Morgan and Stephanie’s Soma Wolverine Dirt Tourers – Morgan Taylor

Words and photos by Morgan Taylor.

There are many ways you can build a bike for traveling and all of them have their virtues; striking a balance is not as much a universal truth as it comes down to where you want to make sacrifices. When Stephanie and I set out to build these bikes, we had the long term in mind. Not just the fact that we intended to spend all summer riding them around the western United States, but that we wanted bikes that would be useful beyond that trip.

For us, the guiding principle along the way was that we wanted bikes that would be fun around town and commuting bikes when we came home, which is really what determined the frames we chose. We were building bikes for a honeymoon adventure but the lasting legacy was a bike that would fit in to our daily lives when that chapter came to a close. To put it simply, we didn’t want to tour on touring bikes. And after 4,000 kilometres of fully loaded riding, we’re happy we didn’t.

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Why This Bike?

We officially departed on our trip in July, but we had actually been planning the trip – and as a result these bikes – since we got married last October. We wanted disc brakes and the ability to run flat or drop bars, and room for tires that would let us ride mixed surfaces with confidence. We considered a number of bikes, all of them production frames, and the Soma Wolverine stood out among the available options for a number of reasons.

First, the Tange Prestige front triangle is known for its lively ride when unloaded. Second, and possibly most importantly, the slider dropouts give a range of 425 to 445 – not quite as long as a traditional tourer at the long end, but definitely short enough for singletrack shredding and city manoeuvering at the short end. We could run the bike long for touring and then slam it upon return to the city. Lastly, the tire clearance on this bike was truly ahead of its time – only now, more than two years after the Wolverine first came around, are we seeing other bikes that can swallow a 2.1” tire.

At its foundation, the Wolverine is essentially an early ‘90s steel mountain bike, but with disc brakes. People have toured on those same bikes for years, and obviously they also rode trail on them. Perfect.

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The Wheel Size Question

Since the Wolverine had been around for so long, we were able to look to what others were doing with these bikes to get an idea for what worked and how we might build our own. One thing that was glaringly missing was the presence of 27.5” wheels. Save for a few examples, all of the Wolverines we saw were running 29” wheels. If you’re familiar with my writing you know I get way nerdy when it comes to numbers and how those translate to ride feel.

Putting a 29×2.1 into a Wolverine raises the bottom bracket by more than 20mm. Sure, this is a monstercross bike, designed to fit larger than race legal 700c tires, but 20mm is a lot! And it just happens to be the difference in radius between 700c and 650b wheels. I couldn’t see why others hadn’t gone 27.5”, but nobody was doing it. The other problem with big 29er tires is they require you to run the dropouts all the way at the back, negating the sliders and giving up the quick handling of the short rear end.

I swayed back and forth between building 650b and 700c wheels, also considering the low chance of finding a 650b tire in a remote small town, but eventually landed on the smaller size. We ended up with 20mm more standover, the ability to run the rear ends short with whatever tire we wanted, and a bottom bracket height that is, in my opinion, more in line with how I like a bike to handle. Stephanie says she could write a completely separate story about just the wheel size issue. Now that we’ve got 5,000 km on these bikes, I can honestly say that 650b was the right choice.

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Taking Cross Bikes Touring

With the frames and tire choices set, we needed to work out how we were going to carry all of our gear for a three-month trip, including everything I needed to continue publishing from the road. We put ourselves on Porcelain Rocket’s wait list in December, knowing that bikepacking gear would be compact and long-term versatile. Around this time Stephanie saw Whitney’s Kalakala and we immediately knew the Jones H-Bar was the ticket for her build. My drop bar build began in concept around the Swift Industries Ozette rando bag with an Ortlieb camera insert.

We toyed with the idea of running just the soft bags, but in the interest of long-term comfort, decided to go with small Ortlieb panniers as well – on the front, because putting rear racks on cross bikes can be a pain in the ass. It also, for whatever reason, just looks more balanced, but that’s a separate can of aesthetic worms. What we found in practice, and this is after all those loaded miles on various surfaces, is that the front bags make the Wolverine extremely stable at speed, even with the dropouts slammed forward; in fact, we have never run them anywhere but all the way at the front.

With the Porcelain Rocket gear sorted out – frame bags and Mr. Fusion seat packs for both bikes, and an MCA front harness for Stephanie (with a spare ordered for my future setup) – and my Ozette solidly attached and already serving for long commutes, we added custom black and tan Bartender bags from Randi Jo Fabrications and King Cage USB third bottle cage mounts from Ocean Air Cycles. Along with the Ortlieb panniers and some ski straps, our touring setup was complete.

