Never mind the bling, I’m a working bike

So I pull up to a stoplight, and there’s a rider on a $9 000 carbon road bike admiring his reflection in a shop window. He sees me pull up and does a double take but says nothing – just fixes his gaze forward. Whatever, I’m used to it.

My name is Jacques and I’m a Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier. I understand everyone’s confusion. My brothers and sisters and I all have the looks to be café poseurs – gumwall tires, cream paint, retro drop bars, polished stainless racks front and rear. But, my gumwalls are covered in road grime, my rear rack has a mixed luggage set of a laptop bag and an ancient serratus pannier full of office clothes. My front rack has a $10 Rona tool bag bungeed to it (this was added when Mike, my rider, realized I like to have my load balanced front to rear so tools, raingear, tubes and lock now ride up front).

See, while I have the looks, in fact, I’m a working bike. Sure, I’d like to go on epic rides through rolling green fields of Provence, Tuscany, or anyplace that is evocative of Provence or Tuscany. I’d like to climb the Alps, Rockies, or Green Mountains. But, for now, I cruise the mean streets and bike paths of the Toronto as a commuter.

Sorry of this seems immodest, but I’m pretty good at it. My frame and racks can carry the gear, my fenders keep rider and stuff clean when it rains. A compliant frame and big cushy tires soak up the cracked pavement. In many ways, I have more in common with the slick shod mountain bikes with whom I share the paths than the carbon road bikes and hipster fixies (note – nothing wrong with either, I’d share a garage with any bike). What I have over the mountain bikes is legs – I’m leaner, lower, smoother. While my heavier frame and tires means I can’t accelerate like those fancy road bikes, I give up little or nothing in terms of rolling resistance and aerodynamics. So, when there’s a clear path ahead, I can stretch out and pick up a gear or two.

Speaking of gears, one thing my rider did that hurt the show but helped with the go was to install a set of Microshift integrated shifter/levers. I know, not retro and the black hoods meant the crème bar tape had to go. But, dodging potholes, cars, pedestrians and slower bikes in the city, keeping hands on the bars while shifting matters. They work well and I overhead Mike telling another rider they shift almost as smoothly as the Ultegra STI levers he had on his old race bike.

Smooth matters. You can read about the theory that a more comfortable (bigger, less inflation pressure) tire saves the rider energy on bumpy surfaces. There is something to that. But, there’s also something psychological. Let’s face it, much as we hate to admit it, bikes make little difference – it is all about how much energy the rider can / chooses to expend. And, I’ve noticed that when things are smooth (tires inflated just right, clean chain, rolling along like some great flywheel), my rider puts in a little more effort. It is subtle, but, KM after KM, it adds up.

See, in addition to hauling the gear through frost heaved streets and distracted drivers, my job is to make it a joy to ride. The better it feels, the more my rider will make time to ride, the harder he will push, and the stronger he will get. Then, maybe, just maybe, he’ll take me on that vacation to Tuscany, or Provence, or someplace like that.

My name is Jacques. I’m a working bike, but I have dreams too.

My first weekend with a Velo Routier

I headed to Walla Walla, Washington in late April with my son. My son was competing in the Tour of Walla Walla Stage Race. This annual race presented by Allegro Cycle draws hundreds of riders from the U.S. Northwest and Canada. Walla Wall is located a few hours drive south west of Spokane. As one gets closer, the green rolling terrain appears to be stripped directly from a Microsoft Desktop Background.   After all of those years of staring at my PC, it now seems crazy not to think that the background was based on an actual location. All the towns in the Walla Walla area are wonderfully cared. The downtown Walla Walla core is alive with café’s, restaurants, boutiques as well as Whitman College. Apparently, there are over 100 vineyards in the surrounding area. Walla Walla like many US towns has big box stores that encircle the town. But, Walla Walla has not been hollowed out by their presence and have kept the downtown core vibrant.

I had never ridden a Velo Routier before this weekend or taken it out in public. It really seemed to be a conversation starter at the Tour stages and stand out in the crowd.  The Velo Routier always brought smiles to people’s faces. I received compliments across the spectrum. Even a few of the pro riders asked to check it out. The bike seems to have a timeless quality as folks would ask “Is it new?” and “Is it old?”. Watching the Time Trial (TT) start, the character and lines of the Velo Routier seemed juxtaposed against the robotic, heartless, singular tasked carbon TT bikes waiting in a line for their start times.

Riding the bike feels casual and comfortable. But don’t be fooled as this bike can get you smartly to your destination whether running errands or touring across secondary roads. It is a smooth ride on gravel, rough pavement and even the occasional bumpy field for a short cut.

My one complaint is that the bike always seemed to keep drawing me closer to any establishment that provided food and/or drink. Here are some great places to try if you are in the area:

  • Breakfast at the Maple Counter Cafe
  • French Macarons along with Assame Black Tea at the Walla Walla Bread Company
  • Paris-Brest Pastry at the Colville Street Patisserie. (Never before have my eyes closed and rolled into the back of my head on a first bite)
  • Dinner at the Whoopemup Hollow Café in Waitsburg, Washington

Safe Travels, Angus Cowan

IMG_20140419_082235IMG_20140420_095639IMG_20140420_162303IMG_20140420_164711On Campus @ Whitman College

 

 

Stonehog Velo Routier Build Review

Brian has posted a detailed review of his Velo Routier frame build on his Cycle Settle Stonehog blog. Here is a picture from his site to pique your interest.

