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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