A few years ago, while we were working on a batch of Speedvagen ‘cross machines, we noticed how clunky the traditional cable hanger system was. It seemed like such an afterthought, never really meant to be a part of the bike, just this sort of booger hanging off the nose of an otherwise really slick racing machine. I guess the next step was kind of like wiping the nose of the traditional cross bike. In that moment we think ‘cross bikes grew up a bit.
That year we started talking to our old friends at ENVE about what we could do to get rid of the booger. They worked with us over the next year to design, develop and test our new stem prototype. What we got was a lighter, smoother stem reinforced where it matters and tested for integrity.
Testing in-house is one thing, riding it, hard, that’s another. We put the stem on our team bikes for a couple of season’s and made more refinements based on our teammates feedback. Their experience was that it essentially eliminates front-end chatter while braking. The additional benefits that came with smoother cable routing, lighter braking action and 51g weight savings rounded out an improved rider experience.
In 2011 we offered the stems on our Speedvagen cross machines as an upgrade and most of our customers opted for them. We started to think that this could be a stand alone component.
Jump ahead a year and change. Ty of Golden Saddle Cyclery and Team Mudfoot wanted a new cross stem. Ty has been a part of the Vanilla family for years. We were happy to get him on a Speedvagen Integrated cross stem and we painted it to match the Mudfoot kit to boot. Ty raced the stem this year and was stoked on it.
This is the first time that a Speedvagen component is being offered separate from the frameset and we’re so excited to release something that we feel brings real value to all cross racers.
The Vanilla Workshop is celebrating the 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships with a special limited edition version of our Speedvagen Integrated cross stem. Painted in the Vanilla “stars” and stripes by Coat Paint Shop. Only 13 of these stems will be produced. Pre-order your size in black or white. The stem is also available in a standard issue black or white too.
Sacha and I, Tom, are headed to Louisville, KY next Friday for the cyclocross world championships at Eva Bandman Park and Cyclocross Venue. I haven’t been to Louisville since I left Ohio in 2001. Vernor and I used to go to rock shows, play pool, listen to Springsteen, drink bourbon… glory days. This time we’ll be meeting the men of the Speedvagen Team for some racing and shenanigans. Kohey will be racing U23 on Saturday for his home country of Japan and Daisuke will be along as well. Jeff is still around following nationals and spending some quality time with family.
The first official ‘cross worlds were held in 1950 and had been hosted exclusively by, and dominated by, European countries until now. A handful of years ago, when I was finishing up my undergrad work in community development at Portland State University I interviewed the bike planner at the Louisville DOT about their plans to become more bike-friendly. Former Mayor Abramson had committed to $85M in bike projects at the time and Louisville was noted by the League of American Bicyclists to have “…built more bicycle facilities in the past year and a half than in several decades prior.” and was awarded a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2006. Fast forward seven years and…
“Metro Parks began construction of the course at Eva Bandman in 2009, and completed the course prior to the 2010 USGP Derby City Cup. The course combines scenic views of downtown Louisville and the Ohio River but still employs trecherous features such as sand mounds, numerous run-ups, “flyovers,” and wooded areas that will pose challenges for even the most experienced riders.” -City of Louisville
While I don’t know if the $125,000 Louisville Metro paid to build Eva Bandman Park came from the $85M Abramson committed to bike projects in 2006, I do know that they’re about to realize a significant return on investment. In 2009 ‘Cross Nationals in Bend, OR reported $1.08M in direct tourist dollars spent. Not every city is going to have an event like Nationals or Worlds but for $125K every city should have a dedicated ‘cross park.
I am super excited to get to Kentucky for the racing but also to see what’s happening to the city. I love that bikes and bike racing can offer real economic development opportunities. The way that bicycles in the streets make everything a little easier to feel like you’re a person in a place again.
If you’re going to be in Louisville please get in touch, we’d love to see you! Join us for a short ride out River Rd. with our local hosts Drew and TJ, both Vanilla and Speedvagen owners in Louisville. Or just meet us for a coffee with Team Speedvagen, let’s hang out!
