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Archive for the ‘R&D & Prototypes’ Category

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.

The Birth of Mo Pro 2.0

Friday, December 7th, 2012

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 Prototypes Come Home

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

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.

Mudhoney PRO: The Quest to Build the Perfect Cross Bike

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Mudhoney PRO in the prototype phase

If you’ve ever been over your handlebars into a sand pit, you know that the forces that come to bear on a cyclocross bike can be both unexpected and catastrophic.  You also know that trying to get all that sand out of your mouth is much more complicated than simply swishing some post-race beer around and then spitting, like you were at the outdoor dentist.

Because of the big hits a typical CX race bike takes, we think that a pure carbon frame is the wrong tool for the job.  There simply isn’t enough forgiveness in that material to justify the weight savings you would get over a metal bike.  That doesn’t mean carbon fiber has no place on the course though.

Carbon fiber is good at two things. First, it eats high-frequency vibration better than metal, so having some carbon in your CX frame is good when you’re flying over grass or even grinding a big gear on a paved section. You’ll be smoother and get better power transfer.  The other thing carbon fiber is good at is being light.  Light can be good when you’re racing, right?

But it’s not everything.

Metal is good at some things, too.  Titanium, for example, will give a frame a suppleness and a maneuverability that an all-carbon fiber frame doesn’t have.  In the technical section of any course, in the switchbacks or in the mud, titanium will give you the ability to use your whole body to steer with.   A titanium drive train will be easier to power in chattery sections than a carbon one.  Sometimes a little flex is a good thing.

At Seven, we have the ability to build an all-carbon cyclocross racer and make it every bit as customizable as any of the other bikes we build.  When we set out to expand our cross line though, an all-carbon bike never even crossed our minds.  Instead we built the machine that would come to be known as the Mudhoney PRO.

The 2012 Mudhoney PRO

The Mudhoney PRO aspires to wring every last advantage out of the two materials in its design.  The carbon fiber top, seat, head, and down tubes form a light triangle.  Matching seat stays settle your saddle.  By putting titanium lugs and chainstays into the mix, we get suppleness where we want it, plus added durability.  A titanium drive train will improve tracking and traction; it will hold the ground better than a carbon one, especially in the more technical sections.

Marrying materials in this way isn’t easy; it takes advanced bonding techniques to gain all these advantages and still be able to offer a lifetime warranty.  Luckily, we’ve been mixing titanium and carbon since 1997.

We can’t guarantee you won’t go over the bars of the Mudhoney PRO.  When it comes right down to it, sand is unpredictable, and we could all use more practice carrying momentum from the fast parts of the course into the technical sections.  What we will say is that you won’t find a cross racer that tracks truer and holds the ground better.  And there’s always that post race beer to look forward to.