The Camargue from Velo Orange is a bike designed to extend the ride beyond where the pavement ends. Named after an ancient French horse breed, the Camargue is as rugged as its wetland-dwelling namesake and capable of taking you on adventures both near and far and in a style normally reserved for bikes with much higher cost of entry.
This steel beauty has subtle refinements that give the impression of a custom steed, without the price tag. From swoopy front fork to a lovely paint scheme and the ability to set it up in myriad configurations, the Camargue is hitting above its weight in terms of visuals and bang for your buck, but what about the rest of her?
My test rig is equipped with smattering of Velo Orange bits and a drivetrain comprised of a 38/42 Shimano Deore crankset and a 11-36 cassette with Deore front and rear derailleurs, all which perform as you would want them to: confidently and without flaws. The beefy Onza Cannis 29 x 2.25-inch tires are a nice complement to the drivetrain, and lend some serious traction to the wide range of gearing.
You may have noticed that there are only cantilever brake bosses on the front fork and seat stays; this is by design, as part of the aesthetic the crew over at VO is going for. It’s also a practical decision says Igor Shteynbuk, Purchasing Manager for Velo Orange, “If you’re on tour in South America, or someplace remote, the chances are much greater of being able to fix a set of canti brakes than a modern disc set up.” Plus, it all feeds back into the overall aesthetic. Canti-brakes, though slightly less performance oriented, are more in line with the design of the Camargue, it could be argued.
The Camargue ride can differ depending upon how you choose to set it up. My test bike has a comfy upright ride, utilizing VO’s own Casey’s Crazy Bars. This works out well for me, as the bars are pretty close to the Jones Loop H-Bars I ride on my own bike, plus the two time-trial style bars out the front work great for lashing things like sleeping bags and offer a few more hand positions. That said, you could set it up with standard mountain bike bars or drop bars to suit your needs or preferences.
Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.
The Camargue frame comes in six sizes from 47 to 62cm and employs 26- or 29-inch wheels depending upon the frame size you order. My size 56cm tester uses 29-inch wheels and is the cutoff for the larger tire; everything smaller employs 26-inch wheels. The larger wheel size was great and helped keep me spinning over and through most everything in my way.
The 29-inch tires may say mountain bike, but geometry of the Camargue is closer to a classic touring bike than a modern off road machine. With a 71 degree head tube and 73 degree seat tube—combined with relatively long 18-inch chainstays—the bike feels solid yet responsive, especially weighted down. While the Camargue comes in at 30-plus pounds before you start adding gear to it, the extra weight is handled well enough not to be overly taxing, making the Camargue among the best offroad overnight bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding.
Some have said the bike resembles early production mountain bikes, a thought that isn’t wholly lost on the folks over at Velo Orange. Before we poo-poo that notion as being outdated, we should review the positives; the bike is solidly constructed making it great for everyday commuting, grocery getting, world touring, bike overnights, etc. It’s stable, yet nimble, making it easy to strip down and take it on your favorite mountain bike trail without fear of having too little bike. It’s also fashionable enough to upstage the scenesters at your favorite coffee shop or watering hole, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Overall the Camargue was a treat to ride. It’s the type of bike I really enjoy (albeit slightly more fancy than what I’m used to riding) in that it doesn’t expect much from you. What I mean is, there isn’t any pressure to look, act, feel or perform a certain way that other bikes tend to impart on their riders. To me, it seemed that this bike was simply happy to be ridden, which fits in perfectly with what Velo Orange is aspiring to, creating bikes that are meant to be ridden. Whatever that means to you.
If that sounds like it hits the nail on the head for your next bike, you should look into the Camargue. Give the folks at Velo Orange a call and they can help you source a build kit from their own goods, or ship it to your local bike shop and have them suss out a build that’s right for you.
- Price: $620 frameset; $2,125 complete
- Weight: 8 pounds, 3 ounces (frame and fork); 31 pounds complete
- Sizes: 47, 50, 53, 56 (tested), 59, 62 cm