California Dreaming on the 2015 Speedvagen Fit Tour

The most essential component in a custom bicycle is the fit. It’s difficult to have an in-person fit experience these days with customers ordering from across the country or around the globe. Because of this, builders will chose to rely on either previous bicycle’s geometries or body charts. While it is possible to hit the nail on the head with these metrics, having the proper fit can be difficult without letting a builder witness how your body relates to the bicycle and vice versa. Hence the Speedvagen Fit Tour. Bringing the builder to the customer.

For Speedvagen and Sacha White, the owner of the Vanilla Workshop, fit is paramount for frame design and execution. In short: a bicycle should fit like a tailored suit. Every millimeter counts. Sacha’s fit philosophy is obsessive, thorough and merits a total fit experience. One that coincidentally, has been mobile for the past few weeks as it took to the road in California.

More input.

The fit tour is a concept that is ever-evolving, much like Speedvagen itself. It’s been in the works for years, with both tours launching in California, as future plans for Australia in August are being made. Bottom line is, Speedvagen will go to where the clients are…

“We love meeting our customers face to face and to have real human interaction and connection. That’s something you rarely get through email. Taking Speedvagen on the road and partying and riding with “our people” in their own backyard just feels right.” – Sacha White


That’s exactly what we did. We planned on being in two main hubs: Mission Workshop in San Francisco and Golden Saddle Cyclery in Los Angeles. We’d do group rides in both cities and parties in the evenings. All the while Sacha met with customers for 20+ fitting sessions.

Hi Paul!

It just so happens we drove an armored truck from Portland to SF during the first leg of the trip. Yikes! Ok, it wasn’t that bad. We swung by Chico, California on the way to SF and got to hang out with our friends at Paul Component.

As an outsider looking in, or an insider looking deeper within, I couldn’t help but appreciate the amount of thought and detail go into these fit sessions. Every single piece of data is catalogued and filed away, ensuring the customer’s Speedvagen matches their intended use and most importantly, their body’s architecture.

Conversations in numbers

Watching the Speedvagen team assess a client’s needs, proportions, routines, habits and even pedal stroke was impressive. As someone who obsesses himself about custom bicycle frame details, I suddenly felt more drawn to this process than the clean weld beads of a Speedvagen or the insane paint.

Sacha explaining shoulder

That’s where the difference lies with my perspective: Speedvagens are elegant vehicles for racing or just enablers of freedom, but the fit separates them from many other options. Seeing the process that leads up to a custom Speedvagen is almost more impressive than the final product. Almost.


Speedvagen are the ones building the bike and want to control the process to give the customer the best bike possible. These fit-tour attendees and clients will forever have an emotional connection to the brand, the builder and most importantly, the bicycle.

  • david__g

    Now I understand why Speedvagens and Vanilla are so $$$ – to pay for the gas for that truck.

    • John Watson

      Gas wasn’t that bad actually. We only drove it to SF, not all the way to LA. When you consider security, there aren’t many vehicles where you can leave $50k in bikes locked in overnight at a hotel either. ;-)

      • STW

        Doesn’t it get driven to CX races as well? And yes I’m being pedantic as all hell but it’s not rocket science to improve security on normal cargo vans…

        • John Watson

          see above…

        • NickW

          Change the record buddy. If we all drove armored trucks on a daily basis for our commute/trip to the shops/school run etc you might have a point, but these dudes using it once in a while to go to cx races, or even to San Fran? Not going to kill a tree

      • david__g

        I hadn’t thought of the security side of it! Still bet its MPG is eye-watering though.

        • John Watson

          12mpg on the highway.

  • STW

    Yeah…I suppose something more fuel efficient wasn’t metal/hardcore/whatever enough? At least Sprinters get low-20s. Earth score: 5/10. Because the armored wagon was carrying bicycles which get infinity mpg, right guys? Without bikes, 1/10.

    • John Watson

      The truck is completely ridiculous. I’m not saying it’s economical or environmentally the best choice, but the act of reappropriating it, branding it and using it for short trips to cross races seemed like a rad move on their end. It’s the kind of thing that sits in front of the shop for months and gets used once and a while. Meanwhile all the Vanilla employees ride bikes to work each day, pick up / drop off wheels on bikes and in general live a life that is bicycle-centric.

