Changing saddles can be a daunting undertaking for any cyclist. Riders frequently use the same…
Custom Seven Evergreen SLX
In 2018, I became a Seven Cycles dealer. Working with the team in Watertown, MA, together we designed the geometry for a custom titanium frame which was purpose built for the type of riding I do out of Boulder, CO. After some input and refinements, the end result was this amazing sled which is made for exploring the jeep roads and single track of the Rockies.
I wanted a bike capable of long alpine adventures that could push the envelope of a cross bike in terms of terrain. This meant larger tire clearance, and handling that could deal with steeper, rougher descents. The bike was made to clear 38mm tires, which is the sweet spot for the riding I will do. These tires are wide enough for roots and rocks, and nimble enough for road climbs which connect trail heads.
For me, having a custom bike makes a lot of sense. I am a lifetime bike dork, and I tend to hang on to my bikes for a long time. While I have somewhat normal body proportions, I am quite flexible and I also sit with a very long, extended spine on the bike. This means that it is nearly impossible for me to find a production bike that fits me without using a ridiculous stem. Almost all modern road/allroad/cross bikes are too short and tall for me. This forces me to size down and use a much longer stem, or size up and use a stem with a super aggressive negative angle.
Having a custom frame is not only about body proportions, although that is a starting point for the discussion. It is also about having the bike purpose built for your needs and riding style. Seven has decades of experience and an entire team translating customers’ feedback, sensations, and requests into physical reality. This means that everything can be carefully chosen, including the placement of cable guides, tubing diameter, butting, gauge, paint finishes, handing characteristics, geometry, tire clearance, and just about anything else you can think of. Every detail of the bike is 100% dialed to be made for you, and once you own a custom bike, you look upon production bikes with a different eye. There are plenty of really sick production bikes on the market today, but for each one you see at a group ride, there are 1000 more across the country.
After years of riding on frames given to me by teams, many of which I thought were great bikes, I still treat this bike differently. I wash it after almost every ride, and I frequently lock it in my own garage.
The frame has a long reach (395) for the stack (547) that allows me to have enough saddle to handlebar drop. This keeps handling sharp on fast gravel roads. A lower drop position allows me to lean hard on the inside bar and drive the bike through the corners, and the longer wheelbase lets the bike track well on descents. Conceptually, riders sometimes equate a long wheelbase or a long chain stay with a slow handing rig (like a semi truck) but any change in direction at speed on a bike is done by leaning, not by turning the bars. The wider the contact points are, the more stable the bike will be at speed. Of course, on single track with switch-backs, it is possible to get hung on the apex but if your chainstays are only 10mm longer than a comparable bike and you didn’t make it, it wasn’t the chainstays.
Two notable features on this bike are the camo paint , and the XX frame upgrade:
The XX treatment includes Seven’s own Ti seat post and internal seat binder. The concept of this treatment is to apply cutting edge engineering to Ti frames to reduce weight, with no compromise in durability or frame stiffness. Seven frames have a lifetime warranty, so they take this very seriously and worked out how to shave weight in very clever and creative ways. It is next level shit.
The paint is part of Seven’s new custom MCT paint program:
The only input I supplied was “How about green, grey and black camo?” and they came up with this stunning aesthetic.
Wheels are Enve G23 which have thus far been abused thoroughly and flawless in performance. Tires are Panaracer Gravel King SK 38mm. These are some of the most under rated tires on the market in my opinion; excellent performance on the trails and roads we have here, half the price of most competitors, super durable and puncture resistant. Set up is very easy.
I recently changed the components to GRX on this bike, because the lever ergonomics are a big improvement over Dura-Ace in my opinion. The lever shape is such that it comes closer to the bars, making braking in the drop with a neutral wrist much easier. There is still a long way to go in the world of lever ergonomics but this is a step forward.
For this build, I chose mechanical shifting. I need less batteries in my life, not more. I don’t need any more chargers, I don’t need any more EMF exposure, I don’t need more plastic parts, I don’t need to ride home in my 11 because my battery ran out. Lots of riders like to tell me about how long their Di2 battery lasts but to be honest, I really don’t care. They also tell me about the one time it ran out because they forgot to charge it. I am just not interested in the entire world of electronic shifting. To me, it is the (really expensive) answer to the question I didn’t ask. 9100 mechanical shifting works really, really well without batteries or buttons.
