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Case Study

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Spread out in the corner of the baggage claim, the challenge of bike assembly is never more apparent. Hundreds of eyes watch as you unzip the case to see how your bike fared in transit. “What is it?” travelers ask as they see what looks to be a bike in ruins. Your case, small enough to avoid the airline’s bike fees of up to $400 round trip, is just big enough to hold your S&S coupled Seven after some minor disassembly. Just hours ago, and in the calm of your workshop, you packed the bike like a three dimensional jig saw puzzle.  But now, in the wide open airport, curious eyes upon you, building your bike back up is all that stands in the way of you and your adventure.

How long will it take?

One of the main objectives of our collaboration with Patrick Brady, founder of Red Kite Prayer, is to create a bike that is as fast to break down and build up, without sacrificing performance, as possible. There are three main facets, other than the pressure of people watching, that can affect the speed of breaking down and building up of a coupled bike:

  • Case: Not only do cases come in different sizes, but they also come in different materials. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.
  • Frame and Fork: The size and shape of the frame and fork can simplify packing. By designing your frame to fit you, and a travel case, Seven can ensure the best fit, on both fronts.
  • Components: Cables, brakes, bars, and a variety of other components will have to be removed or adjusted before the bike can be packed into a case.  Selecting parts based on ease of installation can save hours. We’ll discuss components that have proven to be quick to assemble, and a snap to adjust.

Let’s look at the easiest of decisions first, the case.  In determining which case to get, we look at a variety of topics, including bike protection, ease of packing, ease of toting, and how easy the case is to manage after the bike is removed.  There are three styles to choose from:

  • Hard cases:  The most durable option, hard cases do the very best job of protecting your bike. S&S Machining, the same folks who make the couplers for our travel frames, offers hard cases that have a handle on the edge or on the side, that come with two wheels or four, and an array of other options. Many of these options are useful, but especially for transporting the cumbersome case in and out of the airport. Another unforeseen benefit is that they tend to stay a little cleaner than the soft cases. The only drawbacks to the hard cases are that they are heavier, more expensive, and more difficult to pack. The walls of the hard cases are, well, hard and require you to be creative in order to get all of your bike’s contents in the case as they won’t give an inch.

    The S&S Butterfly Latch Hard Case

    The S&S Butterfly Latch Hard Case

  • Soft cases: More or less just a heavy duty bag, soft cases are the lightest, most affordable, break down the smallest after use, and are easiest to pack.  However, they offer very little protection for your frame, and do not keep their shape during transit, exposing your bike to just as many dangers in the bag as out. Great for packing your bike in the trunk of your car, these cases are more or less just a convenient way to tote everything together, but not a great option for airlines.
  • Hybrid cases: These cases are made of rugged nylon, and have reinforced corners to give the case structure and help protect its contents. They are less expensive than the hard case, but are also less clunky. They are more expensive than the soft case, but far more rugged. One major advantage to the hybrid case is that the walls are flexible which makes packing something as oddly shaped as a bike a little easier. Dirt has a way of sticking to the nylon material so the bag loses it’s new feel after a trip or two, but really, there isn’t much to nit pick here.

    The S&S Co-Motion Hybrid Case

    The S&S Co-Motion Hybrid Case

Each material has it merits, but we feel the Hybrid case offers the right blend of frame protection, value, and ease of packing. We’ll address the frame and fork, as well as component options soon.

As always, if you have any questions about travel bikes, this collaboration with Patrick Brady, or anything else for that matter, feel free to call us at 617-923-7774 or email us at info@sevencycles.com. Thanks for reading.

Graeme Fife – The Elite Bicycle

Monday, October 8th, 2012

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 ClimbsThe 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.

Team Kenda Seven No Tubes at 2012 USA Cycling MTB CC National Championships!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick took the 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho by storm last weekend!

On Saturday, July 7, Mary raced to a podium finish taking the 5th position in the Women’s Pro Cross Country race.  Later in the afternoon Mike put in a solid performance finishing 17thoverall in the Men’s Pro Cross Country field.  On Sunday morning, Mike raced to a 12th place finish in the Pro Men’s Super D and returned in the afternoon to take 19th place in the Pro Men’s Short Track Cross Country race.  Mary raced in Sunday afternoon’s Women’s Pro Short Track Cross Country field and took a podium spot and bronze medal in her race!

Here is what Mary had to say about the races in sunny, parched Idaho:

It is high and super dry out here with little chance of badly needed precipitation.  The XC course consists of a single steep fire road climb that sorts everything out before dropping us into a no passing single track descent.  It makes for some hard racing at this altitude but it was a good weekend and we are both stoked to be healthy and fit!

At Nationals, Cycling Dirt interviewed Mike about his IMX SL 29er.  Mike raced all of three races on this bike, and we are happy to hear he’s satisfied  with its performance.  Check out the video here.

