Abe’s ultimate touring machine

AUTM. Sounds like my favorite season Autumn? Could almost be a model name. That’s a big claim to be the ultimate of anything but I think Abe has solid ground to stand on. As another builder called it, this is a Swiss Army bike, there are a lot of things going on for the mountain bikepacker. To start, take a look at Abe’s first Meriwether that was built in 2019. He loved his Salsa Woodsmoke but it cracked at the elevated chainstay and wanted a more durable frame with some added accoutrements.

Abe likes to ride his everyday hardtail on his tours so wants it to be fun and hold everything securely. Nothing should sway or rattle, it’s got to be solid – not getting in the way of riding fast on technical singletrack. This means having a usable dropper post while also having a bag behind the saddle to spread out the load. A puffy-stuff rack is the best way to do this and when you’re only carrying 5-10lbs in a stuffsack, a small rack is plenty and adds less than a pound of weight. It has the added benefit of keeping the weight lower on the bike and out of the way of your butt while dropping the saddle. I’m not surprised rear racks are having a resurgence, but I am surprised that aren’t more small and light racks like this. Abe’s v1 rack was steel and based off the Salsa Minimalist rack using the “Rack-Lock” seat tube collar and two bottle bosses on the upper seatstays. I bent the front connections to lower the rack as much as possible. Version 2 of the rack (far right photo) is titanium and built in a similar way, but with Tubus hardware and adjustable arms to adjust the height off the tire for when you’re changing tire setups (i.e., 700×50, 29×2.4 or 27.5×2.8). The new frame has hourglass bosses on the upper seatstays to angle the rack steeper forward and allow more dropper travel. These racks allow the use of bottles on the lower seatstays, very useful when there’s no room in the front triangle because of the framebag.

Even though the elevated driveside chainstay worked and hasn’t cracked (yet!) it is less laterally stiff, overly complex to build, and heavy. For this new frame Abe wanted even shorter chainstays than the elevated chainstay bike (which started at 410mm). The new frame has a slightly shorter reach, slacker head tube angle, higher BB, two portage handles, longer seat tube and a bent downtube for more framebag space, as well as shorter chainstays using the new Paragon sliding dropouts. I enlisted the help of Daniel Yang to help me with the engineering and 3D CAD. We were able to drop the CS length to 395mm all the way forward while fitting up to a 38t chainring. To achieve this we used a lasercut plate yoke on the driveside and a 3D printed yoke on the non-driveside. With these yokes the frame fits a 29×2.6 in the longest setting (415mm) and it’s up to Abe what he wants to squeeze in there in the shorter settings. Utilizing this technology is all new to me. I’ve always bent the plates by hand and i could never get as tight a bend as this one. 3D CAD allowed for compound 3D bends, and the 3D CAD just helped all the weirdness come together and make my time in the shop much more efficient.

The new frame has 18 bottle bosses on the front triangle alone, and 8 on back for the bottles and rack mounts. I added gussets to the head tube since he rides smooth, yet aggressively, and the downtube is just a 38mm diameter straight-gauge 4130 with a 0.9mm wall. Many modern hardtails are using 1.1mm wall butted tubes at the head tube when running a 140mm travel fork or above, and while gussets aren’t foolproof they’re insurance when done right. It’s hard to describe how much planning and work went in to this frame to complete it. There’s a reason you don’t see anything like this outside of custom. When it’s back from powder and built up I’ll add some complete build photos. But for now, here are some raw shots.

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