Interbike: The Velo Orange Campeur

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I was in love with vintage 80’s touring frames.  I owned a 1982 Miyata 1000, a 1984 Centurion Elite GT, a 1984 Trek 720, and a 1995 Trek 520.  A handful of capable sport-touring models also passed through my hands within a few years including two matching 1987 Trek 400 Elance bicycles, a Viscount that fit like a glove, a Motobecane Super Mirage and $10 Miyata 210.  I learned a lot from my years of tinkering, buying and selling bikes.  The 59cm Viscount fit better than any other bike I’d ridden, and the replacement steel Tange fork rode like a dream.  The top tube on the 720 was too long for Lael to ride comfortably with drop bars, although in retrospect she has never ridden comfortably on drops.  The ride of the 720 was exquisite.  The Centurion was capable but heavy, despite a refined exterior.  The pair of Trek 400 frames rode very nicely, and came at a fair price.  One became a singlespeed and the other, a touring bike.  The Miyata 1000 was a beautiful bike with a utilitarian simplicity, but the drive-side dropout cracked on an outing to Seattle a week before my first bike trip.  Luckily, I had the Trek 520 in waiting and swapped parts to my liking.  The Trek served me well over my first ten thousand miles on the road.  With a typical touring load, the Trek had a terrible shimmy at speed.   The solution was to carry less gear.  The Trek allowed a 38mm tire and a fender, and saw me through my first unpaved exploits on the C&O Canal and through the Lost Coast of California.  Although I advocate the use of old ATB’s as touring bikes and currently ride a clownish purple Pugsley, I love classic touring bikes.  If only I could blend my passion for classic steel bikes and big tires, I’d be a happy camper.

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Velo Orange released their new Campeur frame this past week at Interbike.  The features read like any touring bike– three bottle mounts, 46cm chain stays, cantilever brakes, rack and fender mounts everywhere– but the exterior is a cut above.  The Campeur accents its svelte stature and fine lines with metallic-flake grey paint, white decals, and a metal head badge.  A custom camping-themed design by cartoonist Dan Price adorns the top tube.  Chris Kulczycki, the owner of VO, reckons that after a year and a half of design, development and prototyping, they’ve gotten it just right.  For example, the curve of the fork blades required several efforts before the frame manufacturer was able to produce a consistent low-radius curve, as opposed to the common dog-leg style bends on many forks.  As well, the bike was tested with front loads and rear loads, as well as full loads and no loads to verify that the handling felt neutral in most cases.  While other VO frames are noted for their French classic low-trail geometry, the Campeur features a more moderate front end design, although it’s described as favoring the “low-trail” end of moderate.  Low-trail frames are ideal for front loads, although the Campeur is designed for multiple load configurations.

For most roads, the frame fits a 38mm tire and a fender.  Above, a 35mm Clement X’Plor USH tire fits comfortably under an aluminum VO fender.  Without a fender, a 42mm tire such as a Michelin Transworld Sprint will fit the frame, shown below.  The two larger frame sizes (59, 61cm) allow a 45mm tire such as a Panaracer FireCross, although it’s a tight fit.  A Bruce Gordon Rock’n’Road tire (700x43mm) would work nicely to extend the range of this bike in mountainous country.

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Some exquisite new stainless steel camping racks will soon arrive to complement the Campeur.  Personally, I’d fit a small Pass Hunter rack to the rear as a saddlebag support and simply strap a drybag to the handlebars.  While most touring bikes boast their ability to carry huge loads, the Campeur appears to share more with the refined tourers of the 80’s, such as the Trek 720 and the Specialized Expedition.  In fact, the Campeur’s paint is similar to that of the classic Expedition, and the fork bend is much like the 720 that rode so comfortably.  A steel fork with tapered blades and a classic bend can enhance the ride quality of a bike, dampening high-frequency vibrations from the road.   Like many vintage American and French touring bikes, Chris claims that the Campeur rides about as well unloaded as it does with camping gear.  That’s an advantage over some of the monster-truck touring bikes available today.  With a big tire and a small saddlebag this would be a fun dirt road bike!

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Velo Orange was also showing their 650b Polyvalent frame, designed as an urban or ex-urban transport bike.  Build it is a Porteur or a tourer, a boardwalk cruiser or a townie.

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To dress a Polyvalent or a Campeur, several new parts and accessories were shown. The Sabot platform pedals with sealed cartridge bearings and replaceable pins:

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Drillium chainrings:

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A prototype saddle with a removable leather top:

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The Plume Alaire chainguard:

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A range of handlebars:

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Hubs:

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Headsets and bottom brackets:

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And hand cut leather.

