NOTE 23 January 2014: New posts are no longer posted to this blog. New stuff at my new blog, Please go there! All old and new posts are there, and you can also comment, too!

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's in a name?

Nicholas' Velo Orange Campeur
If you follow the bike internets, you probably know that Velo Orange has "dropped" a new bike, the Campeur. Our friends Nick over at Gypsy By Trade and "mantid" over at Kidhauler have just obtained their Campeurs. It got talked about on Bikeforums which led to an "epic" debate about threaded vs threadless stems. And Velouria on Lovely Bicycle blogged about it. This prompted a debate on what makes a camper bike different than a traditional touring bike.

And it also allowed folks to express their hate* on Velo Orange, which mostly hinged on the name "Campeur". It's sooo...French. And as 'mericans, we are not supposed to like the French.

Any excuse to drag this pic out, I will use.

While I may slightly (and I say slightly) agree that the trend to use French words and terms can be a bit pretentious and a way to make things sound classier than they are, Velo Orange's M.O. is French-inspired bicycles, so it goes with their aesthetic. And really, every bike company has a certain aesthetic that is evoked with the names bestowed on their models. These names are not only supposed to give an idea of what the bike is intended for, but give a romantic feel for where the bike might bring you.

Take, example, my bicycles. Surly's bike names combine Minneapolis middle-west punk rockedness** with utility. Whille Long Haul Trucker is the least romantic named bike I own,*** it's name states what it does very clearly, in a punk rock way. My Raleigh Crested Butte evokes a mountain setting, which is what a mountain bike name usually does. (Crested Butte, Colorado is also the home of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.****) And my Raleigh Wayfarer? Well, the name evokes a feeling of travel and freedom. That it's also the pen name of W M Robinson, a man who inspired the Rough-Stuff Fellowship, can be considered coincidence or intentional.

The Picnic Truck Bike.

Names for bikes provided by bicycle companies is one thing, but what about personal names of bicycles bestowed by their owners? You know, people who name their bike "George" or something. Try as I might, I could never do this to any of my bikes. I just always called my bike what they are, the "Long Haul Trucker".

Okay, I tried a little harder than that, bestowing names that fit the purpose of the bike. I sometimes referred to my Univega three-speed as the "Picnic Truck Bike". But that's clunky, what about an acronym? Like MCLM or something. But if I do that, no one but me will know what those letters stand for. So it has to be an acronym that sounds like something.

I've been thinking about this a little in regards to the Raleigh Crested Butte.**** While it technically is a mountain bike, I don't think about it that way, at least in regards to what mountain bike means to most people. Yes, I want to ride it in rural areas and off pavement. But I ride it on pavement, mostly in the city. And it's optimally set up for that. It's also brown and I'll be "bombing" around on it, so "Brown Bomber" could be an apt title. But I don't like the sound of that. What about "Country-Urban Bomber"? Yeah! And that way, the acronym would be CUB.

Does this bike look like a cub to you?

*Not as popular as hating on Grant/Riv, but up there.
**See the 45 North brand, another QBC line. One of their tires is named "Husker Du", which is also the name of the famed Twin Cities 80's punk band.
***Even less romantic than my Rudge Sports.
****Or, as Jacquie Phelan calls it, "Hollow Fame".
*****Which means more than I should.


  1. Nice one. funny, that people get so wound up over the smallest things. I really never even think about the product name of a bike when deciding which one is right for me. I guess if it were called 'steaming pile of &%$#' or something then I might give it second thought, but generally no. I'm more concerned with little stuff like ride quality and build etc... silly I know. I must be in the minority, but I've never seen the need to hate on VO, Riv or any other brand either. If I don't like something then I don't buy it. Not sure why the bike world is full of these people, almost as bad as the political world sometimes. I can confess to once being complicit in the 'naming' of a bright pink Schwinn, "Bazooka Joe." It seemed fitting and it wasn't my bike anyway. I think 'Cub' would be OK, you could even affectionately call it 'Cubby' That'd be cute. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Yeah! Don't forget the sentence before that: "Gin makes a man mean." Every time April has gin, I say that.

      She doesn't like that.

      (BTW- Just checked out the Milk and Cheese collection from the library.)

  3. I have named bikes: I had an ICE QNT named Aretha because it was black and had a nice curve, or two; the Brompton is named Otis for being black, having soul and giving me a lift; the Inbred is just the Inbred, and the Carver is the 96er because Carver say so and calling it 69er seems common and vulgar (according to my wife).

  4. The forums are a good indication of why we have war. I read the whole "threadless vs. threaded"...uh, thread and was solidly reconfirmed in my belief that there was some giant mistake made back there in the Garden.

    I particularly liked how the whole thing died as soon as THE ONE GUY who owns and rides one of these bikes spoke up, although Kidhauler did make an effort to start a new conflagration concerning 650b wheels.

    Me, I'm pedal-hunting right now: which are better, clipless or platform? By the way did you get a new camera yet?

    Oh, not only does my bike have a name, she has two (and a gender). Formerly Me Little Darlin', she is now Little Miss Dangerous. Thanks for listening.


