30 November, 2011

Complete Rando Special

We have a new offering in our Prototype and Specials section. It's a complete 57cm VO Rando with a Shimano 105 10-speed derailleurs and brifters. This bike was used for testing and a magazine review and has very very few miles on it. It's $2000 including the rack and front bag; considering that the maxi build kit $1220, that's a pretty great deal. It would make a wonderful fast randonneur or credit card tourer.

22 November, 2011

Go Tour

A guest post by Alec Burney

It’s been a bit more than a year, the calendar says, but it seems like just the other day that I shoved off from home with gear on my bike and dreams in my head.

I just got my photos back, and that brings it all into focus again. I’m reminded that I wouldn’t have seen these sights or met the folks I did if I hadn’t been inching my way a few thousand miles down the coast.

Relaxing in the shade

What I’m left with is a confirmation of what the bicycle is and can be. It’s a tool for going from “A” to “B,” some will tell you. Or it’s a toy for zipping around on the weekend. Or a piece of exercise equipment. Or maybe it’s a different way of thinking.

The Pine Creek Gorge
You can hop on and head towards “B,” but all along the way you’ll get to do something magical - you’ll get to bump around through life and experience all of its little joys. The bicycle is a tool - a tool of discovery. And it’s a toy, a magical thing that makes adults into children again. Exercise equipment? An exercise in life.

You can head out for a weekend or a week, and stick to the dirt roads, state forests, and country lanes where it’s quiet and there’s little traffic. Maybe you’ll find yourself on an unpaved track in the backcountry where you can go at your own speed and be contented with your own thoughts.

A sensible bike will let you put on some bigger tires, for comfort, racks for your stuff, but then the rest is up to you - go have fun! When you're out rambling, you don't need much to stay happy.

Tioga State Forest

My "navigation device"
As I made my way I learned about what I needed and what I didn’t. Cue sheets don’t help much when you’re going almost 3,000 miles and like to follow wrong turns and ride down bike paths. Each gas station in each state you go through has a huge folding road map for only a few dollars. These helped me get lost a little bit more, and ride up big hills I didn’t need to, and encouraged me to go West when I wanted to go East, and visit parks I might have missed otherwise.
Swimming in Pennsylvania

A turtle in the Genesee Valey
The bike paths were some of my favorite riding. It seems that deer and hawks and turtles come from all around to enjoy the little bit of woods in the suburban sprawl. Bike paths connected me to friendly folks, swimming holes, icecream stands, and great camping spots.

Life on the bike really was life without a schedule, where I could nap and read under a shade tree in the heat of the day.
Jersey Mills Post Office
I crossed Western New York from North to South, and wondered how towns like “Cuba” and “Nunda” extracted their names from the nearly-Canadian so-far-north, glaciatic terrain of Upstate. Soon I crossed into Pennsylvania, got a new state map, and tried my best to get lost in a maze of forest roads. Susquehannock, Tioga, State Game Lands this and that, and the Pine Creek Gorge. The trail is a strange mix of old and new, and I drew my water for the day from springs alongside while tourists in enormous traditional covered wagons rolled past joggers and mountain bikers. The town of Jersey Mills added to the charm - its post office was connected to what was almost certainly someone's house. The post office was closed, but I dropped my letters in the box and kept going.
Pine Creek covered wagon

And along the way I learned to ask for directions. “Anyone seen Williamsburg? It’s over there somewhere, right?” It’s fun to let on that you’re completely lost, especially when you are.

My "trail guide"
This guy showed me to the trail that would be my secret highway into Philadelphia. Some of the prettiest secret entrances to huge cities are via bike paths that follow big rivers. Way better than sitting in traffic. I can’t recall his name, but he was a spirited rider and had been enjoying his bike so long that the toptube was rusted through in one spot, from sweaty summer afternoons. I hope he’s gotten a new bike by now.

The NCR trail
Zigzagging to Philadelphia brought me to a weekend of reconnecting with friends while the Flyers missed the Cup by just a hair. Philadelphia was not happy about that, and I escaped up the Schuykill River trail and then across to York, and followed the NCR trail through the towns of Railroad, New Freedom, and Freeland.
Schuykill River Trail

Before I knew it I was on the Jones Falls trail, an amazing part of Baltimore that could be anywhere, a serious part in the middle of a busy city.

Gary joined me for the New York section

Virginia is a blur of long rollers, but then the flat, calm Outer Banks of North Carolina leave a lasting memory. I’ve been back to ride this section a couple more times. It’s very strange to find yourself so surrounded by water, but riding a bike.

There’s parts of Hatteras less than 500 feet across, and it’s all sand dunes. Just a long flat road all to yourself, and a nice campground at the end of it. There’s few bad places to ride a bike, but this might be one of my favorite, if I had to choose.

After landing in southern North Carolina, and attending my sister’s beautiful wedding, I set off on another adventure. Maybe we can talk about it next time.

