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P2S

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

“Port-LAND,” he shouted out as he walked down the train car, “Next stop, Port-LAND.” I had never heard the emphasis on the second syllable, but the conductor was quirky so it worked in this case. The Amtrak Downeaster runs from Boston’s North Station all the way to Brunswick, ME and travels through endless woods, lakes, rivers, ocean front, and cool old New England mill towns. There is even a stop in Haverhill, MA. If we had needed a fresh pair of Ksyrium’s we might have had enough time to make a dash to Mavic‘s headquarters.  Our bikes, stowed away in bike specific wheel slots in the last rail car, cost just $5 more per ticket.

Hearing the conductor, we gathered our stuff, and headed for the doors.

June 21st is the longest day of the year, and the final glimmer of sunlight faded out as we were walking in the door of our hotel. Kristin’s Campagnolo freehub is loud on the road, but in the hallway of the hotel it was deafening. The three of us caused quite a commotion. While we were checking in, a woman wanted to know where we were headed. As it turned out, she was in Maine on a bike ride too, on a quest to ride their bikes in each of the 50 states.  Her name was Pat, and when she saw our Sevens she was excited to tell us about how much she loved her Axiom.

Pat G will ride her Axiom in each of the 50 states.

Pat G and Karl B

Maine, the way life should be.

We needed carbs for the morning’s ride and found them at the Local 188 in the form of a hearty paella. From there we walked to Novare Res, home to a most incredible selection of draft beers. More carbs. Portland is a town that is hard to say good night too, but we had a big Sunday ahead, and headed back just before midnight. Larabars, tubes, and pillows were divvied up, the alarm was set, and we hit the hay.

The forecast called for a day in the 70s, and the sunlight pouring through the split in the curtains promised to deliver. We shoved off a little past 7:30. Our hotel was at the bottom of Congress St., and while we rode up it, we joked that it might be the biggest climb of the day.

The entire ride, from Portland to Salem is about 115 miles, and over the length of the trip we’d climb a total of 1,200 vertical feet. A right turn on State, and a right on Congress and we were leaving Portland via the windy and windy Casco Bay Bridge. There was a 5K road race in South Portland that morning, and the entire bridge, on the southbound side, was bumper to bumper. We sailed past and made no friends in the process.

111 miles left to go.

111 miles left to go.

The Eastern Trail, an abandoned rail bed that has been turned into a hard pack, multi-use path, runs for 65 miles from South Portland to Kittery and was the highlight of the first fifth of the ride. The twenty mile stretch on our route may as well have been a nature preserve. Ponds, streams, salt water marshes, vernal pools, and woods outlined the path from the moment we got on until we departed near the town of Wells, ME.

Eastern Trail

Salt Marsh

Endless Marsh

We headed east until we hit the coast, then south. Moving from the serenity of the Eastern Trail to the touristy beach communities is a dramatic change, but both are fun places to ride. We rode from one Olde New England town to the next, and discussed which old houses we like best.

Just one of the hundreds of colonial houses we passed.

This one was from the 1700s.

My favorite part of the route, prior to lunch, was Shore Rd., in Ogunquit. Crashing waves on the left, houses that belong in fairy tales on the right, and a freshly paved road that follows the shoreline down the middle, Maine didn’t disappoint.

Shore Rd.

One of a thousand breath taking stops along Shore Rd.

Making the transition from Maine to New Hampshire easy was the beautiful, newly refinished Memorial Bridge, and the promise of burritos once we crossed the border.

Memorial Bridge NH

You could almost smell the burritos in the air.

The bridge basically funnels traffic into Dos Amigos Burritos, and we didn’t resist the pull. Timing worked well as we were all hungry, the sun was at it’s peak, and the benches at Prescott Park were clear. Portsmouth represented the half way point of the ride, and while we weren’t setting a land speed record, we were in good shape to make it home before sunset.  We sat for a bit, watched the boats, and devoured lunch.

Three burritos please.

Three burritos please.

The remainder of the ride, into Massachusetts, featured a few miles of ocean front views. To ensure our legs stayed fresh to the finish, we pulled over in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a brownie casserole.

Cafe

Coffee break.

At least that is what I would call a brownie that was so full of walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut. It hit the spot. 25 miles later, we reached our destination point, the Old Spot in Salem, MA. As you already know, it’s hard to beat a long day in the saddle.

