Category Archives: Spinning (R)

Bespoke (Custom) Cycles

Every rider deserves a bike that fits, a bike that is made for him or her, a custom cycle.

I hurried out the door of the Seven Cycles factory in Watertown, MA, intent on beating Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. With visions of bicycles dancing in my head, I heard a voice with jovial Irish accent calling out to me. (It was near Boston, after all.) “Getting ready for the Tour de France,” he shouted, then laughed hilariously. Really.

Putting aside the obvious, (I have neither youth nor gender to compete in the Tour), what did he mean? I’m not good enough for a custom bike? And THAT is the misconception.

Just what is a custom bike? When you couple the words bespoke (made to order) and bike you have a custom bike. A stock bike (think Specialized, Trek, Canondale, LLBean; that long row of bikes hanging in your local sporting goods store) comes with frame already sized and materials already chosen for you. Your options include shop modifications to what is available and a range of prices based on materials and components.

A bespoke bike is built from top to bottom for a specific rider. Measurements and angles fit the individual, materials are selected from steel to carbon-fiber composite frames, titanium and even bamboo. Components, or the miscellaneous parts of the bike that transform it from a diamond-shape to a bike on wheels with gears and brakes, are pieced together in a way that completes the puzzle of the unique. Then there’s appearance where one can go wild with individualization.

Before I launch into the virtues of a custom bike, note my disclaimer. I am relatively new to cycling (5 years is new in a sport that lasts a lifetime) but passionate. I love the training as well as the freedom, the cycling buddies I have acquired as well as concerns. I am neither an accomplished athlete nor a couch potato and my 20s and 30s are far behind me. I have had surgery that makes cycling a better choice than running. My strength is endurance not power, my time is restricted by work and I am anxious about dangers. Yet I have goals and dreams that I hope to achieve.

Because of my love for cycling, I sincerely believe that ANY bike that provides enjoyment, that puts you on the road or the trail, is a good bike. Though a case can be made for the similar costs of a custom built bike and a high end stock bike, if one’s budget (or values) simply forbid a custom, well, so be it. Just get out there on whatever you’ve got and be happy.

After riding two stock bikes that simply weren’t right for me, I took the next step, a bike built to meet my specific needs.

I ride a Seven. (Note, Seven is just one of many reputable, excellent makers of custom bikes. I can speak from personal experience and so use Seven as subject.)   new fillyAn impeccable bike fit by Ian Buchanan at FitWerx in Waitsfield along with his perfect guidance in selecting the right components, resulted in a bike that is unpretentious but, from the first pedal stroke, confirmed the wisdom that a bespoke bike is the way to go for some, for those of us who can define what we need in a bike, can assess what is wrong with the stock bike that we are riding, and how much we are willing to invest in time, effort and budget. Until you know what you are looking for and are willing to prioritize, you’re not ready.

Seat Post

Seat Post

If I had to summarize in one word what my new Seven has given me, it is confidence. This confidence is the result of an ongoing process, but the bike sure helps.

Seven Cycles is know for the select, high-end frames built in their small New England factory. Are these bikes built only for the competitive cyclist or the super rich? More and more the answer is a resounding “NO.”

“Custom is not about the pro,” Rob Vandermark said. Vandermark, founder and president of Seven Cycles, is also inextricably involved with product development, always searching for the next bike, the next use.

“A custom bike is much more than just fit,” Vandermark said. “It is a path to being a stronger climber, riding that first century or 3-day tour, avoiding injury. It is a path to making the best possible [cycling] experience.”

Custom drives performance, comfort and safety. Performance defines custom.

Anyone who spends hours in the saddle, who can’t wait to get outdoors to ride, whose passion fuels the necessary effort and whose idea of heaven is balanced on two wheels, deserves a custom bike, one that is built specifically for him or her.

Building a bike customized to an individual is a team effort. “Fit is a small slice,” Vandermark said, “10% of the value. For the majority, rarely is fit the primary driver. It’s more about use.” Also important to customers is paint and appearance that makes the bike unique.

While I understand what Vandermark is saying, and certainly he knows his customers, I find that here on Vermont roads and in our cycling community, fit is very important. Perhaps, however, we are saying the same thing.

Fit is more than measurements. Fit is a rider profile of body type, age, fitness, athleticism, flexibility, strength, goals, type of riding, where, how often and even attitude. (Is the rider competitive or recreational, audacious or timid, brazen or anxious?) Perhaps this is, after all, what Vandermark calls “use.”

A committed rider “deserves” a bike designed and built to address his needs, wants, apprehensions and strengths. Such a bike helps that rider to achieve success, maximize time and enjoyment, and ride in such a way that his body functions harmoniously throughout hundreds of thousands of repetitive pedal strokes.

