The Baja Divide Route, Mexico

Nicholas Carman1 5668

Don’t ride MEX 1, ride the Baja Divide.  Lael descends toward Ejido Uruapan on her Advocate Cycles Hayduke.

It’s called the Baja Divide.  The route touches the Pacific Coast and the Sea of Cortez multiple times.  It crosses every mountain range in Baja California, a desert where freshwater streams and springs are not uncommon in winter, and where traditional ranching and fishing lifestyles persist.  The route climbs and descends on well traveled graded dirt roads, popular 4×4 and moto routes, and forgotten jeep tracks.  We’re planning a connection across Bahia Concepcion by panga, the durable fiberglass fishing boats used by local fishermen, to access a little used dirt road on the other side of the bay.  The Baja Divide is a personal project of Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox to give back to the bikepacking community.  We’ve enjoyed routes in Israel, Arizona, South Africa, Slovakia, Montenegro, and elsewhere.   

The Baja Divide is a dirt bikepacking route from Tecate to the southern cape.  When the route is complete, it is expected to be nearly 2000 miles long and over 90% unpaved, recommended for bicycles with 2.3” tires or larger.  Thus far, 3.0” tires as on Lael’s Advocate Hayduke have proven to be perfect for the route, and 4.0” tires would not be out of place.  As always, pack light, leave room for food and water, and leave most of your cold weather gear at home.  The route would be best enjoyed between November and February, when most dirt routes in the USA, Canada, and Europe are closed for the season.  

What began as a personal project to craft a pleasant ride down the peninsula– an experience and a route which we hoped to casually share— has developed into a commitment to publish a real route in Baja.  As such, a real route is thoroughly researched, tested, and recorded.  A GPX track, route narratives, and a resupply guide will be prepared.  Most of all, I hope to be able to publish a printed resource similar to the high quality maps we have come to appreciate from the Adventure Cycling Association.    

There is much work remaining to complete the route.  Thus far Lael and I have connected San Diego to La Paz by a series of dirt routes, and we plan a few more weeks of exploration in the southern cape with a rotating cast of friends who have joined us to escape winter and help with the route.  Thereafter, Lael and I plan to take a bus back north to Tijuana to ride down the peninsula a second time.  We will ride alternate routes, make detailed notes and waypoints regarding resupply, and record more GPX tracks from which the final route will be compiled.  It is a big project, seemingly growing in scope every day.  

The future of the Baja Divide requires your support.  We are looking for corporate and individual sponsors who wish to promote the project and the culture of self-supported bikepacking through financial or technical assistance.  In-kind equipment sponsors are also welcome to offset costs associated with building the route, including worn tires and drivetrain parts, camping equipment, etc.  For instance, Lael and I are both using threadbare sleeping bags, worn from nearly four years on the road.  Additionally, I am looking for a high-quality 27.5+ wheelset for my Meriwether, as I’ve been jealous of Lael’s 3.0” tires on the many sandy and rough jeep tracks in Baja.  My six year old Brooks B17 saddle has bent rails and has lost two rivets. We are also seeking assistance in building a high-quality custom website for the project.  For now, I have built a simple WordPress.com site for the project at www.bajadivide.com.

I expect to have a complete GPX track available later this spring.  An informal group ride is scheduled to start on January 2, 2017.  Lael and I will be there.  Ride self-supported at your own pace, form your own groups, ride as much of the route as you want. 

I will begin sharing stories on the blog from the process of route building in Baja in the coming weeks.  Look for more stories on Lael’s Globe of Adventure, the new Baja Divide website, and our new Instagram accounts @nicholascarman and @laelwilcox.  

