20 February, 2018

Just the Details at NAHBS 2018

by Igor

Impeccable lug sculpting, tidy dynamo wiring, infinitely deep finishes, and minute detail work are all of utmost importance when evaluating and admiring the work of a custom bicycle builder. I think appreciation and articulation of detailing and design is an important skill to have when going around to different builders at shows like these. Rather than show a busy, poorly lit photo of a complete bike on the showroom floor, I'd like to focus on the detailwork of several of my favorite bikes at NAHBS 2018.

The brass on this track bike's rear end seems to simply wash over the seat stay bridge and wishbone, gently holding everything together in a fervor for speed only a Bishop can pull off.

https://bishopbikes.com/
The seat cluster on this Randonneur bike is sublime. There is so much going on in a little space: polished stainless wrap around stay caps, bi-laminate sleeve with a super narrow point, and a pair of seat binders. From Brian's Instagram about the double binder, "It’s not necessary but the single M6 would’ve looked lonely on there".

http://www.chapmancycles.com/

Brass, ebony wood, leather, shellac, and lacquer all come together to accomplish this artisanal cockpit on this bike steeped in old-world design and ornamentation.

http://ascaribicycles.com/
The seat cluster on this track bike has an air of 1930's art-deco. Squares and long curves accentuate the clean, custom lug and fillet brazed, lowered binder. Lovely.

http://www.portercycles.com/

While the alternate digital camo graphics on the outside of the fork blade are attention grabbing, the inside of the blade features this Russian builders logo - the font color matching the contrasting blue-grey within the pattern.

http://tritonbikes.com/en/
While I don't know much about this air-foil's application on bike frames, I do like the swoops and lack of hard lines on this three-play laminated wood and carbon composite bike.

https://www.juliet-designs.com/
This wild track bike features a fluted and paint-filled seat mast which terminates into the monostay. Radical.

http://stanridgespeed.com/
This marriage of carbon and titanium in a traditional lugged form is incredibly clean. I'd love to know the ride characteristics this combination provides.

https://royalhcycles.com/

The inward bending on the fender stay makes the rear end more racy, an important feature for this get-up-n-go fender'd road bike. Additionally, notice the impeccable lining on the Hammered fender's edge. Nice contrast!

https://royalhcycles.com/

The watercolor panels on the seat tube and pump were an elegant choice on this road bike.

http://deanima.it/ita/
Zipties be damned! Sometimes the the best way to secure something is by a simple wire.

https://www.sklarbikes.com/ + Ultra Romance

13 February, 2018

Fenders on Disc Brake Bikes

by Igor


With the trickle down of disc brakes into bikes of any and all sorts, our inbox has been deluged with questions about fender mounting and compatibility.

The requirements of being an easily fender-able disc brake bike is the same as any bike with rim brakes:

1) Clearances - Your frame should have reasonable clearances around the chain stays and seat stays, and your fork should have sufficient vertical and lateral clearance.

Road racing and track frames, more often than not, have very narrow clearances around chain and seat stays and fork crowns. These bikes are designed for aerodynamics and drastically reduced weight. This often means that if a detail isn't designed for structure and performance, chances are you won't see them. Forget about dedicated rack and fender mounts or even triple bottle cage mounts. Grams add up to lost time over a stage.


Vintage frames that use centerpulls or longer reach brakes typically have more clearance, especially if you do a 27 -> 700c wheel conversion. These often make great randonneurs and sportif bikes as they feature a multitude of desirable attributes that are incorporated into many of today's modern offerings including lightweight tubing, low bottom brackets, and bigger tire clearance. Some even make for good 650b conversions for even floaty-er tires and clearance.

https://vintagebicycle.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/alex-singer-sportif-chrome-c-1980/

Pro tip: Before a long climb, move your water bottle from your cage to your jersey pocket. You'll climb faster due to less weight on the bike. Discuss in comments.

