Velo Orange Rando Review: An Unencumbered Pursuit

With the re-release of their ‘Rando’ offering, Velo Orange takes a stab at the slim, albeit existing, market of all-road bikes while adding their own, classically inspired twist. Floridian Nic Morales looked at where this gold-flecked bike shines and what pavement-centric dreams a thin-tubed modern randonneur inspires.

Irrespective of where you might land on the sport’s range of disciplines, I wholeheartedly believe there is a consistent, fundamental throughline among all cyclists—embracing a mode of enjoyment that embodies a willingness and preference toward two-wheeled, self-powered travel. Don’t get me wrong, the bike exists as much as a means to an end as it does the thing unto itself.

For me, cycling is as much about ingraining myself in the world, about knowing my neighbor, about feeling every crack in the street and bump in the road, as much as it is fulfilling an intrinsic need to move. But, aside from any of that, when all of the metaphysical noumena is peeled away, there is a sensation about self-powered, cycling-centric travel that exists as an unspoken, shared experience.

Nailing down what that is has taken some time, but I feel, after years of doing so, that I’ve narrowed it down. To be so bold as to imagine that my limited lexicon could do justice to the ethereal experience is to assume too much, but what I think it comes down to that which is often cited. Crack into any cycling podcast and fast-forward to the section where notable cyclist A details to notable cyclist B what they love about the activity.

Invariably, they’ll say it’s the sensation of flying. When the rubber meets the road, the sensation of having one’s own power multiplied and pushed across a surface in an exigent form of continuous energy creates an experience like no other. To continue the theme of philosophical reference, it isn’t a feeling that maxes out the terminal screen of metaphysical experience that someone like Baudrillard might detest, but a sensation that, over time, leaves one yearning in its absence.

Road cycling, for all its faults, falls well within the purview of the shared cycling experience. Before the skin suits and inconceivable power files, cycling on a road was just that: joining two modern advancements in human-powered movement toward their most efficient end.

Enter Velo Orange’s newest offering: The Rando. While the small, Baltimore-based company is no stranger to randonneurring culture and products that emphasize a more timeless ideal, their latest frame strikes closer to what a modern ‘roadie’ might look for. What that engenders and whether it’s a good thing is what I learned in my time on this neo-classical design.


The Rando is a thin-tubed, double-butted steel, rim-brake frame with variable dropouts that allow for greater flexibility in drivetrain modification. With a max tire size of 38 mm when using vertical dropouts, this bike certainly isn’t pushing the limits of tire clearance found on more recent, off-road-centric offerings. While it’s not flush with mounting points, it has all your standard braze-ons for fenders and bottles. Steel is no slouch when it comes to accepting a load, but it’s clear from the lack of auxiliary mounting points that the idea here isn’t skewed toward touring.

That theme continues throughout the design of the bike. Rim brakes are exactly that– rim. Not the generous nature of cantilevered, fork-blade mounted brakes. True rim brakes that require a bit of tire deflation to get the wheel out from between the Velo Orange Grand Cru brake calipers. The bike is also natively 700c with a stern ‘no’ on experimentation with 650b. The rest of the frame is relatively modern with 100 mm spacing at the front, 130-120 at the rear depending on which set of dropouts you use, a threaded 68 mm bottom bracket and quick-release dropouts.

Quick Hits:

  • Frame: Steel, tig-welded by “the best of the best babyyyy” in Taiwan (direct quote from Clint Boyer, head of design at Velo Orange). No brand name tubing as “we don’t believe in that” but if you really want to know, the butting profiles are double butted at .8*.5*.8
  • Price: $925 frame and fork.
  • Clearance for 700 x 35 mm with the vertical dropouts, 38 mm with the horizontal (both are provided with frameset purchase).
  • Weight: 4 lb 9.5 oz (listed for Medium frame) / 2 lb 5.1 oz (fork)
  • Brakes: 47-57 mm reach caliper rim brake
  • Bottom Bracket: English threaded 68 mm
  • Rear Spacing: 130 mm (vertical dropout) or 120 mm (rear-facing dropout)
  • Seatpost: 27.2 mm

I have the distinct advantage of having primarily ridden randonneuring-adjacent frames for pretty much my entire cycling life (save for an aluminum track bike, a mini velo, an old steel road bike, and one aluminum gravel bike). Most, if not all, of the bikes I’ve spent considerable time on were based on or around traditional randonneuring frames. That being said, as I discuss throughout, that’s an amorphous term.