Nicholas Carman1 5702

Nicholas Carman1 5762

Nicholas Carman1 5759

Nicholas Carman1 5832

Nicholas Carman1 5712

Nicholas Carman1 5703

Nicholas Carman1 5709

Nicholas Carman1 5828

Nicholas Carman1 5701

Nicholas Carman1 5688

Nicholas Carman1 5829

Some People and Bikes from Interbike 2015, Las Vegas, NV

Nicholas Carman1 5079

Advocate Cycles frames are hot off the press, each featuring custom decals designed by local artists on the top tube.  Tim and Odia Krueger of Advocate Cycles shared a booth with Cycle Monkey, Sinewave, and Red Bear Products.  The 27.5+/29 Hayduke is in the foreground, and would be a great bikepacking rig.  It shares many features with my new frame.

Arriving on Monday morning, each of the five person Revelate crew had their own story of nocturnal misery at cruising altitude.  Except Lael, who claims the “shortest plane ride of her life” as she slept from takeoff to landing.  A summer of sleeping directly on the ground probably helps.  By noon, everyone assembled at the Mandalay Bay convention center to reassemble the contents of a shipping crate into Revelate Designs booth #21186.

Interbike is a trade show.  Everyone rolls their eyes about Las Vegas, about the nature of the show, about the cigarette smoke in the casinos, about the food, about the organization that operates the event, and the industry.  Everyone complains about Interbike.  However, it is the largest collection of cycling industry professionals in North America, eclipsed in size only by Eurobike and the Taipei International Cycle Show, and for the most part, a lot of productive things happen here.  There are a lot of nice people, a lot of exciting new product, and for most attendees, there are new prospects.  Lael and I enjoyed meeting many internet friends for the first time.  We made new connections which we look forward to developing into the future.  I met Charlie Kelly and after a teaser story from the first Iditasport event in the late ’80s, I bought his book.  Lael met Rebecca Rusch, the legendary endurance cyclist best known for her 13 1/2 hour passage of the Kokopelli Trail.  We huddled around pizza and beer to hear stories from Mongolia and secrets of new products, designs to make cycling better and more fun.  We talked a lot about Revelate luggage, bikepacking, and adventure by bike.  We met the Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association, Jim Sayer; Editor of Bicycle Times magazine, Adam Newman; and on more than three occasions, I passed Tom Ritchey in the aisles of Interbike.  Is Tom Ritchey the most recognizable guy in the industry, or is he just everywhere?

Interbike was awesome.  We spent so much time talking to people that the week passed much faster than expected.  And now, in a last minute rush, we find ourselves trying to shift entirely into bike touring mode.  I haven’t downloaded tracks for the AZT, scheduled a route from Las Vegas to St. George or from St. George to Kanab.  Skyler and Panthea arrive in a few hours.  We’ve located a nearby desert campsite for the night, expecting to return to town to pack and plan in the morning.  It will be nice once we get rolling, but for now, my busy summer continues.

Unpacking the crate.  The bare convention hall is transformed in less than 24 hours.

Nicholas Carman1 5002

Nicholas Carman1 5006

Nicholas Carman1 5039

Outdoor Dirt Demo

Nicholas Carman1 5043

Nicholas Carman1 5042

Nicholas Carman1 5044

Nicholas Carman1 5045

Nicholas Carman1 5046

Nicholas Carman1 5048

The new Surly Wednesday.

Nicholas Carman1 5050

Nicholas Carman1 5049

27.5+, full-sus, Nobby Nic tires=traction, lots of traction.

Nicholas Carman1 5051

18.9lbs, the new 9zero7 Whiteout Team Edition.

Nicholas Carman1 5052

The new Fatback Skookum.

Nicholas Carman1 5053

Icelandic Lauf forks, simple, light, maintenance free, and awesome.  They feel really, really good.  Best considered for gravel to light XC.  Think Tour Divide race bike…

Nicholas Carman1 5055

Nicholas Carman1 5054

The Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch, and the queen of eating sandwiches and sleeping in the dirt.

Nicholas Carman1 5063

Some bikepacking junk show at Interbike, for sure.

Nicholas Carman1 5066

Charlie Kelly talked me into buying his book.  He didn’t have to try very hard, especially with Joe Breeze just over his shoulder.

Nicholas Carman1 5067

Nicholas Carman1 5070

Big Adventures, and lots of Chinese carbon.

