Seven Cycles Development Squad

Last week, I was thrilled to receive notice that I was chosen for the 2010 Seven Cycles Development Squad. Seven launched this group in 2009, but I didn’t apply until this year. I had forgotten about the February submittal, so it was wonderful to get the good news during a crazy week. With the month end/quarter end and all of the rain on Monday and Tuesday, it didn’t seem like there would be much joy heading into last weekend.

The skies cleared, I got the notification, we met our budgeted goals, and the holiday weekend arrived with much promise. Seven’s grassroots racing team is made up of 20 members from all over the United States. They race in all of the major cycling disciplines, including road cycling, cyclocross, mountain biking, and multisport (triathlon/duathlon). I do all of those sports, so I had some decisions to make about which new bicycle frame to go with as part of the program. My major 2010 events are in the triathlon discipline and it made sense to go with a triathlon/time trial machine.

I built up a Cannondale Slice last year, but it is a stock bike. So, I considered a cyclocross frame, a singlespeed mountain bike, abut ultimately, I chose the Kameha SLX. It is going to take some work to get it made, assembled, and tested prior to the big May race. In anyone can meet the deadline, Seven can. I’m excited to join this group of accomplished riders. True to the grassroots style, this group wasn’t selected only because we were a speedy bunch, but because we have been identified as good ambassador for Seven.

Seven Cycles was founded in 1997. The company is based in Watertown, Massachusetts. I have been a fan since the beginning. I spent five years in Boston in the early 1990’s when the custom bike world grew up. The big Boston names in those days were Merlin Metalworks and Fat Chance. Seven’s founder and president, Rob Vandermark, learned the bike trade at Merlin. The Boston bicycle community is one of the best. I’m not slamming Hartford or Connecticut, but the urban environment and culture of the big city makes a huge difference in the world of bikes.

Seven has been different since their founding. Their about page gives a good overview. From my perspective, they are one of the only bicycle product manufacturing companies that I know that takes their manufacturing processes seriously. I’m sure there are other great companies in the industry, but they do a fantastic job at marketing their approach to lean enterprise. I’ve toured their factory in the past, and it is evident that they approach their trade in a very workmanlike manner with teamwork at the core of what they do. They take great pride in their production system, and their consistently short lead times are a great metric. This approach makes them very successful. The designs of the products are fabulous. They have developed many proprietary methods and show true range in the types of materials that they work with. I have not been to the factory since the launch of their A6 Carbon Technology platform in 2006, so I am looking forward to a return visit, and of course to the Kameha, which uses their carbon technology.

In addition to carbon fiber, the company produces bicycle frames in titanium and steel. They produce accessories (e.g. forks, stems, etc.) from carbon fiber, titanium, steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. Most of the manufacturing is done in-house, which is a real differentiator in this day and age of outsourcing. They take pride in USA and New England built products. I live and breathe manufacturing at Horst Engineering, so it is great to see an accomplished local company in the bicycle products space when so much of that industry has migrated to Taiwan, China, and other parts of Asia.

I wrote a story about Seven and the reemergence of the US bicycle industry, for the November/December 2005 issue of Today’s Machining World magazine. The cover story was about Seven and their best practices. In June of 2008, I wrote aΒ another cover story for TMW, about SRAM, an industry leader in bicycle components (they don’t build frames). SRAM is a contrast from Seven and their USA based manufacturing. SRAM, though based in Chicago, almost exclusively produces their parts offshore.

Seven is obviously committed to reinvesting in their business. The main evidence of this is their consistent research and development efforts. They are excellent at a concept known as customization. They crank out hundreds of unique bicycle frames every year and rely on their dealer network to help provide customers with a proper bike fit, distribute, and retail the product. Sticking with bicycle shops is good for their community involvement and allows them to expand their reach. Selling direct, through catalog, or internet would not permit this.

I will be working with a new Seven dealer, the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, Massachusetts.

As said, I’m excited for the new bike and to be part of the Seven Development Squad.

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