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The Scrap Deluxe by Velorbis [Review]

Product reviews bring readers to blogs. So, if you're lonely, and want readers, write a review, on your washing machine, long haired cat, new jeans, whatever you've got. After three months of owning a Velorbis Churchill Classic, I sat down and wrote a lengthy, detailed review, laying bare any fault I could find after 90 days of solid use, and describing the genuine pleasure this bike had brought me. Now if I type "Velorbis Review" into goggle, I find my blog about architecture and bicycles. You might call reviews a "side line" of mine.

If you have come to this review, because you are thinking of buying a Scrap Deluxe by Velorbis, you will most likely want to read related reviews also: my Velorbis Churchill Classic Review; my earlier review of the Scrap Deluxe ladies model; and my part technical, part art theoretical, review of Balloon Tires. Though I'm more of a writer than a media presenter, I've uploaded a brief clip to youtube as well.


How I came to possess this Scrap Deluxe
Some weeks ago, a comment was left below my now famous Velorbis review, asking for a review comparing the Churchill Classic and Scrap Deluxe. Brassy as ever, I put it to Velorbis that they should give me a Scrap. "How about a loan?" they replied, to which I said they would not want the bike back, once I was finished. I would not be treating this bike as an ornament, as I'm sure some buyers do.

It bides well upon Velorbis, that they have since given me a Scrap Deluxe to review. I could write the most scathing review now, and still keep the bike. You may have noticed Brooks Saddles post unfiltered criticism of their products on their website. Knowing from my earlier review of my Churchill Classic, that I would be merciless, Velorbis have shown great faith in their product, but over and above that, a genuine commitment to transparency, by giving me a bike, no strings attached. It seems manufacturers are learning customers would rather buy products with a few imperfections, than walk into deals with their eyes closed.

The full list of faults
Allow me then to dispel anyone's suspicions, that I might in any way be beholden to the generous donors of my new favourite bike, by being thorough in my criticism of the 3 Velorbi that live in my house.

Some paint on the chain-side chainstay of my 1 year old Churchill Classic has come off in flakes. Sure, the bike is kept outside, and I live by the beach, and that WD40 I have been spraying around might not have helped, and maybe they're stone chips, but doesn't anyone make a titanium bike of this kind, for anal oxidizationphobes such as myself? My wife's Scrap Deluxe ladies bike—that she purchased after reading my other review—came with a plastic head-badge, not a chromed aluminium one, as specified. Now the fake chrome finish is peeling. Also, her handlebars show rust where I accidentally scratched them with my son's scooter (if you're reading this Primrose, the situation was desperate, the poor love was crying with a graze on his ankle, very loudly, etc., and if the bars were made of stainless as specified, you would never have needed to know any of this). For the sake of my marriage, I hope Velorbis will leave a comment below, to let us know if perhaps my wife's bike was part of some dodgy batch, for which a few inferior parts might have been substituted? Okay, and to wrap up the issue of rust, so precious to precious coastal dwellers like me, I should point out that the rear racks of my Churchill Classic, that admittedly I have bashed around (isn't that what rear racks are for?), are showing signs of rust too. Rust specs keep showing through the chrome cranks, but thus far I have been able to polish them clean with aluminium foil.

A few days after posting this review, Velorbis wrote to advise that since late 2010, all their rear carriers are galvanized before painting, all handlebars are now stainless steel (no exception), and, "Pedal arms are now alloy and the crank wheel is powder coated to protect against rust".

The take home message for me, is that they are reading and taking an interest. The take home message for you, should be that I have a unique situation living here near the surf. I watch aluminium oxidize! Plus all bikes get paint chips from use. Unless you live near the beach, you should be able to just dab them with nail polish and forget all about it.    

My thoughts about how these are made
Regular Behooving Moving readers will know, how I agonize over outsourcing. Velorbis don't hide the fact that they are based in Denmark, and have their frames made in Germany. This could explain why their frames have always had a braze-on gear cable end, on the right chainstay, that was redundant back when they used SRAM7 gear hubs, and is still redundant now they have swapped to Shimano. If their office was attached to their factory, I'm sure this little matter would have been fixed in an instant. But this is just how the bike business rolls. Frames and parts can be sourced from the ends of the earth, and will most often all fit together with only minor interface problems. The alternative would be brake levers made by frame makers: very "agricultural", as CB would say.