    1. Yeah, remember the good old days when Teh Interwebz was supposed to "save the world" or something? Now all it does is give people the opportunity to argue endlessly over trivial things. Especially the argument referenced above, because after a certain point it just became two guys thumping their chests.

      I did get a new camera, sort of. More on that soon.

  5. I find the model names interesting, as you point out. My "Mount Saint Helens" was Ross's attempt to fill the mountain bike niche. Am I supposed to ride it on the Loowit Trail? My "Antelope" perhaps was another mountain bike name because it's intended for the range "where the antelope play"? And lastly, my "Grand Touring" Miyata is probably the most straight-forward no-nonsense title. It says what it should be used for: a grand tour.

  6. My favorite model names are the Shogun Prairie Breaker and the Ross Dune Commander (

    I owned a very tall Prairie Breaker for a bit and it was a nice bike, c. 1985. The Dune Commander was spotted on the streets of Key West.

    Quill and threadless are both fine by me. Currently, I am using the VO quill adaptor with a modern stem, and I have the benefit of simple vertical adjustment and a removable faceplate. The stem can easily be swapped.

    I may scratch off the "u" in Campeur to make the bike less French, and pretentious.

  7. I'm bummed to see that my suggestion of smaller wheels on the smaller frames was seen as "an effort to start a new conflagration". I was merely mentioning my only problem with the bike so far, pretty severe toe overlap. It's livable, but I can't help to feel it is a bit of an oversight. In talking to a couple other makers of frames I was considering, they tended to agree that the small frames really need to be a separate model with rethought geometry. The 51cm Campeur is working well for me, but the toe overlap is a real issue. I certainly don't say this to start a new conflagration.

    I have had a few bikes where I hated the name. A Specialized HARD ROCK that was a great (for me as a poor college student) offroad bike with atrocious graphics. I just called it the Specialized. Then when it was stolen, I replaced it with a Haro EXTREME with even worse graphics. That one, I painted black and never looked back. I still have it. I always wondered what the SAGRES was (my old Fuji). I have indeed thought about scraping all the graphics off my Campeur, I call it the "camper" btw. I enjoy french culture but have no real love for the aesthetic; it was simply the bike that looked to be both what I wanted and what I could afford. So far so good! I will note that I had every intention of debranding the Crosscheck I was considering. Especially the "Fatties Fit Fine" ugh.

    1. Upriver, I was speaking ironically and in jest. In fact, I agree with what you said about 650b wheels. Not that I would prefer them myself, (I ride a substantially larger frame size) but it certainly seems like the Campeur would be a natural fit for the 650b. I somehow assumed that was what was on there until I read about Nick's build. Who knows? I guess we could always ask VO. But you have to admit, in the context of that argumentative thread that you killed, the mention of 650b openened the door for yet another argument. I knew that it was not your intent to conflagrate.

      My '81 Schwinn Super Le Tour is debadged and flat black. She was conceived in Chicago, born in Japan and given a french-ish name. None of this bothers me as I return just now from a three mile slow ride by the ocean. What bothers me is when I offend or slight another person. It was not my intent here.

      You should see some of the stuff I cut loose with over at Gypsy's.

      Pax. tj

    2. I will not be removing the "u" from my frame, btw. It is under clearcoat and the name doesn't bother me a bit. In fact, even with the "-eur", it is still pronounced "Camper", most nearly. How do you say derailleur?

      I prefer "camper" and "derailer".

    3. Upriver/Mantid/Kidhauler-
      Face it, mention of 650B in the Touring sub-section of Bikeforums will elicit a conflagration. That and "Grant Petersen said this will/won't work." If you wanted to stay on the safe side of that firefight, you would have said 26".

      And yeah, those names sounded very "extreme". Ah, the nineties. Still don't understand the hate towards the "Fatties Fit Fine", though. I've left that decal on my LHT. (Note to anyone interested: decals on Surly bikes will naturally wear off, adding to the "patina". (Not to be confused with "putina".)

      Gypsy- I say Internally Geared Hub.

  8. Sorry to have over-read into it, I usually enjoy or at least detect irony. I believe, from my brief immersion in French language, that "campeur" would be cam-POOR (with more of an
    "ooo" sound than the "er", and in english stress is usually on the first syllable, CAMPer. I do say and write derailer. Anyway, I actually don't really mind the graphics although I think the grey-purple-fleck paint would look great naked. Not worth sanding down, of course.

    I was prompted to finally look up Sagres! Another of life's tiny questions answered.

    I also recently read that VO is named in honor of an Ebisu bicycle. Small, and round, world.

    1. Upriver, You are right about the pronunciation, as there is a slight affect on the last part of the word. I hear a lot of people say "camp-ee-yer" and "duh-rail-ee-yer". In response, I prefer to simply call it "camper", even if it is written Campeur. I also write derailleur, and say derailer.

    2. Okay, that's enough, or otherwise we're going to open up the "how to pronounce pannier" debate! (Grant said it's pronounced "front basket".)

  9. I pronounce it "cam-purr." (The stressed 2nd syllable is what a happy cat does.)
    I think that's closest to the French, which would be more like "com-purr" with the r's rolled.


I'm no longer allowing new comments on this blog. You can comment on the exact same post on the new blog. Go find it over at

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.