Dan’s Steel Mudhoney

This is Dan’s new, steel Mudhoney with a paint scheme he designed himself and we liked so much we made it one of our standard offerings. We call it ‘Antsy,’ because once this frame got to the paint team, Dan checked in on it every fifteen minutes or so until it was done.

It is safe to say Dan is the fastest guy in the building, and he built this bike to race, not just to embarrass us all on the regular Wednesday night Battle Path ride. The basic idea here was to build a light steel racer he could go hard on during the season, but would keep on the road year round. The 44mm head tube and integrated head set give the bike a modern look, and the paint feeds that same vibe.

So this is really a balance of traditional materials and design with a more contemporary aesthetic. The geometry is “American cross,” with a lower bottom bracket and slacker head tube angle. The paint scheme says, “I’m probably faster than you.” And he is..

Joe’s Disc CX – Mudhoney SL

This is Joe’s Mudhoney SL, disc CX race bike. Joe didn’t need a new bike to race CX with, but he built one, because he’s restless and he couldn’t get disc brakes out of his head.

While he was at it, he thought he’d move to a tapered fork with a 44mm head tube, and finish it out with custom decals, silver with a red outline.

We can’t vouch for every one of Joe’s design decisions on this bike, it’s his bike and no one else’s. We will say that he’s finishing closer to the podium this year than he was last year. Draw what conclusions you may.

“I really wanted to race with disc brakes this season,” Joe says, “so most of my focus has been on how the braking is different and better from my cantilever brakes. You ride so many dramatically different surfaces during a single race, the way your brakes work, from surface to surface, is a big deal. I noticed with cantis that I got pretty unpredictable results from the road to the grass to the mud. I’d pull the lever and see what happened, and then react to that.”

Obviously, that’s part of the charm of racing cross, or at least it has been. After so much talk last season about the emergence of discs, still only about 10% of racers seem to be running them, versus more traditional cantilever set ups.

Joe says, “The main difference with the discs is that they’re predictable. You grab a fistful of lever, and you stop. If anything, I am finding I can roll faster into turns and technical sections, because I know better what it’s going to take to slow down.”

The counter argument, the reason to stay with cantis, is the weight penalty. Today’s discs with their heavy calipers and rotors can add as much as a pound to your race day rig. Joe still hasn’t decided what he thinks about the added weight.

“I know the bike is heavier,” he says, “but I’m not sure that’s a problem for me in race situations. Maybe, because I can carry more speed into the barriers or the run ups, I’m less aware of carrying more weight on my shoulder or pushing it around the course.”

Whatever the case, we are building a lot more disc CX bikes this season than last. Whether those are race bikes, gravel grinders, or all-weather commuters, it’s a set up that is working for Seven riders all over the world, and we expect to see a lot more, on the road, if not on the race course..

Grand Prix of Gloucester Cyclocross

Finally, some mud. Also known as the New England World Championships, the GP of Gloucester is part of “holy week” in our local cross world, and this year we had what some might call perfect cross weather, gray and drizzly and a little bit raw.

The Grand Prix of Gloucester is considered one of America’s best cyclocross races, and it was well attended by riders and racers from all of the country and the globe. For Seven Cycles this is a hometown event and our bikes could be found in nearly every race category throughout the weekend. From factory employees in the amateur categories to our sponsored professionals in the men’s and women’s UCI Elites, our Mudhoney’s were ridden hard and fast through the perfectly wet and muddy conditions featured in Gloucester this weekend.

The course was classic Gloucester; it opens with an uphill stretch of pavement through the start/finish, winds up past the beer garden steps and then dives down into muddy off-camber chicanes.  There were barriers (of course) and wide-open power sections through the grass.  Gloucester has one of the steepest and meanest loamy rocky run-ups in cross where anyone who is really running is a lot fitter than me.  There were deep mud holes and ever-changing slippery lines twisting through the trees, and day two featured a sand section that crosses the oceanfront beach at Stage Fort Park.  Spectators could watch the race and catch some amazing views of this classic New England seaport from atop a giant rock – a prominent feature in the park and a major attraction for the young ones in the crowd.

The UCI Elite women’s race featured no less than four women racing on our bikes – nearly ten percent of the field and three of them were top-ten finishers this weekend.  Mary McConneloug posted 5th and 8th place finishes, and Mo Bruno Roy was 11th and 4th.  Overall this was an outstanding weekend of racing for Seven Cycles.

– Joe W..

Midnight Ride of Cyclocross

Last night Jake and I left work a bit early and headed west to Lancaster to compete in the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross.  This fast and fun mid-week race is in its second season and after hearing the rave reviews from last year I put it on my calendar as “can’t miss.” The Midnight Ride follows a similar course to November’s MRC race, but in the reverse direction. Since it’s still September, the course was dry and fast and the reverse direction offers less climbing and off camber turning than it’s November counterpart. Announcer Richard Fries was on hand for the event, which always makes things more exciting, and as he repeated multiple times throughout the evening, this race is the kickoff to what is now known in New England cross as “Holy Week.”

