Travel Bike Optimized

We build a lot of travel bikes. Increasingly, riders are realizing the value, not only of riding in far flung places, but in riding their own bike along to do it. BTC couplers and travel cases make this dream a much simpler reality than it might at first appear. We like to think about more than just getting the bike into the case though.

Part of the value of the way we build bikes, one-at-a-time, for the specific people who will ride them, is that we can be thoughtful about the whole bike and how it serves the larger goal.

With that in mind, and with a request from one of our readers, we thought we would break down, in detail the bike above, one of the bikes we brought with us on our most recent trip.

This bike is optimized for traveling just about anywhere in the world.  The kit is chosen for easy service at any reasonable bike shop on the planet.

  • Model:  Evergreen SL
  • Kit:  A mix of Dura Ace and Ultegra.  Ultegra rear derailleur so the rider could use a wider range cassette.  Shimano because it’s the most popular and common kit on the planet so easiest to get replacement parts.
  • Gearing:  11-32t cassette with 44/28t chainrings.  11-32t rather than a wider range cassette because it’s easy to replace while traveling if needed.
  • Crank:  Rene Herse.  Why?  We used this crank in order to get a lower gear ratio for steep technical climbing.  Herse cranks use a classic tapered and threaded bottom bracket for easy service while traveling.
  • Saddle bag:  Revelate Viscacha
  • Handlebar bag:  Bedrock bags Tapeats Handlebar Bag.  We like this because it has a waterproof closure at the top.  Easy to access.
  • Tires:  Clement MOS 40c tires.  With tubes. Tubeless is nice to ride, but presents serviceability issues when traveling.
  • Wheels Pacenti rims with White Brothers hubs.  Centerlock for traveling.  Classic hook spokes for ease of service.  700c wheels because they are ubiquitous anywhere in the world.  The bike also works with 27″ wheels — if you’re really in the boonies — and 650b or 27.5″ if needed for some reason.
  • Brakes:  Mechanical Shimano CX77.  These work really well for mechanical discs (which are easier to set up and break down) and are very low service.
  • Bar, stem, post:  Seven parts.  Aluminum and titanium, so they are as durable as possible.
  • Pedals:  XTR
  • Saddle:  Fizik Arione
  • Lights:  Light & Motion Urban 1000s.  Easy to mount, easy to charge, light weight, multi-function, helmet mount and bar mount.

Evergreening Georgia

Abandoned Silo - photo - Rob Vandermark

Bike building doesn’t offer up a lot of natural holidays. We can build every day of the year (we don’t), and still have work to do. So when most folks were packing in around a table to pass the turkey and stuffing this year, we were boarding a mostly empty flight to Atlanta.

Railroad Bridge at Night - photo - Rob Vandermark

This time of year we’re looking to ride where it’s warm, where it’s mostly flat, and where you might not think to find good riding. Georgia, specifically Athens and Augusta, is something of a secret cycling gem. The locals know how good it is, but you don’t read a lot about its flowy, endless single-track or its labyrinthine red clay roads.

Along the Train Tracks - photo - Rob Vandermark

We found the Georgia woods perfect for Evergreening, free of the rootys and rocks that make our New England woods so challenging to ride. For the first time in as long as we can remember, we never felt compelled to stop. Local mountain bikers take such good care of the trail systems, and there are so few momentum-sapping obstacles, that it was only fatigue that forced us to take a break.  This kind of riding is really good for the soul, endless, twisting paths through gorgeous woodland, long, straight roads of firm, dry, red clay.Red Dirt Road - photo - Rob Vandermark

Small Island on the River - photo - Rob Vandermark

On the road, we found drivers universally courteous, and even on the edges of the cities, the mixed terrain riding was outstanding, ribboning along rivers and snaking under highways.

Under The Overpass - photo - Rob Vandermark

We flew back the Monday after the long weekend. There were, after all, more bikes to build, but Evergreening Georgia was as worthy a way to spend Thanksgiving as we could imagine.

See the Seven Evergreens here.

Packing a Travel Bike

We built an Axiom S with S&S couplers for Mark Slavonia with our friends at City Cycle in San Francisco. This was Mark’s third Seven, and he uses it for EVERYTHING, including a lot of travel riding. We’ve talked about packing travel bikes before, in terms of the features and benefits of the various cases, and we’ve reviewed some of the frame and component choices that make the most sense for travel bikes, but ultimately, your success and enjoyment of bike travel will come down to how easy it is for you to pack and unpack your bike.

Mark wrote up his own bike packing guide and shared it with us. He also weighs in on the merits of the various coupling systems and the cases available. It’s well worth a read.

He says, “My travel bike is  a Seven Axiom with optional S&S couplings.  It weighs 18 lbs, 2 oz. with a 60 cm frame.  The oversized titanium tubing and the stainless steel couplings make it pretty stiff overall, especially for a titanium bike.  I’d use this bike for any ride or race and I never feel compromised by it.”

Thanks to Mark for allowing us to share.

Off Road with Mike Bybee

Like most of our favorite riders, Mike Bybee brings an enthusiasm to cycling that makes other people want to ride bikes, too. So beyond the fact that he’s an accomplished bike packer, travel photographer and all around outdoors dude, he was a pleasure to collaborate with, and we think the bike we built him came out all the better for it.

Although he plans to ride his Seven on all Seven continents (yes, including Antarctica), we checked in with him for an early review only a few weeks after he had taken delivery.

Seven: Why this bike?

Mike: The Seven Sola SL is a great compromise between ultra-butted and straight tube frames. The craftsmanship is absolutely top-notch, and I knew that working with the designers and builders personally would insure that the bike would be tailored to me, not simply cobbled together to reduce discomfort.

With a goal of singletrack bike based travel and setting wheels on all seven continents, compromises have to be made. Seven Cycles did a great job at making sure the bike was as light and nimble as any dedicated dedicated all-mountain bike while still giving me the comfort, durability and carrying capacity to spend weeks on the bike without resupply.

Seven:  How does it measure up to your expectations?

Mike: Seven Cycles has blown me away entirely. The bike weighs barely more than the standard spec, despite being built for exceptional ruggedness. The innovative design of the rear rack means that I’m able to carry a full load without it interfering with the brakes or relying on a convoluted series of adapters. The welds and craftsmanship are top notch, and the bike is the most agile 29er I’ve ever used – far better than the competition. It handles better than any bike I’ve ridden in its price-range, and with a fit and form that blow them all away.

Seven: Where are you going to take it?

Mike: Immediate term, it’s making its way across Arizona. Early 2015 it’ll be in Utah and New Mexico, and preparations are underway for a tour of Norway’s remote bike trails as well. Travel is being arranged for Iceland, Europe, and Australia in the coming years, with a trip to a research base in Antarctica already in the works.

For more of Mike’s amazing photos, check his blog often for updates on his off-road travels around the globe. We are hoping to post more of this thoughts on bikes and adventuring here, too.