Red Kite Prayer Reviews Seven's Newest Bike Model: Airheart
Patrick Brady of cycling's #1 blog, Red Kite Prayer, just published an outstanding and comprehensive review of Seven Cycle's newest model, the Airheart. Patrick has reviewed and ridden countless bikes: both stock and custom, countless components, tires, you name it. He's seen it all where it comes to bikes and riding.
There is a lot more to this review that he includes in his article, and that's the part of how the bike was designed. Read this to appreciate the qualities of a travel bike that is as capable as an Evergreen (off-road riding, great braking, ideal handling, comfort for rough terrain, speed on pavement, and much more).
It is very important to highlight that his experience and bike are not an anomaly; he didn't get some special white-glove treatment because he's a blogger, because he has a friend at Seven, or anything else. His bike
a special bike because it's built for him and how
Seven customer gets a special bike that is perfect for that person. No two people have the same physical dimensions, riding style, or riding requirements.
Seven designs each bike from the ground up making no assumptions about the rider until Seven hears the whole story. Much of this story is communicated via the
. Patrick talks about how that goes in his blog:
"I got on the phone with Neil. It was his job to talk through my fit requirements, my geometry taste and finally, my travel needs to produce a design that would result in a bike I was happy with and Seven was willing to put their name on. This is the part of a custom bike purchase that is so endlessly fun and fascinating to me."
We do this very same thing with our customers. The only difference was that Patrick worked directly with Seven. Our Seven customers work with us - we, in turn, work with Neil and Greg, Seven's experienced bike designers.
We rarely talk with someone who knows each part that he or she will want on the bike when we begin the discussion. Patrick discovered what he wanted through the Seven process and a demo ride on an Evergreen helped him significantly. Even the most knowledgeable person will discover new things in the process. This parallels what we do: we're here to help as much or as little to help in arriving at the perfect mix of gearing, componentry, and ideal contact points for each person so it's nothing to be intimidated by - and, admittedly, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around that can make things appear more complicated than they really are.
"I wanted a bike that would be good on descents, easy in the mountains, so one of the first details we discussed was bottom bracket drop. I said low. Real low. [...] Because this bike wasn’t going to be raced, I didn’t need to be able to pedal through corners so my first thought was to go back to that classic Italian stage race geometry that you can’t find in carbon fiber bikes."
Where it came to his component choices, he chose disc brakes (TRP Spyre mechanical). It's impressive to read that he found the
tires so compelling (they rolled so well) that he chose brakes that would gladly accommodate these wider tires. It's easy to agree with Patrick on this as our experience with these tires has been nothing less than outstanding in an almost earth-shattering kind of way.
Riding the Airheart
It is worth reading Patrick's description of the ride of his Airheart in its entirety. He is one of the few people who perfectly describe things like how a bike feels, that is almost impossible to put into words--likely Patrick's greatest gift to cycling and the thousands of people who he inspires to ride.
In his words:
"My first 100 meters on the Airheart contained exactly that experience. I had two simultaneous reactions. The first was of neurons flaring with the incandescence of elation, that gaped maw of surprise, surprise that anything could feel so perfect within such a tiny frame of experience."
We were pleased to have the chance to accompany Patrick on his inaugural ride through the woods. We didn't talk about the bike much, it just worked as we knew it would. But still, there's a bit of nervous excitement surrounding the inaugural ride - especially when the bike is being ridden by someone who has so much riding experience and one who reaches hundreds of thousands of people through his writing. Patrick got on the Airheart and it went where he asked it to go. He did make the comment of how great it felt to just get on the bike and have it fit from the start. No fiddling or tweaking necessary. The point of a great bike is to ride it and, really, stop thinking about the bike. One's mind is then free to go anywhere else that's wonderful: into the woods, with the friends who are there, listening to the sounds of nature - anywhere but the bike itself.
Now that Patrick has been riding and traveling with the bike for months:
"Whatever dreamy ideal I conjured, this bike exceeds it in remarkable ways. I’ve ridden this thing no-hands on washboard while I ate a gel. I wouldn’t even dare that with 98 percent of the bikes I’ve ridden. I was frightened that having written the Axiom* was “the best I’d ever ridden,” a line Seven continues to quote to this day, that I might not be as impressed now as I was then. I’ve ridden a great many bikes since then. I’ve learned a lot. I’m a better bike handler now. I’m a more difficult fit, too. Yet, this bike has exceeded my highest aspirations for this project. My retrofitted Axiom lives in its case, but I can’t bring myself to disassemble the Airheart except for when I’m about to leave on a trip."
* Patrick reviewed an Axiom in 1997 for Bicycle Guide in 1997
Traveling with a Bike
It's easy to overlook how many details need to be considered for a great travel bike to be the best it can be. Patrick is frequently on an airplane and he travels with his bike so he can ride anywhere he goes. He has seen everything that can happen to a bike in transit. Seven's Airheart considers every aspect of traveling and packing the bike in the bike's design. They put the S&S couplers in the proper places so that the decoupled frame fits in a box that is the length and width of just a little more than the diameter of a wheel with a deflated tire. There are many component choices that may shift as a result of wanting to pack a bike such as choosing centerlock rotors over 6-bolt rotors if the bike has disc brakes. They also minimize the number of tools it takes to assemble and disassemble the bike. We'll discuss the many decisions in a future post. Fortunately, few of the choices to optimize a bike for travel mean trade-offs, it's more a matter of being particularly thoughtful in each aspect of the bike's design.
Patrick chose to use SRAM Force 22 components for their durability and good value. We have experience traveling with Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 components as well as Shimano Ultegra Di2 (electronic shifting) and we've had good luck with all of these. There are many more factors to talk through knowing a bike will be in a tiny case and possibly handled roughly in transit.
When ordered with a complete kit, Seven packages its Airheart bikes in the travel case prior to it being sent to us or the retailer who ordered it. This way, it's possible to see how to properly pack the bike and so it's easy to get a shot at putting it together at home to learn how to do it. Airhearts include professional assembly, and are shipped packed in an S&S Hybrid Soft Case. The kit includes the case, cable splitters, tube covers, and a security net.
Patrick really got to get into the details with Seven. Here is a link to a bit more from Seven Cycles about the Airheart project.
Every time we deliver a bike, we feel a sense of pride in the final product. The bike is *just* what the customer wants without compromise in any aspect. So there are a lot of happy people on bike delivery day. We are always in awe of the final product: everyone who builds these bikes puts their best work into each frame that comes to us with every detail dialed in. As it was exciting to be there on Patrick's inaugural ride, we are similarly excited for each bike's first ride...and all of the next ones to come for each.
We wish Patrick thousands of miles of cycling bliss upon his Airheart and even more stress-free miles of travel with his bike. We thank him for his visit here to share his "Why We Ride" book and his continued passion for riding.
Patrick summarizes his Seven Cycles Airheart experience:
"If ever I was going to put my name on a bike, to enter into a collaboration with a bike company and affix my reputation to it, I’m proud that this is it. Never has a bike more thoroughly surprised me. No bike has ever exceeded expectations to as great a degree as the Airheart. This bike is a work of genius; it blends a myriad of details into pure synergy, creating a tantalizing promise of fun. This is why custom still matters."
There is no better way to say it than that.