25 April, 2023

Overcomplicating the Most Efficient Transportation Machine

velo orange a man working on a mtb amongst all sorts of mountain bikes right to repair

I started wrenching on bikes from an early age. From changing flats on my original Mongoose 20" bike to overhauling loose-ball headsets and bottom brackets on my dad's old Cannondale, wheels-up on the basement floor. Those times taught me basic but fundamental skills that landed me a job as a mechanic in high school, got me through almost a decade of working on bikes, and ended up with me here at VO. While most of those times and much of my early mechanic years were filled with changing flats, basic 7spd derailleur adjustments, and regreasing simple older tech, times are oh-so different now, and so are the bikes.
My dad's copy of Todd Downs' 2005 encyclopedia of bicycle repair- the foundation of my wrenching as a yoot 

Even back then, as 11spd was beginning to make the rounds on production road and MTB bikes, the unattainably high end Dura Ace and SRAM Red gear that seemed so intricate and flawless then, now looks and feels no different than any other gear of its time when on a bike in the repair stand - especially looking through the scope of what's available on the market today. Much of which, folks are having a harder and harder time even approaching as a home mechanic.
SRAM Red 11spd rear derailleur. The best of the best at the time, while still taking design cues from far cheaper and simpler gear

Bikes, from the early stages of mass production through to the 1990s, had been largely the same. Rigid frame, pressed-in headset on a straight tubes, one-piece or three-piece cranks, and rim brakes. Nit pick and identify the outliers all you like, but that describes most of the bikes during that time. However, with the trickle-down effect of materials engineering into cycling in the late 2000's, things began to change - and get more exclusive. Suspension forks became normalized on off road bikes, cartridge bearings found their way into everything from headsets to jockey wheels, carbon became the gold standard for racing bikes, and model-year innovation became the standard. 

I'm not one to groan about progress, though. Aside from the anecdote of "chasing the past," (e.g. riding a rigid hardtail mountain bike or pulling out your old downtube shifter bike) to gain some fleeting taste of the "good ol' days" of bikes, you'd be hard pressed to convince me that new bikes coming out today from almost any manufacturer aren't some of the best bikes made yet. Disc brakes, quality frames, excellent suspension design and kinematics, and tubeless tires offered in virtually every size imaginable. If you think about it, there are more options for folks looking to buy a proper bike today than ever before.
 This is on your bicycle.

But with that innovation comes an increase in the level of technical know-how required to even attempt to maintain modern bikes. Shimano has a virtual school devoted to teaching mechanics how to work on their products. SRAM has something quite similar. Want to bleed your hydraulic brakes? You'll need to buy a proprietary kit and oil, and you better not screw it up or it'll be a mess. The same goes for suspension forks and frames. I've owned probably 5 full-suspension bikes, none of which I, personally, serviced the shock or fork on. I'm fortunate to have a shop nearby that specializes in suspension service, another area of bicycle servicing that has become specialized in the last 15 years.

Bikes of the 1950's to 2000's could once be stripped down with nothing but a tri-tool and a 15mm box wrench, assuming you hadn't lost your 10mm. Aside from a very short list of special tools (which you could pick up at any bike shop) like a crank puller, bb lockring wrench and puller, and a cassette tool, there really was nothing to it. As I started my time as a mechanic affordable two-piece cranks flooded the market, and with them came every bottom bracket standard under the sun. 142 Thru-axle spacing was quickly followed by Boost 148, and subsequently Super Boost and thus an arms race of new, bike specific tools and components began.

I type this all out not as a protest (though I come from a fortunate position of well over a decade of technical experience), but rather as an illustration of how complicated things got, so quickly. If you bought a road or mountain bike in 1985, you had a considerable number of options in terms of models, but you could take any bike home and maintain it properly yourself with a minimal number of special tools or specialized technical knowledge. Heck, that rings true even for bikes as new as the early 2010's.
My first 'real' mountain bike- a 2008 Vassago Bandersnatch, with SRAM X9 and BB7M brakes

Today, however, if you wanted to purchase a mid-grade road bike off a shop floor, you'd be likely ending up with something that uses a press-fit bottom bracket, internal routing that goes into a void, tubeless tires, hydraulic disc brakes, and maybe even electronic shifting that needs an app and special software for diagnosis and updating.

Heaven forbid you want to service your bottom bracket in a year or two. You'll need the proper tapered punch, an oversized bearing press, a torque wrench and bravery to take that on without fear you'd crack your carbon or destroy your aluminum alloy shell. It gets worse when you consider mountain bikes of today. We haven't even touched on e-bikes! There's just too much special knowledge and risk tolerance required for the average at-home mechanic.
An example of my most recent rig, a Norco Revolver FS 120. Quite removed from what now seem like "humble beginnings"
That being said, many shops offer lifetime free basic services and tune ups with the purchase of a new bicycle. They did at my shop at least, and it feels like this is the direction the whole industry is moving: "pay a premium up front, we'll cover you for most stuff." In tandem, the manufacturers are designing bikes that are less and less consumer-maintenance friendly, knowing that the customer is likely going to roll it into the shop 9 times out of 10 before attempting to fix it first. This makes the product more expensive, and leaves those of us who like to fix our own stuff hanging out to dry, in a way. 

