Friday, December 21, 2012

Moving with a cargo bike

Sadly, not the way I would prefer for that sentence to be parsed, but here it is:


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Swift Industries

To use the Campeur as a hauling bike, I have so far just been putting stuff in the trailer. There is only so much room in there, though, and I don't want to hook it up for solo rides, for grocery shopping, etc. To that end, I plan to add a rear rack and have acquired a small saddle bag and rear panniers from Swift Industries. There is no getting around the fact that these are pricy items. That said, panniers and bicycle luggage in general are expensive items, and the inexpensive options carry hidden costs. I specifically chose to support Swift Industries because they are a regional company, the luggage is made by hand, and I love the philosophy and business ethic of the small firm. See a bit more here:


A month after ordering, just as promised, the bags have arrived and I am simply blown away by them. I love how they look, and the construction is solid. The design is well-thought out, from D-rings for shoulder strap to compression straps where they should be. The pockets are the right size and where I would have put them. The materials are wonderful; waxed canvas, cordura, and waterproof vinyl interior linings. They fold flat when empty, but bulge out (and unroll to tower upwards) generously.






For simpler, shorter rides, I have also added a Little Dear   saddle bag. It is just the right size for a lock, lunch, jacket, and critical tools. Attaches with leather straps and a wooden dowel to the loops at the back of the saddle. It looks huge on my tiny bike but is actually a fairly petite bag when compared to other traditional saddle bags.



I'm looking forward to breaking these bags in, and I would not be surprised to see these bags outlive me. It is a real pleasure to find companies taking the time to build things slowly and properly, and relatively close to home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Let There Be Rack!

Neither the included bracket nor the special cantilever bracket I bought from Longleaf worked for the IQ Cyo light on the Campeur frame. I knew I wanted a front rack, so waited for that to be installed before figuring out how to mount the light. The Pass Hunter rack does have 4 mounting points for lights, but included no bracket, so I had to fashion one. I want the lamp low enough and off to the side enough that a semi-bulky object (or bag) can sit off the edge of the rack without hitting the light. The bracket should ultimately be sloped down a bit, but for now I made a temporary one by finding a piece of donor steel in my parts box, cutting and grinding it, and then bending it in a vise. I still want to shape one which will hang a little lower, and little more elegantly but the point here was to be able to install and test the light with its dynohub. Similarly the routing of the wire (and securing with zip ties) are all temporary, but wholly functional.

Here's the light, rack, and bracket:





As the sun went down and a gentle rain started, I took it out for a 3 mile spin. Wow! It is certainly bright enough to ride on my dirt country road at a sane speed.

I have it mounted on the left side of the bike, thinking that will improve visibility for oncoming traffic (the light will not be blocked by the bike itself). I do see many lights (in America) mounted on the right, however. This could possibly better illuminate hazards on the shoulder, but I found the coverage great with the current setup. I chose the "N" beam pattern which leaves an alleged dark spot in front of the bike in order to focus more of the beam far ahead where it is needed. I have to say, though, that the shadow zone immediately in front of the bike is plenty illuminated, it is just dim by comparison. This is a powerful little light, it is not pleasant to stare directly into (it also has a clever lens and shield arrangement to prevent this). All in all, very impressed!

Monday, November 5, 2012

20 miles, 60lbs

Barring racks and luggage to really test the "camping" abilities of the Campeur, I attached the trailer, put in a 35lb kid, a U-lock, some tools, some water, and hit the road. 10 miles later, we took a break in the beachside town of Yachats, OR where we refueled with a blueberry-lemon muffin at Bread and Roses. The park was just across the street, so we spent a few minutes on the slide. Wanting to further test the weight-bearing abilities of the frame, I added a 6-pack of cider in glass bottles and a medium fuji apple. This brings the estimated cargo weight to 60.1 lbs, not counting the mini pump, multitool, spare tube, sippy cup of water, etc. Lets call it 60 to be certainly underweight/conservative.


35lb kid/clothes/boots
7.8lb hard cider
2.7lb u-lock
17lb trailer
---------
60.1



The ride was great! I am not all that impressed with the Nashbar trailer in general, but the price was right (free from a friend). I do have experience with it on two other bikes, however, so I think I can quantify "the Nashbar experience" and how it changes a ride. This definitely felt better/smoother than pulling the trailer on the Shogun. The gearing is great; there are moments on the Shogun where I have to wonder about stopping to walk, but I was able to spin (albeit slowly) up all the hills without much complaint or ill-will towards the universe. I can't imagine I would personally pack 60lbs of camping gear so this is encouraging.

I know 20 miles is no great distance, but it is long enough to give a firm idea of how the bike handles. It is also about right for a S24O camping trip, which is more along the lines of what I selected this bike for than for months-long touring.

The saddle is taking a bit of time to break in. It is generally comfortable for ten miles and then I start to notice its firmness. I know these saddles take a while to get used to, and according to others, VO saddles take even longer than a Brooks. The fun part is that I had just spent several miles working on a different saddle (on the Shogun) before switching to this one. I do not love the textured surface on the top, as I think I prefer the smooth, but I am still glad to have bought the complete bike and enjoying the savings that the bundle provided. That said, I still think about a day when I will replace the saddle with a Flyer.