Nicholas Carman1 5068

Hey, it’s me!

Nicholas Carman1 5069

Vintage 1987 GT.

Nicholas Carman1 5071

Marin Pine Mountain 1 rigid 27.5+.

Nicholas Carman1 5072

Lauf leaf springs.

Nicholas Carman1 5073

John Lackey, meet John Lackey.  John set the Iditarod record to McGrath last year.

Nicholas Carman1 5074

Lael trashed a tire commuting around Las Vegas.  She borrow a Fatback Skookum for the ride home.  Rolling a fatbike through a casino in Vegas is fun.

Nicholas Carman1 5075

Each Advocate Cycle model features a different custom design, this is the new Lorax.

Nicholas Carman1 5080

New SP 150x15mm thru-axle dynamo hub for fatbikes.  SP hubs are now imported and distributed in the USA by Cycle Monkey.  I’ve also got the new top-cap mounted Sinewave Cycles Reactor USB charger to test on the Arizona Trail.

Nicholas Carman1 5082

Bikepacking junk show at the Giant booth.  The framebag opens from the rear toward the front, and without any tension it immediately jams up when you try to close it one-handed.

Nicholas Carman1 5084

Lael didn’t know these stickers existed.  She said, “that’s what I did all summer”!

Nicholas Carman1 5085

Adan Newman, the new editor of Bicycle Times magazine pretends to be a roadie for the new SRAM Red road wireless launch.

Nicholas Carman1 5086

This is Advocate Cycles, Tim and Odia Krueger.

Nicholas Carman1 5088

The Revelate Designs booth, while small, stayed busy for the three day indoor show.  During most of the show the booth featured a Jones+ bike, a Co Motion Gravel frame, and a Fatback Skookum.

Nicholas Carman1 5089

Interbike was a blasto  Off to ride the Arizona Trail.  Shipping the computer away for a while for a real vacation.

Meriwether Cycles Bikepacker Goes to Paint

IMG 8081

My new Meriwether Cycles chubbyniner, made for 29×2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims with room for mud.  The frame also clears a 27.5×3.0″ tire and a double crank.  It goes to paint this week.  Keep up with Meriwether Cycles on Flickr and Instagram.

That’s my bike, built by hand by a guy in California, the result of years of thinking about bikes while riding, several weeks of detailed conversations, and just over a week of cutting, bending, and welding.  

Thanks to Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles for putting the pieces together in the last few weeks.  Things happen fast since we first talked about this project just over a month ago.  I’m flying to Vegas on the 14th.  If the bike doesn’t arrive in Anchorage before that, I’ll receive it in the mail in Vegas and install my pile of parts in the backyard of a rented house.  Come visit with me and Lael at the Revelate Designs booth at Interbike!  Also, check out the new  “Dial Your Ride” feature on the Revelate website.  We’re excited to have been Revelate ambassadors over the past year of riding, and are featured alongside some of the greatest people in bikepacking on the new site.  

Eric and Whit are inspiring people who share a lot of the same qualities.  They listen, they consider every suggestion thoroughly and seriously, and they rise to design challenges with new, creative solutions.

How is this bike different than my Surly Krampus?  Well, it isn’t all that different.  I’ve enjoyed the Krampus and would recommend it to anyone looking for a hardtail 29er with room for big tires and mud and gears, a featured design element in the new Meriwether as well.  The Krampus is simple, steel, and solid.  It will hold you parts and gear for a year and never complain.  I never rode it with 29+ tires, and for now, don’t have much interest in anything without a suspension fork.  The new bike is based upon my time on a Surly Krampus, a Raleigh XXIX, a Salsa Mukluk, a Surly ECR, as well as a detailed study of a handful of other bikes on the market. 

A 120mm Rock Shox Pike in the mail this week for the new bike.

But sometimes the Krampus feels like a big bike, like a pig on tight singletrack or when climbing.  The top tube is long and low, great for descending, but not the position I seek for all day pedaling efforts.  And on steep technical climbs, the long top tube and long chainstays mean my body weight is forward of center and rear traction is a challenge, which requires some pedaling acrobatics to keep the front end grounded and the rear end hooked up with the dirt.  

