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Giving Thanks.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

On a warm July day in 2004, in the conference room at Seven Cycles, I sweated through my first real job interview.  I met with Jenna in sales, Zac in design, and Rob the owner, for a total of about two hours.  They sifted through my babbling, disregarded my nervousness, and offered me a gig as a Customer Service Representative.  I started in August.

The learning curve at Seven is pretty steep.  There is a lot to know.  My primary responsibility, out of the gates, was to help answer phone calls which is a good way to learn things quickly.  Each question and each caller were as unique as the bikes we make.  I tried to learn as much as I could so I could be prepared to answer every question that anyone had and so I could finally stop pestering my colleagues with pleas of “Can we do this?” and, “Can we do that?” All my pestering revealed a pattern, the answers for all but the most outlandish requests were, “yup,” or “of course,” or “why not?”  Once I understood our philosophy, phone calls became fun, and equally important, I understood what made Seven great, for the first time I knew our tagline, “One bike.  Yours.” wasn’t a marketing ploy, it was simply how the business ran, from the top, down.

Ten years later, that motto hasn’t changed, and I will bring that singular focus with me throughout each of the adventurous endeavors that lie ahead.  This Friday, October 10th is my last day at Seven Cycles.  The decision was my own and though I will miss my colleagues and their fun-loving spirit immensely, I am excited for my next steps.  I am also excited for Seven and know that the best has yet to come, a sentiment that everyone here has relayed to me as well.  Seven is a special place, full of incredible and talented people, and I am proud to have been a part of the fun.  Thanks is also due to the wonderful people that make up our retailer network, and to the many thousands of cyclists who have called, emailed, or stopped by for a factory tour.

Looking forward to seeing you all down the line.

Karl

Hulking Chain Stays.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

You may have noticed in a recent post about Craig Gaulzetti‘s new Axiom SL, that he wanted a race bike.  Craig raced as a youngster while growing up in Belgium, and has never gotten over the thrill of a stiff, speed first, comfort second-if-at-all race bike.  He wanted to recreate the same excitement with his very first Seven, and we were excited to take on the challenge.

Walking around our production floor, the most memorable site is the towering wall of titanium tubing located in the machining area.

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A section of the titanium tubing wall.

Hundreds of twenty foot tall tubes tower over everything in sight.  Organized by diameter, these tubes will determine how a bike will feel on the road.  To over simplify, a narrow tube will bend and flex over bumps and potholes resulting in a plush ride, but all that flex means the bike won’t explode forward when you stomp on the pedals.  A large tube responds oppositely, bouncing over bumps like a poorly performing suspension, but will take off like a rocket when you mash your pedals.  Most people want bikes that fall somewhere between those two extremes.  No matter how you want your bike to feel on the road, choosing the appropriate tube set is our specialty.

To ensure Craig’s bike was going to bring him back to his racing heyday, some of our most massive tubes were selected, including the Louisville Slugger-esque 1 3/4″ down tube, a 44mm head tube, and a 1 1/2″ top tube.  For most of us, these tubes would yield a bike so harsh, we’d want off.  But Craig was looking for that feeling exactly, so when it came time to select his chain stays, we reached past the traditional 7/8″ tubes, and chose our most hulking, 1″ tube stock.  An additional eighth of an inch in diameter sounds minor, but in both looks and performance, the difference is obvious.  We felt these stays would add the extra boost Craig was after, and his early reports confirm that they have done the trick.

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For Craig’s Axiom SL, the 1″ chain stays made sense: the design mission, the size and power output of the rider, and the overall aesthetic were a perfect match.  Though they worked wonderfully for Craig, the one inch stays aren’t for everyone.  More often than not, they are too stout, too heavy, or too limiting in component choices to use.   These large chain stays crowd the bottom bracket junction, leaving only enough room for slick, narrow tires, and are therefore only available on our road bikes.  They are so large and stout, that we do not curve them as you’ll see on all of our 7/8″ stays (as I incorrectly pointed out in my response to Brian S. back in September), they get just a small tire clearance crimp but are otherwise perfectly straight.

