The Seven Cycles Airheart

The Seven Cycles Airheart

Every now and then you get one of those phone calls that seems beyond unlikely. Robot works at Seven Cycles, which gives us a fair excuse to get on the phone, though we don’t take advantage of that nearly enough, and just talk about one of our favorite things ever. We’d been talking about bikes and travel and I’d made the observation that Seven ought to have a dedicated travel model to really promote just how good they are with S&S couplers and how traveling with some variety of coupled bike is the only smart way to go, in my opinion. Then one day he called and suggested that Seven and RKP work together to create the ultimate travel bike.

“Yes” didn’t seem quite strong enough a word.

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I previously mentioned I’ve been traveling with an S&S coupled bike since 2010. The sheer ease of traveling with the bike in that case has eliminated any question of whether or not I’ll be taking a bike when I do go somewhere by plane. Eliminated. As I mentioned here, the biggest factor is cost, but ease is another significant factor. While I love my retrofitted bike, I would change a few details were I designing the bike from the ground up.

I flew to Boston in July to meet with Rob Vandermark, Seven’s CEO, as well as Neil Doshi, Seven’s head bike designer. This also had the added benefit of giving me a chance to hang out with Robot a bit, which doesn’t happen as often as either of us might like. I went for a ride with Neil and Karl Borne (who was Seven’s marketing manager until just recently) and that gave me a chance to try Rob’s Evergreen, on which they were thinking the as-yet-unnamed Airheart might be based. It was this ride that led to the decision to make the Airheart a disc-optional bike (more on that to come).

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25 comments

  1. cash

    Very cool bike. It sounds like something special. Could you post pictures of the bike in its case and the disassembly/assembly process?

  2. peter lin

    A few of my cycling friends around Central MA have Seven bikes and they love them. Way beyond my wallet, but definitely heard good things about their bikes from friends.

  3. Sophrosune

    I know your passion is “mind” issues of cycling, Padraig, as well it should be. But your writing on the “machine” aspects are a reference point for me. Brilliant as always.

  4. Pat O'Brien

    I wish I would have bought a Seven before I retired! I would really be interested in your opinion of the TRP Sprye brakes in the next few months.

  5. Jayson Alflex

    Sick ride and the couplers are a nice touch. I wonder where the design came from. Could not possibly have been from Moots 2003 catalog. Seven is quite unique in that cheap knock-offs typically originate in Asia. When you can get an RSL I don’t see any reason for this frame to exist let alome someone taking pictures of it and posting it on the interwebs. Very strange.

  6. Hackintheback

    I had the good fortune of working with Neil and Seven about 4 years ago on a custom steel frame, and my experience was much like yours – what they delivered far exceeded whatever lofty expectations I held for the bike in the first place. In the years since I’ve added a few other bikes to the stable (carbon racer, 29er, CX, etc.), but for all of their technological wonder none has come close to replicating the ride experience my Seven offers. Yes, each of them serves their purpose and does it well, but any time I need the kind of restorative ride where the bike just disappears beneath me and I don’t think about it for hours on end because it’s just that perfect, I reach for the Seven. It’s the one bike I’ll never consider selling.

  7. Mike

    Add me to the list of people who would love to see pictures of the bike broken down for travel…I’ve resigned myself to missing a few weeks of riding every year when we fly for my daughter’s competitions as I don’t want to deal with the risk, hassle, and cost of flying with my rather expensive road bike. I’ve been debating getting an S&S bike for awhile, these last few articles have peaked my interest again…

  8. Jeremy

    That bike just looks fun. Limitless. I picture riding this and taking whatever route you happen upon that ride without needing to make a mental note to return to an area with the appropriate bike another day.

  9. Mike T

    That looks like a great bike and very nice, reliable build. I’m thinking about doing almost exactly the same but debating about the couplers. Since it is a titanium bike, it will last me a long time and trying to figure out how much traveling I will do with it. Can you tell me how much your bike weighs? Also, what do you think about the Grail rims?

  10. brian

    looks like a super fun bike. those tires are legit. ive run them down to 30-35 psi tubeless. and im really digging the spyres on my bike.

