29 September, 2016

Container Arrival Plus Sneak Peek of a New Stem

by Igor

We just received a container you folks have been patiently waiting on, which includes but is not limited to:

Thank you for your patience.

In other news, we've been testing prototypes of a removable faceplate 1" quill stem which has already passed ISO MTN standards! We've been asked to make these for a long time, and they'll be ready for production once our real world testing is completed. Like our Cigne Stems, they'll be available in Chrome, Nickel, and Noir in the 31.8mm clamp size-way.

We think this will be a great upgrade for people wanting to retro-mod bikes with newer performance components or even use our Dajia Far Bars on repurposed adventure rigs. Personally, I'm stoked for the increased ease of packing and unpacking my bike for airline travel. 

What do you think?

22 September, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 practice

By Scott

Now that fall has arrived, one's thoughts turn to the annual coffeeneuring challenge - the quest to drink coffee on a bike ride over 7 rides in October and November.

Friend of VO, Mary Gersemalina came up with this idea in 2010 for the post PBP riders who wanted a challenge/goal of riding just for coffee. Since then it has steadily grown to be an international event, with riders joining the challenge of going to 7 different coffee shops or outdoor places to drink coffee, tea, cider or really, any beverage, over the specified dates. The rules and dates can be found here.

Here at VO, coffee and tea are part of our daily routine. Filter coffee in the morning gets most everyone here moving, followed by afternoon macchiato's (the Italian kind - espresso with just a stain of milk) to keep things going for the last push of orders out the door. So any kind of challenge or  reason to go and drink coffee on a bike ride has got us interested.

Our Soto coffee filter in action

I like the coffee/tea outdoors option of the last year or so. I'll take a thermos of tea sometimes or bring my stove and have a brew after a ride. Most early fall days here are nice enough that I don't get too cold waiting for the water to boil or for the tea to steep.

Practice make perfect

Adrian and I decided to put in a practice run to Ceremony Coffee's cafe and roastery here in Annapolis. One of the rules is that for the ride to count, it must be at least 2 miles round trip. The roastery is just over a mile from our office, so it works! I'm also working on a theme of 7 different cookies or treats with each of the coffee stops this year.

Anyone else planning on doing the 2016 Coffeeneuring challenge this year?

15 September, 2016

Cigne Stems Available

by Clint

They're long, they're limp, they're in stock! Cigne stems are here for all of your high handlebar needs. We have them in 2 lengths and 3 finishes. 70mm and 90mm. Noir, Chrome, and a really spiffy Brushed Nickel. I'm really excited about the nickel. Looking forward to using this on some more of our future projects.
For those of you who haven't kept up, the Cigne stem gets its name from the French word for swan. The shape is inspired by the old gooseneck stems by Ibis and Cunningham, but with a few accommodations for modern bike needs. 1 1/8" threadless, 31.8mm handlebar clamp with a removable faceplate. It's pretty useful for getting your handlebars up high without using a ton of spacers.

These were air shipped and they really got beat up in shipping. So we have a bunch with little nicks and scratches that we'll put on the specials page at $15 off. The scratches are all small, the sort you'd get on any component after a few months of use.
Okay, so now you have one of these units in your hands. Now what? The Cigne functions as both your stem and top cap. Your star-nut should be approximately 1cm from the top of your steerer tube and you need at least 55mm of tube (metal only, not for use with carbon steerers). Now slide your stem on the steerer, slip in the long bolt with the washer, pretension with the long bolt, and clamp it down at the base. Use grease as needed. Also, if you plan to use a shim for smaller diameter bars be sure to use a two piece shim, like these.

We're currently working on several projects related to the cigne stem. First, a 1" quill stem adapter with 55mm of clamp space. We should have prototypes soon. There may be a 1 1/8" quill stem version.

08 September, 2016

Protect Your Trails Plus a Teaser

by Clint

Last night Igor, Scott, and I headed over to Bacon Ridge after work for a quick ride.  Every time I go out there, I'm impressed by how well maintained the trails are.  Eroded sections are patched with sand and rock for drainage, branches are neatly clipped, and trash is nowhere to be found.

Logs on blogs.
The local trail crew is looking to expand the trails at Bacon Ridge this fall.  I've been talking to some of the folks involved with making this happen.  The land is owned by the county, but it's up to a land trust to approve trail expansion.  They make sure the natural environment is protected and regulations are obeyed.

Ultimately, the expansion of the trail system is dependent on the condition of current trails and how they affect the land.  It's a good reminder that we affect the land as riders.  When you enjoy this sort of activity, it's easy to care about the environment.  Do so and we can gain more access and eventually create more trails!
Since you sat through my micro rant.  Here's a teaser for a new stem.  It's being tested now.

02 September, 2016

Labor Day Weekend Approaches

By Scott

The long Labor day weekend approaches us here in the Mid Atlantic and we just wanted to say that we'll be closed on Monday for a little extra R & R (riding and reading). We'll open up again on Tuesday at 9 am EDT to answer all the emails and such that came in over the weekend.

