Guest Post | Another Velo Routier Review

Jim's  60cm Velo Routier Build  Vancouver BC - 2

My journey to the Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier started with an impulsive act in October 2011. During Bike to Work Week Vancouver I ended up at an information session for The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Somehow I said to myself “I can do that” and signed up.
What was I thinking! I was moved by the stories I heard but up until then my idea of “cycling” meant going out on a sunny afternoon and tearing around town for a couple of hours. I spent the following winter living in terror that I wouldn’t raise enough money or get in good enough shape to complete the 120km/day, two day ride, embarrassing myself before all the people I hit on for donations. I rode religiously, read books on training and by December realized the vintage Italian race bikes I was riding were not the right type of bike for this ride.

Consequently I picked up a modern sport touring frame (Soma ES) and set it up with a triple crank with lots of low gearing, fenders and big fat 28mm tires. The day of the ride came and I had a ball. Lots of riders on fancy carbon bikes with skinny tires passed me but eventually I passed many of them on the side of the road fixing flats. It also rained for most of the first day and a half so I was grateful for the fenders. This led to more 120+km rides over the summer and a newly discovered love of distance cycling but also to an increasing feeling that this bike was just too much “touring” and not enough “sport”.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer terminated in Seattle and the following day I had visited Elliott Bay Cycles near Pike Market. The place is a museum of vintage bikes and in the store was this slightly odd looking custom bike with a $7,000 price tag. Bob Freeman, the owner explained “that’s a 650B wheeled bike, they have quite a following here in the Northwest”. This sparked my curiosity and I started researching what these bikes were about. From what I could find out, they offer the smoothness and comfort of a wider tire with less mass and greater speed than 700c wheeled bikes.

Well I’m not in the league to pony up $7,000 on a type of bike I’ve never ridden but I also discovered lots of people were taking regular frames and converting them to 650B wheels. As a result I spent the winter repainting a frame and building my own 650B conversion.
My goal was to get the bike completed in time for the Tour de Victoria where I was signed up for the 100km leg. I built the wheels and installed Dai Compe 750 center pull brakes. The long-reach brakes were necessary to reach the braking surfaces on the smaller 650B rims. Three hundred kilometers of test riding in flat, dry Delta where I live gave me the false impression I was ready.

The day of the ride dawned cold and damp and I knew the moment I rode up to the start line that my brakes were not handling the wet that well. No problem I said to myself, “I would take it easy, this is a ride not a race.” The first challenge was a long, steep climb up Munn Road. On the way to the top it began to rain in earnest. I reached the top OK but was not expecting the steep and narrow descent that followed. Within 200 meters I was fighting to control the bike and picking up speed. A third of the way down at about 50km per hour my wheels locked up throwing me to the ground. The next thing I knew I was looking at the sky trying to breathe. Medical support arrived quickly and I was transported to hospital where I spent a week with a broken collar bone, broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

Lying around rehabbing gives you lots of time to think and I was already planning a safer 650B bike. I had checked out the Velo Routier the winter before and decided I liked the fact it was a Canadian company but most of all I liked the braze-on brake mounts. I had never cared for cantilever brakes and thought they looked out of place on a road bike. I ordered the bike and it was delivered within a week. During that week I picked up a new Ultegra 10 speed compact group on Craigslist and ordered online a set of matching hubs, Dura Ace 10-speed bar end shifters and Cane Creek SCR-5 Brake Levers. Most of the rest of the components would move over from the conversion. These included a Nitto Technomic 80mm Quill Stem and Nitto Rando Bars, Velocity Synergy Rims with an OC rear, Velo Orange Hammered Fenders, Brooks Pro Saddle and Soma Crane Brass Bell. Most ironic is the fact that the same brake calipers that landed me in the hospital, minus their wobbly center pieces, bolted straight onto the braze-ons on the Velo Routier. Finding nice, “look alike” 6mm chrome hex bolts to attach the calipers led me to an online motorcycle supply outfit in North Carolina, Scootworks.com (great service, inexpensive and fast shipping!).
When the frame arrived I excitedly set about rust proofing it but when I assembled the headset I discovered that I had been sent a mis-matched frame and fork. The frame was 60cm and the fork for a 57cm bike. An email to Evan at Cycles Toussaint quickly remedied the situation and within a week I received a fork for the 60cm frame and a 57cm frame. This was a blessing in disguise as I had agonized over what size to order. I normally ride a bigger frame than my height might suggest but I was just not sure about a frame with low trail geometry. I built out the 60cm frame first and it turned out to be just right for me. The second frame will be sold off for charity.

