19 September, 2017

Paper or Plastic?

By Scott

Tub of memories

I've been doing some cleaning at home and I found a tub of randonneuring pins/medals from my rides in Canada and Australia (the US organizers generally charged for them, so being cheap/frugal to a fault, I don't have many US medals). I was thinking back to the rides that I did and the changes to the sport and technology since I started riding brevets back in 2003. I think the biggest change, bigger than tire size and frame material, is how we navigate around.

The old way
At the start of the BC randonneurs rides, we would get a control card, a cue sheet, and a ziplock bag to put it in. They would post the cue sheets to the club website a week or so beforehand in case you wanted to print them in a different format or size than what came standard. I'd use the supplied cues, sometimes substituting a thick freezer ziplock if spring was to be exceptionally wet.

At the successful completion of the ride, you'd get a pin from the organizer. In BC, we had a different pin design every year and each distance was a different color. We'd joke that we were pin collectors with a cycling problem.

Paper cues were all that I used for all my rides in BC for 4 years or so. Towards the end of my time living in BC, I started to see some technologically advanced folks use a GPS on their bars. Cool, but this seemed to have more work involved - creating files, downloading files, battery life - than I was prepared to deal with. 

Fast forward three years to living in the DC area and it seemed more and more folks had GPS units. Costs had come down and it seemed half the field had little boxes squeaking and beeping at them during a ride to keep them on track. I stuck with my paper cues, still standard issue by the club, as I lacked the money to move up to a GPS unit and still felt slightly intimidated by the technology.

The new way
Looking at handlebars of other riders here in Maryland this past weekend, it seems that I am in the minority in terms of how to navigate. Folks are using their cell phones for navigation as well as journaling on Strava. There are systems to allow you to plug your phone and lights into a hub dynamo to keep them fully charged all the time, so the battery issue would appear to be a non-issue. Some events (not randonneuring) are only giving the route in gpx formats, as it is assumed that everyone is using a computer-based navigation system.

I still use paper if I need cues for a ride or a trip. Am I using the modern equivalent of carbide lights? All of Igor and Adrian's trips to Europe were navigated using cell phone apps that are available offline like maps.me and Google maps. Is this the future and I've missed it or are there folks out there still using maps and paper cue sheets, even if it is a back up to their GPS/cell phone? Let us know in the comments and if it makes you feel better, you can also write us at:

Velo Orange
1981 Moreland Parkway
Building 3
Annapolis, MD

Bonus points if you use a fountain pen.

13 September, 2017

Canti Post Sizing PSA

By Scott

Over the years, "standards" have changed for a lot of things. Wheel spacing for example - we went from 120, to 126, to 130/135 mm.  One of the little known changes relates to cantilever brakes. Over the years, the spacing between the posts has changed and can cause issues with folks trying to restore/upgrade an older bike with newer parts.

Canti Pass Hunter with modern spacing
The current standard for the width of the canti spacing is between 77 and 85 mm (centre to centre). On older bikes, (and by this I mean bikes made in the 70's and the 80's) it can be between 55 to 65 mm wide. This is where problems start to happen.

1984 Santana Tandem with older, narrow spacing
Modern canti brakes are designed around the new standard post width. This results in a brake that will sit higher above the post and be thicker then the older brakes. This means you can't use new brakes on older posts.

What can be done? Well not much unfortunately. As standards change, companies like Shimano and Dia Compe don't stock the classic spacing any more, and it's tough to convince our suppliers to make a small run of brakes that would work with the old standard. So the best that can be done is to use the older brakes, clean up and lubricate the pivot points, update the pads with new pads that have better compounds and use some simichrome to shine them up.

08 September, 2017

A Four Countries Tour

by Igor

Nothing could prepare us for the beauty of the countryside, Swiss Alps, and lakefront cities that were going to join us on our journey through Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, and Germany before making our way to Eurobike.

