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Back in Business

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

If you hadn’t heard, our friend John, who also happens to be a colleague, severed some tendons in his hand two months ago.  A few weeks prior, John had taken delivery of a brand new Evergreen SL.  Not just any Evergreen mind you, it’s custom painted, has a lust worthy build kit, and of course, was designed specifically for John.  He was going to log so many miles.  He was going to ride D2R2.  He was going to know all of the dirt roads within a hundred mile radius of our factory.  He was going to launch it off berms.  He was going to zig and zag.  He was going to be king.

One problem.  When the good doctor sewed him back together, he sent him home with some disheartening news, “No bike riding.”

There are worse things that can happen, John would be the first to tell you that.  Even still, taking away a prized new toy from a guy that loves to ride as much as John, changed his demeanor for a couple of days.  We all felt for him.  He looked pathetic.  Typing with one good hand and one cast was a source of frustration.  His beautiful bike was pilfered from the employee lot and put in the showroom to be displayed, adding insult to injury.  All the while, each and every person at Seven continued to ride, as we always do, and left John behind.  Poor John.

All the while John listened to his doctors and his physical therapists, and completed strength exercises day in and day out.  It started with moving his fingers into a fist.  He described how it felt, which made us woozy, but kept at it.  Soon he had graduated to something called strengthening putty, though it was obviously just colored Silly Putty, that he would squeeze all day long, no matter how much we poked fun and how uncomfortable it must have been.  Soon the cast was off, and he was typing again.  He was making progress.

Yesterday, a day less than two months after surgery, John had a check up with his doctor.  When he came back to the office he floated through the door on a cloud visible to us all and announced what the doctor had told him.  “Go ride your bike.”

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Look at that smile!

John makes riding more fun, and while he was missing out on summer rides, we were missing out on riding with our pal.  This morning, we celebrated his return with an easy ride up and down the Minuteman Bikeway, and his smile was as big as it has ever been, as were ours.

Welcome back friend.

Dems Da Brakes

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

One topic that came up early in our discussions with Patrick Brady about the ultimate travel bike was brake type.  Due to the wide range of tires he’ll be using, and the desire to keep packing and unpacking as simple as possible, Patrick felt cantilevers, or possibly mini-v’s made the most sense.  Easy to set up and adjust, these brakes don’t require any additional tools or time to pack in a case.  Patrick had ruled out cable actuated disc brakes for two reasons, first because disc rotors present a hurdle in the speed of packing the bike, each rotor has to be removed in order to fit, and second because Patrick had yet to find a cable actuated disc brake that he felt was so significantly better than a rim brake, that they’d be worth the hassle.

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Before we knew how he felt about brakes though, we took him for a ride.  His test bike was a coupled Evergreen SL, a sort of travel bike prototype outfitted with Shimano’s R517 non-series, cable-actuated disc brakes with 160mm rotors.  The route  (that he would crush us on) was what we call the Battle Path loop because much of the route follows the path taken by the British on their march from Boston to Concord way back in 1775.  Other than an occasional street crossing, nearly the entire ride was off road.  From single track in the Belmont Woods, to the long, swooping, packed dirt trails in Lexington and Concord, we rode through the unrelenting humidity.

Patrick basically rode one handed, using his free hand to snap pictures throughout, so it would appear that his opinions on braking power are believable.  The ride was as fun as it gets, the trail conditions were top notch, and the scenery unbeatable.  We love that ride, and Patrick’s smile suggested he did too.

Something changed for him during that ride.  For the first time, he had a clear cut example, in his eyes, of a cable-actuated disc brake that performed better than a rim brake.  This was an important discovery because many of the rides Patrick has planned for the travel bike are exceptionally rugged and will require a comparably exceptional braking platform.  This isn’t to say cantilevers and mini-v’s couldn’t perform well enough, but he felt the disc was a needed improvement, so much so, that it became a requirement for his travel bike.

Back in the show room, we discussed the pros and cons of each brake type, cantilever, linear pull, medium reach, etc.  There are clear advantages and disadvantages to each style, but for the type of riding that Patrick will use this bike for, especially the challenging off road rides, his choice was clear.

