We received this photo from our friend Giovanni, something of a cycling mystic and guru, who lives in Seattle, a frequent visitor at Cascade Bicycle Studio, with whom we’ve built hundreds of frames, including the Axiom SL in this photo.
It reminded us that Rob V, our own mystic and founder, was in art school studying metal sculpture when Merlin Metalworks plucked him from academia and turned him into a bike builder, designer, and visionary (don’t tell him we called him a visionary).
When we built this bike, we did not publicize the fact that we were working with a famous actor. Mr. Williams, who was widely known as an avid bike collector, was in many ways a very private person. His great appeal as a comedian and actor was both in his infectious energy and in his humility, a willingness to share with the world all the parts of himself, the successes, but also the struggles.
It is bittersweet, now, some years after his passing, to see his bikes being auctioned for charity, and to see this specific bike again in this context. We can not for a moment imagine the emotion invested in this project by his family, and the grace it takes to let these things go for the benefit of others.
We feel simultaneously sad at the circumstances, but also happy and proud to have gotten to work with a man of his integrity and impact. In as much as the auction of his bicycle collection will benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, we felt the time was right finally to share this bike.
As you can imagine, at a company whose name is Seven, numbers play an immeasurable part in everything we do. The name Seven, just to get this out of the way first, is a product of our desire to build bikes to be ridden on the seven continents, a lucky number, a prime number, and even as a word, a symmetrical combination of letters that looks good on a down tube.
Taking a step backwards to six, the first number in the name of our category defining 622 SLX, we find carbon, the sixth element in the periodic table. Carbon fiber is the defining element of the 622 line of bikes. It brings elemental lightness to those bikes. High frequency vibration, radiating up from the road or trail, disappear between the fibers.
Now jump forward to twenty-two in that same table, titanium, the metal that launched our bike building careers. Five times the strength of steel at the same weight, titanium moves with a rider like nothing else. It flexes and returns microscopically, soaking up the lower frequency jolts that push beyond carbon fibers range. Titanium smooths the ride, keeps your tires connected, spares your muscles. It won’t rust. It holds a shine like little else.
Nineteen is another prime number. Nineteen is the number of years Seven has been building and delivering bikes. Our second full decade is there on the horizon. And, with apologies, we are primed to do our best work. This year’s R&D effort will produce a slew of new products, new bikes, new forks, new frame components. We have already begun planning limited editions for our anniversary, already begun gathering the ideas that have been developing over those decades.
There are so many more numbers, too. Too many to call out, the lengths and angles of every rider-specific frame we’ve designed, more than 30,000 of them, the number of bike and component companies we’ve partnered with, the hundreds of bike builders we’ve been fortunate enough to train and learn from in return, and of course, all the riders, many of them with two, three and more bikes they asked us to build for them, maybe the most important number of all.
Your coach will tell you that a strong core gives you a better platform to pedal from, that it takes strain off the rest of your musculature and contributes to endurance in ways that are palpable, if hard to measure.
Seven is a strong, independent business. After nearly twenty-years of building bikes we are fortunate to be able to make our own decisions, guided by the same mission we’ve always had, with only our customers to answer to. We have successfully navigated the stormy seas of several economic booms and busts. We have seen the industry change through two full decades.
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.