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!