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Archive for the ‘Bike Build’ Category

Hardly an Update on Karl’s Sola SL

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The first bike I ever built was a Trek 800 mountain bike at Alpha-Lo Bicycles in Wallingford, CT when I was in 6th grade. I had applied to work at the bike shop weeks earlier, even though I had few skills in the realm of sales, merchandising, or mechanics, and yet they hired me anyway. Chalk it up to the sweetheart of an owner, and my obvious love for his store.

I worked on the weekends, and though I doubt I provided $20 of value, that’s what I was paid. Keeping the shop presentable was my number one priority, which sounds lame, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I took great pride in shifting the bikes to the big ring, pulling products to the front of the shelves, and vacuuming the floor. When the shop was clean, George, Aaron, and Matt all pitched in to help me learn the basics of bike mechanics.

The shop wasn’t enormous, but it felt like we hand an endless array of entry level mountain bikes to assemble. Building these bikes would become my second responsibility. At the time, I could operate a quick release and fix a flat, but that was the extent of my skills. I was a clean slate. The learning curve was steep, and I wasn’t the quickest learner, but the shop guys were incredible teachers, celebrating victories when I had them, and understanding when I failed. They’d gather round to inspect, coach, joke, mock, and help whenever I was stuck. They’d pull up stools and watch, or shout out advice from afar.

Life was good. What I learned at that shop wasn’t a mastery of bike mechanics, something I’m still searching for, but a love of the bike build and the fanfare that goes with it.

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At Seven Cycles, we have a bike stand and work shop just beyond our bike commuter lot. Low on bells and whistles, but high on character, it has all of the essential tools to transform a frame into a complete bike, a well worn work bench, recycling bins, a vice, shelves, rags, a drawer of miscellaneous parts, and stools. Whenever a bike is being built, whether it be a new bike for a magazine review, or someone’s old beat up commuter, people gather. Opinions are voiced, jokes cracked. The stools fill with spectators. Assistance is provided, wanted or not. Should the build happen after work, the crowd grows along with the laughter.

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The technology has changed, as have the tools, but the fanfare of a bike build today is no different than it was when I was a kid. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I can’t think of a better place to build my new Sola.



Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

When we receive a signed confirmation form for a new bike, the designer staples the pages together, slips them in a folder with all the accumulated paperwork, and clicks it off in the database as “confirmed.”  That designation alerts Matt O’Keefe, the head of production, who nabs the folder and walks it back to the machining area where he files it neatly and squarely in the back of the build queue.  The last spot in the queue can be found all the way to the right of the vertical file.

If thinking about your new, one-of-a-kind, hand built Seven Sola SL gets you excited, well then, you want that folder to be all the way to the left.  Until it’s the very first one on the left, it won’t be started. The wait can be agonizing.

So I couldn’t believe what happened this morning.  All alone in pole position, my folder finally sat on the far left.

From there, right in the sweet spot, Mike Salvatore plucked it out of the queue, then invited me into his office to show me the build sheet he was creating for my bike.  I glowed.

Mike at the Helm

The first task is to take the information from the confirmation form, and turn it into a build sheet that specifies every detail of the work to be done.  Every single detail, big and small.  Tube lengths, diameters, wall thicknesses specified to thousandths of an inch, cable stop styles and locations, where the tubes will be cut, butted, coped and many, many other pieces of information are all included on the drawing so that it can flow through the fabrication process without being held up.

Mike has drafted several thousand build sheets, but I could tell by the confident clicking of his mouse, this one was extra special.

Reading my enthusiasm, he pointed out a few details and explained why they were important.  The chain stays, for example, when designed around my single 32-tooth chain ring and 2.4″ tires have to be curved to avoid running into the crank, squished to create tire clearance, angled back to avoid hitting my heels, flared to miss the 180mm rear disc rotor, and finally spread to reach the drop outs.  A lot of thought goes into each chain stay, a lot of engineering.  After plugging in a few more numbers, every last specification was accounted for and the fabrication of the frame could begin.

For one lucky individual, this will happen in a matter of moments.

In the Queue

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Maple and Pine


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.




Mark S’s Cafe Racer S

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Strath3This is the Cafe Racer S we built for Mark, our friend from Calgary’s Bow Cycle. Though conceived as a simple machine, a fixed-gear with a stripped down look, he took the time to personalize it in a way that makes it one of our favorite bikes of the season. And he also sent us these awesome pictures of it on the streets of Calgary (courtesy of Kevin Kwan), including this one of him getting just a little bit rad.Strath5


Head Badge Closeup


Ornate Drop Bar


Mark’s Custom, Blasted Name “Decal”


Drive-train with Pilsner

Learning to Endure

Friday, May 24th, 2013

DSC_7436Endurance 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.

Welding Zip Tie Guides for Hydraulic Brakes

Welding Zip Tie Guides for Hydraulic Brakes

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.

Over-sized Head Tube Fo Jon Bayley's Axiom SL

Over-sized Head Tube for John Bayley’s Axiom SL


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.

Taillight Prototype

Taillight Prototype


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 Seven Crew Knocking Out John's Axiom SL Rando Special

The Seven Crew Knocking Out John’s Axiom SL Rando Special


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.


