Earlier this year, I purchased a Bug Out, the new “stock” steel frame offering from Zach Small’s framebuilding operation Amigo Frameworks. While visiting Zach in Nashville, we spent a few days building it up in his shop before heading out for first impressions on some springtime Middle Tennessee mixed-terrain riding at the Gosh Darn Gravel Gathering. Since then, I’ve put hundreds of miles on the Bug Out and swapped components a few times to get it where it is now—an intersection of pure enjoyment and mechanical perfection. Genre-wise, this bike pushes a lot of boundaries, and I’m not sure what it is: Dropbar MTB? Adventure bike? ATB? Touring bike? Monster Gravel? At some point, labels stopped mattering, and I realized this might be the most fun bike I’ve owned. Let’s look at the Bug Out, and some build highlights, in detail below and find out why!
Small Batch with a Dose of Champagne
I connected with the Bug Out from the minute I first saw Jarrod’s photos of its debut last year at the Philly Bike Expo. Its versatility, good looks, and future-forward design were aspects I’d been searching for in a drop bar bike for some time. After riding more “typical” gravel and touring bikes, the Bug Out’s long and slack geo really appealed to me for the type of riding I like to do; this was a “stock model” from a custom framebuilder unlike anything else on the market. Prior to this bike, I owned a ’19 Kona Sutra LTD and a steel Niner RLT before that. TBH, those bikes were great for their intended uses on dirt roads, but left me wanting something more when roads turned to broken double track and, certainly, for singletrack.
Zach devised the Bug Out name and concept first before diving into geometry and specs. He knew it would be Amigo’s “flagship” model and, thus, it needed to be an accessible attention-grabber while also a trendsetter. With the abundance of touring and adventure-focused bikes and gear available these days, it’s pretty easy to make most anything work if your goals are similar to mine in wanting a bike to strap bags to, ride fast, cover long distances, shred singletrack, and most importantly have fun. But, most folks also want to feel comfortable with their expensive purchases and embrace the bleeding edge of a particular technology. A bike should have panache if it’s going to push boundaries.
Before I get into the build details, I want to touch on this idea of a stock model that more custom frame builders have been embracing lately, often to the benefit of cutting queue times and providing more approachable price points. Everyone’s intentions are different, but when I asked Zach about it, his response was enlightening:
“This was my second overall design intent when I approached making this bike. It’s not easy doing custom work. Each bike is different—one day you’re doing an mtb, the next a road bike, and keeping up with client emails, etc., is a huge task. [A stock model] is a different business model, and one that I seldom see from small builders because it mimics an economy of scale that only larger companies usually practice, but it gives me the ability to do 10-15 bikes at a time, automate parts of my process, and build more bikes in a shorter period of time which means I can potentially make a decent living and still have time to do either small unique runs of bikes or one-off customs. Even with all that I’m only making 40-50 of these bikes in a year and doing web drops so they do still maintain that air of exclusivity.”
To design the look and feel of the bike, Zach knew he wanted to work with artist Casey Rodman from the beginning. Casey’s clever, dusty, and gritty style would prove perfect for realizing Zach’s conceptual ideas into an aesthetic that would grab his audience’s attention and resonate with our current uncertain times.
“I love old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons with their goofy desert vibe, which I wanted to go along with my idea of “Buggin’ Out” or having your bug-out bag.”
Says Zach of his visual goals for the project, while adding:
“There is something a bit nervous about our current times that has created a lot of uncertainty. While not directly trying to play off those apocalyptic fears, when we [Zach and Casey] were collaborating on this design during the height of the pandemic, there was this feeling of ‘man, I really wish I could get away from this all and live under a rock for a while. You know, to bug out and then come back when things settle.’ I think as avid cyclo-tourists, we all enjoy that feeling of escape and, to me, that’s what the bicycle has always been.”
The Amigo Bug Out: Design and Geometry
The Bug Out was designed for the types of Middle Tennessee roads that Zach started riding after moving to Nashville a couple of years ago: steep and loose, often punctuated with sections of accessible singletrack, and frequently rutted out by the rushing creeks that make this area so lush. Aquatic elements aside, I imagined that this Tennessee terrain would be similar to the roads in my home in Arizona and that the Bug Out would also be perfect for such zones. My hunch was confirmed when I went out to experience them for myself at the Gosh Darn Gravel Gathering, further validating my recent purchase. This class of “gravel” riding feels more akin to cross-country mountain biking, IMO, when considering the full spectrum of cycling typology, and I suspect TN and AZ aren’t the only locales with similar diverse terrain.
