Category Archives: Velo Orange

Velo Orange Mixte Commutes & the Search for the Ideal Bags

Lately I’ve been on a mission to ride all of my bikes more often. This is partially due to needing to clean the Surly LHT as well as change out a tube, but also because if I’m going to own multiple bikes I feel should make the effort to ride them all.

Velo Orange Mixte and Berthoud

The past couple weeks, I’ve commuted almost exclusively on my Velo Orange Mixte, built up from a frame set I purchased over two years ago.

The Velo Orange is a great town bike. Reasonably priced and built up primarily with existing parts in the Dining Room Bike Shop (most of them coming off of my old commuter, a Novara Randonnee), I’m happy to be riding it again.

Me on the Velo Orange Mixte

I do not have the Velo Orange set up with a rear rack at all so I have been messing around with my bag system in order to have enough carrying capacity to haul my stuff to and from the office and give me a little extra room in case I stop for something on the way home.

Initially, I had the bike set up with a front Berthoud bag (a lovely gift from Felkerino) and a rear Acorn saddle bag that I purchased several years ago. Acorn has recently brought these saddle bags back and I think they are beautiful.

When I rode the mixte like this I was in bag heaven, as these are the two most aesthetically pleasing bags that I own. However, I found the carrying capacity to be insufficient. While the Berthoud bag fit my purse perfectly, the Acorn saddle bag did not provide enough space for the other things I wanted to carry.

Velo Orange Mixte and Acorn

The Acorn is designed to accommodate 5.5 liters or so.Even though I keep my work clothes and shoes at the office, I carry gym clothes and a U-lock every day as well as other essentials, and frequently stop at the grocery store on the way home. So as much as I loved the Acorn bag it became a situation analogous to wearing shoes that hurt my feet, but that I still kept wearing because they looked so awesome.

Last week I removed the Acorn and installed a more industrial black Carradice Nelson longflap we had in stock in the Dining Room Bike Shop bag department. According to the Carradice site, the Nelson can carry 18 liters.

Velo Orange Mixte and Carradice

The Nelson’s size was much better for commuting. I strapped the bag on to my bike using the tabs on my Brooks saddle and affixing another strap to my seatpost. I did not use a Bagman because I don’t like them.

Initially I worried that the Carradice Nelson would be too large for the bike and that it would rub on the fender, making the fender in turn rub my tire, but that has not happened so far. The bag nestles cozily in between the fender and my saddle and has been working out great. As I said, it’s not as stylish as the Acorn, but functionality wins the day on my commute.

Velo Orange Mixte

I love the Berthoud front bag, but I have also been thinking about switching it out because I would be so upset if it was stolen. It is secured tightly to the bike, but given that it is on a bike I use to run errands and sometimes sits outside locked to a rack (poor bike), it might make more sense to move it onto another bike. Any thoughts? Am I overthinking its value? Use what you already own and all that?

I have other plans for the Acorn so it will not linger long in the Dining Room Bike Shop bag department. In the meantime, the Berthoud and Carradice Nelson make for a good urban commute setup on the Velo Orange Mixte.

Summer Commutes on the Velo Orange Mixte

I tend to have an overall preference for diamond frames, and never considered myself a mixte sort of person. However, a couple of years ago Velo Orange was selling off a batch of their mixte frames at the attractive price of $300 so I mixed up the bike stable by adding a mixte to it.

Velo Orange Mixte, acquitting herself well after climbing a steep hill

Over the next year Felkerino and I (okay, mostly Felkerino) built it up with a variety of parts from the Dining Room Bike Shop, including the front Rivendell Mark’s rack by Nitto, Nitto S83 seatpost, gearing, pedals, Tektro brakes, handlebars, and the bags.

I also purchased a couple of things especially for the mixte, including matte Velo Orange fenders, VO saddle, and a Pletscher kickstand.

I love that we were able to build up the Velo Orange mostly with things we already own. One of my favorite parts on the bike are these double-sided Shimano A530 pedals. Good for wearing with street shoes or SPDs.

Shimano Double-Sided Pedals

Also, it may go without saying, but I am especially proud of the bags on this bike. They’re just delicious. The front Berthoud bag was a gift from Felkerino. It’s big enough to carry my lunch and a few personal items, but not so large that it feels bulky or weighs the bike down in front.

Front Small Berthoud Bag

Nitto Front Rack for the Bertoud. Securely affixed.

The tan Acorn bag, which I purchased on a whim, is made by a couple out of California. Sadly, they no longer make this rear saddlebag, which I find to be the perfect size for a bike like the Velo Orange. Not too big, not too small… just right.

Rear Acorn Saddlebag

After the build was complete, the mixte spent a lot of time languishing in the Dining Room Bike Shop. For some reason, I convinced myself that I wasn’t stylish enough to ride it. I also wasn’t sure about its carrying capacity.

