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Seven and Get-a-Grip at the Wassau 24

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Our good friends from Get-a-Grip in Chicago recently raced the Wassau24. See the picture below of Adam Kaplan with Seven Sola SL.

Adam said, “The Wausau24 was a great event. Very well organized. The course was 11 miles of twisty, rooty, and rocky singletrack mixed with some nice gradual fire road climbs and fast descents. I started off first for our team and had laps at approximately 10am, 4pm, 8pm, 2am and 6am. The first two laps were great, no real fatigue. The third lap I flatted 2 minutes in and had to be careful. The fourth lap was amazing in the dead of night. The last lap was in the rising sun and misty conditions. Our team, Get a Grip Cycles, was able to clinch a podium spot for third place. Not bad for a bunch of 40+ year old men.”

The Pride of Ownership

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

 

TerryBSolaSL29ChristopherW_EliumSLWe are gratified to build bikes for everyone. Every bike presents a challenge. Every bike gives us the opportunity to get better at what we do, to think about cycling in a slightly different way. When a shop owner gets him or herself a Seven, given all the choices available to them, we take particular pride in building it. These are our most demanding customers and our most passionate supporters. Above you’ll find Terry B’s (Cascade Bicycle Studio) Sola SL 29er, and here on the right, Christopher W’s (Victoria VeloTech) Elium SL.

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.

 

My Hillary Step

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

At the end of the parking lot, past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park soccer fields and beyond the gate, a narrow dirt path divides in two.  One goes right, around the hill, and through a grassy field before disappearing from view.  Locals prefer starting the ride on the trail to the left.  A short steep ascent of the ridge takes you to the best trails in the quickest fashion.  This particular trail is rocky, but passable for experienced riders, at least until the very top.  If there was a Hillary Step at the Tyler Mill Recreation Area, this would surely be it.

The crux is narrow, and no more than a short patch of trail, but it features exposed roots and bedrock shiny from years of use, that refuse to give tires any purchase.  The approach is steep already, but this section is perfectly vertical and requires the front wheel to be lifted up and over.  A single tree on the left won’t allow for more than one bike through at a time, but does provide something to hold onto should you veer too far left, and over the edge.  Above the trail is too wooded to offer an alternative route.  There is no line to choose, no new approach, you either have what it takes that day or you don’t.

Adding to the difficulty is the complete lack of rhythm and increased heart rate that comes from starting off a ride with an immediate, technical climb.  Of course, this is all just background noise and may not occur to you at that moment, but what does, is that everyone behind will be forced to walk up should you spin out, effectively plugging the trail.  The pressure is high.  Sometimes no one makes it.  The few that do are rewarded with a flawless trip to the summit, and a moment to bask in their own sweet glory, as they watch the rest struggle to achieve the same.  The only solace in getting caught behind the bottleneck is listening to the good-natured heckling of the poor soul who had to put a foot down, and knowing you won’t have to face the same shame.  Not this time at least.

I haven’t ridden at Tyler Mill since I lived at home many years ago, but that step has taunted me ever since.

This spring I plan to bring my bike back home, and give it another try.  I may not have the unabashed courage I had as a kid, but I will have a bike that fits perfectly and was designed to excel on the very trails I described to the design team, trails just like Tyler Mill.  I’ll have loads of new technology to help as well, but the biggest help of all, might be the twenty-year-old monkey on my back, prodding me all the way up.

Wish me luck.

Sola SL 140124

 

Hardly an Update on Karl’s Sola SL

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The first bike I ever built was a Trek 800 mountain bike at Alpha-Lo Bicycles in Wallingford, CT when I was in 6th grade. I had applied to work at the bike shop weeks earlier, even though I had few skills in the realm of sales, merchandising, or mechanics, and yet they hired me anyway. Chalk it up to the sweetheart of an owner, and my obvious love for his store.

I worked on the weekends, and though I doubt I provided $20 of value, that’s what I was paid. Keeping the shop presentable was my number one priority, which sounds lame, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I took great pride in shifting the bikes to the big ring, pulling products to the front of the shelves, and vacuuming the floor. When the shop was clean, George, Aaron, and Matt all pitched in to help me learn the basics of bike mechanics.

The shop wasn’t enormous, but it felt like we hand an endless array of entry level mountain bikes to assemble. Building these bikes would become my second responsibility. At the time, I could operate a quick release and fix a flat, but that was the extent of my skills. I was a clean slate. The learning curve was steep, and I wasn’t the quickest learner, but the shop guys were incredible teachers, celebrating victories when I had them, and understanding when I failed. They’d gather round to inspect, coach, joke, mock, and help whenever I was stuck. They’d pull up stools and watch, or shout out advice from afar.