To write in detail about building a bike, I would need to write a book. It’s been done. I recommend Robert Penn’s “It’s All About the Bike.” Penn writes in eloquent detail about the frame, the soul of the bike, as well as the components, materials and design of his dream bike. He dismisses bragging rights about weight, but speaks convincingly of the geometry of the frame that “sets the parameters…Get the geometry of the frame wrong and you could end up with a bike that is at best uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous to ride. Get it right, and the bike will have the handling characteristics you desire.”

At Seven Cycles, for example, Five Elements of Customization are clearly spelled out. Fit, includes comfort and injury management; handling and performance means that the bike is tuned for the way you are going to ride; tubing and materials are tailored to meet the riders’ needs; there is an infinite array of features and options from which to choose; and finally, the future. How well have you planned for years down the road?

Where a bike is built from the beginning, there is no stock, no inventory. At Seven Cycles, employees (clearly cyclists; note the “commuter parking lot,” an eclectic collection of bikes parked in the backroom) work with one bike at a time from start to finish, conception to shipping room.

Because I was already in love with my bike, my visit to the Seven factory (tours are available to anyone who wants to schedule) was not needed to convince, but to inform and confirm. It did. There’s nothing slick about this place. Thankfully. It is a place in which men and women are artists and take seriously their role in making dreams possible. A bike begins with a box of unrecognizable things and a manila folder with specs and notes pertaining to that one and only bike-to-be. From step one the contents of the box/folder become an identity. The resulting frame is meticulously crafted, painstakingly checking alignment and welding perfection until, in the final analysis, the frame is inspected and tested by “The Enforcer.” If any part is found wanting, there is no patch. The build begins again.



Vandermark, engaging, enthusiastic and immediately comfortable, brings to Seven Cycles a mix of savvy yet ardent practices and technical skills. His own background as a sculptor and mountain bike racer drive the confluence of art and science in both his bike and business design.

It is foolish to think that a bespoke roadbike frame is the total story. In fact, Vandermark has cycled his way along routes from city traffic to the open roads, from deep woods and challenging trails to racing and casual sojourns. Based on personal experience, and always open to new horizons, Vandermark has designed bikes to accommodate a variety of purposes and riding styles. From road and mountain bikes, to cyclocross, gravel, and future travel bikes, Vandermark keeps his proverbial finger on the pulse of cycling trends. And each is built for the individual.

A candidate for a custom bike must be willing to make informed choices. A bespoke bike has a price tag. For some it might be equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment, or possibly even the cost of the entire house that one’s grandparent purchased way back when.

Extravagantly selected options could lead to an unaffordable purchase. On the other hand, the custom process allows a rider to weed out the extras that are inappropriate or irrelevant. For example, on my own bike I reduced the cost by eliminating a paint job, and choosing components that are sufficient to meet my needs and no more.

Furthermore, an avid cyclist often lusts for new and different bikes. Once one is built for him or her, there is no need to keep shopping. Perhaps, in the long run, a bespoke bike is the economical approach after all.

But, the bottom line is choice. If riding is what you choose to do and what inspires and gladdens your heart, giving yourself the best possible experience with a custom bike might just be the sugarplum that dances in your head during this and every cycling season to come.


Check it out – the new Spinning® website.  You might want to return to this site now and then to read what is being said about you and your community and to compare notes with others across the nation and around the world.

Please comment.  Your feedback is valued and is an opportunity for sharing in the greater Spinning® community.


Below are links to two posts you might enjoy.  The first is about our local experience and the second is about the sense of community, using the 2014 Pedal to End Cancer as an example of what works best even in small places.

Later you will find posts about issues that concern us here in Vermont that connect us with those in studios everywhere.

Athletes in Spinning® Class: A Level Playing Field

How Spinning® Classes Create and Perpetuate Community


Active individuals collectively form a community of athletes irrespective of sport, fitness, skill level, competitive ranking, gender, age, socio-economic background or address. If you move deliberately, train purposefully and do so regularly, you are an athlete. You may run a marathon or walk a 5k; ride 100 miles or participate in a weekly time trial; paddle rapids, race or meander about in coves; tour through the woods or bump down steeps.

Some are gym-based athletes lifting, running, stepping and dancing within four walls. Here in Vermont, most are outdoor athletes at some point during the year if not all year round participating in a variety of sports appropriate to the climate and conditions of each season. But all are athletes.

Pedal to End Cancer

Pedal to End Cancer

A web definition of community is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

That, friends, is exactly what brings together cyclists, runners, hikers; friends, neighbors, families and strangers – all within a shared, athletic community.