Racing as a beginner amateur and working at Seven, I’m in a great position for success. I have friendly relationships with some top Pro racers who have raced on the very same courses that I now compete on and they willingly offer up advice on things like tire selection. I ran into Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug at Cross-Vegas last week and Mike gave me some tips on what to run for the Holy Week races. I heeded his advice and it paid off in spades. The treads that I had chosen were fast on the gravel and pavement and hooked up just well enough in the grass and loose loamy corners that I was able to walk that fine line that exists between speed and control. Line selection, not tire selection, would be the only fault in my race.

I’ve raced enough at this point that I am starting to get first row call-up and for this race I lined up one spot from the outside with a clear view of the first turn a few hundred yards ahead. At the whistle I jumped out in front and my first four of five pedal strokes put me out in front with a fair gap on the field. I had taken the hole shot, and it was suddenly my race to lose.

Having never been in this position before in any sort of bike race, I did my best to stay calm and just rode my ass off.  From what I’ve been told I actually put a sizable gap on the field and held it until my worst case scenario presented itself – a crash in a hard 180 degree turn on loose gravel. I got up faster than imaginable and got back on the bike, but after a couple more turns I lost the lead.

As we wove through the course and over the barriers I held onto second position for dear life and started to hear Richard announcing that the 14-year-old in the group was gaining on the leaders. I held second place for about a lap until the leader missed a turn in the woodchips and slid out – I was back in front.  For the next two laps I led this group of men and boys through the twists and turns of the Midnight Ride course and listened to Richard’ words about what it might mean to our egos to lose to a 14 year old.

He also seemed to give Jake’s single-speed a shout out every time he passed through the start finish area. When I finally saw the lead slip away for good, it was a newbie to cross, not a kid whose brothers have been notorious for cleaning up in the men’s field as juniors, who took it away from me.  I kept fighting and rode most of the last three laps in the 5th position and watched another young and new-to-cross racer, who had fought from the back row past about 65 other riders to take the lead with two to go.

When he went by the leaders he rode off in front with ease at a pace that none of us could match. I was cooked, and hanging on by a thread, dry mouth, blurred vision, etc., when I heard a friend yell “Joe!  Hurt!” Oh, yeah, I thought, this is not supposed to be easy, you have to hurt to win, there are no two ways about it. I kicked it back in but unknowingly was making it easy for the rider behind me. He was drafting me around the course and saving energy for a move in the last grass section before the pavement to the finish.

I feared if I let him around me so that we could work together that I would not be able to hang on, so my best bet was to keep him behind. It seemed to work, but in the end he made a move and went around me just as we came up on that speedy young teen who had finally run out of gas with just a few turns to go.

The result of these place changes left me squarely in 5th place, another top 5 finish in what has been a great start to my season.  A few more like this and the heckles along the course, hopefully, will be encouraging me to “cat up” into the 3’s, a place where many a family man can spend the bulk of his bike racing career.

Post-race, Jake and I grabbed a beer and heckled some friends as they suffered much in the same way that we just had, and then cheered on Mo Bruno Roy as she rocketed around this drag strip with apparent ease.  I picked up some tire tips from her husband and pit crew, Matt Roy, and he showed me some new treads that they are trying out for this season. It’s good to be an amateur, it’s great to get the inside line on tech tips from the pros, and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to ride and race on a bike that is just like the pros race yet uniquely built for me.

– Joe W.

Image: Matt Pacocha, Bike Radar.

Quad Cross

Quad Cross is one of those races, shop-sponsored, very local, that signifies the beginning of cross season. Though small and perhaps insignificant in the larger scheme of things, Quad Cross is huge for the devoted dirt racers in our area. For most, it’s the first test of legs and lungs. It’s where you find out how good/bad your summer was, and where you learn what you need to work on for the coming races. Oh, and it’s fun as hell.

Team Seven Cycles rider Mo Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) found out she’s in pretty good shape, taking the women’s Pro 1/2/3 race by a wide margin on her freshly refinished Mudhoney PRO.

Our shipping/receiving dynamo, Nick Maggiore came through 39th in the Cat 3 Men’s heat, while Seven’s newest addition back in the shop, Dan Cariolo, was 20th in the Cat 4 Men’s race.

Joe Wignall took an exceptionally strong 5th in the Men’s Cat 4 35+ race. Can you say “podium hopeful?” And Team Seven Cycles’ Jason Devarrenes was 13th in the Single Speed Men’s.

It was a warm, sunny day for racing, perfect conditions for going fast. The course was dry and perfectly tacky, so not the mud-fest some were anticipating. There were fast flat sections, technical bits for the mountain bikers, a couple short, punchy climbs and a hard right-hander into the finish that rewarded riders with something left in the tank.

As always Quad put on a well-organized event, and the local cross community certainly rode away satisfied. Cross season is on.