29 July, 2015

If You Could Only Have One Bike...

During a recent VO staff meeting a topic of conversation was what bike we would choose if we could only have one. I've recently been thinking and reading about the idea of simple living so this really interested me, so much so that I asked our staff to write a few sentences about what they would choose if limited to one bike.

Adrian: Well that's a commitment and a half! If I could only choose one...I'd have to be my 26" Campeur. As a 5'5" lady, I've become quite enamored with that wheel-size; it suits me well. Aesthetically, I like the classic styling of the Campeur. It's a solid daily driver for my commute to work, that handles well when full-loaded for weekend touring. It's all the bike I want and need.

Scott: I'd go with a Piolet. I got to test one out last year, and it is my mid-life crisis bike. It takes me back to when I was in my early 20's, riding all over the place, on and off-road in BC. This is the bike that I can see taking back to Iceland and doing gravel road tours with my wife for years to come.

I can run it with wide touring tires for the rough roads of Iceland and also put 2.4 MTB tires on it so I can ride the single track near our home in MD. It's the do anything bike that I dreamed of and now it's a reality.

Clint: I'd go with the new orange Bike-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. As much as I love the trails, I spend more time on the bike as a means of transportation. But that's not to say I couldn't put some knobby 32s on You-Know-What and hit up some singletrack. The Orange Lord was great loaded on the C&O, great for groceries, and this Friday I'm riding up to Baltimore for Bike Party!

Mark: The Pass Hunter would be my choice. It suites the style of riding I actually do:  fast road rides. Plus it's red and it's proven that red bikes are faster.

Brandon: I would choose the Piolet. It is the bike in our line-up that is most capable off-road. It is the frame that I can most easily customize. It has a ton of braze-ons and fittings so I can run it with all sorts of racks and parts on it. Plus it has disc brakes and the teal color looks fantastic.

Igor: Campeur, hands down. In four years it has taken me everywhere I've wanted to go and plastered a smile on my face for every mile. Loaded or stripped down it has neutral and confident handling. The frame fits tires wide enough to be confident on gravel, flowy singletrack, and poorly maintained country roads. The metallic grey with a tinge of purple gives it understated and timeless styling. But honestly, it just feels so good passing roadies on carbon fiber wonderbikes with a bike that has racks, fenders, and downtube shifters.

Annette: Oh, you people are so fickle, with your heads turned by the latest pretty thing. Have you all forgotten that the oldest bike in our fleet, the Polyvalent, means "multipurpose," and by design is "the one"?

Alec: I like to ride fast and to not slow down no matter the road surface, or lack of same. So it has to be my Red Pass Hunter.

Chris: A few years ago I would have chosen a Pass Hunter, and this is still the bike I ride most often. But as I've grown older I've been drawn to larger tires and to unpaved roads, so I'd choose the Camargue. It's a bike that's nice enough on a paved road, but really shines on gravel farm roads and double-track. It also makes a great city bike, especially if you live in a town with old brick and cobblestone streets, like Annapolis, or if you like hopping curbs.

What about you? What would you ride if you were limited to a single mount? And do you really need more than one bike?

21 July, 2015

1111th blog post: Bro-vet

by Clint

There's not much going on at VO HQ this week so I figured I'd write about my weekend trip with the new Piolet and this other orange frame I can't talk about.  Met up with a couple buddies and we biked out to Harpers Ferry via C&O trail.  The campsites were buggy and the trails were muddy, but we still had a pretty good time.  The temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity all weekend which meant no sleeping bags at night and a lot of shirtless dudes.

Weekend Thighlights. For the ladies.
We set out Friday night and got to the campsite around midnight.  In the morning, we had coffee at the campsite with one of my coworkers who was also out on the trail that weekend with a friend.   Had to pack up camp pretty quickly with the oncoming storms.  We rode through the rain all morning.  From that point on, everything was covered in mud.
Found a big tree.
Good climbin' tree.
Quick swim to cool down and clean up.
We jumped in the water by Harpers Ferry; we needed to clean up before going into town for lunch. Didn't stay for very long.  Harpers Ferry was great and all, but we wanted to make our way back to the campsite.
Pretty Great Falls.
The next day we rode straight back.  Made a quick stop at Great Falls to see what we had missed on the first night out.  Made it back in time to crash on the couch and watch bad Sunday afternoon TV.
Post-ride hose down.
Both new frames were perfect for the conditions this weekend.  The disc brakes were fantastic for the rain and mud.  Andrew, who is primarily a mountain biker, was on the Piolet.  He described it afterwards as "a valiant steed shepherding you through grand adventures."  I was on the orange bike for the weekend.  It was stable enough to handle the load and nimble enough to navigate the city at the start and end of the ride.  Plus the porteur bag up front was filled with snacks!  Keep an eye out for more on the new orange bike.