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Budgeting and Eating

As the bag setup came together and it looked like we would have space, we were more and more finding that we wanted to be able to cook camp meals that we’d actually like to eat at home, using locally grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible. We bought a copy of Bike.Camp.Cook to take some inspiration on meal planning and camp cooking setups, and knew it didn’t need to be space meals and canisters stoves. On their recommendation, we used regular unleaded gasoline in our MSR Whisperlite stove, which proved to be ultra cheap though not as convenient as a canister system. We also picked up the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker non-stick pot set, which worked out great.

We cooked everything from multi-stage pasta sauces to curries using lentils and rice to our arguably excessive habit of three or four Snow Peak french presses a day, and I only had to disassemble and clean the stove once after two months of use. We enjoyed excellent dinners and saved lunch leftovers in two containers on a regular basis. Liquid fuel stoves are definitely more daunting to use, but the fact that we only used about a gallon of gasoline over three months was proof that we’d chosen well both for health and budget. Flat out, the amount of money we watched other touring cyclists spend on food at restaurants was mind boggling.

Morgan and Stephanie's Dirt Touring Soma Wolverines – Morgan

Working While Touring

Another factor that came into play was my ability to work from the road. Obviously a big tour like this is a great opportunity for a content creator, but there are some important considerations when traveling with a bunch of expensive electronics. I shoot with a DSLR and I wasn’t about to invest in a smaller system; I also wanted to be able to access my camera whenever I wanted without stopping. I have for years done my photo editing and word processing using an iMac or a MacBook, and despite looking at tablet options, we again looked to our needs beyond this trip and bought a 13” Retina MacBook Pro a few months prior to departure.

The MacBook lived in the left side of my frame bag, in its own separate dry bag, in a bubble wrap sleeve that I made from old packaging materials. The camera – a Canon 70D with an 18-135 IS STM lens – lived in the Swift Ozette, in an Ortlieb camera insert intended for their handlebar bags, and I had a separate dry bag for that as well. By the end of our first week traveling I had stopped using the lens cap and basically never turned the camera off. That shows how much I trusted the Swift bag and my decaleur hack. For reference, the camera went in the dry bag for one day in July in northern Montana and two full days in September in Washington.

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Building Our Dream Bikes

By the time we got going on our component selection, we realized that this was our chance to build the bikes we really wanted from start to end, without sacrifice. Stephanie wanted silver parts as much as possible, while I wanted all black. Of course, given that we were going on an extended tour, the two bikes should be as cross-compatible as possible, and this informed some component decisions.

There was no question that we wanted mountain bike low gears, and chose a double system for its broad gear range. We ended up choosing Shimano XT M780 2×10 as it was affordable and bombproof. I also liked that the XT cassette runs on two carriers, which is easier on aluminum freehubs. We went with a 38-24 crank and 11-36 cassette. Stephanie got XT shifters and I used Gevenalle’s GX system which works with Shimano mountain bike cable pull.

We chose DT 240 hubs for their ease of in-field service and laced them to WTB i23 rims (KOMs on Stephanie’s and Frequency Teams on mine) because I’d had great experiences with WTB’s TCS rims in the past. The way the wheels worked out, with the second front wheel built around a Shutter Precision PD-8 dynamo, we can use the same spare spoke for all four wheels even though none of them have the same hub/rim combo – and I’ve got seven of those in my seat post.

One other point that came along was my need for a high offset seat post on a road fit. The Paul Tall and Handsome post is the only post on the market with as much setback as it has (26mm) while also being really good looking, so it was the obvious choice. Once that ball got rolling we ordered up some Love Levers for Stephanie and took the plunge on two pairs of Klamper brakes. Say what you want without having ridden them, but these brakes are excellent in both lever feel and performance – and we are still on our original set of Kool Stop pads after 5,000 km.

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Dialing in Fit

We got the bikes built with some late night help from The Lions Cyclery in Kelowna and got riding on some of their Brooks Cambium test saddles. This allowed us to hone in on which shape was best and then order up the colors we wanted. We both ended up on C17 saddles, myself on the regular one and Stephanie on the Carved. We have swapped saddles and it’s clear: her lighter weight doesn’t flex the Carved out as much, while I need the additional support of the regular C17.

Once Stephanie spent some time on the aluminum Jones bar we first ordered, it was clear that the position was great for endurance as well as confidence inspiring in off-road situations. I called Jeff Jones to ask about the titanium H-Bar and having him tell me that the carbon version was both lighter and more compliant, I ordered that instead. On my end I rode my first thousand kilometres on a FSA Compact drop bar, but was able to get my hands on the shallow drop Ritchey VentureMax Biomax dirt drop just before the trip and decided to give it a go. When we had finalized our stem lengths we ordered up Thomson stems and a silver setback post to match Stephanie’s desired aesthetic.

