My Pink Meriwether Adventure Bike

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Everything I need to have fun and survive, all wrapped in pink.  Not shown here are a tent, computer, or a front derailleur, which broke after a year and a half of adventure.  For the AZT, we’re traveling without a tent.  The 11″ MacBook Air has rejoined the packlist and fits nicely in the Revelate Viscacha with a certain packing procedure (clothes and groundcloth packed first).

The basic details are that it carries everything I need to survive and have fun including 4 liters of water, clothing and camping gear, durable 2.4″ tubeless tires on wide carbon rims, a useful range of gears, 120mm of seriously plush front suspension, a wide handlebar, all time lighting and USB charging, and the same saddle which has adorned every bike I have ridden since 2009, likely over 75,000 miles of touring and commuting on its bent steel frame, still as comfortable as ever.

The important details are 434mm chainstays, a low but not too low bottom bracket, a long but not too long top tube, a portage handle, a 68.5 degree head tube angle, and the aforementioned 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork with 51mm of offset.  All other parts come directly from my Surly Krampus and are designed to be world touring friendly, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket and the option for standard QR wheels via replaceable Paragon dropout plates and of course, a different fork.  As always, the bike is designed for big tires and a ton of extra clearance.  

The Meriwether handles singletrack better than the Krampus, descends better than the Krampus, climbs better than the Krampus, and pedals more comfortably than the Krampus.  But that’s only because I rode the Krampus for a year– and during that time it was a great bike– but I was paying attention and figured out how to make a bike better for me.  Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles is the catalyst and the confidence for this project who massaged my ideas into digital lines and degrees in BikeCAD, and manufactured our ideas in steel, willingly coating his handiwork in a pink blanket of paint.  Some call the color theft-protection, but honestly, it is the only color I wanted.  I did consider a muted lavender hue, but settled on antique pink, as I like to call it.

The bike easily finds the center of the trail, and doesn’t have the tendency to oversteer or understeer as other bikes I’ve ridden.  I can look further down the trail and know that my tires will take me there, not into the weeds.  On flowing serpentine trail, I sit down and position myself between the wheels, which are properly weighted for the front tires to cut a line and the rear tire to follow aggressively.  Riding this bike through corners– thanks, for certain, to the lower bottom bracket which I initially resisted– is like waterskiing.  The harder I dig, the harder it turns.  

The bike climbs.  Shorter chainstays result in a more direct power transfer to the rear wheel, even through Whit was concerned that his drive-side half yoke would be flexible.  It is not.  The low bottom bracket changes my relationship with only the tallest, most menacing obstacles while climbing, resulting in more frequent pedal strike on technical trials-like climbs.  In all other situations, the 60mm BB drop is a feature, and within a week, pedal strike is minimized through experience.  I might adjust the BB drop to 55mm if I had the chance to do it again, but that is a very personal consideration because I love climbing chunky stuff.  But the bike doesn’t try to tip over backwards on steep climbs and the shortened top tube allows me to approach long ascents in a seated position, while out of the saddle efforts are directly rewarded.  I recently spend much of the Highline Trail in Arizona either hiking alongside my bike, descending behind the saddle, or ripping climbs in a 34-34 gear combination.  It is a stand-up and hammer gear combination on any steep mountain bike trail, but chain retention is good and it forces me to hit the gas.  Sometimes a little extra gas is what you need for the next ledge or rock in the trail.  Soft-pedaling through challenging trail usually results in walking.  And yes, the portage handle is awesome.  I now have three useful hand positions for hauling the bike, each for a different kind of hike-a-bike.

Descending is unlike any hardtail I have ridden.  The Krampus gave me much of the confidence I sought over the classic geometry of the Raleigh XXIX and its 80mm fork.  Add to that more modern geometry, including the 68.5 degree head tube and the 51mm fork offset on a remarkable 120mm fork, and this bike is seriously confident going downhill.  Again, a little lower bottom bracket helps to keep my center of mass behind the front axle, reducing the feeling of going over the bars on steep trails.  I’ve taken to descending almost every section of trail I can find, save for most of the Pipeline Trail off the Mogollon Rim and a couple rocky drops on the way into Pine.  But, I rode most of the last section of the Highline into Pine at dusk, and loved it.  Happy to be on 2.4″ Ardents, for sure.  And the Pike, get a Pike!  To be fair, I’ve ridden some MRP Stage forks which also feel phenomenal, and some other modern RockShox offerings have impressed me on test rides, including the new Revelation and SID forks.  But for the same weight as a Revelation (which has 32mm stanchions) and the same price as a SID (yes, kind of a lot), you can have the Pike which boasts 35mm stanchions with premium RockShox internals.  The concept of using more fork offset with a lower head tube angle results in a bicycle with improved descent characteristics yet which preserves mechanical trail and handling on neutral trail sections and on climbs– it descends better without any drawbacks. 

