24 December, 2007

Happy Holidays

Velo Orange will be closed from December 24th until January 7th.

It's been a terrific year for VO thanks to our many loyal customers. We've been growing at a rapid rate and many projects we started at the beginning of the year are coming to fruition. But now we need to take inventory and go on a short vacation.

Happy holidays to everyone!

The image is from the Tarwheels Bike Club, thanks.

22 December, 2007

RH Hanger

I know that a lot of you have been waiting for our reproduction Herse-style hangers. The final prototype just arrived by Fed Ex. They are now going into production. They will sell for around $20-$25 a pair and will also be available at wholesale prices to bike shops.

Functionally they are not a great improvement over other hangers, but they did adorn most Rene Herse bikes and many from Singer and other constructeurs. Even today they are used by Toei. And they are pretty enough to hang from your Christmas tree. How's that for bike bling?

Update: I forgot to thank Mike Barry of Mariposa, one of the world's finest constructeurs, for providing us with details, measurements, and photographs of his original RH hangers that are the basis of our reproductions. And thanks to Peter Weigle who arranged all that.

BTW, Mike is retiring today; there will be no more Mariposa bikes.

21 December, 2007

Belleri Bars and International Trade

We have received another, and probably the last, shipment of Belleri "Porteur" handlebars. This box is all seconds, that is bars that had at one point been mounted on new bikes and taped. We speculate that these came from unsold bikes from a large shop or factory in France.

These bars have been very popular and we've had nothing but glowing reports from customers who have tried them. I've heard that there are a couple of hundred more of these bars available somewhere in Europe and perhaps we can track them down. In any case, we plan to have a similar bar made by Nitto in the future.

On another subject, I am distressed by what I sometimes see as an anti-Chinese or even anti-Taiwanese bias among American cyclists. My own attitude is very different. VO is committed to sourcing both expensive parts from Europe and Japan, and less expensive alternatives from other countries. It would be great if everyone had TA pedals, but some can't, or won't, spend that much on pedals, no matter how nice they are. It makes sense to stock two or three lines of pedals of various quality and price levels and offer customers a choice. So I'll look to Taiwan, China, anywhere for alternatives.

I'm very anti-nationalist and am happy to source stuff from any country in the world if I think it's well made, a good deal, and made by a small company that I think is well run. But I won't source anything from a concern if I even suspect they don't treat their employees properly. People are people and a worker in the US or Europe has no more right to earn a living than one in China simply because he or she was lucky enough to be born here. Too many people forget that we are citizens of Earth first; being citizens of a particular country is a very distant second.

The whole anti-China thing that we sometimes encounter in the US smacks to me of nationalism and even racism. Trade and open communications are what help people, not sanctions, boycotts, and and political posturing. I'm sure, for example, that our neighbors in Cuba would be a lot better off if the US had taken a more friendly tone 40 years ago. Governments, like people, respond best to positive stimulus, not punishment.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now and go back to sourcing parts.

Note: As I mentioned in the very first post. This blog is not just about bikes. It's my policy to occasionally go off on a tangent and stir up some discussion about environmental, political, social, or economic issues.

20 December, 2007

TA Tevano Cranks and ITM Stems

I've found a few TA Tevano cranks. These are interesting and very beautiful components. By the late 1970s it was obvious that the Campagnolo Super Record crankset was the reigning king of racing cranks. The Campy SR cranks were on almost every bike in the pro peloton and the long favored TA cranks had finally been completely eclipsed, though not among tourists and randonneurs. So TA made their own version of the Super Record crank and named it the Tevano. This 144bcd crank was virtually identical to the SR and it's hard to say which was better made, but my vote is for the TA. They came in both track and double versions. One of our Follis tandems even has a tandem set that was converted to a triple.

We will have them in 165mm and 170mm. If you'd like to reserve a set they will cost $245 for the arms, just e-mail. We can also get some tandem sets. Idon't yet know how many genuine 144bcd TA rings we will get, but there are good quality Asian rings available and Campy rings also fit. Obviously, these are not ideal for a rando or touring bike, but for a racing-style, track, or city bike, they would be way cool. The images are from the CR site.

Speaking of Italian-style components, we just got some lovely new "Pro Race 400" ITM stems. If you don't need the extra quill length of a Nitto Technomic, they are a very nice, and economical, choice for a high-end bike. Forged 6082 aluminum with a 135mm quill length (or about 80mm above the min. line) and a 26mm clamp.