We rode both the WTB Nano 27.5×2.1 tires and Soma’s Cazadero 650x42mm for long enough to decide that, while we really enjoyed the ride of the Cazadero on pavement, the extra volume of the 2.1s was preferable off-road. They are also more forgiving when you ride into the shoulder or the ditch, which we’ve fondly come to call the Nano line. Back in the city, I suspect we’ll be spending more time on the Cazaderos and the new 650x47c WTB Horizon.

The final piece to come together was the dynamo light and charging system, as I wasn’t quite willing to hack together the wiring myself. My good friend Lyle, who now works at Rocky Mountain designing bikes, started his engineering career in electronics and I booked him well out to plan and execute the wiring with soldered joints. We went with Supernova E3 Triple headlights and tail lights, and a Sinewave Revolution USB charger wired into the frame bag. I could go on at length about this system, but suffice to say we were very happy to have full time lights that we didn’t have to think about.

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How Did It Go?

Alright, so after all that, you’ve got to be wondering what broke as we pushed these bikes for over 5,000 kilometres, 4,000 of which was fully loaded. Here’s the list. One lost Ortlieb rail screw. A bent derailleur hanger getting too rad with Sklar. Four flats total, two each, all rears. One new set of tires. New chains at 4,000 km total. That’s it. I carried a LOT of spare parts and didn’t get to use them much.

You can see that we spent a lot of time planning, and that paid off big time. Alas, this won’t be the only iteration these bikes go through – only their first and the one that proved their worth. Now that we’re back in Vancouver, we’ve already got some Sim Works fenders lined up to begin the conversion to city bikes.

Other tourers revelled in how compact our setups looked, thinking we were running without as much gear as they were. In reality, we had a lot of stuff, but it was just packed efficiently. Maybe we’ve inspired some people to consider a different way that bike traveling could look. Maybe we’ve inspired them to go bike traveling regardless of how it looks! Either way, we couldn’t be happier with how these bikes turned out and where they’ve taken us.

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Follow Morgan and Stephanie on Instagram at Found in the Mountains and follow their routes on Strava.

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  • Dane_Watt

    I was working out of town when you two stopped in Missoula. It would have been awesome to meet you. Sick bikes though.

    • We love Missoula. Too bad you had to be out of town when all those great people were visiting!

  • Nate Kaiser

    Damn, what amazing builds! Thanks so much for sharing all of this in such detail. I’m building up a rig right now for similar touring and this was immensely helpful. Btw, where did the “do fun things” patch come from, that’s a must have!

    • For sure! “Do Fun Stuff” is from Kyle at Golden Saddle Cyclery. Holla! (It’s also my favorite of all of my patches and I brought two home from Los Angeles to make sure I was constantly reminded.)

  • Evan Robinson

    It’s awesome to see so much cool stuff get trail tested like this. Klampers for example, wanted them to kick butt, glad they do

    • I will note, the XT RT-86 IceTech rotors on my bike did give better bite than the SLX RT-66 SLX on Stephanie’s bike. I would have had RT-86 on both but initially we were only able to get the RT-66 and then I happened upon a pair of the IceTechs. Also, we used compressionless housing from Yokozuna and did a full on OCD setup with meticulous filing of the housing ends. The details matter, but I love the Klampers. On-road adjustments were easy and it’s amazing that the stock pads are still good to go after 5,000 km.

  • Jeff McAllister

    How did you all mount the front light on the Tubus rack?

    • Lyle drilled out the Tubus rack and used a rivnut to bolt the light on. There’s a hole on the back side right in the center, so you can use that for alignment.

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    They look good dirty.

    I will say you converted me Morgan. My Wolverine is now 650b… It really is the way to go. I have yet to really stretch its out on dirt but, even around town it just feels more fun and responsive. In addition to the benefits you listed it does allow you to run 47mm-55mm tires with fenders and no toe overlap! Which is great for a city bike. Though with about 8lbs up front it does shimmy a bit more than the 700s, nothing scary but it still does.

    • I think our endeavours have got a lot of people to think outside the 29″ box with the Wolverine, which is interesting considering there are now a few other bikes out there and more selection of tires. I do have a pair of the Horizons but they’re up in storage at our old place right now, would also like to get on the Compass Switchback Hills to compare. And, the 650×42 Cazaderos really are a great tire! They even set up tubeless nice and easy, without much leakage out the sidewalls. We are putting Sim Works’ Smooth 62 fenders on soon, good point about the toe overlap – though the Wolverine does have a pretty generous front-centre as long as you get the right size.

