12 December, 2014

Non-Annual Sale Ends Sunday

Just a reminder that our non-annual 20% off sale ends at 11:59pm (Eastern time) on Sunday the 14th. We're starting to run out of some of the most popular stuff, including frames in certain sizes. So if you need anything order soon.

11 December, 2014

Holiday Gifts

This is the time of year that many, myself included, struggle to think of things to give as holiday gifts. Fortunately, our family isn't really into elaborate gift giving; there's no giant pile of boxes under a Christmas tree. But we do have a tradition of exchanging a few small items to help celebrate the season. Anyway, here are a few suggestions for small gifts, some for cyclists and some for anyone. Our non-annual 20% off sale ends on Sunday, so this might be a good time to get those last few presents.

If you know anyone who has fenders on their bike you might consider the Grand Cru reflector. It really is lovely, a little jewel on the rear fender. The body is CNC cut from an aluminum billet and polished to a near-mirror finish.
The Velo Orange waxed canvas Croissant saddle bag is still my favorite piece of bike luggage. It's about the perfect size for a long day's ride with room for a tool kit and spare tube, a rain jacket, a wool cap, a small camera, a cell phone, and snacks.
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.
Here's a great gift for anyone who loves good food. Fleur de Sel de Camargue is traditional French sea salt. that's harvested by hand from the salt plains of the Camargue region of France. Fleur de Sel has a higher mineral content then traditional table salt. Its shape is more crystalline than the coarse shape of Kosher salt.
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.

By the way, if you're getting an Opinel knife for an oenophile, the #10  model with corkscrew is a great choice. I keep one in my handlebar bag.
Digital calipers are a must if you work on bikes, or most any other machines.

The Soto Helix coffee maker is lightweight and folds flat. It's made in Japan from stainless steel and uses a standard filter. Great for bike touring or backpacking.

 T-shirts are great for showing your love of VO products off the bike and around town.  These are organic cotton tee's that we wear around the shop and at shows. Available in small to XL.

Finally, if you can't decide, there is always the option of a VO gift certificate.

04 December, 2014

Fleur de Sel

You may have noticed that we've been having fun adding some non-bike stuff to our Camp and Cabin section. We have Opinel knives, French soap, the cool Soto coffee maker, a workman-like hatchet, and more. I pick these items because I actually use them and like them.

Our latest addition is Fleur de Sel de Camargue, French sea salt. "Fleur de sel" actually means flower of salt; so named because it smells very faintly of violets. Fleur de Sel de Camargue is harvested in the Camargue region of France by hand from evaporating sea water. Only the fine top layer of salt is skimmed off before it sinks. The result is a mineral rich and slightly moist salt prized for it's taste.

Fleur de Sel is used as a "finishing salt": it's sprinkled on really good food just before eating. I love it on one of my favorite appetizers, grilled artichokes with garlic,olive oil, and salt. I also sprinkle it on hard, or soft, boiled eggs, sauteed shrimp, salads, raw vegetables, etc. Our salt comes in a cool little glass jar and might make a nice gift on any upcoming holiday. Or keep some in your Camargue's handlebar bag.

01 December, 2014

We're Having a Sale! 20% Off Everything!*

We're having a holiday sale. We don't do this every year, but this year we are. So here's the deal: you can get 20% off your order starting right now and ending December 14th, 2014 (at exactly 11:59pm Eastern Time). But you have to use the not-so-secret coupon code, as detailed below. This sale applies to both retail customers and to shops!

Just to be clear, you get 20% off on all in-stock frames, wheels, parts, accessories - *everything except Gift Certificates,* but only if you follow the steps below:

  • Add all of the products you want to your cart, just as you normally would.
  • Don't check out yet! Instead click on "My Cart" to review your products.

  • Enter the coupon code - SALE2014 - in the little "discount codes" box in the shopping card page, as in the screenshot below.
  • Click on "Apply Coupon".

  • Check out as you normally would and enjoy your savings! That's all there is to it!

26 November, 2014

Thanksgiving Closure

Just a little note to say that we'll be closed this Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We'll be out riding, weather permitting, either to burn off the dinners with family and friends, or to preemptively burn the calories before sitting down to give thanks for what we have.

