Dirt Trail “Camargue” Bike
September 8, 2013 – Next Winter’s Project Bike
Velo Orange is working on a new bike design that should be a big hit. Their “Camargue” frame is a traditional steel touring frame modified to accept up to 2.3 x 29 inch tires on 700c wheels. It is exactly what I’ve been looking for to pedal the long unpaved rail trails in New Hampshire, Maine, and along the Erie Canal in upstate New York.The pea green paint is pretty bland, and their orange sample is worse. Here’s hoping they get bold with something in an elegant steel blue or deep carmine. The green might not be as insipid if outfitted entirely with black components. I’ll be first in line for a 62cm frame, in any color.
Chris Kulczycki, the boss at VO, built his personal bike with an Alfine 8-speed hub. I hope my suggestion led him to try it.
I was planning to sell my Soma June Bug bar, but will keep it now to use on this bike. I also have another Wippermann Connex chain and a new Race Face Evolve crankset on hand. I’ll use the new VO Zeste cantilever brakes that I bought for my Cross-check on this bike.
My Surly is loaded with VO components, so I guess it would be okay to put a Surly Nice rear rack on this VO frame.
Planet Bike Cascadia 29 fenders will keep the frame from getting blasted with grit. I’ll swap the heavy-duty bottle cages off my Surly.
Since this bike will be used almost exclusively off-pavement, I will gear it lower than my Surly. The Race Face crankset has a 32-tooth chainwheel which, with a 20-tooth cog on the Alfine hub, will provide a gear range of 25 to 75 inches. I rarely use a higher gear even on pavement.
The frames and wheel rims are promised for mid-winter delivery, along with black headsets and other parts, so this looks like next year’s project.
October 7, 2013 – Gathering Parts
This morning I scored a nearly new black Surly Nice rear rack on eBay for about 2/3 of the list price. And last week I found a black Soma seat post. Yesterday I swapped saddles on my Surly, so have a nice 175mm gel saddle for the future Camargue. By the time the frame arrives, I expect to have all the components on hand to build the bike I want.
I also picked up guidebooks to the Erie Canal trail and the other upstate New York canal paths. I’m thinking the best way to go, though, will be a van supported tour with other old timers led by Senior Cycling, Inc. (http://www.seniorcycling.com/tours/#176). Much depends on when the new frame is available.
January 10, 2014 – Still Waiting
I’m still waiting for the Jtek shifter, and VO now says the Camargue frames will not be ready until Spring, so I guess this won’t be a winter project after all. If VO’s new rims arrive sooner, I will at least build up wheels. In the meantime, I’ve decided not to do the senior tour of the Erie Canal this year, but will continue riding rail trails closer to home.
May 21, 2014 – Changed My Mind
Back in March I wrote that I was selling my house and downsizing my life, and therefore would be cancelling this bike project. Well, I sold the house but have not found a new place yet, so am staying with a daughter in the Boston area.
From her condo overlooking the Mystic River, I can bike about 25 miles on paths and trails without having to pedal on any roads other than crossings. Much of that trail network is unpaved, though, and would be perfect for a bike like the Camargue.
I emailed Velo Orange yesterday and asked about the status of the frames and the wide rims to fit them. Scott wrote back that both are expected around mid-June. He said the frames are at the paint shop being boxed for shipment, and the rims should be in the first or second containers due to arrive next month.
Fortunately, I didn’t sell any of the components I had collected for the new bike. Most of my belongings are stored in a mover’s warehouse, but I kept my bike tools and parts out – including my wheel building jig. I picked up a new 135mm Alfine 8-speed hub on eBay a day before I moved, so I’ll be ready to build the wheels as soon as the rims arrive.
June 13, 2014 – The Rims Are In
VO announced the arrival of their new 28mm Escapade rims today, so I immediately ordered a pair, along with another of their wonderfully smooth low-flange front hubs. This hub is only available with 32 hole drilling, but the rims are available with either 32 or 36. I will use 32 on front and 36 in the rear, the same as on my Surly. Now I just need to find my stash of spokes in the self-storage unit.
June 22, 2014 – Building Wheels
Velo Orange is a real class act. Their hubs are polished like jewels, and come packed in velvet ditty bags.
July 1, 2014 – The Frames Are In
VO now has the Camargue frames in stock ready for shipping. I’ll be ordering a 62-cm tomorrow, with headset installed and a set of their big Sabot platform pedals.
July 13, 2014 – A Pile of Parts
A big box of components arrived Friday from Universal Cycles. Tires, tubes, spokes, brake cable hanger, bar tape, and wide plastic fenders. VO sells beautiful metal fenders – I have a set on my Surly. They are strong and long-lasting. They also rattle, dent, and reflect sun in my eyes.
The Cascadia fenders also have breakaway struts that give way if debris gets caught between the fender and front wheel, so the rider doesn’t get thrown.
The new frame should arrive soon. I asked VO to delay shipping, as I was out of town most of last week and will be for the next few days. The whole build may be delayed too. I am in the process of buying a condo, and just started a new project for the Virgin Islands Port Authority, so am pretty busy for an old retired guy.
July 17, 2014 – The Horse is Here!
The Camargue frame arrived today and it is stunning. Nicely designed and beautifully finished. I may even learn to like the putrid green color. Maybe after it gets beat up a bit I’ll do a camo job on it.
Unfortunately, some key components – crankset, brakes, handlebars, and stem – are in a storage locker 60 miles away. I’ll bring them back next week and ask a local shop to install the crankset. In the meantime, I’ll get cracking on the wheels.
The steerer tube looks too long, but it’s only an inch longer than the tube on my Surly, and that’s a good thing. I won’t cut it until I’ve ridden this bike for a while, even if it means stacking spacers above the stem.
July 19, 2014 – Back to Building Wheels
After dinner tonight I sat down and laced the front wheel together. I started to build this wheel last month, but found the 303mm spokes that I had used on my other bikes were too long. It seems the VO Escapade rims are quite a bit deeper than the Sun rims.
If you are planning to build a wheel using the VO low-flange front hub and 32-hole Escapade rim, with a traditional cross-three pattern, the correct spoke length is 296mm.
Tomorrow I’ll dig out my trusty old truing stand and finish this wheel. I’ll hold off on the rear wheel until after I have a shop install the crank set, so I can mount the hub in frame for the tech to get the chain alignment.