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
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.
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!
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.
Port Townshead, WA
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!
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.
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.
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.