  • Andrew

    A “no garmin no rules” patch AND a garmin? I like your style! Seriously though, thanks for the detailed pictures and writeup. I have been loving your contributions over the past weeks/months.

    • Thanks! I am pretty entertained by that combo too, especially in the order that I put them into the gallery.

  • Matt Sturgill

    Thank you for the write up! Enjoyed following your adventures all summer. Would you mind sharing your heights and frame size choice? I’m contemplating a jones bar wolverine and am perplexed on proper sizing. Apologies if you answered that before.

    • Happy to answer questions, this is what we do! I’m 6’0 and on a 58, Stephanie is 5’6 and on a 54. The Jones didn’t really require a different size in terms of fit. In my opinion a lot of Wolverines get sold too small (possibly due to standover issues with larger 700c tires?) but that’s not a reason to compromise on getting enough head tube to avoid a huge spacer stack.

      I personally could have gone to a 60 fit-wise for touring fit but that’s got 3 cm more head tube than the 58, which put it up into my junk a bit when I stood over one that a friend had in Portland. Would have meant more room for the computer, though, which was a really tight fit. For a performance fit, the 58 is perfect, and I end up running a 110mm stem on a compact road bar.

      • Kawika Samson

        I feel like my 52 looked good on paper… but i feel I should have went with a 54 also. Headtube is a bit short.

        • Not a huge amount more head tube between the 52 and the 54, only 10mm. For us taller folks jump from 56 to 58 is 25mm and 58 to 60 is another 30mm. Those are huge differences! No wonder people end up with crazy spacer stacks sometimes. Soma’s head tubes are actually quite decently long, though.

      • Richard Lapierre

        5’6 and she ride a 54 ! that seem a bit big isn’t it ? I’m 5’6 and my touring bike is a 48 coundn’t see myself riding a 54.

        • A single number doesn’t really mean anything. Frame shapes vary from bike to bike, with the most important measurements for fit actually being head tube length and reach (top tube works if you take seat angle into account)

          Talking specifically about the Wolverine, 54 is the right size for her. She can stand over it comfortably, runs a 90mm stem with the Jones bar, and doesn’t have an obscene spacer stack.

  • Dan

    Thanks for sharing all of your setup details, Morgan! Now that you’re back, do you both feel like the unladen wolverines are as lively and fun as you’d hoped?

    • We haven’t quite ridden them unladen yet! We just got in to Vancouver yesterday, dropped our panniers and did a 40 km loop to our favourite restaurant to get the total (Garmin-logged) mileage up to 4,000 km. On that ride they were certainly peppy, and it was nice to not use the small ring for a whole ride. Over the next few weeks they’ll transition to being our wet weather commute bikes. That said, if I was in a shop selling a Wolverine, I wouldn’t be selling it as a dirt tourer; I’d be selling it as a rad commuter that can also rip singletrack when you want it to!

  • boomforeal

    that was worth the wait

  • Kawika Samson

    I’ve been meaning to ask, are you folks running the 27.5 nanos tubeless? Love the feel of nanos, I’ve just never took the leap to try out the 27.5 tubeless.

    • Yeah, tubeless is the way to go.

    • They’ve been tubeless until getting punctured. Four separate tires had one puncture each, and the sealant just sprayed out. So right now there are tubes in our rear tires as I haven’t attempted to patch them yet. My original rear did seal up again before we replaced it – we tried just to see if it would go and it did, but the tread was done and we had the new ones ready to go on. They do go decent, can’t say why they don’t like to hold air after being punctured… that could also be the sealant.

      • Kawika Samson

        Cool. Thanks for the details!

  • The pressure valve left in the fuel bottle makes me a little nervous. I can think of several things that could go south (long memory of misery on the trail). Of course it’s very convenient to leave it in the bottle.

    • I get where you’re coming from, but I depressurized the bottle every time I was done using it. I felt the same way as you when I ran into people who didn’t do the same – some who even put said pressurized bottle in a pannier! I felt a lot better having it outside the bike, with that plastic bag over it (which, surprisingly, lasted the entire trip).

  • The Backyard Project

    So, so good. Flat pedals was an easy choice?

    • Totally. We liked that we could hop on and pedal in either our Five Tens or our Chacos. We wore the Chacos the vast majority of the time while touring, and the Five Tens while trail riding and at camp.

  • Dan Coppola

    Awesome post – thanks for sharing Morgan. I’m sure other people have asked as well, but I’d love to hear more about the gear you brought (cooking, camping, coffee, etc.). Anything you couldn’t live without? Anything you though was a complete waste of space or money?