After assembling and loading up the bikes at the Zurich airport, we eagerly set off for Zug. Exploring Zurich would have to wait until our return at the end of the tour.

The floaty, wide tires we selected were quickly looking like good decisions right off the bat. We started out by circuitously winding through unpaved and paved trails around downtown Zurich, sometimes while being egged on by bell-clad, grazing sheep.

Our first day out, the sun beat down heavily upon us with very high humidity. Luckily, there are lots of fountains with potable water. In Switzerland, fountains are safe to drink from unless it explicitly says "Kein Trinkwasser".

Once off the main road, our route became more of the same mix of gravel and paved surfaces. Since the rollerblading culture in Switzerland is alive and thriving, the paved sections were exceptionally smooth and could even be connected to traverse the country. Seriously, they have separate, labeled rollerblading routes through the country. Why did we ever stop blading in the States?!

We were only a few kilometers away from our destination in Zug, when a storm quickly approached off our starboard. It seems like racing storm clouds and sunsets are a requisite of every multi-day tour.

Luckily this storm passed quickly, and after catching golden hour, a Jazz and American Folk Music Festival, and the city's aviary we headed out to Lucerne the next morning. Single track, b-roads, and cobbles would greet us as the tarmac of the day.

The city of Lucerne was a marvel. The winding cobbled streets lead to medieval structures and bridges dating back to the 1400s. Markets lined the Reuss River during the day and restaurants opened their doors through the night. Nothing could beat sitting on a bench with a Vermicelle dessert and enjoying the sounds of the river running through the city.

The Swiss Museum of Transportation in Lucerne is absolutely amazing. Specifically, their automotive collection is one of the best I have ever seen. There is a small auditorium and upon request, the system will bring a car down from the wall and talk about it's design, history, and impact on the world of cars.

And you know we did the chocolate tour.

Our next destination would be St. Gallen by train. Train travel through Europe is a breeze, with stations in the majority of cities. No need to Rinko or disassemble your bike. Most regional and intercontinental (ICE) trains have a bike car, so you simply secure your bike and have a seat in the passenger area. We used a hair tie to secure the brakes, to keep our bikes in place during travel.

On a ferry, but same idea!

St. Gallen, amongst other things, is known for its meticulously maintained ancient abbey and library with literature dating to the 9th century (sorry, photos were not allowed), the university, and ridiculously good local bratwursts. The abbey's library is said to have the most perfect mix of dimensions and wood tones to be optimally warm and comforting - I'd agree. For the brats, they must be consumed with a crusty roll lest you look like a tourist. Oh, don't even think about asking for mustard, you'll get kicked out of the city.

From St. Gallen, we opted to go straight to Vaduz, Lichtenstein. The trail was mixed media galore. Large and small-stone gravel, a bit of double track, and more rollerblading routes led us towards the border crossing - a covered wooden bridge with simple markings showing which country you're crossing into.

While in Lichtenstein, we left the bikes at camp and opted to go hiking. The chairlift from Malbun took us up to the trailhead for the hike to the top of Saeris. The experience was a symphony for the senses. Fresh Alpine air, grasping rocks for scrambles, bells on livestock clanging from the valley below, clouds pouring over the mountain tops, and tasty Swiss snacks. It was basically a granola bar commercial.

Leaving Lichtenstein (fairly quickly as it is only 25km long), we doubled back and continued our journey to Friedrichschafen, Germany which would be the home of Eurobike in a couple days time. We crossed back into Switzerland, stopped in Bregenz, Austria for lunch, and finally to Friedrichschafen. Four countries in one day!

Yes, they were delicious
Our time in Friedrichschafen would only be temporary as we promptly hopped back on a train for 24 hours in Munich. I had no idea that the surfing scene in Munich would be so good!

After four busy and perpetually wet days at Eurobike we headed back to Zurich for some city exploration and final packing of our bikes and gear. Keep an eye out on the blog for more details about Eurobike and project progress.

