The Bike That Ruined My Blog... a Review of the Seven Axiom S
"That bike is going to ruin your blog," was the ominous first line of an email from a longtime reader. I had just announced my loaner arrangement with Seven Cycles and the Ride Studio Cafe, and this - in addition to the breathless account of my first paceline ride - proved simply too much for those who saw me as incompatible with such things. Would I soon be selling my loop frames and renaming the blog to "ugly bicycle?" Well, I will neither try to convince you that the Seven is "lovely in its own way," nor assure you that while the Seven was nice I still prefer lugs. I will simply describe my experience with this bike from the beginning and you can draw your own conclusions.
Some time in May, I test rode a Seven Axiom S at the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA - a bike and coffee shop that is also a Seven dealer. This was meant to be a one-time test ride: I wanted to try a bike that was different from what I normally ride, write about it, and that would be that. There were no demo models in exactly my size, and when given a choice between too small and too big I chose the latter - mainly because that bike had no toe overlap. This bicycle was almost identical in size to the 80s Bianchi on which I'd arrived, so the very helpful Rob Vandermark (who owns both the Ride Studio Cafe and Seven Cycles) measured it and set up the Seven so that my position would be the same. Another reason I chose the particular bike I did, was that it had a Campagnolo group installed. I told Rob that I had difficulty using Shimano brifters on all the modern roadbikes I'd attempted to ride in the past. He looked at the Tektro short reach brake levers on my own bike and said that if I liked how those felt then I should try Campagnolo - the design was very similar. He was right and I was able to brake comfortably.
This first test ride made three distinct impressions on me: First, that the bike was unexpectedly "easy to handle." I had assumed it would display the same characteristics I'd come to anticipate from other aggressive roadbikes, such as twitchiness at slow speeds, but there was none of it. I also remember being absolutely stunned by the lack of road shock. One thing I dislike about racing bikes with narrow tires is that they tend to be harsh - even in nice vintage steel bikes there is usually some harshness. On the Seven Axiom I could feel nothing. When I'd go over a bump, the bike was stiff and bouncy, but the expected pain that comes with that did not follow. Finally, I could really feel the lightness of the bike (or rather, the lack of heaviness) while pedaling - which surprised me, as I was previously under the impression that you don't really feel a bicycle's weight unless going uphill. Though I did not particularly care for the looks of a modern, welded frame and all the high-tech looking components, I liked the ride quality of the Seven much more than I expected to. It was a fun bike, a comfortable bike, an "approachable" bike even - though, of course, unnecessary for someone like me. I mean, what would I do with a racing bike?
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and spontaneously - although some might argue otherwise - I went on my first paceline ride. Not the social kind, but the kind offered by a cycling team. I did the ride on my Rivendell touring bike and, while I managed to keep up, it was clear that a different type of bicycle was needed if I wanted to keep taking part in these rides - which for some reason, I did. I considered my options. I could not afford to buy a new roadbike on the spot of the quality I wanted, and trying a couple of lower-end bikes made me feel that I'd be throwing money away if I went that route. Plus I wasn't sure that I would even be into that kind of cycling once I tried it a few times. So an idea occurred to me: Maybe the Ride Studio Cafe could rent me the Seven demo bike I'd tried earlier. We discussed it and decided to exchange the bike loan for ad placement on Lovely Bicycle. Mutual non-liability forms were signed and soon I was reunited with the Seven Axiom I'd ridden earlier. To insert a side note here, anyone can walk into the Ride Studio Cafe and test ride a Seven to their heart's content for free. What made ours a sponsored arrangement was that I would have this bike for much longer than typical.
I personalised the bike with my own saddle (a red Selle An-Atomica) and matching Fizik handlebar tape, installed a bottle cage, a computer, and MKS Stream pedals with Power Grips, and put a puncture-resistant set of tires on it (Michelin Krylion Carbon), just in case. Otherwise, the bike pictured is as it was given to me. The weight - with everything shown here (note the tool pouch) plus clip-on lights and empty water bottle - felt to be around 17lb.
Seven Cycles was established in 1997 in Watertown, Massachusetts, where they continue to operate today - building custom frames in titanium, steel and carbon fiber. The titanium models what they are best known for, and their frames have a world-wide reputation for being comfortable and fast. The Axiom S is Seven's "value" straight gauge titanium model, with the frameset priced in the mid $2,000s and complete bikes starting at just over $4,000. While that may seem costly, consider that the Seven is handmade locally and includes custom geometry and paint, and that mass-produced off the shelf roadbikes can fetch similar figures. Puts things into a different perspective is all.
The frame is unpainted titanium, polished to a matte finish. My impression of titanium is that it has a cleaner, but also a more "clinical" look to it than, say, stainless steel. However, it is also more scratch/ dent resistant. I rode the bike in all sorts of weather and you can see in the close-up pictures that the frame ended up perpetually covered in sand and grit. This resulted in no surface wear after 800+ miles. As for the feel of titanium, I don't think I can really say, given that my experience of it is limited to this specific bike. Supposedly, titanium offers a cushier ride quality than steel, all other factors remaining equal - and I did experience that here. Still, I'm not ready to attribute this to the titanium per se until I have a bit more experience under my belt.
This is difficult to photograph, but Seven frames have these beautiful curvy chainstays
as well as seat stays, which really make the frames recognisable. It's a visual extravagance that, combined with the somber nature of titanium, creates an interesting juxtaposition.
My favourite part of the frame construction is the way the stays transition to the dropouts. Don't know whether anybody else notices this, but it is such a graceful, crisp change in surfaces - there is something I find very satisfying about the design.
Here it is again - see what I mean?
I also like the headbadge - especially since my birthday happens to be on the 7th.
This bike was fitted with the Campagnolo Chorus group, which I believe is mid/upper tier. It included crazy things like a carbon fiber crankset and a hollow bottom bracket. Of course, nothing goes better with a carbon crankset than touring pedals and Power Grips - but we'll leave that issue aside for now!
My favourite aspect of the Chorus group were the combination levers. I like these so much, that I will have to write a separate post about this. But suffice to say I found them easier and more intuitive to use than any other brake lever and shifter system I've tried - and at this point I've tried many, from a variety of Shimano groups to SRAM to all sorts of vintage stuff. By far not everyone feels this way about Campagnolo levers, but they seem to work for me and I was very happy with the effortless braking, fine modulation and precise shifting they afforded.