    • This is something we’ve been thinking about. There’s so much to say that it would be its own story altogether. Here are a few quick thoughts:

      We didn’t mail anything home. I carried a tiny tripod that only got used once, and that was kind of annoying. I left half of it at Sklar’s to save space and brought the head home to use with future projects. Should have actually left the whole thing at home, but thought the big skies would deliver at night more often than they did!

      We started out with a GSI drip coffee setup and hated it, bought the Snow Peak press in Missoula, and never looked back. We gave the GSI thing to one of the folks at Missoula’s coffee outside. We would buy milk or cream a half litre at a time and use it before it went bad without refrigeration.

      Having a pot large enough to cook big meals with really helped us save money and eat well on the road. We carried a big bag of spices which made a huge difference in food outcomes. We brought some flour and only used it to thicken a chili once. Finding a well stocked bulk section was always nice.

      We didn’t know what we were going to run into out there in the great beyond. It turns out finding dried beans is easy, but soaking and cooking them takes too long, so we used lentils more often and bought cans of beans occasionally. You end up adapting to what’s available in the small stores along the way, and as long as we could find fresh produce, we were happy.

  • DamagedSurfer

    Morgan, thanks for posting such detailed reports of your build and how the gear actually performed both on and off road. Your pics and words have been awesome the last few months. I’m in the process of selling my MTB and cross bike in a bid to simplify my life and clear out space so that I only will own 2 bikes. The nice thing is once I sell those bikes, I’ll have plenty of cash to plan a proper build for a dirt-centric tourer. The Wolverine has been on my radar for years, as I really love the ride quality of Tange Prestige, but I’ve never pulled the trigger. Now the Rawland Ulv has caught my eye and might be better suited for my anticipated application. I’m definitely sold on the 27.5 platform.

    I wish you two the best of luck in all future endeavors. Peace.

    • Thanks! As I said in the first paragraph, it’s all about where you want to compromise. Arguably a 27.5+ bike would have served us better in the dirt, and would have been fine for touring, but back at home it would be a mountain bike and not an around towner.

      In my opinion the choice depends on what you’re actually going to do with the bike, and not what you hope to do with the bike. If you love the idea of bikepacking and off road touring but you’re not actually going out and doing that stuff very often, it’s worth considering a bike that could handle that AND another purpose.

      That said, I think a 27.5+ bike is a great all around mountain bike – that’s how I have my fat bike set up when it doesn’t have the fat wheels on it.

  • Adam Sklar

    that derailleur hanger alignment tho

    • Thanks dude. Thanks for being there for me smashing my derailleur, and thanks for your framebuilder’s eye putting the hanger back into alignment.

  • So good! Been looking forward to this.

  • Alex Cheek

    Thanks for the write up. I’m getting into touring myself, and I’d love to see what kind of camp set-up you guys had in all of those bags! Are there any unpacked shots to be seen?

    • At no point during the trip or beforehand was everything unpacked at the same time. Even now, things are scattered about in our house and some of it’s still on the bike. We could get talking about camp setup though…

  • Bart Haddock

    Love the bikes! Would you suggest sizing up for jones bars/flat bars? Also what’s the mount for the rear light? Cheers

    • The rear light mount is a piece of flat steel bolted to the fender eyelet, and tapped to accept the (annoyingly tiny) threads of the Supernova E3 tail light screw. Credit to Lyle for problem solving that one, I probably owe him a couple of taps as he initially tried to make it out of stainless.

      I would not suggest sizing up for Jones bars, though as I’ve said I think people buy these bikes too small so I would probably suggest sizing up period. The 27.5 wheels allowed us some extra standover, which we’ve both got lots of, and the stack height isn’t unreasonable. It’s always easy to lower bars with negative rise stems, and looks ridiculous when you have to go too far the other way.

  • Peter Chesworth

    Lovely bikes, and used like buggery. Way it should be.

  • Bob Cook

    Great documentation of a couple great bikes. If Soma would add bottle cage mounts under the downtube, I’d be sold.

    • It definitely would have been nice to have those! But the King Cage USB is a great option.

  • Bluejaystr

    Dream bikes indeed! So i’ve got a cross check that i wanna set up similarly to Morgan’s bike, the cross check and wolverine has similar enough geometries, can’t run 650b though. Anyway, I was wondering if you noticed a lot of frame flex when grinding up the hills and if the handling of the rig felt floppy because of added weight up front with panniers and whatnot?
    Also, did you feel a sail-like effect due to the frame bag on windy conditions?

