Building a Bicycle…(part one)

…is not cheap. I mean really, bicycles in general are not cheap. A decent entry level racing bicycle is $1,000 and up (I won’t comment on mountain bikes, as I know nothing about them). Some businesses have a model that can offer a lot of bicycle at an inexpensive price point, but as with nearly everything, you get what you pay for. BikesDirect is an online bicycle retailer that sells frames and complete bicycles manufactured in China or Taiwan. Some may scoff at riding something made in China or Taiwan, but most frame manufactures including Italian greats like Cinelli outsource their frame and component manufacturing to Taiwan or China.

Over the year that I rode my made in the USA track bike, I began to desire a bicycle that could do things my track bike could not. I wanted fenders, I wanted racks, I wanted a more relaxed geometry. I began investigating a costume frame, and although I was prepared to pay the $1,500+ for a frame and fork, I didn’t want to wait 6 months. I was suggested Velo Orange by a frame builder.

VO sells bicycles and components heavily influenced by mid-century French bicycling. Porteur city bikes and Randonneuring performance bikes are a few of Velo Orange’s recent offerings. After seriously considering the gorgeous Randonneur.

Velo Orange Randonneur Frame

I settled on the second iteration of the Polyvalent frameset.

Velo Orange Polyvalent mkII

The frame features a low-trail front end geometry for front loads, but includes rack mounts fore and aft. Of course, fenders are well accommodated. Unfortunately, the Polyvalent is TIG welded, whereas the Randonneur has the aesthetic advantage of lugs. Ultimately, what made me decide on the Polyvalent was the 650b wheel size. The Randonneur uses the more conventional, but I believe, less versatile 700c wheel diameter, allowing only 28cm tired with fenders, 32 without. I am on the shorter side, at 5’8”, so the 650b wheel size makes sense. But more importantly, 650b wheels can be outfitted with tires ranging from 32cm to 50cm, with most choosing a tire between 38cm and 42cm. Roads in Lexington aren’t the worst, but they certainly aren’t perfect and the generous cushion that a 38 or 42 tire provides makes all the difference. Plus, the added possibility of handling fire roads and trails was very attractive.

I will cover the rest of the buidling process and final thoughts on building a bicycle from frame up in part two.


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