20 May, 2022

Using Onions to Patina Your Opinel?

by Igor

Folks typically associate patina with years of use, visible wear, and long-term care. There is an aura of warmth and satisfaction when you see a beautifully patina'd Leica, lock-up bike, vintage car, tool chest, or leather bag. Adrian found a fun article describing different ways to patina Opinel carbon steel and so we had to try it out. Some techniques involved chemicals and such, but we decided on a more natural method - stabbin' onions. 

VO has been carrying Opinel knives for several years now. They're popular for their affordability, simplicity, and storied history as the go-to for French farmers, backpackers, and foragers. The carbon blade option does require more care and sharpening than their stainless steel offering, but carbon can take an edge easier. And because carbon is uncoated, they develop a nice patina over time. From Opinel: "Patina is completely normal and will help aid rust resistance of your carbon blade."

Here's what you need to create a beautiful patina on your carbon blade Opinel without years of use:

  • Opinel knife
  • Onion - white or red will do (we found no discernible difference in our test). Keep in mind you will be disposing of the onion once this process is done, so don't expect to use it in your next French Onion Soup or sandwich.
  • Water
  • Towel
  • 48 hours

Literally, stab the onion in the middle - all the way down the lock. We tried orienting the blade horizontally and vertically with respect to the layers of the onion and found inserting parallel to the root produced a circular pattern, while perpendicular was more wavy. Each of them is very cool. 



Now, the hard part. Put it down somewhere safe and where someone won't ask, "Why is there a knife in this onion?" Now leave it alone. The original recipe called for 24 hours, but we forgot and did 48 hours.

When the prescribed time has elapsed, pull the knife out. I will warn you, the knife will smell like onion. If you lived in an onion for 48 hours, you'd smell like an onion, too. But trust me, rinse it off with plain water and wipe it down. The smell will dissipate over the next day or so.

Behold your newly patina'd Opinel! 

After doing this experiment, Adrian found some more articles about creating patina on Opinels. My favorite was simply drizzling McDonalds spicy mustard sauce over the blade and letting it sit for a bit. 

I'm thinking about how to patina the Blue Lug Brass Spacers. Any ideas?

16 May, 2022

Now Back in Stock!

Velo Orange 50.4 bcd Crankset on Polyvalent

Back in Stock!

Today's email is a quick one. We just got a fresh shipment of parts and accessories! Here's a list of what's back in stock:

We also updated our About VO page, so be sure to give it a quick read! As always, thank you for the support. 

Happy Riding!
Velo Orange Klunker Bar on Piolet with foam grips
Jump over to the VO Webstore!

09 May, 2022

One Very Classy Pass Hunter

by Igor

When the new Growtac Brakes came in, we knew we needed to do a special Pass Hunter build - something classic, sophisticated, and useful. And this has it has it all: Campagnolo, loads of silver, and hints of brown.

Don't let the fenders and racks fool you - this is a rocket ship!


Speaking of, Connor did a bang-up job mounting the fenders and front and rear racks together in a very Constructeur style. It makes the connection rock solid over rougher terrain.


Peep those cut down aluminum alloy tubes for the screws.


These new tire offerings from Conti have a very nice ride and feel. They also have a classic tread design that would look at home on any classic rando or roadie. They would even class up any modern, big tube carbon roadie. Should we bring some in? We have some of the other Conti gravel offerings on personal rides and they are really nice.


Nothing is lighter than a hole, right? It's pretty fun seeing the frame's paint through the Drillium chainrings holes.


Oh those hubs! Obviously I'm a bit biased, but I think our hubs match their superb looks with excellent function. 


Lastly, pedals! I'll admit it's been several years since I rode with Road Pedals, Toe Clips, and Straps. While they're fun and look really nice, they don't really work with the style of sneaker I usually wear. I'll stick with my Sabots (more are coming in 1.5 months).


Scott managed to find a single VO Toe Clip Button in his bin of little bits. They're great for pulling your strap tight once you get going on the road, but they're not so great for making any money. Hence why you won't find them on the site any longer.


This was a really fun build. If you're interested in building a bike up similar to this one, check out the comprehensive build list on the website!

04 May, 2022

Growtac Brakes are Now Available!

by Igor

We are pleased to announce that VO is the official importer of Growtac Equal Mechanical Disc Brakes into the USA! We currently have them available in Flat and Post Mount brake styles.

If this is your first time hearing about the company, Growtac is a small engineering and manufacturing firm out of Tokyo, Japan that specializes in cycling products for indoor training - think trainers, rollers, and accessories. More recently, they developed a flat mount disc brake that struck my attention when I stumbled across them on an obscure Japanese Instagram story. 