We hope all of you have a happy and safe holiday, are able to get out on your bikes for some riding and we'll see you Monday with some news.

art by Clint

25 November, 2014

Digital Calipers, the most useful tool in the shop

by Scott

I'm the customer service guy here at VO. Odds are if you call or email us, I'm the person who will answer your question, solve your problem, or suggest a web site to look at. Looking back at the questions that we are asked, one item that would help a lot of folks answer their own question or at least have a good starting point, is a set of digital calipers. All of us here have a set on their desks. I use mine multiple times over the course of a day to measure things for customers or just to get a perspective of how large or small something is.

Digital calipers are the modern day evolution of Vernier calipers.  You can use these to measure the outside width of a bar or the length of an axle or the diameter of a seat post. They have smaller measuring jaws on them so you can measure the inside diameter of a bar.
When measuring headsets and bottom brackets, they are invaluable. You can quickly determine if the bottom bracket is French, Italian, or English. You can see if the stem is French or English sized and determine the crown race diameter to see if you need an English or JIS headset. You can measure how wide your tires are mounted on your rims, so you can determine the correct fender size.

The digital calipers can be converted at a push of a button from metric to inches as a decimal or as a fraction, thus allowing for easy conversion from one to another. There is also a set screw on the top so that you can hold a measurement if the reading is turned away from you.
A trick to ensuring correct measurements is to always push the jaws together and zero the measurement out first thing, so that you are sure the measurement is correct.
After a while, you'll find uses for this tool outside the bike world- want to see what size tubing or pipe you have in the laundry room? Use the the calipers to measure them. You'll look like a genius at the hardware store when you can ask for the tubing using the ID and OD without hesitation.

20 November, 2014

Wine Crate Bike Basket, A DIY Bike Project

A free wooden wine box makes a cool bike basket.
Today is the third Thursday of November and thus the official release day of Beaujolais Nouveau. It's a date that we at VO celebrate every year. And since you'll probably also be headed to the wine store this afternoon, may we suggest asking the nice folks there for a wooden wine box. Many shops will give these away if you buy a few bottles. Wine boxes make neat carriers when mounted to a porteur rack.
Wine box on a VO Polyvalent.
After much  testing, the VO staff recommends the 2014 Pascal Chatelus (about $11, rooster label). 
Try to get a sturdy wine box; some are a bit flimsy. And try to select a good vintage if the box has a logo printed on the side. Some wine boxes even have lids, which might be useful.

You'll also need four 3/8" p-clamps and four bolts, washers and nuts. For tools you'll need a drill and bit and whatever is necessary to tighten the nuts and bolts. Remove you porteur rack's rail and secure the wine box as shown in the photos below.
While a beard is not strictly necessary, Mark feels that it establishes a proper artisanal gravitas.
Drill the holes and secure the wine box to the rack; there's not really much to it.
This is the p-clamp placement Mark used to prevent the box from shifting. 
Great for a trip to the orchard.
Also great for carrying wine.

17 November, 2014

Dad's Custom Altieri, Sicily's Best

by Mark

In 1985 I was ten years old, living in Sicily. My father was stationed at the US Naval Air Station, Sigonella. Times were good for an American cyclist there: the exchange rate was drastically in our favor so it seemed everything in Italy was on sale. I got a fully functional road bike, an Atala, with 24 inch tubulars, not bad for a kid.
My dad commissioned this bike from a local framebuilder, who went through a lot of trouble to make it extra nice. The lugs are smoothly thinned, and I have yet to find a file mark on it anywhere. After my father got orders to the Washington, DC area, the framebuilder insisted that he "show the bike to President Reagan" as it was the nicest bike he had ever built. I have my suspicions that he made that claim more than once.

My dad rode the bike off and on for a decade, when it was more or less hung up for good. It wasn't in good repair at that point and became just another garage nuisance for close to twenty years. I approached my dad several times to let me clean it up but he always said to not worry about it.
 My father died this September. I took the bike home and finally got my mitts on it. It was rough, down to a malfunctioning freewheel and tires that had separated from their basetapes. I spent a couple weeks going over it very slowly, cleaning black Sicilian lava dust out of everything, cleaning Guards Red overspray from all the surfaces that had been horizontal when the garage was used as a Porsche paint booth, cleaning Tubasti glue that was all over the fork from my ham fisted 15 year old attempt to glue on a fresh tire. It was a bittersweet labor but I'm really glad I did it. A lot of my best memories of my father are connected to this bike and they came back in a steady stream while working on it.