The Chorus drivetrain is an 11-speed double, which some believe is excessive. I don't really get how it's any more excessive than a 10-speed in comparison to a 9-speed or a 9-speed in comparison to an 8-speed, if you see what I mean. But what do I know. All I can say is that I liked it, and that I preferred using the 11x2 double to the 8x3 triple on my own bike.
The wheelset is a Mavic Ksyrium SL, with the crazy flat spokes (yes, that is their official name). And the fork is a Seven 5E - which is supped to be a really good, extremely durable carbon fiber fork - but was still scary for me to use at first. In fact, this is the one part of the bike I was afraid to trust, half-convinced the fork would snap and kill me during my first ride.
While initially the bike was set up for me so that the saddle was even with the handlebars, I was soon ready for a more aggressive position and we moved the spacers to lower the bars, flipped the stem upside down, raised the saddle a tad, and also pushed the saddle forward. Still, there is no getting around the fact that this bike was too big for me and it was difficult to take flattering pictures of it, given how I had it set up. Not very good promotion for Seven, I'm afraid!
So what was it like to ride a titanium Seven roadbike for 800+ miles? Well, for one thing the bike rode "fast" - big surprise there. I was faster on it than the Co-Habitant, which otherwise never happens. When I rejoined the paceline rides, I not only was able to keep up, but moved up two group levels fairly quickly. The Seven and the paceline rides combined changed my riding style. I started to ride more frequently, more aggressively, more confidently, and in a more determined and less meandering manner. I lost fat and gained thigh and arm muscle. I got generally stronger and more cardiovascularly fit. I started to think of riding as "training." Training for what? Well, for continuing to move up in the paceline groups and then maybe joining a cycling club and... possibly racing. Did this change me or this blog's content for the worse? I can't tell. Maybe, maybe not. But I enjoyed this type of cycling as I never thought possible to enjoy an athletic activity, and my own perception of myself has shifted as a result.
Of course none of that really describes what's special about the Seven per se, and as you're reading this, you are probably thinking "Well, she would have had the same experience with any light, fast modern roadbike." Except I don't necessarily agree. In order for a person to have an experience like that, a bike has to make them want to ride that way. It has to feel pain-free, safe and comfortable - while going at speeds faster than what they are used to. With other light, modern roadbikes I'd tried, I did not feel comfortable riding them beyond the bike shop parking lot. The carbon fiber felt scary-flimsy, the aluminum felt painful over bumps, the fit felt awkward. Whenever I'd get on a modern racing bike, all I'd feel was "Oh no, that's not for me," whereas on my very first test ride of the Seven I felt the opposite: "Hey wait, I can ride this one!" Maybe it was the titanium, maybe it was the feel of the components, maybe it was the way the bike was set up for me, or maybe it was all of those things. Bottom line is, the Seven turned me into a "roadie" whereas other modern roadbikes I'd tried only made me want to dismount them as soon as possible. To me that seems worth noting.
Also worth noting is that I was able to ride the Seven - and quite enjoyably - across a wider range of conditions than I imagined advisable for a bicycle of its type. I rode it in pouring rain, over horrible pothole-ridden roads (it bounced off the potholes at speed, but quickly regained stability), and on 50+ mile trips. Over time, I began to trust the bike's handling more and more and riding it in all sorts of conditions began to feel natural. In fact, I never felt the desire to ride a roadbike with wider tires or fenders or racks or less aggressive geometry unless I needed to transport stuff or was going to ride off road. While the Seven handled very differently than my other bikes, that difference did not feel any less comfortable - at least not over a 50 mile stretch. Nothing hurt, and there was certainly less fatigue than after riding a heavier steel bike over that distance. Make of that what you will.
Basically, my understanding had been that there was a trade-off between "racy but uncomfortable" on the one hand, and "comfortable but not racy" on the other. My experience with the Seven has challenged that dichotomy. It was difficult not to choose it over my other roadbikes (a Rivendell Sam Hillborne and a vintage Bianchi Nuovo Racing) nearly every time, given that it was not only faster but also perfectly comfortable.
And as far as looks are concerned... This may be a cliché, but they grew on me. Part of it was just a matter of coming to appreciate a different aesthetic, but another part of it was coming to associate the look with the feel: I liked how the bicycle rode and the way it looked reminded me of how it rode. Therefore, I began to like the way it looked. Personalising it with some of my own accessories helped as well, and in general I think the titanium frames are very versatile in that sense.
So that is my story of the Seven Axiom S. This is far from a perfect review, given the limited nature of my experience with other roadbikes in its class. But it's telling in the sense that, as a relative beginner, I was able to ride this bicycle comfortably and to advance fairly quickly with its help. Are there other bikes out there that I could have had the same relationship with? Probably, but at this point I will never know, simply because I can't go through this experience twice. The Seven is now back at the Ride Studio Cafe, and I won't lie - I am having major withdrawal. I need a light, modern, road/racing bike of my own, that much is clear. Does it have to be a Seven? Probably not, other bikes exist. But frankly, the idea of doing more lengthy test rides and research - when I already know that the Seven Axiom S does everything I want and need - seems tedious. So... well, I can't say for sure yet; time will tell. In the meantime, my sincere thanks to the Ride Studio Cafe and Seven Cycles for this opportunity... even if they did help ruin my blog!
Great blog post. It's nice to have more than one style of bicycle. I have several bicycles of different types that I switch around. This helps to prevent burnout and keeps riding fun. A light road bike is great. One bike that you would enjoy is the Gunnar Sport. It can be a road racing bike , add fenders and a rear rack for credit card touring or commuting. Keep up the great work on your blog! I enjoy it.ReplyDelete
I'm a male, with a terrible sense of style, so I might not be your target market, but I wanted to say that I've very much enjoyed reading about your exploration of road biking, and I'm stoked it sounds like something you'll continue.ReplyDelete
I sort of have gone the opposite way. I started as a road bike guy, then got into mountain biking. I've been riding pretty seriously for 20+ years, since my early teens, and done some racing. I've only in the last few years began to see cycling as a transportation option, and now bike commute 3-4 days a week. On a flat bar fixie with a rack and panniers, something I NEVER thought I'd own!
Anyway, from my perspective, it certainly didn't ruin your blog. Bikes are bikes, and riding is fun. Those that shun one type over another are just silly...