Function and Feel

As soon as I saw these, I emailed Growtac and ordered up some brakes for evaluation. A few weeks later, they arrived. We unboxed them, mounted them up on my Pass Hunter and got to work testing them out. Immediately, I found a huge difference in stopping quality compared to the previous calipers. When I say quality, I mean the combination of several things including modulation, stiffness, and lever feel.

Brake modulation is the ability to precisely and accurately control the amount of clamping force on a disc rotor with a given amount of lever input. So, the more lever you pull, a similar amount of deceleration should occur. The rider should be able to feather the brakes to scrub speed, stop firmly before corners, and live comfortably on the edge of peak braking before lockup. Over the years, I've used many different cable actuated brakes from nearly every vendor out there, over a wide range of prices. The Equal brakes have an excellent level of brake modulation compared to other cable-actuated brakes and even some hydraulic set ups.

When you actually squeeze the lever, how does it feel through the pull of the lever? Is it rigidly stiff, is it noodly? I think the easiest way to describe the lever feel is stiff, but forgiving. The lever movement is natural, forgiving to hand muscles, and you never feel like you're going to run out of lever throw. At the same time, properly adjusted, these brakes offer a consistent and reliable bite point that acts as a natural end of the cable pull, without room for additional cable flexion at the caliper.

Please note that the stiffer/stronger the levers you use are, the better these brakes are going to feel. Our Grand Cru short-pull brake levers are a great match for these brakes on flatbar builds. Likewise, the  lever feel is going to depend on what dropbar levers you use.

In the past, I've used some brake setups that feel super stiff and good in the stand but lack modulation under moderate braking. I've also tried others where you worry you're going to run out of lever before they get to peak braking. These brakes really seem to be the best we've tried in terms of modulation, lever feel, and adjusting bite point.

What's in the Box?!

When you open the nice, "Build Your Own Bicycle" box, you are greeted with two calipers. We currently have them available in Flat and Post Mount and a variety of colors. Quick side note: at the time I am writing this, the Silver and Black Post Mounts and Black Flat Mounts are in production, but have not arrived yet.

  • 2x Growtac Equal Flat Mount Brake Calipers - peep those beautiful calipers!
  • 2x road brake cables
  • 2x mtb brake cables
  • Flat Mount version: 1x front flat mount adaptor for 140mm or 160mm rotor
  • 2x compressionless housing (stiff)
  • 2x non-compressionless housing (flexy)
  • Bunch of housing endcaps
  • Mounting hardware specific for flat mount or post mount
The housing uses a combination of compressionless (stiff) and non-compressionless (flexy) lengths. The idea is that you use the flexy length for the aero-routing of the housing under the bar tape. It makes installation for drop and alt-bars super easy compared to full compressionless - all without any perceptible performance difference. It's a nice touch.

We will be carrying our own VO branded flat mount and IS/Post mount adaptors, but it may be a few weeks before they actually arrive. In the meantime, pretty much any vendor's mounts/adaptors should work to mount these brakes up if you have a specific setup or brake mount standard.

14 April, 2022

Neutrino Mini-Velo Tips, Tricks, and FAQs

by Connor

With our recent shipment of Neutrinos having arrived earlier this month, and with mini-velo wheelsets on the way any day now, we decided it would be a good idea to brush up on the technical specs of the bike itself and offer some suggestions of how to build up a complete bike. This quick and concise rundown is designed to help you find the correct build and fit for your own Neutrino Mini Velo. 

Size Guide

You're not going to start a build kit without buying the right frame size first, so let's get into fit. Our Neutrinos come in Small, Large, and XXL. Because of the non-traditional nature of the frameset, we designed the Neutrino in only three sizes to span a broad range of heights and body dimensions. 

The Small is best suited for folks in the sub - 5'6" (167cm) height range. Because of the low-slung, BMX-esque shape of the frame, inseam and stand over are largely irrelevant when it comes to frame size, making this bike ideal for folks struggling to find a bike small enough for them. The Large is our most popular size, and is designed for folks between 5'7" (170cm) - 6'1" (185cm). The XXL is for the taller folks, designed with those taller than 6'1" in mind. A higher and longer top tube boasts proper fit in a tiny package, and the steel construction of the frame provides a sturdy foundation for all sorts of tall riders. The XXL size frame doesn't really fit into a checked bag, but we had a lot of people asking for a size larger than Large, so there you go.