      Still, the truck is ridiculous! And loud. But it was fun driving it from Portland to SF. Type 2 fun, but still fun.

      • STW

        Sure, I can buy that. But I’m still on the fence about Speedvagen’s attempt to portray some masochistic bullshit theme. Gimme a damn break. It’s almost like they one-upped SoCal boys with lifted trucks. Was that on purpose?

        • John Watson

          I just think you’re thinking about it too much. If you met the people at Speedvagen, that’s the last thing you’d think. It’s easy to critique or be cynical on the internet, but the world isn’t as dismal of a place, ya know? We’re all into bikes and riding them is paramount in happiness. I just try to take things with a grain of salt these days and try to not be negative or cynical.

          Meanwhile, there are a lot of other rad things in that gallery to discuss, related to bikes, which we’re not talking about… yet :-)

          • STW

            I can say that about other companies, too. Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, Halliburton, etc. Nice people, shitty message. And yes, I did just compare a bicycle company to a defense contractor.

          • Matt O’Donnell

            uh huh…

  • Warren Lain

    The attention to fit and their whole process is fascinating. I have knee pain and I got a big lecture from my local shop guy saying that I need to pay a lot greater attention to fit before I try to switch to a mountain derailleur and mountain cassette for easier gearing. This is timely for me.

    • Alex Hillis

      I’ve had a few months of bad knee pain this year stemming from a century I did in Feb. On the mend now, and getting a proper bike fit was the most important step in that. I went to a fit specialist here in SF, pricey but worth it to ride again without damaging my knees.

  • TEx

    What kind of MPG does that van get? Also what kind of tires

    • Nat Whittingham

      GPM might be more accurate…

    • John Watson

      12 on highway

  • Ian Stone

    I want more info on #69

    • John Watson

      This dude Justin’s Suzuki that he bought painted like that for $1,000. Such a rad vehicle.

    • Justin Scoltock

      Thats my palm frond camo ’86 Suzuki Samurai! Dream car for sure! And even though it probably weighs a third of the Speedvagen trucks weight I bet it gets only slightly better mileage.

      • Ian Stone

        We had one as a shop truck with a snow plow on the front that was rusted to hell. I loved that thing.

  • Scott

    Sacha/Speedvagen sure do make some damn fine bikes, and I think this is good marketing tactics on their part, but is this article not a little aggrandizing? I was a little surprised to read that first sentence on a blog that has been doing such a great job of casting a light on so many skilled framebuilders and the industry as a whole. I can’t imagine many builders would ‘cast aside’ a chance to meet a potential customer face to face. I admit I have not ridden a Speedvagen, but I am very skeptical of any claim that they significantly different/better than any other pro builder.

    • John Watson

      Apologies! That wasn’t my intention. I didn’t mean that as an insult, moreso just a by-product of the digital age. If you live in Ohio and order a Stinner or a Firefly, it’s hard to deliver fit data in the same capacity as sitting down on a fit bike with the builder.

      Seriously, wasn’t meant to be a dig on other builders.

      • Scott

        I figured it wasn’t meant to come off that way, but the wording kind of made it sound like the Vanilla workshop is somehow more capable than the rest. Geography sure is a limiting factor with built-to-fit goods like custom frames. I know theres gotta be a damn good reason why Sacha’s Vanilla waitlist is out of control, I also know that if this sort of mano-a-framebuilder experience is desired, there are many other awesome [local] builders who would be happy to oblige.

        • John Watson

          For sure. I really like the idea of supporting local frame builders. A lot of my friends in Austin are getting an Icarus or a Tomii – LA people support Stinner, etc. I’ve had various fit conversations with builders but have never seen anyone (in my experience) go as thorough as Speedvagen. I wish we had done a video of the process. It’s really insightful.

  • Tyler Morin

    If I can ever afford one of these bicycles I will definitely be partaking in the whole experience and that means getting an in person fit done.

  • KT

    woah, that green stem! (photo 16). Anyone know if thats custom or where can I buy one?

    • John Watson

      Custom painted ENVE stem. Done in house by Speedvagen / Vanilla.

      • KT


  • Kyle Kelley

    I’m not sure how the fittings went, but what I do know is that a gentlemen with a few Speevagens brought four 18% beers and got a few of us pretty DRUZZLE! I also hope my Speedvagen Dog Trike gets built up before Cross Season next year!

    • David

      That was my boy JOEL! He’s the man. Very generous with his Bruery Society membership, patron saint of East West Bikes, and all-around amazing guy

  • Sean Talkington

    Great meeting y’all SV & thanks for the pizza…@jennlevo is way kool ;)

  • Tara DeMarco

    I was one of the customers on the CA fit tour. I am SO grateful that Sacha and Jenn took the time to come down the coast and work with us on our future bikes. We worked out a number of the details of my Speedvagen order before they arrived. However, it was really nice to use the time during my fit appointment to ask questions about the pros and cons of a particular upgrade or decision. My fit experience with Sacha was different to all of the other bike fits I’ve had in the past (more than a few). He has an idea of how he wants the bike to integrate with the rider that goes beyond knee angles and back position. His insights and suggestions have stayed in the forefront of my mind for the last couple of weeks. Also, thanks to GSC and Vanilla for a lovely neighborhood party!

  • Eric Brunt

    Top notch crew at the Vanilla Workshop! I was fit by Sacha in LA, & his process of finding balance points on the bike & position for optimal power/comfort is what stands apart in my opinion. Thanks again & looking forward to putting some miles in!

    • Kyle Kelley

      Balance points? Like taught you how to do wheelies? So sick!

  • Cooper Mittelhauser

    I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of fitting machines, but do none have adjustable (or easily swapped) cranks? Or is crank length not as important/such a no-brainer that adding such complexity to a fitting machine would be arbitrary?

  • Mark Tha Spark

    Very cool concept all around. The bike industry as a whole has taken its fair share of lumps when it comes to customer service. Speedvagen appears to get it. I can only hope others can take a page from their book and help bring customers back to their LBS and away from the internet. As always, great photo’s, John.

  • noelivan

    Wow. Lots of feisty comments. I’m surprise how controversial a fit can be. I’ve admired/lusted after Speedvagens for years. So when I heard Sacha would be in LA, I leapt at the opportunity. I’ve had four knee surgeries and fit will make or break a ride. Sadly, I’ve spent 20 years on bikes that don’t fit as well as they should. Some have come close, but not quite perfect. After the fit session with Sacha, I now know why. Getting a bike to fit perfectly seems dauntingly complex; move one aspect 1mm and everything else has to shift as well, but not necessarily by that same 1mm. A cynic might see the fit tour as a clever marketing tactic, as some on this thread have, but I thought it was a cool opportunity to meet a really good guy, understand the subtle nuances of posture on a bike, and learn just how complicated building a bike really is. Note that when you buy a stock frame from a shop you really don’t get any of those. For me, it was fantastic. I’m just bummed I missed all the parties.

  • Jeff Lai

    Quality bike/frame-building is not synonymous with quality customer service. Sometimes I like to romanticize that my custom bicycle is being welded in a dark garage by a curmudgeonly artisan framesmith, playing Iron Maiden to drown the rain outside. While that may be one heck of a frame, that man (or woman) might not be pleasant to interact with.
    When the Fit Tour rolled through SF, I had the pleasure of riding with SV and John, then fitting with Sacha. Sacha and Jenn deliver the whole package. It’s established that SV builds top-notch and cutting-edge bicycles. Sacha was able to really dial in my fit by putting in the time to get to know me, understand my riding style and needs for this bike, and just putting his eyes on my form and balance. There is no replacement for the level of detail gleaned from an in-person fit. My experience with building out my custom IF was not nearly as personable (not a knock on IF, still a fantastic bike, just a symptom of their ambitions to grow bigger).
    While I’m still early in the process with SV (still saving; I don’t have an unlimited budget), I could see that Sacha and Jenn are with me every step of the way. These guys are super chill, and just awesome to hang and talk bikes with! Cheers!


    what van is it?