Upon taking delivery of my FREE Scrap Deluxe, I decided to atomize my Churchill Classic. Tinkering. I'm a tinkerer. My disappointment with the paint on that chainstay, was quickly forgotten, as the joy of disassembling a well put together machine grew with each component laid on the floor. All the fixings are indeed stainless. No signs of rust on the fenders. Nothing overtightened, or loose. It struck me actually, just how much work goes into making bikes such as these. The sheer labour involved in assembly, makes such a bike worth the money. Whoever Velorbis are paying to build these things up, while they focus on marketing, knows what they are doing.

European mystique
However, we must remember, that while the English speaking world was seeing bicycles as sporting equipment, the Europeans kept on knocking out sturdy commuting bikes by the millions. America's rediscovery of utility bikes, the kind we're now seeing news of from NAHBS, has the smell of a novelty event, work bikes fussed over as though they were jewelry. The Europeans slap bikes together, more like Hill's Hoists, or wheel barrows, or hammers, than Swiss watches or whatever those crazy Americans think bikes should be. The welds are tidy enough, but would win no "Best Welding" ribbons. The problem such matter-of-fact bike makers in Europe now face, is that C-word, China, from whence most Europeans' bikes emanate now.


So can these bike makers stay afloat, by marketing their European made bikes to England's former colonies, as somehow noble or chic? Given our propensity for self-flagellation, and our authenticity fetish, it shouldn't be hard. To wit, Velorbis now issue their bikes with lush leather envelopes in which to keep "service records". It makes one wonder if Velorbis have service centers all over Europe. They do? You're pulling my leg! Please, if you do present your service record card to your local bicycle mechanic, could you film their reaction? We would all love to see it.

Mock though I might, I buy into this too. And be honest, you wouldn't be reading my blog if you weren't effete too. Just yesterday, some lovely naïveté crossed the street beaming, to ask where I had purchased such a lovely machine. "Oh, they come from Denmark," I told her. "They cost $2000—though this one was given to me, to review for my Blog. Est-ce que tu parle francais?" And she said, "Oui."  Me: "Voulez-vous avoir le sexe?"

My rigorous road test
But if you're running late, fighting traffic, carrying loads, lost, sweating, and have burning thighs, all the Euro cache in the world wont compensate for a crap bike. Like atomizing my Churchill Classic to see if it's actually well made, I decided to put my Scrap Deluxe to the ultimate bicycling challenge. Could I use this bike to visit a few shops around Newtown, Woolloomooloo and the office district of Sydney, dine at my favourite restaurant in China Town, meet a friend for an after-work drink back at Wynyard, then make it to another friend's house in Bondi before her early bed time, not really knowing my way? With my pannier loaded for an overnight trip, and my clipless pedals in place of the flats, I gave it a try.   

For my serious concrete-jungle assault, I found the Scrap Deluxe mostly up to the task. The thin retro steel framing tubes provide less lateral rigidity than would be ideal when hammering out of the saddle; the power doesn't go straight to the road. If you want that, buy a Cannondale. I worried on a few big descents that those drum brakes might not pull me up, if I went as fast as I might have—though I know disc brakes need maintenance, and drum brakes just are. In any case, not many riders, me included, would make a habit of speeding down steep roads choked with cars. Aside from the weakish type brakes, and lateral sway, no other inadequacies in the bike ever took my mind from my task. That's the real test of a bike when put through a challenging ride. The Shimano Nexus gears, that Velorbis have switched to from SRAM7, change every bit as well as Shimano's highly regarded Alfine rear hub, that I guess only costs more because it is lighter. The old style cranks weren't at all flimsy. The riding position is perfect, in my opinion, as I remarked on with my review of the Churchill. Upright enough to feel safe. Forward enough that you're able to climb and accelerate. It's an overall thumbs-up as well for Schwalbe's Fat Franks. I wrote this boffin piece about the rolling resistance of balloon tires, without making mention of how sure-footed they are. Heading down Military Road from Vaucluse to Bondi (yes, I had missed a few turnoffs), it was reassuring to know my tires weren't about to stray into any cracks in the old concrete surface. Arriving to a hero's welcome—"You rode all the way from the city on that big old bike"—made it all worth it.

