Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
In the beginning (1997) we were known as builders of custom road and mountain bikes, and certainly of the more than 25,000 frames we’ve turned out, many of them fit neatly into one of these two categories. But as we’ve gone along, we’ve expanded our line to include more models than any other custom builder. Today we build cyclocross race and adventure bikes, urban commuters, track bikes and tandems.
Another thing that has happened is that the basic constraints of traditional categories have broken down, so that today, even though we are still building traditional road and mountain bikes, a very high percentage of our work is on bikes that cross categories or even combine them. Cyclocross race bikes that convert to bad weather commuters are common. Road bikes that convert easily for touring. Monster cross machines.
What our riders are beginning to understand is that a custom bike can be designed to serve multiple purposes simply by incorporating some features not commonly available on production bikes. Often, when they are thinking of buying two bikes for two different aspects of their cycling life, we can build them just one.
Categorization can be a good way to understand a bike’s basic functionality, but it can also be a constraint, and when you’re in the business of building dream bikes, no one wants to be constrained. That’s why we do what we do.
First there is Skip who opens the shop early. He uses the pre-dawn to make his rounds, cleaning and lubing all the machines on the shop floor. He spends all his days maintaining our tools and building new fixtures. Skip is the bike builder who builds no bikes.
Next through the door is Mike or Chad. Mike is our lead machinist. He does the CAD drawings of frames that guide us as we move from tube set to finished frame. Chad hits the finishing department and tries to work his way through whatever didn’t get done the day before. He fires up the drills and fills the air with the whirring noise of things being built.
Jennifer and Rob arrive. Inventories get sifted through. Parts orders get readied. Rob sorts a stack of folders, orders for new bikes with designs from Dan or Neil already done. He evaluates their work, makes notes for changes, improvements.
The welders, Stef, Tim and Yoshi, show up. They wheel the freshly prepped tubes from machining into their own department and assemble them in the frame jigs. Gas lines get fitted to the jigs. Oxygen gets purged. Joints get tacked and then checked for alignment.
Painters come, too, Staci and Jordan. They pull primed frames from the drying booth and begin sanding out imperfections or begin masking for top coats.
In the office, the blinds slide noisily aside and Karl sits down at his desk, cracks his email to see what’s come in over night, questions from shops from all over the world. Orders get pulled off the fax machine. The coffeemaker stirs to life.
Throughout the morning, the rest of the crew rolls in, Matt and Mary, Dan and Nick and Lloyd, Seth and Lauren, Sutts. The whirring sounds rise and fall. Compressors fire and shut off, and frame-by-frame the boxes fill up in shipping.
Well, we made it through the holiday rush, getting out all those bikes that had been promised as gifts, and it was nice to get a few days off with family and friends to over-eat, dream about bike riding and then over-eat some more.
Sure enough, a truck rolled up first thing this morning with three boxes of raw Ti tubing to be crafted into the New Year’s custom bikes. Nick and Sutts loaded the first one onto the dolly and wheeled it off to machining.
Lathes and mills spun to life. The compressor to the paint booth cycled on and off. The coffee maker bubbled and spluttered.
We gathered briefly by Nick’s computer in shipping to watch the end of the World Cup cyclocross from Belgium (SPOILER ALERT: Nys won, again), before catching up on the orders sent in over the weekend, updating status on bikes in process and chatting idly about the impending winter storm.
This is the thing about doing something you love to do. It’s nice to take a break, but it’s also nice to get back to work, wasting no time, while riders here, there and everywhere dream about their new bike.
We have every order that’s ever been phoned, faxed or emailed to us here at Seven. When a rider orders a second or third or eighth bike from us, we pull their archived orders and combine them so we can factor everything we know into the new build. Building one bike at a time, this one of the ways experience accrues.
We keep all the orders in manilla folders, one for each bike, in a long line of file cabinets, alphabetized and labeled by year. Each order is mirrored in our database, but we keep the paper because it helps us capture every detail and have hard back up for power outages or digital meltdowns.
There are 30 cabinets spanning our history. Pull the orders out and you’d get a pile 240 feet high. Altogether, they weigh roughly 5,000 lbs (2275kg). More than two tons.
This is the weight of our experience. We don’t know a ton about custom bike building. We know two tons.
Last night Jake and I left work a bit early and headed west to Lancaster to compete in the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross. This fast and fun mid-week race is in its second season and after hearing the rave reviews from last year I put it on my calendar as “can’t miss.” The Midnight Ride follows a similar course to November’s MRC race, but in the reverse direction. Since it’s still September, the course was dry and fast and the reverse direction offers less climbing and off camber turning than it’s November counterpart. Announcer Richard Fries was on hand for the event, which always makes things more exciting, and as he repeated multiple times throughout the evening, this race is the kickoff to what is now known in New England cross as “Holy Week.”
Racing as a beginner amateur and working at Seven, I’m in a great position for success. I have friendly relationships with some top Pro racers who have raced on the very same courses that I now compete on and they willingly offer up advice on things like tire selection. I ran into Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug at Cross-Vegas last week and Mike gave me some tips on what to run for the Holy Week races. I heeded his advice and it paid off in spades. The treads that I had chosen were fast on the gravel and pavement and hooked up just well enough in the grass and loose loamy corners that I was able to walk that fine line that exists between speed and control. Line selection, not tire selection, would be the only fault in my race.
