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This Time of Year

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

We’re riding home with our lights on now, the sun’s narrow slant on the horizon hinting at colder days to come. Our New England autumns tend to be wet, so suddenly tires are getting wider and fenders are appearing. It’s a good thing. We enjoy this riding just as much as our summer spins. The woods are a different proposition in the dark.

Cyclocross season is on, Seveneers leaving early for mid-week races, coming in on Mondays with tall tales of the weekend’s exploits. To hear us tell it, we could easily finish 2 to 10 places higher in every race, but for that one guy who crashed in front of us, or the spectator who leaned too far over the course tape. Some, of course, are just hecklers. You don’t heckle a friend while they’re building a bike, but during a race?

Our customers are dreaming up winter commuters, or better still, they’re riding a different hemisphere than we are, tuning up for a road season we can hardly imagine, stuck in the bubble of our own climate.

Back on the shop floor, the heavy, summer air has slipped out the back door. The mornings are cool and quiet, and the late afternoon light is beautiful streaming through our tall, frosted windows. We are building as many bikes now as we did all summer, and that is good, too.

Stephen’s Mudhoney SL – A Love Letter

Monday, November 4th, 2013

SE_Mud2

This is Stephen’s Mudhoney SL, built with our friends at Sigma Sport in Surrey, UK. We might tell you more about the bike, but Stephen has done that for us. There is no better email to get from a rider than one like this.

Stephen says:

Hello Seven,

I promised myself a Seven for my 60th to keep me fit into my dotage. I needed a performance bike; one suited to my advancing years but capable of going anywhere. It’d have to be versatile, comfortable, tough, low maintenance and reliable. Thus, the Mudhoney SL stood out and, with the expert guidance of Mick Silles at Sigma Sport of Kingston Upon Thames in UK, my bespoke Seven took shape.

Getting the specification just right took several months, but throughout, Mick was the very best adviser. He listened carefully and accurately translated desires into needs (both frame and components). Mostly this was happening at a distance, because though I’m a Brit, I live in Vienna, Austria. I visited Sigma just three times, first to spec’ the bike, then for very thorough fittings and finally to take delivery. In between there were lots of emails!  You surely know it already, but in Mick you have an excellent UK representative, advocate and enthusiast.

So now I’ve been riding the bike for a couple of weeks since delivery. With true good fortune, this Austrian October has been unseasonally warm and sunny – in fact, perfect cycling weather. I’ve taken advantage of that and taken off into the Wienerwald at every opportunity. On road and trail the bike is a revelation!

In climbs I’ve become instantly fitter (or just maybe, the Seven frame transmits way more energy to the road). The bike is comfortable and assured. I get no pins and needles in my hands, nor tired shoulders. Everything just falls to hand and I’m perfectly positioned to ride for hours on end. I corner confidently, everything feels taut and I know exactly what’s going on where tyres hit road.  Nothing creaks or flexes, even when I’m pedaling out of the saddle.

SE_Mud1Then there’s the aesthetics. I wanted an understated look. No paint, no discs, no suspension, no accessories. Avid Shorty canti’s, Chris King ‘Sotto Voce’ components, ENVE CX forks …. everything bare titanium or plain black. It looks fantastic but rides even better!  Incidentally, for the record, I’m now a convert and consequent zealot for Shimano’s amazing Ui2 gearset – beautifully integrated into the Mudhoney frame, battery and all.

In summary, I got the bike I desired and, thanks to Sigma Sport’s good advice and the skills of the Seven Team (especially Lauren Trout and Stef Adams – oh God, those welds) I ended up with every machine I needed for fitness, sport and fun. I’m in love!

I’m so impressed with the craftsmanship, the attention to detail (like the inspired chain hanger and the rear canti’ cable post) and above all, with the way you’ve served your motto – I got my one bike and mine alone.

I’m motivated alright – next spring I’ll try the Grossglockner ….

Thank you for making me a very happy customer.

Stephen

Mo Pro Ready to Go

Friday, October 25th, 2013

MoProRTGNo sooner was it here, than it was here!

