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.


  1. Nice to hear of Velo Orange's response to the paint damage etc. I look forward to hear how you get on with the bike. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I am excited to hear that the bike is lighter than you expected, and that it rides well. I am looking forward to building up a Campeur frame soon, from new and used parts. Since I am living in NM for the winter, I will forgo fenders and fit a larger tire (40-45mm), which should make a fast dirt road tourer and a comfortable commuter.

    Please continue the discussion of your new Campeur as you find time to ride it, as you are currently the only one on the internet to have ridden one! I landed here after regrettably reading the entire BikeForums thread on headset preferences, disguised as a discussion of the new VO frame. That is why I do not participate in forum activity.


    1. While there are plenty of ridiculous discussions on Bike Forums, I think that one is most possibly the most ridiculous one I've seen recently. Thought I warned you not to look! ;-)

  3. I was also pretty disappointed in the forum discussion. I've been trying to connect with other Campeur users but indeed there are not many (any?).

    I will continue to post my experiences with it, but still so far so good!

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Could you comment on quality vs the Surlys you looked at: I.e. welds, paint, tubing size, fork crown, overall? I'm futzing between an LHT, Sam Hillborne,a d the Campeur. Like you prefer the traditional look and sizing.

  5. The quality (superficially - I am not conducting stress tests) is very similar to the Surlys. I feel this bike is more similar to the Crosscheck than to the LHT, although it has a lower BB and slightly longer rear stays. I initially wanted a LHT but they just did not fit me, I guess I was between sizes. Hence my gravitation towards the Crosscheck.

    The welds on this bike are fine, not amazing, but what I would expect for the price. The fork crown is quite handsome. The paint, as mentioned had some damage in transit, VO claims to be improving their shipping procedure as a result and they gave me a prompt and generous credit for my troubles.

    The paint is overall more attractive (to me) than the Surly colors. It is a mild metallic flake charcoal, with an almost purple hint. It will look good old and dirty. It reminds me a lot of my old 1985 Fuji Sagres.

    The ride is more comfortable than the Crosscheck I was considering, but that could be due to the wider tires, or other factors. Handling feels better, too, but I am testing on different roads so it is not purely fair to say. The CC felt twitchier, but not necessarily more nimble. I was also not able to get the test CC dialed in for total comfort, the cranks felt too long. I am hesitant to believe this is solely due to the Campeur having 165s and the CC having 170s, but maybe that is it. I am not a bike fit expert, I just know what feels good for myself.

    I would prefer this bike to have a tiny bit more standover height but the effective top tube length and overall fit is about as good as I have found. This is one reason I would never suggest buying a bike without testing it personally, but I looked closely at the geometry charts, compared to the Surlys (which I had ridden a couple times in various sizes and models) and went for it.

    I am tentatively pleased with the component choices, I bought the "complete" bike. I am not sure about the handlebars yet; they might be too large for me or I might just need to get used to their very open drops.

    There would be no contest between this and a Sam Hillborne, at least as far as finish and appearance go, but the price is a factor for me.

    If I had the budget for a Riv, I might also look at the Ebisu all-arounder, the Box Dog Pelican, and the Rawland frames (though I am not sure they come small enough for me).

    For me, this bike squeezed into my budget and came as a triple (which the LHT does but not the Crosscheck), with no modification. I did add a dynohub wheel and will add racks, but all in all it is pretty close to the Surly CC with the saddle, handlebars, and triple conversion I was planning.

    The largest criticisms of this bike (from those who have not ridden it) are that it has a threaded headset and that it lacks 650b wheels. I do experience some toe overlap with it and would have preferred 650b wheels if they were an option for my frame size, but the Surly was also only available in 700c. As to the threaded headset, that is what I have grown up with on several bikes and have not had any issues which couldn't be fixed, and I enjoy the ease of adjustment. I have two 20+ year old bikes with threaded headsets and with proper care they are still going strong. I also don't mind friction shifting. This is definitely not the bike for anyone who demands the newest technology. I have likened it to being able to buy a factory-new vintage VW van... No, it would not be all that fast and wouldn't have airbags, but almost any VW fan would be standing in line in the rain for such a thing. For those wanting a vintage steel riding experience but either lack the inclination to rebuild an old bike, or have a great deal of trouble finding a frame in their size (like my 51cm here), I think this is a good option.

    A Surly will be simpler to find aftermarket parts for, might be "better" in some regards depending on your metric, and is certainly a reliable, well-known platform.

  6. I should mention that the real test will come when this bike is used as intended... with a bit of a load! I am awaiting racks and will update as soon as I have experienced how the bike rides under load. However, my main concern was not that, but rather if it would feel sluggish when not loaded (like the LHT can). I can say that it does not, which is great!

  7. Thanks for your detailed assessment!

    1. Agreed.

      I think the Campeur looks like a nice bike. I do find it a bit odd that they didn't go with 650B, being VO, but 700C is definitely a much more practical wheel size in real-world touring (26" would be even more practical, but that's neither here nor there.) Would love to give one a shot, but as I've happily owned a Long Haul Trucker for almost five years, I'm in no hurry. (And interestingly enough, I bought the LHT without testing it. Yeeps! Thankfully all is well.)

  8. I am about to pull the trigger on a Campeur and am very excited. I have called VO a few times and found that their staff is not only knowledgeable about their bikes, but very excited about them! I asked the rep if he had ever fully loaded up a Campeur and took it on tour and he told me great stories that were clearly his own. Great staff, great enthusiasm about their products. As a fully loaded tourist, I am excited to get mine. Merry Christmas to all of you!