31 March, 2008

NOS Nervar 50bcd Cranks

We found a small box of Nervar cranks in the proverbial, and literal, dusty warehouse corner. They are almost like TA Pro-5-Vis cranks, but there are a few differences:

  • They use common 22mm dust caps and extractors
  • They have a slightly wider tread and so work better with chainguards.
  • They cost $77 less than the TA version! The finish is almost as nice.

A few caveats, These are old so there may be a tiny bit of shop wear. Not all of them have original dust caps. When the ones with original dustcaps are gone, you'll get plain silver caps. All are British thread, but some have been re-tapped from French and so don't have the little "BSC" stamp on the back. They use the same chainrings as TA cranks. 170mm length only.

We've also added to our selection of tires and started stocking 110/74bcd chainrings. We'll have even more tires and rings soon.

27 March, 2008

Spanninga/JOS Lights and Dynamos

We just received our first shipment of Spanninga/JOS lights and dynamos. As you may know, JOS was the legendary French lighting company who made lights for the finest European rando, city, and touring bikes. They were eventually bought by Spanninga, a Dutch lighting manufacturer. If you've ever been to Amsterdam, you know that the Dutch are expert at city bikes and accessories so, naturally, Spanninga lights are among the best in Europe.

The items we now have in stock include battery and dynamo powered fender-mounted taillights, a great complete light set called the "SAFE Set", high efficiency dynamos, headlights, and a large rack mounted tail light for ultimate visibility.

It's been a super busy week, so it may take a few days to get every light into the store. In the meantime please have a look at the Spanninga site and feel free to suggest any products you'd like to see in our next shipment.

Bike store owners please note that Spanninga/JOS products are available through VO Imports.

24 March, 2008

Vafac Racers and Neat Brake Shoes

About a month ago I received some revolutionary brake shoes from a company we work closely with. While in Taiwan I confirmed some details and we have placed an order for the shoes.

So what's so special about them? Well, they are straight post replacement cartridge shoes that allow toe-in, and other, adjustments. This is accomplished with a sort of ball-joint in the shoe. It's locked down with the 8mm nut at the base of the post.

Now you can give your old Mafac, Dia-Compe, Wienmann, or Universal centerpulls brakes the adjustment of modern brakes. And you can use any pad compound you like.

We'll have them in stock in a month or two.

But what's even cooler is that it allows us to proceed with two new projects. The first is the gold version of the current Grenluille canti brakes. The new version will include the new shoes and another nice refinement, an adjuster for straddle cable length. This model will be more expensive and, taking an idea from the top-of-the line Mafac brakes, be gold anodized. They are already on order and perhaps even in production.

The arrival of these new shoes has also inspired me to start another VO project. Yes, you guessed it, Vafac centerpull brakes. We just started the design phase and looking for a manufacturer, but a modern version of the Mafac competition centerpulls is our goal.

22 March, 2008

Glenn's VO Cyclotouriste

Glenn posted some photos of his newly built Velo Orange 650b Cyclotouriste.

He writes:

The idea was to have an all-purpose bike and the pictures show 3 configurations: with handlebar bag, for randonneuring; with basket, for small errands; and with trailer, for big errands. The lowrider mounts on the fork make a light touring configuration possible, too, although I haven't tried that yet. I use the 3 shown every week. Switching from one to another is easy: the BicycleR Evolution trailer attaches with a quick-release compressor fitting and rubber straps attach the basket to studs (bolts, really) on the front rack.
Good job Glenn! Check out the lights and the Sugino PX cranks. The rest of the photos are here.

20 March, 2008

Brett's Rando Frame

Here are a few photos of the latest VO frame. The color is a custom metallic blue. These photos aren't the sharpest, but I think you'll agree that Johnny's work is very impressive. It really shows restraint and elegance. The workmanship is so perfect that it stands on its own. There is no need for flashy graphics, stainless steel ornamentation, weird cutouts, or the other embellishment that we too often see today. There is simply no need to add more. The rest of the photos are here.

19 March, 2008

Tourist Pics

I posted a few tourist photos from Taiwan in this album in case anyone is interested.

17 March, 2008

Taiwan Update

I'm about to leave for the airport after a super busy week in Taiwan. I met with dozens of manufacturers and saw some fantastic new products. There are now a few manufacturers here that are ready to challenge Campy, Shimano, and TA at the very top of the quality range. Here are some of the items we're working:

  • A Japanese cartridge bearing headset that's as nice as any available in the world.
  • A VO cartridge bearing headset that's close to the above in quality, but half the price in both 1" threaded and 1-1/8"-threadless sizes. High polish and, maybe, gold/orange anodized finish will be available.
  • Aluminum fenders made by a new process that have the potential to be nicer than Honjos.
  • Leather saddles that appear to surpass Brooks in quality (but only three models are available). Also, matching bags.
  • Two models of VO cartridge bearing pedals, track and all-around. The finish is close to that on the MKS RX1, but I don't have the exact specs on the available bearings yet.
  • A very nice, but inexpensive 110bcd VO brand crank with 48/34 rings.
  • Reproduction Rene Herse cold forged cranks and rings at under TA prices. This will take many many months of development, but the manufacturer loves the idea and they make some of the nicest racing components around, so quality may be better than the originals.
  • VO sealed bearing alloy cup, hollow axle, bottom brackets.
  • I examined the first sample of the new VO city bike frame, without paint, and was very impressed by the quality. They will ship two painted samples in a few weeks and if the paint quality is up to the build quality we should have finished frames in about 3-months.
  • Straight post cantilever/centerpull brake shoes that are adjustable for toe-in with an 8mm wrench will soon be in the VO store. I have these in my briefcase right now and the first set is going on my bike. They are available only in black now, but we are ordering a run in silver.
  • I'm not sure yet if we'll import them, but I examined a short reach racing brake that looks to be lighter, stiffer, and have better geometry than the current Dura-Ace. I looked at both at the same time, but didn't have a Campy Record caliper to compare it to. The manufacturer gave me a set for my Bottechia ;<)
  • The new long reach VO caliper brake was tested by the manufacturer and a local racer; they claim that it is far stiffer and stops better than any long-reach caliper brake made today, including the Shimano R650.
We are awaiting samples, final pricing, etc, for the above and more. I'll provide more details when I get back.

Update: I'll keep adding details as I wait to board and later when I change planes in Osaka and in Detroit.

08 March, 2008


I'm off to Taiwan tomorrow and return on the 18th. VO will remain open and orders will continue to ship without delay, but no one will be here to answer technical questions.

I'll be meeting with many Japanese and Taiwanese manufacturers. And with a bit of luck, we'll place orders for some neat components and accessories previously unseen on this side of the Pacific.

I am also hoping to do a bit of hiking in the beautiful Taiwanese mountains, visit the National Museum, which has the finest collection of Chinese art in the world, and soak in at least one hot spring.

BTW, have a look at the photos in the update to the previous post.

07 March, 2008

Miscellaneous Bits

Here are a few things that I thought were worth sharing.

Chain Guard Envy: You've all seen hammered fenders, but what's even cooler are the old French fenders which had an embossed crocodile scale pattern. I can't remember the name of the manufacturer or even find a photo at the moment. Can anyone help? I've always wanted a set and still have not found one, but I did find a NOS matching chain guard.

Constructeur Tail Light: In about two weeks we'll have some custom bullet-shaped LED battery lights that mount on a stud behind the seat tube. It's about time!

Porteur Chaincases: We just got more in with the 110mm opening.

On Cars: A letter to the Financial Times from a car designer (via Velorution):

“Absurdity is when a 70kg adult commutes alone in a 1,400kg car, meaning that for every litre of fuel he or she buys to transport him- or herself, another 20 litres is purchased to propel the vehicle. When the vehicle in question is a 3,000kg sports utility vehicle, absurdity becomes an obscenity.
“Even if we can make cars totally emission-free, running on sustainable energy, if their profusion causes constant gridlock they are no longer a means of transport, merely destructive, wasteful and expensive items of vanity.
“Sadly, particularly considering the pathetic return on investment associated with carmaking, the majority show depressingly little inclination to change themselves from being merely manufacturers of cars to being complete providers of mobility."
UPDATE: Jim found some photos of "Croco" fenders taken by our friend Lesli while she was in Paris. Thanks!

And Mike sent us some photos of snake skin fenders. Thanks also!

05 March, 2008

Old Stuff and New Stuff

In the late 1920s a frozen-fingered Italian bike racer named Tullio Campagnolo invented the quick-release skewer and launched an empire. Of course there are some of you out there that think it was all downhill after that needless bit of complexity. It is for you that we found a supply of old fashioned axle wing nuts. I'm not sure how many will abandon quick releases, but you must admit that they look very cool. And even I look forward to using them on one of my bikes. We now have the Gripfast models #1 and #3 in stock.

For you folks still running French threaded cranks we now found some lovely "Olimpic" track pedals and NOS Atom 700 road pedals.

We also have some Nitto "Crystal Fellow" Dynamic 626 (phew; what a name!) seatposts.

And we got a few things we've been out of for a while including:

Yellow Tressostar handlebar tape
Hershberger Baker's Baskets
Sugino RD track cranks
Sugino XD500 double cranks
Stein 23.35mm Stronglight crank removers

So, will wing nuts make a comeback?

03 March, 2008

Logos, Packaging, and More on Headsets

In the long discussion about headsets in the comments to the previous post a couple of interesting points came up. One was that folks don't want big logos, or advertising, all over their bikes. I very much agree. Unless I'm being paid by a company to advertise their products on my bike (not likely in my case) I don't want their big logos on it.

I'm sure that many of you have noticed that most VO brand products have no logo at all.

Someone mentioned the Chris King headset and their huge and, IMO, obnoxious logos. They now refuse to sell their headsets without their logos and so we won't stock them. Fortunately there are threaded sealed bearing headsets made in Taiwan that are as nice as the KC. Remember the fantastic old Richey sealed bearing headsets? It's just that no one imports them. I'll see what I can do about that at the upcoming Taipei show.

As long as I'm on an anti-commercialism kick I'll mention my little effort to eliminate excess packaging. Whenever possible we are now ordering components without the boxes they normally come in. Some manufacturers offer OEM packaging, usually just a plastic bag. It's intended for "original equipment manufacturers," companies that install the components on their bikes rather than sell them. And this is what we now specify when possible, but we do tell the manufacturers that they are for retail sale in case there are any instructions or extra hardware that needs to be added.

Please note that this post was written with recycled letters and punctuation.