Monday, July 7, 2014

Velo Orange Camargue Introduction

I've teased a few shots of this in my last few posts, but now it's time to do a proper introduction of my latest city/utility/touring/family/all rounder bike, my new Velo Orange Camargue. I try to avoid buying new, since the depreciation hurts when I inevitably sell the bike, but the VO pushed so many buttons for me that I couldn't wait for that rare XL frame to show up on ebay someday just to save a few bucks.

Besides, I wasn't happy with how the Breezer was doing as a city bike for me.

I'm too fast with my builds (read that as "impatient") to do a drawn out series of unboxing the bike frame, laying out all my shiny new parts, installing the headset, etc. So I'll just cut to the chase and show how my first build came out:

I love the flipped over On One Mary bars, probably because I think Self Propelled Devo's Hunter from mtbr is possibly the best looking bike ever:

Devo must have a better back than me, because despite how cool these bars look, I never run my bars this low for long, even with the Camargue's 350mm steerer tube length. More on this later.

This is my first build as of Friday morning (after picking up the frame from Fedex on Thursday evening):

I love the low bend on the fork, and the flat biplane crown:

Lugs on the fork crown tips, dual eyelets, and mid fork braze ons. Nice, nice, nice:

Tire clearance is good front and rear, likely with room for a fender over my 2.2" (front) and 2.1" (rear) knobbies:

VO doesn't recommend using fenders with knobbies, on the theoretical chance that they could pick up a stick, jam the fender, and flip you over the bars. With these semi-knobs, I'm not going to spend much time worrying over that possibility.

You can also see the canti cable stop above the rear wheel. Much nicer than a seat binder mount, but I will never use canti brakes on this frame, so this is wasted on me. Free tip to any canti brake users out there: come out of your cave and get some V brakes. They are better in every respect (of course, disc brake users will say the same to me, but I'm happy in my V brake cave, thank you)

My drivetrain is a Suntour 110BCD crank with 38/28 rings shifted by a Dura Ace front derailer, and the rear is a friction 8 speed 11-34 cassette:

Lots of disparate elements, but it all works well enough for me. The 38t is my main cruising gear, and I only use the 28t as a bail out gear.

A downtube shifter isn't the most ergonomic option when paired with a frame bag, but like I said, it's just a bail out gear, and I like the reduced bar clutter:

I ran out of 68mm bottom bracket cups for the non drive side, and had to use a 73mm cup. Oops.

But note the threaded boss on the chainstay bridge for fender mounting. It also has mounting points on the seatstay bridge and under the fork crown.

Someone at VO had the good idea to offset the double eyelets on the rear dropout. This means your fenders stays won't have to bend so much to clear the rack. Smart!

I don't expect to run this as a single speed, but the adjustment range looks pretty good:

A "Camargue" is apparently some obscure French horse breed. I find the graphics kind of cheesy, but they do feel like they aren't under the clear coat:

That being said, I won't remove them. There's room for some cheesiness in my life. Mmm, cheese...

The seat binder is integrated into the seat cluster, and there's even a small "lug" point:

So how does it ride? Very nicely, close to what I expected. The top tube is 28.6mm OD with 9/6/9 butting, same as my Cross Check, and the frame flex feels about the same. Not as nice and springy as Ye Olde Trek, but I think this extra stiffness will pay off when I load it up with the bike train and camping gear. Like this:

The front end of the Camargue is lower trail than my CC, around 50mm of trail vs. my CC at 65mm. This should make rear loading worse and front loading better. I haven't tried a front load yet, but even with the bike train attached on the rear, it handled fine. Unloaded, I like the handling significantly better than the CC: it steers lightly, but isn't darty like my 26" wheeled Breezer. It steers like the Trek, actually.

Nitpicks? Well, I wish the head tube was longer, so I could use fewer spacers. Maybe then drop the seat tube length, to preserve the standover height. I like the extra clearance when I'm manhandling the loaded bike train around town. An additional 10mm of bottom bracket drop would match my Fargo, which worked out well with both fat knobbies and medium slicks. A bit longer in the top tube means I could use a shorter stem. And... that's about it. This frame is actually very close to a custom I had drawn up in BikeCAD, but less than half the cost. Nice!