It only ruins your blog if you buy an SUV with a bike rack and drive to all of your paceline rides.ReplyDelete
"I was previously under the impression that you don't really feel a bicycle's weight unless going uphill." -- Actually, to me the bike's weight feels most critical when stopping and starting. One of the most dissatisfying things about bike commuting is that I'm riding a heavier, laden bike in heavier, less forgiving traffic, and getting that jumpstart off the line when the light turns green is just much, much harder on my old steel commuter than on my more modern racer.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful piece of bicycle art / engineering. Compliments also for the hair style, most appealing.ReplyDelete
Maybe you already did some research about titanium frames...from what I remenber from my research a while ago they are even more confy to ride than steel frames as the material ist even more flexible. You don't have to paint it because it doesn't rust and it's very scratch resistant. If you manage to get a scratch in it you can polish it out, this way the frame can look like new even after a decade of use. The drawback ist that it's quite expensive, even used frames have a rather high price, and if you damage the frame somehow you can throw it away because it's quite impossible to solder it without a vaccuum chamber. I think the titanium frame on the seven played a big role in you liking the bike so much, maybe you can get your hands on an affordable titanium frame and build your racer around it. (Sorry for my not so good english).ReplyDelete
The blog is still great, even more interesting, at least to me. I love the mix. I think you ought to just buy a Seven, made just for you. You're right, there are plenty of bikes out there that would feel as good, maybe, but why bother, if that feels so perfect. I do have a question though, what about the comparison between the Royal H randonneur and the Seven? How close is the speed, lightness and comfort? Could one have a it all? There are times on my road bike when I do wish I could have carried something, had fenders or lights, though I love it's ride as is and there is no adding to that bike, as you would not want to add to the Seven. I am very curious, as I have never ridden a 650B randonneur. Anyway, I think the blog is becoming even more interesting and has a real world mix to it, just perfect and always well written with good pictures. So, go for it, it is your blog after all. Thanks for it!ReplyDelete
Wonderful. I'll keep saying it- "it's all good".ReplyDelete
(I won a Seven shirt at the red bones raffle a year ago and gave it to B as it was his size. It'shilarious b/c he wears it quite often and most people we know have no clue what it is, but I wonder if he goes places and people think he's a roadie... in any case it's good to hear you liked it as if it's LB approved then it's good enough for me!)
The objective part of what's "excessive" about 11 sprocket cassettes is that the diminutive chain and thin teeth wear quicker.Modern shifting tolerates only trivial amounts of chain stretch, replacing parts frequently gets expensive.ReplyDelete
If lugged steel is in the running at all for your next road bike there is a somewhat different, but very enjoyable, type of comfort that comes with 25-29mm light tires. Then there's tubulars.The good ones flat less than you'd think (some tires wear through before they flat). If it makes a range of less expensive bikes available, 70 or 100 for a tire is plausible.
>>even if they did help ruin my blog!ReplyDelete
No, your blog is improved, not ruined...You've shown your readers why there are a whole lotta different types of bicycles out there!
I'm the only person in my family who is "into" bicycling, and no amount of explanation can get anyone to understand why I own several bicycles. Each has its own purpose -- I won't use my heavy commuter for the fast, hilly recreational group ride, for example.
I doubt that Co-Habitant uses his Pashley on the pace line, either!
Oh stop, it didn't ruin your blog! I, for one, enjoyed reading about your paceline adventures. Not everything you write is alway applicable to me, but it's almost always interesting, and it's your blog and your experiences. Keep writing about whatever you want to. I'll keep reading.ReplyDelete
The blog is far from ruined, V. Thanks for the great review, and some ever-improving bike-porn pictures. The last two are really nice.ReplyDelete
I feel the same way about a Ti lifetime bike. Once I retired from racing it felt ridiculous to ride a punishing bike. Technology has advanced much further but I'd feel ridiculous riding a Trek Spartacus or Pinarello Dogma or Baum or Ritte now.ReplyDelete
My bike is a way better than I am a rider, but is extremely enjoyable at all speeds. It's made for my weird body and riding style, so it's part of me in a way an off-the-shelf bike can't be.
We're literally joined at the hip.
Just wait until you try cyclocross racing...ReplyDelete
I managed to find a used Merlin (also titanium) at my LBS -- complete bike -- for $1000. It fit me perfectly and was practically new. So deals are out there and you may not have to spend the REALLY big bucks to get your titanium ride.ReplyDelete
And speaking of titanium, I've been obsessed with the Van Nicholas commuter bike ever since someone mentioned it in the comments a few days ago. I just now looked at Seven's site to see if they had a similar bike and whaddaya know -- they do! Any chance you have experience with it already or might borrow one to give a quick review? I was about to purchase a different (steel) transport bike, but now I'm intrigued...
P.S. You may have been reviewing a modern racing bike, but you hardly abandoned the "lovely bike" philosophy. Your Seven looks gorgeous! The red saddle with red bar tape? The crazy flat spokes? My Merlin looks like a dowdy librarian compared to your ride!
No cyclocross racing!!! : )ReplyDelete
Okay, I did go to Cross Vegas and I enjoyed watching it. But no desire to participate what so ever. Now track on the other hand...
I don't see anything wrong with the looks of that bike. Actually, I think something you've done is show that any bike can be customized and made pretty by adding personal touches like your seat and the matching handle bar tape.ReplyDelete
Christian - I know that titanium has a reputation for being flexible, but the way I understand it, is that it can be either flexible or stiff depending on how it is treated. The bike I rode was definitely very, very stiff - I could feel no give at all. But at the same time, it was comfortable! I had thought those two things were incompatible and it was enlightening to learn otherwise.ReplyDelete
So, I'm wondering what the old V, riding on her upright lugged vintage transportation bike in her skirt, everyday shoes, and hair flowing in the wind would make of this newer V zipping by on her carbon forked, titanium framed, campy equipped bike wearing cycling specific clothing along with racy sunglasses, helmut, and untwined plastic water bottle? Admiringly, I hope, knowing that both could be out enjoying a ride on one of the simplest, most beautiful machines made by man :)ReplyDelete
Your blog gets better as you write about new experiences and surprises, not ruined.
Well, I still ride an upright bike for transportation and continued doing so throughout this experience. The Seven and the paceline rides did not change my views on transportation cycling at all.ReplyDelete
But they did change my views on roadcycling, making me value the speed and handling of a bike over other aspects. I can't see myself riding a roadbike that is "inferior in performance" just because it is aesthetically pleasing. I love my Rivendell, because it is a touring and off road bike, and thus serves a different purpose. But I do not plan to keep or acquire any other roadbikes unless they perform like the Seven. This means no more vintage experiments, since I don't really see myself spending the energy and money to install a 10 speed Campagnolo group on a vintage frame (after spreading the dropouts and buying a modern wheelset to accommodate the modern cassette) just to test how it would perform on a paceline ride. In a way it's a sad that I won't be experimenting with more vintage roadbikes, but I can't continue doing something in which I see no point.
I wouldn't even think of mounting a bike with carbon fork.ReplyDelete
Love the entry, title and all. Can't wait to see what you do long term.ReplyDelete
Don - I understand the feeling. FWIW Seven makes steel forks and the ti bikes can be fitted with those instead of carbon.ReplyDelete
I really appreciate your honesty and open-minded approach to bicycles and cycling. It always bothers me when I read touring/commuting folks dump on the roadies and vice versa. I got one of the early Trek OCLV carbon frames in '95 because it was my dream bike then after riding many years on a noodly steel Peugeot and Motobecane. Today, I still love the ride of that bike for many of the same reasons you describe in your post. I'm not trying to convince anyone else of its virtues, just saying that it floats my boat. While I've never raced I've always ridden hard for the purpose of fitness and because it just feels good to do so. Fast forward these many years and now I'm starting to commute to work on my bike because I can't find time to ride otherwise. What I realized was that my Trek carbon is not the best bike for that purpose. Partly inspired by your blog I recently acquired an old, beat up Bianchi Volpe that I'm converting into my daily commuter that can also go off the beaten path. To me the true beauty in any bike (or any technology for that matter) lies in it's functionality and suitability to a task. When done, I anticipate my dumpy looking Volpe will perform its tasks beautifully.ReplyDelete
Well, there's this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/17518949@N08/sets/72157602859002987/with/1868578063/ReplyDelete
I put about 40 miles on a Ti bike once (Spectrum, borrowed from a friend on a business trip), and it was nice, but it wasn't super-de-duper nice, it was just nice. Handled no-hands about the same as my Big Dummy, which was a complete surprise.
If you change your mind about the vintage experiment - or steel- I've a 9spd Record setup, Vento wheels included you can just have. Any trade you want to offer is fine. I would want shipping costs covered.ReplyDelete
The levers can be changed to 10, I am not sure 11 is possible, see campyonly.com for full info. They will not be as light-touch as Ultrashift 11. I think the wheels will take a newer cassette if the Veloce 13-26 is not suitable, really haven't checked that detail.
Offer karmically retracts if I look at this blog and see my stuff on carbon.
I am now off to the bikeshop to pickup a vintage frame that's reverting from 130 to 120. My framebuilder charges $20 for this service. That includes removing crank and BB, replacing same. Not a big deal.
These parts aren't going anywhere. Not actively trying to sell. They are most likely being given away to someone down the line, or traded. If you see an interesting old bike, this offer is most likely good for months.
"Does it have to be a Seven? Probably not, other bikes exist. But frankly, the idea of doing more lengthy test rides and research - when I already know that the Seven Axiom S does everything I want and need - seems tedious."ReplyDelete
Who knows, maybe you'll come across something that'even better than the Seven.
A great, fascinating post that documents the life-changing potential of a new kind of bike. Your epiphany on the Seven is somewhat similar to what Jan Heine described for the very first time he rode a light weight, high quality racing bike. http://janheine.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/a-journey-of-discovery-the-lure-of-racing-bikes/ReplyDelete
I have experienced something very similar. After many years of riding utilitarian but heavy bikes, I had an instantaneous feeling of speed and zip when I climbed on a light racing bike for the first time. The pure joy of riding a fast, responsive bike helped convert me from someone who only rode a bike for commuting, to someone who now rides thousands of miles every year for training, recreation, fitness, and fun.
My biggest beef with recent trends in bicycling is that many people never get to experience this thrill. Customers in bike shops usually see either relatively heavy mountain, hybrid and comfort bikes, or very expensive high end racing bikes that they don't identify with or think they will never be able to afford. I think this is where vintage bikes still have a crucial role to play. My epiphany came on a high end bike with Columbus tubing and Campagnolo parts from the 80s, purchased for about one twentieth the cost of a high end racing bike today. It doesn't have integrated brake/shifters or 22 speeds. But it has given me the thrill of a fast/responsive, life-changing ride, and at an entry cost so low that it was possible to take off down a new path that still continues today.
Ti stiffness clarification: it can be made extremely stiff with large diameter tubing, thicker gauge or varying butt profiles, not so much with any metal treatment like heating per se.ReplyDelete
Its inherent, subjective feel is one of suppleness within these constraints.
That's why I bought one.
Jim - Did you try ti bikes before deciding you wanted one, or was it based on research?ReplyDelete
I was completely open minded as far as material. I wrote about this before here - I tried every. Thing. 25-30 bikes, Al, carbon, super light weight steel, various Ti bikes like Seven, Serotta, Merlin, Litespeed, IF.ReplyDelete
Lots and lots of research too, but that stuff is for the mind. Once I got to ride the Ti iteration of what I ended up buying, it was a light bulb going off, but I did ride 3 different bikes from the same mfg of various materials to make sure they knew what they were doing as far as consistent ride quality.
There's absolutely no way I'd approach buying a lifetime bike in any other way.
So how many years worth of weekends did this take? :)ReplyDelete
Jim - So when you say testing them, what do you mean exactly? Were they friends' bikes, demo models in bikes shops? And how were you able to test ride them in a way that you'd know how they'd behave in "real life"? Most standard bike shop test rides are fairly limited.ReplyDelete
At least one problem with trying stock models for me, is that they are fitted with Shimano groups and I really do have a hard time operating the brakes. So right off the bat, I am not going to be confident on the bike and won't be able to ride it properly because I won't be in control of the brakes. No floor models except high end ones are going to be fitted with Campagnolo.
