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P2S

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

“Port-LAND,” he shouted out as he walked down the train car, “Next stop, Port-LAND.” I had never heard the emphasis on the second syllable, but the conductor was quirky so it worked in this case. The Amtrak Downeaster runs from Boston’s North Station all the way to Brunswick, ME and travels through endless woods, lakes, rivers, ocean front, and cool old New England mill towns. There is even a stop in Haverhill, MA. If we had needed a fresh pair of Ksyrium’s we might have had enough time to make a dash to Mavic‘s headquarters.  Our bikes, stowed away in bike specific wheel slots in the last rail car, cost just $5 more per ticket.

Hearing the conductor, we gathered our stuff, and headed for the doors.

June 21st is the longest day of the year, and the final glimmer of sunlight faded out as we were walking in the door of our hotel. Kristin’s Campagnolo freehub is loud on the road, but in the hallway of the hotel it was deafening. The three of us caused quite a commotion. While we were checking in, a woman wanted to know where we were headed. As it turned out, she was in Maine on a bike ride too, on a quest to ride their bikes in each of the 50 states.  Her name was Pat, and when she saw our Sevens she was excited to tell us about how much she loved her Axiom.

Pat G will ride her Axiom in each of the 50 states.

Pat G and Karl B

Maine, the way life should be.

We needed carbs for the morning’s ride and found them at the Local 188 in the form of a hearty paella. From there we walked to Novare Res, home to a most incredible selection of draft beers. More carbs. Portland is a town that is hard to say good night too, but we had a big Sunday ahead, and headed back just before midnight. Larabars, tubes, and pillows were divvied up, the alarm was set, and we hit the hay.

The forecast called for a day in the 70s, and the sunlight pouring through the split in the curtains promised to deliver. We shoved off a little past 7:30. Our hotel was at the bottom of Congress St., and while we rode up it, we joked that it might be the biggest climb of the day.

The entire ride, from Portland to Salem is about 115 miles, and over the length of the trip we’d climb a total of 1,200 vertical feet. A right turn on State, and a right on Congress and we were leaving Portland via the windy and windy Casco Bay Bridge. There was a 5K road race in South Portland that morning, and the entire bridge, on the southbound side, was bumper to bumper. We sailed past and made no friends in the process.

111 miles left to go.

111 miles left to go.

The Eastern Trail, an abandoned rail bed that has been turned into a hard pack, multi-use path, runs for 65 miles from South Portland to Kittery and was the highlight of the first fifth of the ride. The twenty mile stretch on our route may as well have been a nature preserve. Ponds, streams, salt water marshes, vernal pools, and woods outlined the path from the moment we got on until we departed near the town of Wells, ME.

Eastern Trail

Salt Marsh

Endless Marsh

We headed east until we hit the coast, then south. Moving from the serenity of the Eastern Trail to the touristy beach communities is a dramatic change, but both are fun places to ride. We rode from one Olde New England town to the next, and discussed which old houses we like best.

Just one of the hundreds of colonial houses we passed.

This one was from the 1700s.

My favorite part of the route, prior to lunch, was Shore Rd., in Ogunquit. Crashing waves on the left, houses that belong in fairy tales on the right, and a freshly paved road that follows the shoreline down the middle, Maine didn’t disappoint.

Shore Rd.

One of a thousand breath taking stops along Shore Rd.

Making the transition from Maine to New Hampshire easy was the beautiful, newly refinished Memorial Bridge, and the promise of burritos once we crossed the border.

Memorial Bridge NH

You could almost smell the burritos in the air.

The bridge basically funnels traffic into Dos Amigos Burritos, and we didn’t resist the pull. Timing worked well as we were all hungry, the sun was at it’s peak, and the benches at Prescott Park were clear. Portsmouth represented the half way point of the ride, and while we weren’t setting a land speed record, we were in good shape to make it home before sunset.  We sat for a bit, watched the boats, and devoured lunch.

Three burritos please.

Three burritos please.

The remainder of the ride, into Massachusetts, featured a few miles of ocean front views. To ensure our legs stayed fresh to the finish, we pulled over in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a brownie casserole.

Cafe

Coffee break.

At least that is what I would call a brownie that was so full of walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut. It hit the spot. 25 miles later, we reached our destination point, the Old Spot in Salem, MA. As you already know, it’s hard to beat a long day in the saddle.

Three Amigos

Three Amigos

For an “easy” 117 mile route, P2S as we call it, it’s hard to top. How does your favorite century stack up?

The Bikes of Summer

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Nick2013-11-01 08.53.34CampOutFreedomWigsCooper_AxiomSLBrassardForestTrailVaillancourtKarlShredTandem

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Five Rides In

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

The log that crosses the service road, moments from the start, had stopped my progress each of the four previous rides. As had the challenge of the first hill.  I could make it to the top, but was panting and wheezing so heavily at the peak that I couldn’t partake in the jump that came soon after. Everyone else made that jump look awesome.

John Lewis launches off the first jump of the day.

The final hurdle, before crossing the street into Rock Meadow, is a line of jagged rocks that runs right through the trail and looks imposing.

Mike Salvatore clears the rock wall with the greatest of ease.

I gave only a halfhearted effort before putting a foot down. So scared I was. Throughout each of those rides, there were a number of obstacles that gave me trouble, slowed me down, or stopped me altogether.

