Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mixte Lovers, Rejoice: VO Prepares a Little Something

Some of you know that I have been considering a custom bike for next spring. It has been a somewhat tortured search, because of my pickiness when it comes to things like lugs and stylistic detail. Basically, I want the mixte to have the classic twin lateral stays (as opposed to a single top tube), and I want it to be fully lugged (which is nearly impossible to achieve nowadays, as mixte lugs are no longer made). To get the kind of bicycle I want, I basically had three choices : (1) to go with a builder who can hand-make the lugs, (2) to go with a builder who can alter lugs meant for diamond frames into mixte lugs, or (3) to find a builder who has a stash of NOS (new old stock) mixte lugs that they would be willing to use. All three choices are rather costly, and I am not sure whether I am in a position to commit those kinds of funds to the purchase of a bicycle. A more economical option like Rivendell was not possible, because although beautifully lugged, their mixtes are the type with the single top tube.

[image from Velo-Orange]

Enter Velo Orange, which announced in their recent blog entry the release of a fully lugged mixte with twin lateral stays. Thank you, Mr. Kulczycki! The photo above is a prototype frame.

[image from Velo-Orange]

Here is a close-up of the lugs. The projected price is $700 for the frame and fork (!), and the anticipated delivery date is January 2010. Three sizes will be available: 50cm, 54cm, and 57cm, making it accessible for both short and tall riders.

What I love about this frame:
. the lugs,
. the classic construction with the twin stays,
. the choice in sizing (54cm should be just perfect for me),
. the 700c wheels (larger than the wheels on the Betty Foy, which I found too small)
. and the excellent price.

What I don't love so much:
. the colour (if I order it, I would definitely get custom colour or have it repainted),
. the way the rear stays connect to the seat tube (I think this could be more elegantly done),
. and the fact that, like the Rivendell Betty Foy, it is made in the far East.

So what do you think? Regardless of whether I decide to go for this bike, I am very excited that this product has appeared on the market. Now, if only I can persuade VO to alter the rear stay connexions and change the production colour...

22 comments:

  1. I like the frame, not fussy about the colour at all though; and I love the colour blue..lol I may have to order one next year too because I cant find any mixte bikes for frames for that matter up here in Canada. Next years release also gives me time to save up money and find someone to do a custom colour job on it.

    I'm still learning all there is to know about bikes but I really love the look of the Mixte's

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  2. I saw this on their site the other day! Like you, I am not a fan of the color combination; it reminds me of my college sports team colors and seems too modern or sporty for a fully-lugged, classic frame. Otherwise, I like it very much. I'm curious to know whether you considered just buying a vintage frame and building it up? Or did you want something new since you already have a vintage mixte?

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  3. There are so many incredible bike builders in Boston, if I were you I'd hold out.

    If you want to see beautiful lugwork, check out the Peter Mooney hanging above the counter at Ace Wheelworks.

    It just seems like you're not getting enough of your criteria met in this frameset. Maybe custom re-paint a vintage mixte with nice lugs?

    I'm a sucker for elaborate lugs, they have some just sitting in the case at Belmont Wheelworks and they look like jewelry. I'll post some pictures of the lugs on my road bike, you'll appreciate them...

    All that said, for someone who likes the color the VO mixte is a lovely bicycle!

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  4. That's a gorgeous frame at a fabulous price! When I was searching for a mixte before I bought my Rivendell, I contacted VO about their custom mixte but the frame was priced at over $2000. It's great to hear that they cooked up something new.

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  5. That is great that there is a fram that just might suit. I love blue, but that is a bit of a preschool primary blue in that photo.I didn't know that lugged mixtes were not common to find with the two top tubes.

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  6. I think the seat tube/top stays lug looks about as nice as you're going to find without paying a frame builder to specially design a lug for you. Personally, I think that lug looks pretty nice. And the cost of a paint job is certainly doable with that price. Take all that money you'll save and invest it in even nicer components.

    Just now following your link I realized Velo Orange is in my back yard. I had no idea. Which I guess means that I would have to pay taxes if I ever ordered from him. Man, it would be nice if he had a walk in shop.

