On the Road – 250 Miles of New England Dirt

Rob is obsessed with dirt. That is, perhaps, an oversimplification, but it gets pretty close to the truth. For years and years he thought of himself as a mountain biker, both as a racer and a committed adventure rider. Then his riding migrated to the road, but any chance he had to spin out onto a trail, even on skinny tires, he took. The dirt has always called, and his obsession has been a blessing to all of us here at Seven.

If you’re looking for a good all-dirt or mixed-terrain route to ride, Rob has it. Rob can show you trails, in your own neighborhood, that you’ve never seen before. We call this style of riding, on-road/off-road/trail, “evergreening,” and none of us was really surprised when Rob started Overland Basecamp to spread the gospel of dirt far and wide.

OB recently ran the Maneha 250, a two-day, 250 mile ramble through some of the best mixed-terrain in New England. The pictures tell the story:

Two Approaches to the Maneha 250 - photo - Rob VandermarkRiders took a couple of different approaches to the challenge. Some rode self-supported, packing all their food, clothing and camping supplies. Others took more advantage of the organization Overland Basecamp provided.

Maneha 250 Unofficial Pit Stop - photo - Rob VandermarkThis unofficial pit stop belies the quality of the food served throughout the event, which was catered by Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, NH. They also hosted the campsite and provided the stunning evening view…for those who got in early enough to see it.

Abandoned Narrow Guage - Matt O., Brad S. - photo - Rob VandermarkHere, our very own Matt O. rolls through an abandoned narrow-gauge rail bed with Brad on his wheel. They both rode unsupported.
Oh Look, Another Hill - Brad S. - photo - Rob Vandermark
One of the most charming (and unavoidable) features of our New England topography is the endless, punchy, rolling hills. The Maneha 250 has a climbing profile like a heart patient’s EKG.Strategy Before The Sunrise - photo - Rob VandermarkSunrise breakfast and strategy session at the campsite, a pretty great way to start day two.

The Smile Train - Matt O., Cris R., Dan S., Roger C. - photo - Rob VandermarkMore Sevens rolling by this abandoned freight, go ahead and ask Rob how he found this spot, likely riding around in the woods in the dark.

Read more about it on the Overland Basecamp site.




A tandemic is an epidemic of tandem-riding. Tandemia (another word we made up) describes the mania for tandems that most anyone who has ridden one succumbs to at some point. Matt O., our production manager, has a serious case of tandemia stretching back many years, and many bikes. He and his wife Susi have been serious tandem riders since Matt’s days at Merlin. Back then, they were only riding tandems when they were “going for a bike ride.”

Then Matt salvaged two old Schwinn cruisers and welded them together to form this bike, a homemade two-seater for rolling around town, hitting up cafes and restaurants and for visiting friends.

Then this bike entered their lives, a small, yellow, folding tandem that someone had (not so) lovingly left out with their garbage for disposal. A friend of Seven’s salvaged it and gave it to Matt and Susi as a gift. This one, dubbed the “Circus Bike,” was a small revelation. It’s smaller wheels and smaller overall size made it much more maneuverable in the city. They began riding it more and more.

The Circus Bike turned out to be a sort of proof of concept. Eventually, Matt built a new tandem, the one below.

Matt built it here in our shop to take the best elements of the circus bike, its smaller wheels and ability to break down, and incorporated it into a better, cleaner package. This bike will pack into a hockey duffel, so they can throw it in the back of the car for a weekend trip, or fly with it. This is the bike they brought with them to the North American Handmade Bike Show in Portland in 2008.

And this is the bike they do longer trips on, their custom Axiom SL 007. You might see them at D2R2 on this rig. They’ve ridden it in Chile and Australia in an ever-changing configuration, Susi always smiling, trying to get Matt to stop for ice cream, to see a friend, or to take a picture, Matt always trying to keep it rolling.

Meanwhile the Circus Bike lives on. Our own Skip Brown, ruler of the Seven tool shop, dark lord of heavy machinery, uses it to ferry his daughters around Somerville.

Photos of Skip and his girls by Ecker Power Photography.


Here is our own Skip Brown, just after a top-ten finish at a World Cup race at the Georgia International Horse Park in 1997, the year after this same course served the Atlanta Olympics. Skip and Matt O drove down from Boston in the Seven van, raced and drove home. For a while there was an annual 24 hour race on the course (24 Hours of Conyers). It also featured in the documentary 24 Solo. Skip rode a double-butted Ti Sola that day, a very early iteration of the bike we are still making today. A few years later, we would get to watch Mary McConneloug ride another bike in this line at both the Beijing and Athens Olympics. Some of THAT history is captured in the documentary Off Road to Athens, well worth a watch.