For about two weeks, when I first built this bike [with Dura-Ace mechanical] I was struggling with the “knob” created by the volume of the hydraulic reservoir. It felt as though my reach was restricted on the bars, as sometimes I like to hang my hand over the ends of the hoods. This problem can be solved by canting the levers inwards subtly; the slight angle allows the hand to internally rotate and the “knob” is no longer in the way.
The handlebars are The Wave AR bars found at Coefficient Cycling. These bars are by far the most ergonomic bars I have ever used. When COO Rick Sutton asked me if I wanted to try a pair, it was like someone read my mind and these were manifested into the universe. To understand the concept of the unique shape of the tops, try this: stand upright in perfect posture. This means you could drop a plumb line from your ear, and it would pass through the center of the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle. [Most people can’t do this and don’t stand like this, especially those who ride bikes a lot.] Next, bend your elbow to 90 degrees without changing the position of your hand. Notice two things: your knuckles are upswept [first knuckle is higher than the pinkie finger knuckle] and your grip is backswept [pinkie knuckle is closer to your hip than your first knuckle]. This position perfectly matches the shape of the AR bars on the tops.
When you change the position of the wrist to match the top of a conventional bar, your shoulders collapse in towards your midline [this is a form of pronation] and make the shoulder less stable as a joint. Rick has studied this and found increased efficiency while riding hard on the tops with Wave bars, in comparison to standard road bars. Once you try these, it is really hard to go back to a standard bar. You can find the full specifications on their website.
I also helped Rick and his team design the RR bar, which is more geared towards an aero road frame. I have these on my road bike and my Cervelo Aspero at the moment, and they are amazing. Check out Coefficient Cycling for more info.
I have been making custom hand “orthotics” for my bikes for many years using a moldable hobby plastic, and I have the process pretty dialed now. In my experience it not only increases comfort on the bars, as well as security on bumpy terrain, it also increases handling ability as there is much more surface area of the hand in contact with the bar, which translates to better road (or off road) proprioception. This allows the rider to lean the bike more aggressively (specifically on the inside drop bar) and have a finer feel for how the tread is responding to the terrain. You can see these on the drop portion of my Wave bar. Also notice the notch for the thumb.
The saddle is a well used SMP Forma with a bit of custom scuff guard work I did to give it a layer of defense against the inevitable sideways tip. Also, the wall outside my kitchen door is brick and if the bike slides even 2cm down the grade when I go inside to fill a bottle, the saddle gets scuffed right on the edge. A well worn saddle is loved.
This bike is equipped with Speedplay SYZR pedals. The platform and stability of the system is superior to any other off road pedal on the market. The pedals have received some mixed reviews and they do have a few quirks, but when the release tension is high enough and I keep them clean and lubed (I hit the cleats with T9 spray lube when I am leaving for a ride) I find them to work flawlessly in all conditions. I have raced them at FatBike Worlds in Crested Butte, Colorado State Cyclocross Championships, dry dirt, mud, and everything in-between without issue. I use the short axle option (50mm) which is 5mm shorter than stock.
At the moment I have a Cannondale Hollowgram SRM power meter to give me data, although most rides done on this bike are not occupied by looking at the screen, the point is to explore and enjoy nature. I have run this meter since 2015 and it has worked perfectly. I send it in for service and battery about every 18 months.
I made a custom K-Edge SRM magnet with some glue and a gorilla tape layer as back up.
The geometry on this bike was designed to be more conservative than some UCI style CX bikes, and I can feel the stability over small rock gardens, loose dirt or gravel, drops and roots. The head tube angle is 71.5 degrees, and Seven Matador fork offset is 55mm, resulting in a trail of 60mm with 38mm tires. This is right in the sweet spot, which means this bike corners just like my custom Appleman road bike on paved descents, but the bars are stable and secure when things get steep and I am inadvertently on terrain that probably justifies suspension, which sometimes happens when you explore. I feel the difference when setting up for the corner, the bike takes a bit more to lean over, but the arc it follows is natural and predictable during a hard lean. The long stays (436mm) and low BB (68mm) help keep the tread glued to the road.
Thank you Seven Cycles for making this amazing sled for me!
Thank you House of Spin for building it all up and getting me out the door!
Thank you Panache Cyclewear for the sick threads to wear while I am fighting bears and sprinting away from mountain lions on this rocket!
If you are interested in making an appointment to discuss having your own custom Seven Cycles bike made, please schedule an appointment here.