Life was good. What I learned at that shop wasn’t a mastery of bike mechanics, something I’m still searching for, but a love of the bike build and the fanfare that goes with it.

photo 3

At Seven Cycles, we have a bike stand and work shop just beyond our bike commuter lot. Low on bells and whistles, but high on character, it has all of the essential tools to transform a frame into a complete bike, a well worn work bench, recycling bins, a vice, shelves, rags, a drawer of miscellaneous parts, and stools. Whenever a bike is being built, whether it be a new bike for a magazine review, or someone’s old beat up commuter, people gather. Opinions are voiced, jokes cracked. The stools fill with spectators. Assistance is provided, wanted or not. Should the build happen after work, the crowd grows along with the laughter.

photo 1

The technology has changed, as have the tools, but the fanfare of a bike build today is no different than it was when I was a kid. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I can’t think of a better place to build my new Sola.

 

Underway

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

When we receive a signed confirmation form for a new bike, the designer staples the pages together, slips them in a folder with all the accumulated paperwork, and clicks it off in the database as “confirmed.”  That designation alerts Matt O’Keefe, the head of production, who nabs the folder and walks it back to the machining area where he files it neatly and squarely in the back of the build queue.  The last spot in the queue can be found all the way to the right of the vertical file.

If thinking about your new, one-of-a-kind, hand built Seven Sola SL gets you excited, well then, you want that folder to be all the way to the left.  Until it’s the very first one on the left, it won’t be started. The wait can be agonizing.

So I couldn’t believe what happened this morning.  All alone in pole position, my folder finally sat on the far left.

From there, right in the sweet spot, Mike Salvatore plucked it out of the queue, then invited me into his office to show me the build sheet he was creating for my bike.  I glowed.

Mike at the Helm

The first task is to take the information from the confirmation form, and turn it into a build sheet that specifies every detail of the work to be done.  Every single detail, big and small.  Tube lengths, diameters, wall thicknesses specified to thousandths of an inch, cable stop styles and locations, where the tubes will be cut, butted, coped and many, many other pieces of information are all included on the drawing so that it can flow through the fabrication process without being held up.

Mike has drafted several thousand build sheets, but I could tell by the confident clicking of his mouse, this one was extra special.

Reading my enthusiasm, he pointed out a few details and explained why they were important.  The chain stays, for example, when designed around my single 32-tooth chain ring and 2.4″ tires have to be curved to avoid running into the crank, squished to create tire clearance, angled back to avoid hitting my heels, flared to miss the 180mm rear disc rotor, and finally spread to reach the drop outs.  A lot of thought goes into each chain stay, a lot of engineering.  After plugging in a few more numbers, every last specification was accounted for and the fabrication of the frame could begin.

For one lucky individual, this will happen in a matter of moments.

Getting Closer

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Riding past horse pastures and state parks in and around Hamilton, MA, last weekend, I found myself daydreaming once more about riding off road. I chuckled to myself remembering the wise old proverb, “if all you have is a mountain bike, everything looks like a trail.”  Now I am finally understanding the truth of it.  In fact, ever since ordering a Sola SL, I have scoured the countryside for trails, parks, and recreation areas.  I stare at the woods and drift off, longing for the day I can roll through those very trees.

A few weekends ago, I was hiking the Ledge Hill Trail at Ravenswood Park.  High up on a rocky outcropping, the view of Gloucester Harbor, blanketed in winter colors, was Instagram worthy – but instead of taking a snapshot, I pulled out my phone to search “Ravenswood Mountain Biking.”  I had to know if bikes were allowed in the park.

What I learned was nothing short of incredible.  Not only were bikes allowed, but Ravenswood was just a small piece of about twenty-five thousand acres of parks, forests, and free trails in Massachusetts managed and maintained by the Trustees of Reservations.  Many of these parks welcome mountain biking, and just like that, my mountain biking schedule is set.

The timing couldn’t be working out any better, either.  Nearly every component for my new bike has arrived.  I’m only waiting on the wheels and brakes.  Once it’s built, Spring will be knocking on the door.  My restless legs bounce just thinking about it.

Because no one in the office wants to hear me talk about it any more (two years of discussion prior to ordering will do that) and because I’m not done yet, I’ll spell out the details in this forum instead.

I have had a soft spot for the Sola SL, since 2004, so I didn’t think twice about the model choice.  I knew that a double-butted tube set would be beneficial for at least two reasons: my frame will be big, and I love the look of over-sized titanium tubes.  Without butting those tubes, my lanky build would take a beating during the course of a ride.  By thinning the tube walls down, I can have a bike that rides like a dream, and meets my oh-so-discerning aesthetic.

