Night and Day – Made to Fit vs. Built to Fit

Both these bikes belong to Kate. The top one was purchased second hand and made to fit through a series of what we might term “compromises.” You can see that extra spacers have been added under the stem, and the stem itself rises at a steep angle to achieve a handlebar position that works for Kate.

dsc_0001After riding the bike above for a few years, Kate decided to see what we could do for her with a new bike design. We took body measurements. We interviewed her to find out what she liked/didn’t like about her existing bike. We designed a frame that would support her ideal riding position while retaining proportionality, flexibility for future changes to her position AND delivering spot on handling.

Some of this is visible in the photo below of her new bike.

dsc_0002What you can’t see here is the tube set selection we made and how it differs from her original bike, which was stiffer in front and plusher in the rear than she wanted it to be. We reversed that combination by giving her increased drivetrain stiffness and a more comfortable front end. Because we can both select tube diameters and wall thicknesses, and then butt the tubing to give an even more specific comfort profile, we have a massive advantage over every other framebuilder working today.

The other thing you can’t see is the way this bike will handle. When we design a bike we aim to balance the rider evenly over the two wheels. This balance leads to greater comfort, but also to better handling. By designing the frame, via headtube angle and fork rake, to give a very specific relation between rider and ground, we can be sure that every bike we build handles exactly like the rider wants it to, which might be super stable or more twitchy and aggressive, but most of the time in the sweet spot right in between.

Kate’s original bike was a Seven, but it was second hand, i.e. not built for, so in almost every regard it was like any stock bike a rider might get. Those bikes can usually be made to fit by moving the saddle or the stem length, but not without compromising comfort, handling, and ultimately performance. That is why so many of our riders report a night-and-day difference between what they were riding and their new Seven.

By taking control of the frame’s geometry and materials, we are able to build a bike that fits, handles well, and feels good to ride all day. The secret is working forward from the rider, not backward from the bike.


Jon’s Evergreen SL

This is Jon’s Evergreen SL, built with our friends at Cascade Bicycle Studio in Seattle. A wide cassette with disc brakes and fenders seems to be nearly the ideal bike for Seattle’s hilly, rainy riding, and this is perhaps, the high-performance answer to every question that city can pose.

Matching Chris King pink headset and hubs are a nice touch on the bead-blasted frame.


The Enduring Humanity of Robin Williams

rwviiWhen we built this bike, we did not publicize the fact that we were working with a famous actor. Mr. Williams, who was widely known as an avid bike collector, was in many ways a very private person. His great appeal as a comedian and actor was both in his infectious energy and in his humility, a willingness to share with the world all the parts of himself, the successes, but also the struggles.

It is bittersweet, now, some years after his passing, to see his bikes being auctioned for charity, and to see this specific bike again in this context. We can not for a moment imagine the emotion invested in this project by his family, and the grace it takes to let these things go for the benefit of others.

We feel simultaneously sad at the circumstances, but also happy and proud to have gotten to work with a man of his integrity and impact. In as much as the auction of his bicycle collection will benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, we felt the time was right finally to share this bike.

You may bid on this very special bike here.


Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan with Joe Cruz

Kyrgyzstan is a country that sits on the Central Asian plain. It is dominated by the Tian Shan mountains which shadow the valley that traces the Silk Route from the China to the Mediterranean. For millenia, this land-locked, craggy republic has been a mixing place for cultures, religions, ethnicities and ideas.

This August, Seven Expedition Rider Joe Cruz went there with  Joel Caldwell, Logan Watts, and Lucas Winzenburg for a three and a half week trip into the mountains on his Seven Treeline SL.

What follows are photos from the trip and excerpts from Joe’s excellent journal:


They’re tiny encouragements, those dust whorls in the heat and the bits of dung and trash, brake lights on the sprinter van we hired to transport us from Bishkek, a moment ago the firm handshake of the driver with whom we share no language. This dirt patch off the edge of broken asphalt contouring along deep blue Lake Issyk-Köl, our bicycles gear full plastic grocery bags in excitable heaps. Now we’re stashing a week’s worth of food into frame and saddle packs, the fruit of hours trying to puzzle the ingredients from pictures on the outside packaging. Finally the perpendicular road wavy with children who say hello by putting their hands up and laughing, some chase us but most just continue playing as they were, the adults smile and shake an arm with genuine seeming joy, early on we pass a few cars horns honking and occupants pressed against the windshield in grinning greeting. It will transform into a two track and then a path and then just our pedalstrokes rising towards a Tien Shan ridge line that points at the sky like tips of neatly lined up spears. The glint capped peaks are inevitably further away than they seem.  We see our first yurt even if it’s just another farm building, a woman leaning forward a wheelbarrow between fencing, a flat green pitch for ball kicking and used now for it by a hollering half dozen, an old Subaru.


