No sooner was it here, than it was here!
The bike industry does not circle the sun and measure its progress in years, but rather plants its fields, like a farmer, and thinks of time in seasons. And we are in the thick of that season now, building bikes with a drive and focus similar to our riders, out in the world, making use of the summer sunlight to get more time on the bike.
In season, we have to be very careful not to work too much (we always fail at this) and to make sure we are taking the time to ride our own bikes and to stay in touch with why we do what we do (we always succeed at this).
But now a month has passed since our last post…here are just a few of the things we’ve been working on.
A 622 SLX with SRAM’s new Red integrated hydraulic brakes for our good friend Matt Roy. This one left the shop floor and headed straight for the Green Mountain Double Century, where Matt rode it to victory, along with his Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team, in a time just over 17 hours. For an encore, Matt took it on a post-grad (Ph.D.!!) trip from Portland, OR to Boulder, CO. Just a quick spin then…
And, this is John Bayley’s Axiom SL super randonneur, also with SRAM Red hydro and a very special paint job. John rode it to a third place finish at Dirty Kanza. This bike will also feature in an upcoming ad in Rouleur. Keep an eye out for it.
Endurance riding is not a new segment. From the early days of cycling, riders have sought to challenge themselves by covering distances previously unimagined. But as a category within the broader cycling industry, endurance is now flourishing in a way it never has with the advent of longer, challenge-style events both on-road and off. After spending years working on rando bikes of every stripe, we are now seeing these bikes consolidate around the common experience of riders who are taking on events like Dirty Kanza, the Almanzo 100 and D2R2.
The Seven-sponsored Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team is made up of three riders who, collectively and in massive solo efforts, will clock more miles on their Sevens this year than most folks will manage in their cars. We are deeply fortunate to be able to work with John Bayley, David Wilcox and Matt Roy. This season they will tackle Dirty Kanza, the Green Mountain Double Century, the Rapha Gentleman’s Race, the Vermont 600, D2R2 and a 1200k brevet of their own design. And events aside, almost every weekend will see these guys spending whole days in the saddle, knocking out century after century, saving up their endurance for big, fast miles on their custom Sevens.
We’ve built each of them a unique, custom, randonneuring bike suited to their personal style and approach to endurance cycling. Comfort and utility get more and more important as the miles pile into your legs and light wanes at the end of the day.
Endurance Team Captain Matt Roy, a Harvard trained immunologist, rides a 622 SLX, the most technically-advanced bike on the endurance circuit. We’ve taken some cues from Mo Bruno Roy’s – last name not coincidental – cyclocross winning Mudhoney PRO. Matt’s 622 is by far the lightest rando bike on gravel, while still boasting the lifetime durability Seven builds into every frame.
John Bayley values versatility. He is riding an Axiom SL that can run 650b or 700c wheels. His cabling is external for easy servicing and quick adaptation. We finished his bike this week, another speed build that went together in just three days from final design to full assembly thanks to a fair amount of overtime and a group of willing collaborators on the Seven shop floor.
David Wilcox is a quiet, powerful rider, the kind of guy who can ride all day and all night without the whisper of a complaint. His bike is the most simple of the three, an Axiom S with no frills other than hydraulic disc brakes.
As co-sponsors, SRAM has provided the team with their new Force 22 hydraulic groups for each frame. Clement Tires has signed on as well. Working with cutting edge products makes projects like this one even more fun for us.
The Endurance Team sponsorship allows us to explore and experiment in a new and interesting way because these guys will tell us, in the space of one ride, what we might take months of research to learn on our own. Endurance riding pushes bikes to their limits and tests the effectiveness of different component integration strategies. The needs of the long-distance rider also push us to design and integrate practical solutions into each build, the details, big and small, that make all the difference between success and failure.
Dave Chiu is one of those guys who is very hard to pin down. He is a hyper-talented photographer, as evidenced by this shot we used in our Love to Ride brochure, but to speak only about Dave’s photography is to ignore all the other things he does, including graphic design, web development, travel, high level racing and generally kicking ass a collaborator and friend.
In recent years he’s shot the Tour as well as a number of legendary domestic races like the Tour of Battenkill. You can check out some of the best of that work at his website. This picture of mad genius mechanic Matt Roy gives a tiny, intimate peek into the life of a pro wrench, prepping a race bike for his wife, Seven sponsored Mo Bruno Roy.
The Green Mountain Double Century is a singular sort of endurance event. The 2012 version was 215 miles, 80% on dirt roads, with 26,500ft of climbing. There is a time cut off of 40 hours. Theoretically, it is a race, but such is the challenge that many ride just to finish.
The inaugural event, in 2011, saw about a dozen riders start, and only four finish. Three of them were from the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team, John Bayley, David Wilcox and Matt Roy. They finished in just short of 19 hours. The 2012 version saw the RSC team, all on Ti Sevens, “win” the overall again, shaving three hours off their previous best time. These guys are all randonneuring legends who keep raising the bar for the endurance cycling community. We were incredibly honored to have them all on our bikes.
Natalia Boltukhova of Pedal Power Photography, who shot most of our Love to Ride brochure as well as the photo above, traveled with the winning team in both 2011 and 2012, putting together this photo set and this video, which captures the brutality (and humor) of the event beautifully.
Ali Engin’s photos of athletes in motion are elegant and graceful, even under the most grim and grimy circumstances. His photo of Seven-sponsored rider Mo Bruno Roy dashing up a set of stairs against a vast blue sky, surrounded by onlookers, captured the dramatic tension of top-level cyclocross so well we decided to make a poster of it. To us, his image says it all about the essence of racing cyclocross; painful yet exhilarating, terrible but beautiful.
Ali’s pictures always make dramatic and dynamic use of light. Colors burst through his lense. His unique style sets him apart from many other talented photographers working at our favorite events, and we were lucky to be able to work with him on this project.
Check out more of Ali’s photos at his website:
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 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.
Finally, some mud. Also known as the New England World Championships, the GP of Gloucester is part of “holy week” in our local cross world, and this year we had what some might call perfect cross weather, gray and drizzly and a little bit raw.
The Grand Prix of Gloucester is considered one of America’s best cyclocross races, and it was well attended by riders and racers from all of the country and the globe. For Seven Cycles this is a hometown event and our bikes could be found in nearly every race category throughout the weekend. From factory employees in the amateur categories to our sponsored professionals in the men’s and women’s UCI Elites, our Mudhoney’s were ridden hard and fast through the perfectly wet and muddy conditions featured in Gloucester this weekend.
The course was classic Gloucester; it opens with an uphill stretch of pavement through the start/finish, winds up past the beer garden steps and then dives down into muddy off-camber chicanes. There were barriers (of course) and wide-open power sections through the grass. Gloucester has one of the steepest and meanest loamy rocky run-ups in cross where anyone who is really running is a lot fitter than me. There were deep mud holes and ever-changing slippery lines twisting through the trees, and day two featured a sand section that crosses the oceanfront beach at Stage Fort Park. Spectators could watch the race and catch some amazing views of this classic New England seaport from atop a giant rock – a prominent feature in the park and a major attraction for the young ones in the crowd.
The UCI Elite women’s race featured no less than four women racing on our bikes – nearly ten percent of the field and three of them were top-ten finishers this weekend. Mary McConneloug posted 5th and 8th place finishes, and Mo Bruno Roy was 11th and 4th. Overall this was an outstanding weekend of racing for Seven Cycles.
- Joe W.