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Things That Last – Before and After Axiom repaint

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

We built this Axiom SL in 2002, for a customer who has since worked with us on two more bikes. This winter, he decided he wanted to update the look of this bike after 13 years on the road. He sent it to us to strip and repaint. This is what it looked like when we got it, not bad for its vintage, not bad at all.

We tell our riders we’re building them a lifetime bike, that they’ll still be riding it in decades. We think it’s one of the big selling features of a Seven, but in the excitement of getting a new bike, few really appreciate the value of the long term. You can’t blame them, they’re getting a new bike.

But now, 18 years into our bike building adventure, we are seeing bikes coming back for refinishes and repaints, and we send every one back out the door looking as good as it did when it was new. Many of these frames are a decade or more old.

There’s a story in this that resonates with these times: ¬†about quality, about not making disposable stuff, about caring for and fixing things instead of throwing them away and buying something new.

Here is the after shot of the bike above:

We hope we’ll see it back again in 10 or 15 years for another update.

The Overlooked Awesome, Part V

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

The Overlooked Awesome is about all of the great things you can get out of a custom bike beyond the perfect fit. Check out installments I, II,  III and IV.

Part V is about the future. Time, as nearly as we can tell, is uni-directional, the present sprawling relentlessly forward into the future. We get older. Our interests change. How and where we ride changes, too, our relationship with the bike.

So when we design a new bike, we think about how it will be ridden in 5 years, in 10. We make lifetime bikes, so we think about how the rider will change in their lifetime. We design in adaptability. Will a road bike become a commuter? Will a commuter be ridden on tours? Will a trail bike do some bike packing?

There are all sorts of ways to future-proof a frame design. For example, we can make a headtube a little longer, rather than depending on spacers to achieve a desired bar height. That leaves the rider the option of adding spacers later, when maybe they are less flexible. This the fit-related future.

Or maybe we’re working on a cyclocross race bike that the rider will eventually use as a winter commuter. We add fender mounts. This is the use-related future.

Many of these things are simple to do, but our experience is that when people buy a new bike, they buy the bike they want right now. As designers and as builders, it’s our duty to help them think about the longer term, and to make sure we are designing in as much value as they can get from their Seven over its entire lifetime.

Picking Tubes

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

There is a practical side to picking the tubes for a custom bike frame, and there is an aesthetic side. There is a science, and there is a craft. What we think will match the rider’s preferred ride feel, sometimes doesn’t match the rider’s stated desire for “fat tubes,” which can be very stiff. As with all things custom design and build-related, finding the right balancing points make all the difference. The key to success, then, is having enough options to create a balance. We have a whole wall of different-sized tubing, steel and titanium and carbon, multiple diameters and wall thicknesses, and then in many cases we butt those tubes to further refine the bike’s ride feel.

But backing up, we take a lot into consideration when picking the tubes for a rider’s new bike. Some of it is formula, knowing what has worked for rider’s of a given size for a given style of riding. But then you have to consider their aesthetic preferences too, how aggressively they want the frame to handle, how comfortable they want to be. You make little adjustments to the tube spec, based on experience. This is the craft part.

Matt O., our production manager, says, only half-jokingly, that when he specs tubes for a bike, he looks at the rider’s profile and asks how that rider is different from him in size and/or in the way they want their bike to feel. Then he adjusts from what he would build for himself.

There are also factors like racks and fenders to consider. Will the supporting tubes take additional weight and strain. We adjust for that.

We say that every Seven is different. Every one is unique, and that is pretty literally true. There are so many levels of customization that goes into each bike. The tube set is just one of them, but it’s a valuable one. It’s part of what makes the difference between any old bike, and your bike.