Contact Whit Johnson at Meriwether Cycles if you have any custom bicycle needs.  He specializes in mountain bikes with character, built for adventure.  He likes short chainstays, fat tires, and extra attachment points.  He has recently built several gorgeous custom forks for internal dynamo wiring to accompany custom frames and has pushed the boundaries with his fatbike and plus-sized bikes for the past few years.  I really enjoyed working with Whit on this project.  He quickly understood my ideas and converted them to numbers, to visual impressions of a bicycle, and ultimately into a sweet ride.  Check out Meriwether Cycles on Instagram, Flickr, and on the Meriwether Blog.  He is located in Foresthill, CA and has relatively short lead times.  Pricing starts at $1200 although a frame similar to mine would cost about $1500.  

If you are interested in stock bicycles with a similar character to my pink bike check out the Advocate Hayduke, Jamis Dragonslayer, and Marin Pine Mountain.  

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Build details:

Meriwether Cycles custom steel frame for 29/27.5+

RockShox Pike RCT3 120mm, 15mm TA, 51m offset

Chris King headset and BB

Shimano Deore crank, 34/22T rings

Shimano SLX direct mount front derailleur with Problem Solvers clamp, XTR GS rear derailleur

Shimano XTR 9speed rear shifter, front friction thumb shifter on Paul Thumbie

Shimano XT 11-34 cassette and SRAM PG-951 chain

Specialized 75mm stem

Race Face SixC 3/4″ riser carbon handlebar, 785mm wide

Salsa Regulator Ti seatpost, zero setback

Ergon GP1-L grips

Brooks B-17 Standard

Avid BB-7 brakes and levers, 160mm rotors

Derby HD 35mm wide carbon rim to Hope Pro 2 Evo rear hub

Light Bicycle 35mm wide carbon rim to SP PD-8X dynamo hub

Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ EXO tires, tubeless

Redline Monster nylon pedals

Supernova E3 Triple 2 headlight, E3 Pro taillight with custom brackets

Sinewave Reactor USB charger, top cap mount

Revelate Designs custom ziperless framebag, Viscacha seatbag, Gas Tank, small Sweet Roll and small Pocket

Randi Jo Fab Bartender bag, Bunyan Velo logo

Salsa Anything Cage HD and 64 oz. Klean Kanteen

Salsa stainless bottle cages on fork attached via hose clamps, 32 oz bottles 

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25 thoughts on “My Pink Meriwether Adventure Bike

  1. You didn’t mention handlebars. How wide are yours, grip end to grip end? The bracket doesn’t look that low. Must be position on trail. I dig the rear tire/frame clearance.

    • Bars are 785mm, add a few mm with the Ergon grips I suppose. The 60mm BB drop is super standard for 29ers and the new 27.5+ hardtails. I just like riding though minefields of rocks.

      • Ok, cool…about the same as my Salsa EM. I am still jonesing for Jones H bar, but after reading about long term issues with hand numbness, I might stick with what I have. The problem is, the wider bar won’t fit on the bus rack so I can’t get to the mtns without renting a vehicle. Thanks for the info.

    • I rode about 750 miles on 29+. Wheels are too big, although I’d be curious to spend some time on 27.5+. Not sure if it was the overall wheel size of the nature of “fat” tires on mountain bike trails that I didn’t like. There is something about mountain biking on 3.0-4.0+ inch tires that is frustrating, although there are certain advantages at times. I’m likely to stick with 2.4″ tire, although I could be swayed by some new 2.5-3.0″ options, and wider rims are definitely in my future. I saw some 2.4″ Continental Mountain King tires on Ibis 741 rims the other day that made me wonder what the perfect all-mountain rim/tire combination might be.

      • All those miles on wide rims? Just my experience, but putting a plus tire on a 45mm+ wide rim makes it handle like a turd- heavy, squared off, and self-steers at lower pressures

        • No, most of those miles were on worn out Knards and Flow EX rims, which handled nicely if a little squirmy at lower pressures. I built some Rabbit Holes when I got to Anchorage and used the ECR as my primary transport for a few weeks before I had the money to buy a Mukluk, which worked well in a low snow year for in-town transport. Eventually, I put 2.35″ 45NRTH Nicotine tires on the ECR which wasn’t a winning combination because I lost tire volume and the stud pattern in the Nicotines isn’t great. I set-up the Mukluk tubeless, drilled out the Rolling Darryl rims, and added a bunch of Grip Studs to the Nates. I almost never rode the ECR after that.

          I agree, a 45mm internal width is too much for a 3″ tire unless flotation is a primary goal. I’d shoot for 40-45mm outside width, so around 35-40mm inside. I really like the way Ibis 941 rims work with 2.35-3.0″ tires, on both trail bikes and plus bikes.

          • On my two trail bikes I’ve settled on 30mm inner width rims and 2.4″ Conti Trail King tires.

            I have some older TK’s that I like better than some newer versions. I need to investigate a bit more and see what’s different about them.