Until then, who’s got stories to share? Been somewhere neat? Want to go somewhere soon?

17 November, 2011

Free Shipping Deal on Orders Over $100

As we've done in past years, we're offering a free shipping deal during the holiday season. This offer started today and runs through January 1, 2012.

Here's the fine print:

  • The free shipping is offered only on orders shipped to the continental USA.
  • The order must be over $100.
  • Frames and wheels are excluded due to their large size and, thus, higher shipping cost.

15 November, 2011

Prototypes for Sale

We have a new section in our site called Prototypes and Specials. We'll use it to list some of the frames and bikes we've previously sold at our garage sales. These may be prototypes or display bikes or bikes sent to magazines for reviews. We may also have the occasional new frame with scratched paint or some other small flaw.

There are two rather nice bikes in the category now. Both are bikes are prototypes that I rode for awhile, but no longer use. The burden of this job is that I can have more great bikes than I possibly need, and at the same time I'm trying to own less stuff.
The first bike is the prototype of the VO Rando frame. This was a bike I rode for about a year, but no longer do. The ride is absolutely terrific and very similar to the Pass Hunter I now ride, but I prefer the pass hunter. Johnny Coast did a really fine job on this frame (He was trying to win our semi-custom frame business, which he did.) The Rando has a great selection of new-old-stock French components. It even has Maxi-Car hubs.
The second bike is the prototype VO Gentleman. This was a semi-custom frame we offered in our early years. It was built by Ahren Rogers. The frame is fillet brazed, has bosses for a chain-guard and a single down tube shifter. The build is a mix of classic and new components. This would make a great commuter or classy around-town bike.

Update: The rando is sold. Also, the derailleur on the Gentleman is a Simplex SX610, much nicer than the model 404 I'd incorrectly listed.

11 November, 2011


The Grand Cru 50.4bcd cranks are back in stock. We'd been out of them for a few months due to a production problem, but we have plenty now

We also have 50.4bcd bare crank arms which many of you have asked for. They come with BB-bolts and dust caps, but no rings. I only announced them on my own (not VO's) Twitter feed yesterday and they have been flying out the door since. An impressive number is going to shops in Japan.

We also have single ring hardware kits for 50.4bcd cranks.

Here is a very impressive transformation of a 1985 Trek 620 into a lovely city/all-arounder bike. Of course a lot of VO parts were involved. You don't need to buy a brand new frame to build a great bike, (yes I know we sell frames). Good job, Justin. The one thing that's typically missing on these sorts of transformations is low-trail geometry. But it is possible for a frame builder to re-rake a steel fork, sometimes without even damaging the paint, should you really want low trail.

We were talking about flashlight mounts recently and I just noticed this on Robert's bike. P-clamps do make fine flashlight mounts.

I really like this Rene Andre porteur profiled on the Bikeville blog. What a cool bike! (It was also mentioned on the official VO Twitter feed.)

04 November, 2011

One Man's Spam...

A guest post by Annette Najjar

I remember well when we announced that our first business, Chesapeake Light Craft, would be taking credit cards in addition to the checks we'd always accepted. We immediately received a hand-written letter decrying our defection to the dark side; we could just see the writer tsk tsk-ing, shaking his head sorrowfully.

A tiny boat design business accepting credit cards back then was a pretty major step. Twenty years later, running another niche business, we maintain a powerful e-commerce platform (except when it isn't) and don't even accept checks anymore. Despite all the program features and the data that we command – excluding credit card info, to which we have no access – there are just some things that we never considered doing, simply because we don't want it done to us. We're the types who e-shop only when we need something, most likely yesterday. We expect a confirmation and a tracking number, but any other communication from the vendor is spam to us. And local businesses usually don't get our e-mail addresses or our phone numbers.

In a recent relaxing of the guard, however, I joined the email list for a local specialty food shop. If I hadn't then I wouldn't have received an e-coupon for a free crusty baguette or known of the line of soups that the shop prepares daily. I didn't need either, but I'll remember them when I do (well, OK, I rushed out to get the baguette).

Hence our questions. Would you appreciate receiving e-mailed promo offers and single-use coupon codes? Or would they become spam and keep you from ever shopping with us again? And before you ask: yes, you could opt out, and no, we don't divulge any of your information to anyone.

What would you do with VO coupon codes and special offers sent by email?

02 November, 2011

New Bike Builds

Sam built this lovely rando-style Polyvalent. Note the VO stem, crank, saddle, seatpost...
Ari has neat place to store a bike lock on his Polyvalent, as well as good taste in beverages.
Debra's Polyvalent looks like a very comfortable all-arounder and has lots of VO parts. Those Polyvalent wide-range cranks are also getting popular.
Robert is VO's buyer and resident cyclo cross racer. This is his new race bike. Not much VO-style stuff on this one, save our hi-low rear hub.

Have a new build? Leave a link in the comments.