Given the defining word relates to an act of cycling, it would be disingenuous to say these bikes are all that similar. In a general sense, they fall within the same category of geometry and riding intention: short, snappy chainstays, relatively steep headtubes, and aggressive—albeit malleable—position. However, I’d say this bike feels more akin to a modern endurance ‘road’ bike.

While I am loath to use intangible descriptors of an experience that is almost entirely individual, the nature of the geometry is inviting, yet aggressive enough to offer a race-ier feel when leaning into corners. Sized appropriately, and the handling is razor sharp while not at all squirrely. In essence, it’s the road bike you want to ride in any physical condition– not the one you have to train into.

Halcyon Days

Spelled out as such, the Rando isn’t exactly selling itself. I won’t lie, I’m a child of the more recent cycling trends. As much as one might guffaw at the world of Gravel, bikes that don’t require riders to avoid much at all on the map fill me with a sense of glee. It’s a concept arguably in unison with the almost universal experience of ‘freedom’ one feels on the bike. With roads being as dangerous as they are nowadays, the more time spent on back roads and in preserved spaces, the better. That withstanding, I couldn’t help but feel this bike harkened back to a more holistic ideal than initially presented.

Like I said, the arithmetic of buying a modern road bike in the world of capital “g” Gravel just doesn’t add up for anyone who isn’t actively racing. But I don’t think I’m the only person in the alt-cycling space to get excited when something like the Tour de France comes knocking. Not because of the insane watts-per-kilo or the new tech that’s perennially on display on the top riders’ bikes, or even because each inspired stage tempts us to best the KOM on a local segment on every leisurely pass. But because of the sheer nature of what is an insane competition started to try to sell more copies of a newspaper.

Most are familiar with the story of L’Auto, but I feel what’s often lost is the cultural context. In the early 1900s, the print publication was capitalizing on the growing interest in cycling and cycling-related activities because bicycle manufacturing had made the bike a thing ordinary people could access. For but a brief time, before the Great Wars of the 20th century and the mass production of the personal automobile, most people got on bicycles and felt what we all do. With harsh, heavy, fixed-gear bikes, people thought, “Where can’t I go on this thing?”

And they went. They went over mountains, traversed valleys and across creeks and hills. Through villages and cities and townships and country lanes. Across counties, countries, and even continents. The rest, as they say, is history. Soon, the performance-oriented limits had to be pushed, and now Jonas Vingegaard does inhuman things on a twig bike made for a God. But, the core of the idea of what the Tour de France centered around is still there.

The unison of person and machine striving toward movement is ecstasy. The capability of a well-engineered bike in conjunction with the capacity provided by a paved surface is probably as far as human technology, at least as it relates to transportation, ever needed to go. The possibilities are endless.

That’s what the Rando recalls. It’s not an all-road bike. Heck, it’s not even really materially a randonneuring bike in the traditional definition of the loosely defined term. Though Velo Orange is no stranger to confidently putting forth its own take on traditional cycling products, this iteration of the Rando is perhaps a greater indication of how much the world of road riding has evolved in recent years.

Where the original Rando was first a custom offering(!), then a lugged production offering very much in the style of a classical road bike, the latest iteration follows that increasingly vague genre of ‘endurance road’ albeit with a bit more style and panache. To wit, the dead, bleak colors of your run-of-the-mill Canyon or Specialized truly pale in comparison to what is unequivocally my favorite part of this bike: the triple-layered gold fleck paint job.

Alas, back to the matter at hand; without the option for 650b’s and a lack of invitation as far as even a front rack goes (my attempt at installing my Nitto Mark’s rack failed as there isn’t much space above the fork crown eyelet. I’m told this is something of an intentional decision from the frame designer), it doesn’t necessarily fill the sometimes stringent requirements held by the codified randonneuring community. What it does offer is an experience of a ride.