Some technical details worth mentioning are: the new school cartridge style bottom bracket, showing we don't have to live in the dark ages for the sake of being cool; the silver cable outer, that just looks better than black; and the full swag of prestige components, like Bush and Muller lights and Brooks leather everything.
 
Scrap Deluxe or Churchill Classic?

If having to choose one over the other (the Scrap Deluxe or Churchill Classic) I would probably take The Churchill Classic, for the added puncture resistance of those Schwalbe Marathon tires. Marathons have a 5mm thick SmartGuard® strip, protecting against such things as thumb tacks or grass seeds. Fat Franks have a protective Kevlar belt, or Kevlar®Guard, that while not adding so much to rolling resistance as SmartGuard® strips (something lower pressure fat tires cannot afford), is unlikely to stop a thumb tack, large piece of glass, or wire strand from puncturing your tube.

I would choose the slightly more practical bike because the joy, for me, of a fully equipped utility bike, lies mostly in the getting around. The slightly increased risk of enduring a flat with those supple Fat Franks, weighs more heavily than the compliments and looks that I am missing out on, because the Scrap is more showy. I should say as well, that the big wheels and slender forks provide the Churchill Classic a slightly more comfortable ride than those fat tires on the Scrap could ever match, even if you were prepared to go slower and let out some air.

In a round and about way, I guess I'm recommending the Scrap Deluxe if you want a bike for making the scene, and the Churchill Classic if—like me—you rely on your bike for transport and really don't want any flats. Not that my Churchill is much use to me while it's lying in pieces! Neither have I punctured on my Scrap—aside from on the first day, but then I hadn't yet put my Dr. Sludge in.

Concoction of a Faux Modernist Masterpiece
Let us conclude though with some lyrical waxing over this bike's fabulous looks, that after all, are what most likely piqued your interest to find this review. Whatever I might say about paint—and my Primrose's silver Scrap shows little sign of troubles yet—I cannot fault Velorbis's style sense. Cream, silver and leather. No itchy hand wanting to add a splash of maroon. I want Velorbis to lie to me, say these are made in Walter Gropius's Fagus-Werke factory. Could they be? Please! And could some photos of Scraps be arranged inside the Maison de Verre? or on the ramps of the Penguin Pool in Regent's Park Zoo? They should be sold, of course, in William Crabtree's Peter Jones Store in Chelsea, London. I am referring only to pioneering Modernist works, not in America, because this is the bike I wish we could say someone designed at the Bauhaus. I want to hear Schwinn stole the idea of the balloon bike, from some famous European architect/furniture designer/minimalist composer and action writer. 

Indeed, if I told you right now that Le Corbusier himself had designed it, and that royalties from every sale went to his estate, you might just agree, that it's not worth buggering up some good stories for the sake of the facts. Let us agree, right here and now, that someone from Velorbis was conducting archival research in Paris, when they uncovered plans for this bike in Le Corbusier's archive, signed by Le Corbusier, 1932. Thus a classic of the early Modernist era was brought to light, and made commercially available, allowing us now to indulge our nostalgia for that period in history, while staying fit, and beating traffic. Nice.

Don't let me burst your balloon (tires).

Famed though I may be, as one with a talent for analyzing matters of an artistic or cultural manner, there are times when even a humanities snob like myself must deign to speak in empirical terms. Today, it is to dispel a myth going around that balloon tires are fast. If they could be pumped to 100psi without emulating the big bang, that would almost be true. But they can't, and neither would anyone want to do that, as the supposed reason for these tires' being, is to provide cushioning.