    -dukiebiddle

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  7. It's great that someone is still making mixte frames as they are attractive, strong and elegant. Mixte frames rock! $700 seems a lot for a frame made in Taiwan - however as it's fully lugged hopefully the quality is there. A fine frame but yes, shame about the colour.

    What gears are you going to put on it if you go ahead? Hubs or Derailleurs?

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  8. Mr. Mooney's frames are works of industrial art, but this frame brings the goods to the table for a small fraction of a cost. Colour must be changed, and so must the seat stay connection points. Otherwise it appears suberb. I'd like to see more pictures. It's not as intricate as a Mooney frame, but how could one hold a $700 frame to the standards of a $3700-4000 frame made one-at-a-time to order?

    If someone said "Here's $5000, and you must spend it on bicycles," I'd get a Mooney diamond frame and the works.

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  9. Charlotte - I agree with you about Boston. Peter Mooney is my dream choice for a mixte if money were not an object; there is an amazing peach-coloured roadbike hanging in Belmont Wheelworks that made me fall in love with his work. I have spoken to him and gotten a price quote, but am not sure whether I am able to act on it. Another option could be Royal H. Cycles, which is moving into the space above Open Bicycle and might be able to make a lugged mixte.

    Trisha - I considered stripping, repainting and building up my vintage Motobecane, which is one reason I bought it. The problem, is that most vintage mixtes are not really "high end" enough (meaning the tubing and the lugs) to make it worth it, unless you work in a bike shop or have bike shop connections that would get you free labor and discount prices on components. I could hunt for a top quality vintage mixte with CroMoly tubing and Nervex lugs, but that could take forever and could cost as much as a new handbuilt frame. I am still keeping my eye out though. It would be fabulous to find a high end Motobecane or early Rene Herse mixte frame.

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  10. > MDI said...
    >
    > If someone said "Here's $5000,
    > and you must spend it on bicycles," ...


    LOL. Don't you wish! Yes, if that happened to me, I would be running to Belmont with a wad of cash for Mr. Mooney.

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  11. Charlotte - I agree with you. After having searched a long time, I settled on a Motobecane mixte for my wife, and immediately after, I started seeing equally priced yet MINT mixtes all over the place. I'd drop a couple hundred on one of those, spend another hundred on powder coating, and you'll get something truly gorgeous and well-made!

    Here are some other new non-lugged mixtes:
    Trek belleville

    Soma Fab Buena Vista

    @dukiebiddle - Velo Orange does have a small showroom open. No idea what they sell in there...

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  12. Well, it is true that the prices aren't comparable, it just seems like the $700 + stripping + custom paint and you're starting to wonder if this is really a good idea.

    I wonder if VO would sell you an unpainted frame?

    I look forward to when Royal H get the website up, it will be interesting to see their work - I hear it's unusual.

    As far as taking forever, isn't the hunt part of the fun? It's not like you don't already have three lovely bicycles to tide you over... ;)

    Enjoy the process!

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  13. it's funny - i normally wouldn't go for a color like this at all, but i actually think it works really well on this frame & in conjuction with the VO logo. i totally agree with you about the rear stays/seat tube connection though...just curious, are you looking for a new/custom mixte because of shortcomings with your vintage one or is it unrelated?

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  14. Since you posted this I've been really sniffing out the Velo Orange page for myself. I'm not 100% certain, but that might not be the intended production color. All the prototype frames are that color. Their VO Polyvalent coming soon prototype is shown in the identical color, but as the bike release is scheduled for late October, they point out that it will be dark gray and not blue.

    JPTwins, thanks. I noticed that, although since it's actually a 60 mile round trip ride, I'd probably be doing mail order anyway, if I was to buy anything from them. That's a little too far for me to consider strapping a frame/wheels/etc. to my back. I do make that trip a couple times a year, I might stop by some day just to noodle around.

    -dukiebiddle

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  15. Trisha - You put your finger on what bothers me about the colour: You are right that it is too modern. It evokes athletic teams and utilitarian objects, not an elegant lugged mixte.