The build was remarkably easy! The fenders which had been a real chore fitting to the non-650B frame went on to the Velo Routier like soft butter on hot toast. The matching rack from Velo Routier is a very attractive addition and went on like it was made for the frame (it was). The only unexpected issues were the stack height for the headset was a bit long even after adding a center-pull quick release hanger and the brake set I had chosen did not allow for releasing the rear brakes to clear the wider tires. The stack height was remedied by a quick visit to my LBS for an additional headset spacer and the rear brake clearance corrected by a couple of inexpensive Jagwire in-line adjusters.

As I am still rehabbing from my crash I have only had a couple of short runs to date but the ride is dreamy and fast. The brake power and modulation is excellent. I’m running 38mm Panaracer Col de la Vie 650B tires which are comfy and quick but would love to see how the bike handles with a set of Grand Bois Hetres. I am a born-again convert to 650B bikes and recommend them to anyone but if you are thinking of building a conversion, I say be very careful!

Jim Sutton
Tsawwassen British Columbia Canada

Customer Builds

It’s been a busy summer and I am finally getting  around to posting some pictures of some customer builds.

I like to call this one the “Speedster”. A 54cm Velo Routier with Nitto moustache bars and white Soyo NJS grips and no racks. The owner agonized whether to leave fenders off, I’m glad he left them on. DSC_0114DSC_0115

This Velo Routier build was for a 6’5″ customer for commuting. It was a bit a rush job as he wanted to get most of the short Canadian summer but I managed to locate a supply of steel mustache bars for him ( I have 2 left) as he is solid 240 lbs and want a stiffer set of bars. We installed microSHIFT 10 speed bar ends BS-T10 shifters for him and some large pedals for size 13 feet.

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier 650B Commuter Bicycle 1

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier 650B Commuter Bicycle 60cm 2

My Personal Velo Routier Build

Evan_VR_9 - Copy

I finally managed to build up a Velo Routier up for myself. I wanted a bike ready for commuting and multi-day unsupported rides. No camping for me, but I need the capacity to carry clothing, and gear for any combination of snow, hail or torrential rain and temperatures that range from -10C to +30 C which are all possible on the same day out here in Alberta where we live and ride!

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I went to my parts bin and put together a mix of classic and modern. I stuck with our stock wheeset (Jetline rims, SS 15g spokes and Access seal hubs) but went with a bit heavier rubber with Grand Bois Herte tires and with our ultralite Maxxis inner tubes. Other stock parts inclulded a Luxe crankset (46T-30T), Kalloy seat post and my nicely broken-in Gryes leather saddle which I moved off of our prototype 2 bike.

Evan_VR_5 - Copy 

I decided to have a little fun with the drive train with a Huret Jubilee long-cage rear derailleur, Mavic front derailleur and Simplex Retro-friction shifters. I mounted the shifters in a nod the 1970’s weight weenies, front shifter on the downtube and rear shifter on a Dia-Comple bar-end pod – saves a few grams on a shorter cable run and one less barend shifter pod :-). I used a SRAM 8-speed chain and cassette which worked great with the old Huret and Mavic derailleurs and have the benefit of being available in small town shops in the case of a repair.

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Stopping is supplied by Mavic Raid brakes. Greater fender clearance and cool factor aside, they are noticeably more flexible than the Dia-compe 750. While I want to match the Raid brakes with classic Mafac half-hood levers, I stuck with the Dia-Compe DC204QC brake levers as I have not been able find a pair with hoods in decent condition. To think those levers were as common and unloved as dandelions when I was a kid!

I mounted the front and rear rack in traditional constructeur fashion to the top of the fenders with bolts and leather washers. A Velo-Orange decaleur mounted to a Stronglight A9 needle-bearing headset with TTT handlebars/stem and shellaced Tressostar cloth tape. I have no idea how anyone wraps a set of bars with 2 rolls Tressorstar, I always end up using 3 rolls.

I’ll be riding it my annual Rocky Mountain 4-day extended weekend tour starting this Saturday. This year is the our easy route with four 100 km days, two of which are pretty flat and two day that end at the Radium Hot springs. June is the wettest month of the year on the eastern slopes but traffic is light as the tour buses and RV’s are not out in full force yet.