For the past couple months I have been drawing out the process of buying a new bike to replace the poor Las Cruces that has been sidelined with a fractured Head Tube.
Sad as it is to lose such a good friend, I also seized the opportunity to embark on a new set of adventures with a new steed. The process of choosing was not easy and I spent a lot of time weighing my choices and options.
In the end I decided to go with the option that could deliver an experience that would appeal to all of the reasons I love cycling.
About the company:
Seven is a smallish builder of custom bicycles that, like a story so often repeated in the bicycle business, was established in 1997 by Merlin's former head of R&D and Design, Rob Vandermark, and a loyal group of employees, who were eager to leave Merlin Metalworks following its titanic corporate acquisition by Saucony Inc.
Vandermark, who majored in sculpture at the Massachusetts College of Art, sought to push the envelope of customization as well as ideas of functional design in his bicycles as opposed to the more watered-down mainstream approach.
Vandermark is quoted in an interview with Bike Rader as saying:
I decided to leave Merlin at the close of 1996 because the company began focusing on the mainstream market at the same time that I was becoming more interested in pushing the limits of bike customisation, technology transfer and the Toyota Production System of manufacturing. I really wanted to see how these three ideas could converge in a new and successful way. Four of us started Seven in January 1997. The business has grown steadily over the years.
In the years since Seven first started producing titanium bicycles, the company has continued to focus on R&D, by innovating new techniques for externally butting their Argen and Cirrus tubes for increased strength and reliability.
Furthermore, over the past several years Seven has developed a patented system for creating custom composite frames as well.
Seven has helped sponsor cyclists, including cyclocross champions, Maureen Bruno-Roy and Mary McConneloug. Seven has used the feedback from its competitive riders to refine and tune their designs to offer the ultimate experience.
A major part of buying a Seven is the company's philosophy for providing a bike fit. Seven uses a combination of ergonomics, bio-mechanics and kinesiology to break down bike fit into quantifiable math. On the other end of the spectrum, a fit technician goes over your measurements, your age, weight and numbers from a previous bike, to provide a guide for a one of one telephone interview for some of the more qualitative expressions in bike fit.
You are grilled on handling, stiffness, weight, and how greatly you value certain aspects of your ride. It takes a very honest assessment of what kind of rider you are and what your achievable goals are for your new bike.
My fit technician was Neil, and he did a great job. It seemed I was able to imagine what I wanted and express most of it through the application, but the interview made sure nothing was left to chance.
During my interview it was all I could do to refrain from requesting a bike that was, "laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant."
I simply outlined the type of rider I am and the types of rides I do. I talked about my old bike and the characteristics I hoped to keep and those I thought could change.
My measurements were taken by a man named "Elephant" at the 7 Park Bicycle Shop in Taipei, and the order was handled through Shen Yang.
The actual fabrication of my new frame was done by Jon, Stef and Lauren. Jon Henig did the machining to custom butt the tubing to match my precise specifications. Argen tubing allows for the greatest amount of flexibility in tuning the bike and I opted for a feeling on the racier side.
Stef Adams handled the welding, which looks exquisite. Seven uses a method of drop welding that was developed at Merlin and makes for a strong, but clean looking weld. With titanium, the weakest point is usually in the weld.
The finishing work was done by Lauren Trout, who is also a fine welder and experienced cyclist.
The combined effort from Neil, Jon, Stef and Lauren resulted in a frame that is a piece of functional art. The craftsmanship (or... craftwomanship in this case) is exquisite.
Pabiah!! A Gentle Reminder To Myself
I also picked up a custom Seven carbon fork. Seven will not only choose the best degree of rake for your bike, but also custom tune the fork for the desired performance.
Here is what I chose:
I wanted a frame that would have a bit more snap to it for responsiveness and control when I am out on my hard rides. I was not concerned with lightness as I don't think the measure of bicycle performance is really in the weight as much as how the weight is used.
The rear triangle is built to be stiff, but the stays are a little long for better descent. I also wanted to be able to do long, hard rides in comfort. I bet on the wheels handling a lot of the comfort and thus felt confident I could keep the frame pretty stiff.
When I am fighting through traffic I need to be agile and thus I chose a racier feel. I am accustomed to jockeying through traffic and thus I am confident I can handle an agile bike.
The entire set up is like a well balanced stage racer. It should be like a more comfortable version of the Axom Race Seven used to sell a couple years ago.
Titanium is perfect for me as I can be hard on bikes. I also get nervous about pain chips, dents and imperfections. Titanium should be perfect.
To be honest, I have been stalking Seven Cycles since 2007, when I was looking for cyclocross bikes available in Taiwan. I was impressed with their fit system, philosophy, commitment to technology and the degree of customization they offered. I also felt the bikes were produced with a sense of artistry as well. Every detail is deliberate.
So far, I am completely blown away by the frame. It feels like an a crafted instrument.
This should be a bike that will last me the rest of my riding days and vanquish any bike lust that was ever in my heart.
I am also glad I did this now, while I am young enough to enjoy all the benefits of a custom frame.
Hopefully it will be fast enough to get me to my mid-life crisis and back before lunch.
Thanks to 7 Park, Shen Yang, Seven...
Most of all, I need to thank my wife for being so supportive of my sport. She has been a big help in allowing me to feel I can take this bold step into getting the bike I always wanted.
I'll post more when I build it all up.