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Going Fast

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Craig Gaulzetti axiom SL side - DSC_0006

In the last few weeks, we’ve talked about Going Up, the process of designing a climbing bike, and Going Far, the things that go into a long distance bike, which might be a century bike, a touring bike or might be a full-blown randonneuring machine. This week we turn our attention to race bikes.

The bike industry has traditionally worked backwards from race bikes to fill shop floors with race look-alikes for everyday riders who will never turn a crank in anger. What is good for the pros, so the logic goes, must be good for you, too, and for some very small number of non-pro riders, that could be true.

As with all our bikes, we start with the purpose of the bike and work forward. Going fast requires being able to sit in a comfortable, aerodynamic position, to be able to handle your bike in tight spaces, and to get good power transfer through the rear triangle.

As custom builders, getting to that perfect position is a given. We can replicate exact saddle and grip positions from a bike fitting. We can dial in handling by adjusting headtube angle and fork rake to produce the exact characteristics the rider wants. We can adjust the stiffness of the rear triangle by selecting specific diameter chainstays, up to and including the 1″ stays we call “race stays.”

Our 622 SLX rivals all of today’s carbon race machines for weight and stiffness, but it incorporates more road feel and better comfort than those bike through its unique combination of laser-cut titanium lugs and filament-wound carbon tubing. Our all-Ti Axioms make great criterium bikes for their ability to absorb the heavy impacts of racing on imperfect pavement and the way they come through the occasional crash.

The technology of race bikes evolves quickly, and adapting to new component standards can be a challenge, but with a custom bike these things can be considered during the design phase to leave you with as many upgrade options as possible.

The thing is, bikes aren’t fast. Riders are fast. The best way for the rider to Go Fast is to design a bike around them that fits them perfectly, handles the way they want it to and transfers as much of their power as possible.

 

 

Going Far

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Last week we talked about Going Up, the process of designing a climbing bike. This week we look at what goes into a long distance bike, which might be a century bike, a touring bike or might be a full-blown randonneuring machine. We build these on our Axiom platform or our Expat platform typically, but as with everything we do, it’s custom, so the features are more important than the model name.

four-season-expat-slThese sorts of bikes usually have comfort as their primary design goal. Performance remains important, so drivetrain stiffness is still desirable, but one of the keys to performing over long distances and after many, many hours in the saddle is comfort.

Comfort in this regard isn’t just about how the rider feels in the moment, but how fresh he or she can remain. Muscles that have not been pummeled by an overly stiff frame for eight hours are better able to sustain effort in the 9th and 10th hours of pedaling. There is the next day to consider as well. On multi-day tours, the need to wake up in the morning rested and recovered can be the difference between fun and misery.

randoNightTitanium is a particularly good material for long distance bikes, and our ability to refine this tubing for the individual rider means we can keep those riders fresh and comfortable according to their own preferences. The tube butting process consists of removing material along the length of the tube to make it strategically compliant. The more aggressively the tubes are butted, the more compliant the frame becomes, the better it soaks up chatter and impacts from the road. Steel also shares these properties, just at a slightly greater weight.

As with the climbing bike we discussed last week, there are a number of factors to balance, comfort and performance being the most obvious. Stability and handling are also critical to a good long distance bike, a more relaxed geometry, a longer wheelbase. You want to be able to ride hands free to rest hands and shoulders. You want good handling at low speed, even carrying a load, which brings us to features and options.

Touring bikes used to have cantilever brakes as a default, because they let you run a wider tire with a fender, but the advent of better medium reach fork/brake combinations and disc brakes have radically improved braking performance and given riders more options for bike set up. The touring triple has given way to the compact double crank, with wide range cassette to achieve the same gearing ratios. Rack and fender mounts are very popular on long distance bikes too, as are our custom racks, which can be built to fit the specific bags, panniers and lighting systems you want to run. Dyno hubs and front facing light mounts keep riders going into the night.

It is well-nigh impossible to get a great long-distance bike off the shelf. The unique attributes that keep a rider comfortable over long periods of time with the features and options and component choices that suit them make each of Seven’s “Go Far” bikes special.

Summer’s Options

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

It isn’t summer yet, just April’s end, but there are buds on the trees, the sun rises higher in the sky every day, and we can begin to see all the riding options summer will give us. Our New England trails are drying out. The sunrise is early enough to get out on the road on a Saturday before the cars have woken up. The options are nice to have, though they sometimes necessitate more than one bike.

Flat bars or drop? Skinny tires or fat? One seat or two? In summer, it almost doesn’t matter what you choose.

FreedomWigs

ForestTrail

Nick

KarlShred

Tandem

A Holistic Approach

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Axiom_TraceEvery new bike purchase is, in a very real way, a design challenge, engineering the best possible solution for the type of riding you want to do. How you address that challenge can vary wildly, from choosing an off-the-shelf bike that already does most of what you want it to do, to building a fully custom bike.

When we think of a new bike at Seven, we start our own design process with material choice. What frame material makes the most sense? Steel has a unique ride feel, bright and lively, comfortable. In the hands of a good builder, steel can be light, too. Titanium can be lighter still, and just as comfortable. It won’t corrode, will survive better in a crash, can be repaired. In a word, it is durable. And finally carbon fiber, which is even lighter (in most cases) and stiffer. It dampens vibration well, but is not generally as durable as titanium or steel, nor as naturally comfortable.

John Lewis' Axiom SL towards DSC_0016We think it’s important to start at the beginning, with frame material, rather than jump forward to decisions based on component spec or features. The riders we talk with every day know what they want their bike to do. Why not choose the material that does those things best, rather than settling for a bike retro-fitted to do them.

As an example, many carbon fiber road bikes have some sort of impact dampening system built in, something to take the edge off, either an elastomer insert or a suspension pivot. What this suggests is that the base frame material wasn’t the best choice for the purpose, a more compliant material like steel or titanium made more sense.

622-slx-mainWe also know that it is possible to get benefit from multiple frame materials, which is why we build mixed material bikes like our 622 SLX. Here again, we try to take a holistic approach, matching the materials to the purpose from the beginning of the design, instead of engineering ways to overcome a material’s weaknesses. The 622 SLX uses frame material to incorporate the stiffness and lightness of carbon fiber with the compliance and structural strength of titanium. It looks pretty good, too.

When you take a holistic approach to bike design, you work forward from the frame material’s capabilities, rather than working backwards from its limitations. This is what we try to do, with every bike.

 

 

 

Things That Last – Before and After Axiom repaint

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

We built this Axiom SL in 2002, for a customer who has since worked with us on two more bikes. This winter, he decided he wanted to update the look of this bike after 13 years on the road. He sent it to us to strip and repaint. This is what it looked like when we got it, not bad for its vintage, not bad at all.

We tell our riders we’re building them a lifetime bike, that they’ll still be riding it in decades. We think it’s one of the big selling features of a Seven, but in the excitement of getting a new bike, few really appreciate the value of the long term. You can’t blame them, they’re getting a new bike.

But now, 18 years into our bike building adventure, we are seeing bikes coming back for refinishes and repaints, and we send every one back out the door looking as good as it did when it was new. Many of these frames are a decade or more old.

There’s a story in this that resonates with these times: ¬†about quality, about not making disposable stuff, about caring for and fixing things instead of throwing them away and buying something new.

Here is the after shot of the bike above:

We hope we’ll see it back again in 10 or 15 years for another update.