23 December, 2013

Merry Holidays

Scott carpet grinding in the VO office, an early start to his holiday Camargue  testing trip. 
I wanted to wish all our customers, dealers, distributors, and suppliers a merry and restful holiday. Thanks to all of you for another great year.

This is the last day that we'll be open in 2013; it's vacation time at VO until January 2nd. We'll be back next month to work on some really cool new products (details later.) Again, have a great holiday!

19 December, 2013

Holiday Closing

by Annette

It's time for our annual staff shutdown, after a year of some pretty major stuff. So VO will close for the winter holidays from Tuesday, December 24 through January 1; we'll re-open on Thursday, January 2nd. No orders will be shipped while we're closed, nor will phones or e-mails be answered. Our last day to ship orders is Monday, December 23, so be sure to get in any orders this coming weekend.

None of us here is too sentimental, but we sure can be silly. Our landlord gave us a box of treats this week;  you can't imagine how childishly tickled we were at the milk chocolate buildings and the dark chocolate hardhats.

In that vein, we've looked back at to our milestones of 2013 and summarize it thus:

Twelve Marcs a-biking
Eleven brand new shelving
Ten kilos soaping
Nine desks a-groaning
Eight cabinets showing
Seven mugs a-steaming
Six containers loading
Five Opinels!
Four 10x10s
Three Camargues
Two orange sofas
and a Pass Hunter under the tree.

Best wishes to our customers, dealers, and friends, and thank you for another banner year.

16 December, 2013

Riding for Coffee, Coffee for Riding: Vargo Triad Stove

By Igor

Adrian and I took out the Camargue and Pass Hunter for a quick trip in the snow to try out a little alcohol stove made by Vargo. It's tiny, stable, titanium, and weighs only 28 grams (1oz)! The stove is super compact when packed and once the legs are extended, it makes a great platform for our titanium cook pot.

Vargo "Triad" Titanium Stove
It uses alcohol as opposed to a canister system, so the center of gravity is very low and fuel is easily available. The cold and wet conditions made it a bit harder to light, but once it got going, the water boiled fairly quickly.

We brought along our GSI Outdoors Java Press, made some coffee, and snapped a few pictures. For 30 bucks, it's a neat addition for your lightweight bikepacking or hiking setup.

Perfect pour
Riding for coffee, coffee for riding
What do you think, a good addition to our Camp and Cabin section?

Bonus bike pictures!

12 December, 2013

Nude Frames

Once in a while we receive unpainted frames. Today we received three nude Camargue prototypes. This allows us to better check brazing and welding quality. Here are a few photos. Note how clean the work is. There are no gaps, pinholes, or signs of overheating. I've seen a few unpainted custom frames that don't look this nice.

There's a lot you can learn from seeing a frame in the nude. A few years ago we ordered samples from a different factory. Well, we soon found out why that other factory had faster build times and lower prices. There were gaps and pinholes in the brazing and discolored areas from too much heat. (Many frames from that factory are sold in the USA; some cost more than ours.)

These are the last of the Camargue prototypes. There are some minor changes in geometry; we also changed a few things to make them stronger. There is a gusset under the down tube, for example. Once they weather the frame fatigue testing machine they will go into production.
The brass under the fork crown is for the fender mount.
We changed to fastback seat stays, which should be a little stronger.
Not an issue on most bikes, but when riding off pavement...
Neat and strong.

05 December, 2013

Practical Gift Ideas

Like many of us, I am evermore disappointed by the commercialism of Christmas and by the season's mad consumerism. That is not to say that we don't exchange gifts in our family: gift giving is a lovely tradition. We try to find small and useful gifts, and only for immediate family or kids. Books and hand-knit socks seem popular. I like to get thing that will soon be used, like books, wine, chocolate, or things that will be useful for a long time - literary books, nice bike parts, small tools. With this in mind I'd like to offer a few gift suggestions from VO. We at VO are, after all, somewhat dependent on consumerism.

Nice water bottle cages, especially our retro cages, are a good gift choice for anyone still using plastic or aluminum cages. They are durable, hold plastic or metal bottle securely, and they look great.
Leather handlebar tape is a luxury that many wouldn't spring for, but would love to have. Not only does it look and feel great, but it lasts a long time. I think leather tape actually gets better looking as it ages and develops a patina. Elkhide bar wrap is a good alternative, especially if you offer to install it as part of the gift.
Bells are a great gift and stocking stuffer. They are pretty, have a lovely tone, and offer a more pleasant way to say "on your left!" Our Temple bells are solid brass and we have models to mount on handlebar or stem.
Soap is a natural, especially for us cyclists who sweat a bit more than the average pedestrian. Savon de Marsailles is an artisanal olive oil soap that's been made for some 600 years using traditional methods and ingredients. It cleans and moisturizes in a way that modern factory-made soaps don't. The 1kg block might be a bit too big to stuff in a stocking, but we also have the smaller size.
Opinel pocket knives are a great gift for cyclist and non-cyclist alike. I've used one since I was a kid. They are, inexpensive, lightweight, and made from superb steel. They are are the standard knife of French farmers, hikers, foragers and cyclo-tourists. In fact, almost everyone who spends time in the countryside seems to have one. They've been made since 1890 in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Rhône-Alpes.
Stainless Steel Water bottles are another idea that works even for non-cyclists.
Of course a nice new VO frame would definitely cheer up a loved one's holiday, should you want to splurge.
Giving a hatchet may seem silly. But if you go camping, or like to clear brush, you know how useful they can be. I bought mine for cutting and splitting campfire wood. (Have you noticed that even those bundles of  wood you buy from the camp host often lack any, or enough, kindling?) I prefer our reasonably priced German-made (by a Swedish company) Bahco hatchet. It has all the quality and functionality you'll ever need; these guys make the tools that real lumberjacks and working craftsmen use.
How about a nice VO Enjoy Life Poster? Or a Signed Print of  a VO Polyvalent drawing by Ben Lively.
Finally, if you can't decide, there is always the option of a VO gift certificate.