Bicycle Retailer and Industry News: Manufacturing Space Increases Sevenfold

Seven Cycles Completes Second Year with Success

by Jill Janov

Watertown, MA Despite a sluggish market, Seven Cycles rode strong sales of its high-end bicycles into 1998. The company, which produces some of the most expensive production frames in the industry, reported more than $1.25 million in revenue last year, with sales climbing 244 percent in 1998 over 1997. The young company, in its second year, is already showing profits and growth continuing in the first quarter of this year.

“We started the business at the hardest time to start a new business, when the market was in a downturn. But it hasn’t hurt us to be in the high end. Certainly the high-end is doing better than the rest of the market,” said Rob Vandermark, president and founder. The company’s frames retail for between $1,495 and $2,975, with the most popular model selling for $2,595. Vandermark also attributed his company’s early success to a focused mission, extensive frame-building experience, a hard-working staff and a connection to its customers.

Last year, the first full year of production, the company expanded its product line from 16 to 33 models, moved to a larger factory and cut operating costs. While the company doubled its production, the staff only jumped from 11 to 15 employees–a 36 percent increase. This made it possible for operating expenses to dip by more than 55 percent per frame sale, slicing overall operating expenses by 60 percent in 1998. This happened even as Seven moved to a new factory, seven times larger.

The number of retailers selling Seven’s bikes jumped from 75 to 125 last year, as sales per dealer increased nearly 50 percent. The company’s top five retailers are in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

“We could have taken on more dealers, but we wanted to make sure we were supporting our current dealers and giving them good territory bases. We thought more about the revenue per dealer rather than our expansion of dealers,” Vandermark said.

International sales for 1998 amounted to about 10 percent of the company’s revenues and increased by 8 percent, up from 2 percent in 1997. The company expects the number to jump to 16 percent this year. With 13 distributors worldwide–up from 7 last year–those in Canada, Japan and Italy handle the bulk of Seven’s international business.

The company nearly quadrupled its revenue per dollar spent on advertising in 1998. Internet sales, which links shoppers to retailers, have increased 7 percent.

Seven’s 1999 line has a straight-gauge titanium frame at a lower price point, a steel tandem, a redesigned rear suspension mountain frame and short-travel suspension road and cyclocross frames. In 1998, Seven introduced the Odonata, a custom, titanium and carbon-fiber frame that weighs 2.48 pounds; a custom short-travel suspension frame; a titanium tandem and custom titanium stems.

bicycling.com: The Perfect Ride

Joe Lindsey


Bicycling Cover

  1. In Seven’s expansive line of road frames, the Aerios is the lightweight champ. The frame employs Seven’s most radically butted tube set, compact geometry, and minimalist non-adjustable housing stops at the head tube. Like all Seven frames, it’s offered in stock geometry-but seven will build you a complete custom bike at no extra charge.
  2. Seven custom-built the Aerios for our test-drive. The geometry numbers looked wrong at first—Seven designs the bike with a much shorter top tube and higher bar than our subject usually rides. After extensive riding however, including the six-day Bicycle Tour of Colorado, our test rider fell in love with Seven’s fit. “It completely eliminated the neck, shoulder and upper back pain that had nagged me on longer rides. The position isn’t as aerodynamic as my previous bike, but I can ride longer and more comfortably now. I completely changed how I feel about my bike fit.”
  3. Besides reducing the Aerios overall weight, the medium diameter, thin walled, butted 3/2.5 titanium tubes have a delicious ride quality. Take the best traits of carbon and steel frames, throw them into a blender, and the resulting mix is much like the Aerios ride. It’s smooth and comfortable, yet it maintains a communicative feel. Seven customizes the tubeset for the rider right down to the butting.
  4. Because he was concerned about the overall stiffness of the frame, our 165 pound test rider requested that Seven put some extra beef in the platform. That lead to a slightly heavier frame, but at just 2.4 pounds it’s hardly porky, and it was plenty rigid enough for our tester to be happy with the ride.
  5. Our tester told Seven what he was looking for in terms of handling, and the company nailed it. “I wanted something like my previous bike. It’s on the quicker side, responsive and sporty, but it doesn’t fall into corners and it doesn’t have too-light a front end. It’s planted and hooked up going down or going up.”