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Chris’ custom Pass Hunter frame featured a vintage ALPS handlebar bag.  Very nice.

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13 thoughts on “Interbike: The Velo Orange Campeur

  1. This one caught my eye and I’ll be really interested to hear some ride reports once it gets out in the wild. I’m kinda liking those pedals, too. Thanks for posting this.

    • Tracy, After riding a fatbike for a year, I’d be happy to get on a bike like this. If only it fit a slightly larger tire…I’m fat tire obsessed. The new platform pedals are much better than the previous models. The platform is much bigger, and they use nice bearings.

      nicholas

  2. Although it’s an entirely different sort of beast, this post had me missing the all around goodness of my recently departed (to my brother-in-law) 1988 Panasonic MC-4500 mountain bike. I guess what my acquisition of a copious fleet of bikes comes down to is chasing the mythical bike that can do anything. The answer, I suppose, is that just about any bike can do just about anything; it all depends on the rider.

    • That’s an inspiring thought, reminiscent of Chris Kostman’s “Any bike, Anywhere” philosophy.

      Although, the real answer is an old ATB such as the Panasonic, or my Stumpjumper of High Sierra. Those are reasonable bikes that can, reasonably, go anywhere.

  3. Yeah, this looks like a beaut. If only I needed another “camping” bike. (And wasn’t so damn broke!) And Nicholas, if you find any more $10 Miyata 210s out there, let me know.

    (Also, I think I smelled a subtle dis towards ye LHT in your post. Now I have to go downstairs and console my Surly.)

    • Good call. You have a sensitive filter for subtle LHT criticisms. In fact, after three years of loving her chameleonic LHT, Lael has moved beyond it in two ways. First, she demands a larger tire clearance, and perhaps the ability to run a suspension fork. More importantly, she doesn’t actually need a “touring” bike anymore, especially one as stout as the LHT. When carrying 20 lbs of equipment, it’s unnecessary to be riding a 35 lb bike. For now, she prefers the Hooligan for anything but real mountain biking. For that, she’s happy with the Raleigh XXIX.

      In general, the idea of a nice riding bike is appealing to me. The High Sierra was a nice riding bike.

      • I think my filter is getting “bigger” as the LHT dissing, subtle or not, gets mor frequent. ;-)
        I think a lot of it has to do with the person. I border around 200 lbs, and the Long Haul Trucker fits me fine. I’ve heard from people lighter than me that the LHT is “too much bike”, but I’ve never felt that way.

        Larger tire clearances are good, though I don’t know if I’d ever require a suspension fork.

        I’m also hearing some “subtle dissing” of your Pugsley. If I may ask, what are some of the things that are bothering you about it (and/or fat bikes in general?)

      • I recommend the LHT more than any other bike currently available. It’s a fine bike that will do things.

        Regarding fatbikes, or the Pugs in particular, I have a few complaints although none are devastating. Mostly, it’s a lot of bike for some of the riding I’ve done. But when I encounter rough stuff, I’m happy to have it. I’ve finally begun to understand the balance of tire pressure on rough, rocky terrain. At first, I was too scared of pinch flats and damaging my rims. By experimenting and going too soft, I have found the sweet spot. As well, when I sense a potential improvement, I get off the bike and adjust my tire pressures, much like adjusting suspension.

        As such, the suspension of fat tires is the worst reason to get a fatbike. Traction is supreme and flotation over soft surfaces is incomparable to a normal bike, so high marks on those two points. Suspension, however, is very crude. The problem is that the bike challenges new terrain, but much of that terrain will be rough and rocky, especially for the expanding non-winter fatbike scene. This is why suspension fatbikes are trickling into Interbike, all on prototypee status for now. It’s a slippery slope, but a fatbike with a suspension fork might really be a rideable, go anywhere bike. Of course, as the bike becomes more trail worthy it becomes less tolerable on the road.

        In the coming year I hope to move back toward a mixed terrain bike, something of an extension of my High Sierra. Bigger wheels and tires than before, but a nice riding bike for dirt roads and some trails. Inevitably, I will push the bike to do things a little out of its range, but I’ve always liked the idea of doing more with less. At times, the Pugs feels like doing less with more, and for that I am challenged by casual onlookers. “What do you need that for?” I rode to two hot springs yesterday, totaling 46 miles on pavement. That’s what I need it for.

