Shopping from the Future: Vanilla Custom Bicycle

In April, I’ll be pre-registering for Paris-Brest-Paris. Although the Pencil was an early front runner, I’ll be riding my custom Vanilla lugged randonnee on the August 2011 ride. Acquiring the Vanilla was a bit like mail ordering from the future. I submitted a deposit in 2006 and took delivery in September 2010. The bike is a bit of a Rivendell remake (more Herzog’s Nosferatu, less Van Sant’s Psycho). I switched over from 650b to 700c tires, requested lighter weight tubing and integrated lights, rack and fenders. Sacha White, the bike’s builder, was kind enough to borrow a mandrel to give my front fork a nice, low radius bend (à la française).

A profile of the bike on the Vanilla site.

Here’s an out-of-the-past preview courtesy of the Vanilla Workshop’s flickr photostream:

Photographed outside the Vanilla Workshop in Portland, Oregon.

Austere decaling. Only one panel on the seat tube.

Trusty Acorn Rando Boxy bag transplanted to the Vanilla.

Generator driven, Schmidt Edelux Headlight.

Son 20 front 32 hub. Lightweight for year round use.

Leather chain slap guard.

Updated views from an unusually balmy MLK Day ride:

January edition. Bar wrap and saddle have been updated.

Detail shot of simple lugs and Pacenti Paris-Brest crown.

Sacha special: custom handlebar bag rack with decaleur (not pictured).
For interested parties, here’s a short instructional film on PBP.

24 thoughts on “Shopping from the Future: Vanilla Custom Bicycle”

  1. Very sweet ride, worthy of the wait.
    Lovely attention to detail.
    Curious as to what make the saddle bag is?

    I run 28mm Grand Bios on my steed and have been very happy with the performance and ride they offer, not to mention the classic tan side wall!

    Very jealous of your undertaking of P-B-P 2011. Enjoy.

  2. Thanks for the comments.

    Anon, the rear saddle bag is a Kevin’s special…available through Rivendell Bicycle Works (sometimes in tweed).

    Riv also sells a few variations: Sackville Saddlesack XS


    Brand V for Vegans

    I’ll definitely have some shopping from PBP posts coming up.

  3. I’m debating a SON 20 with an Edelux though I hear that the light output is lower than with a regular SON28. Have you used both Lesli? Or, do you feel the 20 is enough hub?

  4. Naz–

    You could do no better than a Son 20 (deluxe) w/Edelux. The output is amazing compared to old Son 28 (which I have on the Riv). Zero resistance w/the hub compared to my old set up. See Peter White or Bicycle Quarterly for additional reviews.

  5. p.s. anon…I’m terrified of those Grand Bois tires. Every time I take them out (on the Riv) I seem to get a low grade nuisance flat. I’m sure it’s because I’m foolishly riding through glass and gravel.

  6. Interesting thing about waiting for your Vanilla is that each bike was more drool-worthy than the next over that four-year period.

    What will the PBP wardrobe be? Knickers and Filson vest?

  7. Hi Lesli,

    I am curious to know why you decided to switch from 650b to 700c. It seems you are bucking the trend by doing so. Thanks to the likes Jan Heine and builders such as J P Weigle, 650b wheels have enjoyed quiet the renaissance over the last couple of years. Interested in your input.


    Toronto, Canada

  8. Matt- long story short….I was unhappy w/availability of more narrow 650b performance tires. Not much available under 32c and I didn’t like having to source new old stock megamiums from ebay. I am a smaller rider and do not benefit as much from cush wide performance tires favored by 650b fans. 28c is perfect for me.

  9. The bike’s looking great Lesli.

    For the record, we’ve been doing leather chainstay protectors on our bikes for longer than VO has been in business, so our version was definitely not inspired by theirs.

    I first saw the rubber version of a CS protector at Jitensha and wanted to do something similar, but in leather with stainless mounts built into the frame, So if we’re giving credit, it should go to Jitensha and Ibisu…

    Hope all’s well!

    Sacha White
    Vanilla Bicycle Co.

  10. Sacha–

    Thanks for the note. I should have clarified my comment to say that I was inspired by the CS VO chain slap. Of course, I know you’ve been doing these for awhile. I’ll make a note in the post to avoid confusion.

    Loving the bike. And I’ve sent in my down payment for PBP trip so the bike should definitely see active use in Paris this August.



  11. Hans. Would love to bump into you in Paris! Bars on the Vanilla are Midge…by on one. I exfoliated the black anodization by hand. Stay in touch. Might need to-do advice for our post PBP France trip.

  12. Lesli,

    We will have to get together in France @ PBP. I rode my Vanilla in 2007 and will be taking it again this year. In 2007 it gots lots of attention and all the French would look it over closely. During the ride I would run into the same folks and they kept saying “La Vanilla”

    I ride out of San Francisco and rode the Portland 300k the day after I picked the bike up in June 2007. Looks as good today as then.

    willy in pacifica

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