17 March, 2023

Independence Pass Hunting Pt 2 - The Gear

by Clint


If you missed it, Part 1 of Pass Hunting was the story of our trip. In this part, I’d like to talk about the gear we used for our tour. 

The Bike

In my view, the Pass Hunter is the most versatile bike in our lineup and the bike I find myself spending the most time on. Modern component standards and geometry equally suited for riding uphill and downhill make it a great all rounder. 

You can dress it up with a carbon fork to turn it into a fast gravel bike (check out Clint’s at Blue Lug’s carbon spork Pass Hunter) or upright bars for a fun townie build (check out Blue Lug Yoyogi Park’s upright townie build). On this ride, I wanted to show that it is equally capable as a light(ish) touring bike. The ride required elevation gains and descents, traveling over mountain passes, and mixed/dirt roads - the Pass Hunter seemed like the obvious choice!


Loading up a touring bike is more difficult than I remember! It’s been a while since I’ve packed this much stuff. 

Where does it all go?

Packing for a 5 day trip felt similar to packing for a much longer trip. Once you have enough stuff for that amount of time, I think you can just refuel and keep riding…indefinitely. Our supply requirements for the trip were preparing for: 

  • Temperatures between 34 degrees and 90 degrees
  • Harsh sun and rain
  • Enough food for 48hrs between refuels
  • Camping gear
  • Spare parts for being up to a day’s ride away from a gear shop

Luckily we were next to water for the majority of the ride so we were able to bring a water filter and stay hydrated without lugging around a lot of water weight at any given time. Other than that, I brought drawing supplies and camera gear for entertainment. Rico brought fishing gear (again next to water the whole time, and gold medal fishing waters at that!)

Gold metal fishing waters, baby.

Handling Preferences

Some of my handling preferences aren’t completely practical for touring, but I’d describe my riding style as maybe more “spirited” than your traditional sit-and-spin tourist. I like a little more maneuverability on the bike for some silly stuff. I’ll split up my handling preferences into two categories - weight distribution and fit. 

On weight distribution - I like weight to be tight to the frame. Shaky, swaying weight on a bike drives me a little nuts. While it may be easier to dump everything in panniers and call it a day, I appreciate the compression on modern bike packing baggage (like the Road Runner Jammer), that keeps things from swaying back and forth on a bike. 

On fit - I ride flat bars on all my bikes. I like the control they give me - especially to throw around weight on a touring bike. While not always practical, I have a few different hand positions I rotate between to keep my wrists happy and ultimately I have the most fun when I’m riding flat bars. The flat bars we used on tour are special and they deserve their own section of the blogpost.

The Bars

Since the secret is out, I’ll talk a little bit about the upcoming Utility Bars. They were a pretty key component in loading for both my touring setup and Rico’s. I’m really excited for these to hit the market (hopefully Spring 2023). 

Rico's Rig ft. Utility Bars

Figuring out where to store gear on a bike can be a little tricky so I hope this rack system can simplify things for folks. It’s meant to work on just about any bicycle. All you need is a standard 31.8mm diameter stem!

This rack is super height adjustable. Sometimes it’s difficult to have a handlebar mounted bag on a smaller sized frame without the bag sagging into the tire. This provides a solution for shorter riders, with no compromises for taller folks. The rack can be lowered for taller riders with bigger headtubes to keep the weight low. In our instance we used this adjustability for something kind of weird. I stored my tent and sleeping back on the underside of the rack - check it out!

Double decker storage on Utility Rack.

Lashing stuff to the underside of the rack left things accessible and took advantage of all of the mounting points of the Utility rack. 

Outside of the tour, I use the Utility Bar around town as a quick lashing point for a variety of bags - a messenger bag, our Transporteur Bag, and our Biggish Bag. Strap it on with a bungee cord and you’re good to go. My biggest beef with bikepacking bags is that they swing around a lot or they’re difficult to put on/take off the bike - which if you ride near a city and occasionally have to leave the bike unattended you’ll know why this is important. This rack system solves both of those problems for me. I look forward to seeing all the creative ways folks use this rack in the future. 

