27 June, 2014

Camargue Frames Gallop In

The long awaited Camargue frames have arrived. The Camargue is designed for those who ride mostly on unpaved, roads. It can carry a substantial load for long unsupported trips, yet handles very well even with no load at all. It can be ridden with traditional racks and panniers or bike packer style. Being a mid-trail design it works well with both front and rear loads.
Geometry is designed to handle like the much-praised Campeur, even with larger tires. This frame is not suspension corrected, allowing us to better fine tune handling. We have done a lot of testing on single track, gravel roads, dirt roads, and on smooth pavement. I even used mine as a commuter; it makes a great rugged city bike. This bike is incredibly versatile, so long as you like riding the big tires it's designed for.
In case you were wondering, it's named after an ancient breed of French horse famed for their calm temperament, agility, intelligence and stamina. Today they are used to herd cattle and for long distance riding. I wonder how our Camargue would be at herding cattle?

Here are some of the highlights and specs:
  • 4130 double butted chrome-moly frame and fork.
  • 1-1/8" fork with lovely French-style bend.
  • 700c (29er) wheel size on 55-61cm frames, 26" on the smaller sizes.
  • 135mm rear spacing.
  • Bi-plane fork crown.
  • Clearance for 1.9" (48mm) tires with fenders or 2.25" (57mm) tires without fenders (don't use fenders with "knobby" tires).
  • Canti brake bosses.
  • Seatstay cable stop.
  • Beefy horizontal dropouts, so you can use an internal gear hub.
  • Double eyelets front and rear for mounting fenders and racks.
  • Fender bosses under fork crown, at seat stay bridge, and at chainstay bridge for easy fender installation.
  • Three water bottle cage mounts, two on 47cm and 50 models.
  • Lowrider through bosses and seatstay rack eyelets.
  • Metal head badge.
  • Carmargue decals on top tube showing three ancient horses galloping. They are removable. 
  • The frame geometry chart can be found at this link.
  • A brief comparison of the frame and other VO frames can be found at this link.
If you want to read more about the Camargue previous posts are linked below:

Vintage Bike Parts, Wooden Boats, and Practicality.

The very first VO bike was built up with, mostly, vintage components.
My thinking has evolved about any number of things that I was once very certain of. For example, I spent much of my life building and paddling wooden kayaks, but now I'm much happier with plastic kayaks because they require no maintenance and are unbelievably rugged. They are, in a word, more practical.

When I started VO, some 8 years ago, I was into building up my bikes with mostly vintage parts. Back then I spent an inordinate amount of time on Ebay looking for old bike parts. I wanted Simplex retrofriction shifters, Huret derailleurs, Maxi-Car hubs, French city bars, CLB inverse brake levers, and a hundred other wonderful and obscure bits and pieces. Today I use only modern components and accessories. Again, they are more practical and more reliable.

There are so many more cool and functional parts being made today than 8 years ago, many of them based on classic designs. And, if you'll allow me to pat VO on it's collective back, many are made by us. You can buy brand new 50.4bcd cranks, high flange touring hubs, all sorts of city and rando bars, great polished rims, lovely seat posts, functional and shiny racks of every sort. A number of companies make this wonderful stuff again, not just VO.

In most cases, these new parts work better than their classic inspirations. Our 50.4bcd chain rings are stiffer and shift better than the old ones I used to buy on Ebay. Modern Dia Compe center pull brakes are stiffer and stop better than classic Mafacs. Grand Cru long reach brakes outperform any vintage equivalent. Stainless steel racks don't rust like the old European chrome versions. And while the classic Maxi-Car hubs are still among the longest lasting, they won't work with modern cassettes. Even the better production frames being built today are superior to those of 30-years ago.

Like wooden boats, vintage bike components have a certain cachet and there are those who love them for that, and for the history. I also realize that some folks are naturally collectors and for them it's a great hobby. As for myself, I've always wanted to study and learn about stuff, but not to keep or collect what I wasn't using. Yet I still have a lovely set of retro friction shifters, a long cage SLJ derailleur, CLB levers, and a few other bits in a box behind my desk, just can't bring myself to sell them. And I still own a wooden pulling boat.

Do you still look for and use vintage parts? And what other classic parts should be made again?