I can hardly believe my eyes today. Oh the humanity . . . . :>)ReplyDelete
dr2chase - Testing that Spectrum probably has as much to do with the way you'd feel about a Seven, as testing a Big Dummy would have to do with the way you'd feel about a steel racing bike : ) So how did they both handle no hands - good or bad?ReplyDelete
Lots and lots of lunches, weekends. Took a long time. I started with the intent just to get the latest tech, not top of the line, and just ride and not get obsessed with it. Turns out they all sucked so I took my time.ReplyDelete
Very few friend's bikes, mostly demos. We are blessed with a lot of great shops with inventory on the floor. It wasn't hard as I'm a 56-58.
Understand also that I've been around bikes a long time so know what I want as far as feel and responsiveness, and the good shops recognize that so aren't reluctant to change a stem or move a seat a few mm this way and that for me.
Even without these minute adjustments I can tell within half a block if it does it for me or not. Campag isn't OEM-friendly. The Shimano deal is tough. You know your own hands, but Shimano is probably easier-operating for most people than Campag with its lighter action.
Maybe you can get comfortable with them through sheer will power. Serious.
Oh, and Tom Kellogg's bikes are awesome.ReplyDelete
Tom Kellogg is indeed a great builder, GRJ, especially in the custom bikes I've seen built for fellow "big guys." One of the Spectrums and a Litespeed Vortex have been the only ti bikes I've gotten to ride at the shop that don't feel like Slinkies under my weight (the Litespeed in particular belongs to a guy almost my exact height, for some reason it always seems to need an extended test ride after it comes in for a tuneup).ReplyDelete
For what it's worth, one of the best women's Masters racers around my area runs her errands on a three-speed with a big basket. She's become a local legend among roadies who have found themselves passed on a big climb by a woman twice their age riding a cruiser in street clothes. You don't have to pick one sort of bike, is all I'm saying.
I think she passed me one day....Delete
Oh, here is a ti question I keep meaning to ask: Why do roadbike manufacturers say it isn't possible to make a titanium fork, whereas Brompton makes one and it feels quite good? Do they mean that it isn't possible to make it stiff enough for roadbikes?ReplyDelete
Matt, Tom's tubing selection was not so industry normal...until, it seems, now. Stout, and ahead of his time.ReplyDelete
Brompton. Says it all. Their designs are highly idiosyncratic, but also the length of their forks is miniscule for their tiny, tiny bikes. Means there's less flex vs. a normal fork. My feeling about 20 inchers is they're so twitchy and correctable any flex induced by the for is quickly accounted for by the handling. I don't know if you're feeling the Ti fork or the suspension or some other factor also.
A 700c bike with a Ti fork could be made but would require a ton of material to make it stiff enough and even then probably would behave in an unpleasant manner. A properly designed fork is at least as important as the frame.
You're definitely skirting around the edges of the "Dark Side"... Seriously, there isn't anything wrong with a racing style bike and titanium is a very good material. I've owned several vintage racing bikes (my favorite was a Pogliaghi Italcorse), but I now prefer a touring style for normal riding.ReplyDelete
Are you still planning to purchase a M.A.P. randonneur?
Pimadude - I never planned to purchase a MAP randonneur (though they are beautiful), you must have me confused with someone else?ReplyDelete
Jim - Fork is important, true. Which makes me wonder also how much of the nice ride quality I was feeling was due to the ti vs Seven's special CF fork of secret origins. I've gone over some pretty bad potholes on it...
I'd have no problems running a Seven fork, though Enve is way cooler, if not better.ReplyDelete
You were feeling the magic qualities of Ti, also the fork. Who knows percentages.
It's all important though. If you're in the market for a bike wheels are huge. They're at least as complicated and variable as frames.
@V - understand, the Spectrum was not that Ti cargo bike on Flickr, it was a Ti bike custom built for the (much-)more-money-than-sense brother-in-law of the guy that I borrowed it from (Don), and we all happen to be the same size. I was a little nervous because it had low-spoke-count (I weigh 100 kilos) and 25mm tires (Don rides brevets -- he did this years PBP -- so his bikes are a little tougher than the usual race thoroughbred). And it had brifters, which I had never used before, and the front derailer was (IMO) slightly out of adjustment, so I had to choose my rear cogs carefully.ReplyDelete
But it was light and nice, pretty much a happy bike, very much like the Big Dummy in that respect (happy, not light). No cargo capacity, so I had to carry all my stuff and a change of clothes (including shoes -- I swapped in Eggbeaters for the duration of the borrowing) on my back.
Both bikes do no-hands impeccably, and with the same responsiveness-to-butt direction. By impeccably, I mean, for miles, if I want, over potholes and bumps, and I can sprint, lean over into a tuck, and turn, and everything. My minimum comfy no-hands speed on the Big Dummy is about 9mph; it used to be 11, but I am a little better now. I've ridden it no-hands with a 100+ lb live load, which is up from my old limit of 50lbs.
One thing that is completely baffling is that I ride faster when I ride no-hands, versus a mostly upright posture. I've got a speedometer, I can measure it, it's consistent. I have the option of leaning over a bit (elbows on hand rests, grip end of stem) and it's about as good as that. Going into a tuck no-hands seems to be fastest of all.
I would add, also, that I once owned two steel racing bikes, a 24" Mercier 300, Reynolds 531, double-butted, sewups, and a, 23" Capo Sieger, Reynolds 531, double-butted. The Mercier was twitchy, but good no-hands. The Capo I could once ride no-hands, but it is harder for me now after the 700c conversion and because I usually ride the Big Dummy, and it was never a twitchy as the Mercier. So I think I like a relatively twitchy bike. When I was a kid, I practiced no-hands on rollers on the Mercier, which I think has a little bit to do with how much I like to ride no-hands now. I used to ride both bikes (25 years ago) down a 2000-ft 9% grade in California, and the Capo was "you are riding a rail", while the Mercier was "you dare not take your attention from the bike, else you could plunge off the road and DIE!!!!" The Big Dummy (and I think also the Spectrum) somehow combine twitchy response to butt steering, with the you-are-on-a-rail when you want it.
Oh yeah, with snow tires, the no-hands handling goes all to hell. The instant the studs on one side have more weight than the other, they drag and make the bike swerve a little. Grrrrr.
A good quality carbon fork is stiff, precise and even-tempered, while dampening out high frequency road vibration and providing a mellowness in ride quality. What more could you want?!?ReplyDelete
A ti fork would bring some of those favorable qualities too, however the flex properties of ti would make it less precise, and therefore somewhat squirrely. I've never ridden a ti fork so I am speculating this is why you see lots of one and rarely the other.
