Bike Setup: S&S couplings, SID, XTR brakes, derailleurs and cassette, Crossmax wheels, Avid Ultimate levers, Syncros seatpost and cranks, Suntour XC Pro thumbshifters (!), CT2 bar, Ti Frogs.
G. I. Joe
a Cross Country Rider
from Lyon, France
Date Reviewed: February 16, 2000
Strengths: Unbelievable efficiency mixed with trail noise dampening. Very durable. Hose it off finish.
Weaknesses: $ is the only drawback- costs as much as a good old Saab down the street (hmmm...which is more fun? stabbing the turbo or stroking the earth?)
I just rode it the first time in a few weeks (too busy with work) and realize that even with my flabby legs, this frame makes me feel like superman. My frame has very tight handling and with my 23inch bar, it can handle anything. I have a very stiff RaceFace front end which enhances the nice, stiff front triangle. It was pouring rain, but the bike never felt unstable- just felt bulletproof. I swear, the bike frame is so comfortable and tracks so well (sweet ride) that I couldn't stop riding. This is truly the end-all frame- I just saw a Cannondale Lefty and it was cool, but I know it all comes and goes, because my Sun/Sola is gonna outlast everything out there.
Bike Setup: I forget, mostly hardworking (emphasize-WORKING) Shimano- the stuff works, stop b*tching the S
a Cross-Country Rider
from Mountain View, CA
Date Reviewed: October 11, 1999
Strengths: Custom Fit Light Weight Springiness on climbs Precision handling on descents Non-corrosive Ti finish Long term overall durability
If you've saved up your dollars and really know what you want, find a dealer who can fit you for a Seven Sola. I was happy with my M2 Pro, but I've been lusting for a Ti frame for almost ten years. The Merlin XLM intrigued me, but if I was going to spend the money for a Ti frame I wanted to make sure that it would fit. Seven the company and Seven Sola the bike fit the bill. In addition to a dream frame, the bike was built with components that I felt combined the best of durability and weight. I commute regularly with the Sola and ride it through the NorCal fireroads and singletrack. The lightness of the bike is great for torquing through rough rocks and roots on an uphill. On downhills, the bike is so very smooth and precise. Maybe I'll buy a full-suspension bike in the future, but right now, the compliance of the frame is perfect. I attended the Seven Cycles Open House from Oct 9-10 and I found the people there to be bike racers, bike geeks and most importantly, bike artisans. I'm glad to be back in Northern California, but I'll truly miss riding and hanging out with the Seven crew. But everytime I ride my Sola, I'll be reminded of the great time and camaraderie I experienced at Watertown, the Blue Hills and the Fells
Favorite Trail: Alpine to Russian Ridge down Crazy Pete's back down to Alpine
Duration Product Used: 6 months
Similar Products Used: 1986 Supergo Sintesi 1989 Diamondback Apex 1991 Bianchi Grizzly 1995 Stumpjumper M2 Pro
Bike Setup: 14.5 frame RaceFace SYStem, 15/110mm flipped Seven Ti handlebar 20.5 width Ritchey TrueGrip 5 Titec Carbon 100s Bontrager Race Lite seat Thomson seatpost Manitou Carbon fork XTR gruppo with Flight Deck Chris King hubs and headset. Mavic 517 Rims Bontrager 26 X 49mm/48mm front. 26 X 47mm/46mm rear.
from Issaquah, Washington
Date Reviewed: September 27, 1999
Strengths: I, too, have gotten a dent - on my chainstay- from snaking awesome singletrack slickrock (Porcupine) in Moab- that redrock does try to bite you. super frame- no complaints Comfort and performance The frame hasn't gotten softer over time like other frames I had- 'still a tight all day riderer or a race day superbike in a snap- A Porsche and a cruiser. This frame has a greeeeeaaaat range! - Primo!
Weaknesses: people don't understand why you like to ride so much- think that you are on drugs or something
A frame that misses no marks in every way a frame is measured. This frame never gets old and survives frame fads like the old news fads are.
Similar Products Used: Nothing else can survive a MINDF*** as well as a Seven- you know it-'gives you confiddence
Bike Setup: no stupidlight parts- watch what clydes break- no offense, but that is the litmustest
a Cross-Country Rider
from Casrto Valley, CA
Date Reviewed: September 20, 1999
Strengths: This thing fits like a glove. Grerat dynamics and ride quality.
Weaknesses: You pay for quality.
I was looking for the perfect (for me) trail bike: one that would fit (I'm a little on the tall side), be durable (I'm hard on stuff) and last me a lifetime. After several failed attempts to buy off-the-shelf, I decided to get a frame custom built. I looked at a number of builders adn the level of customer service wasn't there... until Seven. I had a great time in the design process and made sure that everything was settled to my satisfaction before I gave the go-ahead to build the frame. What did I get for me money? Exactly what I wanted.. and it has made a better rider of me. I didn't go for the stupid-light components for the all out racer, but they never would have held up to the kind of abuse I can put a bike through. Finally, I did crash the bike HARD while riding in Jim Thorpe, PA and dented the toptube... now the bike has a little character.
Similar Products Used: Voodoo Bizango, Fisher HKEK, Fisher Zigurat
Bike Setup: Z-2BAM; RaceFace Cranks,outer ring (inner is a 30 tooth Vuelta), BB, and low riser bar; Seven stem; ESP 9.0sl shifters adn rear Der; King HS and Hubs, Magura Louise up front, HS-33 in the rear.
Date Reviewed: August 22, 1999
Strengths: you decide what it is
Weaknesses: you must be critical-know what you are doing
I've been waiting for someone to make a comparison of a seven to a merlin mountain for awhile and I have my own two bits to add. This is relevant because you have to realize that both frames are designed by Rob Vandermark and both have flawless construction and use supreme materials. The merlin mountain (1995) as I have ridden for thousands of kms is a unique, non butted frameset, that is very durable and very comfortable. It is even more comfortable than a 3 compliance seven, mostly because both triangles have great vertical compliance- the mountain bends equally front and rear, creating a very long plane that absorbs shock quite well. I have taken a mountain to the rockiest terrain and must say that it is more comfortable than my seven, letting me bomb rockbeds quite fearlessly. There is some lateral twisting, bending in the middle of the frame, right in the middle of the toptube/downtube, causing both a lack of directional stability(climbing and descending) and some inefficiency in pedalling. A smooth, spinning stroke is best on a mountain. Also, I have noticed, from riding, that there is a certain cadence/pedal force that the frame seems to work best-which counteracts the lateral bending. I will ride and then settle on that cadence, no matter what speed it is- usually at a slower, spinning speed. Too much pedal force will cause inefficiency. The mountain is comfortable, though, in an all day riding sense. I wouldn't race it, though, the whole frame compliance does take the pedal jolt out of hard climbing efforts up rough terrain, but possibly giving me more traction as the frame bends to the terrain. I consider the mountain a great solution (albeit Rob's earlier solution) for the all day adventurer/tourer rider that needs a comfortable and dependable frameset. Onto the seven: the sola is butted and uses oversized tubing, making it both stiffer, more tuned, and lighter. It, even in stock form, is a more performance oriented frameset. My compliance at 3 is quite good for med-mid high speed riding, but the main improvements are the stiffer front triangle and much tighter pedal stroke via the larger diameter stays. Those qualities add a tremendous amount of performance to the sola over the mountain. I truly believe that these three qualities were never before present on a titanium frame or any rigid frame if you also add in the durability factor. Even the XLM is missing at least one of these qualities. The merlin frames are complete solutions, that work very well for their intended use- with a seven, you decide the recipe or you can go with a stock seven, a very good starting solution that is already head and shoulders above the rest. These are serious frames that deserve the same serious involvement from you before, during, and after the purchase. What seven offers will satisfy your frame needs because nothing else I have ever seen or ridden comes as close to perfection.
Bike Setup: xtr, manitou sx carbon, ibis ti stem, mavic
a Cross-Country Rider
from Toronto, Canada
Date Reviewed: July 28, 1999
Strengths: custom frame ride characteristics and Seven's customer service
Weaknesses: not all information submitted with custom kit was used to build frame, i.e. Seven built my frame around a SID fork rather than a White Brothers SC 70 fork as I had requested.
Prior to building my frame, I spoke to Rob V at Seven in regards to my frames sizing and ride characterisitcs. It was during these conversations that I realized my frame dimensions were conceived around a Rock Shox SID fork and not a White Brothers SC70 fork, as I had indicated in my Custom Kit.Nonetheless, in the past year the frame has performed as I had wanted it to. Specifically, the rear end of the bike is stiff, tracks well and doesn't incorporate the flexy characteristics other titanium frames have; namely the Merlin mountain.Apart from the possible fork dimension error which affects overall goemetry, the frame has delivered on all the other specified ride characteristics I requested. Overall, I've become a better rider with this frame.
a Cross-Country Rider
Date Reviewed: July 19, 1999
Strengths: Agile, fast, light, forgiving and at the same time stiff.
Weaknesses: None, except that the standover height is not as much as other models/brands that have a radically sloping toptube.
Have had the bike for much longer and just came back from a long trip to UK and trashed the trails there. The Seven was at home there as well as in Malaysia. Still feel that it is the best hardtail in the world. The front triangle is as precise as a surgeon's knife. The BB area is stiff giving rise to snappy acceleration. Steering is fast yet not twitchy especially eversince I dumped the Syncros for a Raceface stem. Curious and odd that the only poor review comes from a person that has not ridden the bike and chosen to belittle all the other hardcore and experienced riders that have made Seven their custom choice. You need to ride one to know one. Nuff said. Five flamin stars from all of us.
a Cross-Country Rider
Date Reviewed: July 15, 1999
Strengths: beautiful, perfect fit, agile, light and fast, responsive, feels great
Weaknesses: addictive....made me go out and order an Axiom frame (seven's ti road bike)i can't let it out of my sight
I adore this bike. It is worth every cent to me, even though purchasing it meant not having any furniture in my bedroom, or not getting groceries for awhile. when i test rode the Sola, it outperformed all the other high end bikes i tried, and i had to have it. i decided to wait awhile after getting it (i got it Oct 98) before rating it. what can i say.....this bike does everything...it reads my mind...all i have to do is point it where i want to go and it responds perfectly...very agile and responsive, without being at all unstable.It's so light and quick...accelerating and climbing are(almost) effortless. It is not at all noodly on descents; I can really weave my way quickly between rocks and roots without thinking too much about them. It's a very comfortable ride....i used to have problems with my Aluminum frame..it would beat me to death....the sola i can ride hard for hours and be completely pain free. Riding a Seven is like driving a Ferrari...what else can I say. Makes my previous bike seem like a stripped down escort. though it may seem like a huge sum of money to build one up, i believe it will save me $$ in the long run, as this will be the last HT i ever have to buy.
Similar Products Used: Merlin, ibis, IF (all great bikes, esp. the IF)
Bike Setup: 13.5 inch frame Marz. Z2 Atombomb XTR/XT RaceFace ATAC King headset/hubs mavic Syncros Ibis Rosies barends
a Cross-Country Rider
Date Reviewed: July 2, 1999
Strengths: longlasting strength with resilence to save my tissues. Custom fit. Outstanding customer service- Seven will work with you to make the bike of your dreams, BUT are you ready for it?
Weaknesses: Are you ready for what you want?
Even though my Sola Ti fits like a glove, I know that all the measurements are 'interpeted' by Rob, Matt and others. They have the experience to know what works with Ti and it shows up on a single ride. If you just scrutinize the numbers (to fractions of a mm), you cannot understand the way Seven works the tubes- this is why some people will never understand why a Seven handles/rides the way it does. The folks at Seven will make a bike from your input and account for the type of riding you prefer and adjust the tubing thickness/diameter/angle and length according to this. This process cannot be measured by a nitpicking ruler or protractor. My Sola, by far, has the best ride coupled with the exact handling I specified. To be sarcastic: Did you know that when your rear knobby wears (faster than your front), your head angle increases? When a Sid leaks air after riding a rockbed, sag increases, increasing your head angle. After severe downhills, the rim heats up and increases tire pressure. A very stiff stem will increase steering sensitivity. A Ti seatpost on the trail feels goods, but on the road, it wastes energy. 17 guage spokes on your front wheel steer slower than thicker spokes.
Similar Products Used: Merlin,Specialized,Schwinn,Bridgestone,Trek...others
Bike Setup: Shimano works, Manitou works, Specialized tires work.
a Cross-Country Rider
from Seattle, WA
Date Reviewed: July 1, 1999
Strengths: Perfect Fit Fabulous Handling Lightweight Gorgeous
Weaknesses: Nada, not a thing.
This bike rides itself. Sometimes I feel like a spectator just sitting there for the show. The bike downhills sweeter than dual suspension and climbs easier than any bike I've ever ridden. During the process of being fitted for the bike, Seven asked for exact measurements of my legs, etc., and consequently the bike fits like a glove. The bike is so subtle in its look, that it's almost a stealth ride. Also, building the bike was a blast. It was the easiest bike I've ever put together. All of the parts fit perfectly, with no problems. Rob and his crew were totally responsive to any inquiries I had, and even contacted me to clarify certain details that I had missed. I received the bike on schedule and it's been great ever since. When I ride my Seven, I feel at one with it and the trail.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: June 24, 1999
I originally made the decision to purchase a Sola because I liked the idea of a custom frame. The company was fairly good about answering questions. However, there were three problems with the frame, which made the frame unacceptable.
When the frame first came in, my shop called to inform me that it had arrived, but that there was a problem that I had better come and take a look at. It turned out that the frame had been shipped without being surface finished. There were four marks on the bottom bracket probably from the jig, numerous other nicks and scratches, and swirl patterns along the down tube (probably from a mechanical buffer) where it appeared someone had started the finish process, but had only done a part of one side. My dealer said that he had never seen a ti. frame come in looking that badly (and he manages one of the largest bike shops in California). The frame went back, and upon return appeared acceptable, though not as good as one typically sees from bikes in this class.
During this time, I had cause to check into the uncompressed crown top to axle length (cal) for several forks. I had specified that the frame be built around the short-travel SID and I asked Seven what the cal was for that fork. Simultaneously, I had made the same inquiry to Rock Shox (RS), looking for the fastest response. Seven came back with a length of 427 mm, while RS came back with 434 mm. RS of course was right. This translates into about a one third inch increase in bar height and approximately one-half degree slacker head and seat angles. Rob acknowledged the error, but recommended the shorter assumed length for the SID anyway, since he felt that the SID was an outlying data point in the spectrum of fork lengths. (I have since looked into the matter and discovered that this is incorrect, even for short-travel. 434 mm is near the distribution median for high-quality, short-travel forks from major manufacturers. Also see Knute Aberhansen’s review of the SID). Given the frame’s price and Seven’s lofty claims to precision, a request for a new frame would certainly have been in order. However, Rob’s assessment seemed reasonable at the time, so I agreed to continue with the current frame.
Unfortunately, yet a more serious error surfaced when I discovered that Rob had given me an incorrect assumption for assumed fork compression in cad drawings made for the frame. He originally told me that an uncompressed length was assumed since rider weight and setup were indeterminate. My dealer recalls my discussing this fact with him and a whole series of events took place as a result of Rob’s specification of this standard, so my recollections are verified. It turned out that Rob was mistaken, and that there was a 12mm assumed sag in the cad drawing.
The combination of the last two errors created an approximately one-inch error in bar height, a more then one-degree error in the head and seat angles, as well as errors in standover and bbht, etc. The head angle, in particular, would have been about 70 deg., as opposed to the 71.3 deg. specified. Obviously this was totally unacceptable. However, when I spoke to Rob about this, he said that he was unwilling to build a new frame. Thus the deal was terminated. Everyone was very upset about this as a lot of work was done, by me most of all.
Anyone considering either of these errors to be insignificant, even individually, is certainly not in need of a custom frame. Most cross-country hardtails of this size on the market have geometries that fall within the smallest error margin I cited (with all assumptions taken into account). If the errors were not significant, then one would not be able to feel the difference in the geometry of almost any cross-country bike on the market and all of the glowing reviews on this page about how the bikes handle would be nonsense.
A few comments regarding criticisms of this review:
A company that charges $ 2,500 for a frame and claims a precision of a thousandth of an inch was making errors on the order of an inch. ONE DOES NOT NEED TO RIDE A FRAME WITH SUCH ERRORS TO KNOW THAT IT WILL NOT HANDLE PROPERLY.
This is not a matter of philosophy. THESE ERRORS EXIST WITH RESPECT TO SEVEN’S OWN STANDARDS AND IN THE MOST IMPORTANT CASE, HAS BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BY ROB VANDERMARK HIMSELF. I ordered a frame with a 71.3 deg. head angle with respect to Seven’s own standards for the specified fork. I received a frame with a head angle of about 70 deg., again with respect to Seven’s own standards for the specified fork. This is why I rejected the frame and is the subject of the review below.
In addition, there is no way to test ride a full custom frame before it is built up. The bike shop would not have allowed me to build the bike, take it out, and then return to say that I did not want it. The reply would have been, “Not likely!” There is not only the frame to consider, but also all of the associated components, which would no longer be new.
I agree that a test ride is the best way to evaluate a bike and should certainly be done before publishing an opinion on how the bike performs in an absolute sense. In this case, however, a test ride was obviously neither possible nor applicable. Again, a frame with errors will not perform like a frame without errors. No test ride is needed to establish this relative difference.
Seven customers should know that Seven sent over two hundred frames out the door specified for the short-travel SID before I discovered their cal error and brought it to their attention. Rob told me this himself after verifying that he had indeed made the error. To my knowledge, Seven never bothered to inform those customers of the situation. It is also of note that this error is not simply a matter of “interpretation” or “philosophy”. Rob acknowledged the error, so the bikes really did not have the geometry that Rob and his customers thought.
That over 200 frames went out the door before anyone thought to ask about “cal” is also testimony to the fact that few people have the combination of biking experience, technical sophistication, and inclination to fully verify whether or not things have been done right. And it may explain why so many people have been so upset with this review. Sevens owners who do not have the ability to verify that their bikes have been done right are bound to become very nervous after reading the information here.
Lastly, there have been additional reports of Seven fork-length errors. There is another review in the “Sun” page, where the error amounted to about a half-inch in the fork, creating errors of about .7 deg. in the angles etc. (I have the numbers on the forks in question). Though the owner seems happy with the results. There is also the following from the tech-talk General section, posted by Tai on July 06, 1999 at 13:32:52:
“I had a friend who recently bought a very expensive Seven softtail. The bike is a bit twitchy on descents in its final form. For all the care in fitting, it somehow was not communicated to Seven that he intended to use a Manitou SX Ti Carbon which has 70mm of travel. I believe Seven built the frame with an 80mm fork in mind.”
There is a form that Seven has each customer fill out with a box to write the name of the fork. So Seven had probably been given the name of the fork. I leave it to the reader to draw further conclusions.
If one is considering a Seven frame, one would do well to verify and double check the assumptions going into the frame geometry as Seven itself has made a number of verified errors. In this case, Seven did not have the integrity to live up to their lofty claims and price and I doubt that they bothered to inform their other customers of the errors in their frames. The bottom line is that when Seven’s claims to precision were put to the test, Seven came up short.
from Adajjio, Corsica
Date Reviewed: June 11, 1999
Strengths: The perfect frame in construction and performance. Never having to concentrate on the handling-you are there
Weaknesses: forgetting about the frame and just riding
this is the best frame out there, no denying it. Just rode this morning and the front triangle felt supremely stiff and accurate, but the rear end was nice and absorbing. The best rigid frame-acts like a soft tail, but with much better efficiency. Telepathic handling and can handle gentle drift with good terrain feel- no whippiness at all. Superb, no comprimising frame. Rob is a master builder who understands a mountain frame like old european road frame builders once did (before Al).
Similar Products Used: all ti all U.S.A. cromo kinesis type Al
Bike Setup: TPC Shimano works,other stuff breaks Spec. tires rock
a Cross-Country Rider
from Orinda, California
Date Reviewed: April 26, 1999
Strengths: Rock solid feel super light weight bulletproof finish supple rear without lateral flex makes you forget about the rest
Weaknesses: forever bike can't be stealth with this eyecandy never have enough time to bike wife/girlfriend will kill you make sure you know what you want- it will be set in stone or Ti it will outlive you
Rock solid feel with suppleness- is that for real? Seven owners know it. I am not a snob or (or at least I am) not some rich bastard, but a guy who loves to ride. Almost as a natural progression for anyone who loves bikes, this is the ultimate form of love (okay, my girlfirend is #1) for biking that is. I've progressed from a univega rover sport, specialized rockhopper, bridgestone mb-2, trek 8000, specialized m2, merlin, and finally the seven. I love all my bikes-no one less than the rest. (of course this includes numerous project bikes) Eventually, you will evolve to this end of the spectrum- is this commitment?Yeah, you better believe it is...
Similar Products Used: ibis ti-excellent handler, but not custom fit all kinds of 853-snappy, but paint will chip-beautiful in another way merlin-Rob V. is THE source moots-fine craftsmen checkout them welds
Bike Setup: xtr manitou whatever, it almost doesn't matter because the frame is the key thing (hey, I am not a snob)
a Cross-Country Rider
from Ontario Canada
Date Reviewed: April 23, 1999
Strengths: Totally custom tailored. The people who build them are fanatics committed to excellence.
Weaknesses: I can't find any nor am I expecting to.
Oh baby. I've had many custom frames but the experience of dealing with Seven Cycles is like no other. They will go to any length and trouble to satisfy you. All you have to do is ask. My previous frame is a custom 853 steel and the difference was noticable immediately. My Seven Sola is sooo responsive and precise it's incredible. I've only ridden it three times since it arrived last week but this is a good time to give an opinion as the differences are fresh in my mind.I opted for a 72 degree head angle (as I did with my old frame) and because of it this bike just slices through the single track. It is so precise.I had it built with stiff responsiveness and fairly soft vertical compliance (I said they'd do anything!) and as such it accelerates wonderfully both in and out of the saddle while removing the sharp edges from all the bumps.My Seven Sola is everything I'd hoped it would be.