I needn’t have worried on either front. First, I may not be stylish enough for it, but I don’t care. There’s no requirement that a person has to be stylish for a commute around town. A regular shirt and shorts work just fine.

No fashion police arrests. A shirt and shorts work just fine for commuting on the mixte.

The Velo Orange mixte is a great getting-around town bike. It’s carrying capacity is somewhat reduced compared to my Surly LHT (which is set up for panniers in addition to a Carradice bag). I can pick up a little something at the store after work if I need to, but the Velo Orange is definitely not well-suited to a big post-work grocery run.

Nevertheless, there’s still ample storage in the Acorn saddlebag and the Berthoud. The bags easily stow my workout clothes, lunch, U-lock and tools, as well as any other daily essentials.

The upright position and handling make it lots of fun to ride. The bike is quick to respond to any turn I make, and the wider hand positioning compared to drop bars is a refreshing change.

With the exception of the more upright handling, the Velo Orange does not feel much different than my other bikes. For some reason, I thought sloping top tube would make it feel stodgy or noodly or something, but I have not found that.

The bike accepts a small front load easily, and it still handles well. It even passes the no-handed test. See?

No hands? No problem. Going no-handed on the VO mixte.

As I mentioned, I do sit more vertically on this bike than others in my stable, and it makes me feel like I’m just tooling around, seeing the sites, taking in the tourists. There’s no pressure AT ALL to ride fast. Just ride my pace and get there when I get there.

Even so, the bike feels responsive and zippy. I push the pedals and they go. I turn the bars and we’re off and running. I don’t know if that’s because I am forced to not haul a bunch of stuff around or if that’s the natural feel of the bike. I tend to think it’s a little of both.

With the Pletscher kickstand, I can park the bike anywhere. No leaning! That’s a great convenience, especially when I’m overcome by the need to take a bike glamour shot.

VO Mixte glamour shot in front of the World War II Memorial

Last week, I finally put the Surly LHT back into service after a full month of nonstop mixte commutes. I needed to haul more than the mixte was able to carry. It was nice to be back on the Surly and to have its extra carrying capacity, but this past month has been great for solidifying my appreciation of the Velo Orange mixte.

The mixte is a perfect bike for days when I don’t plan to do any post-work grocery shopping or general hauling of stuff. On a day-to-day basis, I require less storage space than I’ve grown to think I need.

The Velo Orange also reminded me of the “just ride” principle. Just get on your bike. Wear whatever clothes you want. Ride your bike. Commuting is not a fashion show (though I do like to get a little bike love now and then). It’s about getting around town on whatever you choose to ride and meeting your transportation needs under the power of your own two feet.

Velo Orange Mixte and a Meetup with the Severna Park Peloton

This weekend Felkerino and I went for our first bike ride of any significance since PBP; it was a grand total of 15 miles. Hey, not every ride can be epic, ok? Our legs felt good, yet we enjoyed taking it easy and tooling around.

Since holiday weekends also set up well for project bikes, Felkerino put in some time laboring on my Velo Orange  mixte and lo’, it looks fantastic! See for yourself!

VO Mixte, on her maiden voyage (to coffee, of course!)

We raided parts from other bikes, primarily a Novara Randonnee that I took out of circulation, to build up this baby. Felkerino then added VO fenders, bars, and saddle. He also affixed a Nitto stem and a Marks rack from out of the parts box.

I put on my lovely Berthoud front bag and moved the Acorn bag off of my Dahon Hon Solo to the VO in order to have some additional carrying capacity. I know Felkerino plans to do a longer post about the buildup so I’ll let you know when that happens.

Bleriot and VO Mixte at Paul’s

Did I mention that holiday weekends also are great times for meeting up with friends? Our post-PBP/VO test ride/coffee outing took us over to Union Station, where we met up with our friends from the Severna Park Peloton. They were doing an 80-mile ride from Annapolis, Maryland to D.C.

Meeting up with SPP on Labor Day

Mike B. has a writeup of the full ride over on his blog, Chesapeake Sailor, and Felkerino has more pics of our Labor Day rendezvous with them on his flickr page.

SPP is so welcoming and fun. I love the Severna Park Peloton! Did you also notice that my Mixte matches their club colors?

Clint of SPP

We brunched, then rode a ways back with the group until we worried we would be like Hansel and Gretel and forget our way back home, u-turned, went out for more coffee, and scooted on home.

New bike built up with love by Felkerino in the Dining Room Bike Shop, meeting with friends, Monday off… life treated me pretty well this past weekend. Hope you all had enjoyable weekends, too!

