Archive for the ‘Shop Rides’ Category
D2R2, or the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee, is an annual event on the Seven calendar. Not only does the ride support the Franklin Land Trust, an excellent cause, but it also takes in some of the sweetest back roads and sweeping vistas in New England. It is both brutally hard and magically compelling. For some of us, it is the most difficult thing we’ll do all year, but we sign up over and over. It’s that good.
This year we had Seveneers riding the 100k (Matt and Susi on their Ti tandem), the 115k (Mike Salvatore), the 150k (John Lewis on his Axiom SL) and the 180k (Jake Bridge) routes, and of course we saw more Seven riders on each of the courses, some on road bikes, some on cross bikes.
As a randonee, D2R2 is not a race. It’s a challenging group ride. It requires cooperation, camaraderie, resource planning, group navigation and a lot of hard work. It is not unlike running a bike company.
And of course it’s all smiles and tall tales back in the food tent after the ride. All the descents were gnarlier and the climbs were longer and we came that much closer to crashing, as pulled pork and mac n’ cheese and Rice Krispy treats disappear in the feeding frenzy.
Jake, who did the long route, has the best story. Two miles into the ride his rear derailleur came apart. The lower pulley and its bolt flying free across the road. Only able to locate the bolt, he road back to the start area, cased the parking lot for any charitable soul with a spare pulley, FOUND ONE, installed it, and hammered back out onto the course, doing the entire 180k of dirt and mayhem on a cobbled together drive train.
Matt and Susi cut two hours off their 100k time from last year. Susi says it’s because they stopped to chat less. Matt believes they still stopped to chat too much.
An event like D2R2 can sustain you for a year. It will leave you with much to think about, climbs you could have handled better, gearing choices that seemed right at the time, and it will send you searching for long stretches of dirt road to conquer, if only to recapture that feeling of being out in the middle of no where, on your bike and flying.
Who can say what summer was made for, but rolling out of the shop on Friday night and winding our way up to East Burke, VT, with an eye on a long Saturday trail ride in Vermont’s Kingdom Trails, we had a sense of the order of the universe. We were unmistakably doing the right thing.
The northern woods are cooler than the roads around our Watertown factory, so we had the perfect escape from the heat. Some trails. Some beer. Lots of good food. More reminders of how lucky we are to do what we do, building and selling bikes all week, riding them on the weekends.
It never fails to amaze how good it is to ride trail you’ve not ridden before. While some of us were intimately familiar with the treasures on offer at the Kingdom Trails, others were discovering them for the first time. It’s like learning to ride again in all the best ways. It makes it easy to show up for work on Monday morning, inspired to do it all again, maybe even better this time.
Like a race or really any hard ride, bike building has a rhythm to it. There are times you hammer – pardon the pun – and times you sit in and conserve energy. In a lot of ways, one informs the other. We ride hard as a group, after work on Wednesday nights. We sit in a little, at the office on Thursdays. By Friday morning’s trail ride, we’re ready to rock again.
On cold, wet mornings like today, there is a calm deliberation to our work. The factory is quiet as folks roll in for the day. Coffee gets contemplative as we size up the work to be done. And it’s nice to have that little bit of serenity that comes in the afterglow of a hard ride. It helps you make the right decisions. In these quiet times, you hatch your best ideas.
As the afternoon slides toward us, the pace picks up. Finished frames find boxes. Delivery trucks pull in and pull out.
Whether you’re working or riding together, pushing and testing each other every day, the pace rises and falls with energy and inspiration. And over time the best always comes out of each of us as we fall into the rhythm of the work, and in large part that’s why we’re so lucky to be able to do what we do.
Nine of us out on the shop ride last night. Cross bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes all together. Discovering a new not-so-secret trail and a new little-bit-secret dirt road to link up to our usual trail system, on the way to the path, and the rail bed, and the Battle Road. Kicking up dust the whole time. Trying to keep Dan, on his mountain bike, off the front. Tearing across fields, over bridges. Causing drivers to double-take at the pack of us, worming our way across town from one patch of dirt to the next.
Hammering up the last hill – to take the KOM points that no one awards and no one remembers, except the one who won - and then down into town to contend with cars and bright headlights. Matt S. says, “I don’t even like to ride bikes. I only came for the pizza and beer.”
Photo by Matt O.
We’ve heard professional chefs usually have simple breakfasts: oatmeal, yogurt, that sort of thing. The idea is, if you are going to be critical and discerning with your food all day, you might not feel like engaging that kind of intellect first thing in the morning. Start simple. Begin at the beginning.
