Seven Cycles Blog » Bike Build

Archive for the ‘Bike Build’ Category

Short Term Review

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The level of customization here at Seven Cycles as witnessed by our Editions of One, as well as other unique creations we’ve highlighted, can sometimes overshadow the fact that we also spend a lot of time thinking about, designing and building race bikes.

Early on here at Seven, I decided I wanted a new race bike and after much deliberation on model and material, I decided on an Axiom SL, our benchmark model and in my opinion, the ultimate evolution of the titanium road bike.

With the help of Neil Doshi in our Performance Design Team, I worked through our Custom Kit exactly as you would, in order to come up with what you see here. Seven’s Fit Methodology (SFM), a comprehensive, data-driven system resulting from a 18-year study of ergonomics, biomechanics and kinesiology, drove the process that resulted in positionals and frame geometry perfect for me.  The bike is not all that different in terms of fit from the bikes I have been riding and racing for years, but the small tweaks resulting from the process are a noticeable and quantifiable improvement.

The oversized tubing selected for this bike allows it to easily achieve the UCI minimum weight of 6.8kg. In fact it is lighter than both my previous carbon and aluminum bikes. As one would expect from a bike with such massive tubes, it has an amazing amount of drivetrain and torsional rigidity, tracks solidly over mixed terrain and unimproved roads and is abundantly confident during spirited efforts, changes in tempo and hard cornering.

The paint scheme is a peak at one of the many new finishing offerings our team is working on for the coming season. To my eye it appears forceful, yet refined and elegant.  I let our own Jordan Low from our Paint Department choose the colors and could not be happier with the results.

Our oft repeated motto here at Seven is, “One bike, yours.”  I could not be happier that this one is mine.

Bare titanium chain stay: easy to clean, chain slap won't chip paint.

Bare titanium chain stay: easy to clean and chain slap won’t chip the paint.

The over sized tubes make for a stout, race ready ride.

The over sized tubes make for a stout, race ready ride.

Craig Gaulzetti axiom SL side - DSC_0006

Ready to roll.

 

Dems Da Brakes

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

One topic that came up early in our discussions with Patrick Brady about the ultimate travel bike was brake type.  Due to the wide range of tires he’ll be using, and the desire to keep packing and unpacking as simple as possible, Patrick felt cantilevers, or possibly mini-v’s made the most sense.  Easy to set up and adjust, these brakes don’t require any additional tools or time to pack in a case.  Patrick had ruled out cable actuated disc brakes for two reasons, first because disc rotors present a hurdle in the speed of packing the bike, each rotor has to be removed in order to fit, and second because Patrick had yet to find a cable actuated disc brake that he felt was so significantly better than a rim brake, that they’d be worth the hassle.

photo

Before we knew how he felt about brakes though, we took him for a ride.  His test bike was a coupled Evergreen SL, a sort of travel bike prototype outfitted with Shimano’s R517 non-series, cable-actuated disc brakes with 160mm rotors.  The route  (that he would crush us on) was what we call the Battle Path loop because much of the route follows the path taken by the British on their march from Boston to Concord way back in 1775.  Other than an occasional street crossing, nearly the entire ride was off road.  From single track in the Belmont Woods, to the long, swooping, packed dirt trails in Lexington and Concord, we rode through the unrelenting humidity.

Patrick basically rode one handed, using his free hand to snap pictures throughout, so it would appear that his opinions on braking power are believable.  The ride was as fun as it gets, the trail conditions were top notch, and the scenery unbeatable.  We love that ride, and Patrick’s smile suggested he did too.

Something changed for him during that ride.  For the first time, he had a clear cut example, in his eyes, of a cable-actuated disc brake that performed better than a rim brake.  This was an important discovery because many of the rides Patrick has planned for the travel bike are exceptionally rugged and will require a comparably exceptional braking platform.  This isn’t to say cantilevers and mini-v’s couldn’t perform well enough, but he felt the disc was a needed improvement, so much so, that it became a requirement for his travel bike.

Back in the show room, we discussed the pros and cons of each brake type, cantilever, linear pull, medium reach, etc.  There are clear advantages and disadvantages to each style, but for the type of riding that Patrick will use this bike for, especially the challenging off road rides, his choice was clear.

Disc it would be.

evergreen

The question then became, what can we do to speed up the break down time when packing the bike?  Discs come in two mounting styles, six-bolt or center-mount.  We agreed that a center mount, though it requires a cassette tool to install, would save enough time to make it the clear favorite.

Case Study

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Spread out in the corner of the baggage claim, the challenge of bike assembly is never more apparent. Hundreds of eyes watch as you unzip the case to see how your bike fared in transit. “What is it?” travelers ask as they see what looks to be a bike in ruins. Your case, small enough to avoid the airline’s bike fees of up to $400 round trip, is just big enough to hold your S&S coupled Seven after some minor disassembly. Just hours ago, and in the calm of your workshop, you packed the bike like a three dimensional jig saw puzzle.  But now, in the wide open airport, curious eyes upon you, building your bike back up is all that stands in the way of you and your adventure.