From an environmental perspective, making things obsolete or too difficult or expensive to fix, means that people will buy new things - which means more waste and emissions. 

I think shops are going to be more essential than ever with the industry moving towards higher-end, direct-to-consumer business. It's just that their business model is being forced through a change, and they'll need to be mindful of that fact.

What are your thoughts? Do you work only on bikes of a certain vintage or are you able/willing to maintain all your bikes regardless of their complexity? 

19 April, 2023

How to Install Velo Orange Fenders - The Video!


In Part 3 of our Let's Build a Rando Bike series, we go through the step-by-step installation of our 650b 52mm Zeppelin Fenders on our Pass Hunter Frameset!

But why even run fenders (or mudguards if you're in the UK)? Well, you'll find your bike far more useful. You won't get a wet streak up your back every time you ride through a puddle. Your feet will no longer be soaking wet just because the road is damp. And you'll stay drier in anything but heavy rain. Additionally, people riding behind you will be happier because you aren't slinging road grime into their teeth. Lastly, Your drivetrain will also be significantly cleaner and happier. Which means you won’t have to spend as much money fixing and replacing parts.

I'll admit, this video has been needed for a while, and I'm glad we've finished it up. If there is something else you'd like us to do instructions for, let us know! Until then, give the video a watch!

10 April, 2023

Neutrino Pre-Sale is Live!

by Igor

The Neutrino Mini-Velo is coming back into stock soon, and now is the chance to secure your frameset! The frameset pre-sale is going live now, with expected delivery early May.

As far as the Neutrino's specifications go, they're staying the same with the exception of its new paint: Slammin' Salmon. This is a paint I've wanted to put on one of our frames for years - without finding just the right time or frame to put it on. The Neutrino is a natural choice!

Since it was first released in 2019, the Neutrino has become a crowd favorite of many for riding in the city, bikepacking, traveling, and even a packrafting trip or two. Its generous 2.3"+ tire clearances and modern compatibility makes it fun to ride and super fun to customize without any of the drawbacks typically associated with minivelos and smaller wheels.

The Neutrino has no preconceptions of how it needs to be built, and therefore is a prime candidate for fun colors and build styles. It's a sort of canvas for any rider who is looking to customize their ride. You can find a bunch of Bike Build Ideas here to get your brain juices flowing.

So whether you're looking to do drop bars and Campagnolo, Klunkers, Granola Bars, or even a custom Lefty Fork (!) you're in good company with a ton of other riders who have done their own unique and awesome bike builds.
Pre-Sale Details

The Neutrino Frameset is currently available for pre-sale. This will secure your frameset and will give you first-in-line shipping when they arrive. This pre-sale will remain live until the framesets are sold through or they arrive in our warehouse - whichever one comes first.

As for the remaining stock of Small Pistachio Neutrinos, they'll be discounted 15%. When they're gone, they're gone!
My Bike

We express shipped one Large frameset for photos ahead of schedule and here's how we built it up. This has got to be my favorite iteration thusfar.

Over the years, the Neutrino has become our around town cruiser, overseas adventurer, and bike we can lend to friends. The dropper means either Adrian and I can ride the bike with literally the flip of a switch. I'm 5'10" and she's 5'5.5", by the way.

The handlebars are our upcoming Utility Bars and Rack - these will be here around early June. The rack makes it super easy to throw a bunch of stuff in a Biggish Bag or strap down a backpack.

The gearing is the Microshift Advent Super Short and works great.

Braking is our favorite mechanical disc brakes - Growtac Post Mount in Purple. I think it pairs exquisitely with the paint color.

01 April, 2023

Introducing the New 2023 Velo Orange MiniminiVelo!

As we've been preparing travel arrangements for the Portland MADE show in August, we quickly discovered that luggage fees have gone sky high, and that's not even with a guarantee you and your bags end up at the same place.

So without further ado... 

Introducing the Velo Orange MiniminiVelo!

Don't let its small stature fool you. It still has the full VO treatment including generous 15mm tire clearances for rough and tumble terrain and a neat wishbone chainstay bridge.

It features highly Metallic Plum paint and a VO Headbadge.

I built mine up with a coaster brake and upright bars, but you could also use drops if you wanted - I'd recommend going with a 7mm stem.

For those who attended the ATW Show last weekend, we actually had this model on display, but you may not have noticed it because it's so tiny. 

The MiniminiVelo. Made to fit under your seat or in your handbag, and no need to even fold it. Just hop on and go!

Preorders open up the 1st of Octember, so mark your calendars!