When you make things (like elves), you find very quickly that there is never a time when someone doesn’t want you to make something. And so, we have had a very busy December here at Seven. Rather than wax rhapsodic about the spirit of the season, let us just say how grateful we are to be able to make things people want (like elves do), and wish you all a happy holiday season.
Here are some brief scenes from shop this week:
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.
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.
Design, Build, Deliver, Improve. It’s easy when you write it down like that. It’s another entirely to do the work, every day, year after year. We have had the fortune to work with a lot of young frame builders, many of whom have gone on to start their own companies, and one of the things we try to get across is that consistency is what’s important.
The longer you deliver, the more you improve, the more people trust you to deliver and improve. As we round on 19 years doing what we do, these things occur to us more and more.
Is the bike a metaphor for everything? It’s good to be fast, but it’s better to keep pedaling, to stay on the bike year-round, to push through fatigue and doubt to finish a long ride, to have the effort of what you’re doing turn into the enjoyment of what you’re doing.
Building bikes is like that, too.
This is our headbadge. It’s one of the very last things to go on a Seven before it leaves our door. Laser-cut and bead-blasted, we think it adds a classy touch to hand-polished titanium, filament-wound carbon fiber and painted steel alike.
It starts flat, like this. Then we clean it up the bead blaster, and we bend it in a hand press depending on the diameter of the bike’s headtube, either 1-1/8″ or 44mm. There is a long and rich tradition of headbadges on handmade frames that goes back more than a century, and it’s one of the small things that we think makes a Seven a Seven.