We think we understand. When we reflect on our typical morning ride at Seven, it’s an uneventful out-and-back on the Minuteman Bikeway with a stop in Lexington Center for coffee. No traffic, no crowds, no climbs, no egos, no going fast. Just a lethargic double paceline and base conversation peppered with bad jokes and proclamations of needing to drop five pounds or racing ‘cross next season. Some might ask, “why bother?” Rides should be exciting, epic, adrenaline-filled multi-hour slugfests, right? Those types of rides are fun, but not every day.
As a crew who are critical of bicycles and cycling all day and every day, we like a plain-as-vanilla morning ride.
When the snow flies and the temperature yo-yos, you have to change your game plan. At Seven, we try to stay on the bike, outside, as much as we possibly can. There’s no shame in retreating to the rollers or a trainer, but “stationary bike” is a contradiction in terms, right?
Trail riding is an even bigger challenge. On top of the snow/ice/snow mix, the sun sets early, so you need a good light. The upside to snow riding after dark is that the white ground cover amplifies your light. And you need all that light, because traction becomes a random event. Choosing the right line can mean the difference between staying on the bike and sliding down the trail on your butt.
Best also to bring a sense of humor.
To be really successful on the snow ride, you have to change your basic expectations. That feeling of flow you get from riding dirt in summertime is not available. You have to replace it with the simple joy of being there, of being out in the woods when no one else is there, when the trees rock gently in the wind and the squirrels stay home to feast on winter stores.
It’s so nice to slip and slide and grind your way into the winter woods at night, and then stop there, turn off your lights and let the darkness close in on you. If it happens to be snowing lightly at the time, the sound of the flakes flitting against the already fallen snow is absolute magic.
Back on the bike, staying upright is the biggest challenge, that and keeping your feet dry. The reward is in the adventure, in going someplace that’s hard to get to, and in staying on your bike and moving forward when most “sensible” folks are at home, on the couch.
We’re really lucky that people are riding our bikes all year-round in all sorts of weather on every continent – except Antarctica…as far as we know. We don’t, strictly speaking, have to be out on the trail in the middle of winter, but in addition to loving the outdoors and the challenge of riding through the winter, we feel we owe it to our riders to experience what they experience. It helps us build better bikes, and of course, it makes a hot cup of coffee taste that much better.
Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. That’s Newton’s first law. So you can imagine the difficulty one encounters trying to rise from a warm bed before the sun has even sighted the horizon, to fortify oneself with hot coffee, and then head out for a trail ride. That the temperature is in the mid-20s only compounds the challenge.
And yet, it’s January in New England and the trails are not yet coated in snow and ice, so we do what we can.
And all the way to the meet up, you have those second thoughts reverberating around your cranium. “What am I doing? Man, it’s cold. This is stupid. The guys probably won’t even show up. I really could have used the sleep.”
Then the guys DO show up and next thing you know the heat is coming into your legs, into your core. The leaves crunch under your treads. Frozen earth rides like asphalt in places. The wet parts have gone crusty in the hard morning freeze.
You still can’t quite believe you’re there as the sun begins to suffuse the woods with gray light, but the equation is shifting. You’ve kicked off that equal but opposite reaction, joy and inspiration pushing you down the trail, momentum interrupted only by the odd rock or root. Quite unwittingly, you’re smiling.
And then you’re at it hammer and tongs. Up steep ridges you grind, your breath coming in great billowing gusts. Your fork floats and pops as you hurdle downed trees and then you find a brook in full babble, and you brake without saying a word to your companions. You stop and listen. As much as the riding, this is what you get out of bed for.
Before the snow flies we’re trying to get out in the woods as much as we can. Wednesdays often hold the promise of a shop ride on cross bikes, if we can all remember our lights.
This time of year, our local trails are awash in dead leaves. The leaves make traction a more random event and camouflage muddier patches, all of which serves to amplify the fun. Everything that is easy fun on a mountain bike in the daytime becomes squirrely and awesome on a cross bike in the dark.
You can only ever really ride the five square feet of illuminated trail in front of you. Sections you know by heart show sides you wouldn’t have imagined.
A few nights ago we rolled single file through a trail system just a few miles from the shop, and then did a quick zig-zag over pavement to get to another small system out to the west. We finished with a spin down a nighttime bike path, only a few other hearty cyclists for company. Home in time to microwave some leftovers and put the kids to bed.