Beyond destination riding, however, we have a phenomenal mountain park system surrounding the Phoenix valley, where I live, with hundreds of miles of singletrack. Our trails range from very easy to extreme and can be conveniently accessed by the metro’s canal path system. One of my favorite things to do is hop on one of the gravel canal paths, ride out to some of the lower-angle singletrack at Papago Park, South Mountain, Usery, Hawes, etc, ride a few laps, pedal along more canal paths to a coffee shop, and then turn around and do it all again on my way home. It’s the most enjoyable way to squeeze in a quick-ish ride during the week, and I’m grateful to have it all so close, now with an ideal bike up for the mixed-terrain task.
To tackle steep and loose terrain but also retain a fast and comfortable prowess while on more favorable road surfaces, the Bug Out was created from the ground up. Zach didn’t want to make a road bike with bigger tire clearances; he wanted to create a chassis capable of handling rough tracks and trails without compromising handling or fitment.
With a longer front center (700mm), slacker head angle (68.5), shorter chainstays (412-433mm), and lower bottom bracket (284mm drop) than most gravel frames on the market, its geometry resembles modern mountain bikes more than it does gravel-suited alternatives. To top it off, it uses a 50mm stem and enough room for a long dropper post (I’m currently using a 180mm from OneUp on this size large frame with 32.25″ saddle height). On the other hand, the slimmer road Q-factor with 68mm bottom bracket makes the bike feel comfortable and zippy when cruising. I haven’t experienced the same type of knee and hip fatigue that often comes from riding bikes with wider bottom brackets over long distances.
Additionally, the adjustable rear dropouts work well with the also-adjustable specced Enve or Obikeco Adventure Fork to dial in the wheelbase, stack height, and headtube angle. It’s truly a hybrid, and while it might not appeal to everyone, I feel we’ll be seeing more bikes like this hit the market as folks catch onto the idea (coining my buddy Mr. Adam Sklar): “fast is fun, but fun is fun-er.”
Zach designed the rear dropouts to be compatible with Paragon Machine Works’ rocker inserts. Adjustable dropouts allow riders to modify the bike’s rear center and easily set it up as a singlespeed. They also work with the specced Adventure Fork’s offset chip to fine-tune the overall ride quality – slide into the shorter position for snappy singletrack riding and then lengthen the wheelbase out for sustained gravel grinds. Additionally, utilizing the PMW inserts opens a variety of readily available replacement parts, along with ISO, post mount, and flat mount brake adapters with singlespeed versions of each.
To fit big tires and chainrings up to 46t on a bike with a 68mm bottom bracket, Zach created his own chainstay yoke. It made more sense to have a special yoke made than spend time bending and dimpling each chainstay tube since his plan was to batch-build these frames. Drawing on his background in CNC machining, which we discussed in my shop visit, the yokes were 3D-modeled, prototyped, and automated while still achieving Zach’s desired fitment goals. The resulting single-piece component is probably heavier than other hollow clamshell designs, but having it pre-mitered for the bottom bracket shell resulted in less torch time. And, I have to admit: it looks damn good and consistent with the stout frame.
Wide tires are an important aspect of the Bug Out’s competency on rough terrain. The rear end is designed to accommodate a 700x50c tire, but will likely clear up to a 29×2.3. Running wide tires not only helps smooth out ride quality on harsh surfaces but also bite into loose trails while providing a predictable foundation for descents. For the first few months I had the bike, I used an old set of Stans Arch rims with the former, and heavier, version of Simworks’ Super Yummy tire. It was a great combination in terms of traction and ride quality, but I thought something lighter weight and more lively would be a better fit for this build.
Looking for a bump in performance, I sought out a wheelset that was relatively affordable, lightweight, and offered an appropriate internal width for wide gravel tires with 142×12/100×12 hubs. I picked up the revised UL250 wheelset from Industry Nine with 1/1 hubs and wrapped them in Teravail Rutland 29×2.2 tires. Fitting well within the frame’s clearances, this wheel/tire combo weighs a sporty 6.3lbs. The carbon rims are manufactured overseas by Reynolds for I9 (rather than We Are One, which made the carbon rims Spencer reviewed) and they are the only wheelset I know of that weighs 3lbs or less, costs under $1,600, and has a lifetime warranty. In comparison to their spendier options, I9 can shave some cost here by using their 1/1 hub (which they claim to be as durable if not slightly more than the higher-end Hydra) and standard Sapim J-bend spokes. The result is a low-maintenance and bomber MTB-spec wheelset right at home on a versatile bike like the Bug Out.
Additionally, I’ve been using the Rutland with light and supple casing, rather than the durable version I typically prefer in all tires. Our desert roads and trails really abuse tires and I often err on the side of caution with a little added weight penalty and rolling resistance, rather than deal with punctures and blown sidewalls. These tires, though, have exceeded my expectations and, after hundreds of miles, they are still going strong with no issues.
