Sean at the Cent Cols Challenge

SeanCodyThis is Sean’s Axiom SL, cooked up with our good friends at Cyclefit in Covent Garden, London. We had a really nice note from him in the spring about his bike, and here is an end-of-summer follow up. This one was too good not to post:

Hi Jimmy, Neil and John.

I hope you’ve all had as good a summer as I have. As per Jimmy’s request below, I just wanted to let you know that my Axiom SL continues to fulfill my every wish – I take back nothing of what I wrote in May.

My main goal this year was the Cent Cols Challenge, Cevennes edition. I’m 1 week back from it, and I can say that the bike performed beautifully – the roads were often harsh and broken, and the days were long, and while I was generally pretty shattered at the end of a day, I’m more than pleased with how the frame rode. Stiff, yes, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. Next time I’ll probably put 25/28c tyres on it, but that’s a learning experience. It really is everything I wanted in a bike, and I have to say that amongst the sea of off the peg carbon bikes, it really stood out – I lost count of the number of times people said “What sort of bike is that? … Man, that’s a really nice frame”

As is customary, I thought I’d attach a photograph – well, 80 photographs, actually. 80 of the 100 cols climbed over the 10 days, with the bike against each col marker sign.

Again, massive thanks to all you guys, and the teams at Seven and Cyclefit… So very happy with my ride.

Quick stats:
10 days of riding
1800km distance (give or take)
36000m of climbing (give or take)


Going Up

DSC_9428Greg LeMond said, “It doesn’t get any easier; You just go faster,” about gaining fitness on the bike, though it’s often construed as a succinct description of becoming a better climber. Up is always up. Our gravity is constant. So the challenges are all with the rider, to get stronger, to ride smarter and, on some level, to choose the right bike.

That’s where we come in.

A good climbing bike combines several basic characteristics, hopefully in perfect balance: lightness, stiffness and perfect fit. Each of these aspects of the bike have been fetishized in the past as stand-alone arbiters of quality, but we know from long experience that there is never one thing that makes a bike great. In good design, a subtle balance of features is key.

Lightness is perhaps the most obviously desirable trait of a climbing bike. The less weight the rider needs to carry up the hill, the easier it is to go fast. We can lighten a bike through tube butting, removing material from the tubeset strategically. We can also add in some carbon fiber, which isn’t necessarily lighter than a butted titanium tube, but can be light while also maintaining stiffness, making it strategically attractive.

That brings us, not coincidentally to stiffness, which is also desirable. Transferring maximum power from the pedals to the rear wheel will get you up faster, or at least more efficiently than losing power through an overcompliant drive train. Here, weight and performance work against each other a little. Stiffening usually adds weight. Again, we have to find a balance point.

Finally, fit. When you are climbing, you need to get oxygen to hard-working muscles. Getting oxygen is directly related to your ability to open your chest, to take in more air, and that is a function of fit. Finding optimal top tube length for comfort and performance is a key part of our process.

What we try to do with every bike is to understand what it wants to do, where it wants to go, and how it needs to feel, and to find the various balance points throughout the design to deliver the best ride for the person who will ride it. Every design goal is achieved through multiple aspects of frame design, and that is why getting a custom bike, rather than something off-the-shelf, is a collaboration between the rider and the builder, purpose built and personalized at a deeper level.