31 July, 2007

The Modernist Bicycle

Though Velo Orange is often characterized as a "retro shop", I very much admire modernist design, particularly in bikes. Those of you who know me may point out that my own bikes are all 20-40 years out of date, I drive a Citroen 2cv (only occasionally) that was designed in the '30s, and live in a reproduction 18th century house. There is no question that old thing often work better. After all, the old things that didn't work have long since been discarded; we are left with only the best examples of retro-technology. But modern design will one day be retro-technology and it is fascinating to see.

One of my favorite modern bike designers is Sören Sögreni whose company, Sögreni, makes very cool bikes and even cooler accessories. Whether they are practical is another matter. Nonetheless I love his bells and his chainguard. The rear rack is neat too.

Sometimes interesting modern designs come from unlikely places. Delta, the same folks who make the lovely Inox cage, have a cool belt drive commuter. They also have an interesting collapsible bike. Their argument for belt drive make sense; has anyone tried it?

A bike that I really want is the Strida. It's light, simple and tiny. Just the thing to take to InterBike or carry on the Metro when I go to DC. Too bad they are not sold in the states yet.

You might also enjoy seeing the Locust, a truly wild design study.

If you're interested in this sort of thing you might also enjoy the Bicycle Design blog. I've got a lot more links and photos for another post, but how about sharing some of your favorite modernist bikes?

27 July, 2007

Velo Orange Fenders are Here !

What the world needs is proper aluminum fenders that are long enough to really keep water off and don't cost $80. And that's exactly what arrived at the VO shop today, hundreds of high quality Velo Orange brand aluminum fenders.

They come in a smooth profile that's 46mm wide and will easily take tires to 35mm and probably 38mm (need to check). The second model is fluted and 49mm wide and will accommodated 40mm tires. They fit 700c and 27" wheels. The stays are 5mm aluminum, just like Honjos and they use similar (but not identical) R-clips and stay-to-fender draw bolts. They are not highly polished like Honjos, but have a slight mat finish.

The front fenders are 90cm long and the rear are 120cm. That's longer than most Honjos and every other fender but one; our special extra-long Honjo models are still a bit longer.

So what are the drawbacks compared to the more expensive Honjos? The VO fenders are not as shiny as Honjos, though you could buff them up in about 30 minutes. The hardware is generally not as nice as on Honjos and the attachment for fork crown and bridge is a little crude compared to Honjo's nice daruma crown bolt and sliding bridge. Like most metal fenders, they are not pre-drilled.

The best part is that they only cost $35 per set with all hardware included!

So wadda ya think?

23 July, 2007


Reading my new favorite magazine, Monocle, I came across a reference to Arrow bicycles of Japan. I hadn't looked at Arrows in a long time, but I find their style and business model very interesting. Arrow is a small brand of city bike. They come in only a few models and without logos. The styling is utterly simple and a small number of options are offered. I have read that producton is limited to about 1000 bikes a year.

There seems to be a bespoke version of Arrow as well, called Trunk. Notice that the selection of colors available is quite large and very Japanese. This is not a collection of colors you would imagine an American or European company would offer.

Among the more unusual product is a "chariot", a very neat grocery trailer, and a push scooter. Their selection of wire and wicker baskets and child seats are also noteworthy. Maybe we could have a chariot stage in the TdF?

Interesting company, this Arrow. It's nice to see the independent thinking. Look around the site and follow the links. You'll find some fascinating stuff. And don't miss the very cute shop turtle

Random Bits

We have a few random bits that various customers have asked us to stock.

Classic style cable clips are getting hard to find and we have some made by AGPA.

Replacement pedal caps for Campagnolo and other classic Italian pedals are almost impossible to find, but we did locate some nice Gipiemme caps that make a fine replacement.

VAR grease in the 100gm jars has proven very popular and it's been hard to keep in stock. We just got another shipment. This will make your French bike very happy.

We also found some alloy TA bottle cage clamps. They look much like the chrome version, but don't come in the cool paper package. That's the price of shaving off a few grams.

We now stock the Soma double gate toe clips. Double gate toe clips have not been available for a long time. They are great for cyclo-cross, dirt roads, track bikes, etc and make getting into the clips faster. They are going on my new pass hunter.

The drought of products at VO will soon be over. Several hundred racks will ship from Japan in about two weeks. 400 Honjo fenders should ship next week. More decaleurs will soon be on the way. And the VO aluminum fenders are due to arrive within the next few days.

17 July, 2007

Logos and Pricing

One of the things I've wanted Velo Orange to stand for is elegant and understated products. That means small logos, or even no logos. You might have noticed that we don't put our name on our racks, leather products, etc. So it's interesting that a couple of customers have commented that they'd prefer to see our logo on various products. Is the Velo Orange name becoming a status symbol like a Patagonia, Hermes, or Manolo Blahnik tag? I hope not, or maybe that would be a good thing? Hmmm...

We've recently ordered our 27oz stainless steel water bottles without logos. Well actually there is still a tiny logo near the base. The company that makes them insisted. We'll have the 18oz bottles sans logos in a month or two. These are still the greatest water bottles I've used. I don't know a single person who has tried them and gone back to plastic bottles. We use them as off bike bottles too--the environmental impact of disposable plastic water bottles is staggering.