An open invitation: Leaving the downtown Marriott Sunday morning at 8:30am and getting coffee at Quills around 10:00am before heading to the women’s race at 11:00am.
Jan 23 | In the Shop: 1.23.13
Shop tunes today were brought to you by Neil “Forever in Blue Jeans” Diamond
Jan 21 | indoor person
As a chronic cold weather crybaby, this January has been rough on both my mind and my delicate, dainty digits. When the mercury reads some nonsense number under 30 degrees, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably not the most pleasant dude to turn pedals with, as my conversational skills devolve to the point where I’m capable of little more than whimpering complaints about frostbite and nerve damage.
I am not like Jeff during these winter months; I am not tough. I’ve grown to accept it.
Jan 18 | CX Nationals – A Family Affair
We asked Speedvagen team racer, Jeff Curtes, to tell us about how CX Nationals went for him. What we got was a tribute to family, friends and the bikes that bring them all together. Words by Jeff Curtes. Photos by Joe Curtes. Clean-ish bike by Mike Curtes.
Riding bikes has always been something I’ve done with my two brothers, Mike and Joe. In the early days, it was BMX…Mike was the leader, Joe was the fastest. I was always somewhere in between. As the years passed, the bikes changed but our passion and shared enthusiasm always escalated, and we did our best to never grow up.
From racing mountain bikes in Wisconsin to hammering Tour routes in the Pyrenees, my best times on the bike were always shared with Mike and Joe. ‘Cross continues on the same track, there is nothing and no one that I can think of that better exemplifies the spirit of Speedvagen than the family affair that the Curtes’ bring to every race. With seven Vanilla/Speedvagen’s in our Garage864, we love these bikes like family.
Although I’ve been based overseas for the past few years, I was fortunate enough to be able to sneak in about 15 international cross races, and Mike joined me on the Japan Speedvagen Team trip). I bookended my season starting with Portland’s Cross Crusade opener and ending it with Nationals in nearby Verona, Wisconsin where all three of us raced the SS event on our Vanilla’s!
My last race of the season, which was probably my worst result, was the most special. What could be better than a mud romp hell tour course, no sleep, frozen hands, and completely blown out legs from the week’s 4 previous races? Well, having my brother’s there in full support…Mike in the pits keeping my SV’s clean and ready, Joe chasing, beer in-hand, cheering, and shooting from just about every part of the course, keeping me stoked. It was epic.
While I’ll miss my brothers support at Worlds next month in Louisville, KY, I’m stoked to see my Speedvagen family from Portland and Japan out there representing, cheering and spreading the love!
Jan 17 | Simply Splendid
Coat Paint Shop painted two custom Bullitt cargo bikes for Joel at Splendid Cycles. Splendid is a Portland company which caters directly to the cargo bike market. So, if you’re looking for a Bullitt, Metrofiets, or other cargo bike to carry your kids or your gear in, going to Splendid is a great place to start.
The first bike we did was a liquid paint job with two shades of red with black and gold slashes designed by Matt Carinal of Signal Cycles for Splendid. The Bullitt logo was remade in a nice classic looking script that really turned out sharp. Joel, owner of Splendid, took this bike to Interbike in Las Vegas this year and says it really turned heads and got a lot of air time. Speaking with Joel today he noted that “the paint makes all the difference when you want people to take notice” and thanked us for doing such a good job. We couldn’t be happier, knowing we help our customers get noticed.
Birger, in the paint shop, took a few minutes to tell us a little about the process of painting a cargo bike…
What are the biggest differences between painting a Bullitt cargo frame and a regular bike frame?
“The cargo bikes are so much bigger than a typical frame we paint. They don’t really fit in our paint room so we had to come up with a fix by rigging up a special stand. It’s actually more like painting an automobile. You need to balance the stripes on either side of the bike, not just wrap them around the tube. Then there’s an undercarriage too which got a little extra clear coat to help protect it from all the debris that’s going to get kicked up.”
What was the biggest challenge?