2) Bridges - In order to have an easy time of mounting, both your seat stay and chain stay bridges need to exist - bonus points if they have threaded braze-ons that point towards the wheel.


If your bike does have a bridge but it isn't drilled, use a p-clamp!

We've noticed a lot of contemporary cyclo-cross bikes are bridge-less for mud clearance and comfort over rough terrain. While it is possible to mount a fender using a kludge of hardware, it isn't ideal and it certainly isn't elegant.

https://www.cxmagazine.com/tom-price-trek-boone-cyclocross-bike-2015-austin-win/4
3) Dropout Eyelets - Threaded or unthreaded, these are incredibly useful. If your bike has the above requisite features but doesn't have eyelets on the dropouts, p-clamps or our Fender Stay Mounts for Eyeletless Frames are needed to mount the stays to the frame or fork.


Alas, many manufacturers have forgone eyelets on their performance offerings, though some lucky few offer removable ones. I never understood this. If you're going to drill and tap the frame for a stud for a removable eyelet, why not include it in the casting/mold? It would look intentional and simple.

https://www.bikerumor.com/2017/09/04/eb17-ibis-flies-radar-new-hakka-mx-gravel-bike-prototype/
That's it for the requirements! The next step is negotiating the caliper.

For the frame, there is typically minimal finagling. This is especially true if the caliper is located within the rear triangle like our frames feature. For caliper located on top of the seatstay, you'll have to play it by ear since the size, shape, and location of the caliper may necessitate bending the stay.

The front is a bit trickier. The caliper, for the most part, sits in the same place for almost all forks. Simply bending the stay vertically around the caliper should provide enough clearance for the brake to operate normally. Some forks, like our Pass Hunter, simply offer a higher mounting point to get around the issue. It isn't the most traditional looking, but it functions perfectly fine. The Polyvalent has a braze-on underneath the dropout for regular fender mounting.

If this isn't possible, you'll need a fat stack of spacers to clear the caliper. Plastic fenders that use two stays typically require this.

Do you have any additional tips or tricks for mounting fenders on disc brake bikes?

05 February, 2018

A Note on Fender Mud Flaps

By Igor


The combination of full coverage fenders and mud flaps serve two very important purposes: 1) keeping your feet and bottom bracket clean and 2) ensuring your riding friends will ride with you again by preventing road grime from spraying up into their faces.

Ideally, the front mud flap should be very low to cover the most spray area, almost dragging. I like curling the front flap so that curbs don't catch the fender when hopping off.


The rear flap should be sufficiently long as well. VO now offers matching Rear Mud Flaps in the same colors as the front: Black, Espresso, and Honey.


They're 24.5cm long and have a very similar silhouette as the front, just longer. They weigh 105g and include all the hardware needed to mount to your fender. All you need to do is drill two holes.

A side note: We work really hard to minimize waste from the hides we use, and that means we get a few "imperfect" flaps. These cuts are just as good and functional as the "perfect" ones but have more character - I prefer these. They usually have cuts, thinner sections, etc - these are cow hides, remember. If you want a flap has has imperfections and is wabi-sabi, let us know in the comment section of your order.

01 February, 2018

Gerard Rides Again

by Igor

Gerard (Gerry as we've been calling him at HQ) has turned out to be one spry 61 year old.


He has scrapes, bumps, and "that wasn't there yesterday"'s that not only show his age, but describe a life of use and care. Whoever used this bike before me, really enjoyed it.

While working on this bike, I was frequently reminded of the old Japanese pottery repair technique, Kintsugi.


Kintsugi is a philosophy that lets imperfections and breakages literally shine rather than attempt to disguise them. Gold or platinum dust is included in the lacquer used for repair work, creating beautiful, gleaming veins that allow the piece's history to be at the forefront of one's attention. Interestingly, this technique got so popular, collectors started smashing brand new pottery in order to replicate the style.