The term rolling resistance refers to the energy that goes into constantly massaging your normally convex tires into the flat surface they present to the road. A good solid 100 pounds per square inch (psi) will keep rolling resistance low, by reducing the size of the contact patch being massaged. Massaging one knot in your friend's back, by kneading hard with a thumb, takes less energy than massaging their whole back with both hands and your chest (we'll return to the question of which is more fun). The contact patch expands until equilibrium is achieved between the equal and opposite weight of your bum pushing back off the road, and the pressure pushing on the dark side of your rubber. If you and your bike weigh 200lbs, and that weight, for argument's sake, is shared evenly between both of the wheels, then a one-square-inch contact patch for each tire, inflated to 100psi, will establish this equilibrium of which I speak. Comprende amigo? One square inch of tire, with a weight of 100 pounds of air from behind, will oppose that 100 pound force of the road. [Ref. 1]

Now focus your thoughts on that inch square patch of rubber at the moment when the hard road is massaging it flat, and imagine all the tiny forces in those fibers of rubber. Hear them squelching, making sound energy. Feel them rubbing, generating some heat. Sound and heat are two forms of energy other than kinetic energy, the energy form you're trying to make from that your pasta you ate. You can reduce those stresses by using tires made from a soft compound rubber. However, such tires are more prone to punctures, and will wear out much quicker. Better still, pump your tires to 200psi (they, might not pop), and halve the size of that contact patch being massaged. The certain problem with this last approach, is your bike will feel like a tuning fork. Ever wonder why Lance Armstrong had troubles "down there"?

Balloon tires permit low inflation, and a super soft ride. Now the proud owner of a Velorbis Scrap Deluxe balloon bike, I've been doing the maths. Together, it and I weigh 200lbs, with roughly one third (66) of those pounds over the front wheel, and the other two thirds over the rear. 22psi in the front wheel feels just right to me, eliminating those jolts from the forks. Okay, sure, that leaves a whopping 3 inch square contact patch beneath the front tire (66/22=3), but it's a fairly localised patch, not insinuating sides walls into its dramas, as the diagram above kind of explains. Besides, I figure I will more than account for the rolling resistance on the unloaded front tire, when I inflate the hell out of the loaded up rear one, from which I don't require cushioning, because my bike has a sprung saddle and long slender seat stays.

But herein lies the rub: the max pressure rating for Fat Frank tires, is 60psi—balloon tires just don't go any higher. That means I still have a contact patch of 2.2 square inches beneath my rear tire, a tire from which I don't require dampening. 

I would say that's a fairly standard Balloon tire story these days, that would apply for Electra Townie bikes, Retro Velo models, and so on.. Contact patches might be local to the actual patch, but by racing bike standards they're triple size, and still double what they would be if we all just kept riding to work on our 1.5" commuting tires inflated to 85psi, that hold their shape just as well, if you keep them pumped up. Balloon tire makers like Schwalbe know balloon tires cannot really be fast, because they can't be pumped up very hard, so use soft rubber compounds to compensate, then downplay the attendant high wear and lack of resistance to punctures.

In the end, the best argument for balloon tires, is that they provide some especially non-compliant (in other words, hard riding), bikes with the sorely needed road cushioning they otherwise lack. Why do such bikes exist, when we know how to make slender forks and cushioning frames? Well, we can mainly blame the makers, and millions of recent buyers, of bikes made from aluminium. Cheap to make, yet easy to lift, these bikes appeal to buyers whose sole criteria, are price and weight. They test ride them in front of the shop, where they only have a chance to notice the smooth ride from those space hoppers with axles, but not the rolling resistance they will be cursing half an hour into each ride. I'm not here to promote balloon tires as cures for problems of a naive market's creation.
 
The kind of hard riding bike I can support, that could do with balloons lest fillings be shaken loose from our teeth, are those with over-sized tubes, designed to look all Bauhaus Moderne. I think of the Victor Bike (above left) designed to look good, and who cares how it feels. I think of that bulbous fork on my Scrap Deluxe, curved like the steel in a Wassily chair, a chair designed by architect Marcel Breuer to recall the handlebars of his much loved Adler bicycle, and around the references go. Verily that fork is over engineered, to look great. My "Flat Frank" (as I call my 22psi front balloon tire), is what these beautiful forks need. Before letting the air down, I felt like I was holding a jackhammer.