20 June, 2014

Alec's New Pass Hunter, a Speedy Build

The seat post is extended so Igor could try her out.
We don't normally build up frames for customers, but this was a special case. Alec is my almost-15-year old son and has been into bikes since he could first straddle a tricycle. He likes fast bikes and originally wanted a carbon fiber Cervelo, but sense prevailed when he realized that a Pass Hunter was almost as fast and much more versatile.
Here is how it started.
From Radio Flyer to Pass Hunter.

10-speed Campy on VO hubs.
28mm smooth tires are nice on the bumpy brick streets in Annapolis. 

Alec wanted a very light saddle. We were actually thinking of importing these.
We used a mix of Campy Centaur and Chorus that I had in my spare components box. Those red Grand Cru jockey wheels should be good for an extra 2mph.
I like how Campy brifters can be converted from 9-speed to 10-speed.
I also donated a vintage Campy water bottle.
Alec's first real road bike next to the latest.
Test ride.
Still need toe clips and minor fitting, but he seems satisfied.
This was Alec's previous bike. Anyone need a 48cm Trek road bike?

17 June, 2014

On Leather and Bringing the Model 6 Back

by Igor
This new batch is stunningly handsome
I really like leather. Not like that. Well maybe. Anyway, it’s really useful on areas that get a lot of interaction from your hands, butt, feet, and natural elements. Leather holds up extremely well with a little bit of care, and it develops a very nice patina over use and time.

For those who like to ride with their bars at or below the saddle, the Model 6 is a great choice. We discontinued them briefly, but we decided that it's a way cool, affordable saddle that we'd like to keep in our lineup for those who enjoy a spirited, racy ride.
New Model 6 profile. Slick.
Grand Cru Leather Bar Tape
Elkhide Handlebar Wraps
Your frame will thank you for the protection when its locked up: Oiltan Top Tube Protector
Your dress shoes will thank you: Elkhide Toe Clip Leathers
Your chainstay's paint will thank you, too: Elkhide Chainstay Protector 

13 June, 2014

VO Escapade Rims and Other New Stuff

The Escapades are our new bike backing, loaded touring, and 29ering rims. Casey and I have been testing them on prototype Camargues for months and we've found them to be bombproof. They are 28mm triple box section rims with offset stainless steel eyelets and machined sidewalls. They also cost a bit less than our other rims because they are satin finished, not polished. We have them in stock in both 26" and 700c sizes and in 32h and 36h.

26" Diagonale rims have also arrived and they have offset eyelets as well. Scott and Alec, my son, have been testing these on some tough single track without any issues.

In other news: We have Wheel Stabilizers for bikes with oversize down tubes, something lots of you asked for.

We also have bulk, 30-meter (98'), rolls of braided brake housing and derailleur housing. Several shops and frame builders had requested this.

11 June, 2014

New VO 63mm Fenders and Reflector and Drillium Chainrings

We have a number of shiny new products that we'll be adding to the store over the next day or two. Here are a few:

With the Camargue frames due to arrive soon we needed 700c fenders wide enough to fit really wide tires. These 63mm fluted alloy fenders will accommodate tires to 52mm. They will make for super smooth and splash free touring.

We also have this very shiny reflectors to dress up your new, or old, fenders. It's like a little jewel on your rear fender. The body is CNC cut from an aluminum billet and polished to a near-mirror finish. They'll make you smile.
Many of you have asked for just the chainrings we had made for our Grand Cru Drillium Cranks. We now have the 48t and the 34t rings in stock. So many holes...

What else should we be working on?

09 June, 2014

A Few Tips on Fork Installation

by Igor

We've had a few customers recently email about procuring a new fork because the steerer was cut too short during assembly, so here's a few tips to get your new bike set up as easily as possible.

Our Campeur and Polyvalent framesets use a threaded headset. The fork that comes with your VO frame is specially designed, measured, and threaded for that particular frame size. We have gone through painstaking efforts ensure the assembly of these frames goes as smooth as possible. You can install your headset, brake hanger, thin spacers, and decaleur if you so choose without any cutting. There is no reason to cut your VO threaded steerer.

If you use a quill stem like the VO or Grand Cru, which uses a single bolt to clamp to the handlebars, install your brake levers and shifters, wrap half or none of your bars. That way you can shift things around, swap stem lengths, and adjust positions without having to wrap and unwrap your handlebars each time. Just remember to plug the ends of the handlebar. I’m willing to bet you don’t want a fresh core sample of your abdomen should you take a fall while trying out your new setup.

