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Travel Specific Frame Details

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

We’ve written a little about the design mission behind Patrick Brady’s ultimate travel bike, to recap and over simplify, it’s going to be a coupled bike that is capable of tackling road rides, off-road adventures, and rides that haven’t been dreamt up yet. This will be Patrick’s dedicated travel bike, so it has to be adaptable to whatever surfaces he rides on and still fit into an S&S case.

Packing a bike in a box, 26″ x 26″ x 10″, is an interesting project. Bikes are oddly shaped machines, and are far better off being pedaled to where they are going than being shipped. Adding S&S couplers to the bike is a huge help when packing, but more can be done, and that is exactly what Patrick and our design team focused on, once his fit was complete.

Patrick's Cad Drawing

Patrick’s Cad Drawing

The plan was to design a frame that would take up as little room in the S&S case as possible without sacrificing the bike’s performance, then build the bike with components that were easy on, easy off. Starting with the frame, we made the following design choices:

  1. Top tube slope:  A smaller frame, in general, fits in a case more easily than a large one. To make Patrick’s frame as compact as possible, we sloped the top tube ten degrees. This aggressive slope will leave more space in the case for other essentials without compromising performance or the number of water bottles he can use.
  2. Cable stops at Head Tube:  Handlebars can be one of the trickiest pieces of the bike to pack. They are oddly shaped no matter how you position them, and the cables and housing sprouting off in all directions only adds to the struggle. Having a handlebar that isn’t attached to the frame, rear brake, or the derailleurs is a real advantage when packing a bike. By using slotted cable stops in lieu of barrel adjusters, and a set of DaVinci cable splitters, the handlebar can be freed from the bike with relative ease. While we would normally recommend barrel adjusters for on the fly derailleur adjustment, in this case they don’t allow for an easy way to detach the cables from the frame. Slotted cable stops eliminate this problem, and in-line cable adjusters will take care of any derailleur tweaks, so that is how we will outfit Patrick’s bike.

    photo 3

    Cable stops, not barrel adjusters at the head tube.

  3. Disc mount:  Most Seven road bikes that are equipped with disc brakes and also don’t have rack or fender mounts, have the rear brake caliper mounted on the back of the seat stay, above the drop out. The logic behind this location is that the brake is perched on the outside of the frame making it easy to work on when needed, and allows for a traditional cable routing path, along the top tube and down the seat stay. In a cramped case, where every inch counts, we think the “low mount” disc brake location makes the most sense. Welded on top of the chain stay, the low mount positions the brake caliper within the frame’s rear triangle, not only protecting it from getting dinged in travel, but also freeing up more space in the case.

    photo 1

    Low mount disc caliper location.

  4. Cable stops for Disc Brakes:  When riders choose to run disc brakes, they often choose zip tie guides as the means to affix the housing to the frame. This set up allows for both mechanical and hydraulic brakes to be used, and leaves the option open to use either throughout the lifetime of the bike. We felt the serviceability of mechanical disc brakes made the most sense for Patrick’s travel bike today, and for many years to come. Once we came upon that decision, we could then make the switch to slotted cable stops, again adding to serviceability, and ease of assembly.

    Cable stops from lever to caliper.

    Cable stops from lever to caliper.

Once we begin building the bike, we’ll discuss some of the ideas behind Patrick’s component selection.

Dems Da Brakes

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

One topic that came up early in our discussions with Patrick Brady about the ultimate travel bike was brake type.  Due to the wide range of tires he’ll be using, and the desire to keep packing and unpacking as simple as possible, Patrick felt cantilevers, or possibly mini-v’s made the most sense.  Easy to set up and adjust, these brakes don’t require any additional tools or time to pack in a case.  Patrick had ruled out cable actuated disc brakes for two reasons, first because disc rotors present a hurdle in the speed of packing the bike, each rotor has to be removed in order to fit, and second because Patrick had yet to find a cable actuated disc brake that he felt was so significantly better than a rim brake, that they’d be worth the hassle.

photo

Before we knew how he felt about brakes though, we took him for a ride.  His test bike was a coupled Evergreen SL, a sort of travel bike prototype outfitted with Shimano’s R517 non-series, cable-actuated disc brakes with 160mm rotors.  The route  (that he would crush us on) was what we call the Battle Path loop because much of the route follows the path taken by the British on their march from Boston to Concord way back in 1775.  Other than an occasional street crossing, nearly the entire ride was off road.  From single track in the Belmont Woods, to the long, swooping, packed dirt trails in Lexington and Concord, we rode through the unrelenting humidity.

Patrick basically rode one handed, using his free hand to snap pictures throughout, so it would appear that his opinions on braking power are believable.  The ride was as fun as it gets, the trail conditions were top notch, and the scenery unbeatable.  We love that ride, and Patrick’s smile suggested he did too.

Something changed for him during that ride.  For the first time, he had a clear cut example, in his eyes, of a cable-actuated disc brake that performed better than a rim brake.  This was an important discovery because many of the rides Patrick has planned for the travel bike are exceptionally rugged and will require a comparably exceptional braking platform.  This isn’t to say cantilevers and mini-v’s couldn’t perform well enough, but he felt the disc was a needed improvement, so much so, that it became a requirement for his travel bike.

Back in the show room, we discussed the pros and cons of each brake type, cantilever, linear pull, medium reach, etc.  There are clear advantages and disadvantages to each style, but for the type of riding that Patrick will use this bike for, especially the challenging off road rides, his choice was clear.

