Seven Cycles Blog » History

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

#TBT

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Here is the bike Seven friend and sponsored-rider Mary McConneloug rode at the Beijing Olympics. It’s the same frame she rode at the Athens games four years earlier, making it the only mountain bike ever to feature in two Olympics. We are so proud of this bike, and Mary of course, because it proves that well-made things can last, even at the absolute top of the sport.

#TBT

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Our own Rob V, taking a last spin around the shop floor at Merlin Metalworks where he had been the first full-time employee. This is roughly a year before he founded Seven, and gave us all a place to pursue our maniacal bicycle dreams.

We do NOT, as a rule, ride around the shop floor here at Seven, not because we are so much wiser and more mature now, but rather because titanium shards will flat a tire faster than you can say, “Hey, you can’t ride that thing in here!”

You also don’t need to crash a bike into a giant mill or lathe too many times, before you decide you’re safer on the road, in heavy traffic.

This is a particularly amusing photo for us, because it predates all the work we’ve committed to building Seven. At this point, Rob hadn’t even decided to stay in the bike business. There’s no telling what was on his mind as he spun around the Merlin shop floor, and conveniently, he maintains he can’t remember.

Poorer for His Absence

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

williams_v2Sadly, Robin Williams has left the stage. The whole world has lost of one of the great entertainers of our time, but we are also sad as cyclists to have lost a passionate rider, collector, benefactor and friend. We were fortunate to build a couple of bikes for him, to interact with him the way we do with all Seven riders, as a collaborator in the bike building process. Our brief experiences with him suggested he was down-to-earth, humble and looking for the same things we were, the simple joy of cycling, some freedom from life’s cares. He appreciated the finer points of design and craftsmanship. He was a bike nerd.

And because of the way we work, we find that we almost always get more from our customers than they get from us. They teach us to build better bikes. They give us the opportunity to continue practicing our craft. Among the thousands who ride Sevens though, Williams gave us something unique. He taught us how to take ourselves less seriously. As people, and as bike builders, it is an invaluable lesson. We are all a little poorer for his absence.

 

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

Some Deserved Time Off

Friday, April 4th, 2014

When Seven began, back in 1997, Rob Vandermark‘s vacation days started to accrue at the rate of about a day a month. When the first year of operation came to a close, he had twelve days saved up.  Seven had a busy year in 1998, including a move from Topsfield to Watertown, so there was no time for a vacation, and those twelve vacation days were added to the original twelve to make twenty four. The company was growing steadily, in numbers and in employees. There was so much to do.

Twenty four became thirty six, and this pattern continued, year after year. The vacation days kept adding up. No one knows for sure, but a reasonable estimate to the number of days accrued would be one hundred ninety six.

A few weeks ago, for the first time in Rob’s seventeen years at Seven Cycles, he asked for time off. We were puzzled. Was there an event we didn’t know about? A presentation somewhere? Was he off to work on a secret new project? No one was sure, though as it turns out, the answer was quite simple. Rob wanted to take a vacation.

When you take one vacation in seventeen years, everyone wants to know where  you are going? In Rob’s case, the answer was a cycling trip to New Zealand. As the trip grew near, Rob became almost giddy. He outfitted his coupled Evergreen SL specifically for the journey with: a generator front hub and powerful headlight, full fender coverage in case the going gets wet, reflective decals for high visibility, wide tires with some tread in case the pavement came to an end. We won’t know all of the details of the trip until he gets back, but we know his bike is ready for anything, and that his vacation is well deserved.

RV's RV

RV’s RV

Have fun Rob. We’ll hold down the fort.

After the Flood

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Flood1It’s funny to be writing about a flood after we’ve just written about a major snow storm, but the two are not wholly unrelated. The weekend after the storm, temperatures plummeted here, as they did in most of the country, and the heat in the vacant space above our office stopped working. Pipes froze, burst, and then unfroze, which lead to a prolonged rain shower down here where we work.

Flood2So, we sustained some damage. The better part of this week thus far has been dedicated to figuring out which of our computers are salvageable and attempting to dry out our space.

The damage will be hard to quantify. We will replace equipment, and that will have a dollar value attached to it. The building management’s insurance will cover those things. For once, a flood/fire/alarm didn’t originate with us.

The bigger and less quantifiable harm will be in lost research, smudged notes and lost reference material. Living in modern times, we all marvel at how dependent we have become on technology, but an event like this one points out how dependent we still are on old-fashioned pen and paper. To borrow a phrase, for a custom frame builder, the pen may in fact be mightier than the torch.

Flood3The key, we understand, in these situations is to find the positive, and of course, there are many. First, we learned a lot about the elasticity of our systems. Bike production didn’t stop, just because the front office was incapacitated. Second, we were forced to rid ourselves of a lot of stuff we no longer needed. When you’ve got your head down, building bikes, dreaming up new products, trying to navigate the world as a small company, you seldom take the time to clean out the old. Now the old is out, and we have room for some new.

Finally, the flood did a great job of flushing cool, old stuff out of the corners, reference books that have influenced our thinking, old photos of the team when we were younger, and prototype parts, the constructive failures of past projects. All of it has us thinking differently.

Sometimes you don’t want to start over, but starting over is valuable nonetheless.