Mike T’s Mudhoney

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

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This Swimming Pool Blue, steel Mudhoney belongs to our good friend Mike from Richardson Bike Mart.  He told us he seems to get a new cyclocross bike every year, but they’re never quite right, so he decided to go custom and get both the fit and finish he’s been missing. Mike wanted a threaded adjuster on the down tube to tension the front derailleur and full length housing to the rear derailleur to keep the mud out. We shipped this to him a few weeks ago, and he wasted no time before getting dirty.

Mike says:

Please send along my sincere thanks and gratitude for the team at Seven Cycles that helped with my Mudhoney.  I rode it on Tuesday in the rain and raced it Wednesday night in a little mud.  I am confident to say this is the best handling bike I have ever ridden.  The steering performance and handling could not be better.  The drive train is ‘race stiff’, just like I wanted.  Did some standing efforts to get my 210 lbs up the short steep climbs last night and I did not feel I missed a beat with the steel frame.  I love it.

That Time of Year Again

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

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Thankfully.

Image: Matt O’Keefe

The Birth of Mo Pro 2.0

Friday, December 7th, 2012

A few weeks ago, Mo Bruno Roy returned her original Mudhoney PRO prototype. Affectionately called the Mo Honey PRO, that bike was the test case for the bike that became the production Mudhoney PRO, the bike that customers all over the world have ridden over the last season. Mo’s original was put together with hand cut and filed lugs, and she raced it hard this season so we could know more about our basic design assumptions, and to gather experiential data for the second iteration, Mo Pro 2.0, of this race-specific machine.

During our debrief with her, and with her mechanic/husband Matt Roy, we noted a few big, necessary changes. First, Mo wanted to change her riding position. She wanted to come forward, and up a little. To do that, she needed to make some component changes, and to maintain the handling she prefers after those changes, we needed to adjust the geometry. Easy enough.

Next, she wanted more tire clearance at the chain and seat stays. The original prototype was built with tight tolerances for racing, but we learned that just a little more mud clearance would be better. That presented a unique challenge, because Mo’s frame is small. In order to get the clearance she wanted, we experimented with a single-bend, butted seat stay designed specifically for carbon bonding. That little bit of bend gave us just what we were looking for, and it represented a step forward for the super thin stays we’ve been working with for Mo’s race bikes. The complimentary chain stays required 20 separate operations in initial machining. This is serious stuff.

In the past, we’ve built bikes for Mo that could be adapted to multiple purposes. A little attention from her pro mechanic husband would convert one of her race rigs for road training. Not this bike. Mo runs a somewhat unique crank set with 34/44 chain rings, and her seat/chain stays are optimized to work only with those rings, coupled with a 32mm tire. This is as race specific as a bike gets. It’s a bike for now, for winning races.

We opted to build for cantilever brakes, too, but only because race ready, drop bar, hydraulic disc brakes aren’t quite ready yet. Again, we wanted to build her the optimal race bike for right now, not a bike with compromises for future adaptation.

The final design hurdle we chose to address was toe overlap. Conventionally, a frame this small would have some overlap, and through the years, this was always something Mo was comfortable with, even though we offered to do away with it for her. This time out, we made some adjustments to the geometry to eliminate it, and that gives her more confidence in the technical sections of the cyclocross courses this bike was meant to destroy.

A lot of work went into pre-build design on the Mo Pro 2.0, and that led to a marathon build session that lasted long into the Friday night before Mo’s first race on it, on the Saturday. Seven Production Manager Matt O’Keefe did the final machining on this one himself, before handing it off to Staci for the rock star decal treatment.

As ever, our sponsorships are aimed at exactly this sort of collaboration. We built the original bikes to prove a concept we wanted to bring into production. After building the first generation prototypes, we then designed all the fixturing we would need to do the same design for customer bikes. In turn, the fixturing informed the accuracy and evolution of the second generation bike, which taught us about new ways to manipulate thin stays for small builds. It’s this thread that connects all our design and build work and allows everything to move forward, and to be able to pursue that thread with the input and participation of pros like Mo and Matt makes bike building fun. It reminds us why we do this.