For Pass Hunter and soon-to-arrive Camargue, the fork is of the threadless variety. This means that you will need to cut the steerer once you have the headset installed, and stem and bars in a position you’re comfortable with. Remember, you can take metal off, but you can’t put it back on! Many, including myself, leave a small stack of spacers on top of your stem just in case you wanted to bring your bars a bit higher. The tool we use for a clean, uniform cut is the Park Tool SG-6 Threadless Saw Guide.

Do you have any tips for bike setup that would make life easier?

05 June, 2014

3000 Mile Pass Hunter Review, With Bonus Manifesto

Mike Ross, who wrote this review, is probably our favorite customer.  He's a philosopher by training and a cyclist by nature. It wouldn't surprise me if Mike has covered more miles by bike than anyone I know. He rides the 35 or so miles from home to VO world headquarters every couple of months to buy a few parts, hang out for an hour or so, and entertain us with his stories, rants, and quips. He also owns a Campeur, which he reviewed after 1500 miles. As I alluded in the title, there is much more below than a simple bike review. If you just want to read about the bike skip ahead, but that would be a mistake.

The Velo Orange Pass Hunter:
A Bicycle Review at 3000 miles

by Michael Ross

This a review of the excellent Velo Orange "Pass Hunter" frame and fork, as expressed in a complete bicycle. This is also a review about bike reviews, and how worthless they usually are.

Consider the following:

(This is an actual radio transcript released by the
U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (Oct. l0, l995):

Station One:  Please divert your course l5 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.

Station Two:  Recommend you divert your course l5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

Station One: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.

Station Two: No, I say again, you divert your course.

Station One: This is the aircraft carrier Enterprise. We are a large warship of the U.S. Navy. Divert your course now.

Station Two: This is the Puget Sound Lighthouse. It's your call. (1)

Did you see the Lighthouse coming? The Captain didn't, and he's in charge of a large warship of the US Navy. Think he's compensating for something?...

I'll return to the moral of this little exchange in a moment, but let me me cut to my conclusion: the Velo Orange Pass Hunter is one of the best made and best designed bikes on the planet. There is not a bike made that is better than the Pass Hunter for doing what it is designed to do. There are plenty of bikes as good, but none better, and none better for the money spent, against the function, performance and quality gained. What the Pass Hunter does is cover ground at maximal efficiency, with maximal comfort, over all sorts of varying terrain, in all sorts of conditions, at a cost and with a quality that is unbeatable. It rides wonderfully, even loaded with moderate cargo (around 20 lbs.); with stout wheels or with (comparatively) lightweight wheels. How do I know? I know the same way anyone would making any meaningful assertion about anything. The key word here is “know." Meaning making is selective contextualization, after all: How high is up? How cold is frigid? If everything doubled in size last night, how would you know? If there's no context, there's no meaning, no knowns, and mysticism destroys science.

I think bicycles are important to the transportation culture in the USA; and that they could be an important tool in the reclamation of much larger democratic purpose in the USA. I'm not naive about the bicycle's role. I'm not hopeful; but I'm not exaggerating. How bodies move in space, and how space gets generated and defined, conserved and expended, is crucial to the quality of life in a meaningful democracy in 2014. Bikes could figure mightily on this front, if they are made increasingly meaningful.

Perhaps you laughed when you realized the Puget Sound Lighthouse -- an inanimate object -- had more "control" in the given context than the Captain of a "large US warship." The laughter the Lighthouse rejoinder generates is more than just logical expectation defeated…it's embarrassment made plain for unwittingly indulging Arrogance. Arrogance is a taskmaster, but it never likes being called out in the open where it can be seen for just how ugly and pathological its control is. It'll always scurry back into the noncognitive, social structural shadows, to preserve and reclaim its influence. Only Education can inoculate against Arrogance and it's buddy, Indoctrination.

Arrogance likes to masquerade, is always lurking, and like most addictive mob mentalities, it always travels with its leg-breaking enforcers, Authority and Power. It wrote the following:

"Bike of the Year: Italiano's MagicBike, with road vibration dampening Anti-vibro® technology, has been a bike of choice for pro riders and cycling enthusiasts since it made its debut last year. The MagicBike significantly cuts the road noise vibrations that contribute to pain and muscle fatigue while enhancing stiffness and handling.
What does this mean for you, the rider? Crisp and responsive handling, even on rough, patched roads. Faster acceleration and more power when tackling that once impossible hill. Being able to tackle tricky sections of pavement at higher speeds than you could previously -- or everyone else you now leave behind.
Combining the speed of a race bike with the comfort and geometry that better suits everyday cyclists, and packing some impressive carbon technology that genuinely works, the new Italiano MagicBike is in a class of its own. It's one of the finest riding bikes in this market.” (2)

Wow. Since I'm all about fawning, groundless appeals to Authority, I'm impressed that it's been a bike of choice for pro riders AND (lowly?) cycling enthusiasts. Moreover, at 51 years of age, I'd love less pain and muscle fatigue; and since I dislike most people, it would be great to leave everyone else behind.

