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The Big Ideas – Single-Piece Flow

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Last week we wrote about our customer interview, and that process came from our need to be able to build exactly the bikes our riders wanted. It got us thinking about this whole bike building project we embarked on in 1997 and the foundational ideas that make what we do possible. These are our “big ideas,” and over the next few weeks we’ll walk through all of them, from our unique build process to the way we collaborate with our customers, to the way we deliver our bikes.

This first installment is about Single-Piece Flow (SPF).

We always wanted to be a different kind of bike company, one that offered both a product and a service, in our case a bike and the experience of customizing it. We wanted to give our customers an experience that was about them and their cycling, not just about the bike. In a very real way, we didn’t want to be a bike company. We wanted to be a rider company. That’s where we started.

But that idea has to be more than marketing. It has to be manufacturing, too. It has to be real. How do we do that?

The simple answer is Single-Piece Flow, a way of building things that unleashes the potential for deep customization. Single-Piece Flow literally means building things one-at-a-time. By building each bike one-at-a-time we can focus on the individual rider it’s being built. Their name is attached to every order. All their personal information travels with the bike through every stage of design and build.

Building by hand, to order, never in batches, allows for the greatest level of customizability. Every order is unique, so we break it down into its constituent parts. We spec tubes specifically for the rider in front of us. One builder works on one bike, refining all the raw tubing, the dropouts, to match that one rider’s needs.

SPF is also where quality comes from. By focusing on one bike at a time, the builder is only ever responsible for one thing, the work in front of him or her, one set of details. The fewer hands touch each frame, the more responsibility each set takes. Typically only 2 or 3 builders work on a Seven, a machinist passing a perfect frameset to a welder, the welder passing that frame to a finisher and/or painter. This approach maximizes accountability while still allowing for a high-level of specialization by each builder, whether machinist, welder, finisher or painter.

The kind of focus and experience SPF demands isn’t cheap. Our team of builders has more than 300 years collective experience. We invest a lot in them, and that investment requires another big idea to sustain in a competitive world. Next time, we’ll talk about Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing and how it helps us put our capital in experienced craftspeople, rather than inventory.

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.

Into the Sunset – Mo Bruno Roy Retires

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Our good friend and sponsored rider Mo Bruno Roy announced her retirement from pro racing yesterday after 12 years at the top. We think it’s best for you to hear it in her words, but we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the highlights of our time together as builder and rider.

Mo raced over 200 races on a Seven, including 31 wins, 63 podiums and 158 top-tens.

Of those, 143 were UCI races and included 5 wins, 31 podiums and 111 top-tens.

She raced 13 World Cups, 10 National Championships, including 3 wins (1 Masters, 2 Single Speed) and 6 top-ten Elite finishes (out of seven Elite races).

She was Single Speed CX World Champion, 2014, Cyclocross World Championships team member, Tabor, CZE 2010 and Winner of the 2009 USA Cycling National Calendar.

In all that time, she turned in one DNF (Did Not Finish).

BUT….those are just results. Sure, they’re important. At the pro/elite level, you race to win, and Mo won a lot. For us, there is much, much more to it than just winning, though. Mo is an ambassador of the bike. She brings people into our sport. She epitomizes what we think of as a pro cyclist, not just for the way she rides on race days, but by the way she rides her bike to work, to the grocery store, and to visit us here at the shop. And she does it all with a smile on her face. THAT is why we are proud of her, and proud of our partnership, because it’s more than a sponsorship.

Maybe sponsorship is what happens on race days, and partnership is what happens every other day of the year. Mo’s “career” as a pro racer might be over, but she will go on being a great cyclist for a long, long time, and that’s why we wanted to work with her in the first place.

We congratulate her on everything she packed into that career and wish her the very best for every mile to come.

Geaux Meaux!

Here are just a few of our favorite shots of Mo from over the years: