When I went to work at Seven Cycles, 39 years-old and soul sick from corporate work, there began a high-level education in a subject I cared passionately about, and I devoted most of a decade to learning about bike design, bike building, and two-wheeled adventure. I absorbed so much and still left so much to learn, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was at a point in my work life where I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t sit through another project launch. I couldn’t review another impossible budget and/or schedule. I couldn’t sit in a conference room and pretend I cared about what we were doing. It wasn’t them. It was me. I was done.
I never went to grad school. There was a flickering moment, after I saw a flyer in the philosophy department, for a Masters in the Philosophy of Death being offered by the University of Wales in Lampeter. My father was Welsh, and my pre-adult brain thought he’d buy into the idea of me studying there, but when I pitched him on it, he laughed and said, “I’m not paying for you to study death.” That was the entire process of me considering grad school.
In the days before I started at Seven, I wondered if I was cool enough to work in the bike industry. I’m not sure what I was thinking really. When I got to Seven, what I found was a big group of people just like me. I went from being the weird guy who rides a bike to work, to just another person who carries the bike in his arteries and sinew.
Everyone was very generous with me. They took me seriously and were patient while I first came to understand just how much I didn’t know and then as I slowly took on board the critical, basic information. What I offered them mostly was words. I wrote north of 300,000 words in my time there, and I spoke even more, getting to know bike shop owners, fitters, mechanics, international distributors and industry partners. I made relationships everywhere I could, and I sold a lot of bikes.
A bike is probably the easiest thing to sell. In fact, the bike will sell itself most of the time, if you can stay out of the way.
Seven is known as one of the top custom bike builders in the world. They were respected and loved before I got there, and I don’t think I did too much to hurt their reputation.
For any rider of any experience, having a bike built just for you is an experience and a gift mostly beyond your imagining until you do it, and then it becomes hard to ride anything else. I spent nearly all my time at Seven trying to articulate that basic idea, and I thrived on the steady feedback from customers that we had, in fact, fulfilled their dreams.
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of high-end bikes, let me just answer a few of the questions that are popping up in your head. First yes, custom bikes are expensive, but the very best things are. Second, custom bikes are not about perfect size or fit. They’re about that and much, much more. Third, no you don’t need one. Even the cheapest bikes roll in mostly straight lines. Need is a straw man argument, i.e. a false detour in your consideration about what bike to buy. If you’re in the bike shop, it’s because you WANT something, not because you need it. Finally, no, they’re not mainly for pros. They’re for people who love to ride. All qualify.
A combination of family exigency and the corona virus pandemic forced me to leave to Seven, and once I had attended to the personal life emergencies, the time and space of not telling Seven’s story all the time afforded me the opportunity to start this site and to do other work in the bike industry.
It’s not how I would have chosen to leave a place like Seven, but I still have the friends and the bikes, and my association with them will last. I’m deeply grateful, really, for the education I was given, and for the first opportunity to do work that built me up, rather than tore me down.