Every time we get back from trips like these, we are always astounded by the lack of public infrastructure within our great country, the US of A. Train travel between cities is frequently prohibitively expensive if routes even exist, cohesive bicycle and public transportation infrastructure is non-existent outside of metropolitan cities, and cycling is frequently seen as an inconvenience to others.

More recently, I hear of cities in the US trying out a revamp of their city centers by preventing automobile traffic through combined blocks. Often times, these concepts are met by anger and disapproval from local business owners saying that the reduced traffic will harm their livelihood. Unsurprisingly, when it is actually tested out, opinions are turned on their heads. These areas are highly trafficked by locals and visitors. People get to experience a cityscape louder in conversation rather than tailpipes.

Here in Annapolis, we have "Dinner Under the Stars". One day a week during summer months, a portion of road on West Street gets shut down and restaurants put tables out. It really is exceptionally pleasant - especially knowing that in the morning, cars and trucks will be whizzing by on the same stretch. Many love the experience and would prefer it to be like this year-round.

I wonder if these concepts and experiments could be the beginnings of awareness and promotion of city interconnectivity, where otherwise people just drive from place to place. What does it take for this to happen? Drastically increased car taxes, gas prices going up, city center driving taxes?

31 August, 2017

Labor Day Decisions

By Scott

So now we're coming up on Labor day (Labour Day to our friends north of the border) and we just wanted to give folks a heads up that we'll be closed on Monday, September 4th. We'll do our best to get all the orders placed on Friday out before we close/pick ups happen.

(Soon enough the roads are going to be lined with trees like this around here.)

We'll be back in the office on Tuesday the 5th at 9 am answering emails, calls and welcoming folks to VO HQ.

Hope you can get out and enjoy the long weekend.

24 August, 2017

Planes, Trains, and Polyvalents

by Igor

Adrian and I will be taking two Polyvalent prototypes on a two week long European tour. Our tentative schedule is to ride through through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, a tiny bit of Austria, Southern Germany, and end in Friedrichshafen before heading back to Zurich. Not only is Friedrichshafen known for its vicinity to the beautiful Lake Constance and extensive Zeppelin history, it is also the location of Eurobike - the biggest mainstream industry show in Europe.

Traditionally, the entirety of Eurobike, just like Interbike and Taipei Bike Expo, was an industry-only show. Meaning only shops, distributors, manufacturers, etc were allowed in. In recent years, all three of the big shows have opened up their doors for one of the four days to the general public. So if you have an opportunity to go, you should spend the day nerding out at the latest tech and weirdness these types of expos have to offer. In addition to seeing new and upcoming products from all corners of the cycling world, we'll have an opportunity to visit with several of VO's European wholesale and distributor partners.

Enough about the show, let's talk bikes. This is Adrian's 51cm Polyvalent. We transferred many of the components from her Campeur onto this bike, and her Campeur will morph into a Porteur Townie.

For gearing, she's using our 50.4 bcd Crankset paired with an 11-32 9 speed cassette for low gears to get over those long climbs through the Alps going into and out of Lucerne.

Shifty bits are standard issue Shimano Bar-ends, Shimano Tiagra dangler, and Shimano 105 pusher.

Brakes are Avid BB7 Road with 160mm rotors being pulled by SRAM Brake Levers. Readers will have their opinions about disc brakes, but simply put, they work really well.

Handlebars are Dajia Cycleworks Short and Shallows with a 26.0, 17 deg threadless stem and adaptor.

The Campeur Rack out front will carry a pair of Ortlieb Panniers and a handlebar bag. They are mounted inside the fork blades with the rack's included hardware.

My 57cm Polyvalent is a carefully curated mismatch of components and accessories. Campagnolo 10 speed integrated shifters (I dare not say the b-word), 50.4 bcd Crankset, Campagnolo Veloce Rear Derailleur, and Shimano Dura-Ace 8 speed Front Derailleur. It works pretty darn well.