Disc it would be.

evergreen

The question then became, what can we do to speed up the break down time when packing the bike?  Discs come in two mounting styles, six-bolt or center-mount.  We agreed that a center mount, though it requires a cassette tool to install, would save enough time to make it the clear favorite.

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.

#TBT

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

We stumbled across a wealth of photos from Seven’s past, and thought we’d share them each Thursday, each Throw Back Thursday that is.  #TBT

Here is our head of production, roughly 17 years ago.

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Matt O’Keefe, circa 1997

Cover Model

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

The surprise wasn’t finding the latest issue of Bicycling Magazine in the mail, that’s like clockwork, but to find a Seven on the cover has everyone at the Seven factory abuzz.

Bicycling Magazine

On the cover!

If you look hard enough on page 63, you can make out the blurred lines of our Head of Production Matt O’Keefe and his wife Susi’s Seven Sola 007 SL tandem.  Susi, #547, stands in front of it.

Susi and her tandem.

Susi and her tandem.

But the surprises kept coming!  Our own Brad Smith, and his chiseled legs, can be found on page 65 standing in the Green River during the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee.

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Brad tests the water.

 

Thanks to Bicycling Magazine for making our day.

125th Anniversary

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Back when the first signs of Spring were upon us, our friend Larry Burke, Mavic’s OEM manager, stopped in to show us the 2015 wheel line up. Larry makes a point to stop in every year, and each year he brings the same gusto to the unveiling. Each wheel is a little stiffer, a little more aero, and somehow, without fail, a little lighter than the year before. He can explain how each benefit was achieved with the greatest of ease. This year was a little different than normal, however, because Mavic is celebrating 125 years in the bike business, and to commemorate such a feat, they are launching a new brand communications center and Service Course in Los Angeles, CA, as well as producing a limited run of anniversary edition wheels, the Ksyrium 125′s.

Larry explained that Mavic wanted to showcase a few frame builders at the new communications center and invited Seven to participate. Seven has a long history with Mavic, maybe not 125 years worth, but if you thumb through all seventeen years of our brochures, you’ll notice more Mavic wheels than any other brand. Naturally, we were thrilled.

The parameters were pretty open. Mavic wanted to give us the creative freedom to make the bike a representation of our relationship with Mavic both professionally and personally, and hoped that the Ksyrium 125 wheelset would inspire us. They needed the bike in time for the event where it would sit on display until being donated to a Davis Phinney Foundation fundraiser in October. With that, Larry was off, but promised to drop off the limited edition wheels when the bike was ready to build.

Designing a show bike is as fun as it sounds. Sometimes show bikes end up being pieces of art and see little use. Some are far-fetched and end up more like concept bikes not for every day riding. Some end up being an exercise in aesthetics. But this bike was for Mavic. If there is one thing that comes to mind when we think of Mavic, it’s usability. Sure they look great and every cyclist is familiar with the striking yellow and black logo, but first and foremost, their wheels are built to be ridden. So when we designed the bike, drafted the paint scheme, and chose parts, we wanted each element to be as usable as a Mavic wheelset, and as attractive as the 2015 wheels Larry showed us.

Mavic Bike Side DSC_0003

The result, in our eyes, is a stunning bike that is built to be ridden all day, everyday. The titanium Axiom SL frame, stem, and seat post are as ready for the road now, as they will be in fifty years. The components, Shimano Ultegra 6800, are tried and true. The limited edition, matte black, Ksyrium 125 wheels look great, but like the Ksyriums that came before, are ready to log endless miles. The paint scheme stands out because the colors are so striking. A rich glossy black, vibrant Mavic yellow, and subtle matte black accents look racy and pair harmoniously with the wheels. The complete package is a bike worthy of a 125th anniversary party for a trusted partner, and your favorite group ride. The complete bike, as shown, has a retail price of $9,395, though the Ksyrium 125′s are limited.

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We’re honored to have played a small role in Mavic’s anniversary celebration, and look forward to the next 125 years of Mavic innovation.

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?

Oh, The Places They Go!

