The Magnificent Seven

Understated. An Understatement. The Quiet Americans.

Posted by Philip Cavell

Mag seven2

"Laurence and Rob suddenly felt like an unstoppable force meeting the immovable rock - a pair of high-brow professors doubling down on detail"

The Magnificent Seven

We recently sent a special Seven XX off to Cyclist Magazine for a full review. Their new bike-tester is an academic called Laurence Kilpatrick. We know Laurence well from his fulsome review of our own LANDRACE Tupelo last summer.
Laurence is commendably obsessed with detail and approaches his reviews like they are a PhD research project.

The research and questions started as a curious trickle and quickly became a deluge. Most of the questions were directed at Seven Founder, Rob Vandermark, but some came our way also. Having known Rob for many years I could be reasonably sure of two things.

1. He would take his time in answering. Nothing would be rushed.
2. But when Rob did reply it would be beyond comprehensively detailed and crushingly modest.

Laurence and Rob suddenly felt like an unstoppable force meeting the immovable rock. A pair of high-brow professors doubling down on thoroughness and detail.

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

Having done Laurence's job (many decades ago), I know how frustrating it can be simultaneously chasing research and a deadline, so I jumped into the ensuing vacuum, in an attempt take some pressure from both of them. I won't know how successful I have been until Laurence's magnum opus goes to print, but the process of enforced reflection of designing and building bicycles with Seven, was interesting enough for us to repeat here in full. Everything that follows is me communicating to Laurence at Cyclist magazine.

"Tracking me down. Good luck. Unavoidable for Comment."

Rob Vandermark
Seven test geometry

We take it for granted that this...

Axiomxxint2 2

... becomes this. Our astonishing Test XX

Hi Laurence...

Hi Laurence
We pretty much only build custom with Seven. Once we have gone through the Cyclefit process we have everything we need to curate the project:

  • Intended use and maximum tyre size
  • Intended fork
  • Rider weight
  • Riding style
  • X/Y fit metrics
  • Ideas about finish/paint
  • How they would like the bike to ride/feel – for example - are they confident cornering, descending etc?
  • Their future riding goals and aspiration
Seven Factory4

Absolute attention to detail...

Seven Factory2

... and legendary weld aesthetics & strength

Hi Laurence cont.

We then think about how we will design their frame. At that point model names have become a little meaningless (to us at least). We are now designing a completely tailored and personalised project (below). Sometimes the client even elects not to have the model name on the bike. It isn’t an Axiom or an Evergreen – it is everything in between and the bike they have dreamt about for years. It will transcend names and categories.

The 1 & Only 7

Seven is only one company in the world that is capable of having this depth of conversation, in our opinion. Many boutique builders around the world say they offer custom and almost all believe that to be the case.

As I Said

As I said at the start of all this, Laurence, Seven are the finest titanium engineering company the world has ever seen. I sense that Rob likes that to be a carefully managed secret. If a customer orders a stock frame from Seven, they get all that know-how, experience, and excellence, but they may never know it.

Our clients have us holding their hands and guiding them down a path that is novel, liberating and exciting. They get a strong sense of the sheer scale of possibilities – 1” chainstays or 7/8th
chainstays, for example.

We have been designing custom frames for decades and yet it is still a thrill to be able be able to work with clients at this level. Seven give us the confidence to aspire to these heights.

That's all for now Laurence. More later


"Seven are the finest titanium engineering company the world has ever seen. I sense that Rob likes that to be a carefully managed secret"

Seven factory24 4 2

Rob Vandermark - 1997. He looks the same today.

Seven factory24 3 2

Seven have come to epitomise hand-crafted titanium

"The Lightest Touch - Rob’s philosophy in three words"

Seven By Numbers

All Titanium is The Same

Hi Laurence - Everyone readily talks about the detail of steel – Columbus, Reynolds, Stainless, lugged, silver-soldered etc. Steel at the top-end (Richard Sachs, Dario Pegoretti) is quasi-religious.

But all titanium is viewed as ostensibly the same – a dull metal that has some redeeming qualities.

It is just poorly understood. I replicated Rob Vandermark’s white-paper on our website. This will give you an insight into how complicated titanium is and how profound Rob’s grasp of the material really is.

So, what are Seven’s unique qualities compared too the other big names in boutique ti building?

This is a very personal list and Rob may not necessarily agree with all of it.

  1. The Lightest Touch - Rob’s philosophy in three words. He is a pure engineer. He has a cautious and iterative philosophy to working with a material that can never be taken for granted.

  2. Seven generally eschews elaborate tubing profiles - that tries to pull the raw material in a direction that compromises strength and longevity. If your focus is aerodynamics and stiffness, beyond everything, then maybe titanium is not for you.

  3. Rob knows when to say no - his engineering principles are legendary. We have pushed him hard for stuff like internal routing and integration. But he will never rush. He will find the solution that doesn’t compromise the ride or lifetime warranty, in his own time and way. Lots of companies are doing amazing work with anodising titanium, that customers love and wins awards. Rob refuses to do it. And trust me we have asked! We respect that – he will have his reasons.

  4. Seven is predominantly a custom company - I am not sure Rob will say that but over the last 15 or so years we have worked with them, I don’t think we have delivered a stock frame to a client. Custom means that the fit is precise, but also that the tubing profiles can be engineered (all in-house) for the individual rider, based on their riding style, weight etc. Moots for example (another great builder) are probably 80% stock (that’s the number they gave me last time I spoke to them). I bet Seven are 90% custom. It fundamentally changes the design and fabrication philosophy – every bike is a project. That means there is no batching of work, which helps bring cost down.
  5. Seven times-tables - are you 2 x 7, 3 x 7, 4 x 7… etc Seven clients generally never buy just one. They love the experience and ride so much, that they come back for another one. It is just how it is.
  6. Seven owners do ‘space-shuttle mileage’ – it is the bike of choice for our clients who are riding PBP, TCR etc. They want a light bike that will do everything and is known to be indestructible.
  7. Sevens are lighter than other ti bikes - Seven don’t talk about that much (nor do we) but when we weigh Seven builds, they are just lighter. That’s a question for Rob.

"Understated. An Understatement. The Quiet Americans"


The first fully integrated Seven in Europe. 7.5kg complete bike - 1150 gram LANDRACE wheels

About the author

Philip Cavell, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer, author. Phil rides a Seven Axiom XX custom titanium bike and an Airnimal Joey folding bike. He wrote The Midlife Cyclist and enjoys walking his dog, reading, politics and the outdoors. Phil's specialism is working with clients who have complex and frequently chronic issues. Phil is most at home working in a collegiate, multi-disciplinary team, to help clients resolve intricate issues.

View other posts by Philip Cavell

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