Gerard was rebuilt with simplicity in mind. The wheels are sturdy and built to last. The rear is a 32 hole Fixed Hub laced to a 650b Diagonale Rim while the front is a Grand Cru High Flange Front Hub laced to the same. The rear is spaced 120mm so the rear wheel's hub fits without any issues, while the front is 96mm (typical of old French bikes). No biggie, the front hub gets crammed in.

Gearing is midrange: 44 tooth 50.4 chaining paired to an 18 tooth rear cog. This setup makes around town jaunts with a load easy while minimizing spinning out on slightly longer rides. Tires are cushy Panaracer Pari-Motos in the 42mm sizeway.

The bottom bracket shell is French threaded (drive side and non-drive side both tighten clockwise) so I used our French Threaded Bottom Bracket with a 118mm spindle.



A proper French bike cannot be left without fenders. 52mm Zeppelins wrap perfectly and provide optimal coverage. A clever, little Spring Thing keeps a nice fenderline with the frame's long, horizontal dropouts.


The Porteur Rack is fitted close to the fender by trimming the lower tangs. The rack is further mounted to the fender in Constructeur fashion.


The Sabot Pedals are my go-to. They're chunky, spinny, grippy, elegant, and look right on this traditional build.


Handlebars are the 23.8mm Left Banks with NOS CLB city levers (what the Tektro FL750 levers are modeled after). Grips are the ever comfy and classic Rustines Constructeur in black. Brake cabling is our Stainless Steel Wound kit along with some Step-Down Housing Caps for the brake levers and frame cable stops.


The Grand Cru Quill Stem needed a tad bit of sanding to fit into the steerer. Clint did a nice write-up about fitting 22.2mm stems into 22.0mm French steerers. A few minutes worth of sanding allowed the quill to fit in and stay secure. A silver Brass Temple Bell adorns the stem in traditional constructeur fashion.


Atop the 25.4mm Dajia 1b Seatpost is an old Brooks perch. I got the saddle when we picked up our Santana Arriva Tandem. I believe it's from the mid-80s. I think it might be too far gone to be remolded, but it sure looks cool!


The brakes were disassembled, cleaned and new Kool Stop 4-dot Pads were fitted. How do they stop? They stop, more or less. Mostly less. They modulate speed, that's where I'll leave it.


The showstopper here is this vintage, gorgeous chainguard. We've had in it in our showroom's display case for years, waiting for just the right build. The original paint and patina is perfect for Gerard. The frame has a single mount on the downtube. For the seat tube, I used our Chainguard Mounting Hardware and a bit of cloth tape to protect the tube.

A Porteur Double Leg Kickstand keeps the bike upright and ready for loading.


Experiencing the history, care, and continued service of something so connected as a bicycle and its rider is a wonderful thing to behold: scuffed crankarms from miles and miles of tours, lived in bar tape, saddle with corner tears from taking a gravel laden corner too fast, scratched top tube from that darn sharp sign post I always forget about, and random paint chips from heck knows where. Having a beautifully new paint job is nice, but I don't think babying is the way to go. Embrace the scratches, scuffs, and imperfections, and enjoy your ride.

29 January, 2018

The Case For Kickstands

By Scott



Kickstands are something near and dear to the hearts of many city riders. The dirty looks you get from shop keepers when you lean your bike against a window or wall can be tough to take in a world where proper bike parking can be taxing to find.

A swath of properly kickstanded bikes in Zug, Switzerland
A solution to the dirty looks is a kickstand. Two VO frames, the Campeur and the upcoming Polyvalent, have kickstand plates welded in place to make installation a snap.


Just use the small allen head bolt that comes with our kickstands, instead of the long bolt. Remove the top part (put it in a safe place in case you want to use the kickstand later on a bike without a plate). Line up the kickstand with the underside of the kickstand plate, put the allen head bolt into the hole in the plate, and tighten up (it takes an 8 mm allen wrench FYI).