But I don't want to be hasty. *This* bike seems even better:

“Designed for pro racers, the SmoothAsphaltZoomer has the lightness, stiffness, and agility to deliver elite riders to victory. But testers detected something more: a personality that both reflected and enhanced the riding style of whoever is on it. In hard cornering the bike felt relaxed and confident, but under the skilled guidance of a more experienced rider it was also capable of responding ferociously. “It is one of the best-balanced bicycles ever made – a historically great bike for the way it combines agility, reactivity, stability, weight, durability, and style,” said one reviewer.”

Can it get better than this? Yes!

They claim the SmoothAsphaltZoomer only costs $10,500, and weighs 3.9 lbs., in a 54cm size. I wonder how much lighter it would be if I could squeeze onto the 52cm? I'm not a “pro-racer” and I don't know if I have the “skilled guidance” necessary, but maybe since I'm older I would qualify as “more experienced” – because I sure could use a “historically” great bike...especially one that guarantees deliverance to elites. After all, in this culture, we surely could do with some more deference to elites. Of course, I am dubious about a historically great bike given we live in an ahistorical culture. Whatever. The clincher is that the bike has "a personality that both reflected and enhanced the riding style of whoever is on it." Dang. That sounds, well, "ferocious."

Maybe the people who wrote this should get in touch with the Captain of the USS Enterprise...and all the rest who read about the SmoothAsphaltZoomer and never questioned or contextualized it. Arrogance seems to have them all by the balls.

And I mean that. This bike-envy drivel was written by men and for men. The hope for the transformative power of bicycles in the larger culture will have to be more than male-driven if bikes are to become culturally meaningful as democratic tools. What, exactly, are all these fancy bicycle mystical words supposed to convey about the SmoothAsphaltZoomer? Noting the constant reference to “stiffness,” to conquest – always a topic of masculine insecurity -- is too easy. No, what is conveyed here is an implicit, perhaps even unintentional contempt for the intelligence of their audience...oops, I mean customers......although, it must be said, what audience is so clueless that it just blindly accepts such advice?

Question asking is at the heart of Education. To know is to be Educated, and I can only know what I can do, or learn from someone else's doing. ( I heartily recommend *Shop Class as Soulcraft,* by Matthew Crawford.) To just accept what someone else says, on the basis on their putative Authority, is to disable one's response-able self to Arrogance while preserving the appearance of having made a "choice." It is to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic; to accede to some else's will by accepting it as one's own -- Plato's definition of a slave.

If the meaning of bicycles is meaningful it is because they are used; taken seriously in a discourse about them that is informative and generative rather then deferential and consumed. It is to describe the necessary background conditions constraining or affording bicycle expression in a visible, everyday kinda foreground. Doing so takes effort and can be messy: when claims are made, they need to be confirmed...or not. By other people. Using the same tools. Especially the same defined language. This is what "context" means. The Captain made assumptions that made him look like an, uh, you know...and the SmoothAsphaltZoomer "felt relaxed and confident" -- according to "testers." Testers? And everything doubled in size last night...and Jesus visited me in the my sleep last night. If a claim doesn't mark a difference that makes a difference, in practice, that someone else can confirm, well...no matter, and never mind...

I don't mean to ruffle feathers just for the hell of it; enough people dislike me already. But there is a pervasive tendency to get ruffled in this culture because there is such a high price put on control.
Bicycle culture is part of this tendency. To not be in control freaks people out; especially people who have benefitted from ossified, usually unjustified, ways of doings things. Go back and read those descriptions of the SmoothAsphaltZoomer...that bike is supposed to kick-ass and take no prisoners...it is in control, man...don't question it.

The minute anyone questions control, they become suspect. This culture is much more the fan of Lincoln than Jefferson; of order rather than invention. And we think we should be in control of...everything. Remember the "New World Order" led by the USA? I couldn't make stuff up like this that is this rich. Without a doubt the ridiculous efforts to gain secure "control," especially since 9/11, has resulted in measures every thoughtful person objects to, but no one can stop. Such is the power of Ideology ("You're either with them, or us"), coupled to Arrogance.

