31 May, 2012
We just received another box of samples and prototypes from several factories. Our agent consolidates these and overnights them to us every so often. Of the four items we've received recently, only one will make into our inventory. Product development is tricky business. If we can get 70% of our new projects to the point where functionality, quality, appearance, and price are up to snuff we're thrilled. The reality is that the figure is closer to 50%. Here are some recent examples.
An aluminum bell we wanted to import just didn't look good enough. Tone and durability were fine, but not appearance, so we'll drop that idea.
A leather saddle bag we have high hopes for needs more work, The opening is too low so items could fall out if not opened carefully. And the shape is not quite right as it rubs on our thighs. Re-design time, too bad since the quality is pretty darn nice.
A new VO chain guard with a cross-check pattern on it won't be produced because there is no way to get the pattern exactly right at reasonable cost. We'll give up on that one.
Another chain guard, however, looks fantastic and will be available in a few months.
We find that we're getting more concerned with quality every year and becoming ever more picky. And we continue to make little improvements with almost every production run. I'm really proud of the quality of our fenders, for example. I feel that they are as good or better than any made. And the quality, strength, and durability of our racks stacks up against racks that cost twice as much. The same can be said of our brakes, seat post, and stems.
But it takes time and a lot of little, often unseen, improvements to get products to the point that they really are the best. Here's an example: Casey was testing VO Moderniste water bottle cages, actually pulling them apart to see where they would fail. He figured out that if we made a small change in the location of the butt-joint in the tubing, the cages would be a lot stronger. At the same time we're increasing the wall thickness of the tubing used by 0.2mm. We're actually having custom tubing drawn just for our cages. I'll bet not one of our customers would have noticed those two minor changes. But the cages will be much more durable.
Posted by VeloOrange at 11:15:00 AM
24 May, 2012
Above is Igor's design for a U-lock holster. It's nicer than mine. This is one of those little things I wanted to try on my own bike. I'll run errands downtown, typically stopping at the hardware store, drug store, wine shop, and, on Sunday, the farmers market. With so many stops it seems that a quick-draw holster might be an improvement over digging through my pannier for the lock. We'll see how it works out. Igor already put one on his bike. I don't think we'll make it, but it's fun to try new ideas.
In other crafts news, the above shows Heidi's broken aluminum rear rack and her clever repair with two Allen wrenches and electrical tape. It broke on the first day of her first ever bike tour. This is why we prefer stainless steel racks. Heidi is getting a second Dajia expedition rack for this bike since the one on her son's bike has held up perfectly.
By the way, Heidi's tour is along the C&O canal, which reminded me of this old post.
Posted by VeloOrange at 11:02:00 AM
23 May, 2012
Posted by VeloOrange at 3:03:00 PM
22 May, 2012
Yesterday I saw nice old Motobecane in Annapolis and today noticed this one on Velospace. I was reminded of this post I wrote in 2007. As I wrote previously, Motobecanes seem a cut above Gitanes or Peugeots of similar vintage. Classic Rendezvous has a run-down on the various models here. Finding an older high-end Motobecane to re-build is one of the least expensive ways to get a really nice riding rando or city bike.
Of course the currently made Asian Motobecanes come from a different company and share only a name with the classic French bikes.
Posted by VeloOrange at 1:28:00 PM
16 May, 2012
Here are a few of the newest things we're working on. I won't provide many details for competitive reasons, but you might make some educated guesses. Of course not every project will come to fruition, and most will take longer to finish than I anticipate. And some of these items are rather specialized and probably won't sell in huge quantities. They are a little like the porteur chain cases in that they are items that I think should be made, even though we may not make much of a profit from them.
- We hope to have a new and very stylish Grand Cru crank by this Fall.
- We're working on three new fender models, each will be unlike anything currently made.
- A new and rather elegant chain guard is in the works, but it may be expensive.
- Those top tube protectors I wrote about recently will be available soon. We just need to pick the best leather.
- Some Grand Cru luggage is in development, but might not be ready until 2013.