This week the new Spinning® website,, launched. I was privileged to be a part of this new beginning. (

Writing the Spinning® blog post made me stop to consider the value of community. High school and college team sports often segue into individual sports. Individual sports trained in a vacuum run the risk of burn-out. There are, of course, times when one can speak eloquently of the value of solitude and silence. Perhaps solo and ensemble are necessary. Community promotes safety, motivation and progress. Conversation enlightens, shared effort sustains. There is an intimacy that occurs among athletes who lay down the miles together, a closeness that adds new meaning to the work as intensity transcends struggle to reach achievement.

Today I met with a beautiful person who is an equally beautiful runner. Without sentimentality, but with strong emotion, she spoke of her Boston Marathon experience 2013. Her story will appear in ActiveVT, Rutland Herald/Times Argus Sunday edition 4-20-2014, the day before the 2014 Boston Marathon. Over and over she spoke of her running community, as both local and universal. From her friends at work to her running club to the thousands upon thousands of marathoners who run, she is supported by her community. She is never alone.

This year she will return to Boston, not physically accompanied by her running partners, but as part of a larger-than-life group of like-minded individuals striving for the same goal. Her running community will be within her.

If you do not have a group with whom to engage, make one. Call a relative, email a friend, ask them to bring another along and voila you have a community. Like everything else, it takes initiative, but it’s worth it. Once a part of that amazing community, you will never run (walk, hike, ski, paddle, ride, etc) alone.

Pedal to End Cancer 2014



 P2EC 2014 – Achieving Goals

I had the best seat in the house. On Sunday morning 3/2/2014 I was seated on my Spinner® flanked by my good friends and fellow instructors Mark and Mark, facing a studio full of riders who had committed to a cause, an event, a Pedal to End Cancer, and to community. I saw discomfort, friendship, authenticity.

Cancer has touched us all. Every one of us. Those pouring their energy and their resources into this ride refused to sit by helplessly. They did something, made a statement against victimization. It might be only a drop in the bucket, but enough drops will ultimately overflow.

Fitness, sports, athletics, competition, wellness, performance – whatever your focus – give us reasons and tools. Spinning®, for example, is so much more than sitting on an indoor bike. It is about skills and training, about learning to manage strength, energy, intensity, power and recovery.

Whatever our sport(s) of choice, we do best when we are informed, practice and then use what we are working for. I always encourage setting goals – not just abstract euphemistic ideals, but real, definable, measurable goals with a date and a distance. Knowing what lies ahead is enough to put aside an excuse to skip class or training, enough to bond with others on the same journey, enough to give us pre-race jitters and then enough to wash over us with exhilaration when the goal is achieved, the event completed.

Dig deep. You might surprise yourself. And, you know that oft repeated advice to “be in the moment?” Consider this: live for the moment, sustained by the past, and optimistic about as yet unknown future possibilities.

In the midst of challenge, we dig deep in other ways too. Ellie Stubbs posted this on Facebook just after her ride:

“Post ride sauna, feeling good after an amazing 3 hour ride this morning at the Pedal to End Cancer event. In 3 hours there’s lots of time to reflect on the purpose of the ride, to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Time to be thankful for family and friends who are cancer survivors and time to be mournful of those who lost their battle with cancer. This is my third year participating and I’m thankful for the support from those who donated for my ride, my friends who helped organize the ride again, especially Linda Freeman and Scott Hess, my partners on the road, and to the many local businesses providing donations. I hope all of our efforts help to make cancer a disease of the past.”

This is community at it’s best. This is what it feels like to go outside our comfort zones, to reach for an attainable goal that is, in fact, a reach – and then to achieve that goal. This is about caring and empathy, not about offering words of wisdom, but about saying I’m sorry for your pain and I’ll do something, I’ll offer my own discomfort in hope, I’ll grieve with you and I’ll celebrate what is.




Thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers led by Ellie Stubbs including: Scott Hess (also our leading fund-raiser by far), Linda Freeman, Kate Harbaugh, Frank Partsch, Sherry Goulette, Deb Raymond; Kathleen Burroughs and “kids” for memory flowers.

Thanks to Mark Bates, Linda Freeman and Mark Simakaski for leading the rides.

Huge thanks to all participants!

Thanks to friends and family who helped support each rider and each team

 with financial contributions and encouragement.

Thank you to our sponsors within the Central Vermont community:




National Life Group


Sarah Bothfeld, Massage Therapist

Community National Bank

Farrell Distributing for vitamin waters


Steve McKinstry, Personal Trainer

Morse Farm Sugarworks

Denise Palmer and the staff at Ameriprise Financial

Road ID

Stowe Kitchen, Bath & Linens

Three Penny Taproom

Twin City Subaru