            The older sets I have mount up with a rounder profile and handle better than the newer ones which are more squared off. I suspect the newer ones are narrower.

            I just put my calipers in my backpack so I can measure them tonight at home.

            On the same rims Schwalbe Hans Damfs mounted up with a rounder profile than the newer TKs and handled better, but their poor durability makes them impractical to use.

            I have enjoyed wider rims, but it’s really important to match the tire design/width with the width of rims you want to use so the cornering tread is in the right place and the tire has a profile that allows it to transition from side to side well.

            Having so many rim and tire choices is great in some respects, but it also means more trial and error to find great combinations.

          • Yes, resultant tire profile is important and bigger isn’t always better. The 2.4 Mountain Kings or Trail Kings I saw on wide Ibis rims looked great. The greater benefit was that the rider could reliably ride tubeless on local trails, where a lot of slickrock features produce immense side loads, which try to separate the tire from the rim.

            I’m happy with 30mm inner width with 2.4″ Ardent. I would still like to try 35mm inner, but have no interest in 45mm inner width for anything, even 3.0″ tires.

            You know, the Schwalbe rep at Interbike promised me that the knobs wouldn’t tear away from new Hans Dampf tires. We claimed it was a bad batch of TrailStar rubber. I’m skeptical.

          • If a HD lasted a reasonable amount of time that’s the only tire I would run. They work so well here in the PNW. I just can’t pay $90/tire every couple months in the summer when TKs will last 1+ years of regular riding.

            Once my current TKs are worn out I’ll buy a new HD and test it.

  2. Nick,

    I’ve been following your Meriwether construct with great interest, though I understand little of the theory behind bicycle geometry. When you say you dropped the BB 6cm(!) does that mean it’s about 2.5 inches closer to the ground? This is accomplished, along with a steeper head tube angle and shorter chain stays, by opening the angle between the top tube & down tube and the seat & chain stays? In spite of all of that your photos seem to depict a fairly conventional (and pretty) looking bike.

    With all the advantages you site what are the theoretical downsides to your geometry (aside from the BB/cranks hitting the ground)? That is, what advantages does it confer over the geometry of a cross country racing bike? I have many other questions, such as the working of your electronics, but am fearful of exposing m ignorance!

    The carry handle is inspired.

    Mike McElveen

    • Mike, Bottom bracket drop is the measure of the location of the BB below an imaginary line between the front and rear axles. A 60mm BB drop is fairly conventional, although it is lower than the last few bikes I’ve ridden by a bit. I also lifted my last bike, the Krampus, by adding a 120mm Fox fork in place of the stock steel fork. The steel fork had an axle to crown measurement of 483mm, while the Fox was much taller, thereby raising the bottom bracket off the ground and lessening the “BB drop”. See more about common geometry terms here, note the Krampus also has a 60mm BB drop but only with the stock fork: http://surlybikes.com/bikes/krampus/geometry

      I’ll try to post a complete discussion of my electronic system soon, partly because the options are still limited and hidden in different corners of the market, originating from Taiwan, Germany, UK, and USA. But, it’s not too complicated, just not as easy to source as it should be.

        • I believe BB drop is calculated with fork sag, as Whit was clear to ask if I set my forks to 20, 25, or 30% sag. I really didn’t have a great answer for him so we built the bike around 25% sag on a 120mm Pike fork, 51mm offset. In fact, at my current riding pressure, the fork does sag exactly 25%.

          I’ll try to measure the actual BB height from the ground.

  3. Looks great! I absolutely love the color. My Robin’s Egg Blue Cross Check is beaten to hell, and I debated getting it powdered a similar color.
    Then I realized, wearing two cross country trips in the paint job is way cooler!

  4. I’ve been wanting to use hose clamps mount cages to my rockshox but have concerns about damaging the fork. Have you noticed any issues with your fork/cage set-up?

  5. Great post, the new machine looks great.

    I wanted to ask about your saddle – which to me looks like it could be a brooks leather model. How have you managed to keep it in such good shape for so long? How often are you applying oil? Thanks for any insight! I’m experiencing my first leather saddle.

    • Thanks! I’m really enjoying the new bike, it it better than I reasonably expected.

      I’ve had this particular Brooks B-17 since 2009, so about six full years and well over 50,000 miles touring, commuting, fatbiking, etc. I used Proofide and similar products somewhat liberally in the first few weeks, leaving the film on the underside of the saddle. There after, I would apply a leather treatment once a year. I haven’t used anything on the saddle in well over a year at this point. The leather is thoroughly impregnated with oils, both from treatment and natural oils from riding.

      Unfortunately, some of the steel hardware is failing on this saddle and the adjustment at the nose rattle when I descend in the standing position. I might be time to replace it, although is it supremely comfortable right now.

      • Good tips, thanks for the info. I’ve only applied Proofide once – I’ve been riding on my b-17 for a year. I’m going to apply more often. It’s a really comfortable saddle and want to keep it as long as possible. Ride on!

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