    • Honestly, the bike did not feel floppy or noodly at all. At times, when I overloaded the panniers after a food resupply (and I’m talking like 8+ pounds per pannier including the bag itself), a slight shimmy would develop at certain speeds due to oscillations within the entire system.

      I tried my hardest to get that shimmy to become something dangerous, like an actual speed wobble, but could never get the oscillations to make the bike any less stable. This condition likely could have been improved by sliding the dropouts back, but it was a good indicator to just have less weight in the bags.

      I suspect the Tubus Tara rack, with the tube linking both sides of the fork, helps with stability, as would the Nitto rack on my bike.

      • Zac

        I ride a really similar setup on my Cinelli Hobo, but my bike starts to shimmy when front braking unloaded. The more weight I dump on the front end the happier it seems to be as long as I carry sufficient pressure in the tire. It’s actually kina scary since it’s enough of a jitter to shake my arms when stopping from speed. I’ve been through several brake setups to try to fix the issue (landing on a Paul Mini V), but the boys at my LBS have deduced that’s an issue with the fork, a Columbus Tusk Trekking carbon that I moved to after I was hit by a truck last year. The fork is interesting (laced with aluminum for reinforcement to carry 9 pounds per blade), but the materials just flex too much under stress.

        You guys definitely made an excellent choice with the Soma Wolverines. My bike has served me with a lot of learning experiences since I purchased it fairly blindly and uneducated. Knowing what I know now, and doing the sort of riding I do, I would definitely go with something like the Wolverine. I love by Hobo since it’s basically been my learning tool, but shit… it’s been a continual and slow process shaping it into the bike I need instead of knowing what I need and starting with the answer in mind.

        Thanks for the breakdown!

  • Masterchief

    I’ve always wondered with those dropouts if you slide them all they way back, could it create enough leverage to bend the seat stays at the welds? Probably not since they are still out there, but maybe some sort of reinforcement tube between the seat stay and chainstay would be a good idea for a heavy person, like you see on some disc brake frames where the rear caliper is mounted on the seat stay.

    • p. meyer
      • Bill Eberle

        It bears mentioning that Soma version 2.1 of the Wolverine has a diagonal reinforcing piece on both sides between the seat and chain stays.

        • Yeah, obviously that was a common issue. The implementation of the reinforcement is pretty brutish on an otherwise relatively clean frame. Seems running the dropouts at the back is a factor. Ours are still fine but they’ve never been anywhere but all the way at the front.

  • Matt M

    Thank you so much for this, I really enjoyed following your adventure on here and Instagram. I have a Wolverine that I use solely with soft bags, but this is tempting me to put a Tubus front rack on. The wheel question is also interesting: I have the 29×2.1 Nanos and I love them, but I’ve never tried the bike with anything but dropouts slid all the way back. Does the tire size require the Big Apple Tubus Tara or does the regular size rack fit with the 27.5×2.1?

    What sort and intensity of off-roading did you guys encounter? Did at any point you wish you had a rackless setup and less equipment, or did it all handle great?

    Thanks

    • The 27.5×2.1s fit in the normal Tara but I believe you would need the big one to run a 29er tire.

      We did lots of loaded riding on gravel roads and doubletracks or old rail beds, and a bunch of semi- or mostly-unloaded riding on singletrack. Sure, less weight would always make things easier, but we weren’t really overpacked for the length of trip and our “cook to save money” mantra.

      The biggest day to day variable in our setup weight-wise was food and water. At times after a resupply we were short on space in the panniers (the food mostly went in my bags) and cursing the extra weight on long climbs, but we were overall really happy with the setups. The mountain bike gearing made all the difference as we could just spin at low speeds.

  • hans

    Morgan and Stephanie,
    It was great meeting you both when you were in LA! And this is one of the most thorough and informative write-ups I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the great read! Best of luck to you both!

    • It was great to meet you too Hans, and not just on the internet!

  • awesterner

    Welcome back Morgan, amazing!! Are you heading back to the Koots, or are you sticking around on the Coast?

  • Smithhammer

    I can only echo all the praise already mentioned – thanks for sharing all these details, Morgan. We seeme to have gravitated to a lot of the same build choices – from Frequency Team rims to Cambium saddles to Bartender Bags. And it’s cool to see a Jones bar on the Wolverine. After using one for a while, I’m not sure I can go back to a drop bar for long dirt rides/bikepacking.

    • I was honestly kinda jealous of Stephanie’s Jones setup. It rips the downhills so hard. Dirt drops aren’t ideal for extended road riding, but they’re so good for technical descending. The Jones is such a good combination of comfort and shredability if it works for you.