No rack mounts? No problem!

For some even geekier analysis of weight distribution, my preferences are to keep the weight tighter to the frame vs keeping the weight low. A traditional pannier setup is going to keep your weight lower, but further out from the steering axis. Personally, I find weight distributed closer to the steering axis to be more maneuverable. It feels lighter in the steering. It’s similar to how folks load up mountain bikes for touring with handlebar rolls or similar bags. By the way, this handlebar is MTB rated if you want to take it on singletrack. 

The Brakes

Rico and I both sported the new Growtac Brakes we offer and I’ve gotta say, it was one of the best decisions we made. Obviously I’m biased, but I think they’re the best mechanical brakes at their price. Not the cheapest on the market for sure, but I think they offer good value. I’ve been riding a pair of these since we started talking to Growtac and I feel like I have enough miles to speak knowledgeably. So here’s my little product review. 

A younger, cleaner Pass Hunter with new brakes from last winter.

Power is the first thing everyone talks about with these brakes. They have so much power. I think they compete with a lot of hydraulic brakes at that, but I would like to emphasize a different point about these brakes. To me, the thing that sets them apart from the rest is that they’re easy to install and maintain. I think serviceability is a point that draws a lot of folks to mechanical disc brakes in the first place (vs hydraulic disc brakes), and these exemplify that quality for me. 

Just a little background on my experience, I am ready to admit to the public that I am a VERY OK mechanic. I’m proficient and I get by. I’ve wrenched on just about everything on a bicycle, but I’m not the fastest, nor am I the best at “dialing it in,” but I think that perspective is important. The adjustments are simple on these brakes and I get more than enough performance at my mechanic ability. Sure a professional mechanic can get more performance out of these, but I want to emphasize how user friendly these brakes are for the at-home mechanic such as myself. 

I’d like to tie both of these points - power and user friendliness, into how important they were on tour. The power was great on long wet descents. It rained a lot and the bikes were heavy. The user friendliness allowed us to make any adjustments as needed while out of the shop and on the road. 

The Bags

Last but not least, I’ve gotta talk about the bags. Road Runner has been a pleasure to work with for the past 5 years or so and their bags are incredible. 

As mentioned before, it rained A LOT on our tour. We were constantly changing in and out of rain gear and drying off clothes. I don’t know how they do it, but those folks from the dry city of Los Angeles certainly know how to make waterproof bags. I didn’t have to worry once about our important gear and electronics getting wet. Here are the bags I used: 

VO x RRB Porteur Bag. My sleeping bag and puffy jacket were in here. Both remained completely dry until I put our water filter in there. User error. 

VO x RRB Biggish Bag. I kept this on the saddle for bulky, but quick access things. A quick change of clothes, food, etc. Again - very dry in there!

RRB Wedge Half Frame Bag. I kept all of the tools and spare tubes in here. I keep my multitool in the non-drive side quick access pouch for adjustments on the fly. Nothing in here needed to stay dry, but it did!

RRB Bluff Bag. I kept quick access snacks in here. It has a generous snack capacity but still doesn’t flop around when mounted to the top tube. The zipper is easy to operate with one hand while riding. Also as with the frame bag - nothing in here really had to be dry but it also stayed dry. 

RRB Little Guy Hip Pack. I kept space camera batteries and a 2nd lens in here along with a few other quick access things. Very convenient. Very dry.

RRB Co-Pilot. I kept my phone and sunglasses in here. Easy to access. Very pleased with the cockpit setup. 

Blue Lug Stem Bag. Great bag! Cute colors and great capacity. Big enough to toss my compact camera in there for when I didn’t want to ride with it on my back. 

Various dry bags. Two 5L bags on the fork and a larger one under my Biggish bag. All held my clothes. ‘Nuff said. 

Also worth mentioning - my RRB Camera strap! Easy to ride with. Has a quick cinch that secures it to your chest to keep it from bouncing around and easy to undo for a quick photo! 