"Contrary to their self-image as a nation of rugged individualists, Americans are amongst the most normalized and monitored people in the world." (3)

Max Weber's justly famous identification of the pathological work ethic with divine salvation is still all too relevant in 2014, a hundred years on. We can get even more ruffled projecting that (erroneous) belief onto others, who, sure enough, are even less capable of living up to *our* standards than we are ("if you want it done right you have to do it yourself," or so we're told...of course, "right" is never contextualized...). It's certainly not the fault of a faulty personality if you get ruffled, just an indication of the indirect manner in which culture learns us all, whether we're aware of that “learning” or oblivious to it.

Most folks still think that the direct instruction we got learning long division in third grade is more important than those lessons indirectly learned concerning the appropriate manner in which to ask questions (hands up!), how to address the adult to which questions are posed ("Mr" or "Mrs" Teacher), use the toilet (permission for a hallway pass?), compulsory attendance, etc.. The lessons of the lessons-- why *those* lessons?; why *that* measure for the lessons evaluation? etc. -- THAT is the most important lesson of the lessons.

Control. It's a bitch. Or bee-atch.

The dominant authority cultures in the USA -- those regulating the distribution of income; of education; of transportation; the schools and the prisons (one and the same); food; healthcare; etc. -- don't like acknowledging the extent to which indirect social forces dictate and structure individual action. They fawn to Authority, to Order and Control, in the hope that doing so preserves control and order, while appealing to allegedly "intuitive" eternal principles that justifies such Authority, and that all "reasonable" people would accept. Mother Nature; the Market; Personal Responsibility; God(s); Your Inner Child; Your Chi -- the list of occult forces goes on. Native Ameri-Indians have a story to tell about the destructiveness of such "universal" "intuitive" principles, and it is told at the, uh, "other" Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, the National Museum of the American Indian. (The third holocaust museum is currently under contruction...The Museum for African-Americans.)

Obedience has become a fundamental core USA value; criticism is not. It is not surprising that bicycle culture follows suit. So if the SmoothAsphaltZoomer is a great bike loved by "pro" "testers," well...who am I to argue? I've never won any races. Loser.

Culture is the word we use to to explain the tool it is, emerging as it does from practical activity. We like to think culture is our doing, under our control, a product we effect. This is incorrect. Culture is a tool that produces us; and rarely, if ever, do we get enough reflective distance to see just how and why it shapes us as it does. (4)

We think of problems as ones to be solved rather than re-solved and dealt with, as if the latter is accepting defeat, and someone or something is keeping score (more masculinist themes I realize, but its hard to outrun the influence of men...they've been in control for a long time). Assuming life is always some contest leads to a bad life. But there are better ways to proceed:

We all live prescribed lives. Culture wrote the scripts for us in advance. They constrain our possibilities and control our thoughts, feelings and actions. If we are ever to know ourselves...if we are ever to be free, we must become reflectively aware of the cultural scripts that prescribe the roles we play. If we are ever to know, much less re-create, ourselves, then we must intelligently critique those scripts. (4)

Did you really “choose” how you got around today? Or did the environment structure the choice for you? How about your "choices" for food, or your language, your partner and friends, your re-creation? Were all those a transparent choice?...Did you sit down with your legal pad and tally up the good and bad, pros and cons, before making any of those choices? How did emotion enter into them? Did emotion enter in?...should it?

So, the moral of this long story: don't be an Arrogant Captain. Be a humble yet stable Lighthouse, shining the way forward...by example.

And choose your bikes accordingly.

Now I am going to state what I think and know about the Pass Hunter. Assume that I am not accurate. Check what I say for yourself. Note the context. Check to make sure that if I make a claim, you can check for yourself, at least in principle, and that all claims are capable of confirmation (or not). I won't be offended if you don't believe a word a say. Quite the contrary...

It looks fairly traditional, so it won't stand out in a crowd of bikes.

I ride a 57cm, and I'm of average dimensions, 5 feet and 10.5 inches tall, and about 164 pounds the last time I went the Doctor. I ride 175mm triple cranks, and use a 3-cross, 32 spoke rear wheel with 135mm spacing and an off-center Velocity rim (19mm), with DT 14/15 double-butted spokes, and brass nipples. YES: a 135mm rear hub (mountain bike size) will fit, fairly easily. I use a 135mm rear hub because it builds a stronger wheel with less dish and there is no downside to doing so. The front wheel is a 28 hole with Velocity Aerohead rim (19mm in cross section), and DT Revolution spokes on brass nipples, laced 2-cross to a Schmidt dynohub.

