A Letter to Meriwether Cycles

Last week, Lael and I closed a two week trip in Baja California with our friends Sarah and Tom Swallow. We parted in the mountains and Lael and I camped on a ridge at 2000ft that night, with sweeping views of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir and the Pacific Ocean. The next morning we raced toward the bus station in Colonet and I had the feeling that a chapter was closing.  Before we stuffed our bikes under a bus and rode across the border from Tijuana to San Diego and another year passed without coming up for air, I had to stop to take a photograph. It wasn’t the place or the light or even the bike, it was the feeling of an entire year of experiences all at once. All on this bike.

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Whit,

A moment of sentimentality before I build a new wheelset next week. It has been nice to finally reflect on the last year and on the Baja Divide project, now that everything is falling into place.

I just wanted to say thanks for the pink bike. Every year, my camera spends less time pointed at my bike and equipment, and more time looking forward. I regret not being able to provide more images of the bike and its rider, but life behind the camera is very much just that.

It is also a reflection of the bicycle as a tool and not as a commodity. Experiences are increasingly important to me while the equipment that enables these experiences…well, that never was the point. But I love the bike. I really do.

It brings me great joy to know that this thing traveled all over Baja in search of a way to get more people on bikes. The Baja Divide is becoming a real thing— a living organism in the bikepacking community— and we already have 25-30 people out on the route since early November. That number will be 200 by the end of the season and those 200 people will return home and inspire others to ride, to travel, to learn.

As a tool, this bike rides with the precision of a scalpel and the dauntlessness of a sledgehammer. I think we nailed the geometry. I dream about shorter stays and different wheel sizes and suspension configurations. But I’m afraid it might be just right the way it is.

-Nicholas Carman

Follow Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles on Instagram @meriwethercycles.

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8 thoughts on “A Letter to Meriwether Cycles

  1. Sometimes we move on too fast to the next new thing. Only to look back and find we were happy with what we had. It does pay off to be content with what you have. Some equipment is just you.

  2. Hey Nicholas, great post. Been really keen to hear how you’ve been your extremely well thought-out rig.

    I’m seeing more and more bikepackers squeeze a 60oz Klean Kanteen under the downtube. I assume there’s no issue with 1x setups as shown on your bike, but would a 2x crank leave you with some granny ring interference? I’ve also been considering a 1.5L Nalgene, which is likely a bit narrower (though taller) than your Klean Kanteen.

    • Yes the 64OZ Klean Kanteen is great for expanding water capacity. I’ve used several versions of the Salsa Anything Cage over the years but recently discovered the King Cage brand Manything Cage, which is an ultralight titanium cargo cage that fits the Canteen nicely. In any case, you shouldn’t have any problem fitting a 64 oz. bottle between single and double chainring setups on a mountain bike, a road bike with 68mm cranks probably wouldn’t work, and a road or MTB with a triple probably won’t work either. Also, if using a suspension fork, check to make sure that the top of the bottle clears the front tire under full compression.

  3. Hey Nick, hope all is well in the land of bicycle adventures. Chatting with you last summer planted the bikepacking bug in my ear and the scholarship applicant deal with advocate was enough to push Alliy to plan a trip. While Alliy is planning on using the advocate deal to get a bike going, I am planning on building a frame. I know how I like my long travel bikes to ride but a bikepacking bike is a whole new ballgame. I know you have invested a lot of time in figuring out your geometry and have other great ideas for gear hauling and other fun features. Would you mind sharing what you have learned? What do you think are the key features for a rad bikepacking bike?

    • I just found your post on your frame build which has most of the info that I was asking about. Anything that you’ve learned since riding the bike?

      • Tim, This brings up a good question. Is a bikepacking bike any different from a regular bike? For many years, touring bikes were heavy steel road bikes with attachment points for racks, bottles, etc. But the development of lightweight luggage means that riders can use almost any bike for travel. As such, I would consider a lightweight road bike for a conventional road tour. For a mountain bike tour, I think the same logic applies. There is no reason you cannot use your Transition for bikepacking trips, although you may need to use a backpack to augment storage. The only limitations will be reduced luggage capacity due to the full-suspension frame. Depending on rider height, wheels size, and suspension travel you may also have limited seatbag/tire clearance, although I think you are tall enough to avoid that. There also aren’t any great solutions for running a seatbag and a dropper post. You could just avoid using the dropper or replace it with a standard post for a longer trip. There are a couple of solutions out there for this problem, although the Wolf Tooth Valais is the cheapest and simplest that I have seen: http://www.wolftoothcomponents.com/collections/small-components/products/valais-25

        However, if you are considering a new bike for this purpose and the thought of a hardtail doesn’t make you cringe, I have a few thoughts. Since riding both 27.5+ and large volume 29″ tires, I still prefer 29″ wheels. Plus size tires were valuable in Baja for flotation, but to me 3.0″ tires always feel a little too soft or too hard, much like riding a fatbike on trails. I also prefer the rollover of the 29″ wheel, although your preferences may vary. With any wheel size, I find that shorter chainstays make for better handling, at least the way I think we both like to ride. The Advocate Hayduke and Specialized Fuse both feature 430mm stays, which is average these days, although it is shorter than most 29ers in years past. There are other bikes that offer shorter chainstays and thus quicker handling on the trail. The Trek Stache and Salsa Woodsmoke both use elevated chainstays to fit 29+ wheels and really short stays (around 405-420mm), and the Woodsmoke is also designed to fit a very large framebag and take a bottle under the downtube, which are nice details. Both of these bikes can also be built with 27.5+ or 29″ wheels as well. The Kona Big Honzo is built as a 27.5×2.8″ trail shredder with 415mm stays, and is specced with a dropper.

        Btw, my bike is very similar to the Hayduke regarding geometry and clearances. I’ve really enjoyed my bike and if I were to do anything differently today, I’d squeeze a few more mm out of the chainstays, which wouldn’t be a problem with since I have sliding dropouts. However, my intention was for the bike to fit 29×2.4″ tires with loads of mud clearance, and it definitely does that (it also fits 27.5+ and 29+). I’m building another 29″ wheelset this month and plan to try the new 29×2.6″ Schwalbe Nobby Nic, and the new Terrene 29×2.8″ tire once it is available later this summer. My preferred tire combination over the last few years has been 2.4″ Ardent and 2.5″ Minion DHF. Lael rode the 2.6″ Nobby Nic on her Baja Divide FKT and loved it.

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