I hope this post has some vaguely useful information to get you going on your next tour. Touring takes a lot of planning and equipment. I’m happy to answer any other questions about the stuff we brought along. There’s a lot more stuff I didn’t mention here. 

Equipment-wise, next time I’m interested to use some of the rack stuff we’ve got in the works. If we plan ahead more, I’d like to try my hand at dehydrating some meals. While those premade dehydrated meals are convenient and taste amazing when you’re really hungry, I wouldn’t mind using less disposable packaging. If anyone has recipe recommendations, hit me up. My sleeping equipment could use a little work. I’d be interested in experimenting with a tarp setup. Also send that info my way if you have a good (and affordable) tarp system. I also need to patch my inflatable sleeping pad. The foam accordion pad I used during this trip wasn’t quite enough padding for my 🍑. Other than that, we used just about everything we brought and there was very little else we wished we had packed. Except for Rico’s rain jacket. It was missed. 

Happy Riding!

26 February, 2023

A Wheeled Legacy

by Connor

About a year and a half ago, Andy send in an email with a request - a set of Velo Orange downtube decals for an old cantilever Pass Hunter. This isn't an uncommon ask for frame repaints, so we sent them out. Fast forward to just the other day when I received a follow-up email from Andy, this time with an update of his restoration job.

Repainted and rebadged, the bike had obviously been cared for and the attention to detail was apparent. More notable than the photos of the bike, however, was the story behind it.

Working at a bike company, you see your product leave the warehouse everyday. It's headed every which way all over the world, bound to be installed and used by the riders that enjoy them. You often don't think of where this frame is headed and where it's going to be ridden, or what kind of bike those fenders are going to be installed on as they head out the doors at VO. My correspondence with Andy was a reminder that our bikes are often an extension of ourselves, our personalities, and our stories. Here's Andy's story

Trigger warning: This post contains discussion of a recent loss and may be difficult for some readers.


"The bike holds a special place for me. June 2021, I reunited with a friend, John "Host" Lynch, who I hadn't seen since the beginning of the pandemic. We had one of those epic rides together... single track, gravel, road, rail trail, all wrapped up with great conversation against a picturesque sunset against the Catskill Mountains near my home in Kingston, NY. Tragically, as we came close to completing our loop, I watched in horror as he was struck by a car and run over. John is no longer with us.
His family gifted me the bike. John was one of those special people who's lifestyle closely matched his values in every respect. As a matter of principle, he didn't own a car and rode everywhere. The Pass Hunter was his everyday commuter, grocery getter, weekend camper, and vehicle to visit his partner who lived over 70 miles away. He originally found it second hand at his local bike coop. As you can imagine the bike was worn and loved and ready for a fresh beginning. I needed a project to help make sense of the trauma of losing a friend. I set my mind and heart to the rebuild.

After stripping it down and removing its well-worn parts, I had a fresh powder coat applied - translucent copper from Prismatic Powders. When the sunlight is angled to the frame just right, a deep golden earthy glow comes forward. The gold anodized bolts with home-cut leather washers, and brass stem spacers from Blue Lug, accent the glow.
I outfitted it with your Nouveau Randonneur Bar, a Brooks saddle, Origin 8 flat pedals, Tektro Onyx cantilever brakes, and Grand Cru 50.4 BCD crankset, I sought to combine comfort and reliability for long distance rides and mix the classic aesthetic of your parts with a some of my favorite tech from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It has a vintage Suntour XC derailleur group, shifters, and brake levers. The rims are vintage Nashbar now encircled with ginger colored Gravel King SK tires. Maroon padded bar tape from Neubaums, matching vintage cable housing sourced from the Bicycle Recyclery, topped off with gold cable cherries. A rust orange VO/Roadrunner Randonneur Bag is on your Randonneur front rack, and there's a matching tool roll on the seat. I love how the bike evokes the colors of autumn in the Northeast - my favorite time of the year and place to ride.