I'd mention the tubing but the tubing is irrelevant: you don't ride tubes, you ride a whole bike. Durability is what's at issue, assuming the weight and performance of the tube-set is up to the purpose of the bike, which the Pass Hunter tube-set is.

The paint has no flaws and is of uniform good quality in bright sunlight. The color -- red (if you're not color-blind, and under normal white light...) -- is soothing, even if you don't like red...it's not garish, and deeper than fire engine red.

The 1 1/8 inch thread-less fork steerer is long enough to get the bars up high for comfort.

The bike has curves and nooks that make it interesting and lyrical to look at.

The fork is a joy to look at, as it sweeps low at the dropout. It has a so-called bi-plane crown that also never fails to bring questions or smiles. What a great whimsical addition! No, it doesn't make any difference to the ride quality. Although Angels can hang onto the bike easier on fast downhills. There is also a hole through the center of the fork at the crown, and a threaded fender boss for a fender under the fork. This makes adding a small front rack easier.

The cantilever brakes don't make any brake squeal. Jobst Brandt, my hero and an engineer and bike guy (find him on the Web), and others have discussed how brake noise is a function of a number of factors, far more than just the brakes themselves. Sometimes a bike has brake squeal; and it has nothing to do with the brakes but with the frame and fork itself. For what it's worth, this bike made no brake noise; I tried a few brakes, and a few different pads, with different compounds.

Speaking of Jobst Brandt, go read what he has to say about bike geometry on the Web. Seat tube angles and low trail and head tube angles and length of rear chainstays don't mean a thing in isolation. You don't ride angles per se; you ride a bicycle. Remember...meaning making is selective contextualization. What's the context?.... This bikes geometry makes for a powerful, comfortable, zippy ride. When you go really hard and stomp on the pedals while in the handlebar drops, you can't lift the rear wheel off the ground...as so often happens with "race" bikes and their stupid short wheelbases.

The fork has a single set of eyelets for fenders; and the rear seat- stays have a single set, with an under the brake bridge fender braze-on. Heaven.

The tips of the forks and the fork crown are lugged and brazed. It's a nice touch. Also there is a decorative ring around the slightly extended headtube that is nice as well. Fancy. I need quality aesthetics in my life. Most people who think and feel for themselves do as well. The idea that form follows function is a rule to be applied intelligently, not blindly. How any experience with any object (or subject) impacts the senses matters as much as function. You feel; you think -- don't denigrate the evolution of your species by privileging either.

The head-tube is about 10mm extended above the top tube. This is good! It makes the stack of spacers smaller when getting the bars up nice and comfortable.

Tire clearances: this is a zippy bike. It is not made for super huge tires or for touring. The Velo Orange Campeur is the bike for big tires and touring; I've reviewed this great bike here:

Here are the tires I have tried to best effect on this bike: A 32mm Grand Bois front (actual measure 30mm width) and a 35mm Schwalbe Kojak rear (actual measure is 32mm width). They fit with fenders easily. There is room to go slightly bigger, but my 45mm Schwalbe Marathon Ultra tire is too big with a fender.

The biggest fender that you can squeeze in is the 45 mm SKS; or the Velo Orange fenders of similar size. The 50mm fenders won't fit.

There is a pump peg on the head tube. But I like my pump behind the seat tube; and there is just enough room for a full sized pump behind the front derailleur, given the chainstay length.

The rear cantilever brake mount has an alloy adjuster built in! Terrific!

All the bolts included for water bottle mounts are stainless steel.

The seat-tube badge is simply delightful! I want a T-shirt with that picture on it.

Everything fits on this bike -- fenders, racks, decaleurs. The braze-ons are put in the right spots.

There is ever so small foot-front-wheel overlap during really sharp turning of the front wheel (obviously only at slow speed). With toe clips and straps it happens with my large-size toe clips and size 10 shoes. With clipless pedals and size 46 shoes there is less toe-wheel-overlap, but it's still there. It's not a big deal. But this is not like the Velo Orange Campeur where overlap is nonexistent or extremely small.

This bike rides excellently with and without and load. At about 20 pounds of stuff it doesn't waggle about; whether the load is distributed front and rear, or just in the rear.