 

Stonehog Velo Routier 1

Note the tasty Rene Herse crank and Acorn Boxy Rando front bag. And the green grass and open water in the background. On a more than slightly jealous note, here at the Toussaint world HQ we have been hunkered down to temperatures in the  -20 C to 30C range for the last 3 weeks and some side roads with ice ruts, I kid you not, a foot deep. But we are catching a break, it supposed to warm up to  a relatively balmy +6C today. Time for a pond hockey break!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Two Wheel Thursdays 6:00PM Thursday Sept. 26

Your friendly Toussaint team Jason and Evan will be at Two Wheel Thursdays with Rogue Clothier and Cycle Company who has teamed up with Commonwealth Bar & Stage to bring you an awesome opportunity to meet your fellow urban cyclists.

Two Wheel Thursdays. Stop by Rogue 735 10 Avenue SW, Calgary at 6:00pm, where we will be heading out for a 0:45-1:00h urban bike ride, then heading next door to Commonwealth at 7:00. That have set us up with free entry, $4 PBR and $4 Hi-balls for anyone who went on the bike ride!

Come out, ride bikes, drink beer, and get awesome!

https://www.facebook.com/events/436624346446849

We will have some Toussaint demo bikes on hand to borrow, “san vin” …

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

Guest Blog | Velo Routier Review

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier Bob Review

I spied Cycles Toussaint on CycleExif http://www.cycleexif.com/cycles-Toussaint and it very much intrigued me as I have been looking for a 650b purpose built bike to try after reading, reviewing and researching 650b bikes on bike forums, at the North American Handmade bike show (which I went to in Portland and Sacramento) and the Oregon Handmade Bike show which I attended twice. I was only considering steel as I much prefer the supple and comfortable ride as well as the “traditional” look of small tubed steel. I also cannot afford a $5000-7000 650b bike though I have constantly growing appreciation for such a fine steed. After reading about Cycles Toussaint’s Velo Routier, I was further interested though not having seen one or ridden one I had to give it serious thought. I contacted Evan who politely and kindly informed me about Toussaint and the Velo Routier concept as well as his experience with his personal Velo Routier which he has ridden on some longish multi-day rides (100 – 200 km/day) with and without the front rando bag loaded. I informed him I wanted a bike for quick overnight dashes to camp as well as rides of 40-80 miles. I wanted to be able to ride dirt and gravel roads which are plentiful in the area I live and have the great fun exploring these roads and areas.

I was more than pleasantly surprised upon receiving the bike. It had been packed with care and not a dimple in the shipping box despite travelling 1000 miles to me though it would have been nice to see bubble wrap or recyclable “styrofoam” pellets to cushion the bike in the box as their site distinctly implies. Their bikes are a complete bike; designed in constructeur style and complete with complete fender set in hammered aluminum with aluminum struts and leather washers, a stainless front mini-rack designed to affix a nice size rando bag and a good size stainless rear rack to affix panniers and/or rear rack bag atop the rack. The bike is not a heavy duty touring bike nor is it designed to be but rather more of a randonneur or brevet bike. The Routier went together well though I did substitute a Sachs “New Success” front derailleur because it has more compatibility with the very nice cranks which look very much like T.A. cranks and share same 50. 4 bcd thus ensuring an almost infinite range of gearing. The 46-30T compact crank and 10 speed cog set seem to be a good choice for the hilly and rolling terrain that I had ridden the bike on thus far.

I have had 8 one to three hours rides on the bike so far. I took the bike on a quick overnighter which was only 38miles each way and affixed an Ostrich f-106 bag to the front and a copy of a Carradice saddle bag to the loops on the stock leather Gyres saddle which is a saddle similar to a Brooks Swallow saddle which is still breaking in, obviously. The bike comes complete with racks attached, rear fender attached and included a full size pump (yay, no mini pump:-P) which fits very snugly on the non-drive side seat stay which has 2 pump hooks brazed on. Also included were 2 nice quality bottle cages and a bell to go on the stem. It was interesting to see Dia Compe centre pulls; they modulate and stop well and look great as their finish matches the hammered and polished alloy fenders. The racks and fenders have no rattles despite the bike bouncing along on the aforementioned gravel and dirt roads. It’s a great choice and an interesting one that the bike comes with the nice Pacenti Pari-Motos as they are an expensive tire and to have them come on any bike less than 3-4 thousand is yet another hint of this bike’s well thought out design. Too many bike companies try to scrimp on items and components to save on costs such as bottom brackets, headsets, hub bearings and aforementioned tires; Toussaint did not do this as the bike came with a needle bearing headset (to possibly prevent any front end shimmy which sometimes happens with low trail bikes) and a sealed cartridge bottom bracket which seemed to be on par with an ultegra level unit. It is nice to see alloy cups on the bottom bracket rather than silly plastic ones.

The fit of the 57cm bike seems ideal for me with the supplied 120cm stem and I find the bike very comfortable to ride over varied terrain. The bike is quick to spin up (likely due to 650b wheel size and the light, lively and supple 300gram Pari-Moto tires) and cracks and ripples in tarmac are hardly felt. I am experimenting with tire pressure to see what works best on the different road surfaces and the load carried on the bike. The finish of the frame and evenly applied decals gives the overall package a classy yet elegant look though I wish a head badge were on the bike. Any questions I have had about the bike were quickly answered by Evan.

Cycles Toussaint is a very new company (started in spring 2012) and clearly the designers of the bike and its components and overall package and aesthetic have been given great thought and the down tube shifters are not just a nod towards traditional constructeur type bikes but they shift swiftly and with accuracy. There is no other company that offers the value, finish, degree of detail and design and ride of a 650b randonneur or brevet style of bicycle that cycles Toussaint delivers! This is their first offering and I would strongly recommend any cyclist to seriously consider Toussaints components or bicycles if seeking this style of machine! I would not hesitate to purchase another bike or parts from cycles Toussaint! The price of approximately $1700-1800 for the complete bike is truly an unheard of value.
Bob Chung
P.T. Cyclery
Port Townshead, WA
http://www.ptcyclery.com