Note that as the headtube length increases as you go up in sizes, folks with more reach looking for a more-relaxed fit may still have to add a fair number of stack spacers to find the correct fit. Keep in mind that you can always cut more steerer off and punch down the star nut - you can't add it back on. It's always best to throw the wheels, cranks, seatpost/saddle, and headset on with your desired bars, and play with height. Scoot around, coast and soft pedal, and find a generally ideal position for the type of riding you plan on doing- then add 10-20mm of stack above where your stem is mounted, and cut that much above. You can always shave that down, but if after a couple of rides, you find your stem is just a little too low, you'll be glad you waited and saved the extra 20mm or so.

Interjection from Igor: the steerer tube is steel, so feel free to stack them up as much as you want. You may get some weird looks from the Slam Your Stem Society, but I think you should embrace the tower of power. 

Parts

Bars/Stem

The Neutrino is a funky animal at first glance, that much is certain. However, it's the unique shape and low-slung design that allows it's rider to set it up practically however they like! Many bikes nowadays are designed solely for flat bars or drop bars. But, like the rest of our bikes, the Neutrino is designed with very neutral "effective" geometry that allows the use of either bar style. So feel free to use drops, flats, uprights, or alt-bars. 

As with any bike, given the dimensions of a person and their bike, flat bars offer a wider hand positioning, bringing the arms out and the shoulders wide. This has a similar effect on reach as a drop bar with a slightly longer stem. I think back to my drop bar conversion on the All City Nature Boy I rode at GRUSK last year (I wrote a blog post about converting this bike from flat to drop bar). I was running a 780mm riser bar with a 40mm stem. After going to a 44mm wide drop bar, I used an 80mm stem, and felt that I was in about the same position, if not slightly more forward than before. Suffice it to say, if you're planning on running a drop bar setup, keep in mind your stem length. You may want it slightly longer than you think- it's easy to look at the Neutrino and think the reach is going to be too short. 

When it comes to stems, everyone's got their own preferences. Much of this will also be dependent on what bars you run, and will affect your stack spacing as well. If you're running a riser bar or something like a Klunker, you may find that a standard, straight threadless stem is your best bet, as the shape and rise will be predicable and tuneable by adjusting stack. If you're looking for big rise and a little bit of style, some very common stems to run on the Neutrino are Cigne and Happy stems - a Cigne with a Nouveau Randonneur is perhaps our most wild looking and fun to ride Neutrino we've had here. Using riser stems also reduces the amount of steerer tube sticking out of the headset, and reduces the number of stack spacers needed - an aesthetic preference, of course.

Generally speaking, we tend to recommend people start with a 90mm stem. That's the most medium position for most flat or drop bar setups. You'll find pretty quickly if you need a shorter or longer stem to get a good position.

Seatpost

When we came out with the 2nd-gen Neutrino, we added a stealth-routing hole for a seat-tube exit for dropper seatposts. Obviously, you're more than welcome to use a standard, rigid seatpost, but the availability of the dropper allows more adjustability, compact size, and ease of dismount when riding in congested areas. 

With either option, please note that it's more than likely that you'll be having quite a bit more seatpost sticking out of the frame than you would on a standard bicycle. Also keep in mind that if you're on the taller or heavier side, you want to make sure that you have a safe amount of seatpost in the seat tube. All seatposts have a minimum insertion, so be aware. We have a long, Medium Setback Seatpost we recommend for the Neutrino.

Shifty Bits

We've done a bunch of different builds with various drivetrains, so use this as a guide from our testing. Our goal is to keep things simple so that you can enjoy the ride rather than worrying about your drivetrain.

The Neutrino was designed to be a 1x specific bike. That is, because of the positive bottom bracket rise you need to buy a specific mini-velo/folding bike front derailleur with a 35.0mm clamp - which according to my Google-fu does not exist.

Our suggestion is to use a road/CX 1x crank. The Neutrino has a 68mm bottom bracket shell (English threading) so you can run a square taper setup like our 1x Crankset with Narrow-Wide Chainring (coming back in stock in about 1 month) or with a 2-piece crank like a Sram Apex, Shimano GRX, etc. You can fit up to a 48-50t 1x chainring, but the larger chainring you go, the weirder the angle gets between your cassette cog and the ring, making for delayed shifting and less slack in the chain to make up for chainline. We've found that 42-44t is the sweet spot for most builds. 

The rear end uses 135 disc QR spacing, so any modern QR disc hub in 135 should fit. This leaves some of the drivetrain choice up to the customer, but we've always found that the Shimano HG11 freehub body offers the most versatility when it comes to sourcing and using drivetrain parts. The key for a rear derailleur is that it needs to be fairly short.