  • greg mcconnell

    Very inspiring Morgan … just an open question to all who might have the insight … would the Wolverine frame be a good basis for a lightly front loaded, single day only, mixed surface, hilly terrain, adventure/touring/exploration machine? … Any good reason not to consider an appropriately geared Sram 1x (Force 1) drive train? … Thanks again Morgain for the comprehensive appraisal and photos.

    • A 10-42 1x system is missing about two gears of total range compared to our 2×10, and you have to decide whether you want those to come off the long or short end. Personally on any bike ridden up steep hills or with a load – or both of those at the same time – needs easy gears.

      Lots of people on the DFL the Divide trip were running 1x and it didn’t seem to hold them back. Totally doable as long as you aren’t concerned about pedaling super fast, as you will probably spin out your top gear on flat ground.

      • greg mcconnell

        Thanks for that … considering where I would use the bike (mainly Adelaide Hills dirt) I could live without the top end. I think the advantages of 1x would over-ride any occassional spinning-out inconvenience … and anyway coasting can be fun.

  • XFMG

    Hi, great setup and well described!
    Just a question, what is the ref of the front rack? For the lowrider it seems to be a tubus tara ?
    Thks for answers !

    • Yep, Tubus Tara and a Nitto Campee 32f on mine.

      • Adam Goodman

        How did you mount a supernova light to the Tara? Other than the custom-welded version that comes on some Specialized AWOLs, I haven’t found a good way to do that…

        • We drilled a hole and put a riv-nut in the Tara. Still going strong.

          • mrbiggs

            Very slick. I didn’t realize the Tara tubes were thick enough diameter to do that. I’ve only considered clamping something to the Tara tube, but haven’t got past the inevitable slipping. Is that the Supernova fender mount that you’ve got between the light and the Tara?

    • Adam Goodman

      How did you get a Tara with a supernova mount? I know some editions of the Specialized AWOL have that setup, but I didn’t think it was available otherwise…

  • Meshkat

    Z is for Zorro. :)

  • Tom Williams

    Thanks very much for a great write-up and for sharing your experiences with the whole setup; it’s so useful to have these examples of rigs that really work, as I’d been envisioning a similar sort of hybrid bikepacking/rando luggage system myself.

    I do have a question for you guys, and any other Wolverine riders who’d care to comment, concerning the speed/responsiveness of the bike. Elsewhere on the web/instagram I’ve seen you describe it as a zippy ride, which conflicts with my own experience somewhat. I’ve owned a Wolverine for almost a year and have played around with lots of different setups (700×32 Gatorskins, 700×50 Marathon Almotions, 29×2.1 Ignitors, 29×2.1 Crossmarks, singlespeed, 1x geared, 3x geared.) I really like how stable and comfortable the ride is, and that I can take it pretty much anywhere, however, it’s always seemed quite sluggish to me (for comparison, my 29×3.0 Trek Stache is much quicker off the mark and responds to pedal input much more readily, which seems perverse given its monster truck wheels and geometry.) So I guess the vague question is, how fast/responsive do you find the Wolverine? Does my experience contrast with that of other riders here?

    I think you definitely made the right decision with the 27.5″ wheels for use with higher volume tires; I’m currently running 29×2.1 Crossmarks and the BB is super high. I’d been thinking about swapping them out for 27.5s for this reason, I guess it might also make the ride feel a little more responsive.

    Anyway, thanks again and congrats on the awesome trip!!

    • To me this underscores the effect changes in rear end length can make on a bike. Long = stable, short = zippy. As you have probably read, the Wolverine’s rear end is adjustable between 425 and 445mm – but running a 29er tire basically requires you to run it all the way at the back.

      445mm is a common sport touring rear end length – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but it will make a bike feel slower. Traditional touring bikes and most fat bikes have even longer rear ends. Your Stache, despite its large wheels, has a 420 chainstay length.

      The other factor with our Wolverines is all the gear that was strapped to them for the majority of our trip. That truly zippy feeling won’t really be achieved until we’ve stripped the bikes of racks and bags.

  • Tom Williams

    Thanks a lot for your reply Morgan. This is an interesting comment; I can definitely see how the shorter chainstays would help make the stache more agile and manoeuvrable (this is one of the things that caught my eye initially) though I’d never considered that it would make much difference to performance in a straight line. I’ve decided to go ahead and swap out the wheels of my wolverine anyway, as I don’t think its current bottom bracket height is best suited for most of the riding I do on it, so I’ll have a play around with the dropouts too and see how that affects the ride.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply!