I have always disliked the Surly rear-facing dropouts in use, although I appreciate their utility on paper.  They give you a way to singlespeed you bike in the backcountry, tension a chain on an IGH, or adjust chainstay length for different wheel and tire sizes.  In actuality, I only ever rode with the wheel in the forward position, and with tubeless tires I did not find reason to remove the wheel more than a few times in a year.  But on my Pugsley I ran the wheel rearward in the dropouts and constantly battled brake rub and a mushy BB7, also the fault of the Pugsley’s famed offset.  Reinstalling the rear wheel requires some finesse.  Give it to Lael and we’ll be sitting around all day until the rotor is bent and the QR skewer is lost in the dirt.  It is not the easiest task for a first-timer, although it is not as bad as Manitou’s 15mm HexLock system.  

However, I wanted to retain some time-tested features, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket.  The replaceable Paragon sliding dropout plates allow me to build the bike with a 12×142 thru-axle, or with a 10x135mm QR.  If and when this bike travels outside a certain radius of civilization for an extended period of time, I may choose to revert to QR wheels front and rear (with a rigid fork, or perhaps an older QR Reba).  In a worst case scenario, you can slip almost any QR or bolt-on wheel into a standard dropout.  Thru-axles would leave you waiting for parts.  Is this a major concern?  Not really, but a considered part of the design.  The rear dropout interface is vertically oriented, enabling simple rear wheel removal and installation.  

Paint is RAL 3014.  Look that one up. 

I’ll be riding this thing in two weeks.  Come see it at Revelate booth 21186 in Vegas.

IMG 8080

IMG 8078

IMG 8076

IMG 8073

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.

 

Correspondence: Designing a custom Meriwether

 What type of FRAME do you want?

Modern trail hardtail 29er with clearance for large-volume tires (2.4” plus mud), and some special considerations for long-distance travel. Your orange 29+ bike is gorgeous, for aesthetic reference. I can live with less than 3.0” tire clearance, but I need real 2.4” clearance. Ardent/Hans Dampf/Minion DHF plus mud. That’s the idea. 

 
Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 1 46 04 PM
 
A series of letters with Whit Johnson, who meticulously designs and crafts Meriwether Cycles in Foresthill, CA in the foothills of the Sierras.  He specializes in modern hardtails, fatbikes and plus-sized bikes, big-tire road bikes, and bikepacking dream machines.  Whit has been kind enough to entertain over a dozen e-mail exchanges in the past week, some of them many pages long, to hone in on the perfect bike.  I was first attracted to his detailed exploration of frame design for big tires and adventurous rides.  These letters represent only a fragment of our discussion and are more about finalizing the details of the frame.  All images borrowed from Whit’s Flickr page, and all are recent projects. Visit the Meriwether Cycles site for more information, or Whit Johnson on Flickr for lots of half-naked bikes, and @meriwethercyles on Instagram.
 
N. Carman– 8/5/15: 
 
I rode the Kona Honzo yesterday, no ROS 9 in stock.  The Honzo felt good, nothing special, not as spry as I might have expected.  I think the ETT was 635.  Let’s stay closer to the Krampus and I will use a shorter stem if I want to change the seated position.  I’d rather subtract at the stem than add. You’re right, the longer TT lengths on these bikes is part of the feeling of security on the steep stuff.  How about 625mm, split the difference between the Krampus and the XXIX.
 
I meant that with changing standards, the single-bolt FD might become obsolete.  You know when you see a bike with a u-brake under the chainstay, or with roller-cams, that it was sold in 1986-87.  Just yesterday I saw a new FD mount on a 2016 Stumpjumper FSR that attached with one bolt from the back side.  
 