Also, our VO 650B fender are done and should arrive within a couple of weeks.

19 December, 2007

Toys for the Holidays

Here are a few new items we're thinking about stocking:

These canti brakes may be a new VO model. They are well made and good looking, at least to my eye, and fairly inexpensive. They will replace the Tektro "Mafac/Froggy" brakes we now stock. Our version will have nice cartridge-type brake shoes.

Here is a water bottle we're looking at. It is less expensive than the ones we now sell, it has no logo, and the caps work better. On the down side, the caps are not as well made, the shape is not as pretty, and there is no option for a flat cap. What do you think?

Next, VO presents the prototype leathered trouser bands. The ends will be sewn shut on the production version; these prototypes are just to get the sizing right. This is not a product that anyone was screaming for, but I thought that if you commute to work in nice pants you might not want to use bare metal bands.

I have just heard that the first run of Velo Orange leather handlebar tape will arrive soon. We'll have it in brown and black at prices well below Brooks leather tape.

You may have noticed that we dropped the silver expandable bar plugs. That's because we'll soon have much nicer VO expandable bar plugs made from aluminum instead of plastic.

Our agent has also informed me that handlebar bag, high-end glove, and some other prototypes will be shipped in the next couple of weeks. I'm most excited about the VO pedals and seatposts, but those might be along a bit later. Of course some projects seem to take forever. The factory making the VO battle cages is having a bit of trouble with our quality requirements after the first prototype, but they are still working on it. The Herse-style hangers arenow waiting to be made. And we did get some VO handlebar prototypes and are now just waiting our turn for the production run.

Finally, prices on VO Randonneur frames are going up to $1850 on Saturday.

Feedback is appreciated!

18 December, 2007

TA "Cyclo Touriste" Cranks Redux

I've written about TA Pro-5-Vis cranks a couple of times; that's the official name of the "Cyclo Touriste" cranks, by the way. We just found and ordered a couple dozen more sets. They've been selling especially briskly since the article by Jan Heine in Vintage Bicycle Quarterly.

Jan thinks they are the best cranks of all time. I won't argue with that, but there are a couple of small errors in the otherwise super article I wanted to correct.

First, Pro-5-Vis cranks have about the narrowest Q factor, or tread, of any crank made. That's a good thing for most of us. In fact some experts claim that most riders pedal more efficiently on low Q-factor cranks. But there is a small percentage of riders who are more comfortable on with a wider crank. You probably know who you are and you should not buy Pro-5-Vis cranks. Simply using a longer bottom bracket, as the article suggests, will throw off your chain line and, in my experience, may result in balky shifting.

The other bit I wanted to correct is that all these cranks did not go to Japan, nor were they re-imported from Japan. You can just look in our stock room to see that.

Which brings us to the bigger issue of, "Will they be made again?" We were told, twice, that the last production run would be it. Forever; period; no more; finished. But apparently this past run sold so quickly that that decision was reconsidered, according to both Jan and my French contacts, and there may indeed be more runs. I'm happy about that since they really are great cranks. But I feel like I misled our customers by repeating what I'd been told about there being no more ever made. My apologies.

Here is what I wrote previously about these cranks:

One reason why so many people like the TA crank is that it has about the lowest Q-factor (width) of any crank ever made. This is because the crank arm is straight and very close to the outer chainring. So front derailleurs that have thick outer plates sometimes hit the crankarm, But all Campy models and many others work. These cranks will work with modern drivetrains, even 10-speed. Another reason to use TA Pro Vis 5 cranks is that they can replace a triple crank when set up as a double. You can run 28t and 46t rings with a 12-27 cassette (for example) and have almost the same range as a triple, but with a lot less overlap. Rings 26 to 68 teeth are available. By the way, TA sells the cranks and rings separately; there are no stock combinations. So why did these wonderful cranks go out of production? The big chainrings, above 50t or so, are too flexible for racing. And they are very expensive.
To the above I'd add that other reasons to use them include: The chainrings are very durable and last a long time while the crank itself won't ever wear out. So you are buying a crank that will probably last you for the rest of your life. And these cranks weigh about as much as modern carbon fiber cranks. (Now that's progress!)