I had an issue with my setup, though. With the flipped Marys, the bars were about 1.25" below my saddle. Too low for my creaky back, because after only 30 or 40 minutes of riding, I could feel the pressure already building on my hands and wrists. I spent a while playing with stems and bars in the garage this evening to reach build 1.1:

The Soma Oxford bars look great, although if they get too close or too high, I start to feel like Mary Poppins. Or at least like I should be riding while smoking a pipe. Since I don't smoke, I had to use a 130mm stem to get enough reach:

Now it's comfortable but upright on the grips, a bit lower and more powerful on the forward hooks. We'll see how this works out over the next few weeks.

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play:


  1. Seatboy - totally awesome! I'd say I have addresses in both the canti and v-brake caves. I love v-brakes for their shear utility, but cantilevers are like lightsabers - an elegant brake for a more civilized age. And a well set up wide profile canti modulates nicely too. Well, I have a zillion questions about the Camargue. Where to start? Have you tried it offroad yet? How does it compare with your old Gen 1 Fargo or Singular Gryphon on the singletrack? Do those super long chainstays zap any of the zip or is it still a pretty peppy ride? In what way do you like the handling better than your Cross Check? Do you suppose your upright handlebars contribute to the light steering? Oh, that's probably enough for now. Anyway, nice bike! Hope it works out in the long run.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for your comments, as always. I'll probably do a later post of "Camargue vs. X" when I have some more time on it.

      I haven't tried it off road yet--I used my mountain biking time last weekend to try out the new CF frame. More on that later.

      The long stays do add some stability, but it still seems as zippy as my CC. The long rear end does make it hard to pick up the front while riding, though. But I like the smooth ride they help impart.

      I keep my bar height pretty constant amongst my road bikes (bars 0-1" or so above the saddle, so I don't think that makes much difference. Really, it all comes down to the front end: a lower trail bike has a lighter steering feel, and is more responsive to handlebar input, while a higher trail bike take more force with the bars, and steers better from the hips. This is one reason low trail bikes often have narrow bars--they don't need so much leverage to turn (though I like wider bars from a fit standpoint, having wide shoulders).

      Another way to think about it is the handling cliche "it corners like it's on rails." This is true of higher trail bikes: they corner on a given line, and they're harder to move off that line. Whether that's good or bad is up to the rider.

  2. Thanks for the response. That's right, I forgot you don't like dropbars. Well, when you get around to "Camargue vs. X" post, I'll read with interest. BTW, I like your playground and S24O posts too; gives me ideas for rides to take with my own kids. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for posting these photos and comments. My 62cm Camargue arrived today. I'll be building it with an Alfine 8-speed hub, Continental Contact Comfort tires, and a Soma Junebug bar, for pedaling unpaved rail trails.

  4. Great build! I've got a 59cm Camargue and have been having trouble with the chain rubbing the front derailleur when I am cranking hard. It seems to be due to the frame flexing. It's set up with a wide-double White Industries crank (44/26) and an XT front derailleur. Its a triple FD so I am hoping by switching to a double FD there will be a bit more spacial tolerance to accommodate the flex. I was wondering if you have noticed this in the frame or had any similar issues.

    Overall I am really loving the bike. It incredibly smooth and confident. I also like your tire choice. I have 50mm Schwalbe Marathons on it now, but am considering AT tire options as the bike seems to keep pulling me into any dirt I pass...

    Pics of my build if you are interested are here:

    1. Gita, a very nice build! Much more coordinated than mine, with nice WI cranks and drilled brake levers to boot.

      I haven't had any issues with front derailer rub. Won't a double FD make it worse, with the narrower cage and all?

      I currently have some ~35mm Hutchinson tires on mine, since I couldn't fit fenders over the knobbies shown above.

    2. Funny to be called 'Gita.' That's my gmail address, named after my dog.

      I'm not sure if a double derailleur will help or not, I think it may be a matter of just trying a different one. The XT's cage is pretty flared out on the right for some reason which strikes the crank arm if positioned so that the chain doesn't rub the inner right side of the cage. I guess it's a combination of low Q factor with the WI crank and too much flex somewhere showing up as a 'wobble' in the crank rings when I crank hard. I'm pretty confident there is nothing wrong with the BB or the crank, and have had two bike shop mechanics triple check for me (I did the install).

      The frames flexiness is very apparent by standing off the bike, holding the seat and Hbars and pushing at the BB with your foot. I'm sure it adds to the great ride but the chain rub is driving me nuts.



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