By Colin Dennis
The Magnificent Seven Evergreen SL Wild West Adventure Bike Review
There's absolutely nothing cowboy or mercenary about the intensions of the Seven Evergreen SL. It's a resilient, reactive and reliably expensive ride do-it-all ride. The Evergreen SL sends adventure cycling soaring to new levels of comfort, excitement and above all – fun!
There’s a colloquial saying from West Cornwall that when something is either very good, or done really well, it’s said to be a ‘proper job’ and that’s as good a place to start as any with the Seven Evergreen SL. When in Rome, and all that ...
The Evergreen SL sits comfortably between the plain-gauge Evergreen S and the triple-butted SLX models. You guessed correctly, the SL is Seven’s double-butted version of their high-end do-it-all adventure series frames. We try not to use the word ‘gravel’ over here.
So, even if a frame is made from aerospace-grade exotica like Seven’s 3-2.5 Argen titanium, can it really be expected to be Jack of all trades, or will it end up being a master of none? Maybe we cyclists just can't make our minds up of what an all-round road bike should be - if it exists at all?
Just like Morpheus said to Neo 'free your mind.' I got one day to figure it out.
Steve Coram of Cycle Logic in Helston kindly invited me to test-ride his own custom built Evergreen SL while on on half-term duties with the family recently (now you know why I only had the bike for one day). Luckily, we're of a similar height (1.8m or 5’ 11” in old money) so Steve's Evergreen SL was as close to a good a fit I was likely to get without me re-mortgaging the house.
The Evergreen SL frame came suitably constructed with a sloping toptube for maximum standover clearance and an endurance orientated tall-ish headtube for control and comfort, the basic elements of an adventure road bike, surely? The slim-fitting Whiskey Components No 7 carbon handlebars provided an extra dimension and width to the steering, road buzz absorbsion and off-road control.
An interesting and important element to the SL's build was the inclusion of the Whiskey No 7 Cross Disc forks. If you're customising a road bike with off-road capabilities then it makes perfect sense to add a set of tough and resilient forks into the equation. The trio of Whiskey components is complemented by the carbon No 7 seatpost, which in turn was topped-out by a lovely and comfy Selle Italia SLR titanium saddle.
Steve hadn't trimmed the steerer down, this left enough spacers in which someone might want to play around to get their optimal ride position – always a compromise between performance, handling and comfort. After changing the bar tape and a few subtle tweaks to the saddle position, I took to the Evergreen’s ride position like the Badger to the bait (read Bernard Hinault there!)
Holding the frame and forks together in perfect harmony, Steve had spec’d a tasteful black Chris King headset - fit and forget stuff of the finest quality and engineering. You couldn’t really fit anything less than a Chris King headset on a bike like the Seven Evergreen.
A fine bike requires nothing less than a fine set of wheels and the Mavic Kysyrium Pro Discs span true and smooth as I checked them in the shop. I’ve ridden countless miles on Mavic Kysyrium wheels but never on the disc version. I wasn’t expecting anything but their usual faultless performance.
Steve originally had a set of cyclocross rubbers on the Evergreen, but we decided that a pair of Continental Gator Hardshell 32mm tyres would be better suited for my Kernow adventure with its planned on the back of a postcard 80/20 road/off-road split (Kernow being Cornish for Cornwall)
Groupset wise, the Evergreen was decked out in Shimano Hydraulic STI Di2 shifters matched with a 1 x 11 XTR rear mech and cassette. The crankset had to be a fill-in as the original Rotor set-up had been snapped up by a customer of Steve’s who was desperate for the Rotors cranks and chainring – never mind, customers come first, I suppose.
Steve’s stand-in crankset worked a treat and never missed a beat. The rear cassette is the impressive XTR 11-40, again, the whole set-up looked and worked beautifully. For an adventure bike, I think the 1 x 11 system works well as a viable option opposed to the standard compact groupset. There’s less to go wrong, arguably you might also save a few grams, but the main concern here is that on a long, multi-day-week-month adventure, a 1 x 11 set-up is going to prove much less of a hassle.