While standard Shimano/SRAM short-cage road derailleurs are likely the most common to be found, they can only usually handle a 28/30t max cog. If you wanted to fit a slightly taller cassette, the Shimano Zee MTB derailleur is a short cage-size derailleur that fits cassettes ranging from 11-32 to 11-36. This is the ideal derailleur for this bike, as it is small enough to not rub on the tire, but has the capacity to run up to a 36t cog.

The reason you can't use anything longer than medium cage rear derailleur is because the dishing of the wheel, and the depth of a standard cassette rear hub, results in the tallest cog being very close to inline with the widest part of your tire. Since a 20" wheel is very small, this leaves little room for a derailleur to wrap around a tall cog, while not rubbing the end of the cage on the tire, buzzing your derailleur. Trust us, we've tried all sorts of derailleurs in testing.

As far as drivetrain setups here is a sampling of our favorites:


Alternately, you can always run a single speed! Igor is running 42x16 on his Neutrino, which is great for running errands around town and cruising to the park with the family. I wouldn't go any lower because then you'll be spinning all the time.

Wheels and Tires

As stated before, the Neutrino is designed only for standard 20"(406 bead seat diameter) wheels, with a 135xQR disc rear spacing, and front 100xQR disc spacing. The benefit of the Neutrino's 20" standard size is that you can use most any BMX rim (known for their durability and wider tire width), and some even come with tubeless options (oooh).

We sell Neutrino-specific wheelsets on our site, using our Rear and Front Disc Hubs, and Velocity Cliffhanger rims, assembled by hand at Velocity with color matched spokes. Demand is high, so be sure to sign up for product stock notifications, and keep your eyes peeled - they'll be gone before you know it.

As for tires, we recommend something between 2.1-2.3". That's the sweet spot for bmx and 406 tires. One thing you want to look for in a BMX tire is whether they use single or double ply construction. Unless you're hucking your Neutrino down a 7 set or doing a gnarly smith grind, go for single-ply tires. Double ply is for hard landings and tricks, and single ply is for bmx racing. Single ply is lighter and more compliant and more fun to ride for 99% of us. Of course, if you find a cool tire color.....then all bets are off on construction.

So there you have it! A basic rundown of the essentials you need to know for building up your first Neutrino. Obviously, if you have any questions, please refer to the product info page on our website, or reach out to us directly at info@velo-orange.com.

08 April, 2022

Modern and Classic for Your Camp and Cabin

 

Cam Utility Straps


Made in the USA, these CNC'd Cam Utility Straps by Austere Manufacturing are truly the icing on the "hauling 'yer stuff" cake.


The 3/4" cam buckles are machined from billet aluminum and feature a titanium pin for lightweight and high strength performance. They are exceptionally strong, super easy to use (even with cold hands), and come in some fun colors. They also pack down small and weigh basically nothing, so I keep one in my handlebar bag just in case. What's the case? I don't know, but I'll be ready.


Opinel Knives are Made in France


French Opinel pocket knives, inexpensive, lightweight, and made from superb steel, are the standard knife of French farmers, hikers, foragers and cyclo-tourists. In fact, almost everyone who spends time in the countryside seems to have one. They've been made since 1890 in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Rhône-Alpes.

We just got in some of our favorites including Cyclist, Corkscrew, Expedition, and classic Carbone.


01 April, 2022

New VO Tool: Round Tuits!

We just got in our first batch of official VO Round Tuits!


Need to put on new tires for the good weather coming up? Get a Round Tuit! Been putting off bringing your bike in to the shop for that springtime tune-up? Get a Round Tuit! Not only is it a great all-round tool for the home mechanic, it's the perfect solution for your procrastination.


 

While you can use it for your road bike in a pinch, Round Tuits were designed to be #gravelspecific.

  • Compatibility: Yes
  • Weight: Heavier and lighter than you'd expect
  • Do not use as a floatation device
 

Please note that this is not a real product, but it is purchasable! 100% of proceeds will be donated to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in support of their mission to build a nation connected by trails.

17 March, 2022

Bags for All Riding Styles

by Connor

It’s been just about 4 years since we first officially launched the Velo Orange X Road Runner Bags luggage collection! We’re really proud to be working with a USA brand that offers exceptional quality, fantastic offerings, and ample experience with bringing soft goods to market.

Since it’s a bit of a milestone, I thought now would be a good time to revisit the current VO X RBB offerings, as well as announcing a couple new additions to our lineup!

