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.

27 November, 2013

Biscuits and Treats

by Scott

In the run up to Thanksgiving here at VO HQ, we've gotten some new treats to try out this winter. Touring hubs with disc mounts arrived yesterday, along with some super wide 700C fenders for us to test out on the Camargue.  26" rims for the smaller Camargue test bike arrived as well in the last sample box to get here before the Thanksgiving holiday. With the holiday approaching quickly, I thought a little post about something close to my heart would be appropriate as we head into a time of cold weather and warm drinks.
 Ask anyone here, I'm partial to cookies- (Biscuits to our friends across the pond in the UK and down under in Australia and New Zealand) To me, having a cookie (or two) with a cup of tea (Yorkshire Gold if you're asking for a recommendation) after a ride in the cold is wonderful. I like something plain, nothing fancy. I'm partial to shortbread cookies with tea. I think that the butter, sugar and salt in the shortbread helps with recovery after the ride. When we lived in Australia we got taken in by Tim Tams. Those work well with a post ride tea here in the winter. The chocolate won't melt as it's cool here. We always kept the Tim Tam's in the fridge in the summer months down under.

We'll be closed here at VO this Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful for some time off and lovely folks to ride with. The weather looks good for a ride for most of the holiday, although we'll be looking forward to tea and cookies afterwards.

What is your choice of beverage and treat after a cold winter's ride?

22 November, 2013

Those Crazy Bars are Here

During morning meeting a few months ago, Casey, our engineer, sheepishly passes around a drawing of some weird handlebars and asks if we'd consider making them. Someone (can't remember who) declares them to be "crazy bars." And the name stuck. After testing we found that we all loved them. In fact, the prototypes are still on both mine and Casey's bikes (and we're not giving them back).

These bars are intended for touring on paved and unpaved roads. They are also sweet for gravel grinding. The main section of the bar is pretty wide at 67cm, but it can be cut down easily. This provides good control on rough surfaces and around town. The bullhorn section offers a streamlined position for smoother roads and headwinds. The center portion replicates the top of a drop bar, and placing your hands at the junctions is not unlike riding on the hoods.
The main bar is 22.2mm so MTB grips, levers, and shifters fit. The "horns" are 23.8mm, so road levers - including inverse levers - fit, as do bar-end shifters. Clamp area is 25.4mm.

Crazy Bars are made from 6061 aluminum and are heat treated. Weight is pretty reasonable at around 450gm. Note that these are not intended for mountain bike use, but we will have a heavier version made from thicker-wall tubing for MTBs soon.
The logos on this first production run face the rider. We had intended that they face forward, but this doesn't really matter since most folks will wrap the entire center section. We only had a few cases air shipped, the rest will be here in January.

Thanksgiving Break and Deadlines for International Orders

Velo Orange will be closed Thursday (28 November) and Friday (29 November) for the Thanksgiving holiday. And our staff will dwindle during the early part of the week.

To assure that international orders are packed and processed before we close on Wednesday, we ask that these orders be placed no later than close of business Monday, 25 November. And please watch your email to respond quickly to the shipping notices.

15 November, 2013

Show and Tell

by Igor

We just got back from the Philly Bike Expo and it was a great time. The new convention center was perfect for the expo. It had indoor bike parking, seminar rooms, activities, and excellent location. Close proximity to Reading Terminal Market meant that great food and smells were only a short walk away. Onwards with the photos! Full set here.

Brian Chapman
Royal H
Johnny Coast
Rich Adams with Tall Stack Stem 
Bilenky with Grand Cru Brakes 
Speaking of shows, our good friends at Bike Cafe in Thailand set up a great booth at "A Day Bike Fest 2013". Lots of VO bikes and bits. All photos courtesy of Bike Cafe.

By the way, Chris wants to get a Sprinter style company van for traveling to venues. Here's my quick mockup. 

Original courtesy of wikipedia
We're putting a show schedule for next year. So the tell part: tell where you would like to see us in 2014. Do you have any favorite shows?

13 November, 2013

Frame Bargains

Pass Hunter paint blemish.
We're selling four VO frames that are either prototypes or have a small imperfection. They are "bargain priced". And you do still get the 10% discount on anything you order to build them up (in the same order). Here's what we have; they won't last long:

Also, Grand Cru single speed cranks are back in stock.

12 November, 2013

New Little Doodad

by Igor

We got these nifty 10-tooth alloy jockey wheels. They come with shims to fit many derailleurs. Modern derailleurs use 11-tooth wheels, so it's getting hard to find replacements for vintage derailleurs. The bearings are sealed for a long and smooth life. The through bolt must be smaller than 5.1mm in diameter.

By the way, we also have a Tumblr. Cool pictures of stuff we like.

07 November, 2013

Pass Hunter Frames Are Here

The long awaited Pass Hunter frames arrived yesterday. The Pass Hunter frame is designed for spirited riding on pavement, gravel, or smooth dirt roads. It's like a randonneuse, but with cantilever brakes. The canti brakes allow for wider tires with fenders and more powerful braking. The Pass Hunter is built using slightly lighter tubing than the Polyvalent or Campeur. It has mid-trail geometry and shorter chainstays than our other frames for stable, yet sporty, handling. In addition to randoneuring and pass hunting, the Pass Hunter would make a nice sportiff or a fast credit card tourer.

Pass Hunter build kits are also available.
We also have black Grand Cru sealed bearing headsets.
And we have retro-style wound stainless steel cable housing kits for brake and for shift cables.