Finally, I've been told that prices for the next production run will be a fair bit be higher.

14 December, 2007

Sanden Lights

I've always liked integrated generators and lights. They offer a bolt-on solution for those of us who don't need a light all the time. Put it on in the winter, or for a long brevet, and take it off later.

Long time customers may remember that we once sold the French Soubitez lights shown on the left. Of course those were new-old-stock and we can't get more.

For a few months I've been trying to get a hold of some Sanden lights from Japan. Three models finally arrived today. It turns out that the factory is actually in China, though the brand is Japanese, I think.

The top of the range model, shown above, looks nice. For some reason they call it the mountain bike model. The light uses a halogen bulb and has a nicely shaped reflector. The generator seems to run very smoothly There is a huge soft rubber roller that rides on the rim, if I understand the pictographs correctly. The only bad bit is the fork clamp, which is the usual cheesy stamped steel. But even the expensive old JOS lights had cheesy stamped steel clamps.

I'll give it a good test ride on my beater city bike after tomorrow's snowstorm. Any one interested in a light like this? Should we stock them?

On another lighting note, we'll soon be distributing Jos/Spanninga lights.

11 December, 2007

The Courier Racks are Here

Just a quick note: I know a lot of you have been waiting for courier racks and they are finally here. I've had one of the prototypes on my VO city bike and I really like the size and strength of it.

We also have a new light bracket and some new front cable hangers that will be in the store later today.

07 December, 2007

The New VO Chainguard

I just got the prototype VO chainguards. Since my last post on this subject garnered such a mixed reaction, I've decided to make two versions, an ornate model and a simple model. This is, obviously, the simple model. What do you think; there is still time to make changes?

The version you see here is made in the US and cost about $50 each. I could have them made in Taiwan with a retail price of about $15. Hmmm... But it would take months to get them. The workmanship is very good on the US made versions and they are very light, but the polishing is not up to par. The Asian version would probably be bead blasted, which actually is a more practical finish for a chainguard.

In the meantime we have some of the Sun chainguards pictured below. The Suns are not bad, but they don't work with our preferred method of mounting. We also have a few small Wald chainguards.

06 December, 2007

A Porteur Rack At Work

Owen is a bike messenger in LA. He'd been waiting for a Porteur rack for months and eventually bought one of the prototypes. He writes:

Here are some pictures of the rack on my madison. My Bottecchia, well, it kind of died. That was the bike I bought the rack for originally, but a bent fork, then stolen wheels, got me upset enough that I just got a metal worker to make a mounting system to have the rack go onto the madison.
.... The messengers in downtown all have something to say about it. I keep telling them they can make more money with the rack and have more to talk to girls about.

Funny, I originally thought to get a rack back in June so I'd be able to ride shirtless while I work. Now it's winter. Well, winter in LA anyway. Can't ride shirtless now, that's the point.
It's nice to see the racks used the way porteur racks were intended to be used.

Speaking of long waits, I'm waiting for some samples of very cool lights to arrive, also some VO prototypes.

UPDATE: Ryan just sent this photo of his working porteur (based on a $25 rummage sale frame) with a VO rack:

04 December, 2007

Nice Bikes

A few customers have sent photos of their bikes in the past week and they are rather nice. So I thought I'd post them for your enjoyment.


David sent some shots of his stunning 1959 Carlton three speed. This is a particularly well designed and practical machine. Check out the rest of the photos at this link.

Robert sense of style really shown in his elegant and understated black and chrome Revelo. His blog has more photos and a full description.

Mac sent a link to his very nicely equipped Surly LHT. One doesn't need rare or old bikes to have an elegant ride.

28 November, 2007

A Quick Update

Just a quick update. I know a lot of you have been waiting for Ostrich handlebar bags. They just arrived and they are the updated VO model with a rear strap to fit over a rack's upright loop. They also have a strap on the bottom and a clear map cover.

We also received more Japanese brass bells, including a new model.

Finally a big box of Honjo hardware arrived, which we won't have time to unpack until tomorrow.

Also, we did a little house cleaning and are putting some odd bits on the specials page, including a few great deals

27 November, 2007

New Old Products

We have a few new items for your approval.