    “The first was of neurons flaring with the incandescence of elation, that gaped maw of surprise, surprise that anything could feel so perfect within such a tiny frame of experience. ”

    having waited 2 years for my bike, and filling up those two years with expectations, ideals, fantasies, and hopes of not only what the bike would be but also where and what it would take me, i was prepared to be a little underwhelmed. its only a bike after all. having the same experience as written above in the first mile was totally worth the wait. and its like that every time i throw a leg over it. miles of smiles.

  11. Hoshie99

    Great set-up. Padraig; ride it in good health. And, the article is an interesting and thoughtful review into product and geometry choices.

    Given this bike’s mission, I might also recommend the Challenge Gravel Grinders (38s) as a tire for your rotation. It is a very nice large file tread design with enough side knobs to be a good pavement to dirt combo tire and hooks up well enough for the dirt roads w/ powdery or sandy sections that we see in the Santa Monicas or San Gabriels quite well..

    I have found that I gravitate towards wider profile tires for mixed use bikes. My experience has been that they perform better than middle range tires like 30s or 32s and give you more overall traction, yet still roll nicely on pavement.

    j

  12. TJ

    What is the difference between the Airheat and a coupled Evergreen? I’ve been eyeing the Evergreen for my wife’s birthday next year. Pretty sure it was the one. Now maybe this assuming fender and rack eyelets can be put on it.


  13. Author
    Padraig

    Everyone: Thanks for your comments. This is going to shape up to be a very fun conversation. Maybe we can get Rob V. to chime in. *fingers crossed*

    Cash: Drop by our Twitter feed and you can see a shot I took yesterday.

    Peter Lin: There’s always eBay.

    Sophrosune: Thanks for the recognition and the compliment. You’re a sharp-eyed reader and I always appreciate what you bring to the conversation. Now, regarding Dave Moulton, I’m sorry, but I think he must have been huffing paint thinner or bat guano. Even before I really understood BB drop, I noticed that I’d descend better, with greater confidence on some bikes, while other bikes scared me, like I was roller blading on an oil slick. I eventually took note that all of the bikes that I really liked had a lower BB. Once I sought out a few bikes with especially low BBs I found that the difference in geometry caused a perceptual shift. I need to do a whole post on this. Been thinking that for a few days, and your question sealed it. Stay tuned.

    Pat O’Brien: I’m loving the TRP Spyres. I’ll review them soon enough.

    Alan Cline: It’s not like I ever had an excuse, but I’ll thank you now for that pre-reg. Maybe we can tie in a little reading.

    Jayson Alflex: We welcome different opinions and critical questions, but thinly veiled snark doesn’t really merit a serious response. Treat this forum with respect and we will respond.

    Hackintheback: I hear ya.

    Mike: Maybe I’ll pull together a post on the packing for curious types like you. Hmm.

    Jeremy: You nailed it. So many times I’ve encountered something that I just couldn’t ride with 25s and I had to turn back. There are spots here in Memphis (where I’m currently visiting) where 25s just slide around on the perpetually damp ground, as well as a few spots in Hawaii near my Dad’s place where I can’t go because the 25s will sink in the sand. Once Rob, Neil, Robot and I started talking, I started to see that I could have a travel bike that would allow me to go many more places. Limitless.

    Mike T: The bike, fully built with cages, pedals, GPS, seat bag, etc. comes in at 20 lbs. Couplers add roughly 9 oz. to a ti bike, I’m told. The Grails are heavy but stiff and one reality of packing a bike in a case is that the wheels get compressed some; you want a stout rim so the wheels are still true when you pull them out. I once tried traveling with a reasonably lightweight set of wheels and found that if I was going to do that I need ed to travel with a spoke wrench. Life’s too damn short.

    Brian: Wow. I may have to give that a try. One things I didn’t talk about in this review is that I’m running the Clements with tubes. I don’t want to open the case to find sealant spooge dripping from the wheels. It’s nice to hear my experience echoed.

