Archive for the ‘Press’ Category
One of the things a custom builder can do better than most production builders is find the sweet spots in between the traditional cycling categories. Constance Winters of Bicycling.com recently tested our Cafe Racer SL in just such a special configuration, somewhere in the space between go-fast road bike and all-purpose commuter.
First, this bike has S&S couplings so it can be broken down for travel. Total time to assemble this one, straight out of the case, is about ten minutes.
Next, it has a custom Tiberius handlebar, which gives the rider multiple hand position options, both aggressive and more upright.
And finally, it features a super quiet, super clean single-speed belt drive. The belt keeps you from getting grease on your pants if you’re riding for business, and its elegant simplicity makes break down and reassembly that much easier.
Image: Constance Winters
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.
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 Climbs, The 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.
We talk about customization a lot, but the word itself means so many different things to so many different people it becomes sort of meaningless, another bike industry buzz word that flies around but seldom lands. We thought it might be a good idea to explain how WE customize a bike using the Bicycling magazine test bike we built for Joe Lindsey as an example.
The truth is we didn’t want to send Joe an Axiom SL, initially. When he got in touch with us we were just putting the finishing touches on the 622 SLX, and the opportunity to put our newest creation into a big magazine was exciting.
But Joe didn’t want a purpose-built speed demon. He was more interested in versatility and timelessness, so we arrived, together, at the Axiom SL. It’s light, but not the lightest. It can race, or it can tour. And it showcases our double-butting process, one of the ways we tune ride characteristics to the rider.
Joe filled out our Custom Kit, a small pamphlet we developed to capture all the ideas a rider has about his or her new bike, and also to learn some things the rider might not mention otherwise. It starts with personal information, name, age, and weight, but also occupation and geographic location. We ask about what people do, so that we can get a sense for their everyday ergonomics. Do they sit at a desk all day or are they more active? Clues like this tell us a lot about how a rider will approach their new bike. Where they live gives us some idea about the roads they’ll ride, the hills or the flats, the quality of the surfaces.
Joe Lindsey at Bicycling Magazine wanted to review a Seven, so we started the conversation with him the way we start the conversation with anyone interested in a Seven. What did he want this bike to be?
He filled out our Custom Kit. Our Performance Design team interviewed him. We generated specs, and he signed off on them. The same process we go through with everyone, even those not writing about one of our bikes for a major publication.
Together with Joe, we settled on an Axiom SL, our best selling bike and the flagship of the Seven fleet. We picked a tube set and went to work. In fact, the only thing special we did for this bike was the paint, a slick mix of polished Ti, matte black and high gloss white. When you’re going to be in a big magazine, you put on a clean shirt and tie, right?
Joe’s article, entitled “Rides Like a Dream – The Best American Hand-Built Bikes,” appeared in the November issue of Bicycling, on newsstands now.
Our quick synopsis: Joe liked his bike.
“The Axiom SL, Seven’s most traditional and versatile frame, is a study in the company’s philosophy: Fit and ride quality are paramount, while character and performance are almost infinitely malleable. A dream bike is not just a machine; it’s a deeply personal expression of a rider’s self, entrusted to master craftsmen to interpret and make real. We do not choose lightly whom to entrust with those dreams; with our test Axiom SL, as with thousands of frames before it, Seven has earned that trust.“
Can you send out a test bike for a magazine review and hope for higher praise? It is hard to explain just how gratifying it is to send one of our bikes to an expert, have him ride it, and immediately understand what we’re trying to do as a company.
Later in the piece, he wrote, “This bike proves that you don’t need carbon for performance…Though the bikes isn’t the lightest…it climbs as well as, or better than, bikes that weigh much less.”
Every material has its place in the bicycle. Carbon has it’s place. Titanium has it’s place. Steel has it’s place. No one material can be all things to all riders. Choosing the right material or materials for each rider is what we’re about. Obviously, we’ve been very successful with titanium. It’s what we’re known for, and it’s good to be known for something.
But far beyond the cycling shorthand of carbon vs. Ti or heavy bike vs. light bike are universal characteristics like fit, ride quality and performance. What we try to do with every bike we build is to consider what the rider wants. Rather than building bikes and telling riders they need them, we ask riders what they need and then build bikes to match. It’s an approach that makes sense to us.
And it’s an approach that tests well, even in a new shirt and tie, on the big stage, with an expert at the wheel.
We were thrilled, but not surprised, to see three of our retailers named to the “Top Ten Best Bike Shops in America,” by Complex website.
Cascade Bicycle Studio in Seattle was lauded for its ability to custom build a bicycle for any customer. CBS aims to create a rider-centric atmosphere, as evidenced by their dedication to working with each cyclist on a one-on-one, appointment-only basis. This level of customer service creates a shop that the Seattle cycling community has come to trust as one of the most reliable and highest quality bike studios in the city.
Boulder Cycle Sport in Boulder, Colorado had a podium finish! Complex.com gave BCS high marks for its “dedication to finding the perfect ‘body-to-bike’ connection” and excellent repair service that the shop offers. Their efforts are paying off, as they have sold more Seven’s this year than ever before.
How did Bespoke Cycles in San Francisco improve the customer experience when they already had forty-eight years of combined fitting experience, customer first mentality, and an incredible selection of custom bikes, apparel, and gear? By moving into a beautiful new studio on Clay Street! We had a chance to check out the new digs a few weeks back and thoroughly impressed with the lay out and charm. We suspect Bespoke will be part of the top ten for many years to come.
Each of these Seven retailers shares a common trait: focus on the customer experience. A trait that, when embraced, has some profound effects. Making a top ten list is great press, but the real benefit is more happy customers, more evangelism, and of course, more sales. We’re privileged to work with retailers that set the bar so high.
Enter: Seven Cycles
A Seven Cycles Photo Essay by Jeremy Jo, Embrocation Cycling Journal
Embrocation Cycling Journal‘s Jeremy Jo recently published a behind-the-scenes photo editorial of Seven. With a friendly demeanor and disarming grin Jeremy captured images of many aspects of our factory: he dug into every corner of Seven and took photos of things we didn’t even know we had. It was great to talk with him about Seven and what we’re up to. His photos and prose provide a wonderful illustration of what we do and how we do it.
“The idea of American manufacturing often conjures up images of assembly line production, where parts by the thousands pass from worker to worker as they are transformed into uninspired, mass-produced goods. This type of manufacturing once defined American industry, and it’s hard to imagine that there are still companies out there who define themselves by giving individual attention to everything they make. Enter: Seven Cycles.”
“Starting out as raw tubing, the pieces of each bicycle go through the bending, machining, welding and paint process entirely within the confines of Seven’s 9,000 square foot manufacturing floor. Each frame is often in the hands of the same person through the entire process, bringing an unparalleled sense of ownership and pride to the final product. This type of work flow is only fitting for a company whose motto is, ‘One bike. Yours.’”
We’d like to thank Jeremy for visiting our shop and documenting what we do. You’re welcome anytime!
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.
Each company mentioned is a framebuilder, unless otherwise indicated:
Updated 23 December 2011
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.
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.
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
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
- 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.
“I was not planning to buy a Seven when I toured the company’s Massachusetts’s factory for research, but once I saw how beautiful the welds were, how perfectly and lovingly the frames were made, I had to have one.” - Larry Olmsted, Forbes
We were excited to read Larry Olmsted’s The Great Life article on Forbes.com, extolling the benefits and advantages of his Seven, and of custom-built bikes in general. We felt he had some good insights and wanted to share a few points that Larry made about why buying a custom-made bike is really to any rider’s advantage.