The brakes are cable actuated Shimano non-series brakes with 160mm rotors. They're cheap, easy to install, and work great.

The bars are prototypes for a modern all-rounder drop bar that have quickly become my new favorite. Reach with integrated shifters is of goldilocks proportions - not too long, not too short. The drops are easy to reach without too much stretching (on the final product, the drops will be rounder and not so ergo). They have a bit of backsweep for a more natural position while on the tops. Speaking of tops, they are ovalized to give a flatter, larger section with more real estate to move around on. I think these will be great for touring, off road riding, randonneuring, and heck, even racing. All. Rounder.

No apologies for the tape ends, it's wabi-sabi
The mount is also a prototype - you can use one or both barrels for mounting your computer, light, travel chia pet, solar-powered dancing whatever, etc. We can always use some extra dashboard space.

These fenders have been a long time coming. They have the wavy pattern of the classic Lefol fenders that were popular on Constructeur bikes of the era. They're wide, lightweight, and swallow up 650bx47mm tires easily. The pattern needs a bit of work to be perfect, but they're getting there. You'll notice that they're satin rather than our MO of high polished. We found that the wave pattern is much more noticeable and beautiful in the satin style. The next sample will have deeper indentations, but is otherwise nearly ready to go into production.

The handlebar bags are the first prototypes from our new bag line! The plan is for the bags to blend with the versatility and modularity of many of the bikes coming out nowadays, the Polyvalent included. These arrived just before we packed the bikes on Monday, so we're excited to see how they work out on our trip.

They would look right at home on a 1200km brevet, a populaire, commuting, and touring around the world. They'll be highly water-resistant, abrasion resistant, completely vegan, and very very MUSA. The plan is for the rear and side pockets to be completely modular with different mini bag styles to choose from. Cell phone, XL cell phone, point n' shoot camera sack, book flap, etc...

Waterproof zipper rather than button to keep contents secure
I've been coming around to more vegan-friendly options for saddles, handlebars, and bags and I think the niche slice of our industry is moving that way as well. Our Microfiber Saddles have been super popular, and I hope to expand the line into other surface options and designs in the future.

Prototype seat bag
What do you all think of the fenders, luggage, and saddles? We hope to have all of these items all ready before next Spring, just in time for the season!

If you all have any route or sightseeing suggestions, we're all ears!

22 August, 2017

Re-stocked on VO Goodies and Bullmoose Bars

by Igor

In addition to the new Faceplate Quill Stems, we also restocked on a number of products that you guys and gals have been patiently waiting on:

In addition to VO products, we also just got in a care package from Fairweather in Japan with a bunch of Bullmoose Bars in Silver and Black finishes.

Happy riding!

19 August, 2017

Removable Faceplate Quill Stems Have Arrived!

by Igor

The VO Removable Faceplate Quill Stems have finally arrived! In case you missed previous blog posts about them, they're designed for 1" threaded steerers and have 31.8mm handlebar compatibility. No longer do you need to undo your beautiful bar wrap to change stems, and no more scratching brand new bars snaking them through the stem's clamp. Additionally, you can now use any and all weird alt-bars that are available on the market. So put Crazy Bars on your townie! Put Far Bars on your vintage MTB for a weekend tour! Or simply put one on your travel bike for ease of packing. Go nuts, they're MTB rated ;)

They're available in three top-notch finishes to fit any build: Hi-Po ChromeNoir, and Brushed Nickel. Lengths range from 80mm to 110mm in 10mm increments.

In addition to these stems, by popular demand, we made a 1" Threaded Steerer Adaptor for our Cigne Stems. We'd suggest picking up a pair of 1" 5mm headset spacers to match your Cigne Stem and headset, otherwise you'll have a gap between the bottom of the stem and the top of the locknut.

For those of us with 1" headsets, the possibilities are now endless! What will you run?