antimony (antimony) wrote,

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beware of falling squirrels

So the last time I posted, I mentioned getting a new bike; it arrived about a month ago, and I finally had a chance to get it out for a long, fast ride yesterday. Whee! I missed riding like this. Yes, I used to do it on my Nishiki (1984 Nishiki Bel-Air mountain bike), complete with fairly knobby tires, but it's really nice to do it on a bike designed for speed. And yes, some may remember that I had another road bike, a Bianchi Brava, but it never fit right, and I gave up on it a few years ago.

(In other news, I am still not fast enough for group rides, sigh. There is a dearth of rides that a) actually, honestly, state their speeds and b) go 13-15 mph on flat ground. I like riding with people, and being the slowest person in a group sucks. Even if the leader clearly didn't mind hanging back, some of the other folks clearly did.)

High points of the ride: I can climb the hills on Trapelo Road while tired without a granny gear, which means I'm not completely out of shape. Also that not having a granny gear on the new bike was not a horrible mistake. :D I've been riding a lot more lately, though I am still out of shape compared to when I was riding 10-20 miles a day. I need to commute more (though not on the new bike). Even if it's getting dark out there.

Low points: a squirrel fell out of a tree and hit me. Seriously. Something dark and heavy came flying down, too fast to swerve or do anything but hold my line, and bounced off my left wrist. The guy behind me said "that was a squirrel". WTF, squirrel. It was probably a low point in the squirrel's day, too.

And, since there were very few reviews of this bike out there when I went looking, I'll post mine (warning: super-long):

Frame: Seven Resolute SLX custom steel frame. I'm not that hard to fit that I actually need a custom -- I found at least one stock bike where the geometry was good while looking, but I really liked the way the Seven felt. Unlike most people looking at Sevens, I could actually test ride one in (roughly) my size, since the shop I bought it from (Ride Studio Cafe), has a lot of them. I honestly can't imagine buying a bike I couldn't test-ride, at least not right now, since I don't know enough about how I fit onto a bike to imagine the feel of something just from a geometry chart. Besides, what I really liked on the test ride was how it climbed hills, which is about how stiff different pieces are as much as it about geometry and fit.

I told them I wanted one that climbed like the one I'd test-ridden, that I wanted to have plenty of room for my (comparatively) long torso for my height, and answered a whole series of questions about how I ride, and left the details up to them. It is, as it should be, exactly right in all of those. I don't feel like I'm losing power to frame flex if I stand up and power through a climb, I don't feel cramped, and it's just as comfortable after 50 miles as when I first hop on.

As for the rest of the feel -- while any steel frame isn't light by racing-bike standards, it's far lighter than anything else I've ever ridden, and the front end sometimes feels like it doesn't exist at all. I'm used to having to manhandle the front of a bike around sometimes -- this one doesn't need that. The handling is a nice balance (as requested) between stable and responsive, leaning a little towards stable -- it doesn't turn on a dime, but it doesn't get twitchy on me at all either. I haven't actually ridden it no-hands for more than a second, but I did try it for a moment and with a little practice will be able to. Which means it's rock solid if I'm fussing with water bottles or in heavy traffic, or being pelted with falling squirrels. Plenty of room between my toes and the front wheel (i.e. no toe overlap), too.

The handling even stood up quite well to a rather unexpected set of obstacles on the first longer ride I took it on -- last weekend, the Middlesex Canal ride. Which had several completely-unadvertised off-road sections, which was not what this bike was designed to do. It did fine, though -- mud, sand, slippery rocks, lots of tree roots, and even hopping one small fallen tree. I didn't expect it to be nearly that well-behaved. A pleasant surprise -- if I want to put slightly wider tires on and take this thing on fire roads, it will do just fine.

(As an aside, I can't say enough good things about the process of buying it at Ride Studio Cafe -- they (where they = Rob and Patria) spent a great deal of time getting the fit right, including letting me come in after they'd closed for the evening to match my schedule. They never made me feel bad for being out of shape and buying a nice fast bike, and treated me seriously from the get-go. Sadly, this is fairly rare at bike shops. About the only thing I was disappointed in (and I will go back and ask them for -- I'd already have it if I weren't a scatterbrain who forgot to ask when I picked the bike up) is the fact that I never got a copy of the detailed specification.)

Also, the frame was made in Watertown, MA -- buying local is something I try to do when possible, or at least made-in-the-USA. My commute home takes me about a half-mile from the factory where it was built.

Fork: Seven carbon fiber fork -- it was what the bike I test-rode had, so I went with that. I have never had a chance to test ride the same bike with different fork materials, so I really don't know what exactly the carbon fiber does to change the feel, honestly.