Aerios

Seven Aerios

Best Thing: Having a lightweight road rocket built just for you
Worst Thing: Once you have this bike, will you never want another?
Our Verdict: Another amazing bike from Seven
Weight: 16 lb., 2 oz. (54cm w/o pedals)
Sizes: 44 to 67cm in 1cm increments (custom 54cm tested); custom (no charge)
Component Highlights: (as tested) Compagnolo Record 10-speed group; Neutron wheels; USE Alien post; Thomson X2 stem; 3T Zepp XL bar; Fi’zik Aerione saddle; Vitoria Open Course EVO CX tires
Contact: 617.923.7774; sevencycles.com

Mountain Bike Magazine: Seventh Heaven – We Found the Perfect Bike – Too Bad You Can’t Afford It

by Matt Phillips

Some humans—by their very nature—like to take things to extremes. Witness the legions of people who jump out of perfectly operational airplanes. Not content with that, they push themselves further by skysurfing, BASE jumping and other such nonsense. Bike riders are not immune to this phenomenon. One could certainly argue that after the derailleur was invented, the bike was ideal and didn’t need to be developed further. But we pushed and pushed. The Seven Odonata is the result of one company pushing the limits once again.

Oh, the Frame!

Seven bicycles are regarded by most who see them as beautiful, and by some who ride them as ideal. For president Rob Vandermark to cut up one of his stunning Axiom titanium bikes could be considered sacrilege. After all, the bike is already plenty light and rides like a dream. But Vandermark wasn’t content with that. So out came the titanium seat tube and seatstays, and in went filament-wound carbon tubes, courtesy of Advanced Composites—the same company that makes Wound Up forks.

What’s Vandermark’s reasoning? Weight and ride quality. An Odonata frame is 10% lighter than the all titanium Axiom, and according to Vandermark, it offers a plusher, more comfortable ride. In fact it was carbon’s ride characteristics that first attracted Vandermark to the material.

“The damping characteristics are too good to ignore, but I wasn’t satisfied with the all-carbon bikes out there. So I leveraged some of its good points while minimizing its problems.” To ensure the highest quality ride, Vandermark orients the carbon’s fibers so they provide vertical compliance in the stays, while the seat tube is designed for maximum stiffness in bending and torsion. The carbon is mated to the titanium in what may be considered an unusual manner. At the bottom ends, the carbon fits over lugs, while in the upper ends, the titanium fits over the carbon. Both ends and the brake bridge are bonded in place.

Enough about the carbon bits—there’s a lot of titanium to talk about, too. The titanium is Seven’s proprietary Argen butted tubeset. How and where the tubes are butted depends on you, though. Seven’s extensive custom kit tailors each tube based on your weight, ride style, handling and rigidity preferences. By doing so, the company can create an ideal ride for anyone. (And for those of you who don’t want to take the time to complete the “custom” paperwork, the Odonata is available in 24 stock sizes.)

Between the trick hybrid frame and the extensive custom kit, you may forget to just look at the Odonata. To do so would be like concentrating on the brush strokes of a Cezanne, instead of stepping back to see how they all come together. Seven doesn’t make frames—it makes art. The smooth tapers make the titanium and carbon look like one piece of material, while the brake mount is elegantly simple. Plus, you have those gorgeous welds (which are about the best you can find), that sexy seat clamp and the laser-cut head badge.

Oh, the Parts!

Our test bike was a stock-sized 56 cm. Nothing special about it. Of course that’s like saying a Lamborghini Diablo is “nothing special” because it doesn’t have a custom-made seat. You gotta look at the big picture. The bike is equipped with a relatively tame build kit of Dura-Ace nine-speed and some tubulars. The Wound Up fork was one of the first 1 1/8-inch around (the larger size is available with either a carbon or aluminum steerer). Even though the steerer is a larger diameter, either version is lighter than the 1-inch version with a steel steerer. Additionally, the 11/8-inch fork is stiffer, and with the carbon steerer, more shock absorbing than its 1-inch steel counterpart. Also, there was the $300 Seven “assassin” titanium stem, which is available in custom reaches, rises and stiffnesses. We swapped the boring Ritchey post for one of the new Thomson layback posts, which gave us the same seating position, but in a package more suited to the Seven. As it sits, the Odonata weighs 17 pounds.