A Visit With Mr. Mansfield’s Class From Assabet Valley Vocational Technical High School

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Karl B., breaking it down for the Assabet kids

Neil, or rather Mr. Mansfield, used to work alongside Seven Cycles’ founders as a welder at Merlin Metalworks before moving on to become a top tier welding and metal fabrication teacher at the Assabet Valley Vocational Technical High School in Marlborough, MA.  To help generate learning moments, Mr. Mansfield sets up field trips to show his class real world applications for the skills they learn throughout the school year.  Today’s example was tube welding, and what better way to bring welding to life than showing his class what he did more than twenty years ago?

One way to create buzz at Seven is to drop a bus load of students into our showroom.  The entire factory was crackling with energy.

Before splitting into groups, we opened the floor to questions, and were inundated:
How much is that bike?
How much does it weigh?
Do you make BMX bikes?
How long does it take to make one?
What are they made out of?
Do you weld?
Why not?
How long do they last?
Are they strong?
What happens if you crash?
Is titanium better than steel?
What if I wanted a BMX bike, then could you make one?

Matt O., going over the finer points

Once their questions were answered we headed out to the production floor for the real fun.  Starting in machining we covered the basics of tube preparation, cutting, coping, bending, curving, and squishing.  As is the case year after year, Neil’s classes are always more mature than their age would suggest and this class was no different.  Their questions honed in on the craft and harkened back to things they had studied and practiced in their classrooms.

Tim D. dropping some knowledge

The highlight of every tour, for both the me and the students, is when we get to Tim Delaney’s welding bench.  Not only is Tim an encyclopedia of welding knowledge, he is also a natural educator.  When he speaks, people listen with interest and enthusiasm, and the rapport is instantaneous.  I’m certain that the students’ interest in Seven’s welding process had a lot to do with it as well.  They pummeled Tim with questions, donned welding masks, and watched as he showed them examples of what we do here at Seven.  When the questions came to a close, we moved to final machining, then finishing, and finally to painting where Staci was working on a Diamas SL, which garnered some serious attention.

Wrapping up in the show room, Matt O’Keefe took some final questions on job inquiries, and positions for beginning welders.  Needless to say, those of us over age 15 were exhausted by the end of the tour, in a good way, but the kids seemed to be ready for another go ’round.  And lunch!  We were really happy to have spent the morning with Mr. Mansfield and his smart, interesting, and very well-behaved students.  We hope that someday, we can call one, or even a few of them colleagues.

-Karl B.

The Seven Cycles Showroom

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Our showroom, such as it is, is a beautiful space, with vaulted ceilings and a generous supply of natural light.  In the morning, the sun slants in through the blinds and bathes the few bikes that live there in a warm glow.

Invariably, we display our project bikes there.  The Berlin Bike is often in residence.  The Bicycling Magazine bike has been a frequent occupant. But, also invariably, those bikes want to go out to bike shops for display or for special events.

Today, just today, the bikes in the showroom consist of: Rex, the very first Seven, the primogenitor, the bike that spawned all others; Rob’s belt drive Cafe Racer with custom Tiberius handlebar and S&S frame couplers; Karl’s Elium SL, all carbon lightness in a pure-speed build.

We should make clear that employee bikes end up in the showroom quite a bit.  Back at home, garages and storage rooms struggle to accommodate all of our cycling predilections.  It ends up being a symbiotic arrangement.  The showroom gets beautiful bikes to display.  And our loyal Seven staff get more space for even more bikes.

There are a few frames hung in one corner, examples of our best custom paint work, and a pair of Elium SLXs with internally routed Di2 builds. They’re on their way out, demo bikes for shops who want the very latest in their own showrooms.

We joke a lot about the showroom.  What do you call a bike company with no bikes?  More than once, a passing tour has offered to buy an employee’s bike right off the display rack.  It’s good to make a product you can’t keep in stock.  It’s the problem you want to have.

Visiting Seven: Metalsmith Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Photo courtesy of Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky

Recently, sculptor Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky visited Seven for a guided tour of our shop.  When Grace arrived, we noticed that she had an unusual accessory: a backpack made of steel.

Our interest piqued, we took the opportunity to learn about Grace’s process in creating this trompe-l’œil sculpture.  Grace fabricated her hollow steel backpack using 20 and 18 gauge mild sheet.  After hand-forging round stock into a swage, the ‘zippers’ were plug-welded onto the backpack.  Assembly was achieved through a combination of TIG and Gas welding.  Grace worked with Elizabeth Brim, a Blacksmith who has developed a method of inflating metal like a balloon while it is red hot.  This technique, combined with subsequent forming and alteration, achieved the look of a worn steel backpack.

As a metalsmith and maker, Grace’s work ranges in size from jewelry scale to larger sculptural objects. She works with ferrous and non-ferrous metals in addition to other materials such as wood, fabric and enamel.  According to Grace one of her goals in her work is to alter our visual expectations and in doing so, “to comment on the notion that the value assigned to materials is directly tied to whether people or objects are kept or given away.”

It’s great when visitors to Seven can enlighten us, and that is one of the many reasons we enthusiastically encourage customers and anyone interested in observing our designers, engineers, craftspeople, and service professionals in action to get in touch with us and schedule a visit to our Watertown headquarters.

Thanks so much to Grace for sharing her work and philosophy with us!