I found myself in Annapolis, Maryland this Tuesday, and availed myself of the opportunity to visit Velo Orange, a delightful bike shop run by Chris Kulczykcki. As he puts it on the Velo Orange website,
“Most cyclists don’t race, yet they ride uncomfortable racing bikes and try to go too fast and so miss much of the world around them. Our emphasis is on a more relaxed and comfortable style of riding, and on refined bikes that are as comfortable on a century ride, an inn-to-inn tour, or even on a ramble down your favorite dirt road.”
I think he makes an excellent point. Road cycling is dominated, unfortunately, by people who act as if they’re bench members of a Tour De France team, in full spandex & carbon fiber. That’s ok, but there’s room for a more aesthetic form of cycling, as Chris’ statement points out. There are a couple of excellent bicycle and accessory purveyors out there who seem to share the same viewpoint, namely Rivendell, Wallingford Bicycle Parts, and Peter White Cycles. There are more shops like them, I’m sure, but those three (plus Velo Orange) are the ones I know best. Copenhagen Cycle Chic, while not a store, has a manifesto dedicated to styling riding. (Check out the links. It’s been called the Sartorialist of Cycling)
Chris is a very charming fellow, and one of the things I like is that he has his own frames and accessories manufactured to his specifications. Much of what he sells you simply can’t find elsewhere. He freely admits that his small company is a mail order company, but he does have a small show room, which I visited, it being only a couple of miles from my hotel. Here are some absolutely horrible photos I snapped while on my visit.
A selection of built-up Velo Orange frames
Vintage French Chain Guards
Lovely Front Hamper
A truly terrible photo of some nice, shiny bits, including a handlebar and stem I bought for my wife’s bike
Lugged Velo Orange Frame with 650B-tired bicycle in background.
I bought myself a treat – a Brooks Swallow-ish saddle Velo Orange has made under its own name. (For my fixed gear) Nice black leather and copper rivets. It’s super cool. (And half the price of a Brooks). If you’re tired of mass-made soulless big brand bikes, take some time and explore Velo Orange and the other shops I’ve listed earlier in this post. Who knows? You might even see the logic of putting fenders on your bike. (Egad!)