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Pro bikes, June 9, 2009

Mary McConneloug's Team Kenda-Seven-NoTubes Seven Sola Gold

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Photo ©: James Huang

The unsinkable battleship

By James Huang

McConneloug prefers the 28/42T chainring combination
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The bottom bracket area on the Seven Sola Gold
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Caliper mounts are integrated into the machined titanium dropouts.
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The radically machined SRAM XX cassette
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The Truvativ Noir World Cup carbon low-rise bar
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Truvativ have revamped their handlebar and stem lineup for this year.
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A fi'zi:k Aliante saddle is set atop a Syntace P6 Carbon seatpost.
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It is common practice for top-level racers to receive all-new machines each season - or even more often - but current US national cross-country champion Mary McConneloug (Team Kenda-Seven-NoTubes) is bucking that trend in a big way. Seven Cycles built McConneloug's custom Sola Gold during the lead-up to the 2004 Olympics and that same frame is now soldiering through its sixth season on the World Cup circuit.

McConneloug's Seven is one of just a handful of titanium bikes currently on the scene yet the 37-year-old California native that now calls Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts home sees no disadvantage relative to her mostly carbon-equipped competition. In fact, McConneloug is quite proud of the fact that this same machine has carried her through two Olympic games and four national titles and there's little mistaking that she doesn't look forward to the day when it eventually gives up the ghost - if that day ever comes.

"I've ridden a carbon fiber bike and I like it but there's something about a titanium bike," she said. "It just feels so good riding off-road and I just have this intuition that it's my favorite bike. I love it and I prefer to ride [titanium]; there's nothing like it. It feels so perfect. It's almost like a relief - the frame is the same and only the parts are changing each season. You don't need a new bike every year unless it's not working."

Indeed, a comparably sized carbon fiber hardtail frame might be a bit lighter - claimed weight for the Sola Gold frame is about 1.45kg (3.2lb) - but McConneloug's complete bike is still highly competitive at just 8.74kg (19.27lb). More importantly, it fits her 1.66m (5' 6") build perfectly as Seven was free to operate outside the usual constraints of a fixed carbon fiber mold and adjusted the angles and tube dimensions specifically to suit her slight climber's build - the seat tube measures a stubby 373mm (c-c) and the head tube just 90mm from end to end but the top tube is still a relatively rangy 558mm.

A carbon frame is likely also stiffer as well but the slight give of McConneloug's aggressively butted Seven may actually be a positive, leaving her fresher and less beat up towards the end of a race.

"It's really a race course-specific bike," added teammate/mechanic/husband Michael Broderick. "You could ride the thing anywhere but really where it's happiest is [at] World Cups and cross-country racing."

One indisputable plus is the frame's proven durability. McConneloug and Broderick regularly travel the circuit in an RV and in spite of the bike's admittedly tough life, it shows few signs of wear.

"The luxury you have with titanium bikes is not only outstanding durability but it's also really pretty for a long time," Broderick continued. "It's super hard to mar or dent these frames and it just takes a little red Scotch-Brite to buff it back up to its factory finish.

"It's really an advantage for us because we're always in and out of the suitcase and a lot of times you want to keep the bikes up as best you can but there's not always time to treat the bikes as you should after the race when you have to pack up and get to the next one. Basically you just change stickers on these and they're good as new."

Kenda Tires and NoTubes continue on as joint title sponsors with Seven Cycles this year, and McConneloug thus has the benefit of ultralight wheels (her NoTubes ZTR Race wheels are just over 1,200g for the pair) and a wide variety of rubber to suit the course at hand such as the fast-rolling Small Block Eight pattern left over from the recent World Cup round in Madrid.

SRAM have also upped their involvement for this season as McConneloug now enjoys the support of their entire range, including the recently introduced XX 2x10 complete component group, Truvativ's Noir World Cup low-rise carbon handlebar and Stylo World Cup stem, and RockShox's latest SID World Cup fork with its new hollow carbon fiber crown and steerer.

McConneloug opts for the 28/42T and 11-36T drivetrain gearing option, saying it provides more usable gears than a conventional triple for her needs, allows her to stay in the big ring for longer on climbs, and works better than the modified two-ring setups she's run in the past.

Seating duties are handled by a fi'zi:k Aliante saddle ("It's perfect for what we're doing - it allows you to actually sit on the bike," says Broderick) and Syntace's superb P6 Carbon seatpost while the rest of the kit is filled out with trimmed-down ESI Racer's Edge silicone foam rubber grips and Crank Brothers' ubiquitous Egg Beater 4Ti pedals.

Long-time 'Mike and Mary' followers will note that save for the heavier SRAM involvement, much of McConneloug's equipment choices have remained largely constant over the years - which is exactly how she likes it.

"We've developed relationships with our sponsors over the past eight or nine years and have chosen to stick with a lot of those same companies," McConneloug said. "The integrity of those relationships is really important. We have a history with these people and they can trust me and Mike, and know that our program is authentic and that we're doing the best that we can. And in that respect, yes, it's easier to keep building off our reputation and other people in the industry that know us want to come on as well.

"I don't have the time and energy to look outside the industry even though I probably should," she continued. "I don't know - keeping it simple has always been the best way for me to cope with all of this. I just feel super grateful for the people who have been dedicated to us. It's a total honor."


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Seven Sola Gold custom, Cirrus™ Ultra-Butted™ and Argen™ butted titanium
Fork: RockShox SID World Cup w/ carbon crown and XLoc compression damper, 90/100psi positive/negative

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.66m (5' 6") ; Weight: 52.6kg (116lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 373mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 410mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 690mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 511mm
Handlebar drop: 15mm
Head tube length: 90mm
Top tube length: 558mm

Front brake: Avid XX w/ 160mm rotor
Rear brake: Avid XX w/ 140mm rotor
Brake levers: Avid XX
Front derailleur: SRAM XX
Rear derailleur: SRAM XX
Shift levers: SRAM XX
Cassette: SRAM XX, 11-36T
Chain: SRAM PC-1090R
Crankset: SRAM XX, 175mm, 28/42T
Bottom bracket: SRAM XX BlackBox

Rims: Stan's NoTubes ZTR Race
Front hub: American Classic Disc 130
Rear hub:
American Classic Disc 225
Spokes: DT Revolution 1.8/1.5mm, 32h, red alloy nipples
Front tyre:
Kenda Small Block Eight DTC, 26x1.95", converted to tubeless
Rear tyre: Kenda Small Block Eight DTC, 26x1.95", converted to tubeless

Bars: Truvativ Noir World Cup, 580mm
Stem: Truvativ Stylo World Cup, 100mm x 5º
Headset: Crank Brothers Cobalt SL
Tape/grip: ESI Racer's Edge, shortened

Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater 4Ti
Seat post: Syntace P6 Carbon
Saddle: fi'zi:k Aliante w/ braided carbon rails
Bottle cages: King Cage Titanium

Total bike weight: 8.74kg (19.27lb)