27 June, 2008

Production Samples and New Bits

As I promised, the next few months will bring a lot of new Velo Orange components. We just received production samples of a few of them.

On the left is the new VO "Grand Cru" headset. It is a highly polished alloy headset using very high-quality angular-contact sealed cartridge bearings. We'll have a similar headset in 1-1/8". We feel the quality of this headset is among the best available.

The other headset is an alloy and steel ball bearing headset that is very nicely made and polished. It should sell at a great price.

The bottom bracket at the top is the new VO standard BB. It has alloy cups, and a steel body with sealed bearings. The lower BB is the "Grand Cru" version with an alloy body and cups and a hollow boron axle. The bearings are over-sized and of super quality.

The new VO Grand Cru derailleur jockey wheels are made from a special Swiss nylon that we believe is far superior to that found in other jockey wheels. They use sealed cartridge bearings and, this is the best part, they come with a set of shims that will allow them to fit almost any modern or classic derailleur. The sample is black, but I'm trying for orange or red.

We also recieved two new VO products this week. The first is a good quality replacment jockey wheel set for Shimano and other Japanese deraileurs in stylish bright red. These are normal bushing-type wheels, not sealed bearing, but still very good quality and only $4 a set.

And we have some new basic front cable stops with an adjusters.

24 June, 2008

Bob's New Toei

Bob, who was kind enough to provide us with a post about Toei owner's meeting in Japan, just got a new frame. He sent a few photos of this lovely bike that I had to share. He writes:

I alluded to this bicycle in my report last fall about attending the TOEI Owners Meeting. Here are pictures of my new TOEI 650B bicycle. Chainrings, wheel set, and tires came from Velo Orange. I will add flashlight and handlebar bag soon. I like the ride!
What a nice understated bike this is,

20 June, 2008

My Pass Hunter

My pass hunter arrived today (after 6-weeks at the powder coat shop). And YES; the decal is on the top tube! That was obviously an error. Otherwise I think it looks great and I can't wait to build it up and ride it.

The Passhunter is our new affordable semi-custom frame. Though it's a bit less affordable now because we'll be switching to the Spectrum shop to powder-coat the frames; 6-weeks is too long to wait. But Spectrum is the best powder coat shop in the US and they will also be clear-coating the frames. Otherwise it's a TIG welded frame from Ahren Rogers, who also builds our fillet brazed city bikes.

Looking at the photos you'll see that the welding and brazing are exceptionally smooth and neat. There will be a few very minor changes on the next frames though. We'll set them up for Nitto M-12 front racks and we'll use the same rear cable stop as on our rando frame, and we'll put the decal on the damn down tube.

Maybe that decal placment isn't so bad after all. What do you think? I don't want to wait until it's repainted to ride it ;<(

There are a few more photos here.

17 June, 2008

Shifting Gears at VO

We've been searching for shifters to use with Montmarte, Porteur, Left Bank bars and other road-sized city bike handlebars. These inexpensive Falcon shifters are not TA or Campy quality. What do you expect for $10 a pair? But they do function perfectly, have a nice ratcheting action, and the soft rubber tipped levers are actually very comfortable. And they look nice with inverse brake levers. They also work on MTB-sized bars such as the Milan, Promenade, Tourist etc. Heck, they even work on drop bars, though not on the sleeve. They should be in stock on Friday.

Speaking of shifting gears, there's a lot of that going on here at Velo Orange. We are now in our third year and still growing like crazy. I expected strong growth in the first two years; it's easy when you start from zero. But we're seeing no slowdown even as we become more established. This while a friend who owns a very nice racing and MTB-oriented bike shop is complaining of weak sales.

Surprisingly, I never wanted to own a bike shop. My main interest is in finding, designing, and sourcing new bike components. The number of VO-brand products will triple by year's end. We hope to have a range of complete bikes to sell by late next year. And we will introduce a line of "Grand Cru" components; the best of the best. VO is becoming more like a manufacturer than a regular shop.

So it's time to launch a real effort to get these new items into other bike shops. Tom Martin, who was the buyer at a major West Coast bike wholesale company, just joined us and is taking over management of VO Imports this week. VOI is the new wholesale-only company I've started. It has a different warehouse, separate inventory, and it's own staff. My hope is that it will become the wholesale equivalent of Velo Orange. VOI will sell a complete line of products from many manufacturers, not just VO components. Within a year or two, a local bike shop selling city, rando, and touring bikes might not need to order from any distributor other than VOI.

At the same time we'll start offering Velo Orange brand and Grand Cru components and accessories to other distributors both in the US and abroad. And we're still looking to buy an established distribution company to merge with VOI.

Of course there are problems too. I continue to underestimate the amount of stuff we'll sell and we keep running out of popular items. Our ever increasing orders plays havoc with planning at the small manufacturers we prefer to use and so production gets delayed. Of course I don't get much sleep or riding time these days and fear I've become a bit of a grumpy bastard these past couple of months. But things will calm down when we have more staff. And it's still fun.

Wish us luck.

