Building a Custom Meriwether Cycles Bikepacking Frame

Screen Shot 2015 08 26 at 8 10 06 AM

Whit Johnson, the creator of Meriwether Cycles, has sent a series of process shots of my new frame.  Our conversations about this bike have spanned several weeks, and even in the first days of fabrication, some details changed.  Some changes are the result of my indecision, others the result of evolving design goals.  As the torch nears the metal, like diving into a body of cold water, there is a moment of reflection.  The basic details:

29×2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims or 27.5×3.0″ tires on 40-45mm rims

434mm chainstays with Paragon Sliders in forward position

Drive-side chainstay clearance for above wheels and tires, 2x drivetrain (36/22), and real world mud clearance

Long-ish top tube but about 5-10mm shorter than the Krampus, 68.5deg HT angle built for 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork, 50-75mm stem

Maximum framebag volume, minimally sloping top tube

3x bottle mounts, two with three holes to accommodate Salsa Anything Cage or similar

Rear rack mount, seatstay bridge mount for taillight, simple zip-tie cable guides, all cables under TT and along seatstays

Portage handle 

Below are a series of photos directly from Whit’s shop in Foresthill, CA, some are borrowed from his Flickr or Instragram, both highly recommended.  Two other frames have recently shipped to Anchorage including Sean’s singlespeed fatbike and Zach’s rigid singlespeed chubby-niner/27.5+ bikepacking machine with internal dynamo wiring.  Check out the awesome segmented fork on Zach’s bike.  Whit has also recently shipped a bike to Mike Curiak in Grand Junction, CO, built for his partner Jeny and pictured in Mike’s most recent blog post, Summerish.

St sleeve preweld

From Whit:

“That’s the seat tube collar before being fused to the lower bent seat tube. It’s a thicker walled piece that slip-fits into there so you weld the top tube and seat stays to that piece instead of the thinner walled lower part. The darker section is the color of the covering it comes in (and all 4130) and you have to use emery cloth to get to the bare steel to clean and then weld.  The hose is the argon purge going to the heat sink inside to keep it round and free of oxygen while welding. The magnet there is nice to be able to rotate the tube with my left hand while holding the torch with my right for the fusion pass (no filler is added). 

St sleeve post

Bent seat tube, mitering.

Bb cope

Compound seattube miter at bottom bracket junction.

Mitering for st

Drilling the seat tube slot over which will be fitted a seatpost clamp.

Seat tube 

Seattube to bottom bracket weld.

Welds1

Seattube to bottom bracket welded, downtube mitered and in place.

Bb dt miter

Custom half-yoke, basically a steel plate used on the drive side instead of a conventional chainstay tube to make more room for big tires and a double crank with short chainstays.  If you ask for all of these things at once, some kind of wizardry is required.  Look at the custom yokes used on the Surly Krampus, Niner ROS 9, or Kona Honzo.  Trek engineered an elevated drive-side chainstay on their Stache+ hardtail (27.5+/29/29+) with 405-420mm chainstays, while the Specialized Fuse uses a custom diamond-shaped gap in an oversized chainstay, where the gap coincides with the location of the single chainring and the maximum tire width.

This half-yoke is expected to be less stiff than a conventional chainstay, although a reinforcement may be used to strengthen the region.  If using a conventional chainstay, it would require extreme crimping or dimpling, which is a process used on many metal bikes with bigger tires.  The non-drive side uses a mostly unmodified Dedacaai ZeroUno s-bend stay.  

Screen Shot 2015 08 26 at 8 10 20 AM

Chainstay jig.

IMG 7877

Chainstays hooked up to the BB, not yet welded, checking tire clearance, simulating the location of a Shimano double crank and 36/22 chainrings.

Screen Shot 2015 08 28 at 10 11 57 AM

Waiting for seatstays.  Note: 44mm headtube, Paragon Sliders, True Temper bent downtube for fork crown clearance, custom seattube bend, 3x water bottle bosses with a series of 3 holes on the top and bottom of the down tube for big cages.  I like to us a 64oz. Klean Kanteen under the downtube.

IMG 7884

Chainstays welded, 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent tires on 41mm Ibis rims installed.  One centimeter of clearance on either side.

FullSizeRender

Shimano XT double crank installed with 32/22 chainrings.  Note, there should be an additional 2.5mm spaced behind the BB cup, which will improve crankarm and chainring clearance.  Tire clearance with 27.5×3.25 Vee Trax Fatty, which measures almost exactly 3.0″.

IMG 7881 

Guess and check the dimensions and orientation of the portage handle, a first for Meriwether Cycles.  I first saw such a feature on a custom Sam Braxton ATB touring bike at ACA headquarters in Missoula.  It hung above Sarah’s head in the Cyclosource corner.  I asked Greg Siple why the bike had that extra tube.  He asked me to guess.  I didn’t know, and at the time it didn’t mean much to me.  I have since pushed and carried my bike for many miles and hours, and when looking for a better hand position, the memory of the Braxton frame came to mind.

Sam Braxton was a Missoula, MT framebuilder for many years, and also the owner of a local bike shop.  ACA has named an annual award after him– the Braxton Bicycle Shop Award— recognizing bicycle shops which provide outstanding service to touring cyclists in America.

IMG 8005

XL hands fit fine.  Larger diameter tubing might be more comfortable.  A little handlebar tape might help.  I’m thinking an ESI silicone grip could be really comfortable.  

IMG 8009

IMG 8005

There are a few more details left including cable guides, a front derailleur mount, and paint.  Any suggestions on paint?  RAL numbers would help.  After some consideration, I am not interested in pursuing any raw finishes.  The bike will go to paint next week.

 

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17 thoughts on “Building a Custom Meriwether Cycles Bikepacking Frame

  1. That is a beautifully designed and executed custom bike. Congratulations. I think RAL 7030 Stone Grey or 7032 Pebble Grey in a matte finish would look great with black decals and tires.

  2. Are you thinking about a rear rack at all? Just outfitting my rig with a custom rack which I use as a platform only, I like that it allows me the use of a dropper post without complication.

    • Adam,

      Rear rack mounts, for sure, although I have no plans to use one anytime soon. I see the reason in using a rack on a hardtail with a dropper post. However, I have a strong aversion to rack-mounted luggage, except for maybe a drybag strapped to the top of a rack.

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