Bikes to Like: Alec B.’s Velo Orange Randonneur

Randonneur Alec B. recently moved to our area and began riding brevets with the D.C. Randonneurs this year.  Alec lives car-free and impressed many of us by not only riding the brevets and the Shenandoah 1200K, but riding his bike from Annapolis to the ride starts, often camping under the stars the night before. Felkerino and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and ride with him. Unfortunately, his bike can’t talk so I had to ask him to spill the beans about his randonneur steed of choice.

Alec on the Velo Orange Randonneur

1. What kind of bike do you have?

Eeets a Velo Orange Randonneur, 59 cm.

2. Where do you ride it?

On the road, mostly. On dirt and gravel occasionally. Across my backyard every day, through deep puddles at the city docks when it rains, down the Metro platform when nobody’s looking, up hills and
down hills and across cobblestones and rumble strips and potholes and broken glass.

Past other people sometimes, but mostly into the sunset and through the night. In North Carolina once, and on the Blue(s) Ridge Parkway. To the grocery store and the beach and to work. To get Thai food, and ice cream, and lettuce, and to friends’ houses. In the rain and in the snow, and in the wind.

With buddies and with strangers and by myself.

3. What do you like about your bike?

It’s comfy and well-mannered enough to keep me moving forward all the time.

4. If you had to describe your bike in one word, what would it be?

Blue

The Blue Velo Orange Randonneur

5. Fenders or no fenders?

Fenders. That sounded like multiple-choice, but I like fenders.

This is my speedy bike. I almost didn’t put any on it, but then I realized that it’s just as fast with them, and they keep me happy when it rains. Then I realized that it’s just as happy with low-riders, and they let me carry a winter sleeping bag, or groceries. The racks haven’t slowed me down either. Now my fast bike is a versatile bike….

6. What is one of your favorite memories with this bicycle?

It’s all a blur. Most of my memories involve food. (Feed me if you want me to remember your name.)

I recall one time digging out of my handlebar bag a big wedge of cheese, fishing out my pocket knife, opening it up, slicing off some cheese, eating a bit, slicing off some more, all while riding at about
15 miles per hour. I like multi-tasking while riding this bike.

Alec and Lane, Old Rag 200K

7. Does your bike have a name? If so, what is it?

“that thing”

8. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

How do you define “accessory?” There’s no belly button ring or ankle bracelet on my bike. I suppose the home-made phone charger that runs odd the generator hub gets a lot of geek points and isn’t strictly necessary, so it might be an accessory.

9. If your bike could talk, what is one thing it would say to you?

“Where are we? You’ve been looking at the cue sheet, right?”

10. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?

Oh, I don’t know. Is anyone still reading?

We are definitely still reading, Alec. Thanks for sharing your bike with us, and we’ll see you out on the road soon!

Bikes to Like: Mark B.’s Velo Orange Randonneur

When I saw Mark B.’s Velo Orange Randonneur making an appearance on rides this year, I knew it had to be part of Bikes to Like. 

His bike is so lucky. It gets to traverse the stunningly beautiful terrain of the Shenandoah Valley, which Mark calls home.  Here is what Mark had to say about his lovely steed and the riding he does on it.

Mark and the VO on the Cacapon 200K (c) Bill Beck

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I ride a Velo Orange Rando frame built up from miscelleneous parts from an early 90′s Cannondale and a newer Bianchi. It’s all steel.

My wife and I also share a Burley Rhumba tandem that is a hoot to ride. As you know tandem riding is great fun, though Rhonda says she doesn’t think our marriage would survive a 300K.  Apparently, I get crabby toward the end of a 200k brevet.

2. Where do you ride it?

The majority of my riding is commuting to and from work three to five times a week. I have several routes that keep me off main roads and are very scenic. I live outside Middletown, Virginia, and ride to work in Winchester over lightly traveled rural roads.

The longest route is 34 miles round trip; the other is 22. About half the distance of the longer route is on dirt roads and passes old farms and apple orchards. The car people stay off these so I can travel the first eleven miles or so without traffic.

One route takes me over a ridge line with views from Snickers Gap to the northeast to Signal Knob in the south. But once in Winchester traffic picks up and I use a very narrow bike lane into the historic district where I work.

I’m doing my best to reduce my participation in the suburban sprawl that is eating up our local orchards and farms. Oh, did I mention oil dependency and global warming?

Mark and the VO on the Urbana 200K (c) Bill Beck

Otherwise, I ride the occasional brevet with the D.C. Randonneurs or Randonneurs of the Mid-Atlantic. I’m not keen on driving long distances to rides, so I rarely travel more than a half an hour away. If there is a brevet starting nearby (Middletown, Matt’s house), I have few excuses for missing it. But, as MG knows, I do drive to local brevets– sheer laziness.