If you know this area of West Cornwall then you’ll understand how hilly it can be as you traverse around its rocky coastline. The spread of gears available on the Evergreen coped easily with the sharpest of climbs Such as School Hill in Coverack and the climb out of Poldhu Cove, each being between 17% and 20% in places.
In typical Cornish style, the weather the previous day had been glorious sunshine, come test ride day the weather had clearly had a change of heart as even the helicopters from nearby Culdrose Air Station had called it a day. Yep! Low-visibility, low cloud and an air full of moisture, yet the temperature was touching 16 degrees in Helston – welcome to West Cornwall!
By the time I’d breezed past Culdrose Air Station I was already feeling right at home on the Evergreen SL. The wind blows strong across the open airfield and there’s nowhere to hide except down onto the easy reach of the drops of the bars and put your chin to your chest. The fast descent into Gweek confirmed that all the ride qualities of titanium are true as the Evergreen soaked up the worst of the feedback from the rough Tarmac and let it evaporate before it reached the saddle.
A sharp right-hand turn leads to a long gentle climb out of Gweek, and this is where the Mavic Kysyrium wheelset pays dividends. Even with the 32mm Conti’s on board the Mavic’s roll effortlessly and respond to every kick from my input. Needless to say all this responsiveness is also delivered directly to the wheels via the Evergreen’s plush yet responsive transfer of power from the pedals directly to the wheels.
The fast and steep sweeping descent into Coverack is simply superb. It hits 17% at the top and doesn’t back off ‘til you reach the sea wall where you are greeted with an alarming 90 degree right-hand turn. Get this wrong and you’re in need of the local RNLI services. Thankfully the Shimano Hydraulic discs kept me out of A and E with plenty of control and modulation with only the faintest hind of a squeal.
The descent into Coverack deserves to be ridden well and I always try to head out there when I’m visiting the area. Then there’s only the challenge of School Hill with its tight, steep right-hander at the bottom and zig-zag bends mid-climb to contend with as you climb from the harbour wall. All this and a warm fire in the Coverack Villge Stores with a steaming-hot Cornish pasty and a cup of coffee to fuel the legs, what more could you ask for?
After the pasty-laden climb of School Hill out of the way it’s pretty flat going as I keep my head down once again, this time I’m straight into the south-westerly across Goonhilly Downs, home to all the Telstar satellites that beamed the early TV signals around the world. Times change and now it’s also home to a giant wind farm. The really good bit here though is that it’s also slightly downhill into Kuggar and despite the wind the Evergreen enables me to let me spin my legs and up my cadence a little, proving that the 11th tooth on the cassette is far from redundant.
One of the things that keeps titanium from disappearing from the under the torch is that regardless of the expense, a titanium frame that’s been blessed by a master craftsman should, notwithstanding crashes and the like, last probably longer than you’ll be riding for. The pleasures of a titanium frame is that it’s strong, like steel, yet offers a yielding ride and won’t rust.
If I’m right, and please correct me if I’m not, but the molecular structure of titanium, unlike steel and aluminium, doesn’t allow the material to decay, so you will always have the same resilient ride regardless of the age of the bike. That’s probably why titanium is so often used in the aerospace industry. Keep it light, keep it strong.
And why is titanium so expensive when it’s so abundant on planet Earth? Well, without going all techy again: it’s difficult to extract because mother Earth doesn’t want to give it up easily, and it’s a bit of a bitch for welders to work with, apparently.
Why are the best cafés at the bottom of the best hills in Cornwall? Poldhu Cove has public conveniences and a very handy beach-front café that’s open 363 days a year – how cool is that! But the steep climb up to Mullion Golf Club is an old enemy of mine and I know how much the top corner is going to hurt. With this in mind I pass on my second pasty and opt for a more sensible cup of tea.
Mullion Golf Club is also home to the first off-road section of the day and despite some dodgy looking trouser wear on the tee, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Evergreen handles the track that cuts through the fairway and descends into Church Cove, and the half sunken church of St Winwaloe forlornly resides.
Despite the lack of knobbly tyres, the Seven picked its way down the track with ease and soaked up the bumps as much as a fully-rigid road bike can. Let’s not pretend here, the Evergreen is a road bike that is more than capable of handling itself confidently when faced with some non-technical off-roading.