Groupset: Shimano 105. (A groupset is basically the drivetrain -- derailleurs, cranks, wheel hubs, etc.) This is basically Shimano's middle-of-the-range groupset, and it's plenty good enough for me. Ten speeds in the back, and a compact double up front, which means instead of two very similar-sized front gears, or two similar-sized ones plus a granny gear, there's a big divide. It makes for very different shifting, although if I ever get around to posting a review of my Brompton folding bike, it's not nearly as weird as that thing's gearing. (Astute viewers of the picture above will notice the bike is pretty cross-chained in the photo (big gear up front, second-to-largest gear in back). Oops.) Granted, none of this is specific to Seven -- pretty much everything I was looking at had compact doubles.

I would have to go count to see what size chainrings and cassette I ended up with -- but it's exactly right for me, at least at my current fitness level. If I get into significantly better shape, I might want a little higher top gear ratio, although I think the bottom will stay where it is.

Shifting: Shimano bar-end shifters. I really hated the brifters (integrated brake/shift levers) on my old bike, which I am aware was partly due to terrible fit, and partly due to them being 1999 Shimano Sora parts, which aren't nearly as nice as 2012 105 parts. But I still didn't want brifters. People say the upside of brifters is that you shift more often and thus keep a steadier cadence, but I was intentionally avoiding shifting because I hated them, so, well, there's that. I like them, and since I ride in the drops a lot, I often can just shift up with my wrist without even moving my hand.

Wheels: Hand-built by RSC wheels. Velocity A23 rims, laced to Shimano 105 hubs, 32 spokes in the front, 36 in the rear. I am not a skinny girl, and I wanted slightly overbuilt wheels even for my current weight, because durability is more important for me than the weight of a few extra spokes. Velocity makes very well-liked wheels for the price range -- and they're known for making some of the best options for us less svelte riders. Plus, they're one of the few other parts on the bike aside from the frame that's made in the USA.

Tires: currently running 23mm Continental Gatorskins at 110/120 psi (front/rear). I.e. super-skinny. They're fine tires, and not completely impossible to get off the rims, which is the most important feature of tires for me and my weak hands. Being able to fix a flat myself is a good thing.

Brakes: all I asked for was room for fenders and 28mm tires. I don't stop riding if it rains, and the ability to put fenders is, IMHO, never a bad thing in anything short of a race-day-only bike. I haven't put fenders on it yet, though.

Handlebars: Velo Orange Grand Cru Course handlebars, 44cm wide, which was the one part I specified the exact details on. I had serious, serious hand pain on my old road bike, and tried getting it professionally fit, but even after several hundred dollars of new parts, it wasn't any better. One of the issues was the shape of the handlebars, not just the width, and no one figured that out looking at me on the bike. I figured it out while surfing around -- one of the most useful things I found was a post by a Boston bike blogger who has some of the same needs in handlebar shapes, which let me figure out what to search for -- flat ramps, and a full, classic bend around to flat drops. I also ride fairly wide bars, which I'd already figured out when trying to get my old Bianchi to fit. I blame being a high-school swimmer -- when I'm working hard, I want my shoulders wide. I really like them -- only the mildest of twinges from my hands on several long rides, and I've been spending a lot of time on the hoods, which was a position I could only tolerate for brief periods on the old bike.

Saddle: Fizik Vesta. Saddle choice is very much a personal thing, since rear ends vary a lot. I like it, and it's all synthetic, which I was hoping to get. (Leather makes good saddles, but it does not make happy vegetarians.) RSC will let you swap saddles for a while if necessary, but I won't need to take advantage of that; this one is good.

Pedals: Shimano 540 mountain SPD pedals. I only wanted to have one type of clipless pedals around, and I have platform/mountain SPD flip/flop pedals on the Nishiki. Also, since that's what the Bianchi had, I'm very used to clipping in and out with them, so why change?

Other: Cane Creek cross-top/interrupter brake levers. Interrupter levers (which are extra brake levers that go on the top, flat portion of the handlebars) are kind of a debated topic on anything other than cyclocross bikes, because people feel that one should never have one's hands in that position on a road bike. I, um, disagree vehemently, at least when I'm the one riding the bike. I cannot brake hard from the hoods -- I just don't have the strength to squeeze at that angle, even with handlebars that fit. I can brake fine from the drops, but it's hard to hand-signal or look back over one's shouler from that low down, and in heavy traffic, it's really nice to be fully upright. Hence, extra brake levers. I don't ride there much of the time, but when I need them, I need them.

And, finally, a glamour shot:

I wasn't sure how I felt about the mix of silver and black components -- everything I could get in silver, I did, but a bunch only came in black. But it came out really nice-looking, and actually seeing it, I like how the mix looks. And its paint, which was custom, is now on Seven's site as a stock scheme, so I'm not the only one that thinks so. (Although, sadly, it already has a chip, which I need to touch up. I don't think it's a fault of the paint job, though. Just my own clumsiness.)

This entry was originally posted at Please comment wherever you prefer.
Tags: biking, reviews and reactions

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