I left the cracked brake hoods, the tattered toe straps, the scuffed saddle, and the flaking gold lacquer as they were. The cheapo tubulars were pulled out of his ancient stash. It's the evidence of his use of this bike and means nothing to anyone but me and my family but it's how it will stay as long as I have a say in it. I don't plan to ride it a lot, but I have been doing a number of short hops. It's as smooth and responsive as you might expect, and looking down at a gleaming gold, custom built, classic Italian bike of the first order feels pretty damn good. My dad would be happy that I'm getting the enjoyment out of it. 

The rest of the photos can be found on Igor's Flickr: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/eccentricvelo/sets/72157648928516410/

13 November, 2014

November dreams

by Scott

This time of the year is the toughest for me. The changing from daylight savings to standard time means more darkness in the evening, encompassing cold and wet weather, and knowledge that it won't be warm for about four more months.

Short sleeves have since been packed away for the winter.
What helps me get through the winter months is planning and dreaming about my next trip.
Last winter, we got an awesome deal on air fare which made my life long desire to travel to Iceland possible.  I spend many rainy, cold Sunday afternoons last winter pouring over Google maps and websites figuring out where we would go in Iceland. Having the goal of cycling in Iceland also made it easier for Melissa and I to get out for rides in the middle of winter knowing that, in some cases, this is what the weather in Iceland would be like.
The one thing about this time of year is that air fares do seem to be cheaper for next summer. Perhaps, the air lines have figured out that we are all needing a goal for next year to get us through the winter....
Just a few weeks ago, Igor and Adrian booked flights to Denmark for next fall so they are starting their planning. Any tips or suggestions on places to go in Denmark, northern Germany or The Netherlands?

Any trips in the works for next year?

10 November, 2014

Cool Stuff From the Philly Bike Expo

by Igor

We had an absolute blast at this year's Philly Bike Expo. It was great putting faces to names, chatting with long time customers and builders, showing our new products, and checking out all the eye candy. If you've never been to the show, it's really time you cleared your schedule to go.

The expo started out as a small, intimate event with local builders and vendors, but it has grown exponentially in just a few years. It's still a small affair compared to Interbike or big industry shows, but the focus is much more in tune with our customer base and the type of bikes and riding we enjoy and admire. Everyone was in high spirits and enjoyed the bigger space, area to demo, good light, and proximity to good eats. Can't wait until next year!

Here are some of my favorite shots from this weekend. The entire album can be found on my Flickr.

Belladonna Cycles had a number of VO components on the bikes they brought and this subtle detail really stood out to me. This particular touring frame was very well thought out and sported a fantastic paintjob. The ornamentation on the spacer is actually a fancy spoon that was machined into what you see above. Very cool and clever!
Stephen and the team at Bilenky Cycles always brings in the coolest builds and paintjobs. This hammered pattern on the rack stood out to me. The bike had a matched front as well.
Royal H Cycles brought in a rad road bike with a full NOS Mavic Mectronic drivetrain, Spinergy wheels, and Starfish crankset. Bryan reported flawless shifting and performance. Alas, the world wasn't ready for the French's wireless shifting.
Eric of Winter Bicycles had a great road bike. I was particularly intrigued by the nicely tapered fork. He described that depending on where the tube is cut and connected to the fork crown and dropouts, you can tune the stiffness and ride quality of the front end. Very well thought out.
One of my all time favorite builders, Peter Weigle, displayed a few super nice touring and rando bikes. His use of hellenic seat stays is a fresh change to the standard of fastback or monostays. I'd love to see them catch on more without the stigma attached to a certain company. Remember, this type of seat cluster and stay arrangement was first introduced in the early 1920's by a chap of the name Fred Hellens!
Calfee Designs had a gorgeous paintjob on a tandem. It was deep, rich, and different from every angle. An amber laquer and clearcoat achieved the look.
Chris Bishop's new frameset had a super clean disc brake mount leading into internal cable routing.
Groovy Cycleworks had bikes on display with outrageous and original paintjobs.
Scott presented a really enjoyable lecture about Lightpacking in relation to his recent trip to Iceland.

We had a great time and look forward to next year. What were some of your favorite parts of the expo?