If you are interested in discussing whether or not our one inch chain stays are right for you, give us a call!

On the Road – Velosmith Bicycle Studio

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Partnerships are important. We do our best work with shops we work with a lot. On Saturday we were at Velosmith Bicycle Studio for the launch of a special collaboration, the Moselle. Tony Bustamante, of Velosmith, once worked here at Seven. When he opened his studio, we immediately began working together on gorgeous custom bikes for his customers. It is a partnership in the truest sense of the word where we use our shared experience to do increasingly difficult, but gratifying, work.

 

And now the culmination of all that effort arrives in the form of the Moselle, a bike Tony designed specifically for Velosmith and only available there. The Moselle is a straight gauge titanium Swiss Army knife of a bike, disc-equipped and set up for wide tires. It can group ride on the road. It can explore double track. It can happily roll down the trail, and it can commute in all weather. The finish is a subtle, bead-blasted river theme that mixes shine with matte to create a signature look.

 

 

For the launch, our friends from SRAM came out. The Moselle features their new CX1 drivetrain and Force 22 hydraulic brakes. The first bike was built for Velosmith team racer Eric Drummer, who will mix cyclocross with longer gravel events, like Dirty Kanza, to showcase everything the Moselle can do. At the end of the night we sat with Tony’s father Alberto, a legend of the Chicago bike world, and he shook his head wistfully looking at his son’s creation. “We can do anything now, can’t we?” and he smiled, and that alone made our visit to Chicago worth making.

 

 

Company Picnic Recap

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Our company picnic and camp out took place last weekend and, as always, proved to be a fun opportunity to relax, and to appreciate the wonderful group we have here at Seven Cycles.  Harrisville, NH, was the perfect destination with the leaves already a brilliant red and the air cool and crisp.

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Some rode their bikes from Boston the morning of, including two who pedaled up on a beautiful road route complete with climbs, views, and a heavy duty collision with a chicken.  Another two chose an off road path, and over the course of a hundred miles never touched pavement outside of an occasional street crossing.

Others met in Harrisville and rode a mixed terrain loop, where it was learned that in New Hampshire, a rail trail is very much a trail next to rails, yielding a Stand By Me vibe for a portion of the ride.

A Knight without Armor

A Knight without Armor

A few took advantage of the local single track and couldn’t resist the fun of using the cable ferries to cross the Nubanusit Brook midway through the ride.

When you can't ride through it...

When you can’t ride through it…

No matter the route, the ride reports were the same, all smiles.

When the wheeled fun began to die down, people made their way to the host site.  Homemade chili, Pete’s mastery of the grill, and award winning brownies from Mayfair Farm were on hand and available throughout the afternoon and well into the evening.  There was music and laughter, and before long, two glowing fire pits.  We had planned for cold, but the fires were powerful enough to keep us warm long into the night, so long as we kept our feet close to the heat.

Tents popped up, or in some cases, were assembled by a team of five utilizing duct tape, splints, and a five year old’s knife.  Cobbler was introduced to much fanfare.  Before long everyone was around the fire cracking jokes, sharing stories, and genuinely enjoying each other’s humor and company.

Some hang, others set up tents.

Some hang, others set up tents.

As the hours passed, people drifted off and headed for their tents, the wood-stove warmed barn, or the house.  A few dedicated fire goers stayed up past midnight, with only the most uproarious laughter carrying through the tent walls of those who wished they had the will power to stay up long enough to have heard the punchline.

Plenty of Heat

Plenty of Heat

Crickets, frogs, and birds filled the morning airwaves, and as soon as people began to rustle, coffee was made.  No alarms were set, but people woke up early anyhow.  Awaiting them, a most picturesque, mist covered swamp.

Morning on the "swamp," as seen from a bivy sack.

Morning on the “swamp,” as seen from a bivy sack.

It wasn’t intentional, or even needed, but sitting around a camp fire and camping out is a fun way to make a big group of co-workers feel like one big family.  We’d be seeing everyone the very next day at the factory, but it was still hard to say goodbye after such a fun weekend.

Packed up.

Packed up.

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