I order components from a variety of sources, but one of my favorite suppliers is Velo-Orange. Even though its founder, Chris Kulcaycki, sold the company earlier this year to two of his long time employees, I haven’t noted any negative impacts on the quality and variety of products offered. I think the company is well positioned amongst its competitors, namely Compass Bicycles – Boulder Bicycle – Rene Herse (all owned by Compass Bicycles/Jan Heine), Rivendell (Grant Peterson), and Harris Cyclery (Sheldon Brown’s shop), as a purveyor and innovator of bicycle frames and components for cycling enthusiasts, and especially for those who appreciate the quality and reliability of steel frames, comfortable, wide tires, and retro-inspired components.
My haul today included some of the parts needed to complete the 650b/city bike conversion for the early 1980’s Meral Randonneur bike I recently purchased. In my box of goodies was a full length chain guard, Velox rim strips (more on that later), V-O thumb shifter mounts (competing with Pauls’ Thumbies), Tektro brake levers, and a new KMC 8 speed chain.
I also ordered an extra 8 speed chain (you can never have enough chains), as well as my favorite brake pads: V-O’s non-squeal smooth post pads, which work really well with Mafac long reach brakes.
I also use these bake pads on any bike with cantilevers – they really are almost 100% squeal proof and provide excellent stopping power.
But what prompted this order was the extraordinarily bizarre experience I had attempting to mount a set of Grand Bois 32 mm 650b tires to the Velocity A23 650b wheelset I had purchased from Harris Cyclery for $289. Yes, that was the price for both wheels, which feature Shimano Tiagra hubs. Well, you get what you pay for. I purchased these wheels as a placeholder to see if a 650b conversion would really work for this bike, so that is why I went with the cheapest offering out there. The downside was discovering the the holes drilled in this narrow rim end up partially on the upper edge inside the rim where the tire’s beads need to mount. Installing the necessary narrow rim strip meant not covering these very sharp edged holes completely, which I knew would lead to flats and blow-outs later on. I tried installing a wider strip, but that interfered with the Grand Bois tires’ beads. Many swear words ensued at this point. Finally I took to the internet to see who else had experienced this problem. Turns out – everyone. The best advice I read was to use three narrow rims strips on each rim, carefully positioned to cover the holes without interfering with tire mounting. We will see how that goes (subsequent blog post forthcoming!).
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to setting up the other components, such as these very elegant Tektro brake levers. Using 32 mm tires means that I will be able to re-install the lovely custom stainless steel Meral fenders. It will also be interesting to try out the full length chain guard for this build which I envision with a single chain ring up front, as well as to experiment with V-O’s version of Paul’s thumbies. Stay tuned.