Bikes of the (staff) Bunch: James Huang’s Seven Evergreen Pro
In the latest instalment of Bikes of the Bunch, we’re taking an in-house look at another CyclingTips staff member’s bike. This time around, global tech editor James Huang – the Angry Asian himself – runs us through his Seven Evergreen Pro.
I’ve always had a thing for rally cars and their ludicrous combination of monstrous power, tenacious grip, and all-conditions versatility. Given the choice between a Ferrari F40 and a Subaru 22B (as if!), I’d go with the little pocket rocket every time.
It was exactly that sort of thing that was going through my mind on a fateful summer day in 2007, when I had the opportunity to ride the actual Cervelo R3 Mud that Stuart O’Grady had used to win Paris-Roubaix that spring. My drop-bar experience up until then had been limited mostly to conventional road bikes and a smattering of cyclocross racers, and that thing was a revelation. It was light, stiff, and fast like a traditional road bike, but those cushy high-volume tubulars and the frame’s slightly modified handling forever left an impression on me.
Fast-forward to 2015, when I received an invitation to attend the Baller’s Ride, a weekend gathering of custom builders and a handful of friends to exchange ideas and ride bikes through the rural Virginia countryside. The highlight of the event was a 200 km-long ride with over 4,000 m of elevation gain over a mix of paved, dirt, and gravel roads.
Naturally, I had to bring a bike with me to this thing, but given the company, there was no way I could show up with a mass-produced machine. It just wouldn’t be right.
When I contacted the folks at Seven Cycles to build me something, I very much had that old Cervelo in mind, and that’s more or less exactly what I asked for, complete with that subtly tweaked road racing geometry and modestly boosted tire clearance (surely I’d never need anything bigger than a 30ish millimeter tire, right???), but hewn in a mix of welded titanium and bonded carbon fiber.
I may not have had a crystal ball in terms of tire sizes back then, but I at least had the foresight to incorporate a bit of future-proofing. I requested a 44 mm-diameter head tube so I could accommodate a fairly wide range of steerer tube diameters, and went with Paragon Machine Works’ modular PolyDrop dropouts, which feature interchangeable bolt-on aluminum inserts so I could (hopefully) change things up over time.
I finished the build with a Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical groupset with then-new-for-Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, Bontrager tubeless aero carbon clinchers wrapped with puffy Hutchinson file treads, and a smattering of Enve carbon bits. A defective tire bead derailed part of my ride during that lovely weekend in Virginia, but the bike otherwise was exactly what I’d wanted it to be. It’s light, but not so light that I worry about it. It’s stiff and efficient-feeling, but not so stiff that it pummels me on crummy roads. It’s full of personality and life, snappy and communicative but never yells at me.
The tubes are round, the bottom bracket has threads, everything is externally routed, and nothing about the frame is remotely aero.
I fell in love immediately.
Smitten as I may have been, I’m still an incessant tinkerer at heart, and this thing most certainly has changed quite a bit over time in my endless quest for… I’m not really sure what, to be honest. I may not be fickle in love when it comes to people, but clearly I’m a bit restless when it comes to bikes. To date, I think my trusty Evergreen Pro has now seen three or four different groupsets, maybe twice as many handlebars, a smattering of seatposts, and countless wheel-and-tire combinations.
Speaking of which, not long after I bought this bike the industry decided that disc brake calipers should move to flat mount instead of post mount, and 15 mm was just a smidgeon too big a diameter for the front thru-axle. With a standard off-the-shelf bike, those sorts of changes would have been crippling in terms of future upgrades, but I intentionally went with a standard axle-to-crown length on the original Whisky No.9 fork, and I only had to buy a more current one from Enve to bring myself up to date up front. It was far simpler (and cheaper) out back: about US$40 bought me a new 140 mm flat mount insert for the non-driveside PolyDrop dropout, and I was in business.
In addition to being a tinkerer, I’ve never been one to blindly abide by the rules, and so my Seven wears a decidedly mix-and-match drivetrain that blends Campagnolo H11 Ergopower hydraulic levers and Super Record front and rear derailleurs with a Shimano Dura-Ace 11-30T cassette and chain (waxed, of course), a SRAM front chain watcher (with the giant logo blacked out), and a Cane Creek eeWings welded titanium crankset with Praxis 48/32T sub-compact chainrings and a retrofitted Stages power meter, all spinning on an Enduro XD-15 ceramic bottom bracket. I also installed a pair of Enduro XD-15 ceramic pulleys, partially because it always bugged me a little that the stock Campagnolo upper jockey wheel uses a disappointing bushing.
Why mechanical Campagnolo shifters, you ask? I’ll be the first to admit that electronic drivetrains work better, but this is the bike I reach for when I’m not on the clock, and when I don’t want to think about every nuance of what I’m riding – state of battery charge included. SRAM Red 22 would also provide the super-tactile shift lever clicks I prefer, but only Ergopower lets me slam a bunch of gears in either direction in one movement, and I prefer the shape of the hoods a bit more, too. The forefinger paddle is a little more slippery than I’d prefer, but that’s nothing a bit of carefully cut grip tape couldn’t fix.
The combination sounds like a mess, but it actually shifts great, and spins with noticeably low friction relative to stock setups. The Dura-Ace cassette nets me one extra tooth of range relative to the standard Campagnolo offering, and while the sub-compact chainrings sound tiny, they basically just offset the longer roll-out of the high-volume tires so in terms of gearing, it’s actually pretty normal. As for the crankset, I’ll admit that it’s utterly ridiculous what with its insane cost and silly 161 mm Q-factor, but my knees haven’t complained over months of use, and my god, are they gorgeous. Go ahead and call me a sucker.
As for wheels, I’ve currently settled on Roval’s versatile Terra CLX carbon clinchers. The 25 mm inner width is the same as the Enve SES 4.5 AR Disc hoops that I absolutely adore, but they’re a fair bit lighter and their hooked profile affords me a little more flexibility in tire choice. At the moment, I’m in the middle of testing Challenge’s latest 30 mm-wide Strada Bianca open tubulars, and set up tubeless with about 50 psi inside, the ride quality and grip are sublime.
The Specialized S-Works Power saddle will come across as a pretty unexciting choice, but as far as I’m concerned comfort trumps anything else when it comes to where you plant your butt for a few hours at a time. For that same reason, you’ll have to pry the funny-looking Ergon CF3 leaf-spring carbon fiber seatpost out of my cold, dead hands before I’ll willingly switch to something else. It’s since been discontinued, but the design is still available through Canyon (the two company owners are brothers), and I have a nice little stockpile, anyway.
The handlebar setup will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows, but whatever. I’ve always liked the idea of integrated handlebars and stems, but rarely have come across one that included my preferred combination of a long reach, ideally a deep drop, and a classic (or at least semi-classic) bend. And so when I found just that on the front of the new Trek Emonda SLR in the form of the Bontrager Aeolus RSL cockpit, I knew I’d finally found what I was looking for. The fact that it doesn’t have any adjustment doesn’t matter to me because it’s just how I like it as is already, it’s light, and it looks fantastic. The icing on the cake is the machined aluminum computer and front light mount from K-Edge.
Likewise, not everyone will agree with my pedal choice, but this is my bike, not yours, and for the riding I often end up doing on this bike — which, over the years, has included roughly equal ratios of tarmac and dirt, a handful of snow drifts, and perhaps some unexpected scrambling — the single-sided SPDs just make more sense. Plus, the difference between a proper road setup and this particular combination of Shimano pedals with Specialized S-Works 6 XC shoes is nowhere near enough to justify the loss of convenience. And besides – one of my favorite rides involves a stop at a mountain general store where they have killer pie and notoriously slippery floors — and you don’t want to see me when I’ve slipped and dropped my pie.
Finishing touches include a Wahoo ELEMNT Roam computer, Bontrager front and rear DRLs (I never leave home without them), my trusty Spurcycle bell (because I’m a frequent user of Boulder’s expansive network of multi-use paths, and this thing actually cuts through most people’s earbuds), and a pair of — of course — King titanium bottle cages.
Helping me get back on the road after the occasional mechanical is the stuff inside an old Silca tool wrap: a spare tube wrapped super tight so it’s nice and small, a PB Swiss bit-based multi-tool, a Clever Standard chain tool, a teeny-tiny PRO mini pump (yes, it fits in the wrap), a Dynaplug Racer tubeless plug kit, and a few Lezyne glueless patches.
As for the wrap itself, the classy waxed cotton construction and limited-production, made-in-California sourcing more than offset the wrap layout’s slower access to contents (plus, I rarely need the stuff, anyway). Don’t bother looking at the Silca web site for one, though — it’s long been discontinued. And you probably don’t need to look on eBay, either, since I’ve seemingly bought all the secondhand ones that people were willing to sell.
As you see it here, my bike weighs in at 8.37 kg (or 18.45 lb in freedom units) — more than good enough for me, and plenty competitive considering all the crap I’ve got bolted on to this thing.
An uncertain future
I’m not a big believer in “forever” anything when it comes to stuff, and as beautiful as this thing is, I can’t say without a doubt that this Seven will come with me to the grave. Lots has changed in five years. My perpetual intentions of regularly attending yoga classes to maintain some semblance of hip and lower back flexibility has given way to daily glass bottles of Coca-Cola and progressively deeper slouches at my desk, and more than a couple of fitters have suggested that I raise my handlebar height, which I can’t do since I stubbornly cut the steerer tube where I wanted it to be several years ago. I’m not as tolerant of toe overlap as I used to be, and don’t appreciate the right-now steering personality of the twitchy front end as much as I used to. These days, I’m quite content for my rides to just wander, and for my mind to do the same.
Will I ever get rid of it? Maybe. I find myself regularly toying with the idea. But then I go ride it again, and those thoughts fade away. The house you’ve owned and lived in for years may not fit your idea of a “dream house”, but it’s home nonetheless, and — imperfections and all — there’s still nowhere else I’d rather be. Maybe I’ll “upgrade” someday, but at the moment, this old couch feels just right.