Project Bike: Nella Neve – Winter Randonneur

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Mid-winter, Rob built himself a unique rando bike.  This was one in a long list of Seven project randonneuring bikes that we took on in 2012, an internal project to test a couple ideas. Due to the above-average snowfall here in New England, we did this as a speed project, one week from design to build.

This video was, in part, the inspiration for the design, hence the name Nella  Neve.

Highlights of the project included:

  • Hot swappable between drop bar and Tiberius bar – actually a Stylerius(tm) bar
  • Accommodate tires from 23c up to 2.3″ 29er.  Ideally designed around 33c tires.
  • Race-worthy geometry, handling, and performance.
  • Big fenders for optimized protection in the wettest and snowiest of days.  No ice buildup on theses beauts.
  • Disc brakes for icy weather and easy wheel swap.
  • Hot swapping studded tires for 28c tires depending on the weather

Ambi’s 622 SLX

Friday, April 5th, 2013

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This is Ambi’s new 622 SLX with integrated seat post (ISP), 44mm headtube, and Di2 shifting perched against a guard rail in the Marin headlands looking down over the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. We built it with our friends at City Cycle.

Ambi says:

My bike is finally completed and she had her first 40+miles today up and down SF hills and the Marin Headlands, even saw family of deers too. She rides as mean as she looks, and as good, as fast…super stiff, awesome downhill, uphill, cutting name it! That over-sized head tube looks insane!

Effortless! Now i need to be in shape all the time to keep up with this bike.

Thanks again for all your help and please thank Jordan and all Seven crew who helped made my dream bike. Can’t wait to ride again. You guys are awesome! I am eyeing a Ti Axiom or Cafe Racer in the future. But in the meantime this bike is so awesome!

Melinda’s 650C Axiom S

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013


This is Melinda’s brand new 650c Axiom S. We built it in partnership with our friends at Podium Multisport in Atlanta. The challenge here was to find a good, balanced design and fit for Melinda, who is both diminutive in stature and aggressive in riding style. Working around a 650c wheel size, Podium gave us positionals to work from, and we came up with this bike, which seems to be just what Melinda was looking for…

She reports:

My first real ride didn’t occur until yesterday! We went about 53 miles, and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  Here is my first impression: All the the ‘hot spots’ where I felt uncomfortable on my other bike were nonexistant..The pinch at the ankles, tweak in the knee, hip; ache in the back, etc….all gone.  It felt like I could be on the bike and actually relax my entire body.  Like sitting in a “stressless” chair (if you know what those are).

From a power perspective, on my old bike I always felt that I couldn’t pull up on the pedal stroke efficiently and I was correct!  I was missing about half my power in the stroke because I couldn’t get the pull.  On this bike I felt like I could utilize muscles and power that I never had access to.  Rather than feeling the crunch at mile 20 and hanging off the back and thinking I couldn’t possibly go another 30+miles, I stayed toward the front most of the time, was able to fly up the hills, and even had energy left over at the end of the ride.  It was beyond anything that I could have imagined!

Needless to say, I am pleased! I felt the road but not all of the bad things that come from the road like uncomfortable bumps, etc.  It absorbed those nicely.  It was incredibly responsive and ZIPPY! There is no better term for it!  I don’t think Alan is very happy though because I smoked him up the big hills and had to hold back to fetch his sorry ass at the end of the ride.  Oh well, can’t please them all!


Titanium/Carbon Mixes – The Best of Both Worlds

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

622-lugsIf you were to take a carbon fiber tube and wrap it against the wall, then hold your ear to it, there would be little if any sound emanating from the tube.  If you did the same test with metal, it would sing like a tuning fork.  The same holds true for frames, metal sings and carbon whispers.  These two qualities make for very different experiences on the road.  Carbon bikes, like our Diamas line, make pitted and potholed roads feel like you are pedaling over wall to wall carpeting; smooth, with very little feedback.  Metal bikes, like the Axiom, Resolute, Sola, and Mudhoney, on the other hand, provide constant feedback keeping you in tune with the surface of the road.  Once we start customizing and manipulating tube sets, we can alter how compliant or how stout the frames will be, but the material dictates how the road’s vibrations will be relayed to the rider.

There is a gap between whispering and singing, and to some, that’s where the perfect bike resides.  By adding carbon tubes to a titanium frame, or vice versa, we can fabricate a bike that hums, bridging the gap between the two materials.

tubingThe idea of a titanium frame paired with carbon seat stays for the intended purpose of soaking up road vibrations was a notion that Seven pioneered and first implemented with the Odonata back in 1997, and though there have been some updates and improvements the same basic model exists today, now known as the Elium SL.

The ride of a ti/carbon bike is so pleasant, that we offer them in road, cross, and mountain bike disciplines.

Belgianwerkx – Signature Mudhoney Cross Racer

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


New Seven partner shop, Belgianwerkx in Mequon, WI (just north of Milwaukee), wanted to do something special for their first floor demo bike. We think they succeeded. A steel Mudhoney, painted in their colors with Belgian flag accents, new HED Belgium rims, Cannondale crank, ENVE cockpit, the works. Nick Moroder, shop manager, said, “The handling is spot-on. SO responsive. And it’s unbelievably stiff for any bike, let alone just steel.”

Check out the Belgianwerkx site for more pictures.