Every bike build is a challenge, a good one, and a tandem build is more than double the challenge. Add in custom front and rear racks, generator front and rear hubs, and clearance for fenders, and you have the sort of project we dream about. We built this very special Axiom SL 007 SL with our friends at Spin City Cycles in Decatur, IL. We had a nice note from the Ames’ after they picked it up:
I thought I would write and let you know we picked up the bike yesterday, and it looks great! I’m looking forward to it. I’m including a few built up pictures for fun.
Last week we talked about Going Up, the process of designing a climbing bike. This week we look at what goes into a long distance bike, which might be a century bike, a touring bike or might be a full-blown randonneuring machine. We build these on our Axiom platform or our Expat platform typically, but as with everything we do, it’s custom, so the features are more important than the model name.
These sorts of bikes usually have comfort as their primary design goal. Performance remains important, so drivetrain stiffness is still desirable, but one of the keys to performing over long distances and after many, many hours in the saddle is comfort.
Comfort in this regard isn’t just about how the rider feels in the moment, but how fresh he or she can remain. Muscles that have not been pummeled by an overly stiff frame for eight hours are better able to sustain effort in the 9th and 10th hours of pedaling. There is the next day to consider as well. On multi-day tours, the need to wake up in the morning rested and recovered can be the difference between fun and misery.
Titanium is a particularly good material for long distance bikes, and our ability to refine this tubing for the individual rider means we can keep those riders fresh and comfortable according to their own preferences. The tube butting process consists of removing material along the length of the tube to make it strategically compliant. The more aggressively the tubes are butted, the more compliant the frame becomes, the better it soaks up chatter and impacts from the road. Steel also shares these properties, just at a slightly greater weight.
As with the climbing bike we discussed last week, there are a number of factors to balance, comfort and performance being the most obvious. Stability and handling are also critical to a good long distance bike, a more relaxed geometry, a longer wheelbase. You want to be able to ride hands free to rest hands and shoulders. You want good handling at low speed, even carrying a load, which brings us to features and options.
Touring bikes used to have cantilever brakes as a default, because they let you run a wider tire with a fender, but the advent of better medium reach fork/brake combinations and disc brakes have radically improved braking performance and given riders more options for bike set up. The touring triple has given way to the compact double crank, with wide range cassette to achieve the same gearing ratios. Rack and fender mounts are very popular on long distance bikes too, as are our custom racks, which can be built to fit the specific bags, panniers and lighting systems you want to run. Dyno hubs and front facing light mounts keep riders going into the night.
It is well-nigh impossible to get a great long-distance bike off the shelf. The unique attributes that keep a rider comfortable over long periods of time with the features and options and component choices that suit them make each of Seven’s “Go Far” bikes special.
Here in the northern hemisphere, daylight savings and the tilt of the Earth on its axis are depriving us of sun-out riding time. Whether we like it or not (we like it), we are all clocking more miles in the dark. Luckily, over the last few seasons high-powered lights have become more and more affordable, so not only do we feel safer, but we also have enough light to engage in adventures both on and off the road.
It is easy to look out a dark window, especially after the temperature starts to drop, and think your cycling season is over. What we know is that on the right bike, with the right lights, a whole new season is just beginning.
When Seven began, back in 1997, Rob Vandermark‘s vacation days started to accrue at the rate of about a day a month. When the first year of operation came to a close, he had twelve days saved up. Seven had a busy year in 1998, including a move from Topsfield to Watertown, so there was no time for a vacation, and those twelve vacation days were added to the original twelve to make twenty four. The company was growing steadily, in numbers and in employees. There was so much to do.
Twenty four became thirty six, and this pattern continued, year after year. The vacation days kept adding up. No one knows for sure, but a reasonable estimate to the number of days accrued would be one hundred ninety six.
A few weeks ago, for the first time in Rob’s seventeen years at Seven Cycles, he asked for time off. We were puzzled. Was there an event we didn’t know about? A presentation somewhere? Was he off to work on a secret new project? No one was sure, though as it turns out, the answer was quite simple. Rob wanted to take a vacation.
When you take one vacation in seventeen years, everyone wants to know where you are going? In Rob’s case, the answer was a cycling trip to New Zealand. As the trip grew near, Rob became almost giddy. He outfitted his coupled Evergreen SL specifically for the journey with: a generator front hub and powerful headlight, full fender coverage in case the going gets wet, reflective decals for high visibility, wide tires with some tread in case the pavement came to an end. We won’t know all of the details of the trip until he gets back, but we know his bike is ready for anything, and that his vacation is well deserved.
Endurance riding is not a new segment. From the early days of cycling, riders have sought to challenge themselves by covering distances previously unimagined. But as a category within the broader cycling industry, endurance is now flourishing in a way it never has with the advent of longer, challenge-style events both on-road and off. After spending years working on rando bikes of every stripe, we are now seeing these bikes consolidate around the common experience of riders who are taking on events like Dirty Kanza, the Almanzo 100 and D2R2.
The Seven-sponsored Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team is made up of three riders who, collectively and in massive solo efforts, will clock more miles on their Sevens this year than most folks will manage in their cars. We are deeply fortunate to be able to work with John Bayley, David Wilcox and Matt Roy. This season they will tackle Dirty Kanza, the Green Mountain Double Century, the Rapha Gentleman’s Race, the Vermont 600, D2R2 and a 1200k brevet of their own design. And events aside, almost every weekend will see these guys spending whole days in the saddle, knocking out century after century, saving up their endurance for big, fast miles on their custom Sevens.
We’ve built each of them a unique, custom, randonneuring bike suited to their personal style and approach to endurance cycling. Comfort and utility get more and more important as the miles pile into your legs and light wanes at the end of the day.
Endurance Team Captain Matt Roy, a Harvard trained immunologist, rides a 622 SLX, the most technically-advanced bike on the endurance circuit. We’ve taken some cues from Mo Bruno Roy’s – last name not coincidental – cyclocross winning Mudhoney PRO. Matt’s 622 is by far the lightest rando bike on gravel, while still boasting the lifetime durability Seven builds into every frame.
John Bayley values versatility. He is riding an Axiom SL that can run 650b or 700c wheels. His cabling is external for easy servicing and quick adaptation. We finished his bike this week, another speed build that went together in just three days from final design to full assembly thanks to a fair amount of overtime and a group of willing collaborators on the Seven shop floor.
David Wilcox is a quiet, powerful rider, the kind of guy who can ride all day and all night without the whisper of a complaint. His bike is the most simple of the three, an Axiom S with no frills other than hydraulic disc brakes.
As co-sponsors, SRAM has provided the team with their new Force 22 hydraulic groups for each frame. Clement Tires has signed on as well. Working with cutting edge products makes projects like this one even more fun for us.
The Endurance Team sponsorship allows us to explore and experiment in a new and interesting way because these guys will tell us, in the space of one ride, what we might take months of research to learn on our own. Endurance riding pushes bikes to their limits and tests the effectiveness of different component integration strategies. The needs of the long-distance rider also push us to design and integrate practical solutions into each build, the details, big and small, that make all the difference between success and failure.