VO Facetted Fenders have been added since these pics were taken. And, I'll be building up a dynamo hub wheel soon for lighting.

How does it ride? Really excellent, almost everywhere! It's buttery smooth on pavement and light gravel, but also handles mellow single track and some of the rougher farm and carriage roads I like to visit with ease. It's by far the easiest bike I've ever owned... it just wants to go. Not super fast, but steady and efficient. Very welcoming.

The Blue Lug brass stem cap is engraved with, "Be My Guest." John's nickname was "Host." He had a lovely reputation for welcoming people into his life, making them food or a spot of tea. Accepting the trauma of witnessing John's death reminded me that life, even when difficult, is a gift. We have only to accept its hospitality."



Thank you, Andy, for putting together this amazing Wheeled Legacy for your friend John.

Andy felt comfortable sharing this incredible story with us and agreed that it was worthy to bring to you, to remind you that our bikes are extensions of ourselves, and even if we don't go on, our bikes often do. For some of us, they can represent memories shared, hills and hardships conquered, and rides yet to come. For Andy, this bike represents all three.

08 February, 2023

If you can only have one bike, make it a tourer!

 velo orange polyvalent on tour in europe

The versatility of a touring bicycle like our Polyvalent is one of its greatest attributes. With a few simple modifications, one bicycle can easily be used for a variety of different riding styles and purposes. Let's take a look at how to set up one bike for exploring gravel roads, touring remote areas, everyday commuting, and even a road ride or two!

What makes a Touring Bike?

Well, touring bikes at their core are designed to be comfortable, capable, and confident in a wide variety of terrains and environments. They are designed so that the rider can focus on the experience rather than on fiddling with equipment and worries about component robustness. 

velo orange polyvalent low kicker with road runner bags accessories

Typically speaking, traditional touring bikes are set up to have neutral geometry, longer rear triangles, and wide tire clearances. With that set-up, they can excel admirably at almost anything that is thrown at them.

From a technical standpoint, touring bikes have a headtube angle of between 69-73 degrees, with the steeper angle allowing for a slightly more forward-loading bias. In practice, it doesn't really matter as, I assure you, you will get used to whatever you're riding in a few miles. It's when you get even steeper (track bikes) or more slack (progressive mountain bikes) that handling and geometry can be more of a factor in your comfort over the long haul.

velo orange bike crossing a stream with fully loaded panniers

Touring bikes also usually have longer rear triangles to allow for heel clearance for rear racks and panniers. A longer wheelbase also makes the bike more stable, again, making it easier to ride for longer distances than something with the rear wheel tucked tight behind the seattube.

Touring bikes typically have all sorts of mounts for fenders, cargo, multiple bottle cages, lighting, kickstand, etc...almost anything and everything! This will be important in the next coming sections. 

velo orange piolet prototype with cargo bags

Lastly, touring bikes have generous tire clearances. Bigger tires use a bigger cushion of air which aids in traction, comfort, and reliability. Imagine hitting a rock with a 23mm tire vs a 48mm tire. The 48mm tire will deform and squish around an obstacle and a 23mm won't, and you'll have a higher risk of a flat. Over a couple hundred miles, that extra cushion of air is a welcome addition.

Simply put, touring bikes have geometry, clearances, and design to eat up the miles comfortably and safely. 

Ready for Gravel?

velo orange pass hunter with road runner bags biggish and day tripper

In recent years, Gravel is everything: gravel shoes, gravel pumps, and gravel helmets. It allows you to explore the back roads and paths less traveled, and provides a great way to get off the beaten path and experience the beauty of nature - all ideally without any worries about traffic or cars.

The nice thing is that in actuality, you don't need much to get into riding gravel. Just a bike with neutral geometry, comfortable fit, and generous tire clearances. Sound familiar to a touring bike? 

As far as building up a touring bike for gravel, I'd forgo fenders and racks and just accept getting dirty and having to strategically strap on bags to the bike. Otherwise, I think you'll be hard pressed to find any big differences between a gravel bike and a touring bike.

velo orange low kicker polyvalent

For cargo, the extra nubbins and mounts that a touring bike has are useful for carrying extra water on the fork blades.

