One of the great gifts we receive, as bike builders, is riders who come to us with an open mind and an interest in collaborating on the design of a new bike. We try not to be in the business of telling people what they want. Better bikes come from listening.
This is a challenge. We’ve been at this nearly 20 years, and while the accumulated experience of more than 30,000 builds is likely our greatest asset, there is still so much room for riders to teach us about what might make a bike great.
Open exchange like this creates buy-in on both sides, or all three sides, when you consider the bike shop who provides us with fitting and measurement data, with another set of eyes on the project. What we end up with is a bike that everyone is happy with, proud of even, because we built it together.
Mainly, this blog is a means of promoting what we do. This probably goes without saying, but it’s good to own that also, because the Seven Cycles project isn’t only about promoting Seven Cycles. It’s about promoting cycling in general, about celebrating the bicycle.
So we wanted to take a moment to appreciate the bicycle, every bicycle, without referring to any of the specific bikes we make or the wonderful people who ride them.
The bicycle gives us freedom, fitness, adventure, transportation, a means of connecting to the world around us, to our friends and families. Its simplicity means it is accessible to almost anyone, anywhere, an elegant machine that amplifies effort, producing the most amazing results.
For us, it has provided a living for nearly two decades, not only in terms of income, but also in bringing us together for a common purpose. It has drawn us closer to the greater cycling community, helped us explore our creativity, given us a focus for our craft.
Bicycles are good, and it helps not to get so caught up in what we do that we lose sight of that.
It doesn’t matter whether you are riding a bike or building one. You will go faster if you work smarter, rather than just harder.
For example, you’re in the middle of a long climb. Your legs are screaming at you. All you think you can do is bear the pain and keep working, but then you realize you have a death grip on the bars, and you haven’t once dropped a gear and stood out of the saddle. Suddenly, you’re moving up the hill a little better and with less discomfort.
Bike building can be like this, too. Our work environment, like any road, can be fluid and changeable depending on what new products we’ve introduced or what new “standards” the industry has chosen to adopt. Like the rider on the hill, we can fall into the habit of just working harder, or we can pick our heads up and find better ways to do things. Sometimes, it’s a matter of rearranging a department, so that its easier to move from machine to machine. Sometimes, it’s about adding new fixtures to the existing machines to save set up time during the build process.
Just like on the bike, there is clearly a time to put your head down and work as hard as you can, but the big gains, and the hardest to come by, are almost always from working smarter.
We sat in a circle in the showroom, low morning sun teeming through the tall windows, discussing our readiness for the coming season. We meet here regularly to talk about how things are going, where the bike industry is going, how we will address all the changes that come in endless waves, all the things that make building bikes fun and challenging and sometimes maddening.
January is a funny time for us. The end-of-year rush has subsided. Those bikes are delivered. And we are turning our attention to building the bikes that people will want to ride when the warm weather comes again. Now is the time to start. So there is a busy quietness about January. It can be tempting to go easy, but experience tells us that hard work in January makes the rest of the year much easier.
As we sat discussing our prospects for 2016, it occurred to us that we were all one year wiser. What is the value of that experience? It can be hard to quantify. We are 19 years into our bike-building adventure, and each successive year brings new challenges. Simultaneously, we have a lot of problem solving behind us, a lot of engineering, a lot of craft. We have been in business through a few up and down cycles in the national and global economy. Emerging trends look more and more like things we’ve seen before.
And so, it feels good to sit there in the sun in the morning light and be able to say that we are in good shape. Leadtimes are short. The shop is staffed with experienced and passionate bike builders in every department. We have been the grateful recipients of recent media exposure both local and global. We have a committed set of retail partners who want to help us build great bikes, and every day we’re getting phone calls and emails from riders who are excited to build their own best bike.
It could be that the value of experience is the calm certainty that it’s going to be a great year, and that just how great is entirely up to us.