Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Velo Orange Campeur: First Impressions and Frustrations

My Campeur has arrived!

The bike is rather attractive; it is especially impressive to see the gleaming silver hardware after so many years of ubiquitous black parts. Certainly the gear cluster is going to be black soon enough.

Blobby welds were expected, and are really not too bad. Also within tolerance would be a few nicks and scratches in the paint, but I am a little disappointed in the number and severity on this frame. One and possibly two are deep enough that I am concerned and will coat them. The worst is a series of little blemishes under the Campeur decal. It creates a bubbly appearance and feeling that looks really terrible and cheap. Not enough to send the bike back, but really disappointing and at odds with the whole "classic" look.

I'm not sure if my photos really capture the nature of these spots. They are highly visible; as a metric my wife spotted them instantly with no prompting.

The bike was simple to assemble with a couple exceptions. The first is that the bar tape was not included. Not a huge deal, not too expensive to buy, but I live in a very remote area with no decent bike shop within a 90-minute drive. That is quite a ways to go for bar tape. I've contacted VO and hope they will remedy this, but the wait is frustrating. I plan to ride without the tape for a while anyway, to verify the positioning of the hoods.

The other issue is that upon installation the seatpost binder bolt was unable to clamp enough to hold the post in place and then snapped as I tightened it. After removing the broken pieces, I realized it was missing it's washer, which might have been the spacer required. Another possibility is that the male portion was milled too long, and it was bottoming out.  None of my other bikes use a compatible bolt, so now I cannot even test-ride the bike (see above regarding just going to a the LBS and grabbing a new one). I did actually call the two bike shops within an hour, and neither have such an exotic item as a keyed 19mm bolt. I went ahead and mail-ordered a Sugino replacement, hoping it to be of higher quality or milled more accurately.

Not being deterred, I continued working on the bike with what I had: a brand new set of VO steel fenders. Again, some disappointment as two of the 5mm bolts to hold the stays onto the dropout eyelets were missing. This is not a big deal financially, but a show-stopper as far as fender installation goes. I was able to steal some from my MTB water bottle mounts. Uglier (they are ancient and filthy panheads) but they work. The fenders were giving me a bit of trouble to install perfectly, but I was expecting it to be a challenge. The main issue is with the eyelets which mount the stay to the fenders. Positioning them symmetrically is very challenging, and when they are not exactly positioned right, the entire fender is biased to one side or the other. Adjusting the stays in the R-clips is not the answer here. After a lot of fiddling over 2 days (3 sessions) I was able to get a decent line and no rubbing. Not perfect, but close. I feel VO should include a couple spacers for where the fenders mount to the fork crown and the seatpost stay. This $1 extra in hardware would go a long way to making the $55 fenders work out for everyone. They suggest using presta-valve locknuts, but not everyone has those laying around. I suppose they assume anyone installing fenders on their own has a stash of hardware, and they might be right, but again I think the minor touch of including "nice to have" hardware would make their product much more appealing. Raise the price $5 and include a couple extra bolts and spacers.

One key to getting the fenders put on was to slightly bend the washers which go inside the fender. It was very difficult to get enough thread through to put the nut onto until I "potato chipped" the washers a little bit with some pliers. You can see what I mean here:

The washer on the right was adjusted to follow the contour of the fender just a bit. This made a huge difference.

All of this is indeed disappointing, yet minor. I still cannot address the ride quality of the bike! Most of these items would have been hardly worth mentioning if the bike had been assembled at a bike shop with a spare hardware bin. It does, however, serve as anecdotal evidence to confirm some rumblings out there that VO has some issues regarding quality control and "fit and finish". For the relatively low price, I expect some compromises, but these issues seem like they could have easily been nipped in the bud with a little more quality control and packing efficiency (for example, there was no packing list or checklist).

To their credit, VO did reply rapidly. Understandably, they are closed now because of Hurricane Sandy, and I am not at all faulting them on a slow reply to my missing bolts and tape in the face of a natural disaster. That said, the way that they do address these issues is going to seriously effect how I feel about them as a company, and how I feel about the experience of mail-ordering a bike from them.

More soon (I hope) as I actually get the thing ready to ride!

Update: VO did reply and have sent out replacement hardware as well as reasonable explanations for the issues. I am feeling good about the purchase and love the bike. More here: http://kidhauler.blogspot.com/2012/10/velo-orange-campeur-happiness-sets-in.html


  1. Out of curiosity, whereabouts do you live on the coast that you'd be 90 mins by car from a bike shop?

  2. Hello adventure!

    I live in the Suislaw National Forest, on the Oregon coast, in a remote river valley. There technically are 2 bike shops within a 30 minute drive (Newport and Florence) but both are unpleasant and have very little inventory. I am told the Newport bike shop is kind to bike tourists, but they do not stock many parts (such as the seatpost binder bolt).

    I prefer to go to the shops in Corvallis or Eugene, either of which is about 90 minutes drive. Mailordering is generally faster that waiting for a chance to make it to these cities.

    1. Interesting. I've only heard good things about the store in Newport, so the unpleasantry comes as a surprise. (Don't know anything about the Florence one.) I'd assume that either would able to order stuff for you to beat the long drive, but if they're not nice to go in, I can see why you wouldn't bother.

      The Coast is pretty sparse when it comes to bike shops. The shop in Astoria (Bikes and Beyond) seems pretty good from the times I've gone in there. I know there's one in Tillamook, but it felt like a joke to me the last time I went in, when they didn't have a very common tube size in stock. (This being a shop that probably sees plenty of cyclotourists a year.) I don't think Lincoln City has a bike shop, but knowing how little love for bikes there is in that town, it doesn't surprise me.

  3. If your saddle is still bothering you take some balled up socks , soak them with some sort of oil and wedge them between the leather and rails then go cyclins in black shorts. It helped me when i was trying to get mine to ease up.