The Seven Evergreen SL is not a substitute for a mountain bike, and no adventure road bike will stand in for an MTB, but with some deft handling and a frame that’s adorned with quality components – you can still have a shed-load of fun!
I happily give the front end of the Evergreen a free-reign as we dash down to the cove and the Conti tyres soak up the worst of the slippery rock covered track. I was really glad we fitted the Lizard Skins handlebar tape too. The DSB tape is grippy in the wet and certainly helps absorb the trail buzz - who needs Belgian cobbles anyway! Thing is, I like riding road bikes off-road and the Evergreen's wishbone seat stays add that extra combination of trail and road absorbsion and control of the rear end.
Riding a road bike along the road less travelled sharpens the senses and quickens up the handling skills. It's also so much nicer to do it on a bike that seems to understand this and revels being ridden hard through the muck and sand. The chain stayed on the chainring and didn’t bounce off once, just like it's ment to. Although I did the precautionary manuvere of clicking down to the smallest cog to minimise any chain slap.
The adventure element to the Evergreen was living up to its premise and the next test was the really muddy descent into Loe Bar.
Road tyres, regardless of how wide or tough they are, have their limitations when it comes to mud, but cutting though the watery gloop at the top of the descent into Loe Bar didn’t stop the forward motion of the Evergreen SL.
The sand at the bottom did though!
Nothing can ride across course sand. The front wheel digs in, turns to the side and you’re dismounting. Saying that, after remounting, the web of green weeds that cling to the surface of the bar enabled me to ride for approximately a third of the way across. All good fun!
Turning sharp right after climbing up from Loe Bar, the bumpy track alongside the Loe Pool was a welcome return to pedalling and some off-road action where, after carefully and safely manoeuvring around a small group of walkers, I put power to the pedal and cantered off along the picturesque trail. The SL never once complaining or shuddering in rebellion to all that I rode it through.
The return to tarmac led to the final steep road climb up Furry Way in Helston and the welcoming lights of Cycle Logic and some bemused looks from customers and my family alike, 'look at the state of that road bike, it's covered in mud!'.
In summary: Did I have an adventure? Is the Seven Evergreen SL an adventure bike of the highest quality? Darn right I did, and yes it is!
I recommend talking to one of the UK suppliers of Seven bikes to get the very best out of a frameset like this, experience counts here. These specialist should know exactly what will and what won't work. Only a handful of shops supply Seven frames and bikes, so when you're spending this kind of money you'll want to get it right.
Steve has a selection of Seven frames in Cycle Logic for customers to view, these are display frames but this way you get a great opportunity of seeing and getting exactly what you want.
For riders who ‘get it’ riding road bikes off-road that is, The Seven Evergreen SL is a supreme example of what an adventure bike should be: resiliant, well built, confidence inspiring, responsive yet predictable in its handling, and most of all, it's fun to ride.
Yes, a Seven frameset can cost a great deal of money, especially if you want it customised with the best complementary components, but if you weighed up the cost against the years of longevity of the frame, I reckon the return just might be worth a trip to the bank - via the bar, of course. Proper Job!
Superlative build quality and craftmanship
Excellent, balanced handling both on and off-road
Custom built perfection
All the attributes that only titanium can bring
You will never need another road frame
Almost infinite build combinations tailored to your requirements
Set it up for road or off-road adventures or even race it
The devil's in the detail - just ask for what you want, need or desire your frame to be
If you need to ask how much ...
Seven QI Cornish facts
- The revered Cornish pasty was originally a means to carry meals into the tin mines. By pain of death, never eat your pasty from the middle!
- Tin was first discovered in Cornwall just a few miles from Helston.
- Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ is a tributary of the Helford River close by to Helston.
- Just like Frenchman’s Creek, ‘Jamaica Inn’ also really exists. It squats low on a bleak hillside adjacent the A30 in the middle of Bodmin Moor.
- Titanium is one of planet Earth’s most abundant elements and was first discovered in Cornwall in 1791.
- Helston is home to the ancient May Day celebration ‘Flora Day’ and the Floral, or Furry Dance, the tune so ruefully sung by Terry Wogan.
- Guglielmo Marconi sent and received his first radio transmissions on a site near to Poldhu Cove, Helston.