I have several issues with 1x gearing for my purposes.  I want to build my drivetrain on widely available cassettes, currently maximum 11-36T.  I would want to use widely available rings, and the 26/28/30T rings I might need for climbing don’t fit 104BCD.  Direct mount rings are impossible to find even in good bike shops in the USA, especially as there are something like six or seven different bolt and spline patterns for these rings.  If I leave the country for an extended tour I will replace my entire drivetrain at some point along the way.  I lost count, but I probably cycled through six chains last year, 2-3 cassettes, and two sets of chainrings.  I think we each went through two or three BBs on tour, although Lael has killed a few more on the Divide bike too.  Surprisingly, brake pads seem to last forever.  Perhaps that is due to adequate but not monster stopping power with the BB7.  Lael’s year in review includes– as of this week– a sixth bottom bracket, although this one is being replaced as a precaution for her ride.
 
So, DM front dérailleur.  Go ahead and do it however it needs to be done, but I intend to install my current SRAM X5 single bolt DM derailleur.  I will probably never stray outside the range of a 32-36T chainring on a double, although currently working to wear out the stock 38T ring that came on my Shimano crank.  I like 36/22 for most of my riding, and usually revert to 32/22 for a longer tour.
 
The hike-a-bike handle or portage bar is not the same as the brace on a Surly frame.  It should be lower than my current hand position (just under the seat post clamp on the seat tube) to require less arm strength and more straight arm lifting with my body.  On really tough stuff I reach down to the chainstay with the TT in my armpit and the saddle nose over my shoulder.  On easier stuff when I might still roll the bike I lift from the section of seat tube just under the seat post clamp, but my hand slips and it requires substantial hand stregth.  A horizontal hand hold is much better than a vertical tube.  Not sure about angle and placement exactly.
 
Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 2 27 03 PM
 
Yes, the Advocate Hayduke does seem to have most of the numbers I am looking for.  I like the look of the dropout, wonder what the SS version looks like.
 
The True Temper DT looks great on your bike, very subtle.  I like the curved top tubes, a signature on many of your frames.  However, from the perspective of framebag design (and using off-the-shelf bags), a straight TT is better for me.  I really like the look of the wishbone stays, but I already get pretty cozy with my seatsays while descending so curved stays might be better in back.
 
I’ve seen Russell’s bike a few times but this time is really captured my attention.  Plus, the idea of using “normal” width 2.3-2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims is exactly what I want to do.  Where do I get a Pike with those decals?  Awesome!
 
The current stats are: 430(+/-) CS, 625 TT, 68.5 HT, 51mm fork offset, 60mm BB drop.
 
Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 1 59 04 PM

 

Whit– 8/5/15
 
Cool you got to try out the Honzo. It is by far the LONGEST front end out there. I’m sure it rips the down but I can’t imagine it climbing well. 

What about an E-type front derailleur? I’ve never used one but it would definitely make it look clean and simple and would be easily removable when you wanted to go 1x.  I have a Shimano XT that I could give you actually. I got it for a bike I was making and didn’t end up using it.

All good on the specs. I’ll assume a Pike 120mm axle to crown. I now just have to figure out how to get 3″ tire clearance using a double ring with 22/36. The Paragon Yoke won’t do it unless we go up to 450CS length, maybe 445. I was hoping that yoke would work for this frame but I think the only way will be to do a plate style yoke. I can try a different method than on my brown bike to make it stiffer laterally. This is always the crux of the frame and takes the longest to figure out and fabricate.  

The Rockers will help with mud clearance, as you pull them back you’ll have more tire room, obviously. The green bike you sent a photo of has very little tire clearance with a 2.4 on the 38mm rim. He initially said he was going to use a 2.35 Ikon on a 35mm rim but changed it later to a 2.4″ on the Light Bicycle 38mm rim. Not a huge difference but he says there’s only a few mm’s of space to the chainstay. No mud clearance basically! That is with 420 CS, single direct mount 32t ring, and a 142×12 non adjustable dropouts. 
 
He did the color coordination on the Pike, isn’t that cool? He ordered them from someone, not sure but I can ask if you’re interested? It turned out really nice. That bike weighs 24.7lbs as seen and is a strong frame since he is an all-mountain rider that is almost 200lbs.  