“Definitely size, but that’s cool because we got to try something different. We have the bike thing dialed, it’s fun to work on something new, solve a new problem. Now we have a system for painting cargo bikes that works and we got to test it twice.”
What are you most pleased about from the finished work?
“That we got all those slashes to line up across the frame. We do a lot of detail line work on the Speedvagens and other builders bikes but like I said earlier, there’s a difference in wrapping slashes or lines and having to line them up parallel. Definitely a ‘measure twice (or four times), paint once’ scenario.”
The second bike we painted for Splendid was a metallic purple with gold accents. In contrast to the red bike, it had a very modern feel to it. One thing to note is the use of powdercoat on the wheels to tie in the accent color from the frame. We specialize in bringing colors from the frame to the component sets but most of the bikes we do have rim brakes so we don’t get the opportunity to do rims often. Looks great though.
This bike ended up being used in the BBC America show Richard Hammond’s Crash Course. Hammond’s challenge in this episode is to work as a bike messenger with King Courier in San Francisco, the owners of the Bullitt, and whose signature colors are purple and gold. He succeeds in picking up and delivering a keg back to the office of King Courier and is rewarded with a pint at the end of a long day.
You can view all of the photos from this project and more on the Coat flickr page. If you’re interested in knowing more about what we can do for you, drop us a line anytime. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan 15 | HIRING: FRAME BUILDER’S ASSISTANT
We are hiring for a Frame Builder’s Assistant position This position has been filled, however, we are developing a formal apprenticeship program. If you are interested please send your resume and a 1-page letter of interest to email@example.com Thank you!
The Vanilla Workshop houses three brands: Vanilla Bicycles one of a kind and built by Sacha; Speedvagen, our batch built race bike brand; and Coat Paint Shop, painting and powder coating for independent bicycle frame builders including Vanilla and Speedvagen.
We do a lot of things here at The Vanilla Workshop. At the core of what’s going on here is the design, innovation and refinement of the bicycles we craft for our customers.
The person we hire for this position will be introduced to every aspect of frame building. Typical duties will include, but not be limited to:
- Final machining before and after paint
- Shaping and affixing our stainless steel head badges
- Polishing metal such as dropouts and dropout faces, headsets, hubs, and other stainless parts
- Small parts fabrication like cable stops and brake bridges
- Paint prep
- Mechanic support
- Shipping and receiving
- Machine maintenance
- Generally helping out around the shop
We’re looking for someone that likes challenges, who communicates well, is good-natured and who feels at home in a shop environment. A mantra at our shop is that if it isn’t going to be 100%, or damn close, we’re not going to do it. As part of this, we will hire someone who is very particular about details.
Pay and benefits:
The pay for this position will be modest to start and will be based on the level of experience. On top of the base wage, we have a good benefits package including health insurance, profit sharing, and paid time off.
This job will teach you (gradually) how to build bicycle frames and, equally important, the ins and outs of the frame building business. We will be using this opportunity to develop the curriculum for our formal apprenticeship program. We’re excited to shine the light on frame building as a viable trade through this apprenticeship program and you will have a hand in bringing that program to life.
If you feel that you’re a good fit, please send a one-page resume and a one-page cover letter describing your life experience as it applies to this job, including any experience with bicycles or the making of things to:
The deadline for submissions is Jan 23rd
Jan 15 | In the Shop
Also, a special shout out goes to David (who works in Coat and gets credit for the amazing illustrative QC tags frequently photographed around the shop) as he and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Ida Rose last month.
Congratulations David! The Vanilla Workshop family continues to grow!
What do Nas, a female surfing champion and Speedvagen have in common? They’re all featured in the new issue of Huck Magazine, a London-based periodical with an eye on the gleaming edge of the underground.
The story follows the Speedvagen Team as they criss ‘cross the globe this season and gives the uninitiated some background on the sport without leaving the die-hard fan wanting for the gory details.
Speedvagen Team member and photog extraordinaire, Jeff Curtes, shot all the dirty pictures and Jeremy Dunn wrote all the dirty words. Give it a read.
Hungry for the dirt and mud now? Find out more about the 2013 Speedvagen CX Machines.