Monday, June 16th, 2014
Peter B., from the UK, visited us last week for a factory tour.  When he got home, he sent us some incredible pictures from the routes he’s ridden recently.  He writes:

“Thank you for showing us round the Seven production facility recently (calling it a factory doesn’t seem quite right). We both enjoyed the visit and found it very interesting.

The first picture was taken a few weeks ago at the top of Hardknott pass. It’s not a long pass, but it’s steep, around 30% in places. We had to walk a bit of it! The descent is also pretty interesting if the weather is wet, fortunately it wasn’t when we went over it.  It was on a ride called the Fred Whitton Challenge, which is 112miles and includes around 3900m of climbing, and goes over most of the steep passes in the English Lake District, many of which are 20 to 25% climbs. If you’re interested, you’ll find some information about this ride and also the Raid Pyraneen on the web.

140516fred023j

The others were all taken on the Raid Pyreneen, which I did last year. That goes Coast to Coast along the Spanish / French border from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The basic route is around 720km with 11,000m of climbing and the objective is to complete it in under 100 hours. Due to some passes still being snow covered from the west side, we actually did 755km and 13,100m of climbing. The first picture is the Col D’Aubisque:

130622raid09
The second is the Col de Tourmalet (which was closed from the Aubisque side, so we had to go down to the valley, round the mountain and up from the far side).
130622raid14
I can’t remember the name of the last one, but it’s a nice picture so I thought I’d chuck it in.  This ride goes over a lot of the big Pyraneen Passes many of which appear regularly in the Tour de France. They go up them (and down them) quite a lot faster than I did!
130622raid19

All the best,

Peter”

Editions of One: Project Pioneer

Friday, June 6th, 2014

What are the Editions of One?

The Seven Cycles’ Editions of One bikes are special projects aimed at pushing the bounds of our creativity and ability. Like every Seven, built for the person who will ride it, each is one of a kind. Each is meant to inspire. Each is meant to celebrate the craft of bike building and the freedom cycling affords us all.

We will release three Editions of One this year.  The first, built back in March was the Ever Changing Evergeen.  The second is currently underway, and will be completed in time for an adventurous ride this weekend.  We’re calling this second Edition of One, Project Pioneer.

Project Pioneer Design Details

Eugene Christophe was leading the 1913 Tour de France when his fork broke on the descent of the Tourmalet. Prohibited from accepting outside help, he hiked 10km to the village of Ste-Marie-de-Campan with his bike on his shoulder. Once there he repaired his own fork at the forge of Mssr. Lecomte and then continued on to the finish even though the entire field passed him while he toiled and the race was lost.

The Project Pioneer bike is a tribute not only to Christophe, but to the pioneer spirit of cycling’s early decades, to the self-sufficiency that cycling fosters and to the joy of building and riding your own bicycle.

Seven built this bike in collaboration with Rapha Performance Roadwear, the Rapha Continental Team and Ride Studio Cafe for the June 7th, 2014 Pioneers Ride, designed as a tribute to the pioneers of early cycling.  Details on the ride can be found here. All are welcome!

Design Details: Paying homage to the cycling era from 1900 through 1940.

  • Frame: Carbon tubing with titanium lugs and chain stays.
  • Tubular Truss:  harkens back to bikes of this period.
  • Derailleur:  Three-speed, designed and built from scratch, in house.  Inspired by the first derailleur ever allowed in the Tour de France, the Super Champion.
  • Chain tensioner:  Customized, in house.
  • Shift lever:  Modified in house for three-speed use.
  • Gearing: 42 front; 14-18-24t cluster.
  • Handlebar:  Wide flare drop bar.
  • Stem:  Adjustable – track style, built from scratch.
  • Wheels:  Rims and hubs painted to match frameset.
  • Skewers: Modified wing nuts.
  • Paint:  Logo designs and details based on the style of the era.  Gold leaf logos – real gold leaf.  Unpainted chainstay – reminiscent of chrome plating.

The Editions of One bikes are not for sale, but some design elements can be incorporated into our standard offerings.  Each of these special bikes will remain in the Seven Cycles factory show room at the conclusion of their intended usage.  For behind the scenes action of the creation of the bike, follow our Instagram feed, Twitter page or Tumblr.

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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