If after all this, you still can't decide,
do as I do, with
Billy Crystal my guide.

Nando, don't be a schnook. It's not how you feel, it's how, you, look.
 
And retro bikes with fat tires look marvewous darling. Ab-so-wutely marvewous. Crave as you might, to die in your sleep, I would rather die of discomfort, with a fashionable corpse left behind me. I would rather work up a sweat commuting on a cool looking bike, than get to work early on a bike with no sense of style. And really, all things considered—headwinds, hills, the art school chicks who will line up to be doubled—by how much will those low pressure tires really make you go slower? If one punctures, take the opportunity to let those girls see how you're not only hip, but Mr. Fix-it as well.

Need convincing that chicks dig fat tires? Then search a few stock photo libraries for romantic pictures of couples with bikes. Not sure if the arty look will lure someone attractive? Just google "art school girl". Not "suicide girl"; us bike bloggers worked hard to win you from porn, we can't have you go back there.

References
1. Sheldon Brown tells me on this page, that "The area of the contact patch equals the weight load, divided by the air pressure. For example, if the air pressure is 50 PSI and the weight load is 100 pounds, the contact patch will be two square inches".

Further Reading
http://yarchive.net/bike/tire_pressure.html
http://www.rouesartisanales.com/article-1503651.html
There is a tradition within British aesthetics of analysing nature and buildings from the subjective standpoint of a single person, the writer. Whenever I find myself reading and reeling from self indulgence, I have to catch myself, and remind myself, that we would still be stuck still with Aristotle and Kant were it not for privileged brats like William Gilpin, who had the audacity to describe the world as it appeared to no one other than him. 

In Gilpin's case nature was like a picture presented to the eye of an oarsman heading down a river in England, that I presume is still there. It's the River Wye anyway. Each vista unfolding as each bend is completed is described as though god were presenting it for Gilpin alone to apprehend and admire. Strange how, in hindsight, we can say a man's journal entries were about to ignite something so radical for the time as the Picturesque.

Fast forward to the 1950s, and Nicholas Pevsner describing San Vitale as an unfolding of vistas to the viewer walking along the ambulatory gazing into the nave—quite an unnatural thing to do, I discovered, when I went there last year and remembered what Pevsner had written. Fast forward again to about now, and Iain Borden's book about architecture and cities as perceived through his toes riding a skateboard. Self indulgent indeed, but as I say, there is this tradition. Thus, if I may:

Tonight I took a ride on my Promrose's Velorbis along the coastal strip where I live. A mile West of here it has been forty degree plus since 11 this morning. On the coast though, it has remained a full 10 degrees cooler. And since around 5pm, half a million from less fortunate postcodes have been in my privileged one for a swim.

How better to let them know I have not struggled with parking, than to do laps of the strip on a bike I could not have come far on. Oh, my artful avoidance of eye contact. The way I can make rolling my shirt sleeve seem so important right when I know someone is itching to engage me, by saying, "Nice bike." Half an hour later, I have been drinking, and I am writing. But while I was out there feeling self conscious about my fabricated perfection, I rounded a bend to behold a sunset straight from a cover of Awake in the Watchtower. I'm talking sunbeams like yucca leaves, buildings I know very well appearing as black stencils over the sky, and a cool ocean breeze straight from the Pocket Book of Cliches.

Now could I have had this great moment on foot, or in a car? No, because the space hopper tyres floating on sand on the path, the rapid succession of equally wonderful vistas before the one I actually stopped for, the dozens of pretty faces I had been furtively glimpsing in my heterosexual manner, and a few endorphins from putting out watts, were what made me finally stop upon seeing that sunset, and admit a state of bliss had beset me. 

Bliss begets thoughts of death, naturally, thoughts about the switch one day being turned off on all of this light, or equally dreadful are simply thoughts of having to go back to work. I've now been for a 10pm swim. Did you know it's possible to back-float under constellations you know from tattoos and actually listen in to the conversations of strangers? Their voices pass through the water. I've drifted irretrievably from the topics of pushbikes and/or architecture. Blame this hot weather. And blame 4 standard drinks, and a nice ride and a swim that this post will not have so many pictures. 