Seven makes fine road bicycles and sharing your experiences in testing one and yourself in road riding is nothing but a plus for your blog as far as I’m concerned. Epic road riding is one of the thrills and accomplishments of cycling that few have experienced. I say enjoy yourself and don’t feel that you have to be ideologically niched. Cycling is many things and its all good. Keep up the good work!ReplyDelete
I agree with GRJ on Brompton having tiny forks where material flex is less of an issue compared to the lanky 700c.ReplyDelete
Velouria, I'm in a similar boat as you. Recently went from a committed daily commuter/bike blog procrastinator to someone who can pull of a century without too much hassle, likes to go fast, and I LOVE IT. My Casseroll is good enough, but I'm actually salivating over Cannondale CAAD10's, which after a short ride feel really ridable, and definitely quick. A great price, should last for a couple years while I prove to myself this will stick (and get a Seven or a Hampsten Ti bike or something like that) or else let the hobby die.ReplyDelete
I've ridden bikes with titanium forks before, and in every case the brake chatter made it feel like riding a jackhammer. They were mildly popular on cyclocross bikes for a little while, because of the light weight and the "suspension" of a slightly flexy fork, but once strong-enough-for-cross carbon forks hit the market they disappeared.ReplyDelete
Hampsten! Completely forgot. Definite short-lister.ReplyDelete
I recently had the opportunity to meet Rob at the Cafe, he helped me with a sensor magnet for my wheels, and I didn't know who he was.ReplyDelete
Isn't he pretty much the nicest person EVER?
BD - Yes, the first time I met Rob, he was working behind the counter as a barista and I had no idea he was the owner : )ReplyDelete
dr2chase - Fascinating. Unfortunately, whenever I think of the Big Dummy now, I remember Jan Heine's review where he describes being passed on a bike path by a girl wearing fuzzy slippers...
Jim - What do you think of the Wound Up carbon/lugged fork?
It's got a good rep, top notch builders use it. I don't like the look of straight forks though. If you're attracted to it for the lugs, my opinion is they don't look right w/Ti rigs, which are all welded.ReplyDelete
If it's for a steel bike then a steel fork looks better.
Ultimately if you go the custom route pick your builder very carefully, then trust him on the fork. Cherry picking one is always a step back.
What would kill the blog is when you stop making cool discoveries. One day, those discoveries might include cyclocross, just as happened on BikeSkirt.ReplyDelete
Still, I'm not sure I'd do it a second time, even though the mud pit and jumping logs was incredibly fulfilling. Just don't do it on the Seven; those brakes would clog up on the very first lap and I would not trust Ksyriums going over tree roots.
t is part of the fun of cycling: you can do lots of new things and still barely scratch the surface.
Cyclocross is the bag race of cycling. And cats don't like bags. Especially burlap sacks. Not one bit.ReplyDelete
PS: At least 2 lady cyclocross racers I know of (Maureen Bruno Roy and Andrea Smith) are sponsored by Seven Cycles and ride Seven XC bikes. Not the same model as the bike I rode obviously, but they do make them.ReplyDelete
Maybe that's a Jan Heine problem, not a Big Dummy problem. I don't get passed that often as long as I stay away from the (up) hills. (And that's a different big dummy problem.) Imagine, if you will, how embarrassing it is for some guy on a carbon bike to get passed by a yahoo on a cargo bike with great fat tires, a Hawaiian shirt, flips-flops, riding no-hands. There's real satisfaction in being that yahoo.ReplyDelete
In fact, some guy today (on a Merlin) caught up to me, thought I had a motor :-). "Uh, no."
I think, apropos of light bikes and stuff, that some of this is psychological. Light bikes feel fast out of all proportion to the amount of change in the gross weight -- and heavy bikes, till you are used to them, feel much slower that their addition to the total weight. There's always a moment of "whoa, what is this?" when you change. Once you get used to the heavy bike, you just keep pumping the momentum up, and pretty soon you're really rolling along.
Anecdotally, Bruno-Roy was sponsored by IF earlier: http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/tech/2005/probikes/?id=bruno-roy_ifReplyDelete
Oh, interesting. Wheelworks, too; did not know that. Lots of local builders sponsor cyclists, which is nice. I think Geekhouse sponsored an entire team once.ReplyDelete
I've only had one bike with a carbon fiber fork (a cyclocross bike). Four years of a fairly heavy rider hitting potholes, occasionally messing up a curb hop, a fair amount of singletrack which I used to use a mountain bike for and several crashes later and no problems.ReplyDelete
I never had any real concerns about carbon fiber durability. My gliding club has a thirteen year old two seater with 4800 hours on it and it's all carbon fibre except for the rudder (it needs to be fiberglass as the radio antennae are mounted there).
The Seven is indeed a lovely bicycle, so why shouldn't it be discussed here?ReplyDelete
As for for ti roadie forks, they're out there. I think the roadie world is so bifurcated by carbon aficionados and steel purists, that ti gets overlooked. Blacksheep makes one, I'm sure others are out there as well.
What a contrast to your quick comparison of the Rivendell vs. the Randonneur. There you noted some differences, but the differences sounded smaller than you expected. In contrast riding the SEVEN appears to have been a transformative experience that changed your speed, your fitness, your blog, and much of your outlook on riding.ReplyDelete
I realize that both the Rivendell and the Randonneur are wide-tired, 650B bikes with lots of things like generator hubs and lights and fenders that make them considerably heavier than a racing bike. However, Jan Heine has claimed in Bicycle Quarterly that wide tires are as fast or faster than narrow ones, that weight doesn't make much difference to performance, and that an average rider on a well designed Randonneur bike will be as fast or faster as the same rider on a light weight racing bike. It's very interesting to me to see that you had a head over heals reaction to the lightweight, skinny tired, modern component bike; that while you had the SEVEN you "never felt the desire to ride a roadbike with wider tires or fenders or racks or less aggressive geometry unless I needed to transport stuff or was going to ride off road"; and that "It was difficult not to choose (the SEVEN) over my other roadbikes (a Rivendell Sam Hillborne and a vintage Bianchi Nuovo Racing) nearly every time, given that it was not only faster but also perfectly comfortable."
I would be interested to hear your own direct comparison of the Randonneur and the SEVEN, especially because you had both bikes at the same time. For now though, it seems clear which one made the earth move in a new and different way, and became the bike you wanted to ride most.