Three Amigos

Three Amigos

For an “easy” 117 mile route, P2S as we call it, it’s hard to top. How does your favorite century stack up?

Oh, The Places They Go!

Monday, June 16th, 2014
Peter B., from the UK, visited us last week for a factory tour.  When he got home, he sent us some incredible pictures from the routes he’s ridden recently.  He writes:

“Thank you for showing us round the Seven production facility recently (calling it a factory doesn’t seem quite right). We both enjoyed the visit and found it very interesting.

The first picture was taken a few weeks ago at the top of Hardknott pass. It’s not a long pass, but it’s steep, around 30% in places. We had to walk a bit of it! The descent is also pretty interesting if the weather is wet, fortunately it wasn’t when we went over it.  It was on a ride called the Fred Whitton Challenge, which is 112miles and includes around 3900m of climbing, and goes over most of the steep passes in the English Lake District, many of which are 20 to 25% climbs. If you’re interested, you’ll find some information about this ride and also the Raid Pyraneen on the web.

140516fred023j

The others were all taken on the Raid Pyreneen, which I did last year. That goes Coast to Coast along the Spanish / French border from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The basic route is around 720km with 11,000m of climbing and the objective is to complete it in under 100 hours. Due to some passes still being snow covered from the west side, we actually did 755km and 13,100m of climbing. The first picture is the Col D’Aubisque:

130622raid09
The second is the Col de Tourmalet (which was closed from the Aubisque side, so we had to go down to the valley, round the mountain and up from the far side).
130622raid14
I can’t remember the name of the last one, but it’s a nice picture so I thought I’d chuck it in.  This ride goes over a lot of the big Pyraneen Passes many of which appear regularly in the Tour de France. They go up them (and down them) quite a lot faster than I did!
130622raid19

All the best,

Peter”

The Bikes of Summer

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Nick2013-11-01 08.53.34CampOutFreedomWigsCooper_AxiomSLBrassardForestTrailVaillancourtKarlShredTandem

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Behind the Mask

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Nestled snug in their box, the tubes that will become my frame roll, with the jig, from machining to welding, where they wait to be claimed.  Who welds each frame is a matter of chance.  Whichever welder is available at the moment takes the next frame in line.  In my case, that welder is Stef Adams.  Coincidentally, Stef welded my other Seven back in 2005, an Elium SL, and she did such a good job with that one that my thirst for a new bike was stifled for nearly a decade.

While in the machining stage, tubes get coated with grease, dust, shavings, “permanent”marker, finger prints, oil, and who knows what else.  To ensure that her welds will last a lifetime, Stef cleans each tube in a two stage acetone bath which wipes away everything, including the boastful claims of the marker.  By wearing fresh, cotton gloves she keeps her own finger prints off the tubes in the process.

Sevens are TIG welded (the acronym stands for Tungsten Inert Gas).  We pump argon through our frame jigs and into the tube sets as we weld them. The inert argon won’t react with the molten titanium, which is why we use it to “clean” the inside and outside of each area to be welded.

Stef assembles the clean tubes back into the jig, then hooks up a gasket to the head tube in order to create the back purge, plugging all of the external holes in the frame (e.g. where water bottles will be mounted) with stoppers.  Internal breather holes, previously drilled into the tubes, will allow the gas to flow from one tube to the next until all of the tubes are overflowing with argon.  Argon also flows out of the welder’s torch which protects the outside of the tubes.

2 (1)

A gauge at each welding station lets the welders know when there is enough argon in the frame to begin welding.  Stef checks the gauge and begins tacking one tube to the next.  A tack is a small spot weld that holds the tubes in place. They make freehand welding more manageable.

Out of the jig and onto the welding table the tacked frame goes.  Stef works in a most graceful fashion, twirling the frame around the table, welding a little here, a little there, with the smooth, precise movements that she has perfected over the course of more than seven thousand frames.

11 (2)

Little by little, the frame gets closer to completion.  Stef says it takes a few hours to weld a frame as “simple” as mine, but that couplers and other options can add to that.  My frame is simple in that it is a straight forward mountain bike, with no additional features or options that need to be welded on. I clarify with her that it is also awesome, and she agrees.

