July 2008


Chas with Seven
Chas on Seven
Chas goes riding
Huffing up hill

It could be argued I need another bike like I need a hole in the head, but indeed I have been spending the summer readying a new custom built machine. This time from Seven. This actually caps a year and a half saga to build up an S&S coupled bike that perhaps I’ll go into another time, but when I finally got around to engaging Seven, things moved quickly. This weekend I got it out for its maiden voyage.

A bit of history… The whole point of doing this was to build a bike with S&S couplers. You’ll see a picture below of a coupler. As their site says, a coupler “is a precision lug that is installed in a bicycle frame […] to allow it to separate and pack for easy transportation.” In other words, they make any bike a travel bike. I had thought about maybe just retrofitting one of my older bikes. My old Trek would have been a decent candidate but it’s aluminum and there are many things that make it impractical if not impossible. Retrofits do work out though. Kem retrofitted her Merlin and it’s made it an excellent travel bike.

In the end, I decided just to go ahead and get a completely new bike. This time I went with titanium. The S&S website has a great list of framebuilders but I quickly settled on Ti from either Moots, Merlin or Seven. I chose Seven. The main reason was a local referral and a meetup with a Seven rep who just happened to be in town. But truth be told, they also just have a good website and it had the information I was after and a product line that met my desires.

The main reason for the Ti was I wanted an unpainted bike and Ti performs and looks great unpainted. A travel bike takes more abuse in handling than a normal road bike. Why worry about paint? And when you travel you can’t pick the days you ride. You’ll probably still go even if it’s raining. While I love the feel of steel, I wanted to avoid worrying about corrosion. The other reasons for frame material choice get more complicated. Suffice it to say, my choices during the process were designed to yield a bicycle that was lively to ride but comfortable.

So, how does it ride? I must say I’m very happy with the results so far. It’s indeed a lively ride, though not harsh. It’s light and responsive and feels great climbing hills. Out of the saddle and cranking hard on it, I find the stiffness pretty much ideal. There’s a solid feel to the ride and I felt confident in steep, fast descents. I did find myself feathering the brakes just a little though when descending down curvy roads that I otherwise wouldn’t. There’s nothing squirrelly about the ride. In fact, I’d say it’s very responsive and predictable. There is, however, a slight difference in the fork rake between this new bike and my Waterford, and it’s just different enough to be noticable and be something to get used to.

The couplers are rock solid. The one thing I did notice though was the cable splitters. These allow the cables to be split when the bike is disassembled. They’re kind of big and when the road gets rough, they make a noise against the frame not unlike the noise of the lines of a flag pole when the wind causes them to rattle against the pole. A light pinging sound. They have rubber bumpers built into them to limit the noise but it’s inevitable it’ll make some noise. All in all, I’m looking forward to the places I can go with this bike.

The details:

  • Frame: 3-2.5 Ti, custom geometry
  • Stem: Ti, custom
  • Fork: Seven, carbon
  • Headset: Chris King, NoThreadSet – in black (thanks Kem!)
  • Seat post: Seven, aluminum
  • Handlebars: Stella, aluminum (being a travel bike, handlebars are on and off often. You have to be too careful with the right torque to go with carbon handlebars on a travel bike in my opinion.)
  • Water cages: King, stainless steel
  • Groupo: Shimano 6603
  • Pedals: Speedplay, Ti
  • Saddle: Specialized Alias, Ti rails
  • Wheels/hubs: Bontrager Race Lites

Custom Seven stem Seven carbon fork
Seven Seven crank
S&S coupler Seven cable coupler

My fresh set of cycling gloves arrived and was there on the doorstep when I got home last night. Apparently my Monday must be pretty uneventful if that was the highlight of my day but, hey, we live for simple pleasures, right?

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t make much note of it, but I really like these gloves. They have gel inserts that are better than any I’ve run across. I routinely buy a pair every year even though my old pair may not be completely worn out just on the off chance Spenco might stop making them. Because in fact, there was a time when Spenco did just that. I had a pair years and years ago and then they quit making them. Apparently people couldn’t stop asking for them though because they started to sell them again. Now they have their own special site at http://shop.spencocycling.com/.

I’ve never gotten the Tour or Pro models, so can’t vouch for them, but the Elites, shown here are my favs and as I sit here sipping the morning cup before the morning ride, figured I might as well share.

Spenco cycling gloves

Ski Shores Austin TX
Cap'n Scot
Tieing off at Hula Hut

As a change of pace, this weekend I reconnected with Scot. Hadn’t seen him in months. Kem, Scot and I headed out on Lake Austin on Scot’s boat. His daughter is off to camp and Scot has time on his hands. He’s had his boat in a slip down at Ski Shores for ages. Ski Shores is not just a boat slip, it’s a quintessentially Austin hole in the wall that’s been around since the ’50s. It’s a perfect hangout for sipping a cool one, grabbing a burger/snacks and watching the boats motor by. Saturday though, we were the ones motoring by.

We made our way down the lake marveling at the many unbelievable homes along the lake. There are a few that might qualify as not much more than cabins, but they’re few and far between these days. Instead, it’s mostly multi-million dollar places that just make you say “wow”.

Just before Tom Miller dam at the south end of the lake is another fun Austin hangout named the Hula Hut. We tied off there and went in for some lunch. It’s sort of a Mexican restaurant, although not exactly. They say Mexican and Polynesian. We had fajitas, so it was definitely Mexican for us.

The bridge pictured below here is a landmark on Lake Austin. It’s named the Pennybacker bridge, but no one I know actually calls it that. It’s just the 360 bridge. Many years ago now, I used to have an office high up on Courtyard Dr that overlooked the bridge. Great view from up there – though we were so busy we rarely had time to enjoy the view back then.
360 Bridge

Uncle Sam on a Bike

I totally need to own one of these gadgets for my yard. As I was cycling with Jim this holiday weekend south of Burnet Texas we passed a house sporting one of these whirlygigs in the yard. With the stiff breeze we had today, old Uncle Sam’s wheels were flying! I had to stop for a photo op.

The holiday weekend has otherwise been just a relaxing mix of puttering around the house, barbequing and hanging out with friends. Kem came over for bbq on Fri and then later it was on to the Dennings/Floyds for the birds eye view of area fireworks. Their deck affords quite a view.

All in all, I can sum up my 4th of July weekend in the inimitable words of Peter Gibbons in the movie Office Space:

Peter Gibbons: Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be.

I must admit I think I chuckled out loud when I came upon this sign recently warning me of the steep downhill coming up. Someone has more signs than they know what to do with.

Little hill sign