I’ve raced enough at this point that I am starting to get first row call-up and for this race I lined up one spot from the outside with a clear view of the first turn a few hundred yards ahead. At the whistle I jumped out in front and my first four of five pedal strokes put me out in front with a fair gap on the field. I had taken the hole shot, and it was suddenly my race to lose.
Having never been in this position before in any sort of bike race, I did my best to stay calm and just rode my ass off. From what I’ve been told I actually put a sizable gap on the field and held it until my worst case scenario presented itself – a crash in a hard 180 degree turn on loose gravel. I got up faster than imaginable and got back on the bike, but after a couple more turns I lost the lead.
As we wove through the course and over the barriers I held onto second position for dear life and started to hear Richard announcing that the 14-year-old in the group was gaining on the leaders. I held second place for about a lap until the leader missed a turn in the woodchips and slid out – I was back in front. For the next two laps I led this group of men and boys through the twists and turns of the Midnight Ride course and listened to Richard’ words about what it might mean to our egos to lose to a 14 year old.
He also seemed to give Jake’s single-speed a shout out every time he passed through the start finish area. When I finally saw the lead slip away for good, it was a newbie to cross, not a kid whose brothers have been notorious for cleaning up in the men’s field as juniors, who took it away from me. I kept fighting and rode most of the last three laps in the 5th position and watched another young and new-to-cross racer, who had fought from the back row past about 65 other riders to take the lead with two to go.
When he went by the leaders he rode off in front with ease at a pace that none of us could match. I was cooked, and hanging on by a thread, dry mouth, blurred vision, etc., when I heard a friend yell “Joe! Hurt!” Oh, yeah, I thought, this is not supposed to be easy, you have to hurt to win, there are no two ways about it. I kicked it back in but unknowingly was making it easy for the rider behind me. He was drafting me around the course and saving energy for a move in the last grass section before the pavement to the finish.
I feared if I let him around me so that we could work together that I would not be able to hang on, so my best bet was to keep him behind. It seemed to work, but in the end he made a move and went around me just as we came up on that speedy young teen who had finally run out of gas with just a few turns to go.
The result of these place changes left me squarely in 5th place, another top 5 finish in what has been a great start to my season. A few more like this and the heckles along the course, hopefully, will be encouraging me to “cat up” into the 3’s, a place where many a family man can spend the bulk of his bike racing career.
Post-race, Jake and I grabbed a beer and heckled some friends as they suffered much in the same way that we just had, and then cheered on Mo Bruno Roy as she rocketed around this drag strip with apparent ease. I picked up some tire tips from her husband and pit crew, Matt Roy, and he showed me some new treads that they are trying out for this season. It’s good to be an amateur, it’s great to get the inside line on tech tips from the pros, and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to ride and race on a bike that is just like the pros race yet uniquely built for me.
- Joe W.
Image: Matt Pacocha, Bike Radar
This morning’s shop ride started as so many rides start: a handful of riders spinning idly around a parking lot, getting ready. Settling helmets and adjusting gloves and stuffing pockets. Stopping to re-strap shoes. Riding off without water bottles. Going back for water bottles.
And then without saying much of anything we are off, all together, and climbing up the first too-steep hill with our early morning legs. The humidity of late summer blankets everything. Our New England, pine-rich woods feel like a rain forest, and before we’ve crested that first rise we’re all in a hard sweat.
All this heat and moisture are having prodigious effect on the plant life, and many of our regular trails are grown thick at the edges. Thorns rip at our arms. We take extra care to stay in the center line, despite the dew-moist stones that would put us off.
These are the ‘dog days‘ of summer, the hottest, steamiest time of the year. You start warm and finish wrung out. But you’re always glad you rode. Always.
“Let’s Talk About Bikes” was conceived by the folks at the design firm, over, under to celebrate the history of framebuilding in Boston, and to explore the role of the bicycle in an urban environment:
“The expansion of urban biking raises broader transit-related questions about the relationship of bicycles to urban and environmental public policy. The exhibition examines this theme, from the Complete Streets movement to advocacy activism to concerns raised in Boston’s larger community about roadway use. Let’s Talk About Bikes presents many stories and outlooks in order to raise awareness and questions about the role of the bicycle in cities today.”
Seven Cycles was asked to loan The Berlin Bike and Seveneer Mike Salvatore’s Elium to the exhibit. Each bike represents a specific type of riding: the Berlin Bike is a commuter bike and Mike’s Elium was build specifically for track racing. Parlee Cycles and Friefly Bicycles also have bikes in the exhibit. In addition, Rob V. conceptualized and edited a family tree of Boston bike building for the exhibit. Many Seveneers are included in various aspects of the show: Matt O’Keefe‘s and Jonathan Henig‘s photographs will be displayed, and bikes built by Saila, Royal H., and the SCUL gang will also be part of the show.
We hope that if you’re in or around Boston over the summer, you’ll stop by the BSA to have a look at the craftsmanship on display. “Let’s Talk About Bikes” runs from June 12-August 31, 2012.