I'm still hoping to be able to sneak out for a quick overnight tour along the C & O some time this weekend. We'll have to see how the rain looks.Thankfully, Hermine seems to be losing strength and won't affect us in the Mid Atlantic too much. The C&O can get muddy quickly and I hate to be "that" person who rips up the trail when it's muddy.

(C & O camping a few summers ago)

Hopefully, where ever you are, the weather is great for whatever you want to do this weekend.

31 August, 2016

Bullmoose Bars and Wider Traveler Tires from Fairweather

by Igor
Our friends from Fairweather in Japan have been hitting it out of the park with their newest offerings of tires and handlebars. Their new 700x32 Traveler tires use the same herringbone tread pattern as their 28mm variant, but with a bit of added air volume for comfort on long days of mixed terrain conquering. They weigh 267g, but who's counting?

Like the 28s, the tread colors (pictured left to right) come in Algae (my favorite), Black, Rust, and Asphalt.

These Bullmoose Bars in Noir and Silver will add a touch of retro flair to any build, whether it's a roadie-townie conversion or a bikepacking rig. At 710mm, they're wide but not too wide. The integrated stem makes for a 90mm extension and just the right amount of sweep for a neutral riding position. They're made for 1 1/8" threadless steerers, but they work well with our Threadless Adaptor.

19 August, 2016

Where has summer gone?

By Scott

Well here we are at the middle to third week of August and one has to ask, where has summer gone? I heard on the radio today, people talking about kids going back to school in a bit over a week from Monday and then everyone getting back into their "normal" routines of commuting and such.

Here in the Mid Atlantic, temperatures are still up in the 90's. The C & O is still in it's full green zone, with lots of overgrowth. The afternoon thunderstorms tend to make the trail a bit mucky at points, but a day or two without rain, they dry right out.

I've been keeping my rides down to 30 miles or so, done first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and humidity of the mid afternoon. Chris has been bike fishing to avoid the heat as well.

Our prototype drawings of the Mk4 Polyvalent have been signed off, so now we wait for the prototypes to be made. Hopefully we should have them for late October, just in time to show them off at the Philly Bike Expo at the the start of November.  The Cigne stems are just finishing production, so those should be done around Labor Day and we're going to air freight those in due to the high demand we have for them.

Any plans for the time before Labor day? Anyone have a good tip on reducing the impact of the heat other then hibernating in the basement?

BTW- we got some cool bamboo tops for the Klean Kanteen bottles. An easy way to update an older bottle.

09 August, 2016

Our Shifters go to 11 and Other Minor Updates

by Clint

Dia-Compe 11-speed downtube shifters have landed. Retail is $85. Here they are on the site.

These are so much more than 11-speed downtube shifters. With over 50mm of total cable pull, these shifters will work with just about any derailleur. We've tested them on Shimano 11-speed road and Shimano 10-speed mountain.  Here's what you need to know:
  • Designed for 11-speed, but will work with fewer speeds;
  • Better option for 10-speed drivetrains than our other Dia-compe levers;
  • Non-indexed, micro ratchet design;
  • Right barrel is larger than the left for more cable pull;
  • Not compatible with bar end or "thumbie" mounts because of the oversized barrel.
For nerdy eyes only:
To calculate the amount of total cable pull your drivetrain requires use the following formula
total cable pull = cable pull of intended shifter * (s - 1) 
Where s is the number of speeds of your cassette. If the total is less than 50mm, these shifters should work.

More about these on my previous post; I'm still running this setup on my Passhunter.

They're compatible with all sorts of derailleurs and they look pretty spiffy with a pair of these.

In other news, the Cigne stems are due in soon, hopefully within the next month. We're thinking these will be $80 retail. As for the Polyvalent 4, we're still pretty far out and waiting on first prototypes. The time scale will depend on how these turn out and what we want to change.

05 August, 2016

New Rustines Shifter Covers and Slap Guards

by Igor

These are nifty little shifter covers from Rustines that add a nice bit of grip and flare to your downtubebar-end shifters, and quick releases.

Do you need them? Yes. They'll make you go faster, you'll be more attractive, and flowers will blossom as you ride by. They're compatible with any classic downtube or bar end shifter, with the exception of those big, paddle Huret shifters.

These Constructeur Chain Slap Guards are for bikes with brazed-on prongs. Unstretched, they are 222mm from center-to-center. If you're getting a custom frame made, give the builder the slap guard beforehand so they know where to place it.

I'm thinking we should bring back the slap guard mounts for the Polyvalent, what do you think?

Lastly, check out this lovely mini, die-cast, 1965 Jacques Anquetil. He's one of a series of "Road Giants". Maybe a good Christmas stocking stuffer?