    Hoshie99: I’m very interested in that tire. It’s funny, the top-of-the-line 23 and 25mm tires out there are all so good, it’s kinda hard to review them and not repeat yourself, but the world of dirt-road tires is such an open adventure, I’m excited to try a bunch of new rubber. My experience, so far, runs like yours; the wide tires roll well and have great traction. The only place they seem to suffer is in climbing.

    1. brian

      Tubes are probably the way to go for having to pack it. But if you aren’t flying with it for a while those big 38-45mm tires run low are the shit going down mountains. I’m 155-160lbs. I never put mine over 40psi. I probably ran 35/40 at D2R2. I run my sectuer 28s at 55/60. Challenge gravel kings, bontrager CX0,…gnarlier stuff you have the WTB nano 40…lots of great tires out there now.

  14. hiddenwheel

    Love this build and concept and something I’ve been thinking about for a couple years. Great work to all in threading the needle: big tires, discs, and fits the 10″ case. I just modified a Hampsten (Eriksen) Ti bike w/ couplers and took my first trip…with a Ritchey case instead of the S&S 10″ case…because that was the only way to pack it with inflated tires. As a road tubeless convert, deflating tires to pack isn’t practical (sealant leaks out, hard to seat bead w/ a hand pump). I only narrowly avoided oversize charges though, so maybe a set of travel wheels w/ tubes are in my future. A pity, as tubeless is really great. Anyone have tips for packing tubeless in the 10″ case? Regardless, Monterey-Big Sur-Monterey by bike wasn’t too shabby.

  15. Kimball

    Looks and sounds like a very sweet ride = serious bike lust!

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that for most of us to justify a purchase like this it would first and foremost need to be a great bike to ride, one that was often our preferred choice for home based riding; and secondly, one that just happens to break-down and go in a travel case. I’d say you hit the mark squarely!

    Hate to nick-pick, but OK, here goes…If it was mine, I’d have asked them to hold off on the large ‘SEVEN’ decal on the seat tube; on the down tube is sufficient. Particularly given the understated head badge.

    I expect there is a rule against this but, at the suggestion of a mechanic, on my all-road disc bike I flipped the wheel skewers so the quick-release levers are on the drive side. Might save me burning my knuckles on a hot disc next time I need to quickly fix a flat.


  16. Author
    Padraig

    Hiddenwheel: There’s no getting inflated tubeless in the 10″ hard case, not even with 23s. I wish there was. If you want to run tubeless and travel, they you are doing it the only way I think it’s possible.

    I really dig the S&S soft case and appreciate how much more it holds. If only it weren’t oversize. Most everyone I know who has one has never been charged for it, but I do know a few people who were hit with the charge unexpectedly. I’m traveling on such a tight budget with these readings that to be hit with even one $200 charge would really cut into any profit I make from the readings. I just can’t afford a zero-sum marketing expense. And honestly, a sudden $200 expense just isn’t viable for my life.

    Kimball: I completely agree. A bike like this is no small expense; to justify it, unless you’re exceptionally well off, you really need to be making use of it on a regular basis. I ride this bike as much as I ride the Bishop. Hell, I go looking for opportunities to ride this bike. Regarding the decals, Seven wanted this bike to attract attention and announce its maker; if you ordered one, you can opt out of that decal. I’ve experimented a bit with the quick release levers and have opted to flip the front one, but am keeping the rear one as-is.

  17. Dan Murphy

    Hey, that’s my size! Let me know when you’re tired of this bike, though it doesn’t sound like anytime soon.

    Cool bike, for sure. Definitely something I’d like to consider. My riding these days has definitely gravitated to a more all-around bike that has dirt possibilities. This fits the bill nicely.

    I put those Clement MSO’s on my cross bike (IF Planet-X) last year and haven’t looked back. Pretty much all the dirt I ride is non-dirt road stuff. That is, it’s on the rougher side and these tires are great on it. Makes for a much more enjoyable ride.

    Enjoy!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The frameset with case and pads is $4695, while the whole bike as built would go for $8500. That’s expensive, sure, but I wanted to make choices that emphasized value and longevity rather than bling.

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