Archive for the ‘650b’ Category
The log that crosses the service road, moments from the start, had stopped my progress each of the four previous rides. As had the challenge of the first hill. I could make it to the top, but was panting and wheezing so heavily at the peak that I couldn’t partake in the jump that came soon after. Everyone else made that jump look awesome.
The final hurdle, before crossing the street into Rock Meadow, is a line of jagged rocks that runs right through the trail and looks imposing.
I gave only a halfhearted effort before putting a foot down. So scared I was. Throughout each of those rides, there were a number of obstacles that gave me trouble, slowed me down, or stopped me altogether.
I learned, or rather relearned, little things, important things, every thing, basic stuff like when you ride over rocks and roots, even small ones, your butt gets bucked off the saddle, so it’s best to hover even if you’re tired. You have to lean over the front wheel on steep climbs to avoid the wheel lifting off the ground. If there is a rider in front of you, give them time and space to clear technical sections. On really steep downhills, it helps to get way off the back of the bike, behind your saddle, for extra control. Pull up on the bars when you ride over a drop. No matter how thirsty you are, your water bottle is useless until you are stopped. Trees are everywhere and have surprisingly little give.
Around every corner was another reminder of a lesson I once knew.
Five rides in, however, and there have been improvements. I made it over the log. There was enough left in the tank to get an inch or two of air off the jump.
Brimming with confidence, I gave a wholehearted effort, and made it over the line of rocks. They didn’t seem so jagged this time. In Rock Meadow, I continued to do better, and took a huge step forward. I started relaxing on the bike. The difference is amazing. My grip on the bar loosened. I squeezed the brake levers less, which opened me up to a little rhythm through the twists and turns.
Best of all, I could stop focusing on myself, and start paying attention to the sites and sounds of the ride, and joking with my friends. I still have a ways to go, and endless areas to improve upon, but it’s great to be on the trail to once again considering myself a mountain biker.
The Little Tennessee River gets backed up at the Fontana Dam forming an emerald green reservoir that has been on my mind since the beginning of summer. Along the shoreline, long leaf pine needles blanket the forty miles of single track that meander through a North Carolina State Recreation Area named Tsali. It was there that I fell in love with mountain biking on a chilly October day, much like today, seventeen years ago.
Tsali was my first experience leaning into banked corners, involuntarily launching over whoop-de-do’s, and trail riding from sun up to until sun down. Whipping through the woods amidst the peace and quiet of the natural world turned out to be my definition of fun. That trip to North Carolina was just the start. From there I rode everywhere I could; the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, Pisgah, Monongahela, the Appalachians, the Sawtooths, Yellowstone, the Tetons, the Colorado Rockies, the Metacomet Ridge, and even Dooley’s Run right in my parents’ backyard. No matter the location, the thrill was the same. I was hooked.
After college graduation, I took a summer job leading mountain bike trips out west, and ended up staying for the year. I can’t recall if I put pressure on myself, or felt it elsewhere, but when the year came to a close, I determined it was time to follow a more traditional post graduation path. I packed up, headed home, went back to school, and got a job. I’m sure everyone has experienced it, but in the blink of an eye thirteen years flew by without me so much as throwing a leg over a mountain bike. Within that time frame I gave “my” mountain bike back to my father, and picked up road biking on the side.
For all intents and purposes, I am no longer a mountain biker. V-brakes have been replaced with discs. Triple chain rings, flat bars, and bar ends are all gone. 26” wheels look out of place in the sea of 650’s and 29ers. Judy Butter is no longer the answer to stiction. My full finger gloves are too small. People say “shred” instead of “ride.” I haven’t seen a Grateful Dead sticker on a bike in years. Mountain biking, it seems, has passed me by.
It took a road ride last April, in Greenwich, Connecticut to rekindle my interest in getting back on the trail. Darren, who works at Signature Cycles and was leading the road ride that morning, was guiding us through winding hills and beautiful country side, but for the first time in a long time, my mind was in the woods. I don’t recall how, but the topic of Tsali came up. As chance would have it, Darren had been there too, and had equally fond memories. We shared stories and fawned over the trails, the pine needles, and that glorious lake. Somewhere on the silky smooth roads of Greenwich, I decided that it was time go off road once again.
Perhaps it’s fitting that seventeen days into October, just seventeen years after my trip to Tsali that started it all, the design for my first Seven mountain bike sits in the queue (behind all of yours), ready to build.
I cannot wait.
Endurance riding is not a new segment. From the early days of cycling, riders have sought to challenge themselves by covering distances previously unimagined. But as a category within the broader cycling industry, endurance is now flourishing in a way it never has with the advent of longer, challenge-style events both on-road and off. After spending years working on rando bikes of every stripe, we are now seeing these bikes consolidate around the common experience of riders who are taking on events like Dirty Kanza, the Almanzo 100 and D2R2.
The Seven-sponsored Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team is made up of three riders who, collectively and in massive solo efforts, will clock more miles on their Sevens this year than most folks will manage in their cars. We are deeply fortunate to be able to work with John Bayley, David Wilcox and Matt Roy. This season they will tackle Dirty Kanza, the Green Mountain Double Century, the Rapha Gentleman’s Race, the Vermont 600, D2R2 and a 1200k brevet of their own design. And events aside, almost every weekend will see these guys spending whole days in the saddle, knocking out century after century, saving up their endurance for big, fast miles on their custom Sevens.
We’ve built each of them a unique, custom, randonneuring bike suited to their personal style and approach to endurance cycling. Comfort and utility get more and more important as the miles pile into your legs and light wanes at the end of the day.
Endurance Team Captain Matt Roy, a Harvard trained immunologist, rides a 622 SLX, the most technically-advanced bike on the endurance circuit. We’ve taken some cues from Mo Bruno Roy’s – last name not coincidental – cyclocross winning Mudhoney PRO. Matt’s 622 is by far the lightest rando bike on gravel, while still boasting the lifetime durability Seven builds into every frame.
John Bayley values versatility. He is riding an Axiom SL that can run 650b or 700c wheels. His cabling is external for easy servicing and quick adaptation. We finished his bike this week, another speed build that went together in just three days from final design to full assembly thanks to a fair amount of overtime and a group of willing collaborators on the Seven shop floor.
David Wilcox is a quiet, powerful rider, the kind of guy who can ride all day and all night without the whisper of a complaint. His bike is the most simple of the three, an Axiom S with no frills other than hydraulic disc brakes.
As co-sponsors, SRAM has provided the team with their new Force 22 hydraulic groups for each frame. Clement Tires has signed on as well. Working with cutting edge products makes projects like this one even more fun for us.
The Endurance Team sponsorship allows us to explore and experiment in a new and interesting way because these guys will tell us, in the space of one ride, what we might take months of research to learn on our own. Endurance riding pushes bikes to their limits and tests the effectiveness of different component integration strategies. The needs of the long-distance rider also push us to design and integrate practical solutions into each build, the details, big and small, that make all the difference between success and failure.