27 July, 2016

Projects and Ideas

By Chris

One of things I most enjoy at VO is seeing new projects come to fruition. We always have a long list of stuff that we're working on. The project list on my desk has 31 items this week, they include frames, handlebars, racks, etc. In some cases the projects are simply improvements of an existing product, but most are new. Of course not all of these will work out; we often get to the drawing or prototype stage and decide that whatever it is we were working on isn't all that great after all. In any case, I thought I'd offer a few projects for your amusement or suggestions.
  • The Cigne stem we mentioned a few weeks ago is now in production and should be here in about a month if all goes according to plan. We'll have them in 70mm and 90mm extension and black, nickle and raw finishes.
  • We're waiting for prototypes of an adapter so you can use the above stem with a threaded 1" fork.
  • The 11-speed hubs have gone through many revisions and prototypes. We're now waiting for the, hopefully, final pre-production samples. I think these are amazing hubs, comparable to any.
  • We're working on some retro "klunkery" adventure touring bars
  • We've ordered prototypes of the new disc Polyvalent. 
  • There may be a mixte version of the Polyvalent. We're still pondering the wisdom of this; while there's a very vocal pro-mixte crowd, in reality high-end mixtes don't sell well.
  • We are designing some new mounts for our bells. This is a lot harder and more expensive than you might imagine.
  • We're revising disc brake mount on the Pass hunter to make it compatible with more brakes. This is done and we're just waiting for ISO testing, but it's delayed the next production run of frames.
  • We're testing some new leather saddles and dreaming of a super secret laminated vegan saddle.
  • We've asked Rustines to make some rubber shifter and quick-release covers for us. Those should be here in a few weeks.
Obviously that's not the whole list. But as we check some of these projects off, what do you thing we should add to the project list?

21 July, 2016

The Boyz Ride in The Park

By Chris and Igor,

Feeling a little cooped up on a beautiful summer day Igor, Clint, and I decided to play hooky for a couple of hours today. We took a ride in the park looking for blackberries.
Blackberry stop.
Locals eyeing us.
Chris swings.

A VO Six Pack Rack is perfect for Igor's camera bag
Jungle scene

Art at the community garden plots.
My Piolet
Clint's Spinaci bars, so aero
Down by the Farm
Igor and his Campeur on singletrack
Grinding sand.

13 July, 2016

Best Era for Cycling

by Scott

Our shipper Brandon here at VO has a game of "what time period would you like to live in"?  He and his girlfriend have discussions at home debating the best time period in history to have lived in a place or to have experienced certain things. I thought we'd expand that to cycling.

I'll limit the option to decades after WW2. Let's take a little look at the decades and some of the highlights:

1950's - Post war Europe starts to recover. French constructeurs ramp up production of bikes that were stopped or reduced during the war. Simplex derailleurs dominate the industry. US road bike building start with Schwinn at the front of the market. Raleigh starts importing bikes to the US. Era of travel by sea is ending as air travel becomes more popular and affordable.

1960's - Perhaps the pinnacle era for French constructeur bikes. Schwinn Paramount production starts in the US. Gear clusters go past 5. Hostel touring popular in Europe as incomes go up and rationing in Europe is ended. Sun Tour introduces the Slant Parallelogram derailleur making shifting easier and more reliable. TA introduces the Pro 5 vis crank set.

1970's - Mass introduction of French and Japanese bikes to the US. The rising cost of fuel pushes the first US bike boom. Bike Centennial starts up promoting the Trans Am bike route across the US. US frame building takes off. Richard Sachs and Peter Weigle begin the custom frame building tradition of the NE US. Campagnolo Super Record Gruppo introduced. Dura Ace introduced as the Japanese alternative.

1980's - Mountain bikes become mass produced. Index shifting arrives and gears go up to 8 in the rear. Aero brake levers and clip in pedals become standard items on racing bikes. Pastel neon frame colors becomes popular for a year or two until we realize our mistake. Cassette bodies become the norm and freewheel hubs start a downward spiral. Mainstream US media takes notice of cycling after Greg Lemond wins the TDF.

1990's - Carbon and Titanium start to become within reach, price wise. Intergrated shifting and brake levers become popular, cycling seen on TV stations that don't have 3 digits in the channel number. Yen drops off and manufacturing moves to Taiwan from Japan for frames and most components. Garish colors for MTB's are the rage despite the 80's. Anodized purple becomes the go to color for US made CNC'd products. Campy introduces a MTB gruppo. Discontinues gruppo a couple years later.

2000's (noughts) - Shimano and Campy continue to battle it out to see who can put the most gears on a cassette, Carbon shows up on lower and lower price points of bikes. Multiple wins in the TDF results in the "Lance" effect: an uptake in road bike sales and sales of USPS jersey's.

2010's (teens) - Gear cluster battle reaches stupid levels, Camo becomes a "thing" color wise, steel bikes make a resurgence in major manufacturer lineup's. Women are welcomed as customers and offered products designed for them rather then just a different color scheme. Bikepacking offers lightweight touring to the masses and hipsters a new place to drink bourbon.

What era would you prefer to ride in?