13 July, 2015

In Other News...

The VO Grand Cruz is cruising toward the 43rd RAGBRAI tour of Iowa. They'll be stopping in Denver and Omaha to show off our products. Check out the official Grand Cruz blog for details.

Lot's of folks have have asked for high quality 27" rims. I wasn't really sure if there was enough demand, but you kept asking. So we ordered a production run of our very popular PBP rim in 27" size.

The Dajia Shallow Drop bar is now available in 46cm width.

Another shipment of Rustines products has arrived from France. Patch kits, #1 and #2 size, are back in stock. as are some of the rubber bar plugs, grips, and white colored bungy cords. We should get a second shipment in a few weeks with the other items we're out of. Rustines products, especially patch kits are selling faster than we predicted. With the lead times and the factory being closed for vacation during August, we probably won't catch up on stocking until fall.

Are clipless pedals really more efficient then flat pedals? Maybe not. Watch the video.

Finally, the New York Times has an interesting article about: The Bicycle and the Ride to Modern America. Worth reading

08 July, 2015

The Piolet Frame is Here

The Piolet, our new adventure touring frame, is here. It's designed for off-pavement touring, including dirt and gravel roads, dual track, single track or no track at all. We built it to be sturdy, simple, and very capable.

Note the bosses for racks and fenders.
As with our other frames, it's built from double butted chrome-moly, including the fork. The seat stays are a cool mono-stay design. The fork is also our own segmented design and loaded with bosses for mounting racks, water-bottles, gear cages, and even fenders. Both the frame and fork were tested to meet MTB standards.

The non-suspension corrected fork looks great.
The Piolet frame is not suspension fork corrected. This really improves the appearance and helps us optimize handling.
So many eyelets!
It uses disc brakes. You can go with hydraulic brakes, but we prefer the simplicity of mechanical (cable) actuation.

The small and extra-small sizes use 26" wheels (easier to find than 650b in remote locations). The larger size frames all use 700c, or 29er, wheels. The Piolet is designed for 2.4" tires, but larger tires will fit.

You can also use 650b (27.5") wheels on the larger size frames (M, L, XL). We find that 650b x 2.8" wide tires have almost the same diameter as 700c x 2.4", so handling will be as intended and there is sufficient tire clearance.

Again, note all the eyelets and bosses.
There are mounts for five water bottle cages. Two of these are on the fork. The Piolet has full mounts for front and rear racks. You can set it up like a traditional touring bike or bike packer style. The mid-trail geometry allows for front or rear loading.
Fender boss and front derailleur cable stop.
There are proper fender mounts; this is a VO frame after all.

We've designed the Piolet to work equally well with drop bars and with flat bars.

Here's the technical stuff you or your mechanic will need to know when building it up. 135mm rear spacing with vertical dropouts. IS mount disc brakes, cable or hydraulic actuation.  27.2mm seat post. Bottom pull and bottom swing front derailleur. 73mm standard British, or ISO threaded bottom bracket.  1-1/8 inch headset.

The geometry chart can be found here.

07 July, 2015

A Wider Microfiber Touring Saddle

Our original VO microfiber touring saddle has been very popular. That's not surprising since it's much lighter and less expensive than a leather saddle, yet still very comfortable. With its suede-like top it also retains the look of a classic saddle. We've now added a wider version, designed for folks who keep their handlebars at or above saddle height, or who simply find a wider saddle more comfortable.

At 165mm wide it's about the same width as a VO Model 3 or Brooks B17 leather saddle. But that's somewhat deceptive because there are no rivets or a flaring leather "skirt." So the sitting area is comparable to a slightly wider leather model. 

At 425gm the weight is significantly less than that of a modern leather saddle. Length is 282mm, about the same as a Model 3.

There are loops for a saddle bag, which so many of you asked for, and a proper metal nameplate.

These microfiber top's texture keeps you from sliding around and it's weather resistant. The body is thermo-plastic with a layer of high density foam. The rails are chromoly. By the way, no microfibers were hurt in the manufacture of these saddles--all materials are vegan approved.

The photo above shows the original and the wide versions side-by-side.

02 July, 2015

Closed for Fireworks, and Riding, and Site Maintenance

by Annette

Velo Orange will be closed Friday, July 3, for the  Independence Day weekend and general revelry.

As well, the website  may be down at times over the weekend: We are refreshing it so it is better compatible with your tablets and smartphones. Of course, we'll try to minimize the disruption as much as we can, but if the site is down it means that even the staff can't get into it to check on things. (We assume you'll be out on your bikes and not looking at the site anyway, but just in case...)

Those of you in the Bend (OR), Boise (ID), and Salt Lake City (UT) areas can catch the VO Grand Cruz rolling through from July 5 - July 9 on its way to RAGBRAI in Iowa July 19 - 25. And everyone from the west coast to Iowa should check the Cruz blog for weekly schedule updates and reports.