Anon - The Seven review vs the Randonneur/Riv post is an unfair comparison, b/c the latter was not a review at all, just some quick notes. I will have a lengthy, dedicated review of the Randonneur at a later stage.ReplyDelete
It's probably more accurate to say that "getting into roadcycling as a sport shook my world more than did trying a faster type of touring bike," as opposed to making it a Seven vs Randonneur comparison.
The Seven is essentially a piece of athletic equipment, albeit a nice one. That is how I used it and that is the context in which I reviewed it.
The other two bikes are all-equipped travel companions. Sure, one is faster than the other, but they are essentially the same category, whereas the Seven is not. In order to be a travel companion, a bike HAS to have wider tires (all terrain versatility), generator lights (in case batteries run out), fenders (in case it rains) and rack/bag (to carry stuff). Add all those things to any bike, and it will no longer be a pure road/racing bike. This is not a novel concept AFAIK...
"Jan Heine has claimed in Bicycle Quarterly that ... an average rider on a well designed Randonneur bike will be as fast or faster as the same rider on a light weight racing bike. "ReplyDelete
We made the randonneur bike according to the method JH promotes, from tubing choice to geo, and the above did not hold true for me. I was faster on the Seven. However, my experience "proves" nothing. I could be an outlier. I would not call myself a typical cyclist anyhow.
"I would be interested to hear your own direct comparison of the Randonneur and the SEVEN, especially because you had both bikes at the same time. For now though, it seems clear which one made the earth move in a new and different way, and became the bike you wanted to ride most."ReplyDelete
Hmm, this is problematic, and I did not mention the Randonneur in this review precisely because of that.
Here is the thing: With the Seven, I had a non-liability agreement with my sponsor RSC. If I crashed and wrecked the bike, they were cool with it, no worries. And I sincerely felt that to be true. I felt that it was basically *my* bike for the time I had it, no responsibility other than to my own safety.
With the Randonneur? I felt guilty as much as leaning it against a brick wall. The customer was eagerly waiting for his new bike and I was grateful he let me test ride it, but also very worried about damaging it. Therefore I only rode it as part of specific test rides - not as if it were my own bike. So you see the problem.
If I pretend both bikes were equally "mine" for the time I had them, then I'd say the choice of Seven vs Randonneur would have been maybe 60/40. Seven for training rides, Randonneur on rest days with my camera in the hbar bag, and also on trips that required a fully equipped bike. But that is an abstract comparison, if you see what I mean.
Comparing purely in terms of speed, the Randonneur was pretty much half way between the Rivendell and the Seven. Handling was different than both - especially at speed and downhill. But more on that aspect in my review.
V, apologies for posting this late, but I wanted to add some info on your Seven review, and I trust that your readers may appreciate the following information on Ti forks and Ti in urban bike design. Thanks, MarkReplyDelete
I've been racing and riding Ti bikes for awhile--mainly Litespeeds and Moots--and currently have:
1. A Van Nicholas Amazon rando bike with a custom Black Sheep Ti fork;
2. A Van Nicholas Pioneer with Rohloff hub and belt drive;
3. A Santana Ti tandem set up more or less as a rando bike;
4. And my wife has a Van Nicholas Amazon Ladies Rohloff with a belt drive.
Just to add a few points to this discussion....
It is possible to make outstanding Ti forks. The Black Sheep Ti fork I have on my rando bike is arguably the best long distance fork I've ever used. It is NOT at all noodley, it has no front brake chatter, handles outstandingly well, and is much more comfortable on long fast rides than any carbon or steel fork I've ever used. It's also proven to be reliable. The usual problem with Ti forks is simply that builders try to make them as light as carbon, which doesn't work. At slightly higher weight--but still less than steel--Ti forks are durable and perform superbly--and a custom Black Sheep Ti fork is no more expensive than an off the shelf carbon fork. Black Sheep is in Fort Collins, Colorado. Todd or James would be the guys to speak to. email@example.com
The unique ride qualities you experienced with the Ti Seven are, in my experience, somewhat standard for Ti bikes. I can say that outside of road racing at the international level, Ti is simply the best frame material that exists for ANY other type of bicycle if cost isn't considered.
In the U.S., custom Ti frames are expensive, but may be worth the cost because the fatigue life of Ti is more or less infinite, Ti doesn't corrode, and Ti frames can legitimately be considered as lifetime bikes--even more than steel. Contrary to one of the posts here, Ti can be repaired, but the springy qualities of the material mean that it generally doesn't crack or easily damage as a result of bike crashes.
Outside of sport riding, in my view, there are no really outstanding urban type bikes being built by American builders--at least that I'm aware of. The issue seems to be that American builders have cycling experience mainly in mountain bike racing or road racing--neither of which really serves as an appropriate learning curve for transportation cycling. As an example, Moots makes their CoMooter--an $8,000 urban bike. For me, the frame specs don't make sense for that application. I had a Litespeed Blue Ridge for awhile--a Ti touring bike. It was simply a cyclocross bike, not an outstanding design for carrying things or other urban use.
Van Nicholas, a Dutch firm which has been mentioned on your blog a few times, is a different story. The Dutch are great at designing utility bikes, and a Ti 30 lb. utility bike that still works as a utility bike but has world class components is fairly compelling as the "one bike which can do anything" that so many people would like to own. After living in London, Vienna and Paris, I developed an apprecation for urban bike designs and riding, and can honestly say that I've never ridden better, more versatile bikes than the Van Nicholas Amazon and Pioneer. Same for the Black Sheep Ti forks. I have nothing to do commercially with either company, I simply appreciate their work. I also appreciate that both firms have relatively low pricing.
If I may, allow me to suggest that you may want to review a Van Nicholas Amazon Ladies, and your husband may want to consider reviewing an Amazon Pioneer.
Damnit, now I want a Seven !!!!ReplyDelete
methinks the lady doth protest too much! ;)
seriously, though, your blog gave me an appreciation for touring bikes and now road bikes. i don't think i'm ready yet, but you made that seven look gorgeous, and to know it's possible for a lovely bicyclette to expand her repertoire is very inspiring.