If your favorite urban roving bike does not have a kickstand plate, don't anguish. You can still install a kickstand on it. Both of our kickstand models come with a top plate and a longer bolt (a 14 mm wrench fits this nut) so you can put it on any steel bike. Note: Do not install a clamp-on kickstand on an aluminium or carbon fibre frame. You'll break the frame.


You want to install it between the bottom bracket and the chain stay bridge area. Put some tape or a cut up inner tube on the frame to protect the paint. Position the bottom part of the kickstand (the part with the legs attached) on the underside of the chain stays. Put the top clamp on the top of the chain stays. Insert the bolt through the top clamp and thread it into the bottom piece. Tighten the bolt until good and snug. There is no magic torque spec for this. It's a bit of a Goldilocks amount of pressure - not too loose and not too tight. You want it just right. Remember to check the tightness over time to ensure it does not loosen up at an inappropriate time/space/place.

The Copenhagen kickstand is the best if you have a rear cassette/freewheel. This kickstand has the legs both flip to the left (non drive) side, so the legs won't touch the chain.  The Porteur kickstand's legs flip up to be on either side of the tire and can clip the chain of a derailleur equipped bike. So it is better suited to IG/singlespeed hubs. Not much difference weight wise between the two - the Copenhagen weighs 1 lb 6 oz, the Porteur, 1 lb, 8 oz. For comparison, a fully filled VO water bottle weighs 1 lb 8 oz.

Are you a kickstand lover or hater? Let us know your deliberations on the issue of using a kickstand in the comments below.


22 January, 2018

Fresh Container with New Saddles, Hubs, and Fender Hardware

by Igor

We've just taken a fresh container with a bunch of new products and restocked on a bunch that you all have been patiently waiting on...Enjoy!

These Hubs Go To Eleven

As much as we've tried to resist it, it seems like this whole 11 speed thing may stick around for a while. These new hubs are compatible with 11 speed Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM (non-XD) cassettes.



In addition, these hubs retain the tool-free field-serviceability for which our hubs have become known. Though the hub displayed in these instructions is the 10 speed variant, the process is exactly the same.

For those running 8-10 speed cassettes, you have two options: 1) pick up a spacer and mount the cassette to the 11 speed freehub or 2) get the 10 speed hub versions which are on sale now.



For those running 7 speed cassettes, the same applies, you'll just need a thicker spacer on the 11 speed freehub body.

These Saddles are Silky Smooth

While our Microfiber Touring Saddles have quickly become our most popular offering, many have expressed a preference for a smoother top to find more fluid positions during long days in the saddle. So here it is:



The Smooth Touring Saddle has become a personal favorite of mine. While it has nearly the same dimensions as the Model 3 Leather Saddle, it is far lighter (410g) and retains the integrated bag loops.

The saddle is great for touring and city bikes as it is weather proof and since it isn't flashy, they'll hopefully be overlooked at the bike rack.

Hardware Kits for Fenders

We now offer a full hardware kit for metal fenders. This hardware is compatible with VO, Honjo, Lefol, and pretty much any other metal fender that uses drawbolts. The kits are available in both Silver and Noir.
This kit is perfect for those mounting the fenders to proper fender braze-ons, so if you need a specific hardware solution, find what you seek in our fender hardware section.

Call in the Fender Re-Inforcements

With the proliferation of off-road touring and gravel/all-road/any-road/road-plus/adventure/quiver-killer bikes, we have started including a pair of reinforcement plates in all of our alloy fender sets. Since you asked for it, we are now including them separately from the fender kits in 30mm and 40mm widths.



Just peel and stick it under the screw during installation - one under the seat stay bridge and one under the fork crown.



Get Your Klunk On

The Klunks are back in stock! While these super fun handlebars were designed with MTBs in mind, we've seen them on city bikes, too!


Crazy Bars are Crazy


They're back in stock and ready to get weird.

Make Your Back Happy with the Happy Stem


While they look a bit odd, these Happy Stems have proven to be incredibly popular!