Bike Builders

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

First there is Skip who opens the shop early. He uses the pre-dawn to make his rounds, cleaning and lubing all the machines on the shop floor. He spends all his days maintaining our tools and building new fixtures. Skip is the bike builder who builds no bikes.

Next through the door is Mike or Chad. Mike is our lead machinist. He does the CAD drawings of frames that guide us as we move from tube set to finished frame. Chad hits the finishing department and tries to work his way through whatever didn’t get done the day before. He fires up the drills and fills the air with the whirring noise of things being built.

Jennifer and Rob arrive. Inventories get sifted through. Parts orders get readied. Rob sorts a stack of folders, orders for new bikes with designs from Dan or Neil already done. He evaluates their work, makes notes for changes, improvements.

The welders, Stef, Tim and Yoshi, show up. They wheel the freshly prepped tubes from machining into their own department and assemble them in the frame jigs. Gas lines get fitted to the jigs. Oxygen gets purged. Joints get tacked and then checked for alignment.

Painters come, too, Staci and Jordan. They pull primed frames from the drying booth and begin sanding out imperfections or begin masking for top coats.

In the office, the blinds slide noisily aside and Karl sits down at his desk, cracks his email to see what’s come in over night, questions from shops from all over the world. Orders get pulled off the fax machine. The coffeemaker stirs to life.

Throughout the morning, the rest of the crew rolls in, Matt and Mary, Dan and Nick and Lloyd, Seth and Lauren, Sutts. The whirring sounds rise and fall. Compressors fire and shut off, and frame-by-frame the boxes fill up in shipping.

 

Sixteen Candles

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Sunday, January 6th marked our 16th year in business. It’s kind of a big deal, though we’re just here, building bikes, like we always are.

We told Rob it was our 16th Annivesary, and he said, “Ok.”

Jennifer was more expansive. Things were different in 1997. We didn’t know if a “medium sized” bike company could even exist. We didn’t know if the world wanted as many custom bikes as we wanted to build. Along the way we’ve had to reinvent the way we do things a thousand times. We’ve had to solve a million problems. Reflection comes naturally at any milestone.

We have a joke here at Seven that if something feels too hard to do, then we must be doing the right thing. We think about myriad obstacles overcome, and of course we think about all the riders who have our bikes, the people who have made these 16 years possible.

We’re just going to spend the day building bikes, but your support demands we take a moment to say, “Thank You.”

Love to Ride

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Our new brochure is done, and we are maybe a little too excited about it. We are bike builders after all, not marketing people. But once a year we take on the project of reinventing the company in print. It’s an odd job for us, but as a company we always take the approach, ‘if you need something, make it.’ So we sit down at our desks and we write about our bikes and about bike building. We take pictures. We lay it all out. We pour ourselves into the task and agonize over all the little design decisions, the same way we would with a new bike.

And then the printer delivers it to us on a pallet, in boxes of 50. Imagine if Santa drove a forklift.

This year we have taken a fairly radical departure from the brochure strategy of past years. Instead of taking pictures of all the different bikes we build and trying to write something brief but captivating about each one, we decided to step back and document how and why we do the things we do. Rather than showcasing the end of our work, the bikes themselves, we thought to highlight the beginnings of our work, the methods, reasons and inspirations behind every Seven. What we used to do in 30 pages, we have expanded to 60 pages this time out. It is substantial.

We have titled the new book “Love to Ride.” There were about 20 alternate titles, none of which felt big enough, but this one, “Love to Ride,” hung in the air while we thought it over, testing it against the task at hand, until we smiled and knew it was right.

At root, we build bikes because we love to ride. Every frame that leaves our shop is aimed directly at that love. We want to give every Seven rider a bike they love to ride. That is the method. That is the reason. That is the inspiration. Everything that comes after is detail.

For the complete list of contributors, visit our credits page.

You can order your copy here.

Graeme Fife – The Elite Bicycle

Monday, October 8th, 2012

To correspond with journalist and author Graeme Fife is pretty special, not only because of his gorgeous prose and encyclopedic knowledge of this cycling universe we live in, but also because he cares so much about the stories he tells. You might be familiar with some of his work including Rapha’s  Great Road ClimbsThe Tour de France: The History, The Legend, The Riders, and The Beautiful Machine, or his features for Rouleur magazine.

Lately, we have been in touch with him because he is planning on including Seven Cycles in his new book titled The Elite Bicycle, with photos by the inimitable Gerard Brown. We had Gerard here in the Spring, when we had a long, rambling conversation about what it means to make things.

Graeme told us just recently, “I love New England – I had three great rides on Cape Cod when I first came to New England in 2003 – I’d seen the beach from an aircraft flying into NY and decided that I would swim there one day. The friends in RI who loaned me bike and motor for my trip have a condo up in NH and we rode the Kanc one day, next day past where Robert Frost lived – glorious roads. First ride we did, we stopped at a cafe somewhere in the loom of Mt Washington and the guy at the counter asked me where we’d come from. I said I don’t know. So where are you going? I don’t know. It was a bit queer but expressive of the sense of complete freedom, somehow.”

Be on the lookout for The Elite Bicycle and check out his blog for more great writing from one of cycling’s literary legends.