    • John Watson

      an old Brinks armored truck

      • ARKON

        cheers mate

  • The Wugeoisie

    For some reason there is a mysticism surrounding Vanilla, Speedvagen and Sacha, the man. OK, so Vanilla, with its wait list that requires scientific notation to express, and perennial no-show at NAHBS status, I can understand. Sacha, the reluctant and reticent (at least in public) keeper of the acetylene flame, who, every other Thursday somehow manages to bust out an entirely original, non-Pantone color scheme – totally mystical. But The Speedvagen, with frames that start at 4k or so, lead times of a few weeks, even for full custom geometry, are not mythical (mystical?) beasts. Maybe it’s the unicorns. Having gone through the process of spec’ing Speedvagen road and cross bikes, I can say from experience that Sacha knows bike fit and, more importantly, how to communicate that knowledge without resorting to bike-fit demagoguery (the position of your knee needs to be 12 minus the yaw angle at 26 mph). Having owned,ridden and/or crashed many a SV, I can say that the bikes are as purpose built and dialed as they get. Oh, and they cost about the same as most top shelf, squeezed-from-a-tube-of-toothpaste, carbon frames, and will be delivered to your door, carefully and beautifully packaged, long before your Spesh with the gummy bear chainstay insertz starts its in-house residency in a shipping container bobbing around the Port of Oakland. It feels like everything can be deemed hand crafted, bespoke, small batch, farm to welder blah blah these days to the point where those terms have become meaningless. SV truly are those things. No irony. Even though Sacha does have one of those ironic Portlandia mustaches.

  • Jonathan Neve

    Whoa, Brunt getting fitted for a Speedvagen?

    • John Watson

      Rugged Road

  • Andy Brown

    thought I was reading comments on YouTube…

    Anyway. The bikes are cool. The truck is cool. Riding bikes is cool.

  • Jordan Sanders

    The moment I first reached out to Vanilla/SV, I was floored by their genuine attention and desire to make my dream bike come true (thanks Jenn!). I’ve put hundreds of miles on my Speedvagen and am impressed with the ride. However, I have some fit issues and mentioned that to Sacha. Surprisingly, when Sacha & Jenn rolled through on the Fit Tour he went out of his way to talk to me, ask questions, and despite his hectic fit schedule made time to work with me on fit and position. He could easily have approached it with a “tough luck” attitude. Cannot thank you enough, Sacha, for your professionalism, attention to detail, and love for making us all happy riders. His welcoming friendship and bond with each customer to ensure they’re riding their dream machine is unparalleled; I couldn’t be happier for connecting with him to build me a bike (or two). Looking forward to the next Speedvagen! Lastly, John Watson, great meeting & riding with you through SF…as always, beautiful photography.

  • Noel O’Malley

    I don’t know how Sacha manages to put the bike wheels under you right where they need to be… but the end result is a balanced, responsive (race) bike that you feel natural on and that doesn’t fight you. Who know’s what formula and thinking he does to get you there. The end result is a perfectly designed all around bike. It does everything right and nothing wrong. When I was fit I never found the bike’s limitations. On top of that…. yes, it’s a business enterprise… but you’re also a part of it. Your bike and your experiences around the bike matter. They’re all great people and it’s a nice way way into something more than a bike… You get a lot more than you pay for. The bike feels exactly like a road bike is supposed to feel like. And so, that’s great.

  • Ed

    Beautiful beautiful photos John, I love your site.

  • Roy Gene

    I’m surprised no one has said something, I’m super interested in the #urbanracer that he’s been teasing for the past couple weeks. Looks rad.

    • Kellen Hassell

      I feel like that tease has been months long….. can’t wait for more details.

  • Søren Nejmann

    Any one know how the di2 junction box is mounted on the white bike? Looks great.

    • Kellen Hassell

      I don’t know, but my SVRoad Di2 should be en route in a few days, and I’ll see how they do it and report back

      • Søren Nejmann

        Awesome! That would be really great :-) Thank you. Looking forward to hear from you. :-)

        • Kellen Hassell

          Ok, so it’s the standard Shimano Di2 junction box mount plate that typically has a strap/band that loops around the stem. However, the tabs that typically link the strap to the face plate have been shaved/cut off. Then, it appears the hacked mounting plate is epoxied to the stem surface itself, and then the box is simply snapped-in as it would be w/ any other Di2 setup.

    • Sacha White

      Hi Soren,

      Shimano provides a mounting bracket that usually gets fastened on with a rubber strap that wraps around the stem.We take that same bracket and bond it on to the underside of the stem, so no need for the mounting strap.

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