  • Gianluca

    Morgan, excellent article, very insightful on how to prepare the bike for a long trip! A question on the Tara lowrider you had on the bikes. Is that the standard one or the Big Apple? I am planning to get one for my Kona Sutra LTD, but I am not sure which one to pick. The front hub is a standard 100×10 and the bike has 700c 47mm wide tires, but can go up to 2″. I would be tempted to go for the Big Apple to accomodate the tyre width, but the Big Apple is 160mm wide at the bottom while my eyelets are atabout 115mm . Any suggestion? Thank you!

  • kenny

    You guys should throw some hold fast straps on those flat pedals. That’s how I run my black mountain cycles monster cross with a pair of vans and it is great

  • Mark Caral

    Brace for pedantry:
    “650x47c WTB Horizon”
    What is “c”?

    • Nathan Fenchak

      It must mean a 650c wheel with 47mm tires.

      • Mark Caral

        That must be for some crazy gravel road triathalon bike or something

      • Close, but not quite. It’s a 650B (584mm bead seat) x 47mm tire. 650C rims have a 571mm bead seat. The “c” in 47c is kind of a carryover from historical tire nomenclature, like referring to 700×23 road tires as 23c and so on. If you read up on the subject, you’ll find the origins of the letter after the tire width actually indicated different rim sizes as well – quite confusing! When you’ve got time to go down the rabbit hole, check out what Sheldon Brown and Jan Heine have had to say about it.

        • Nathan Fenchak

          I know Mark that posted above, and the whole point of these comments was to somewhat snarkily point out that WTB labels their products imprecisely, and that many knowledgeable bike folks use imprecise terms as well. The “c” in common tire size nomenclature is misplaced and does not mean millimeters.

          700C x 23 is a tire size listed precisely. 700 x 23c means the same thing, and we know that, but with actual 650B wheels and tires gaining popularity not just as 27.5″ in the MTB world, it seems like it’s important to start using proper labels on tires, and in our writing and speech. I would argue that even if that were not the case we should be more precise, but I guess I’m just weird like that. WTB Horizon 47c really could mean a few things, but that name, to me, implies that it’s a 700C tire.

          *Speaking of Jan Heine, who clearly values precise language and labeling, all of the Compass tires in 700C are listed by size as ‘700C x __’, the 650B tires are listed by size following the same format.

          • I totally hear where you’re coming from. As I’m sure you’re aware, the ETRTO size molded into every tire sidewall – in this case 584-47 – is the actual standard used for tire measurement. WTB is far from the only company taking liberty with what they print on the side of a tire. While I get why some people feel the need to be snarky, I like to stay positive and seek to clarify what is actually out there in the market.

            Here’s a question, though. When is it appropriate to use 650B instead of 27.5, and vice versa? I was very much immersed in the mountain bike world when modern 27.5 bikes came into being, and was initially hesitant to accept another descriptor for wheels with an existing (584) bead seat, but now that it’s been a few years it seems just fine…

          • Nathan Fenchak

            I think that we are trying to say the same thing, and I’m not necessarily trying to be negative with the snark. Precise product labeling is important for clarifying what is actually out there in the market.
            WTB’s product development team is fantastic and they make a ton of great tires. When I wear out the Compass tires on my 650B wheeled bike, I plan on purchasing a set of those Horizon tires, but whoever decided to market a 650B x 47 (584-47mm) tire as “Horizon 47c” made a choice that directly conflicts with the aim of clarifying what is on the market. It’s a bit of a goofy argument, because those tires are not for the new rider that doesn’t know much about bikes, they’re for the bike nerds that already know the difference between 700C and 650B, so it honestly doesn’t matter that much from a practical perspective at this point, but it’s still imprecise.

            The 650B vs. 27.5″ thing is weird for me too, and when I say that wheel size out loud, in relation to mountain bikes or not, I say “650B” (or “B+” when referring to 27.5+ tires) because 650B has fewer syllables than 27.5.
            I do think that for the purposes of differentiating mountain bike wheel sizes, 27.5 makes sense, because it illustrates that it is between 26 and 29.

  • Olivia Boyd

    Morgan: Are those bars Woodchippers? How do you like riding on the hoods?

    • Hey! Yeah, they’re the VentureMax, which is kind of a middle of the road dirt drop in terms of where it positions the hood. Bars like the Woodchipper and Cowchipper put the hoods in an almost unrideable position. The Cowbell and Easton AX (which I’m riding on another bike now) are mild in their hood cant. I find the VentureMax to be still totally rideable, though the hoods angle inward slightly more than on the less flared bars. So they feel wider than they measure. What I really like about the VentureMax, though, is the drop shape. I put the 46 cm on my Sutra and it’s awesome. Wacky looking, but great to ride. Woodchippers are basically useless in the hoods and end up being a drops-primary bar, while the VentureMax still does both really well.