Bike Magazine: Seven Cycles Sola Steel

Vernon Felton

Bike Magazine pageHere’s the deal with Seven Cycles; custom. You can get a hardtail (steel or titanium) in almost any configuration you desire. You want your bike equipped with disc-brake mounts? Rack Eyelets? Horizontal, singlespeed dropouts? Seven will do all of that at no extra cost. More importantly, Seven tailors each frame’s ride characteristics to each customer’s riding style using a custom blend of double-butted Columbus, Reynolds and True Temper steels (dubbed Origin). Why is this important? Imagine two mountain bikers who both ride 17-inch frames. One rider is a 210-pound pedal-masher. The other is a 160-pound racer who spins low gears. The Clydesdale with the jackhammer pedal-stroke needs a stiffer frame than the spin boy with eight percent body fat. Nice.

On the Trail

Last Summer, I filled out Seven’s customization questionnaire and sizing chart. A month later, this baby-blue Sola landed on my doorstep. The bike features a 23-inch toptube, 71/73-degree head and seat-tube angles, 16.75-inch seat-stays and a bottom bracket height of 11.75 inches. Why is this important? Actually, it’s not important at all, unless you are roughly the same size as me (5 feet 11 inches and 180 pounds). Which brings in an interesting point—why should you read a test about a custom bike? The bike could ride beautifully for me and horribly for you; after all, it was built to fit my body and my riding style. In theory, you too could order a custom Seven built to fit your particular body and riding style. Since it is useless for me to ramble on about how a bike built for me might feel to you, I will instead focus on this question: Does Seven Cycles do a good job of building the bike you ask for? Can you really call them up long-distance and still manage to get the exact sizing and ride characteristics that you want?

Sola SteelBasing my judgment on the Sola I received, I’d have to answer yes. The Sola was precisely what I’d asked for. As a relatively heavy rider, I was looking for a bike that felt stiff at the bottom bracket, yet resilient while seated. “Stiff, yet resilient”: This is the much-acclaimed Holy Grail of steel hardtail attributes. This particular hardtail, however, comes about as close to hitting the target as any steel bike I’ve ridden to date. More impressive yet is that it manages all this without feeling whippy or unmanageable during all-out descents or out-of-the-saddle sprints.

There’s a price for everything, and in this case, the price is steep. There are good full-suspension bikes that cost as much as the Sola frame alone. If you’re looking for a bargain, this ain’t your pony. On the other hand, if you’ve got the cash, appreciate quality materials and workmanship, and you know exactly what you want from a hardtail, your search is over.

Frame: Seven Origin custom-blended double-butted steel
Suspension: RockShox Duke SL
Wheels: Shimano XT hubs, Mavic 517 Rims, IRC Mythos XC tires
Drivetrain: Shimano XT
Sizes: Completely custom sizing/geometry available
Weight: 24lbs., 10.5oz.
Contact: 617-923-7774

2002 World Championships and World Cup

MaryPodiumMcConneloug recounts her European adventures with teammate/soul mate Mike Broderick at the 2002 World Championships and World Cup finals.

Bon jour!

Mike and I made it back safe and sound from our whirlwind racing adventure in Europe 8/27-9/10. We began our trip in Munich, raced in Austria, drove through the Alps, and raced in France. We could have easily spent a month over there.

World Championships

After a restless night, I awoke at 5:00 am for my race breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. It began pouring two hours before the start. “I’ll just try to be positive about it,” I thought. And so after warming up on the trainer, I lined up at 8:30 am in the rain.

From the back of the pack, I slowly made my way through crashes and the bogged masses. I couldn’t believe the number of spectators, yelling and cheering: Bup! Bup! Bup! The course soon turned into a slippery mud fest as 80 women attempted four laps.

Many dropped out and several got pulled, lapped by the leaders. I was determined to finish. My cyclocross skills came in handy when it was impossible or too dangerous to ride. My legs didn’t cramp despite all the running. I finally finished 25th, after 2:36 hours—smiling, despite the mud and my aching body.

Mike was incredible. He wrenched my bike, cooked, and massaged my cramping rump. During the race, he handed me clean eyewear and cheered me on. I couldn’t have done it without him.

World Cup Finals

We had a few days to meander over to France for the World Cup Finals. Race day turned out to be beautiful and sunny. I felt good and was ready to charge on my feather-light titanium Seven Sola. I started in the fourth row, but wasn’t worried; the course started on a long climb and had tons of room to pass.

I worked into 12th on the first lap. I settled in and passed two more women. My legs felt good climbing and I was riding the descents well. I knew I was holding my ground, though I could see the mad pack behind me. “Keep spinning up those hills, ride smooth and make no mistakes,” I told myself. I was closing in on another woman at the top of the 3rd lap. Passing her then another, I was now in 8th place with one lap to go. I stayed focused and managed to hold my spot to the finish, only 30 seconds behind the 2002 World Champion (Norway’s Gunn Rita Dahl). I was the 2nd American after Alison Dunlap’s 5th place. But my day wasn’t over.

