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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.

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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.

Seven Cycles in the “Let’s Talk About Bikes” Exhibit at the BSA

Monday, June 11th, 2012

We are excited to participate in the “Let’s Talk About Bikes” exhibit at the Boston Society of Architects.  The exhibit opens on Tuesday, June 12, with a party at the BSA from 6-8pm.

“Let’s Talk About Bikes” was conceived by the folks at the design firm, over, under to celebrate the history of framebuilding in Boston, and to explore the role of the bicycle in an urban environment:

The expansion of urban biking raises broader transit-related questions about the relationship of bicycles to urban and environmental public policy.  The exhibition examines this theme, from the Complete Streets movement to advocacy activism to concerns raised in Boston’s larger community about roadway use.  Let’s Talk About Bikes presents many stories and outlooks in order to raise awareness and questions about the role of the bicycle in cities today.”

Seven Cycles was asked to loan The Berlin Bike and Seveneer Mike Salvatore’s Elium to the exhibit.  Each bike represents a specific type of riding: the Berlin Bike is a commuter bike and Mike’s Elium was build specifically for track racing.  Parlee Cycles and Friefly Bicycles also have bikes in the exhibit.  In addition,  Rob V. conceptualized and edited a family tree of Boston bike building for the exhibit.  Many Seveneers are included in various aspects of the show: Matt O’Keefe‘s and Jonathan Henig‘s photographs will be displayed, and bikes built by Saila, Royal H., and the SCUL gang will also be part of the show.

We hope that if you’re in or around Boston over the summer, you’ll stop by the BSA to have a look at the craftsmanship on display.  “Let’s Talk About Bikes” runs from June 12-August 31, 2012.

Inspiration Everywhere You Look

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

When you love something very much, say for example a bicycle, then you spend so much time with it that eventually you stop seeing it.  Or at least you stop seeing it with the fresh eyes that helped you fall in love with it in the first place.

In designing and building bikes all day, every day, day after day, year after year, for decades, it’s possible to lose sight of what you’re doing.  Even when you’re achieving your stated purpose, inspiration can ebb.

Like a bike race, where you have your head down, and your entire focus is on the work of staying in the group.  All you know is your legs are burning, and your chest is heaving.  And if you keep your head down like that, you’ll miss the winning move.

So we build bikes all day, every day, but we also pick our heads up and look around us.  There is so much there to inspire.  Some of the things you see stick with you, either consciously or unconsciously, and then find their way into your design work.

Or maybe, you are so taken with an object that you look it up. You learn how it’s made, and in discovering that process you find a better way to make something you’ve been working on forever.  In the best cases, this whole process leads to solutions for seemingly intractable problems.  You didn’t expect this, but there it was, in a sculpture park or parked out behind a shopping center, just waiting for you to see, if you can remember to look.

 

Photos by Seven’s own Matt O’Keefe.

Family Tree of Framebuilding in New England: Red Kite Prayer Addendum

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Patrick Brady wrote a brief history of  New England bicycle manufacturing in the latest issue of Peloton Magazine, “New England Genesis”, and Seven was lucky enough to be included in it.  In his blog, Red Kite Prayer, Patrick elaborates on the interconnectedness of the region’s bike building companies, and created a family tree to illustrate some of the relationships.

We are honored to be a part of this thriving and expanding community, and we wanted to clarify a few aspects of Patrick’s illustration that might be confusing to readers.  Here is a list of framebuilders and bike-building industry people of which we’re aware that started businesses after working with local – primarily Massachusetts – framebuilders.  For example, King Cage is not a framebuilder, but Ron worked at Fat City Cycles so we included him on this list.

A Long History of Photo-Taking

Each company mentioned is a framebuilder, unless otherwise indicated:

Updated 23 December 2011

Seven Cycles

In addition to Red Kite Prayer’s list, here are some companies started by Seven Cycles employees and alumnae, and clarification regarding some of the companies relationships to Seven:

  • Zanconato, Mike Z. was building frames before working at Seven and continues to build frames since his tenure at Seven.
  • SCUL, Skunk.  SCUL is more of a chopper gang than a framebuilder.  Currently works with Seven.
  • Sketchy Cycles, Mike Salvatore.  Currently works with Seven.
  • Banjo Cycles, Ahren Rogers.
  • Rack Lady, Leah Stargardter.  She builds custom bike racks.
  • 333fab, Maxwell Kullaway and Bernard Georges.
  • Icarus Frames, Ian Sutton.
  • Royal H Cycles, Bryan Hollingsworth.  Currently works with Seven.
  • Honey Bikes, Beekeepers.
  • Kualis, Yoshi Nishikawa.  Currently works with Seven.
  • Saila, Lauren Trout.  Currently works with Seven.
  • Bike retailers that originally worked at Seven Cycles and later started or owned bike stores and studios:

Fat City Cycles

Here are some additional companies – beyond what’s mentioned on Red Kite Prayer – started by Fat City Cycles alumnae:

  • King Cage, Ron Andrews – he makes water bottle cages.
  • Igleheart, Chris Igleheart
  • Bomber Cycles, Dave Blakney
  • S.R.P., Jeff Federson – no longer in business; he used to make small parts for the bike industry.
  • Jane Wear, Jane Hayes – no longer in business, she used to make clothing for the bike industry.

Merlin Metalworks

A couple of additional companies not mentioned in the Peleton article:

  • Arctos Machine, Gary Helfrich – no longer in business; Arctos was based on the west coast.
  • One-Off Titanium, Mike Augsburger – he used to make custom bicycles.

Independent Fabrication

Additional companies started by Independent Fabrication alumnae:

  • A.N.T., Mike Flanagan
  • Sputnik Metalworks, Jeff Buckles – he makes framebuilding tooling for the bike industry.
  • Firefly Bicycle

Alternative Needs Transportation – A.N.T

A company to include in A.N.T.’s family tree; more to come, we’re certain:

  • Geekhouse, Marty Walsh.  In the article, it may come across that Geekhouse was born out of Marty Walsh’s work with Seven.  Marty started Geekhouse prior to working with us, ran Geekhouse while he was working with Seven, and continues to operate Geekhouse today.

Serotta Competition Cycles

Yes, we know that New York is not in New England, but Serotta and the Boston bike building scene are connected – at the very least by Whitcomb.  Here are a few additional companies started by Serotta alumnae:

  • Kirk Frameworks, Dave Kirk-Bozeman, Montana
  • K. Bedford Customs, Kelly Bedford
  • Ellis Cycles, Dave Wages

Local Builders

Here are a few framebuilders that didn’t start at a local bike company, as far as we know:

  • Peter Mooney Cycles
  • Hot Tubes, Toby Stanton.
    • Circle A Cycles, Chris Bull.
    • Maietta Cycles, Tony Maietta.
  • Dave Weagle
    • E.thirteen
    • Evil
  • Ted Wojcik Custom Bicycles
  • Rhygin Cycles, Christian Jones – no longer in business.
  • Parlee Bicycles, Bob Parlee.
  • October Hand Made Bikes – no longer in business.

We’re sure we’re forgetting a bunch of people, so please let us know whom we’ve left out!  We thank Patrick for including us in this terrific article.  We hope that after reading Patrick’s work you’ll have a better understanding of the unique history of New England that helped launch so many amazing and innovative companies.