 

I learned, or rather relearned, little things, important things, every thing, basic stuff like when you ride over rocks and roots, even small ones, your butt gets bucked off the saddle, so it’s best to hover even if you’re tired. You have to lean over the front wheel on steep climbs to avoid the wheel lifting off the ground.  If there is a rider in front of you, give them time and space to clear technical sections. On really steep downhills, it helps to get way off the back of the bike, behind your saddle, for extra control.  Pull up on the bars when you ride over a drop. No matter how thirsty you are, your water bottle is useless until you are stopped. Trees are everywhere and have surprisingly little give.

Around every corner was another reminder of a lesson I once knew.

Five rides in, however, and there have been improvements. I made it over the log. There was enough left in the tank to get an inch or two of air off the jump.

That’s me! Progress.

Brimming with confidence, I gave a wholehearted effort, and made it over the line of rocks. They didn’t seem so jagged this time. In Rock Meadow, I continued to do better, and took a huge step forward. I started relaxing on the bike. The difference is amazing. My grip on the bar loosened. I squeezed the brake levers less, which opened me up to a little rhythm through the twists and turns.

Twisting and turning.

Best of all, I could stop focusing on myself, and start paying attention to the sites and sounds of the ride, and joking with my friends. I still have a ways to go, and endless areas to improve upon, but it’s great to be on the trail to once again considering myself a mountain biker.

 

Matt O’s Festive 500

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

F500_5On a more positive note than recent posts, we have just collected some of the photos Matt O’Keefe took during the Rapha Festive 500 at the end of the year.

When you ask Matt why he rides the Festive 500, he’ll laugh and say, “I don’t know,” but then all the reasons come tumbling out. And it’s pretty clear peer pressure got him out the door to begin with, at the end of 2012.

“I had just signed up for Strava,” he says, “and then Rapha put out the challenge, ride 500km in the week between Christmas and New Years, and I mentioned to John Bayley that it was a cool idea, but that I didn’t have a Garmin. So John gave me a Garmin, and I was out of excuses.”

F500_7Despite some untimely snow and a day off for family commitments, he managed to complete last year’s challenge and enjoyed it. This year, the weather was better. The snow held out (until just after the holiday), and Matt managed to get 7,000 miles in his legs over the 2013 season, so the kilometers piled up more easily.

“I don’t know why I do it, but it definitely ends the season with a bang,” he says.

Here are some more of his photos, and for even more of Matt’s cycling adventures, follow him on Instagram.

 

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Nor’easter

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

We got a foot of snow last night and the afternoon high for the day will be 12F. That didn’t keep Rob from striking out at 8:30am to make the slippery trek into the shop. Our Expat S. Studded tires. Full fenders. A frozen water bottle. There is work to do, after all.

photo 1It’s a good thing there were so few cars out. Plow dodging will no doubt become an event in some future Winter Olympics. There is also valuable experience to be gleaned for work on future winter commuters.

photo 4photo 2photo 3And he wasn’t the only one who chose to ride. Cold puddles dot our bike parking lot today.  We can’t recommend riding in these conditions, but it’s amazing how many times “go outside” turns out to be the right decision, and how often the bike is actually the best tool for the job.

Summer Seven Style

Friday, August 16th, 2013

cookout1We rolled thirteen deep, our course winding seventy miles north and west of our Watertown home. It featured a variety of classic New England highlights like olde town centres and ice cream parlors, lakes and rivers, farms and country stores, cows and chickens, hawks and herons, mountains and views. And best of all, a company picnic and camping at the finish!

It has been a big, big year for us here at Seven. We’ve worked hard. So, for the first time in years we decided to have a non-holiday party, simply for the sake of enjoying the weather, a long ride, and each other’s company.

There are several camping trips in the folklore of the company. Senior Seveneers have long alluded to these trips of yesteryear, but until last weekend, the young ‘uns could not relate.

We were excited as we left the Boston-area. We had no idea what to expect, even as pavement gave way to dirt, as we crossed into New Hampshire, as the road turned up and up and up. And when we arrived thirsty and exhausted, we found that a dedicated few had arrived early and prepped the food, grills, chairs, darts, horseshoes, and quite litecookout2rally every other amenity a party-goer could want. Our fatigue quickly faded.  Every few minutes people would arrive, by bike or by car, until every chair was filled.

photoBased on the laughter and smiles it was clear that the company, as a whole, was looking to cut loose and relax. Kids scrambled in and out of the circle. People left for short hikes and took naps in the hammock. By 6:00 there were three grills cranking out burgers, dogs, kebabs, and plumes of smoke.  Tents were set up and as the cool mountain air descended upon us, the bonfire was lit.

It carried us to midnight.

It’s no secret that we have a pretty special group here at Seven. That more than half of us rode our bikes the 70 miles (and some rode further), tells you all you need to know about who we are and what we do. These would be our sixth and seventh consecutive days together, but the only arguments we managed were over horseshoes.

 

 

Where Eagles Dare

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

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Here is the man himself, at the top of the morning shop ride’s first climb, taking his road bike where it was (n)ever meant to go. Axiom SL, wide tires, handling skills, can-do attitude. Categories stop meaning what we think they mean.

The Friday Morning Local

Friday, May 17th, 2013

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Shop Ride – The Wheelie King

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Dan V. and Matt O. (the Wheelie King) on this morning’s shop ride.

Seven at D2R2 2012

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Matt & Susi’s Tandem

 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.

John’s Axiom SL

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.