Mike’s race began a half hour after mine ended. After washing my bike and a quick warm down, I scrambled to shower, change, and eat. I sped up to the feed zone to watch the 140 Pro men go off. It was exciting to watch, knowing the tremendous amount of dedication it took just to get there and what pain and suffering these guys were about to endure. They had five laps to complete.

The field roared by in a steady stream at first. Then gaps formed as the lead men pushed a blistering pace. The field began to dwindle as several contenders dropped out. Mike kept coming around each lap, and even though half the field was in front of him, I could see that his fitness and focus were as strong as ever. He finished the grueling race (68th) as the 3rd American in 2:15. It was a challenging and successful day for both of us.

McConneloug Makes U.S. National Team; Heads for Worlds


Seven Cycles mountain bike pro Mary McConneloug has officially been named to the U.S. National Team. The nomination came as a result of her 8th place finish at the World Cup cross country event at Mount St. Anne, Canada; she was one of only two Americas to finish in the top ten. Mary will compete for the World Championship in Austria this fall.

In a phone call to Seven Cycles the day following the announcement, Mary said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I was just so excited.”

Mary is currently 6th overall in the NORBA National Championship Series. She holds 3rd overall in the NCS Short Track event.

Seven Sweeps Killington

photos by Ken Keefner

On July 28, Team Seven’s Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick took the top podium spots at the AMBC series mountain bike race “Beauty and the Beast” in Killington, VT. The course was characterized as fun and technical, with an abundance of short power climbs and fast, rooty descents. Hot, humid conditions at the start gave way to fog and even light rain, cooling racers and leaving the course fast and tacking.

In the Pro women’s race, Mary took a commanding early lead and remained unchallenged to the end, finishing four minutes ahead of second place. Mary kept up the pace by testing her power against the expert men, but she remained conservative, wanting to keep herself fresh for the upcoming NORBA National Championship Series race in Durango, Colorado.

BroderickVTIn the pro men’s race, Mike went off with a three-man break that separated from the rest of the field by the middle of the first lap. The break dwindled to two; Ben Moody and Broderick worked together to stay away. Eventually, Bill Hurley caught the two and attached on the last climb. Mike put his head down and stayed on his wheel, however. In a dramatic last moment move, Broderick got by Hurley on a hard left uphill to the finish chute.

Congratulations Mike and Mary! Seven Titanium Stem

by Joe Lindsey

Weight: 158 grams (120mm)
Sizes: 1-1/8-inch threadless only; custom rise and reach
Colors: Brushed titanium; custom paint available
Buy it if: The idea of a fully custom titanium stem appeals to you.
Forget it if: You put more emphasis on the performance/cost ratio than anything.
Contact: 617/923-7774

StemSmallIf you’re not familiar with Seven Cycles, here’s a quick rundown: the company makes steel and titanium bikes and are the only bike maker fully immersed in the idea of mass customization: the creation of each and every frame as a distinctly original unit, but built with the same standardized processes to ensure quality every time. No two Sevens, not even two titanium hardtails built for 5-foot-9 riders, are alike.

That design philosophy extends to Seven’s line of components, which at this point includes stems, seatposts and mountain bike handlebars. The Seven stem, built from 3Al/2.5V titanium, is a custom job only—any rise, any extension length, road, mountain, whatever. The only caveat is theadless inch and an eighth steerer only—no quill or 1-inch models. It’s not cheap, but the Seven stem does dispel some of the theories about titanium stems, like they’re noodly.

You can choose from three stiffness levels: S1, for riders under 140 pounds, S2, for a stiffness approximately the same as a good aluminum stem, or S3, for big riders or those who want the stiffest stem possible. I chose an S2 mountain, 120mm, zero-degree rise stem and it is an exceptional piece of equipment.

The S2 proved plenty stiff for my needs, even with a pair of torque-happy 23-inch wide riser bars. It steers well, installed easily and the quality is top-notch. Weld passes are smooth and even, and the stem, like the company’s frames, arrived with a note identifying its welder and polisher—Seven’s way of noting pride of workmanship and accountability. And it comes with a lifetime warranty.

For 2002, Seven is looking into offering a detachable faceplate mountain stem, which would alleviate the only concern I had with the stem: the older single-bolt clamp wasn’t as friendly to install riser bars with. It worked with most risers, but some 2-inch rise models with a sharp bend weren’t easy to pass through the clamp. The Seven is exorbitantly priced; more so than a stem has a right to be. But this isn’t about having the lightest or the best performance on the dollar—there are lots of good stems for much less than this. The Seven is about having the best, and like their bikes, if you want to pay the price, you’ll get a great stem.