Of course, the caveat being if you're racing, then you'll want lighter everything so you aren't carrying any weight that isn't absolutely necessary. But that can lead to its own problems with components that may be more susceptible to a catastrophic failure all in the name of saving a couple minutes. Which could mean getting paid or not getting paid, I get it honestly.

When Touring Bikes Aren't Touring, They're Excellent Commuters

velo orange camargue with wine and porteur front rack

Commuting by bicycle is a great way to stay active on the daily and reduce your carbon footprint to get to and from work and around town. The vast majority of my own riding is just doing things around town: going to the library, hitting up the playground with the family, picking up take-out, grabbing quick groceries, late night snacks, running down the hardware store, etc... The cool thing about a touring bike is that there are no modifications you need to make to make it a good commuter!

The only difference is amount of stuff you need to take. Instead of 4 fully loaded panniers on your racks, you might just have one, or two for a trip to the farmers' market. Riding position, tire choice, tools, component selection, racks, and fenders can all stay the same.

velo orange polyvalent with front rack and porteur bag

For a commuter or tourer, I value simplicity of maintenance, comfort, and utility. So you can see how one could be good as the other with little to no changes.

Transforming into a Randonneur is Easy

velo orange polyvalent with front campeur rack in germany

While I can't necessarily say that a true touring bike could be on the same echelon as a full-on roadie, touring bikes do make excellent randonneuring bikes. 

They say randonneuring is just touring with more paperwork - which is hilarious. As far as making it a true randonneur for brevets, there are some specific considerations you need to be within the RUSA (Randonneurs USA) safety requirements: that includes having a rear light, front light, and reflective vest - honestly, good things to have anyway for touring and commuting.

As far as other gear, I'd simply drop a rear rack and only have a small front rack or just a bikepacking style bag like a BiggishMini Rando, or Burrito. Basically enough room for just the essentials like nutrition, tools, medications, and any extras you personally need.

velo orange burrito front bag on polyvalent

Pro-tip: you can make a paper cue sheet holder using a binder clip and a zip tie.

In conclusion, with a few simple modifications, one bike can easily be used for a variety of different riding styles and purposes. Whether you're gravel riding, touring, or commuting, a versatile bike is the key to making the most of your riding experience. Take the time to understand your needs, and set up your bike accordingly.

I'll also note that VO Frames are currently 20% off, so if you are interested in building up your next touring, randonneur, gravel, and commuter, now is the time to save some cash!

27 January, 2023

Cycling Media in the 21st Century

by Scott 

I consume a fair bit of media I think. I read a couple newspapers (online) every day, check into 5-6 cycling websites, and listen to a number of podcasts when out and about. One interesting interview was with the CEO of Outside Media. The main discussion was about the state of outdoor media, and the fact that Outside now owns almost all of the big outdoor publications, and the impact of that on what we read and view.

                                  (Derek and Connor consuming media the old fashioned way)

The cycling industry and media have certainly changed in the 11 years I've been here at VO. When I started, there were at least 4 magazines (actual print ones) that we advertised in, sent test product to, or at least paid some attention to, as our products could get a mention in any of them in any given issue. There were probably 8-10 blogs that paid a lot of attention to our niche end of the cycling world.

Over time, the magazines all dropped off either in a physical format or all together. I've also seen a number of the blogs I used to read dwindle as well. In the case of personal blogging, I think it's a matter of having something to keep the author motivated to continue writing. Some blogs were at the point of sustained content for 10 years back in 2012 already. It takes a lot to keep that writing up, especially if it is not your day job. And in many ways, producing and maintaining the blog takes time away from family or riding your bike. Plus, people evolve, they change what they are interested in, and what they are interested in writing about. If you're a keen vintage cycling fan, 10 plus years of blog posts is a bit daunting to keep up fresh content. (Shout out to Guitar Ted who's kept at it all these years with fresh content daily). Also of note is that the Velo Orange Blog has been going for over 15 years!