        Of course, in the winter I would have wanted bigger rims and tires. It’s hard to ride one bike in so many situations, and impossible to always think you are on the right bike.

      • I think this is the problem with bikes in general. It’s not like a car, where most cars perform exactly the same thing: driving on paved roads. People use bikes for different reasons, in different conditions. And you are exerting yourself, too! That’s why so many bike-obsessive people like myself (and I’m assuming you, Nick) own more than one bike. And as one owns more bikes, it almost seems easier to get even more!

        The ability to “go anywhere” is something I look for. I love my LHT, and use it most as my “go anywhere” bike. (My old Raleigh three-speed is my primary “in the city” bike.) And Long Haul Truckers can go lots of places, but there still are limitations. I have used it for stretches of dirt/gravel, but I want to do more. With its current setup I’ve maxxed out my tire size at 37 mm wide, and I don’t want to rearrange the current setup. So if I want bigger tires, it means a different bike. Thankfully, I think I found the bike to do the trick.

      • I technically own several bikes, although I really only claim the Pugsley at this point. The two other bikes are on permanent loan and I don’t necessarily expect them back. They are both ATBs from 1985, which is also the year I was born. Funny how that happens.

        While the Pugs appear to be a monster, it’s a reasonably light rider and can do everything, like a Jeep or a Hummer on the highway. It’s my current solution to owning one bike, especially including an AK winter an lots of dirt. It’s also a commitment to riding off-pavement. Remember, even your LHT is another person’s Pugsley. I meet lots of old guys who think a touring bike has Campagnolo side pulls with room for a 28mm tire. In comparison, your 37mm tires are huge and the frame is a tractor.

        Btw, I think the 700c LHT fits a 45-47mm tire, but I guess 37mm is about the limit with fenders. Lael’s 26″ LHT fits a 2.1″ (51mm) tire and a fender.

      • Btw, I think the 700c LHT fits a 45-47mm tire, but I guess 37mm is about the limit with fenders.

        It’s less the fender, more the rack. I own a Jandd Extreme rack for the front, a “platform” rack. it’s a great rack, and has served me well for the past six years, and on two different bikes. But it was definitely designed in an earlier era, when 32mm was about as fat as anyone went on touring bikes. As such, with my current setup with Shwalbe Marathons 700x35C (more like 37 mm wide) there is verylittle clearance between front tire, fender, and rack platform. The fender is literally touching the rack platform, which is why I drilled a hole in rack and fender and bolted them together. To get a bigger tire, I would need to get a new front rack. And since the front rack is perfectly fine, I am loath to replace it with one with more clearance. Maybe someday…

        (Sorry for the wordy, detailed response.)

  4. I think your comment about the old Trek 720 ride being “exquisite” is interesting. It seems like there are still a lot of people out there who believe a diamond frame will not flex vertically and it doesn’t matter what material or what tubing diameter the frame is made of. They go on to claim that tires, and and maybe wheels, are what makes a difference in ride. I’ve ridden a few bikes over the years and I’m a bit amazed anyone can actually believe this is true, even the late Sheldon B was one of them. Here’s to light and lively riding bikes!!!

    • Gary, If I’m reading this right, you refer to the claim that the main portion of the frame (not the fork) is too stiff for any rider to feel, at least in the vertical plane? I do largely agree with the claim. It is the fork on the 720 in particular that was comfortable. The blades become quite thin near the bottom and make a nice smooth curvature. At times, I have been able to simply watch the fork moving over the undulating road.

      However, as all frames are stiff in the vertical plane, I still believe that a full carbon frame would be stiffer than steel, at least on a very small scale. There are others interesting discussions out there about lateral compliance and bottom bracket flex. Jan Heine claims that most energy is not lost in flexible chain stays and BB, but is saved in the frame for a moment, as a spring, and released in the opposing pedals stroke. He argues that a flexible frame may help to keep the wheels on the ground over road surfaces and pedaling forces, reducing the loss of traction under power. Intriguing stuff.

      Of course, tires are very important to both comfort and drive traction. As well, the needs of road bikers and mountain bikers is very different.

      The 1984 Trek 720 was constructed of Reynolds 531c tubing, which was .8/.5/.8, and .9/.6/.9 in the DT. The stays and forks are also 531, and the chain stay were quite long, around 47cm.

      Now that I have no use for conventionally overbuilt touring bikes, I am excited at the array of lively bikes which I can ride.

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