Choosing a wheel size ended up being simple as well. I have only ever ridden 26″ wheels, and I wanted to try one of the larger sizes, 27.5″ or 29″.  I knew either one would be fun and new, but beyond that, I couldn’t see any overwhelming  evidence to suggest one would be better for me than the other.  As luck would have it, the fork I wanted was only available in 27.5″ , so the decision was made.

The only real oddity with my bike, or maybe with me, is that I wanted a 150mm travel fork.  Surely a 150mm fork is overkill, especially for the relatively mellow riding I’ll use it for.  No downhill, no huge drops, and nothing that could be considered extreme to anyone other than my parents.  In fact, it will mostly be a cross country rig, with a huge fork.  I proposed the idea to the design team, and while they had questions at first, they started to see my vision, and designed a frame that will accommodate the extra travel without hindering its handling.  It is amazing what they can do once your measurements, component spec, and vision are in front of them.

Below is the drawing of my very own Sola SL. I think it’s going to be awesome.

Karl's Sola SL Cad Drawing

And yes, that is a ton of slope and post exposure, two more style requirements.

In the Queue

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Maple and Pine

 

The Little Tennessee River gets backed up at the Fontana Dam forming an emerald green reservoir that has been on my mind since the beginning of summer. Along the shoreline, long leaf pine needles blanket the forty miles of single track that meander through a North Carolina State Recreation Area named Tsali.  It was there that I fell in love with mountain biking on a chilly October day, much like today, seventeen years ago.

 

Tsali was my first experience leaning into banked corners, involuntarily launching over whoop-de-do’s, and trail riding from sun up to until sun down.  Whipping through the woods amidst the peace and quiet of the natural world turned out to be my definition of fun.  That trip to North Carolina was just the start. From there I rode everywhere I could; the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, Pisgah, Monongahela, the Appalachians, the Sawtooths, Yellowstone, the Tetons, the Colorado Rockies, the Metacomet Ridge, and even Dooley’s Run right in my parents’ backyard.  No matter the location, the thrill was the same.  I was hooked.

 

After college graduation, I took a summer job leading mountain bike trips out west, and ended up staying for the year.  I can’t recall if I put pressure on myself, or felt it elsewhere, but when the year came to a close, I determined it was time to follow a more traditional post graduation path. I packed up, headed home, went back to school, and got a job.  I’m sure everyone has experienced it, but in the blink of an eye thirteen years flew by without me so much as throwing a leg over a mountain bike.  Within that time frame I gave “my” mountain bike back to my father, and picked up road biking on the side.

 

For all intents and purposes, I am no longer a mountain biker.  V-brakes have been replaced with discs.  Triple chain rings, flat bars, and bar ends are all gone.  26” wheels look out of place in the sea of 650′s and 29ers.  Judy Butter is no longer the answer to stiction.  My full finger gloves are too small.  People say “shred” instead of “ride.”  I haven’t seen a Grateful Dead sticker on a bike in years.  Mountain biking, it seems, has passed me by.

 

It took a road ride last April, in Greenwich, Connecticut to rekindle my interest in getting back on the trail.  Darren, who works at Signature Cycles and was leading the road ride that morning, was guiding us through winding hills and beautiful country side, but for the first time in a long time, my mind was in the woods.  I don’t recall how, but the topic of Tsali came up.  As chance would have it, Darren had been there too, and had equally fond memories.  We shared stories and fawned over the trails, the pine needles, and that glorious lake.  Somewhere on the silky smooth roads of Greenwich, I decided that it was time go off road once again.

 

Perhaps it’s fitting that seventeen days into October, just seventeen years after my trip to Tsali that started it all, the design for my first Seven mountain bike sits in the queue (behind all of yours), ready to build.

 

I cannot wait.

 

Folder

 

Mike and Mary at MTB Nationals

Monday, July 29th, 2013

MnM+at+nats+2013

Great pictures and stories from Mike and Mary’s recent exploits at MTB Nationals, where they made us all really proud, Mary with a podium finish and Mike with a top 10, as well as the full catch up on their RV-based, race-chasing exploits.

Just a sample:

I got a great start from my front row call up and settled into a 3rd place position that I was able to maintain for the entirety of the race.   I really had to measure my output in the heat but actually felt kind of great a few times while taking a few calculated but extreme lines and really enjoying the challenge of  this “real” mountain bike course – something that is less and less typical in this newer era of XC racing.

- Mary McConneloug

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