Just to make sure i have the standover set ok, is 840 the MAX you can tolerate? I’m erring on the bigger front triangle size for a bigger frame bag. A 115 head tube will help and your 3/4″ riser bars would be pretty much level with your saddle with 30mm of stem spacers. This is assuming a 531mm axle to crown on the 120 version of the Pike.  I’m finding either 536 or 531 for the Pike.  How much sag do you run on the Fox? 20, 25, 30mm? I think the Pike is recommended to be at 25% so that’d be 30mm.

That is insane you go through that many drivetrains! I can see why but that’s just nuts. Definitely do NOT go with XX1 then. They’d last a couple of weeks!

Finishing a frame up this week, could start yours this weekend.
 
Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 1 46 12 PM
 
N. Carman– 8/6/15
 
Regarding 3″ tire clearance.  I don’t feel inclined to use 3″ tires at this point and I do not need or want to use 29×3, probably ever.  What I really want is a 29er that rides/handles better than the Krampus and fits up to 2.3-2.4″ with some spare room, even if this requires some adjustment via the dropouts.  I could run the wheel forward most of the time (let’s say, about 430mm, when trails are dry or when using 2.3), then run the wheel further back if I am on bigger tires or it gets muddy.  The target rim and tire is 35mm rim and 2.4″ Ardent.  I have considered ordering some 40mm rims, but I will probably skip it for now.  It would only be an incremental gain, for a good bit of money.  I am happy with the 35mm rims.   
 
I’ve never put 3″ tires on the Krampus and the only time I wanted to in the last year was in Jordan, in Wadi Rum, but even then 2.4″ Ardents on 35mm rims at 10psi got me through some deep sand.
 
If we can build 27.5+ compatibility into this design, let’s do it.  If not, skip it.  I don’t care that much about it right now and I know I’d be able to wedge some 2.8″ Trailblazers in there if I really wanted.  I am really liking my 29.5″ wheels.
 
I’ll probably cover my fork in electrical tape and bottle cages, or hose clamps, although those custom decals look awesome.  I’ll get back to you on paint.  It is kind of hard to pick from the digital representations on their site.  
 
I’d prefer a direct mount FD.  E-type requires a cable stop and tire clearance probably isn’t as good as with direct mount.  Shifting is also better with DM.  Go ahead and braze that little square mount to the frame.  Not a problem at all.  When I go 1x in the future I can order one of those fancy plates to cover it up.
 
Max 840 sounds about right.  I measured 780-840 along the middle of the TT on the Krampus, Surly calls it 830.  This works pretty well although I could give up a little standover for framebag space.  My PBH was 840, without shoes.  
 
Yeah, 8 and 9 speed drivetrain is where its at for us.  I’ve used 8sp stuff for a long time but anymore the low quality cassettes that are available wear out too quickly.  Lael was tearing though cheap 8sp cassettes while my Deore 9sp cassette lasted much longer.  I’ve also recently come to prefer the performance of Shimano chains, at least for my 9sp system.  They are stiffer laterally, resulting in crisper shifts.  
 
Thankfully, we’ve got a friend working at SRAM in Indianapolis who has helped Lael with a series of XO1/XX1 drivetrain parts for her Divide bike.  Before the TD he shipped a new ring, chain, cassette, and pulleys to replace the one she rode from AK.  Surely, it wasn’t that worn, but I thought it best to start fresh. Just this week, he shipped another load of drivetrain parts to her in Banff.  She loves that stuff.
 
I can’t wait to build this thing up and ride it.  I hope to tour for about a month this fall before riding east to Austin where we will spend the winter.  Looking at returning to Arizona and maybe, finally riding most of the AZT.  I’ve got friends in NM.  Still thinking about spending the weekend with Eric and Dusty at Interbike talking to people about bikepacking and Revelate.  I guess I could hopscotch from your place in the Sierras down to Vegas, AZ, NM, TX.  This is kind of how we plan things.
 
Time to start thinking about paint.
 
 
Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 1 48 16 PM