The last few years have seen a rise of the YouTube channels related to cycling. Russ Roca at Path Less Pedaled, Katie Kookaburra, and Henry Wildberry are a couple of the folks that I look at for some interesting insights (I'll admit, I'm not a huge consumer of videos). I think Russ is one person who really gets our niche of the bicycle market, so it's always interesting to hear his take on things.

You can also see the rise of social media, in particular Instagram, explode in the past several years and how that has changed the media world. As shown with YouTube, visual media is popular and seemingly lots of people are interested in our content, through that medium.

                                      (Some cycling media we have collected over the years)

So I present to you, the loyal follower and reader of this blog, where do you go for news and cycling entertainment? Are you a devout reader of a blog, or watcher of video, or listener of podcasts? Are you joining Substack for niche written content?  Do you even care to get cycling related content online? Let us know in the comments below or send postcard answers to us at:

Velo Orange

6730 Dover Road

Suite 113

Glen Burnie, MD 20906

11 January, 2023

Practicality vs. Sentimentality - Does it Bring You Joy?

by Scott

A lot of us have attachments to items we own that don't make financial sense. I'm not a sentimental person, by and large. I have a few objects that I hold near and dear to me, but in the case of the house catching fire, my wife and I will grab the cats and the wedding album and that's about it. 

I bring up the idea of bonds and sentimentality and how it pertains to bicycles. We get a lot of folks coming to us to help keep their older bikes going. We've got the various bottom brackets and headsets to keep those older Peugeot UO8s and Schwinn Le Tours rolling along, handlebars to replace the going-on-40-year-old original bars, and all the fixings to make them unique to the rider. I'm curious as to whether folks are keeping them going in their original shape, setting them up as a commuter bike with newer components, or something in the middle like changing the bars and consumables for a spiffy and novel weekend rider.

The larger question of whether or not a bike should be restored to its shiny and new glory, simply spruced up and ridden, or hung on the wall? The answer is a resounding...."it depends"....

There are so many factors that goes into a decision like this. Does the bike have sentimental value, significant historical value, or is it just a fun project to work on? These decisions aren't easy especially when it comes to a budget.

There is no question that certain bikes hold more or less value to us as individuals - for example, Adrian and Igor have matching Campeurs that they used for their Denmark wedding tour. You can read about his and her Forever Bikes here. 

A Peugeot UO8 is perhaps the best bike to use as an example here, as it is a re-occurring character at VO HQ. Peugeot made thousands and thousands of these bikes during the bike boom of the 60s and 70s. They were mid to low end of the range with Simplex shifting, Mafac brakes, and cottered cranks. They weren't anything special, but they were affordable, had cool graphics and Aztec lugs, and it got people on bikes - and that's what made it an icon of the era.

Photo courtesy of DJCatNap

Would a UO8 be my first choice for a restoration? Probably not. But if a particular UO8 had significance in my life, like it was a beloved family member's, a first bike, or something of that nature, well that is a whole different story. Now that specific bike has significant sentimental value and that doesn't necessarily have the same price tag as a random UO8. I would absolutely argue that it deserves either a full restoration or moderate refurbishment to make it safe to ride - budget allowing. Replacing consumables like chains, brake pads, handlebar tape, and tires goes a long way.

Adrian's Bertin with Campagnolo Nuovo Record

I see outrageous pricing for original Simplex derailleurs and hear stories online of collectors paying huge amounts of money for period-correct parts. Is it to recreate this bike from 1973 and then display it or is someone actually riding this bike? For a lot of people, it's a totally worthwhile exercise to go and take an older frame, fix it up, put a new saddle on it, new brake pads and cables and then go out and use it. But I think one has to admit that, like many things, bikes have improved over the last 50 years and to just blindly restore a bike back to its original condition may not be the best decision.

Do you restore old bikes for sentimental reasons? Do you restore them to stock condition or do you make them more modern? Let us know in the comments!