Another solid reminder came in a Christmas tin a few days later. Her feedback on the bike itself is exactly what we wanted to hear, that it combines the best of her first Seven race bike and the first generation Mo Honey PRO. That confirms that we’re listening, and without listening you can’t build great custom bikes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building for a pro like Mo or someone who will never race a day in their lives. The process is the same. Listen to what the rider wants. Apply everything you learn to everything new you want to do. Keep building. Keep iterating. Occasionally, just occasionally, stop to eat the cookies.

Matt made a cool time lapse video of the build that you can see here. And we were also fortunate to catch the eye of the Velo News staff at our very first race. Emily Zinn did a photo gallery of the project for their site here.

 

 

When Prototypes Come Home

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

When you build prototypes you expect to see them again. As the first iteration of an idea, they are the canaries in the mine of innovation, and, if all goes well, when they return they bring back a load of valuable information with them. We now have Mo Bruno Roy’s elite race bikes back after they’ve been flogged hard on mud, grass and sand the world over. One is her Mudhoney SLX . The other is her Mudhoney PRO, known as the Mo Honey PRO when we first built it. Now we’ve done a debrief on what worked and what could have been better, and, as always, it’s time to get back to work.

Dan’s Steel Mudhoney

Monday, November 5th, 2012

This is Dan‘s new, steel Mudhoney with a paint scheme he designed himself and we liked so much we made it one of our standard offerings. We call it ‘Antsy,’ because once this frame got to the paint team, Dan checked in on it every fifteen minutes or so until it was done.

It is safe to say Dan is the fastest guy in the building, and he built this bike to race, not just to embarrass us all on the regular Wednesday night Battle Path ride. The basic idea here was to build a light steel racer he could go hard on during the season, but would keep on the road year round. The 44mm head tube and integrated head set give the bike a modern look, and the paint feeds that same vibe.

So this is really a balance of traditional materials and design with a more contemporary aesthetic. The geometry is “American cross,” with a lower bottom bracket and slacker head tube angle. The paint scheme says, “I’m probably faster than you.” And he is.

Joe’s Disc CX – Mudhoney SL

Friday, October 26th, 2012

This is Joe’s Mudhoney SL, disc CX race bike. Joe didn’t need a new bike to race CX with, but he built one, because he’s restless and he couldn’t get disc brakes out of his head.

While he was at it, he thought he’d move to a tapered fork with a 44mm head tube, and finish it out with custom decals, silver with a red outline.

We can’t vouch for every one of Joe’s design decisions on this bike, it’s his bike and no one else’s. We will say that he’s finishing closer to the podium this year than he was last year. Draw what conclusions you may.

“I really wanted to race with disc brakes this season,” Joe says, “so most of my focus has been on how the braking is different and better from my cantilever brakes. You ride so many dramatically different surfaces during a single race, the way your brakes work, from surface to surface, is a big deal. I noticed with cantis that I got pretty unpredictable results from the road to the grass to the mud. I’d pull the lever and see what happened, and then react to that.”

Obviously, that’s part of the charm of racing cross, or at least it has been. After so much talk last season about the emergence of discs, still only about 10% of racers seem to be running them, versus more traditional cantilever set ups.

Joe says, “The main difference with the discs is that they’re predictable. You grab a fistful of lever, and you stop. If anything, I am finding I can roll faster into turns and technical sections, because I know better what it’s going to take to slow down.”

The counter argument, the reason to stay with cantis, is the weight penalty. Today’s discs with their heavy calipers and rotors can add as much as a pound to your race day rig. Joe still hasn’t decided what he thinks about the added weight.

“I know the bike is heavier,” he says, “but I’m not sure that’s a problem for me in race situations. Maybe, because I can carry more speed into the barriers or the run ups, I’m less aware of carrying more weight on my shoulder or pushing it around the course.”

Whatever the case, we are building a lot more disc CX bikes this season than last. Whether those are race bikes, gravel grinders, or all-weather commuters, it’s a set up that is working for Seven riders all over the world, and we expect to see a lot more, on the road, if not on the race course.

Gran Prix of Gloucester CX II – Photos by Matt O’Keefe

Monday, October 22nd, 2012