How long will it take?

One of the main objectives of our collaboration with Patrick Brady, founder of Red Kite Prayer, is to create a bike that is as fast to break down and build up, without sacrificing performance, as possible. There are three main facets, other than the pressure of people watching, that can affect the speed of breaking down and building up of a coupled bike:

  • Case: Not only do cases come in different sizes, but they also come in different materials. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.
  • Frame and Fork: The size and shape of the frame and fork can simplify packing. By designing your frame to fit you, and a travel case, Seven can ensure the best fit, on both fronts.
  • Components: Cables, brakes, bars, and a variety of other components will have to be removed or adjusted before the bike can be packed into a case.  Selecting parts based on ease of installation can save hours. We’ll discuss components that have proven to be quick to assemble, and a snap to adjust.

Let’s look at the easiest of decisions first, the case.  In determining which case to get, we look at a variety of topics, including bike protection, ease of packing, ease of toting, and how easy the case is to manage after the bike is removed.  There are three styles to choose from:

  • Hard cases:  The most durable option, hard cases do the very best job of protecting your bike. S&S Machining, the same folks who make the couplers for our travel frames, offers hard cases that have a handle on the edge or on the side, that come with two wheels or four, and an array of other options. Many of these options are useful, but especially for transporting the cumbersome case in and out of the airport. Another unforeseen benefit is that they tend to stay a little cleaner than the soft cases. The only drawbacks to the hard cases are that they are heavier, more expensive, and more difficult to pack. The walls of the hard cases are, well, hard and require you to be creative in order to get all of your bike’s contents in the case as they won’t give an inch.

    The S&S Butterfly Latch Hard Case

    The S&S Butterfly Latch Hard Case

  • Soft cases: More or less just a heavy duty bag, soft cases are the lightest, most affordable, break down the smallest after use, and are easiest to pack.  However, they offer very little protection for your frame, and do not keep their shape during transit, exposing your bike to just as many dangers in the bag as out. Great for packing your bike in the trunk of your car, these cases are more or less just a convenient way to tote everything together, but not a great option for airlines.
  • Hybrid cases: These cases are made of rugged nylon, and have reinforced corners to give the case structure and help protect its contents. They are less expensive than the hard case, but are also less clunky. They are more expensive than the soft case, but far more rugged. One major advantage to the hybrid case is that the walls are flexible which makes packing something as oddly shaped as a bike a little easier. Dirt has a way of sticking to the nylon material so the bag loses it’s new feel after a trip or two, but really, there isn’t much to nit pick here.

    The S&S Co-Motion Hybrid Case

    The S&S Co-Motion Hybrid Case

Each material has it merits, but we feel the Hybrid case offers the right blend of frame protection, value, and ease of packing. We’ll address the frame and fork, as well as component options soon.

As always, if you have any questions about travel bikes, this collaboration with Patrick Brady, or anything else for that matter, feel free to call us at 617-923-7774 or email us at info@sevencycles.com. Thanks for reading.

An Ultimate Travel Bike

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Opportunities to collaborate with others who think deeply about the bike are extremely valuable to us, and one person we’ve worked with on and off over the entire history of Seven Cycles is Red Kite Prayer founder Patrick Brady. We’ve been searching for a project to work on together for a few seasons now, and finally we have it.

Patrick spends so much of his time flying around the world on cycling trips, and we spend an equal amount of time building bikes for exactly those sorts of far flung adventures, destination rides we’d all love to participate in, that the idea of collaborating with him to create an ultimate travel bike made a ton of sense.  As luck would have it, Patrick was enthusiastically on board.

A week ago, Patrick stopped by to catch up, meet some new faces, and begin talks on the travel bike project.  There was also time for a quick spin on an early travel bike prototype.

Patrick Brady hits the trail.

Patrick Brady hits the trail.

Those talks ended up taking hours, and all topics great and small were discussed.  The result will be a bike specifically engineered to make travel as convenient as possible, without sacrificing the bike’s performance one iota.

We’ll be releasing details as they unfurl, but a few of the parameters we will focus on are:

  • Versatility: Can we do a road event? A gravel ride? A dirt adventure?
  • Pack-ability:  How easy is it to take apart and reassemble the bike?
  • Speed:  How fast can we get on the bike after landing? How much time do we need to catch a flight?
  • Component selection:  Which parts are the most dependable, and how easy are they to repair in the field?

Stay tuned!

 

Editions of One: Project Pioneer

Friday, June 6th, 2014

What are the Editions of One?

The Seven Cycles’ Editions of One bikes are special projects aimed at pushing the bounds of our creativity and ability. Like every Seven, built for the person who will ride it, each is one of a kind. Each is meant to inspire. Each is meant to celebrate the craft of bike building and the freedom cycling affords us all.

We will release three Editions of One this year.  The first, built back in March was the Ever Changing Evergeen.  The second is currently underway, and will be completed in time for an adventurous ride this weekend.  We’re calling this second Edition of One, Project Pioneer.

