Both these bikes belong to Kate. The top one was purchased second hand and made to fit through a series of what we might term “compromises.” You can see that extra spacers have been added under the stem, and the stem itself rises at a steep angle to achieve a handlebar position that works for Kate.
After riding the bike above for a few years, Kate decided to see what we could do for her with a new bike design. We took body measurements. We interviewed her to find out what she liked/didn’t like about her existing bike. We designed a frame that would support her ideal riding position while retaining proportionality, flexibility for future changes to her position AND delivering spot on handling.
Some of this is visible in the photo below of her new bike.
What you can’t see here is the tube set selection we made and how it differs from her original bike, which was stiffer in front and plusher in the rear than she wanted it to be. We reversed that combination by giving her increased drivetrain stiffness and a more comfortable front end. Because we can both select tube diameters and wall thicknesses, and then butt the tubing to give an even more specific comfort profile, we have a massive advantage over every other framebuilder working today.
The other thing you can’t see is the way this bike will handle. When we design a bike we aim to balance the rider evenly over the two wheels. This balance leads to greater comfort, but also to better handling. By designing the frame, via headtube angle and fork rake, to give a very specific relation between rider and ground, we can be sure that every bike we build handles exactly like the rider wants it to, which might be super stable or more twitchy and aggressive, but most of the time in the sweet spot right in between.
Kate’s original bike was a Seven, but it was second hand, i.e. not built for, so in almost every regard it was like any stock bike a rider might get. Those bikes can usually be made to fit by moving the saddle or the stem length, but not without compromising comfort, handling, and ultimately performance. That is why so many of our riders report a night-and-day difference between what they were riding and their new Seven.
By taking control of the frame’s geometry and materials, we are able to build a bike that fits, handles well, and feels good to ride all day. The secret is working forward from the rider, not backward from the bike.
We had an email from a rider currently in the process of getting a Seven. He had questions. A lot of them. And chief among his concerns was how we could possibly design a lifetime bike for a rider who would, himself, change over time.
These are legitimate concerns, and we put a lot of time and energy into exactly these challenges. People’s bodies do change over time, for better and for worse, so when we propose a design, that design has to be as durable as the frame materials we use. It all has to last a lifetime. So what do we do?
For us, all the variables are within our control. Head tube length and angle. Seat tube angle. Head tube extension. Unlike stock bikes, which have fixed geometries and only get adapted to a rider with spacers and saddle placement and stem length, we are starting from the rider’s perfect position, with everything centered over the wheels and no adjustments necessary. So, we start with that advantage. Once we arrive at that position, and our partner shops are good at finding it, we design so that the bars can go lower as you get fitter and/or higher as you get older and less flexible. Building in that flexibility isn’t difficult, as long as you are starting from the right point.
All of which brings us to the very idea of comfort. When it comes to your comfort, you are the expert. You either feel good or you don’t, and no fitter should tell you that you are in the correct position if it doesn’t feel correct to you. A first custom bike can be something of an epiphany. We realize that we have always been adapting to bikes, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ways, so we are used to being uncomfortable.
The first spin on a custom bike you think, “Oh, wow. Everything is in the right place.”
We can’t stress enough that your comfort is something you feel, not something a fitter or bike designer can prescribe. That’s why your time with a fitter will be so important. The fitting gives us that good starting point, and our personal interview with you provides us the context to understand how flexible our design needs to be. We have built 30,000+ frames this way with excellent results. We know it requires a leap of faith on your side, but we have the data to suggest it’s not as long a leap as it appears.