Skyline Drive is 25 minutes away by car, so I can easily get in a mid-week ride in the evening. There is usually less traffic and the evening sun lighting up the Shenandoah River in the valley below is mesmerizing. I can get in a bit of birding too as I climb the 10 miles to Compton Gap.

When we roll out the tandem, we can hit familiar brevet terrain around Oranda and Middletown, Virginia. The Shenandoah 1200 route passes down the road from our house so we ride a bit of that route.  This is great place to ride.

Alec (who also rides a VO) takes a picture of Mark’s VO on the Old Rag 200K

3. What do you like about your bike? 

Lugged frame. Steel. Horizontal top tube. Low trail. Subdued graphics. It has an unmistakeable classic look.

I was riding in Montana last summer and fell in with a club ride. They were all guys tricked out in advertising wear and carbon fiber componentry.  I was on the VO. One guy looks at my bike and says “you must have a lot of miles on that thing.” Well, I’d bought it previous Fall and had only a few thousand miles on it, but it fooled the youngsters.  I imagine it will still be on the road long after the carbon cracks.

4. If you could describe your bike in one word, what would it be?

Economical

5. Fenders or no fenders? 

A bike without fenders is a mere toy. All my bikes have had fenders. And lights. The VO has hammered aluminun fenders from Velo Orange. I thought they would sort of pimp out my bike because they are so shiny metallic, but I have come to like them.

Mark’s Velo Orange Randonneur (c) Mark B.

6. Does your bike have a name? If so, what is it? 

Oh yeah. I named it Hirundo, which is the genus name for a species of bird. Years ago I used to ride in the Clifton, Virginia, area before it was destroyed by development. Had to have been in the middle 70′s, back when the area was mostly forests and farms.

I used to ride out to Hemlock Regional Park and spend the day birding and on one particular occasion I was shadowed by several Barn Swallows for a few hilly miles. I was struck by their grace and agility, in contrast with my efforts, but when they flew close in they looked like they were really working hard.

I thought I could see their flight muscles cranking away to achieve those effortless-seeming moves. They were more like athletes than flying jewels. Years later when I saw  the color of the graphics and frame of the VO, I was immediately reminded of those Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.

But I don’t call my bike by that name. I just call it My Bike.

7. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

There are two:

  1. The Son generator hub, which powers both head and tail light.  No more recharging batteries. No more failed batteries. No uncertainty about batteries.  My lights are on all the time; why not, I’m off the grid.
  2. My VDO wired MC1.0 bike computer with altimeter.  I had the wireless version for a time, but the sensor batteries kept crapping out when I really needed it so I switched to the “old fashioned ” kind. The altimeter feature is really wonderful because it shows why I have suddenly lost speed–I’m on a 1% grade; of course I can’t ride as fast!  We do a lot of climbing out here and it is fun to know that such-and-such climb is 15% or whatever. The max on our favorite route is 15%, but at least its gravel.

8. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?

Am I going to keep this bike?  VO is making noises about a new 650B in a great color with a real nice curve to the front fork. Sadly it won’t be lugged. With the type of mixed surface rides I do and the limitations to tire size on the Rando frame, I just might have to make the leap.  The 650 would take over all the functions of my bike so the components would have to shift over and this frame will be up for sale.

Wow, after reading about all the areas you can ride during the week, I have to say I’m a little jealous. Thanks, Mark, for being part of Bikes to Like, and I look forward to riding out your way soon.

Building up the Velo Orange Mixte

Felkerino’s been working on this winter’s project bike, my Velo Orange Mixte. It’s coming together!

We pulled the wheels, chainrings, and bottom bracket off of my Novara Randonnee touring frame. You can see the Novara lurking, sad and naked, in the background of this picture.

The saddle, for the moment, is a sprung Brooks Flyer “S” that used to be on the tandem. This saddle may not last, however, as it is well worn.

The bars, Nitto stem, brakes, and brake levers are from the Felkerino Spare Parts Shop. I love that store!

To see how the whole project is progressing, check out the flickr set. The picture on the left right will take you there.

Treasure! Velo Orange Mixte

This week, a present arrived for me.

Velo Orange

What? A present for me?! What could it be…

VO Box Contents

It looks like…

Opening the box

It is…

Unpacking the frame and fork

A bike!!!  A NEW BIKE!!!! Just what I always wanted!

Velo Orange Mixte Frame and Fork

I was defiitely NOT in the market for another bicycle frame, but when Velo Orange ran a recent promotion on its Mixte frames, I decided I had to have one. Some opportunities are just too good to pass up.

Now I just hope it plays well with the other bike residents.

Ed introduces the Velo Orange Mixte to the Surly LHT. Just kidding! We were mocking up sizing :).