how rough the entry was to the venue. So! All I'll say is, take an SUV, do not take your Golf. Mine is currently in the shop after busting an oil leak from one of those rocks I ran over on the way out. 

        I'll likely be going back next year (with either a different ratio or a geared bike), and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a moderately difficult challenge. Gravel racing is starting to pick up more popularity every year, and it's encouraging to see this kind of friendly and good-natured environment be the foundation for another branch of cycling.

30 June, 2021

Bike Commuting - One Month In

by Connor     

    When Igor asked me to start writing posts for the blog, I began to wonder what kinds of things I could write about that readers might enjoy beyond basic technical knowledge. As a bike mechanic of just over 9 years coming over to the manufacturer's side of the industry, my brain still looks at a bike from the technical side of things:

"Is this the right stem length for that bike? How will this drivetrain pairing work? Is this tire going to work well with the internal width of that rim? Those wheels aren't tubeless compatible? Ugh..."

All day.

    And I'm sure that perspective is unlikely to change, but technical jargon doesn't make for good writing, and in turn, doesn't make for good reading. I can attest that riding bikes is certainly more fun than wrenching on them, so I'm going to talk a little bit about this new, crazy, never-before-seen sect of cycling: commuting.

    That's right, someone call the Radavist, make sure they get the early scoop on this one. With the glamour and excitement associated with the Gravel boom keeping the big companies occupied with providing mass-produced 'cross bikes with longer wheelbases and room for a fender, the little guys are simultaneously in a race to make the coolest, wildest looking wide-tire drop-bar bike you've ever seen. Not to mention everyone and their mother is squeezing a gravel event into wherever the state forgot to repave.

With gravel events slowly leeching their way into the D.C. area, I had to try it out

    It sometimes feels like everything else has been left to the wayside. Sure, full-sus bikes now come with travel ranging in increments of 5mm per model, and practically every bike on the Tour this year has disc brakes and tubeless tires- there's a lot to be excited about. But not everyone (and by that, I mean most people) is buying these bikes. 

    As Scott said to me today, "If the bike industry were like the car industry, we'd all be driving F1 cars to work." Ferraris Monday-Friday and mudding through swampy doubletrack in our Rover Defenders over the weekend. But we're not. This is not Car and Driver, I drive a pre-owned Golf. 

    And don't get me wrong, there's much to be enjoyed from the fad waves as they ebb and flow through online forums and bike magazines. Innovation sparks improvement, which is an ethos that we at VO have humbly applied to our bikes in recent years, evidenced by thru-axles, tapered head tubes and disc brakes on currently available models. But I'd be willing to bet that the majority of bike riders (and by bike riders I mean the aggregate of all people who hop on the saddle and pedal) are just out to get somewhere and have fun doing it. Enter cycling's unspoken majority: The Commuters.

    Whether you're a college kid just trying to get across campus, a paralegal trying to get to your city office a few minutes faster in the morning, or you're the kind of person who, like Igor, would feel rather silly getting in their car to drive less than a mile to the grocery store for half a backpack's amount of food, you're a commuter. And it's not all about Ortlieb panniers and waterproof suit bags, either (though it honestly should be... So dope). It can be much simpler than that- Sneakers and a backpack, sandals and a handlebar bag. 

    Having spent my first month here at VO commuting 22 miles roundtrip most days on my 2nd-gen All City Nature Boy, I've had ample time to reflect on my setup, how I got into a morning routine to accommodate the time it takes to ride in, and the benefits I've seen thus far after a month. I started out with some takeoff flat bars (which were too wide), an original Blackburn MTN Rack (which rattled a ton), and some vintage 80's panniers (which billowed). A valiant first effort.

So much rack, so few things

    It was after my first week that a riding buddy of mine was towing me to work one morning, and he goes "Man... that left pannier is like a parachute. Why didn't you take it off? And that right one isn't even full. Why'd you put the rack on there? And you're so upright, it's great coasting behind you." And while I was trying not to over-analyze my commuter bike, I could see he was right. To carry a small lunch container and a change of clothes, I'd bolted on what was likely more than enough equipment to facilitate a 2-day camping trip. And I could definitely tell that the wide flat bars had me in an oddly upright position. So after some scrounging in the parts bin, walks to the warehouse, and a couple days later...

"The Glow-up", as the kids say.

    I have to admit, the build turned out spectacularly. We stripped it down to the frame and put as much VO gear on it as possible; stem, seatpost, headset, saddle, brakes, cranks (a proto with a narrow-wide chainring), and bottom bracket. Splash tape on the Dajia Far Bar and a Safety Pizza for... well, safety. Retro bottle cages add a little flare, and the Rando canti rack, in my opinion, is one of the most innovative and well-engineered things we sell at VO; I frequently admire it across the room at the office. It integrates flawlessly with the Rando bag, which, coincidentally, is the perfect size for a change of clothes, a meal, and your phone. 
        
    Additionally, I reduced the overall weight of the bike (for all you weight weenies out there), and the swept-out Far Bars feel very secure at high speeds on all surfaces (for those of you who take more adventurous routes). I won't get into the components here, as I'll be racing this bike in the coming months in gravel and CX events, and will have more to say about their durability and performance after more rigorous testing.

Cantilever-post mounted Rando Rack, nestling the Rando Bag up between the Far Bars

Safety Pizza topping the Roadrunner saddle roll

Tall Stack Stem is pretty but subtle enough, you just might miss it

    There's something to be said about looking down and the aesthetic of your bike contributing to the experience of your ride. Not only is your bike doing what you built it to do, but it looks damn good doing it. It's not everything, but I can't deny that it's a contributing factor. 

    I've owned this bike for many years- it's been a campus crusher, a DC city commute brawler, a cyclocross race rocket, and a flat bar, singletrack, do-it-all, beer blaster. This is without a doubt my favorite setup of the bike yet. It's still very light, looks sharp, and holds just the things I need- perhaps the ethos of a good commuter bike. Beyond that, the changes have made the bike much more enjoyable to ride, so much so that I get mildly disappointed if something comes up and I have to drive in, which is a new thing for me.  

    So. Buy that cool rack or that utility bag! It may change everything about your trip to work or the store. One thing's for sure; if you use your commuter bike to get to work every day like I do, even the little improvements go a much longer way than a $300 Kogel pulley on your weekend machine. You're still on your bike, the most important thing is that you enjoy it.

If you're interested in a comprehensive build list, click here: https://velo-orange.com/pages/all-city-nature-boy-gen-1-build-list-lightweight-commuter