Forget anything from micro-suspension to even some larger modern bags–aboard the Rando there’s nothing save for the rubber and the road. That’s what this bike underlines. The sheer joy of power to pavement. And much like a wily, phase-consumed teenager, now that the road scene has evolved past the need for their bikes to be carbon copies (see what I did there) of the peloton, the average person can enjoy a road-focused bike without the flexibility of a 150-pound dutchman who has the power-to-weight ratio of a rhinoceros beetle.

In practice, this can be something of a less-than-ideal task. Roads aren’t the most inviting place in today’s America. Aside from the rise in pedestrian deaths, I can’t point to a concrete study or number as to why. It simply feels as though people are more distracted, more upset, and driving larger cars than ever before. Cyclists beware. But, as someone living through the deadliest time in the deadliest state in the deadliest country for cyclists and pedestrians, there are ways to enjoy a road bike.

The hundreds of miles of cycle-specific paths in a state that often appears less than conducive to cycling is the perfect canvas on which the Rando can paint its gorgeous lines. And that sense of what some might argue is limitation exists in conjunction with the intention of the bike. It’s a machine with purpose. The Porsche sat betwixt the cumbersome SUVs we’re all too used to.

Like many, I’ve become accustomed to the convenience and practicality of modern, somewhat recycled tech. A 650b x 48 Pass Hunter serves as my all-purpose bike, and one I find to be far more necessary in the city than one might imagine. Not having to worry about cobble-stone roads, potholes or the plethora of detritus that lies between my apartment and my favorite coffee shop is a luxury that becomes glaringly apparent when not in use.

Although dyed-in-the-wool roadies—and simply better bike handlers than myself—will likely marvel at 38 mm clearance as relatively gargantuan. But modern perspectives guide expectations. Roadies may view this, as Velo Orange does, as a true all-road bike. For someone that has largely deferred to larger widths for the sake of both practicality and comfort, I’ll admit that the tubed 32s I have set up on the Rando provide a rocket-ship like feel in comparison to the rest of my quiver.

Alas, having had many a 10+ hour day on bikes like the Pass Hunter, you tend to find the capability of said machines to be a bit of a parachute. The weighty nature of its potential to do anything is freeing, but not without cost. When near-effortless pedaling is what you’re after, a lightweight steel road-focused bike like the Rando is the tool for the job.

Still, some might suggest that if the lightweight nature of a capable bike is your prerogative, the sea of carbon fiber all-road or even simply road bikes will surely fit the bill. And sure, on paper, said bikes might check the boxes for an all-day rider. But the glittering niche the Rando creates for itself between more off-road capable gravel bikes and your run-of-the-mill performance-oriented steed becomes all the more apparent when taking the entire package into consideration.

For even the most futuristic of us, there is something spectacular about the look of a true classic. Not having to guess whether the garage an 80s LeMond was kept in suffered from excess moisture is part of what the Rando puts forth. It’s a tried-and-true classic design, brought up to modern manufacturing standards and practices. The beauty of its timeless, steel French bend fork is something to behold.

Moreover, albeit subjective, the lightweight double-butted chromoly steel used in its construction puts the dead, stiffness of modern high-performance bikes to shame. On some level, I’m sure any material used to make bikes contains that lofty ideal presented by a Tour rider; strength to weight. But, as the material most accessible to most people, it’s hard to find a well-made steel frame that doesn’t exemplify that material dynamic. The ‘planing’ many high-fidelity steel bikes are known for is present in spades. An attribute I’d trade for weight savings pretty much any day.

All this is available at a price that isn’t just competitive, but a proverbial steal at under $1,000 for the frameset. Given we’re currently living in an economy where you can buy a dozen eggs for the low low price of $11, how they’ve managed to value it so attractively is beyond me.

Oh Yeah…

Yes, the Rando is a production rim-brake bike made in the year of our lord 2023. A different person may have spent a larger amount of this ‘review’ discussing the difference between it and disc-oriented frames, but– that ain’t me. Aesthetically, I think rim brakes offer a far cleaner look. They’re much more in line with the imagined idea that brakes were something of an afterthought to the modern bicycle. After all, you can run this bike fixed/ single speed.