    JPTwins - Where oh where can I get a quality powdercoat paintjob for $100?... As far as I can tell, that's at least a $300 expense.

    Charlotte - Those are my thoughts exactly. Changing the colour alone would bring the frame price to over $1000. As it is, the rear stays connection is the real dealbreaker for me though. If this is changed for the next prototype, I will inquire about custom paint or the possibility of an unpainted frame.

    Carinthia - If I get a frame custom made from scratch, I am considering a 7-speed Shimano hub. For something that is pre-made, I will go with what the builder recommends. I don't think the $700 frame price is too high - keep in mid that these are handbuilt, not produced on an assembly line like store-bought bicycles.

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  16. dukiebiddle - That is what I was hoping for (that the colour is just for the prototype), but the owner of VO stated in one of the comments on his blog entry that he likes the blue and it will probably be the production colour.

    genevieve - Good question about why I want this. I love my Motobecane mixte, but have trouble using the vintage components on her: the brakes, the brake levers, the gear shifter, etc. I am now having the brake levers replaced with modern ones, but ideally I would replace it all... which brings back the issue I mentioned earlier of this being not "worth it" given the quality of the tubing and lugs on run of the mill vintage mixtes. If I am going to strip it, powdercoat it in my favourite colour combination and fit it with quality modern components, in the end that will cost over $1.5K. Is it worth it to do that to a frame that is not even CroMoly? Most would say no...

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  17. Filligree - with regards to upgrading your Motobecane, I've recently upgraded a couple of mixtes for friends & family. The recipe I followed for both , while admittedly heavy on the do-it-yourself* side of things, was as follows:

    Drivetrain was upgraded to Shimano 6-speed with index shifting. 6 speed freewheels are still relatively easy to find at bike shops and not expensive at all. 6 speed indexed shifters ($5 for four of them!) and a couple of rear derailleurs came from the local bike co-op. I went with 6-speed because it works easily with the rear spacing on older frames.

    For brakes I used Dia-Compe center pulls, again from the co-op. Which model they are I don't know exactly, but they're the ones with red bushings under the pivots. I'm always on the lookout for these brakes as they seem to the best vintage brake I've found so far. With new pads & levers and they work very well.

    No they're not high end parts, but the improvement over the stock parts was significant.

    *I don't know how hands on you are with bike mechanics, but I though I'd share this info anyhoo - hope it helps a bit.

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  18. Thanks Mr. Cranky! My husband is pretty handy and we've been gradually doing more and more work on the bicycles ourselves - by "we" meaning him doing it and me helping/holding/handing him things.

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  19. Dave Hartranft used to build frames. He might still do this and be willing to do it for you. His rates were amazingly reasonable for all kinds of custom work. Many years ago, I had him paint a frame for me. He helped me save money by doing the stripping myself, in his shop! He tutored me as I did it.

    Another alternative you didn't mention is building the frame yourself. A month or two ago, I read a blog by a woman in Australia who brazed her own racing frame. It's not rocket science, though it does take practice.

    Tom Reingold
    Maplewood, NJ

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  20. If you're not seen them before - the ebisu all-rounder mixte is a gorgeous frame. It's made in japan and has the right balance.

    http://www.jitensha.com/eng/ebisumixte_e.html

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  21. in response to filigree's question about a quality powdercoating job, long beach custom fabrication in plymouth, MA does beautiful powdercoating, and their price is $96 for a frame and fork. this includes chemical stripping, media blasting, and masking of any regions to be kept original (such as chromed stays). they do chrage extra if they have to dismantle any hardware from your frame.

    i haven't used them personally, but i'm entrusting them to powdercoat two expensive vintage frames for me this october, based on the gorgeous work they did for an area cycling buddy of mine.

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  22. skvidal - I like Jitensha Studios very much, but their mixte is the type with a single top tube that branches into two stays after the seat tube, whereas I was looking for the kind with twin lateral stays. Yes, I said "was"...

    somervillain - Wow, thank you so much for that info. The price is certainly right, I will check it out.

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