The new (Mk4) Polyvalent for Disc Brakes, is now available. This first batch is now selling fast, with some sizes/colours already sold out. Available in Lilac or Green, the Lilac has been the most popular. Order now to be sure of getting one this year, as the next batch will not be here until 2019!
Polyvalent seems a curious name for a bike, especially to those with a scientific education, but in French it means "Multipurpose". As you may know, Velo Orange was originally inspired by classic French bicycles and the Polyvalent is the most French of their frames.
In the UK since before the 2nd World War, bicycle development has followed 2 main tracks. The classic rod-braked heavyweight roadster, as typified by the Raleigh Superbe and the lightweight "racer". Since the war, until the introduction of the mountain bike in the late eighties, the only other mainstream bike was the "Tourist Model": the typical medium weight, hub geared, cable-braked machine used for decades for riding to school, work or shopping with the occasional day ride into the countryside.
These tourist models, despite the name, were suitable for pretty much any use, except for cycle touring! Serious UK cycle tourists typically used "racers" with sturdier tyres and a large saddlebag.
In France however, cycle development followed a different path. "Constructeurs" were building specially designed machines aimed at cycle tourists and randonneurs. These were somewhat different to those available in the UK and USA and now have a great following in those countries. These French "hikers" had 650B wheels and 42mm tyres and importantly were designed to carry weight at the front. I remember back in the 70's when I first got interested in cycle touring and started reading up on the subject, it was mentioned in the literature that "the continentals" preferred to have front mounted panniers. This seemed crazy to me as my experience of bikes with heavy weights at the front was that they were most ungainly. The only exception was "trade bikes" and their large carriers were mounted firmly to the frame, rather than the forks. A the time I just thought "crazy Frenchmen" and fitted a rear rack and panniers. However I should have thought "clever Frenchmen".
The difference of course was the geometry of the frames and design of the forks was different and these "low trail" frames were optimised for carrying weight at the front. So, back to the Polyvalent: Velo Orange spent much development time on this frame ensuring that it is suitable for carrying weight at the front as well as the rear. It has "low trail" geometry and is for 650B wheels and cantilever brakes.
I built my Polyvalent in 2014 and it is truly the most versatile bike I have ridden. I built it specially for touring and have since used it on 3 tours, however it gets used for everything: club runs, day rides, shopping trips and my stable of half a dozen other bikes don't get much use now.
If you If you only have room for one bike in your life, the Polyvalent is it. View more builds here
Christmas shut down and holidays did slow things down a little, but I got a call from Darron at Sven Cycles on Friday to say that the Calla was painted and would be ready for collection. on Monday (1st Feb). He sent a sneak preview, which looks fabulous!
The rear end has been widened to 130mm to give flexibility with transmission options. The build will start this week. Decisions to be made!
Possibly named after a famous climb in Tuscany or maybe the Calla Lilly. Calla was a cycle manufacturer from Alsace just on the French side of the Franco-German border. Not a large factory, nor a "Constructeur", but this little Randonneuse is loaded with charming details from the the early post 2nd World war era. Looking through old photos, it is entirely typical of an old French tourer. Custom Front and rear carriers in the same paint as the frame; a large bottle dynamo driving 2 beautiful polished alloy headlights and a tail light integrated into the aluminium mudguard. The Velo Orange parts we sell, seem to be faithful copies of the mudguards and carriers fitted to the Calla. It came to me in part exchange for a new bike and was alleged to have been bought from the original owner, having not been ridden for decades. Further research indicate that it might have been "flipped" a couple of times, but apart from new tyres, its originality is not in doubt.
Calla's condition is remarkable. There is no rust on the frame and even the Rigida Chrolux rims are only slightly pitted and carry the original stickers. I haven't stripped the bearings yet, but my instinct tells me it has not covered too many miles in its 65 years of life.
Despite the originality of the paintwork, there is not much of it left, with nearly every square cm having a chip or scratch. The paint that is left isn't too good either, so despite encouragement from friends on both sides of the channel to keep her "in her juices", I have decided to get a top quality respray from Darron at Sven Cycles in Weymouth Dorset (UK). My friend Andrew at Seventy2 Design is recreating the decals for me from photos. Current thoughts are the same metallic midnight blue and double box lining in silver and white, but to skip the sky blue head lugs, which look like they were hand painted afterwards anyway.
I want this bike to be a usable Randonneur too, so for me it will need a larger range of usable lower gears. But I do want to keep the original "look", so it will have an Alfine 8 hybrid drive - with a difference. The Alfine 8 Premium hub will built into a new wheel with an alloy 650B rim. A new front wheel will also be built with a large flange hub with wing nuts of course. The difference will be that the original Simplex front and rear derailleurs will be retained: the front as a derailleur with the gorgeous integrated chain guard, but the rear just as a tensioner. So at first and even second glance the bike will look original. Tyres will of course be Grand Bois Hetres. The original wheels will be carefully stored so the bike can be returned to original condition in less than an hour
Still to be decided is the chainset. It has a cottered steel double clanger in fine condition, but I truly hate cottered chainsets from a maintenance point of view, so it may well be changed, either for a Stronglight 49D, which would be contemporary and appropriate, or a René Herse replica from SunXCD, which would look very well on this bike. Otherwise Calla will be original. The saddle might have to be swapped for a Brooks though, if it isn't comfortable. The moulded plastic handlebar covers will be replaced by stitch-on leather covers from Velo Orange. The originals are just too horrible to contemplate and have already been covered with cloth tape!
Comments and suggestions are welcome, as the build progresses.