We’ve come here because of the legend of Kyrgyzstan’s beauty, mountains and steppe, high meadow yurt camps, Silk Roads and the history of Soviet presence, Islam and horsemen and crashing cold rivers. None of the confirmed superlatives will match our wide eyed skipping heart wonder in the place.


The route we’re on goes fainter yet. To the left a cleft vectors away with just a cowpath on one side, that’s where we’re headed. No jeeps come through here, vertical walls clack echo funnel embrace.”It’s like we’re sequentially visiting all the US national parks but impossibly next to each other,” we laugh but Joel’s right and this is an entrance into a serene wildness that we’re grateful for. We’ll be asked a few times over the next weeks why here? and I can’t help but think our stammering incomprehension at the question is a snapshot of this very moment.


Yesterday was a hard day so we slept a punished sleep. From the giant’s toy block strewn campsite, we’d ascended and climbed with forty minutes of pushing the bikes to a keyhole opening through the peaks to a plateau. Wending through lakes over marshland, a horsetrack here or there but mostly just pointing the bikes and going. Above us, seems like right on the stitching of our pulled close hoods, rolling billowing grey boiling hissing wind.


That evening we camp early because the setting won’t let us not. Tents in a line pitched into the gusts, but down low cross legged around the stoves it’s quiet enough for us to mark the long pauses between when we say anything. After sunset we’ll smell dungfire from distant yurts, tomorrow there will be unfettered horses concentratedly ignoring us as we pedal away.


Invited into a yurt, bread and jam, my first fermented mares milk. Tastes like a thick creamy demented kombucha with the heavy smell of horse, we’ll drink a fair bit more of it over these next weeks and often chased by Russian vodka to make sure we wobble and squint on our way. As we leave we’re given a coke bottle that we think is more kumys but we find out later that it’s butter. We laugh, seems like it’s crazy but we’ll enjoy it in our soup.


Two horses with their riders on a long slow traverse to meet us at our camp. Maybe a grandfather, father, son. They nod and smile, not effusively but companionably, we bid our happiness at being here, they continue on.



Lowland sticky dust is behind us now, yesterday we visited Tash Rabat and found it shrugging unremarkable. At least the tourist yurt camp nearby had excellent food and beer that we chilled in the stream. The highlight was meeting and mingling with Kyrgyz visitors who beamed with pride at our truthful confessions of the unrivaled beauty of their home.Turned the bikes around to head back into the sparsity, a northern course traversing valley folds, back to altitude to a splendid nothing.


We’re fitter now, we’re faster, we see better now, we’re slower. In a day we reach lake Song-Köl, subject of postcards and also popular with Kyrgyz tourists. The serenity of the place wrestles with trash and blowing toilet paper, our chests squeezed tight. Wind comes through indignant and a drop then another, we rush to put up our tents close to the shore and dive in. I eat raw ramen while listening to the lash and beating against the fly. Tomorrow we watch a game of Kok-boru, a kind of polo. The primal raw striving, sweat and close contact shoulders that’s always present in sports but here is closer to the surface, the horses dancing for footing, surging, the jockeys bent low off the side of the saddle to grab the desiccated goat carcass then lifting it hip high to gallop fury and dust toward the goal.


The last 40k run is on a dirt path alongside an aqueduct all the way to Bishkek’s edge. Rolling west and the sun setting onto the backs of our hands, heads down riding flat out. During a break all of our fingers are trembling, share the last cookies and I produce a Snickers bar out of a secret cache. Now there are people everywhere, dogs and tidy developments or a shanty or just an urban shepherd. Now traffic fumes cacophony, we turn on our headlamps to be seen on the city streets but the bright comes mostly from behind us, from where we’ve been.

First photo above by Joel Caldwell, all others by Joe Cruz.

There is so much more on this trip at Joe’s website. Read it. We are extremely proud to work with cyclists like Joe, who see, in this world, whether close to home or very far afield, the opportunity for real adventure.

Bikepacking Telluride to Moab

charleslaisolaWe received a brief note from Charles, a guy we built a Sola SL for in 1999. It contained the text: “Seven Sola did a fine job on a seven day Telluride to Moab Hut-to-Hut trip,” and a link.

That’s it.

Click the link and you get a great story about a seven day bikepacking trip through postcard scenery, a grueling ride made by a group of friends.

Some representative prose:

We had wonderful views of the desert formations surrounding Gateway at the Gateway hut. Sean and I cooled off a bit and washed some items in the Dolores River. Mosquitoes were coming out in full force during dusk. It became quite windy during the night, but the night sky full of stars was wonderful without any light pollution.


After the singletrack, we had a long climb to the first hut on Last Dollar Road. Mark was the first one up to the hut. The 9,000 to 11,000 foot climb didn’t seem to affect him that badly, but Sean and I started walking our bikes at two miles per hour toward the end. There was just no energy left in me to keep pedaling. Sean sat down a few times since he was bonking hard due to the altitude. We both made it to the hut right before dark though.


Click over to read the whole story. It’s worth it.