The Simplex Super LJ 503 front dérailleur is one of the best and most elegant front dérailleurs of all time. They are especially good with TA Pro 5 Vis and Stronglight 49D cranks because of the flat outer cage plate. The seat tube clamp is a lovely casting with the sunburst Simplex "S" logo, but don't over tighten the clamp; they can snap. Last time we found a box of these they sold out quickly.

I found a few of these old bag supports; they're not really decaleurs, or maybe they are. In any case, I used one for many years and they are fine for a light load, but the weight is too high up for more than a few pounds. They are good because they can be changed from one bike to another in seconds and they allow you to use your handlebar bag on almost any bike.

We also have another new handlebar. The Tourist bar is a "North Road" style bar rendered in polished aluminum alloy. The bulge is 25.4mm, width is 54cm and it has about 7cm of rise. And at $20 it's a great deal.

Dropout adjustment screws often get bent or lost and replacements are hard to find, so we decided to stock them. These are brand new Algi standard 3mm screws and they are available in 25mm or 35mm length.

We also found a case of Huret single lever stem mounted shifters. These are new-old stock shifters that are terrific for city bikes with only a rear dérailleur.

Chainguards are Art

The photo on the right shows some of the chainguards in my little collection. Since I don't have enough on my plate, I've decided that it's time to design a VO chainguard. I've been looking at various chainguards made in Taiwan and none even come close to the style of these old Dutch and French designs. Chainguards are not only essential on a city bike, but they can be a bit of industrial art.

I thought I would ask for opinions. What should the new VO chainguard look like? Should we go for an ornate design, or would a simpler model like the Lefol guard in the second or third photo be more appropriate? I've already ordered prototypes of chainguards that look like those in the third photo. We might use that style on the production city bike.

By the way this is a link to a large .pdf of a 1950 Lefol catalog. It's from Joel's Blackbird site; Thanks Joel. It really is fascinating.

Just don't request a hammered chainguard. I did ask Honjo about making them, but with a 6 month waiting list for fenders, they don't seem very interested in a new product.

In case you were wondering, the chainguards in my collection are for sale, but only with a semi-custom city bike frame.

23 November, 2007

Fun Links and A little News


Nerdy pant clips for would-be superheroes.

Magnificent city bike collection, and it's for sale. Check out this Bianchi. (Thanks for the tip Joe)

A retro Italian city bike.


The latest shipment of Ostrich handlebar bags, that we keep selling out of, will be here next week.

The Courier racks will arrive in about a week.

We ran out of brass bells, the first time that's ever happened, but we'll have another shipment in a few days.

We are working on a VO seat post. Goals include good setback, smooth adjustment, forged alloy construction with (if possible) a butted tube, and a shiny finish. I'm hoping for a price of around $40.

We might soon have news about a new VO road pedal with really nice bearings, a grease port, replaceable road cage, and a reasonable price. I should have word on whether someone can make these in a week or two. If the road model can be sourced, we'll try to get a touring cage that will fit on the same body.

We are still waiting for the Herse-style cable hangers and the VO water bottle cages. Both projects have been delayed by the need to fix or review little details. But both projects are well underway.

I hurt my back and will be in bed for a few days. I know a lot of folks were planning to drop by the VO showroom today. Sorry that I won't be able to meet you. But Annette and Heidi are holding down the fort.

20 November, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We'll be closed Wednesday and Thursday and we'll reopen on Friday. Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

19 November, 2007

More Handlebars

We are stocking a new city bar. I call this the Milan bar because it's a great bar for converting old Italian racing frames with a short top tube. Actually it's great for converting any frame with a short top tube into a city bar. Folks who like a more aggressive position on a city bike will like it too. The width is about 59cm, there is around 25mm (one inch) of rise, and the bulge is 25.4mm. The material is polished alloy. The price is only $19. You might consider cutting this bar down a few centimeters to make it narrower. European city bars are actually not very wide, better to fit between cars and scooters.

The lower photos show a very rare 44mm Phillipe randonneur in a shiny black finish. The engraving is filled with white. I usually don't like black components, but this bar is just beautiful.

The final photo shows the very pretty engraving on a French racing
bar made by a manufacturer I've never heard of. Anyone recognize those logos?

BTW, I'm starting to post Follis/Pinto tandem photos here.