This did NOT ruin your blog, and matter of fact, I was hoping you'd say more about the Seven and your paceline rides!ReplyDelete
April - I stopped writing about the paceline rides due to privacy issues, and I will have the same dilemma should I ever join a local club/ team. Not sure how to get around it. This, plus the fact that I never had a camera with me when riding the Seven, resulted in this bike getting far less exposure here than is representative of how much I actually rode it, so I feel kind of bad. Hopefully this review makes up for it.ReplyDelete
Mark - Thanks for sharing your experience. Would love to try a Van Nicholas, but I suspect that would be complicated unless they have a local dealer. Also, to be honest the lady's commuter model does not speak to me - that TT is basically a step-through MTB design. The diamond frame model looks nice though.
Seven has a couple of commuter models, but they do look to me as if they were designed by racers and not transportation cyclists. All the add-ons, such as fenders and lights and racks are there, but the short wheelbase and resultant TCO don't make them ideal for commuting in my book.
Why would a LBS want a customer who needed 25-30 test rides before making a purchase? Time talking to that customer, time adjusting the bike, time cleaning the bike afterwards, small items needing to be changed out to keep the bike looking new, touchups, and 25-30 large inventory items which are, in fact, no longer new.
If I imposed this scenario on my LBS I would feel obligated to drop at least $100 on high markup impulse purchases per test ride, and that would not be enough.
Of course you were limited to in stock items. In your size. Or were you? If you did limit it to what was actually on the sales floor you could not have tested much of the spectrum.
I just bought a 50 plus year old frame on the basis of 6 small photos, a para of opaque (nicest description) prose and a few thankfully accurate measurements. And the vendor's reputation. No idea how it will ride.
I got a sub 4 pound 531 frame that's never been built, never ridden. The framebuilders who've seen it call it a showbike. I may not keep it. I do get a chance to ride something interesting.
Anon, you are making a lot of presumptions. If you had read what I wrote I said "we are blessed with a lot of great shops" and the process took a very long time. A total of probably 15+ shops were included. Just doing my due diligence.ReplyDelete
Couple this with I'm a good customer of various shops over the years and they understand dropping a ton of cash on a bike isn't something to be taken likely, it creates a reality you can understand, no?
Old bikes are cool, I have a 531 frame, but we're talking about apples and oranges here.
"I was faster on the Seven. However, my experience "proves" nothing."ReplyDelete
Well, except that the laws of physics are applicable, as pesky as they are.
The laws of physics being that a bike weighing 7lb more and equipped with 42mm tires and a dynamo generator will be a tad slower? Old wives tales!ReplyDelete
Cycling keeps changing for me but I like variety. I have transportation bikes, cruisers and road bikes. I love Shimano Tiagra combination shifters/brake levers with short reach inserts. They are easy to reach, quiet and easy to use.ReplyDelete
Different kinds of bikes are like different breeds of horses. They each do one or two things really well, a bunch of things they're OK at, and a few things where they are useless. With horses its a matter of trade-offs. But regardless of the breed a good horse is still a good horse, I always say.ReplyDelete
Suggestion: Maybe contact harris and see if they have a rivendell roadeo in your size - or maybe even an NOS rambouillet. Definitely a road-y bike and the roadeo can be dainty-light.ReplyDelete
A friend of mine got a linskey custom TI and it included a TI fork from black sheep. It's definitely a road bike but it uses V-brakes not sidepulls. You might consider them, too.
Apropos of nothing but one picture: The curls are good.
I like your blog and was interested and pleased to see you "moving on" to a light, fast road bike. Me, I don't particularly want 11 in back -- after years of riding fixed and ss, I am quite happy with five in back -- but a light, responsive, fast-climbing and accelerating bike is a very reasonable addition to one's stable. I'll be interested to hear more about your experiences with such a bike.ReplyDelete
skvidal - They did have a Roadeo in close to my size a month ago. It was built up for a customer, but I had a quick look. First impressions: The bike was heavy for a road/racing bike. I'd say 25lb at least (albeit with fenders). And it had TCO. Dealbreakers for me, though others' prefs may differ.ReplyDelete
It looks nice! The titanium finish is quite beautiful, the frame design is sleek, but I would have immediately switched the fork to a steel one. Seven do steel bikes too do they not? I have picked up some of the fancy newer steel tubing bikes and they are so ridiculously light. If you had to go steel instead of titanium, you could get a lugged steel road bike much like this. I do not like carbon fibre, the fork would scare me too. And components? I would personally be looking at some of the Campy stuff that is still more classic looking. My husband just got a 2nd hand chorus crankset that may have been 90's or even newer. It's gorgeous.ReplyDelete
What about a Mercian?
Best of luck finding your lightening fast steed!
V: I'd forgotten about the TCO requirement for you.. I wonder if a BDB pelican might be an interesting angle. I know BDB will make custom ones with the same geometry (Low trail 650b) but made out of Truetemper s3 tubing for lightness.ReplyDelete
Velouria, try a Colnago C59 with lugged carbon fibre frame... if you like italian bike this is the best made in italy....ReplyDelete
Good article by Mr. Tom Kellogg about forks:ReplyDelete
Great post, however you are missing the most important thing about a Seven. I have owed a very similar Seven for five years. The best part of the bike is that it was built specifically for me. My body and my riding style. Seven and the bike shop did a great job. It cost a lot but less than a high end carbon racer. It will last forever. Some of the best money I ever spent. My wife also has a Seven and she is equally satisfied. We have steel Seven tourers too. Sorry if this sounds like a commerial. I'm not getting paid, I promise.
Yes, this was a demo bike. But I have one of my own now.Delete
I've recently gotten myself a titanium cross bike - and my experience was very similar to yours, applied to the offroading experience. I've felt extremely comfortable on steel racing bikes, I like the shield that speed gives you - you can get out in front of a car or bus, or pull into or out of traffic at will.ReplyDelete
But with the cross bike, I have lost some speed. I was no longer fast. But I've gained in an absolutely pampered offroading experience. Bumps are not longer painful. Rocks, mud, sand no longer pose an insurmountable challenge. It's more fun now to ride in the rough with this cross bike.
When it came time to replace my AXIOM steel 200 model SEVEN you inspired me with your AXIOM SL and saddle/bar tape combination. I tried to duplicate it. If I knew how to post photos on this blog , I would. But thanks anyway for your inspiration.ReplyDelete
Nice write up. I am getting ready to purchase my first Seven Cycle at Podium Multi-Sport in Atlanta. my Serotta was destroyed in an incident with a car while I bike commuted. Nice to here you like your Axiom S.ReplyDelete