Posted by VeloOrange at 12:33:00 PM
09 May, 2012
We finally have all of our rims and hubs back in stock. This includes the following items that we were out of and that many of you were waiting for:
- Grand Cru High Flange Freewheel Rear Hub 126mm
- Grand Cru High Flange Front Hub, 3hh and 36h
- Grand Cru Fixed Front Hub, 32h and 36h
- Grand Cru Touring Hub, 130mm, 32h
- Grand Cru Touring Hub, 135mm, 36h
- VO PBP 700c Rims, 32 and 36h
We'll have some of the rims and hubs built into wheels and available in a few weeks.
Posted by VeloOrange at 9:43:00 AM
04 May, 2012
The root idea which eventually has led to work with bicycles must go back to late eighties and early nineties. Being involved with the underground, skateboarding, going to punk rock shows and getting brainwashed into the ecologism in the teenages must have lead into search for creative yet meaningful job in the adulthood.
Bicycling came along as a choice for moving around and making small trips, but then growingly as an object of intrest. When you can't find the bike you like, you end up fixing your own. After building a couple of them came the question what if we could make a living out of it.
At first we tried to rebuild and restore bikes from old and abandoned ones. There's a large recycling center in Helsinki where loads of these bike wrecks are piled up. You can also get parts there for cheap. Unfortunately most of it is crap and we learned the hard way that it was a laborsome job – especially when you try to meet your prefered aesthetic or function. The amount of hours put into rebuilding a bicycle wouldn't pay back in the price people are often ready to pay for a used bike. This lead into search for new frames, which lead us into designing our own frames which lead us into starting Pelago. (The name is short from archipelago which is a nice part of nature in our country).
Besides making the bikes, we run a shop and service in Helsinki which offers a variety of cycling goods for day-to-day errands and alternative travelling. Velo Orange has a nice selection of goods which we've been happy to offer for the needs of local cyclists. Although rooted in the Helsinki pavement, we still look at cycling from greater context. Sustainability is a common effort. It’s not just what you buy – it’s what you make. It’s about what you do at work. Bicycles is an obvious and easy choice for us, but in everything we do, we should think what meaning it has for the society.
Running the company for three years now has thought us a lot. Building one bike is relatively quick job compared to designing a bike for production. It's a process that consumes time and money. Two years ago it felt we had barely scratched the surface of what we'd like to be doing. That feeling hasn't gone anywhere. There is a lot to do, a lot learn, but we believe we have something to give which keeps up the spirits. After all, we embarked on the journey with long term intensions.
Can you recommend any good overseas, or domestic, shops that stock VO stuff?
Posted by VeloOrange at 2:10:00 PM
01 May, 2012
Here is another blog post from 2006, slightly updated. I've been re-reading those early post; good memories. Of course many of the items we used to look for on E-bay are available new today, 50.4bcd cranks from VO, centerpull brakes from Dia Compe, etc. But it's still cool to recycle the classic parts.
Many connoisseurs and restorers of fine French bikes seek out old TA Specialties and Stronglight cranks. This is understandable as both companies made beautiful and practical cranksets that were fitted to the finest bicycles. But there is a third brand, Nervar, that also made top quality components and whose cranks were occasionally used by even the best constracteurs.
The relative anonimity of Nervar cranks makes them a bargin. I bought the 50.4bcd crankset in the first photo for about $20 on E-Bay (in 2006). Yet it is as well made and takes the same chain rings as a TA Cyclo-Tourist or a Stronglight 49D crankset, either of which usually sell for much more. As for appearance, I think the the 49D is a bit more elegant, but I find the Nervar prettier than a TA.
An additional benefit of Nervar cranks is that they use standard-taper axles and standard crank removers, no special tools required. And yes, they work fine with 9 or 10-speed drivetrains.
The great thing about this 50.4mm-bcd bolt pattern is that you can run a wide range double, say a 46 and 30. This means that with a modern 9 or 10-speed 12-27 cassette you'll have the equivalent of a triple with only two chainrings and standard cage derailleurs. And most riders will find that they stay in the big ring 90% of the time with plenty of gears on either side of a normal 15-19 mph cruising speed.
The lower photo shows what may have been the last model of crank Nervar produced. They are pretty 122-bcd cranks that makes a fine single on my Motobecane. They are very light, lighter than Campy record cranks, or so I've read. I paid $15 for them.
Do you have any favorite old component brands?
Posted by VeloOrange at 10:13:00 AM