It’s been a busy few months in the Vivente Bikes world. With all the updates to the website and our bikes, we’ve still managed to attend Eurobike and get through a test ride in Norway. Read more below.
Test ride in Norway
In July, I went riding in Norway. It was mostly on road, but I used the 50mm version of the Goodyear Transit Tour (on 650B rims). Maybe it was a bit slower than 40mm, but I didn’t care. I was on dirt quite often.
During Covid, the lead-time on our normal saddle was too long and we had to have a copy made. We tested it on the Norway ride and are giving it thumbs down. It’s just not comfy enough.
We have contacted Velo, the original maker, and have just received the original saddles. Bikes being made from mid-July 2023 have the new (original) saddle. If you bought a new Gibb or Swabia between March and June this year it will have the “interim” saddle.
Feel free to shoot us an email and we will replace your saddle free of charge. Give us your mail address and your Rohloff hub number.
Gear ranges on offer
With stock of 50T and 46T front sprockets and 19T and 22T rear sprockets, we offer four different gear ranges. There is no price difference. Our name for Range 1 is “traditional low”. As they get lower, the maximum load in the hub eventually becomes an issue. Rohloff says we should be under 100kg (rider weight) to run 46:22.
A way of looking at them is to look at what speed you can be still pedalling at in top gear.
With the growth in e-bikes, scooters and cargo bikes, the famous trade show is now even more massive than before. As much as we like e-bikes, they don’t have much relevance for manufacturer of travel bikes in Australia because airlines won’t allow batteries in the baggage, and we want to be able to fly. Not to mention that recharging an e-bike battery when you are travelling is often impossible (or highly impractical). A lot of what’s on show at Eurobike is of little relevance to long-distance cyclists.
One discovery at the show that makes some sense was TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) tubes. These are biodegradable (3-5 years), are strong, lightweight and have low rolling resistance. Perhaps as back-up when running tubeless.
It is noticeable that there is a smaller offering of good bikes for long distance travel. European makers have diversified more into e-bikes. They argue that a person willing to spend, say €5,000, may turn way from a top line travel bike because they can get a good Ebike for that. Both European and American makers also have more offerings of single front chainwheel bikes (one x). For some brands, that’s their whole range.
We stopped custom building bikes to become a manufacturer
Our World Randonneur bikes began around 1980. I’d been riding long distances for years and had now opened a shop. People would ask me what to buy, but even simple things like wide-range gears were not available for bikes on offer to bike shops. It was all Malvern Stars, Speedwells and Bennetts. No manufacturer was making long-distance touring bikes available in Australia. We had to get all the components and make them ourselves. What we could make was limited by what components we were able to buy at the time, but the bikes were still better suited to peoples’ needs.
In 1981 we also started to import more “normal” bikes from Japan and Taiwan. It was a much better deal for all customers if we could access the OEM channel (Original Equipment Manufacturers). We were able to sell better bikes for less and we had a lot of say in the frame geometry and the componentry.We shared, with the Japanese, the specifications of the typical touring bikes we had been making by hand in Sydney. Deliveries of the Gemini Randonneur began in 1982. The factory-made bikes were significantly better value than what we’d been making locally.
We had been saying the bikes made here were custom built. It was more that they were made individually. The bikes were virtually the same except for frame size, colour, handlebars and saddles.
They were made by hand, but so were the bikes we had assembled in Japan or Taiwan. Managing the assembly overseas gave us access to worldwide components and much better value.
The simple change we made in 2023 was to ship things to Tasmania and do all the work here. Now we are back to making bikes one at a time, to the customers’ needs, and at much better value.
Best of all, we think we have a sure-fire way of being able to continue our basic aim of ensuring the availability of human powered bikes made for long-distance travel.
A better way of attaching top of Tubus rear rack
We adopted this way of attaching the upper stays between the rack top and the frame after noticing it on touring bikes at Eurobike. Because the connection points at the rack are wider it is inherently more rigid than the traditional way. And it is a bit lighter.
Steerer accessory bar
We use these to mount the shift lever and bell on the Swabia. But they’re pretty handy for cycle computers and many other things. This mount replaces a 10mm spacer in the steerer, below the stem. The left or right side can be removed. We sell it for $40 plus post.
Evolution of the Diamantina
One pattern we’ve seen in our bike building over the last six months is people combining Baramind flex bars with wider tyres and handlebar ends. We’ve built up stocks of the 50mm Schwalbe Marathon Mondial and 70mm Schwalbe G-one Allround tyres and Ergon G2 handlebar ends. The Diamantina comes standard with Baramind bars and Ergon grips and ends.
Typically fitted with 50mm or 70mm tyres, this combination of robustness and comfort is exceptional. The options of even lower gears than normal have helped make some places, like Queensland’s sandy southwest more accessible. That’s where the Diamantina River is. Clearances, even with the 70mm tyres, are good.
Product codes for bikes
We like a code that tells us what the product is (SKU). With three handlebars, seven frames, four gear ratios and three tyres, we currently have 252 combinations.
On the website there is a new Code Builder, to allow anyone to convert their choices into a code e.g., V23GIBB-L5022-50 is a Vivente 2023 bike, with a large size frame, 50:22 gearing and Schwalbe Mondial 50mm tyres.
Now, all Gibbs have Trekking bars. All Diamantinas have Baramind bars and all Swabias have drop bars.
Current optional extras
- Tubus Duo Front Rack — $130
- Tubus Grand Expedition Front Rack — $250
- Brooks B17 Saddle (black, brown, honey) — $200
- Brooks Leather H/B Tape — $100
Jess has been a Vivente test rider for eight years. Now she is running bike tours in South India. A lot of yoga too. She knows that part of the world so well and we wish her the very best.
Get in touch if you’re keen to get on one of her amazing loops around Kerala and Tamil Nadu next summer.
Upcoming rides in 2024
Murry River ride
This January we won’t be building bikes. We need to do more testing!We’ll have a Swabia with 40mm tyres and a Diamantina with 70mm tyres. I’m testing the G-ONE tyres and the flex Baramind bars. It’s about 1,000km.
If it is hot, we can jump in the river. View more details about the ride.
Fingers crossed to have a ride in South Korea in 2024.
Lille to San Sebastian. Need to do that testing!
Currently planned for the week after the US 2024 presidential election.