Oh, The Ride!

Riding the Seven feels like cheating. It’s too fast and it’s too comfortable. But who wouldn’t take an advantage like this? Immediately noticeable is the weight. The bike surges away from stoplights and makes you feel like a high-mileage stud. Up climbs the best term to use is “float.” You may not look like Marco Pantani, but this bike makes you feel like him. Tied into all this is the bike’s efficient rear triangle, no doubt helped by the healthy 7/8-inch curved chainstays. Riders on this bike felt like they could use a higher gear than they use on their normal bike.

Around LA’s uneven roads the shock-absorbing abilities were welcome, especially for riders coming off stiff aluminum bikes. We’ve never heard a road bike described as plush, but it is applicable. Except in this case plush doesn’t mean inefficient, heavy or a bitch to get up hill. It just means all-day comfortable.

Shimano’s Dura-Ace performed mightily. If you think XTR is precise, wait till you try this stuff. Quiet and smooth running, the shifting never required maintenance. All elements of this bike—the weight, the comfort, the solid parts—combine to make it meld with the rider. You become one with the road, melting away the miles and pushing yourself further.

The worst thing about the Odonata is that it only confirms what we already know—there are benefits to being rich that most of us will never realize. Not even with their abundance of engineers, slick ad campaigns or lawyers have the biggest of the mega-bike corporations reached such a level of quality craftsmanship as Seven has here. Eat your heart out Trek, Specialized, Schwinn and GT—the folks at Seven have you beat. This is a contemporary bike for the modern traditionalist, a bike everyone would and could fall in love with—if only we could afford it.

Note to mountain bike traditionalists: Even though the company has excellent line of mountain bikes, Seven doesn’t have an off-road version of the Odonata. The company says it’s possible, but it would be heavier, more complex, more fragile and more expensive than the full titanium hardtail.

Mountain Bike Magazine: “Matt’s Favorites” – Best Bunch of Bike Geeks/Best Hardtail

by Richard J. Cunningham, courtesy of Mountain Bike Action

I prefer suspension to hardtails. But the Seven Sola hardtail that I’ve been riding for the past year is my favorite bike ever. Why? It fits me so well, and handles exactly the way I like. Why? It was built for me through Seven’s excellent custom program. I miss this bike when I can’t ride it. It makes me happy, it makes riding fun and I love it. Plus I have the satisfaction of knowing it was built by a small group of the most obsessed bike geeks on the planet, headed up by Rob Vandermark. What Seven did for me, they can do for you, too.

From Mountain Bike Action Magazine: The Unbearable Lightness of Ti

Does the Titanium Hardtail Still Reign Supreme?

by Richard J. Cunningham, courtesy of Mountain Bike Action

When there were no full-suspension bikes and before Easton developed its legendary taper-butted 7005 aluminum frame tubing, the titanium hardtail was the best that money could buy. Put a lot of emphasis on the word, “money.” Titanium was difficult to obtain, nearly impossible to machine, and only the creme de la creme of TIG welders could successfully join the frames. But at close to half the weight of steel, yet comparable in strength, titanium’s lively feel and corrosion resistant properties eventually forced craftsmen to tame the unwieldy element.

It took another decade for the big brands to work out the bugs and copy the innovator’s designs. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. Just as gray metal Ti frames were beginning to be dished out in semi-affordable numbers, aluminum suspension bikes literally wiped titanium steeds off the front pages. What a slap! The off-road world wished for affordable titanium and when it arrived, they didn’t want it anymore.

Is it really dead? The MBA test crew takes, look at five titanium hardtails, all built by the masters of the craft to discover the future of Ti, if there is one.

Talking to the masters of Ti

We asked the master builders of titanium frames to fill us in on the exotic world of space age plumbing and how it relates to modern day frame building. Here is what they had to say.