It is straight out of the box and all the surfaces are prepped and ready for components to be installed. I didn't experience a single issue with the threading. Installation of everything is easy from bottom bracket to headset to fenders, etc.. There is no paint build-up in the threaded bosses for racks or fenders.

If you look closely the tig-welds on the frame are of uniform quality.

The Velo Orange Pass Hunter builds into a great bike, and is an incredible value for the money. And you'd be nuts not to outfit it with many excellent Velo Orange components. Many other frame and forks are available that are similar in purpose and construction, but none are as inexpensive. To my eyes none look as good. You cannot go wrong with this excellent frame and fork.


By the way, I really did see Jesus in my sleep. I had a dream where I was perplexed with a home building project, and my hispanic carpenter friend, Jesus, showed up to provide just the right insight. Now, after all my pleading here, you didn't *think* I meant the *other* Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, did you? Arrogance dies hard...don't be the Captain.


  1. From *How to Take An Exam...and Remake the World,* by Bertell Ollman (2001)
  2. The names have been changed to protect the innocent...and while this is real ad copy taken from real bicycle advertisements and “reviews” of actual bikes available in the marketplace, it is not relevant to identify these bicycles. I could go on and on and on with examples...
  3. From *Two Cheers For Anarchism,* by James Scott (Princeton University Press, 2012), page 127.
  4. Filled to the brim with examples is Daniel Kahneman's *Thinking Fast and Slow.* Cognitive psychological science is clear: our species primary orientation is not cognitive, constantly weighing pros and cons and acting on maximising utilities; it is attitudinal and habitual, basically noncognitive, unreflectively taking its cues from our culture. See also David Brooks, *The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement,* 2011.
  5. Jim Garrison, Dewey and Eros, (Teachers College Press: New York, 1997), p. 141.

04 June, 2014

My Goodbye Manifesto

A guest post by Casey Fittz:

I've been working at Velo Orange for the past two years as the Product Design Engineer. In that time Chris has allowed me to bottle up some of my bike industry related rants in the form of blog posts and publish them. I've recently decided that it is time for my stay at VO to draw to a close and Chris is allowing me to opine on the blog one last time before I go. In case you're interested in my other manifestos, here is why I think that people need to relax about name brand steel tubing sets, the next 'perfect wheel size', and CNC'd parts. In general, I think that some people need to relax, and I only say this because over time I've realized that I need to relax.

Before I go any further I need to make it perfectly clear that I love bicycles, I love cycling in any form, and I love the cycling community. I've been working with bikes for a little while now. I started out as a shop rat in high school, and worked in shops on through my undergraduate studies. I then moved on to working with Velo Orange, and quite suddenly found myself wholly consumed by the bike industry.  The jump from cycling as a hobby to a career was a hard one. It's one thing to manage a hobby, mostly you just do it when you have time, but when your job is your hobby things get confusing. Worst of all I quickly found myself riding very little. After a full day of thinking about bikes and looking at bikes going on a ride wasn't my gut instinct anymore. This is certainly an old and tired story, I know plenty of people in the cycling industry who rarely ride anymore. Likewise, I know people in the music industry who rarely go to shows anymore. Not everyone has this problem, I've met people in the industry who can manage things just fine and they love their jobs and biking. I respect those people a lot.

I've spent a lot of the past two years trying to figure out what happened, why I got so burnt out on the bike industry, and how to get back to just enjoying bikes. These are some of the things that I have found. First of all, talking about bikes is not the same as riding bikes. Just because you love riding bikes doesn't necessarily mean that you love talking about them, and vise-versa. Furthermore, talking about bikes does not satisfy the same needs that riding them does. It can be easy to confuse or equate the two. Just go ride your bike. 

Secondly, bikes are fun. Bikes, in general, are fun, regardless of how or where you ride them. There are some people running around saying 'fun biking looks like _____' or worse yet, 'you cannot enjoy cycling unless you know _____ much about it'. They're wrong, if you enjoy bikes then you enjoy bikes, it doesn't matter how much you know about them or what you like about them. It's easy for me to forget that. In the industry you have this constant need to cater to your "market base". Which is always this hyper-specific idealization of some small fractal of the industry. It still amazes me the number of emails that we get where we are criticized for the smallest deviance in product style. Some of our customers feel betrayed because we decided to do something slightly different than usual. Despite what some people may think, we at VO world headquarters are not a bunch of erudite French cycling pedants. We like the French cycling aesthetic, and we design parts that we like. The French cycling aesthetic is just one facet of our interests. We are trying to make products that we would like to see available, and products that we think you would like to see. If we come out with something that doesn't necessarily fit your style, that's fine, maybe we didn't design this part for you. Sometimes we didn't design it with any one user base in mind, we just like to change it up every now and then. In general we're trying to have fun, and we want to make products that our customers find fun.