I'm also starting to miss the bar tape. It should be here (along with a front rack) in a day or two. I am through experimenting with hood position and ready to tape. I am starting to disenjoy the feel of the bare metal bars, even with leather cycling gloves. Nonetheless, I continue to be very impressed with this bike.

Here's today's setup:


On and Off the Road



Atypically clear weather afforded a great bikeride yesterday. A handful of gravel miles and a dozen and a half on pavement. I took a brief detour at the local elk forage field to ride in the muddy ruts, over fallen branches, and on a stretch of "road" that would make a 2wd automobile pilot nervous. The Campeur was delightful in this context. Previously mentioned toeverlap aside, the slow-speed handling was no problem, the gearing was sufficiently low, and the tires were wide and grippy enough. I have them at relatively low pressure per Jan Heine's suggestions). It really felt quite a bit like my old hardtail Haro mountain bike; just a tractor trudging over the obstacles and through the mud. The drop handlebars take a little getting used to in this context, and I wonder if I should put my cyclocross interrupters on... but I was able to get around just fine. Very encouraging!


Chart from Jan Heine's site, click image to visit


I still have not been able to test the bike under load, eagerly awaiting delivery of racks. In the meantime, I might try with the bike trailer + kid, which will at least give me an idea of how effective the low gears are. As it is, riding 20 miles with no luggage is a breeze and the gearing is sufficient that the modest hills on my road (which are not fun on my other bikes) are really almost enjoyable.


I will have to return with a camera to show the bike in action, but this is the elk forage on a dry summer day


Over time I will be talking about other methods of kidhauling and practical cycling, not just this new bike, but right now this bike is taking most of my spare time, so there you have it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Toeverlap

Still loving the Campeur, but one issue since adding the fenders has become apparent: the small (51cm) frame and large wheels (700c) conspire to create a bit of possible toe overlap. This became much more noticeable since adding the fenders. It is simple enough to avoid, by remaining mindful of pedal position during the rare slow and sharp turns, but this is not really possible during a crisis. It is probably much better to contact a static fender than to kick a spinning tire, but it is all not great.


photo from the Velo Orange blog

For many frames, the smaller sizes will use different wheels; 26" or 650b. I certainly would have preferred this, but it can also upset the handling to the point where the framemaker needs to re-design the smaller sizes to work with these wheels. The Crosscheck that I test rode also had 700c wheels and did not seem to have this issue, but it also lacked fenders.

I am not willing to lose the fenders, and love the handling of this bike enough that I want to work with it. What I am not sure about is how switching to smaller wheels might detract from the ride quality. It could improve it!

Expense aside, I would love to try this. I've asked VO for their thoughts, but welcome any other ideas from those experienced with various wheel sizes on frames not intended for them, as well as other shorter riders.

There are some interesting insights here:

http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/01/whos-afraid-of-toe-overlap.html

and Sheldon Brown aims to sooth with these words:

"Many, many people ride bicycles with fairly severe overlap with no practical problems, sometimes having to make a slight adjustment to their pedaling habits at very slow speeds.
On smaller-size bikes with full-sized wheels, it is usually impossible to eliminate overlap without causing adverse fit/handling issues."

and, the Velo Orange Blog has an entry about the issue.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Velo Orange Campeur - Happiness Sets In


Getting the fender just right


Today I received and aftermarket saddle binder bolt and was able to secure the saddle into the bike. Despite pouring rain, I took it for a ten mile jaunt on gravel and pavement. Wow, I love it! The ride is supersmooth, it tracks just fine freehanded, and the fenders worked very well. I was soaking wet but cozy and warm in a merino shirt.

The other bikes I have been riding lately are a Soma Smoothie (steel road bike set up in a racer direction) and a Shogun (vintage sport-touring bike with VO porteur handlebars and baskets on the rack). The Shogun is actually amazingly spry and nimble, but not as much so as the Smoothie. The Campeur, which I was not expecting to feel quick, is right between the two. It is lighter than I was expecting, and the gearing is well-chosen. The bike was about as pleasant as a bike can be while climbing, and for the first time I did not dread the "fork hill" on the way back to my house. Probably just new bike excitement, but I really am feeling great about this bike.

Also, VO replied to my concerns of the damaged paint, broken bolt, and missing pieces. They responded rapidly despite the hurricane closing their office. The issue with the bolt was indeed that a crucial washer was missing, and they are addressing this on other frames. The paint damage seems to have happened while being shipped, and they are adjusting their packing procedure. As I took the brunt of this as a beta-tester of sorts, they are graciously sending me a front rack. This is about 1/5th the price of the frame, which I feel is more than adequate for the slight damages I have to put up with. All in all, I am a very happy campeur, and wouldn't hesitate to continue to recommend Velo Orange as a dealer of parts and bikes.

Of course I am going to need more time to properly assay and review the Campeur bike, but after that first ride, I really love it! The fit is great, the shifting is smooth, and the components feel solid. I really like the micro-ratcheting shifters in particular.

I am not sure I love the pedals I put on it, some Shimano hybrids which I used on the platform side. Not as grippy as I had hoped, and I had a little numbness in the foot. I need a little more time to determine if they are keepers or not.