We use the term a lot, and it’s one of those that lends itself to broad interpretation. Everyone reading it will project their own ideas onto it, and that’s a good thing. It suggests that no matter what you want from a new bike, we can deliver it.
The trick is figuring out what performance means for the individual rider before designing and building their bike. If you’re not careful, you can get your head stuck in the bubble of bike industry media, marketing, and hype. In the bubble, everyone just wants to go faster, forever and always. And while it’s probably fair to say that almost no one who turns the pedals wants to go more slowly, that may not be why they’re getting a new bike.
What we hear from our riders runs a wide gamut, from comfort to endurance, from better handling to better features, from the ability to travel to greater versatility on-road and off. One person’s watts are another person’s panniers, or tire clearance, or root level versatility.
The good news for those of us who design bikes is that figuring out what the rider is really looking for, beyond speed, is also the process of designing, that is to say, in asking questions to discover our customer’s priorities, we are also collaborating with them to design their new bike.
Here’s how we do it:
1) Studded Tires – Today, you can get studded tires from 30mm to 4.8in wide to fit mountain bikes at all wheel sizes, and any disc brake road bike (and Seven’s RedSky series, too, if you like rim brakes). Nothing provides the confidence to take on winter riding quite like a pair of studded tires.
2) Bar Mitts and Boots – Hands and feet bear the brunt of the cold when you’re riding, so we like Bar Mitts to keep our hands warm, and a pair of serious winter cycling boots like these or these. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get out the door once you’ve solved the problem of cold hands and feet.
3) Layers – One of the great things about riding is that it raises your body temperature, so you won’t be cold long. That means that your best strategy for regulating comfort will be layering your clothing. We like full zip jerseys and jackets that we can open when we’re warming and close when we’re cooling off.
4) Friends – We all like a solo ride for clearing our minds and simplifying things, but in winter we prefer to travel in packs. We’re more likely to show up for a ride if friends will be there.
5) Adventures – All the places we go during the year are different in winter. Sometimes the thrill of a cold weather ride is just in seeing old sights through new eyes. They say it’s the journey, not the destination, but in wintertime, we make sure the destination is part of the motivation.
In New England, where we live and work and ride, the winter can seem unkind to cyclists. Snow falls, the roadways shrink, and the melt-freeze cycle makes ice a constant hazard on paved roads and dirt trails alike. Oh, and it’s cold.
Having said all that, there are few things we look forward to more than pedaling through the first snow, or cresting frozen climbs in our local woods, the air perfectly still in among the trees, everything quiet. Winter gives you those peaceful moments in ways the other seasons never quite manage.
It’s funny the way, in summer, we can find ourselves out riding at all hours. Late sunsets help, early sunrises. Winter compresses the active part of the day. We get home after work, and the day feels over, just because it’s dark. For us, that makes it all the more important for our health (and sanity) to get out on the bike as much as possible. It’s the endorphins, but also the inspiration that riding provides.
Naturally, we take it a bit easier this time of year. We cut back on the distance, tone down the effort. Our bodies need time to recover. Winter gives us permission to do that. In many ways, it’s easier to appreciate riding in this mindset, because we’re unplugged from goals. We’re not trying to be fast. We’re not trying to go far. We’re just pedaling.
And for those who want to continue to test their mettle, the cold offers ample opportunity. Temperatures here the last week of the year were most in the single digits, but day-after-day the Seven crew came rolling through the door, some with ice in their beards, but all with a smile on their face.
There are small adventures and there are big adventures. They are all good. We believe in the adventures our riders find at the ends of their driveways as much as the ones they find at the ends of the earths.
Here is a video our friend Joe made about his bikepacking expedition (a big word for adventure) to Kyrgyzstan. Joe rides a Seven Treeline SL.
The intrepid don’t stare out the window while the snow falls. We got this note from our buddy Joe during last week’s “snow event.”
Can’t say I’m all that bummed by the late snowfall. 20” here in southern Vermont. Damn I love this bike (showing it off with studded 4.8’s here)!
Hope you’re getting outside,