Hobbies or interests or jobs can quickly change their face if you push them too far, or expect them to singularly fulfill you on every level. Old French cycling aesthetic is great, I also love cyclo-touring, mountain biking, commuting, backpacking, and rock climbing. Likewise, Chris has spent a lot of his life climbing and mountaineering as well as sailing and building boats. I agree with what Yvon Chouinard has to say about this: “I've always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession that doesn't appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level I like to go off and do something totally different...” I think that after the 80% mark things can get weird, and a little bit lonely. After Chris's recent blog post about running and riding we have been talking a lot about the importance of doing physical activities other than cycling in order to maintain well rounded physical health. I'd go as far as to say that this idea also applies to more than physical health.

The cycling world is full of so much marketing nonsense, and plenty of people shouting that their nonsense is right and everyone else's is wrong. Don't let me or anyone else tell you what is fun for you, there's no reason to view any of our standpoints on cycling as the gospel. We don't even intend it that way. We're just trying to share what we personally like. At the end of the day, the one thing we all agree on is that it's fun to ride bikes, so lets do that the most. 

There is another guest blog post coming written by Michael Ross which I found to be a very enjoyable read. In it he touches on the intrinsic human need to move through space(communicate through space, if you will), and how bikes satisfy this. I couldn't agree more about this. Bikes also act as an important social platform for communication between other humans, and I don't mean to detract from that. However, I think that as a vehicle for social interaction cycling is no different than any other hobby. In that sense it is no different than football, fancy cars, or amateur radio. These hobbies are important, and their respective niches are also important as vehicles for us to relate socially. Regardless, I am convinced that when it comes to enjoyment, cycling excels in the riding. There are not many things more freeing and life affirming as riding on a bike. Seriously, just go move your body around in space, for no reason at all, other than to remind yourself that you exist. That's where the joy in cycling is.

At the risk of sounding too much like a company shill, I have to say that I've had a really good time here at VO. Chris has assembled a great team of people who really care about what they do. Chris in particular is never afraid to try new things, and I think that will always be one of the best aspects of VO. Our customers have also been great, most of them even let me get away with some crazy ideas. I've had a pretty big project under wraps for a while now. I was hoping to have the prototype here to show you before I left, but it looks like its not going to be in for another month. I'm very excited about it, and I'm sure some of you will really enjoy it. I'm also sure some of our customers are going to be a little offended, but that's fun too.

TL;DR - Ride your bikes!

Casey Fittz

Shameless Plug -  I'm going to be traveling about and working on personal projects for the next few months. Feel free to follow me on my Twitter or Instagram if you care to keep up.

02 June, 2014

Campeur Racks Reviewed

Adventure Cyclist magazine has a great review of the VO Campeur front and rear racks in the June issue. I don't see the review online yet, so here are a few quotes:
  • But my god, they were beautiful. And the handsome Grand Cru Front Handlebar Bag, made in Maryland, that they’d included in the shipment was a huge motivator to get the front rack installed
  • "The VO Campeur racks are made of stainless steel with a lovely polished finish. The VO site states that the polish won’t rust or crack — I was skeptical, but after six months of Montana winter, I’m sold."
  • "The hardware for all [mounting] options is included. As usual, Velo Orange included the loveliest details in their design — both front and back racks have mounts for dynamo lights and small threaded fender-stabilizing mounts for a true, custom fit."
  • "Now that I’ve got the hang of it, it seems stupidly easy to remove and reinstall the racks..."
  • "If you want instant bike-touring “street cred,” as far as I’m concerned, these racks turn your bike into the sort of chromed-out, souped-up coupe that Brian Wilson might croon about."

Adventure Cyclist also tried our Grand Cru handlebar bag and had some nice things to say:
  • "The French-style Grand Cru Handle-bar bag, with its heavy dark green 18 oz. U.S. cotton canvas and oiled bridle leather trim is so cino I can barely resist it."
  • "One of the neat features is the internal stiffener which goes in a long sleeve; no plastic is exposed."
  • "If you like clean lines and classic looks but don’t have very deep pockets, Velo Orange supplies the quality and craftsmanship to get you and your bike suitably styled for your next tour or tweed ride."