Velorbis Scrap Deluxe [Review]

A few weeks ago I wrote a technical review of the Velorbis Churchill Classic, and learned how to boost hits to my blog: write reviews on new bikes! No wonder bloggers' reviews are so cynical. I hope you will find that mine aren't. For information on Velorbis bikes generally, and in particular some of the pitfalls associated with their conversion to SRAM S7 gear, I refer you to my earlier review. The present review focuses on issues specific to the Scrap Deluxe ladies model.

an earlier scrappier model, with a simple clear coat finish over raw metal

As an architect raised on Ruskin, Loos and Le Corbusier's late "Brutalist" works, I will say I find it somewhat a pity how the Scrap Deluxe is no longer so scrappy. The ubercool clear-coat finish, exposing brazing filler dribbling from lugs, has given way to a conventional grey metal paint job. I suppose one might lay blame at a conservative market for the maker's conservative decision to hide those noble scars, that gave earlier models their designerly cred.
 
However, comparing these photos with the one above of an original model, I am inclined to agree with market forces. The sell-out version is a more eye catching bike. The industrial, minimalist, mock-Modernist air may even be more pronounced, while the cream balloon tires look white chocolate flavoured on their clean silver plate. The contradistinction established by setting leather accessories against silver, polished stainless and chrome, make the former look so organic, a faint mooing sound can almost be heard.

Three things strike you when you hop on for a ride: the spring of the frame; the upright position and; speed.

There is a reason cro-mo bikes were used in the Tour of France long after aluminium provided a lighter and stiffer alternative. Cro-mo is spring-like. On a women's frame with no top tube, a good inch of travel is afforded, though without the energy sapping effect of actual suspension. Throw in an additional half inch of travel through the balloon tires (inflated to about 25lb) and you are riding a bike that literally bounces over the kinds of surface irregularities one encounters in cities.

The upright ride, though, does come at a cost. Stand to pedal and you find the handlebars touching your waist. Put some power down, and the frame starts flexing from one one side to the other. Where does this lead? Hmm, well, it could lead to driving! If your bike is no fun riding up hills, you might think twice about riding to places you can't reach on the flat. I'll go out on a limb here, and say those bikes you see girls riding on Copenhagen cycle chic, could be doing to those girls' cycling, what their stilettos do their walking, which is to slow them down and thus make them more attractive to men. (Feminist remarks are not taken well when coming from men, but I've said it now, ha!) At least Velorbis do not use townie bars, that bring a woman's hands to her side when she is climbing and that hit her thighs when she is negotiating tight circles. At least too the bars on the Velorbis can be lowered and pushed forward enough to make short climbs not an absolute pain. The bike remains feminine, though not cripplingly so, in the way that high heels are.

On the flat, down hill, or with the wind at your back, these bikes seem to utterly fly! It's the bounce that gives this impression. You find yourself seeking out ruts in the road, wanting to barge through, ride over lawns, and generally pretend this is a hovercraft. In modern youthful parlance, it fricking rips.

On the strength of evidence presented thus far, you might think this review is heading toward the Dr. Behooving tick of approval. But gentlemen, consider this, how since owning one of these bikes my lovely Primrose has provided every man in this town with the conversation starter he hitherto lacked. Now though, on any given day, my lovely Primrose receives more compliments for her cute bike, than a hot blind chick would get in her lifetime for her cute lab. Thus my thumbs-up comes with a caveat, that the Scrap Deluxe ladies model, only be bought as a gift for unmarried women—women who I would like to say hi to.

Next my Primrose will be riding in heels!!!!
   

Primrose's Birthday


neeeeigh, woo there

Yes, it is her birthday, and as my sweetheart enters her late twenties it is beholden upon me to whip out the plastic, as any good sugar daddy would do. The first big parcel has already arrived, her new Scrap Delux from Velorbis.


              yes, these are actually helmets!

The other order, from Bobbins Bicycles, (the most beautiful bicycle shop in Great Britain), I am hoping you all will help me complete, by clicking on this link and sending me your suggestions using the comments section below. Thank you so much! 
   
         straw pannier                  bicycle rain coat      more rain protection

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