Seven Cycles’ Rob Vandermark on 3/2.5 vs. 6/4

“Titanium’s 6/4 alloy has some very favorable properties, hence the reason that Seven uses it for its dropouts. 6/4 is a great material for dropouts because of its toughness; however, this toughness makes it unattractive as a tube material. It is effectively not possible to draw 6/4 into seamless tubing. Drawing 6/4 tubing by using similar methods used for 3/2.5 alloy not only costs more, but it wears out tooling very quickly and there are limitations to the tube’s wall thickness, consistency and finish. Therefore, no mill offers seamless 6/4 tubing. What they do offer is seam welded 6/4 tubing.

“Seamed tubing is formed by rolling a sheet and automatically welding it at the joint. There are two major issues that keep Seven Cycles from choosing this method of tube manufacturing for its frames: First, the welded seam is a potential failure point. Second, the sheet that the tube is fabricated from is designed to be stressed as a sheet, not a tube. The grain structure of a 3/2.5 seamless tube is carefully drawn to optimize its strength. This is critical to fatigue life. Unfortunately, a sheet that is made into a tube offers the worst possible grain structure for fatigue life. The 6/4 tube will fail in fatigue cycling (repeated flexing) before it should. Independent tests show that 6/4 sheet does not have the fatigue life of a properly drawn 3/2.5 tube. 6/4’s strength properties are higher than 3/2.5 alloy, but this is irrelevant because catastrophic failure is not an issue with titanium frames. Fatigue failure is the key.”

Seven Cycles Sola

Unlimited Choices for the Discerning Owner

Seven has a host of tricks up its sleeve that set this bike apart from cheap imitations. Seven’s raw material is seamless, aerospace certified, straight gauge 3/2.5 titanium drawn to Seven’s specifications. Butting is done by Seven to within 0.001 inch.

The head tube is eccentrically butted for maximum strength and stiffness at the weld joint. Drop outs are CNC machined and logo engraved from 1/4 inch thick 6/4 titanium plates with machined ramps.

Final touches are 7/8 inch diameter, butted “S” seat stays; composite seat tube insert; and custom-made, CNC machined, nickel-plated aluminum seat clamp.

Seven’s Exclusive Argen custom tubing is U.S. made and Seven’s butting process allows for unlimited choices in wall thicknesses and tubing diameter. All frames are tailor made to rider specifications, with the rider’s weight, riding style and desired ride characteristics taken into account. Customers can choose any cable routing and braze-on adjustments. All this is done at no extra cost and takes no extra time.

Riding the Seven

Numbers: Seven chose a basic geometry for our bike: 71 -degree head tube and 73 -degree seat tube on an 18-inch frame.
Comfort: The Seven was a very comfortable bike to ride. The frame was stiff where it needed to be and compliant where it mattered. We could sprint the bike and it wouldn’t shift itself out of gear, but it descended the roughest sections without rattling our bones. Compared to every other titanium bike, the Seven is nearly perfect.
Handling: How do you want the bike to handle? Since Seven can make any geometry, tube thickness, tube diameter or tube length you want, you can make the bike handle exactly the way you want it to. If you aren’t sure what kind of bike would be best for you, Seven’s crack team of engineers can quiz you about your riding style and local terrain, take all your body measurements and design a frame just for you. Take advantage of Seven’s expertise and service.
Construction: Workmanship is good as it gets on this titanium frame Seven takes incredible pride in its work and it shows. Frame weight is a claimed 3.23 pounds for an 18-inch frame. Seven makes 16 stock sizes from ten to 25 inches.
Weight: Our complete test bike weighed 21.5 pounds.
Wax Nostalgic: Seven’s feel and characteristics were reminiscent of the Merlin XLT. A great all around race and trail bike, the fully customizable Seven is a rare bike to find and own.

MBA Rating

Seven’s bikes are for titanium connoisseurs who know what they want. Building up your own Seven isn’t cheap, but the end result is stunning.

You simply can’t compare what you get with the Seven to budget titanium offerings.

MBA grade: A +