Speaking of the water bottles, you may have noticed that the prices are a little higher. The manufacturer instituted a "minimum advertised price policy". That means the won't sell them to retailers, like VO, if they list the price below their set minimum on their web sites. Personally I think that policy stinks, but I love the bottles so we decided to go along with it. The prices are still well below "suggested retail".

Actually I've been catching a lot of, umm, guff recently, not from customers, but from distributors and competitors because our prices are too low. A well known competitor told me that "I'm making him look like he's ripping off his customers." Two distributors have made pointed remarks about how unhappy they are with our prices.

Now I've always thought that we should base our prices on what we think is a fair profit, not on what others charge. We have a brick and mortar store just like everyone else. We buy and warehouse stock. We are not a "virtual" business.

One solution to this silliness is to import more products directly. We need to grow to do this. But when we do we can challenge the importers and distributors on pricing. And that's good for everyone.

Annette always jokes that I'm just an old hippy socialist. I always though I made a pretty good capitalist.

Cleaning Up

Since we are waiting for so many shipments and have so little in stock, we've spent a couple of days cleaning up VO's stockroom. This afternoon I'll put a few odds and ends and samples I've found in the specials section of our E-store. Head over later for some good deals, including a couple of frames.

09 July, 2007

New Racks

While I've been goofing off over the 4th of July weekend, new racks have been piling up at Velo Orange.

We just received the prototype Porteur racks fresh from the polishing shop. (Thanks for forwarding them Jon). There are two of them and each has a slightly different mounting system. As soon as I test them we'll decide on the best method. The plan is to have these available in September. By the way, that rack is just sitting on the fender, it's not attached.

Two more prototype medium front rack made from thicker tubes also arrived. I thought the 0.25" tubing on the first prototype was a little too flexible so we'll try this version. Originally we called these the Semi-Porteur, then the Demi-Porteur, but it might be better to call them Courier racks. What do you think? I must apologize for the amount of time it's taking to get these into production, but we want to get them perfect right from the start.

A big box arrived from Japan with sample front and rear Nitto Campee racks. I am very very impressed by these. The lower pannier support is removable so they can be used both for day touring and cycle camping. The design and quality is first rate. They will only mount on bikes with canti brakes in the current form, but we may be able to make an adapter that will work with caliper and centerpull brakes. A trial fit on my Ebisu shows that there is enough heel clearance even for my size 11.5 shoes. If I don't encounter any problems in a few weeks of testing we'll stock these and also use them on our new camping bike.

Another small box from Japan contained the hardware we needed to finally make our chain case and chain guard mounting kits.

As for the chain cases, we got and sold a few, but the craftsman who makes them rejected most of the shipment of aluminum intended as the faces. He's a picky guy, but a super fabricator and welder. More aluminum has arrived and we might have them in good supply by the end of this week.

03 July, 2007


Please pardon my going a bit off topic again, but I've been thinking about the commute. You see, I'm a bit of a news addict and often skim the online editions of a couple of dozen foreign newspapers and blogs each morning; it's important to have a balanced worldview. A couple of things have jumped out at me these past couple of days; one is obvious; the other is the number of articles about commuting on bikes and about city bike programs. This is a topic that really seems to be on the public's mind.

The Catalan newspaper El Periódico has an article comparing public bike rental programs in Lyons and Barcelona. Be sure to click on the graphic. If you prefer your news in English, autobloggreen.com has a nice summery of the piece. I find this sort of bicycle program fascinating and can't wait to use the new rental bikes next time I'm in Paris.

I'm not sure if this piece in USA Today about an "Islamic Bicycle" (USA Today is a rag I rarely read) is a distasteful joke, or serious. But it tells of an Iranian bike designed to preserve a women's modesty. Here's a quote:

The Islamic Republic of Iran has devised an "Islamic bicycle." This new vehicle comes fully equipped with a cabin to conceal parts of a female cyclist's body.

The new technology is less about the bike and more about suppressing women. Iran, unlike Saudi Arabia, allows women to drive cars. In fact, Iran's top race car driver, Laleh Seddigh, is a woman. Women also ride motorcycles, although they must be accompanied by a man (and must sit behind him).

But Iran forbids women from riding bicycles (thus, the newly designed bike). The belief is that sexuality is easily stimulated in both sexes. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced in 1999 that "women must avoid anything that attracts strangers, so riding bicycles or motorcycles by women in public places causes corruption and is thus forbidden."

Wired has just reviewed the Bridy folding bike. Now I want one.

Treehugger has a post about the success of bike travel in Berlin.

Several papers have had articles about Mexico City's biking mayor and his pro-bike initiatives. Here is one from Sand Diego.

Monocle, a really superb magazine, had a bicycle wheel on it's last cover and featured "A global survey of bicycle culture and and commerce". The newest issue features a survey of the most livable cities and bicycle infrastructure features prominently. Here's the list:

Monocle's Top Ten livable cities
1. Munich
2. Copenhagen
3. Zürich
4. Tokyo
5. Vienna
6. Helsinki
7. Sydney
8. Stockholm
9. Honolulu
10. Madrid

Finally, how about this short piece about a plan to use more cargo bikes in the Netherlands.