Handlebar Bags (From smallest to largest)

Burrito Bag


Our smallest and simplest offering in the handlebar bag lineup, the Burrito Bag attaches to the handlebars with two easy straps, with an option (not mandatory) for a third, stem-tether strap to keep it as secure as possible. The basic shape and design allows this bag to be mounted to virtually any handlebar of any size, and doesn’t require a rack or bar end tethers for secure use. A beefy, reinforced zipper keeps your items safe, and the bag benefits from the same overall construction as any of our other Road Runner offerings.

Mini-Rando Bag




Slightly larger than the Burrito Bag is our Mini Rando. This great little bag, much like the Burrito, needs no rack to tether it, and simply straps to the handlebars with two loops. Included as well are bar-end tethers to keep this bag upright and centered on your bar. Available in all VO x RR collab colors.

Randonneur Bag

While the Randonneur Handlebar Bag may look like a traditional bag, it is constructed with modern materials and designs that coalesce into a smart and functional vegan-friendly bag for touring, randonneuring, and commuting.

Cell Phone Pocket and Snapper Sack

A little add-on available for the Randonneur bag, which can loop onto the backside of the Rando bag for easy access to your phone without removing the pocket from the bag, or the bag from the bar. Also available in matching colors for the Rando bag.

Similarly designed for the Randonneur bag, the Snapper sack is slightly shorter and more stout than the Co-Pilot and was designed to mount onto the back and sides of the Rando bag. A great little pouch for quick-access items, but big enough for a medium-size DSLR camera, and offering cinch-shut closure for security and easy access.

Biggish Bag

One step up from the Randonneur bag, the Biggish Bag takes less of a boxy shape, and is our smallest waterproof option. A roll-top internal compartment covered by a top flap provides ultimate protection for your gear and goods, and is partnered with a reinforced front zipper-pocket for small items you need quick access to. It’s a fair bit wider than the Rando bag at 13.5” wide, but its multiple mounting points offer the ability to mount it on your handlebars or as an oversized saddle bag. The included shoulder strap also allows this bag to be removed from the bike and carried.

Transporteur Bag

Our largest bag available, the Transporteur is without a doubt our most utilitarian bag. At 29L, this bag rivals the volume of mid-sized hiking packs, and offers 100% waterproof, roll-top security to keep your clothes, gear, and food safe and dry. Much like the Biggish bag, the Transporteur also sports a reinforced zipper front pocket spanning the width of the front, for quick access to your essentials. Designed for our Porteur Rack, the bag is not designed to be strapped to the handlebars, though it also plays well with the Wald 137 basket.

Saddle Bags

Saddle Tool Roll


This compact tool roll rivals the carrying capacity of any standard zip-shut saddle bag, sporting cordura construction, three sleeved sorting compartments, button–snap closure to keep your gear in place, and nylon strap to cinch everything together under your saddle. Neat, tidy, and available in any of our VO x Road Runner colors to match your bike and earn you style points on the road. Also a great option as a saddle bag for bikes with droppers, as it requires no seatpost tether to stay put.

Day Tripper Bag


Our largest saddle-specific bag, the Day Tripper offers more storage volume than almost any traditional saddle bag on the market, at 3.5L maximum. roll-top and clipped construction allows you to pack your tools and gear into the back of the bag and roll the top down to whatever depth you need, secured by two large clips on each side. A tall Velcro strap keeps the bag tight to the seatpost and prevents the bag from swinging around, even when loaded full. Saddle rail straps also offer ample adjustment.


Accessory Bags

Co-Pilot


The Co-Pilot was specifically designed to mount on either side of the stem of your bike behind the handlebar, and carry a standard height and size water bottle. Cinch-top closure allows you to secure the bottle or small accessories you have packed into the bag, and multi-point strap locations offer secure mounting onto virtually any bar/stem setup. Great for carrying additional water on bikepacking trips or long distance rides with limited access to water sources.

Auto Pilot *New!*


The big brother of the Co-Pilot, the Auto Pilot offers the fit and function, but in a *big* way. Identical construction in a larger dimension allows the Auto Pilot to carry bottles as large as a 40oz Nalgene, or enough small items to fill the same volume. Even more ideal for bikepacking trips with limited water access.

Lil’ Guy Hip Pack *New!*

Quirky but useful, the Lil’ Guy is our first on-body offering. Similar in construction to any of our bike-specific bags, the Lil’ Guy is a great 1.6L hip pack for anyone not looking to hang bags on their bike or wear a backpack, and just toss a couple of key items into a pack and go. Just as usable as a feedbag during a gravel race as it is a place for your keys and wallet on a ride to the park with your kid. Ultra-adjustable nylon straps offer sizing for practically anyone, making this a one-size-fits all option. Available in any of our standard VO x Road Runner collab colorways.