Disc it would be.

evergreen

The question then became, what can we do to speed up the break down time when packing the bike?  Discs come in two mounting styles, six-bolt or center-mount.  We agreed that a center mount, though it requires a cassette tool to install, would save enough time to make it the clear favorite.

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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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.

In Season

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Brassard_variationThe 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.

matt roy's 622 slx

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 john-bayleys-axiom-slvery 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.

 

Seven on the World Cup Circuit

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Proper test ride 27

We recently built new Sola 650b SLX race bikes for Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug and had them delivered to Germany where the pro mountain biking power couple are working their way around the World Cup circuit.

Mary said:

The frames turned out beautifully!  

The care you all take with your work, the attention to detail and finesse is second to NONE!  Rob – your design, is again, masterful!  We know so many hands played a part in this project!  Thank you guys for your artful work in planning, crafting and shipping these incredible frames to Mike and I over here in Europe!!  Mike spent the majority of this past week carefully building the frames up at the SRAM headquarters in central Germany.  Having access to a real shop (and not some outdoor RV camp spot) to build the bikes up was very much appreciated.  Thanks to our awesome crew of supporting sponsors who helped with the various components – everything came together perfectly.

We feel so lucky to be backed by the best in the industry and we are honored to represent you all out in the field!

Continuing the evolution!

We got out on our first ride in the forests of Schweinfurt yesterday and instantly were both SMILING! The fit and balance of the frames are impeccable. My first impression of riding the 27.5 wheel size was the ease of acceleration.  I could feel the relation of the pedal stroke efficiently translate my power to the smaller wheel size and it seemed easier overall to push and maintain a smooth cadence. The complete bike is also a little lighter and easier to maneuver through the tight turns of the trails…

We can hardly wait to RACE our new 27.5 Solas at the World Cup in Italy this weekend!!!

Thank you all again!!!

We are truly honored to represent Seven Cycles and ever grateful for your continued support of our team.

Yours truly,

Mary and Mike

Learning to Endure

Friday, May 24th, 2013

DSC_7436Endurance 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.

Welding Zip Tie Guides for Hydraulic Brakes

Welding Zip Tie Guides for Hydraulic Brakes

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.

Over-sized Head Tube Fo Jon Bayley's Axiom SL

Over-sized Head Tube for John Bayley’s Axiom SL

 

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.

Taillight Prototype

Taillight Prototype

 

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 Seven Crew Knocking Out John's Axiom SL Rando Special

The Seven Crew Knocking Out John’s Axiom SL Rando Special

 

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.

 

Alternating Current

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

DSC_0013

It’s hard to stay on top of all the innovations the bike industry serves up. We are under constant pressure to integrate new developments, such as tapered steerer forks, or disc brakes for cross and road bikes. Not every idea that makes it to market really serves the rider though, and as a custom builder we have to pick and choose the trends we think have legs, the ones really worth pursuing.

Staying current, for us, isn’t always about offering the flavor of the month, even though some of those flavors are good. It’s about finding the sweet spot between classic and modern, identifying the trends that really enhance the riding experience. We have never wanted to be a retro bike builder, applying old techniques to old materials as a sort of homage to what bikes once were. Neither do we want to chase every new idea and try to convince people we’re reinventing two wheels.

To us, being current means using the best materials and techniques to build bikes that people love to ride.

Project Bike: Nella Neve – Winter Randonneur

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Mid-winter, Rob built himself a unique rando bike.  This was one in a long list of Seven project randonneuring bikes that we took on in 2012, an internal project to test a couple ideas. Due to the above-average snowfall here in New England, we did this as a speed project, one week from design to build.

This video was, in part, the inspiration for the design, hence the name Nella  Neve.

Highlights of the project included:

  • Hot swappable between drop bar and Tiberius bar – actually a Stylerius(tm) bar
  • Accommodate tires from 23c up to 2.3″ 29er.  Ideally designed around 33c tires.
  • Race-worthy geometry, handling, and performance.
  • Big fenders for optimized protection in the wettest and snowiest of days.  No ice buildup on theses beauts.
  • Disc brakes for icy weather and easy wheel swap.
  • Hot swapping studded tires for 28c tires depending on the weather

Working with Titanium

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

P1000546

We wrote about steel the other day, and how the accepted wisdom regarding steel tube sets simply doesn’t match the reality. Today, we want to address titanium. Interestingly, while riders have believed for years that the type of steel a frame is made from is supremely important (we agree), they have simultaneously assumed that titanium is just titanium, that it’s all the same.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Seven uses mainly US-milled, Cold Worked – Stress Relieved (CWSR) titanium in our custom frames. We do that because no other titanium available today has a longer fatigue life or higher tensile strength. We know that’s true because we have a fatigue tester here in our shop and regularly submit tubes to rigorous testing. Pushing materials to their breaking point is a great way of finding out how good they are, and our research indicates that the titanium we source is the strongest available and maintains that strength over significantly longer periods than the titanium available from mills in Asia.

We always want to use the best materials, because we want to build the best bikes, but we also have a commitment to lifetime warranties that prevents us from cutting corners with lower quality products. When  you buy a custom Seven, you put your faith in us to produce a bike that will fit like a glove, corner on rails and last forever. American CWSR titanium allows us to repay your faith with a frame of uncompromising quality.