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.