Below are the bridges and zip tie guides. Not too many, means not too complicated.

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Perfectly round, overlapping droplets of molten titanium bond the tubes together.  A stack of dimes, fish scales, whatever you want to call them, they will hold the frame together for the rest of its life.  I think they are beautiful.  One of the many artistic achievements of the welder is to make it appear that the weld was done all at once, one droplet after the next, until the entire tube is welded, but in reality, they work in tiny centimeter long increments, which is why the frame is flipped, spun, and maneuvered into different positions as they go.

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For a novice, welding can be pretty scary. There is electricity, intense heat, and a light so bright it could blind you.  Behind a camera lens, it looks like a brilliant purple and blue light.

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But from behind the welder’s mask, it’s actually quite pleasing.  The welding mask is tinted so dark that, to Stef, it feels like welding by candle light.  She works slowly but steadily.  Aiming the torch with her right hand, she increases the heat until it’s so hot that the spindly titanium bead in her left hand melts when she dabs it on the tube.  Each droplet adds material and strength to the weld.  This style of welding bikes is called the Puddle Bead Method, and was pioneered by another welder at Seven, Tim Delaney.  Stef is a master, and does a great job of explaining what she is doing while she works.  She makes it look so easy, but I know that if I were at the helm, there would be shouting, catastrophe, and probably a fire.

A job well done and a small token of appreciation.

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The next time I check on it, the frame is all together and hanging up in the final machining department, ready for the next steps, so close to completion.

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.

Photo Friday

Friday, December 13th, 2013

An ongoing series of shots from the shop floor and beyond…

What-is-paint-480x654The waste container in the mix booth. Fifty shades of awesome.

Photo by Rob V.

Two Hour Loop

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Normally I’d bail on an afternoon ride at the end of October if I knew I had to be back in time to shower and dress in order to make the three o’clock shuttle.  That’s too much pressure.  In Vermont, however, a few weeks past peak foliage is still a feast for the eyes.  My girlfriend and I were in Burlington for a friend’s wedding, and brought bikes on the off chance we could squeeze in a leaf peeping jaunt prior to the festivities.  Midday Saturday presented us with about two hours of down time, so we decided to take advantage even if we had to hurry.

We suited up and shoved off, traveling south towards Mt. Philo.  A few miles out of town and the hills began to roll.  Red and yellow may have been lacking but orange made up for their departure in grand form, blanketing everything that wasn’t Lake Champlain with the rusty colors of autumn.  With each up we’d get a postcard worthy view, albeit brief, before careening back down.  Over and over again.  The higher we climbed, the better the view.  By the time we reached the base of the mountain, it seemed like we could see the entire valley.  We weren’t craving any more climbing, so when the park ranger explained that the road to the top was closed for a car race, we decided to ride around it instead.  The extended loop meant I might not have time to iron my shirt, but I had a sweater I could wear over it, so we carried on.  A few farms, hundreds of cows, and a covered bridge later, we were on the way back to the hotel.

A powerful tail wind helped our time crunch and had us back in just enough time to swap Lycra for dress clothes.  I’m writing this down to serve as a lesson for me, and any of you who also opt to sit out short rides, because in just two hours we had a ride I’ll remember for a lifetime.

burlington 2

Tandem Touring – Doing It Right

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Sack_Tandem_Erie2We built this Ti Axiom 007 SL tandem for Joe and Diana a few years ago, and we’re happy to see they’re putting it to good use. These stunning black and whites are from their most recent exploits.

The quick report:

We just got back from a tour of the Erie Canal on the tandem you made for us in 2011.  As always it performed great. We take two to three long tours each year as well as ride it 4-5 times a week.

Sack_Tandem_Erie

Good Bye, July

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

board_blog

July of 2013 will go on record as one of the hottest months in Boston (and Watertown) history, a fact that didn’t escape us as we spent the month building bikes at full tilt and trying to fit rides in before and after work.

Hopefully August will see temperatures, inside and out, that are a little more conducive to hard work.IMAG2097 We are, gratefully, very busy and sending out orders in our own record numbers.

 

Until it cools down, we’ll just have to keep the freezer, cooler and fridge stocked with the sorts of things that help busy bike-builders stay cool on the job, and sometimes off it.

Love to Ride – The Photographers – Dave Chiu

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

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.