12 June, 2008

Nice Light

We just received our latest shipment from Spanninga/JOS. As you may know, Spanninga is a Dutch bike lighting company that now owns the famous French JOS brand. JOS was the choice for the finest European constructeur bikes for decades and vintage JOS lights now often sell for hundreds of dollars. I'm happy to see that they are returning, in a very small way, to their retro roots.

In this shipment were the long awaited Retroled lights. These are a fairly bright one-LED battery powered light, but in a very cool teardrop shaped case. They run a reputed 600 hours on two AA batteries. Not bad for $18.

The Retroled comes without a mounting bracket, but a VO Light Bracket (as I've used on my bike in the photo), a Down Low model 2 mount, or the new Spanninga fork mount will work. I'm thinking of putting two of these on my next city bike, one on each side of the porteur rack, but inside the outer rails!

We also received a new complete and more economical Spanninga dynamo lighting kit that includes a halagon light, fender mounted taillight, Vesta dynamo, and all the required mounts and wiring.

Finally we received a simple, but desperately needed, inexpensive dynamo bracket that can be used with Spanninga, B&M, and other brands of generators. It also can be used to mount many types of lights.

These items will be available to bike shops and (full time) frame builders at wholesale prices through VO Imports.

11 June, 2008

Lezyne Tools

I'm impressed by some tools from a new company called Lezyne.

The Lezyne Alloy Levers are constructed of polished, aerospace-grade aluminum for an high strength-to-weight ratio. Aggressive geometry design equips the Alloy Lever with ideal leverage for handling even the tightest of tire beads. These are, in short, the best tire levers we've ever seen. The, admittedly high, price includes two levers and a neoprene sleeve (so they don't rattle in you tool bag. I think this may be the only lever we stock in the future.

Another product I like is Lezyne's stainless steel multi-tool. It features forged, CNC-machined stainless steel bits have a solid and centered pivot base. This makes them very strong and resistant to folding during use. The aluminum side plates are also forged and high-polished. Even the hardware is custom forged and machined, then heat-treated. And a neoprene sleeve is included.

Finally, we will be stocking the Lezyne Pressure Drive pump. Its a sleek, and compact (216mm) pump that delivers up to 120psi. A feather-weight (103gm), CNC machined aluminum structure features an oversized piston that houses a reversible Presta/Schrader hose. The advantage of the hose is that it does not stress the valve stem and it allows you to hold the pump at any comfortable angle. Our Quicker Pro pump may be faster and easier to pump, but the Lezyne is smaller, lighter, and superbly made.

10 June, 2008

VO 650B Fenders are Finally Here!!!

Many months ago I announced that we would have 52mm VO 650b fenders. I said they would arrive in a month or two. What arrived were 700c fenders. So I took the opportunity to spec a cooler Zeppelin profile fender. Three months later I was told they were almost ready to ship. Delays are expected with new products so I was not concerned. Two months later they had still not shipped and after another few week's wait I was told that the tooling wouldn't work. Darn; well time and money would fix the tooling so I did the only thing I could, paid and waited. A weeks later I was told they were ready to ship. A month after that they had not and I was starting to get mad. My agent assured me that they would cover the cost of air freighting them to us to make up for some of the delays. He put them on a plane, but they didn't arrive. US Customs apparently spent three weeks looking for tiny terrorists hidden among the r-clips. Finally they were released by customs. Yet they did not arrive. The trucking company that was to bring them the last 20 miles had misplaced them. Finally, last Friday, the new fenders arrived. All the hardware was missing though. And the profile was not exactly what I'd ordered. Still, I think the profile is still very cool, perhaps even nicer than what I'd wanted. And we do have extra hardware so can ship the fenders to customers starting today.

I relate this little experience in case any of you have thoughts about getting into the import business. I also wanted to demonstrate the futility of asking us when something will be in stock. I may nod authoritatively and say "In three weeks" but I probably don't have a clue.

I hope that you like the new fenders? I do.

09 June, 2008

Photos from Le Cirque du Cyclisme

Despite oppressive Virginia heat and humidity, Le Cirque du Cyclisme was well attended and a lot of fun. I took a few photos, which are posted here. And here a few of my impressions:

There was a lot of talk about high-end city bikes, not only among average riders, but among frame builders and collectors. Obviously this is a type of bike that people are becoming more and more interested in. Of course, this is not a new trend, but it sure seems to be picking up speed.

Some very knowledgable insiders who have been in the bike industry for decades are guardedly optimistic that we may soon see a new bike boom like that in the 1970s.

I was amazed at how few people seemed to be discussing racing bikes. Or perhaps I'm just not in with the right crowd?

The lower photo is of Johnny Coast and Annette.

02 June, 2008

Le Cirque du Cyclisme and Racks

For anyone interested in classic bikes, the premier event in the US is Le Cirque du Cyclisme. It's a bike show, charity auction, swap meet, and party all rolled into one weekend. This year it's in Leesburg, VA, a very pleasant town with a lot of good riding nearby and only about 30 miles from Washington DC. Being about halfway down the east coast many folks can drive there. For those of you who want to fly, Washington's Dulles airport is only 12 miles away. More info and photos are here.

Also, we have portuer racks again as well as the new rails! And we have some stainless steel rear constuctuer rack "seconds" at a discount price