That said, rim brakes offer a different experience to their modern disc-brake counterparts. Focusing on which is better seems as much an aesthetic choice these days as it does one centered around performance. That said, my experience rang true to the general perception of their disparities. In normal, dry conditions, they provided entirely comparable stopping power to any mechanical disc brake I’ve spent time with. In the wet, heck, even in the morning fog of Florida’s shoulder seasons, they required a bit of anticipation to feel safe (i.e., modulating the pads on the rims prior to an intended stop, so as to ‘wipe off’ any liquid that may be sitting on the braking surface).

As a Floridian, I don’t have much to worry about concerning the braking conditions people often insist they need discs for. Trips out to more mountainous regions have allowed me to realize hydraulic systems aren’t just some upsell scam, but, humankind’s ability to do things like the Tour de France on rim brakes suggests it’s not a detriment that should deter you from such a machine. Moreover, the simplicity provided by rim brakes is tough to beat. No bedding in period, no inexplicable squealing after picking up some odd liquid pooling in the road, no annoying and sometimes frustrating pad alignment. For what is a far easier and less obtuse system, rim brakes have won over this flatlander.

The varied dropout system is another plus to the equation. Mounted via two chainring-style bolts, the rear-facing dropouts feel like an ode to the real-world function of bikes of this ilk in today’s cycling space. In the late aughts and early 2010s, fixed gear conversions of old road bikes were a popular way to make the cheapest, most accessible style of cycling even cheaper and more accessible.

Aside from the lack of guessing on the material fatigue on this newly produced steel frame, the dropouts allow for both flexibility and longevity that most modern bikes are often built in opposition to. Irrespective of how one feels about late capitalism’s effect on our brains, people like to change their minds. Having a bike that can morph from your premier, dream road bike, to the singlespeed cruiser you’ve relegated to coffee shop duty is not just good value for money, but an ecologically responsible decision as it necessitates less waste.

Singlespeed/ fixed gear conversions may not be too far out of reach for most steel bikes these days given conversion kits and the like, but it’s all the better the bike can do it somewhat natively. Add on the fact that my personal experience with horizontal dropouts is less than stellar, as I have been known to put down enough power to move the wheel in the dropouts, and the swappable dropout system seems to have all plus and no minus. You’re not locked into one system or another. A quick swap and you have exactly what you need.

In essence, the Rando is a bike for people who like bikes. As I said, cycling can be a means to an end. I’m no stranger to this myself as the bike offers, among other things, a sense of intrinsic fulfillment, a tool toward community, a vehicle to be in nature, and so much more. But what I’ve learned in my years of pedaling is I truly love just that. Spinning my legs in a circle on the crappiest, most dangerous roads the city seems intent on suggesting I shouldn’t ride on.

It doesn’t really matter where I am or where I’m going, the weightless nature many liken to flying is what I love about this crazy, practical, endlessly efficient mode of transport. The Rando’s singular sense of focus, imparted by its road-centric limitations, allows those with a penchant for ‘flight’ to soar.


  • Lightweight construction
  • Simple standards
  • Approachable geo
  • A steal in today’s pricey bike market
  • Removable dropouts add versatility


  • External top tube cable routing makes frame bags and some car racks a no-go
  • Not a generous amount of tire clearance
  • Not inviting for racks

Build Spec:

  • Frame: Velo Orange Rando (Large)
  • Headset and BB: Velo Orange Grand Cru
  • Wheels: Velo Orange Voyager 700c
  • Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 700 x 32c
  • Stem: Velo Orange
  • Bars: OEM 42 cm
  • Seatpost: Velo Orange Grand Cru
  • Brakes: Velo Orange Grand Cru Long Reach
  • Levers: TRP RRL
  • Shifters: Dia Compe ENE 11s
  • Crankset: Velo Orange Grand Cru Drillium
  • Shifting: Shimano Ultegra Front mech 11s, SRAM Rival 11s Road
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17
  • Pump: Topeak Master Blaster
  • Top cap: Yellow Bird Threadworks Nor’Easter

For transparency’s sake, Velo Orange sent me this bike for an unrelated project. To honor the tradition of randonnuering, I used their new bike to trek across all 218.4 miles of central Florida in a single day. Nothing said here has been influenced by, altered, or edited by anyone at Velo Orange– I’m just a guy who likes their products and gets to work with them. As small companies tend to be, they’re always accepting and gracious of any critiques, and tend to submit their wares to the ‘marketplace of ideas’ for the sake of making them better.