29 June, 2015

Our New Long Setback Seat Post

We've offered the VO Long Setback Seat Post since 2008. It's a great post, especially so for folks who use leather saddles, which usually have shorter rails than plastic saddles. It's also nice for those who like a slacker seat tube angle, getting the saddle further behind the crank. But after all these years we decided it was time for an update. So after much design work and testing we recently introduced the MK 2 version.

The new version has a few advantages. It's stronger. It's easier to adjust. And it has a larger purchase area on the seat rails, which minimizes seat rail scuffing.  But we kept the best features of the original design. The post and head are still one piece, not pressed on like cheaper posts. The post is still internally ovalized for light weight. It still uses a two bolt design that adjusts from the bottom. The clamps mating surfaces are smooth, not notched, for fine adjustment. And there is still a generous 30.2mm of setback, just like the first version.

The new version is available in silver or in black, but only in 27.2mm diameter and 300mm length.

24 June, 2015

Igor's How-To

by Igor

The Grand Cru Rear Cassette Hubs have been a favorite amongst cyclotourists and randonneurs for their simplicity, reliability, and easy serviceability. The hubs use high-quality Japanese sealed bearings, a hub body design of our own, and a 10-speed compatible steel Shimano splined freehub body (or your choice of Campy or alloy). The freehub body features 3 pairs of robust pawls.

By using a threadless freehub system, driveside maintenance or spoke repairs can be done sans tools – no specialty tools and no complicated diagrams. Here’s how:
Undo the quick release or anti-theft skewers and remove wheel from the dropouts.

Remove quick release from the axle of the hub and set aside. Remember, when you pull the freehub body/cassette away from the shell, the non-driveside endcap will be freed, so put it into your pocket. You can pull the axle off the freehub body as well, but it's not necessary. The driveside endcap will stay on the axle by friction because of the rubber seals, but keep an eye on it. Better yet, put it into your pocket.

Now that you have the freehub body off, you can do a cleaning of the driveside flange (this always gets over-looked), the pawls, and the ratchet ring. If you've broken a spoke, replace the spoke.

Use a clean rag and wipe the pawls in the direction of engagement. Inspect the spring of the pawls.
Clean off the ratchet ring, quick wipe will do here.

Apply a small dab of thin gear oil to each pair of pawls. Chain lube works fine. Phil Tenacious oil works very well, too. Don’t use thick grease because the pawls may not pop back up!
Insert the axle into the shell and reassemble. Don’t forget about the endcaps in your pocket! Give the cassette a quick spin to ensure good pawl engagement.
Put the wheel back into the dropouts and tighten the skewer.

Hop on your bike and enjoy!


One of the facets of a beautiful constructeur-style bike is the detail work. To eliminate clamps and cluttered handlebars, builders would drill and tap the side of a stem to mount a brass bell which patinas nicely over time. With the Grand Cru Quill Stem, we have done the same. Installation of Brass Temple Bell onto the stem is quick, easy, and secure.
The hardware on the left comes with your new stem for installing the bell. The microfiber bag also comes with your stem and has a slew of wonderful uses.
Disassemble the bell by giving a good twist. The clamp threads into the bell body and the spring is flanked on both sides by a series of flat and split washers, take note of their positions relative to the bell body.

The set screw will thread into the bell housing. The bell is an obscure Taiwanese threading which is ever-so slightly different than the M5 threading of the bolt, so use a dab of grease and tighten it down. It will thread and stay secure just fine. The button head screw is included in case you may not want to use a bell.
Reassemble the stack of hardware and put the nut onto the set screw. Snug the nut onto the assembly. Put a dab of grease on the end of the set screw and thread the bell into the stem.
You may have to play with the orientation of the striker to get a good striking position once you thread the bell into the stem. Simply loosen the nut, turn the striker a few degrees, snug up the nut, and tighten the bell down by hand.
Insert stem into your steerer and enjoy!

The Constructeur-Style Rubber Grips are the perfect finishing touch for Adrian's 1970 Bertin mixte. The only snag is that they are designed to work with flat handlebars that do not use bar-end shifters. So here's how we modified the grip to work with her setup using just a knife, sandpaper, and denatured alcohol.
Install the grip onto an old handlebar or pipe. Using alcohol makes installation significantly easier.
Start cutting just behind the bulge and go all the way around.
Use a small piece of sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges from the cut.
With the shifter, cable, and housing installed, shift the rear derailleur into a lower gear so the lever is inline with the bars. Use generous denatured alcohol to start sliding/twisting the grip over the shift lever and over the housing until it's in the proper position.

After installation, let the grip rest for 24 hours so the alcohol evaporates and the grip stops rotating.

Hop on and enjoy!