16 November, 2007

Handlebar Heaven

Handlebar heaven is, as you would expect, way up high. It is the top shelf of a tall storage rack at a certain wholesale company. Over the years that's where they've tossed all the sample handlebars and stems sent by various European and Japanese manufacturers. There are old bars from Nitto, TTT, ITM, Atax, Belleri, Phillipe, etc.

You'll be glad to know that you can buy your way into heaven, at least into handlebar heaven. I bought the whole lot with the idea of having reproductions of some of these old bars made.

The first photo shows some of the city bars in my new collection. I'll sell the ones we don't choose to reproduce and have solid works drawings made of the best examples.

The second photo is of a bar I particularly like and am sending plans of it off for quotes.

The third photo is of a lugged chrome French Pivo stem, but this one is unusual because it's 22.2mm x 25.4 mm, not the usual French size.

The last photo is of a modern Origin brand bar I think we'll stock. Anyone like/hate it?

So what sort of bars would you like to see Velo Orange sell?

ALSO, We just got more VO Croissant and Baguette bags. And the Follis tandems arrived a few minutes ago. Photos soon.

13 November, 2007


Here are my answers to a few questions that I often get asked.

When will the VO handlebar bags finally arrive?:

I wish I knew. The photos are of the latest prototype. So we are making progress, but it's taken over a year to get to this point. Maybe by spring?

The other VO bags are out of stock at the moment because the manufacturer of the waxed cotton fabric we use ran out of it. I don't know when they will make more, but it shouldn't be too long.

When will the production frames arrive?

I was told that late May 2008 was possible for the rando frames and that we might see the city bike frames a bit earlier. But we all know how often production delays make such estimates guesses at best. When we get closer to delivery and the date seems set we'll accept deposits for the frames.

By the way, the production lugged rando frames will use the same geometry and tubing specs as the semi-custom frames and they use standard long reach caliper brakes. The geometry is tuned for 28-32mm tires. We are shooting for a price of just under $1000. But the Japanese Yen has been rising relative to the dollar in the past few weeks, so it's hard to say what the final price will be.

Is something in stock and how much will it cost to ship?

If an item in our store can be put into the "shopping cart", it is in stock. Otherwise you'll get a "item not available" message.

The store web site will calculate US shipping costs prior to asking for your credit card info. For very light items we often charge less shipping than the store site calculates.

If you live outside the US we will send you an e-mail telling you the shipping cost when you place an order. You can then accept the shipping cost or cancel the order.

I don't mind if you e-mail me about shipping or availability, but it's much faster to simply check the store site.

Where are the STRIDA 5.0 folding bikes?

They arrived yesterday.

How about the new style bell mounts?

They arrived today. These will allow you to use a stem mount-style bell even on classic bikes. They are polished stainless steel and made for us by a manufacturer of yachting hardware here in the US. They are available with, or without, the bell.

Now my question: So how do you like the bag?

12 November, 2007

TA Pedals and VO Frames, Good and Bad News

The good pedal news is that TA pedals are once again available, or will be in a few weeks when our order arrives. Here is what I wrote about them last year:

TA Specialites pedals are, arguably, the nicest pedals ever made. TA pedals were an expensive and rare upgrade on Rene Herse and Alex Singer bikes.

They are completely rebuildable. The cages and "flick tabs" are replacable. They use inboard roller bearings. They have grease ports so you don't need to dissassemble them for re-greasing. They are, in a word, superb.

We stock them in both road and track versions. the track model has gray cages, the road model has silver. These may be in short supply; in fact it's surprising that a product like this is still made. So get them while they are still available.

We can sometimes get these in French thread; please e-mail.
The bad news is that the our price has gone up to $157 per pair; list price is over $200 now. The price will likely go up again soon, so you can reserve a pair from this shipment if you like. The other bad bit is that finish on the pedal bodies is still not up to current Japanese standards, but mechanically they are as good as ever.

On the frame front, the semi-custom Velo Orange Randonneur , and other lugged steel frames are selling like the proverbial hotcakes (crepes?) . That's good for us, but it means that delivery time is over a year for new orders and will probably soon rise to 18 months. There will also be another frame price hike this winter. Johnny and I think that the newest frames are really getting dialed-in and are even better than the well-received early frames. Johnny's already superb work is getting better with each frame. I really appreciate that he is concentrating on build quality and ride quality rather than on over-the-top embellishments. I find his clean and minimalist style very refreshing and it meshes perfectly with our own VO aesthetics..