Project Pioneer Design Details

Eugene Christophe was leading the 1913 Tour de France when his fork broke on the descent of the Tourmalet. Prohibited from accepting outside help, he hiked 10km to the village of Ste-Marie-de-Campan with his bike on his shoulder. Once there he repaired his own fork at the forge of Mssr. Lecomte and then continued on to the finish even though the entire field passed him while he toiled and the race was lost.

The Project Pioneer bike is a tribute not only to Christophe, but to the pioneer spirit of cycling’s early decades, to the self-sufficiency that cycling fosters and to the joy of building and riding your own bicycle.

Seven built this bike in collaboration with Rapha Performance Roadwear, the Rapha Continental Team and Ride Studio Cafe for the June 7th, 2014 Pioneers Ride, designed as a tribute to the pioneers of early cycling.  Details on the ride can be found here. All are welcome!

Design Details: Paying homage to the cycling era from 1900 through 1940.

  • Frame: Carbon tubing with titanium lugs and chain stays.
  • Tubular Truss:  harkens back to bikes of this period.
  • Derailleur:  Three-speed, designed and built from scratch, in house.  Inspired by the first derailleur ever allowed in the Tour de France, the Super Champion.
  • Chain tensioner:  Customized, in house.
  • Shift lever:  Modified in house for three-speed use.
  • Gearing: 42 front; 14-18-24t cluster.
  • Handlebar:  Wide flare drop bar.
  • Stem:  Adjustable – track style, built from scratch.
  • Wheels:  Rims and hubs painted to match frameset.
  • Skewers: Modified wing nuts.
  • Paint:  Logo designs and details based on the style of the era.  Gold leaf logos – real gold leaf.  Unpainted chainstay – reminiscent of chrome plating.

The Editions of One bikes are not for sale, but some design elements can be incorporated into our standard offerings.  Each of these special bikes will remain in the Seven Cycles factory show room at the conclusion of their intended usage.  For behind the scenes action of the creation of the bike, follow our Instagram feed, Twitter page or Tumblr.

tumblr_n6pf5fYtBg1tde1bwo1_500 tumblr_n6p850z9sC1tde1bwo1_500 tumblr_n6p8ho4fz51tde1bwo1_500

The Making of an Expedition Bike

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

zand snowWhen Zand told us he was packing as light as possible, we didn’t think he meant to carry a hundred pounds of bike and gear. Skis, ski boots, poles, avalanche gear, camping equipment, cooking utensils, cameras, and other odds and ends apparently add up pretty quickly. Once the trip began, Zand reported that the total outfit weighed in at almost exactly one hundred pounds. Not bad, if you’re going downhill, but something about circumnavigating the Altai Mountains suggested there would be some uphill too.

First TestEvery tube that makes up his Expat S, and every other Seven as well, is carefully selected and tailored based on the rider and how they mean to use their bike. Zand’s bike was unique because it was designed around three total extremes; the giant size of the frame, the massive amount of gear it would haul, and the intricate details required to handle the rigorous conditions of the Altai. Each Seven is unique, but to have three far out requirements made for an especially fun project.

Zand is a tall guy, and lean. His Seven stands like a mammoth next to most bikes, but the 29″ wheels make it look proportional. Normally someone will take a completed bike for a spin to check their handiwork first hand, but the saddle height on Zand’s Expat S was far above what any of us was comfortable straddling. We left the test ride to Zand himself, and the big fella made the bike look great, a perfect fit.

Selecting the tube set for this frame was a challenge.  As we said, Zand is tall and strong, but slim. If we were designing him a road bike, he might prefer the cushy road feel of smaller diameter tubes. But on an expedition bike, set to carry a huge load, a smaller diameter tubeset would likely bend and flex too much, making for an inefficient ride. To ensure this bike would ride well under weight, we used larger diameter tubes which flex less, adding to the frame’s stability.

The Long RoadDesigning a bike to fit a tall rider, and making sure it was sturdy enough to carry all of the required provisions proved to be manageable, but how could we design a bike for the unknown trail ahead?

Adjustability.

As an example, we discussed what tires he thought he’d use. The surfaces that he knew he would ride on were paved roads, unpaved roads, destroyed roads, dirt trails, and each of those covered in snow as well. Much of the route was unknown however, so we started with 40mm knobbies, but left room for a two inch tire, just in case. We chose straight gauge tubes, not that butted tubes aren’t strong, but the thick walls of a straight gauge tube will provide that much more impact resistance in the case of a crash. Descending unknown mountain roads in variable conditions suggested crashing was a possibility. Rack and fender mounts were obvious additions, as was a chain hanger to ease repairs, and the low mount disc brake that helps keep each of these areas free of frame clutter.

At this point, just 230kn to the finish, Zand’s trip, and his Expat S have seen their fair share of adventure, and challenges. But both continue to impress. Best of luck on the final push, Zand!

zand bridge

 

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.

photo 3

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.

photo 1

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.

 

Underway

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.

 

Folder

 

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

strath4

Head Badge Closeup

Strath1

Ornate Drop Bar

Strath2

Mark’s Custom, Blasted Name “Decal”

strath6

Drive-train with Pilsner