60mm of Possibilities with the MRP Baxter Fork
When I saw the revised MRP Baxter fork displayed at Sea Otter earlier this year, I immediately knew I needed one for the Bug Out. I will admit that I was not originally keen on adding suspension to gravel bikes back when brands started dropping their short travel forks a few years ago. Yet, once I started riding the Bug Out, my opinion completely changed.
While the carbon Adventure Fork the bike was initially designed around is lightweight and offers a compelling and fairly niche list of features, I found its ride quality rather harsh. I enjoy riding the Bug Out on pitted roads and moderate singletrack and, given this proclivity, I felt the original carbon fork was the bike’s most limiting factor. Before the Baxter, I had even talked to a few builders about commissioning a custom segmented steel fork, hoping that it would be the key to smoothing out the bike’s ride on rough terrain. But a steel fork would likely weigh nearly double the carbon alternative, not to mention costing quite a chunk. So, why not opt for 60mm of air-sprung travel for just a few ounces and dollars more?
The Baxter is available in two travel options: 40 and 60mm. I chose the 60mm option because it fits bigger tires and, since this is a party bike, it might as well really party. It’s available in 16 colors using MRP’s version of Cerakote, which they refer to as ShredKOTE, and ships just a few weeks after an order is placed for the custom paint jobs.
Since it uses an air-sprung suspension system, adjustments are made using a standard shock pump in both the positive and negative air chambers. There’s a handy chart on MRP’s website for dialing in ideal baseline travel settings, but having both chambers with more air in the negative chamber vs. the positive one was new to me, and I reached out to Noah Shears at MRP to help explain the design. His response made perfect sense in relation to most gravel riding scenarios:
“The surface area that the negative spring works against is smaller than that of the positive spring, and thus higher pressure is needed to truly balance out the spring forces and diminish the breakthrough sensation off-the-top of the stroke common with air springs. We see this a big advantage of the independent positive/negative spring arrangement – especially for a gravel fork where it’s super nice to eliminate all the high-frequency chatter.”
Once the air pressures are set, the suspension is fine-tuned via three compression adjustments (open, mid, locked) and 20 points of rebound. I find the locked position to be pretty stiff and only use it when on fairly smooth tarmac surfaces. As soon as I hit the dirt or rough roads, I flip it into mid or open mode. With the fine-tuning made available by ample compression and rebound options, I don’t feel a sacrifice in performance when hammering the pedals or weighting the front end on steep climbs; there isn’t the “bob” often associated with longer travel forks.
Also, with the addition of a large tire, the fork punches above its weight in terms of travel. I find myself going for lines I wouldn’t normally ride with a fully rigid gravel bike – hitting small jumps and dropping steep descents – and haven’t felt the fork bottom out yet. It has a supple and responsive feel that enhances the Bug Out ride quality and experience by opening up more terrain options.
The Baxter comes in many configurations, making it adaptable to most gravel and adventure bikes out there. It has ample tire clearance (Teravail Rutland 29 x 2.2 with room to spare), bottle/accessory mounts rated to three pounds each, and multiple axle offsets. Here’s a detailed specifications breakdown:
- Travel: 40 or 60mm
- Weight: 40mm version – 3.1 lbs; 60mm version – 3.25 lbs
- Spring system: Independent positive and negative air chambers
- Steerer: Tapered (1.125 – 1.5″)
- Offset: 40mm version 40.5, 44, or 47.5mm; 60mm version 41.4, 45, or 48.4mm
- Brake Mount: Modular flat-mount adapter for 160 or 180mm rotor (post mount fitment coming soon)
- Tire Clearance: 40mm version 700x45c default (50c / 29×2.00” optional); 60mm version 700x50c (29×2.00”); All models clear up to 27.5 x 2.4″
- Axle: Bolt-on for 12×100 or 12x110mm hubs
- Axle-to-crown length: 40mm version: 430mm (with 700x45c clearance, +5mm for 50c clearance option); 60mm version: 456mm (700x50c / 29×2.00” tire clearance standard)
Let’s unpack these numbers regarding running this fork on the Bug Out. First, there’s the axle-to-crown length. On an already slack “gravel” bike (68.5° head tube angle), going from an ATC of 400mm on the Adventure Fork to 456 on the Baxter is substantial. I’m not an engineer, and I’m not going to ask Zach to draw this up in BikeCAD, but the difference might slacken the head angle nearly 1° when static. But I’m hardly riding this fork in its locked-out position. When I am, it’s on fast terrain where a little decrease in head angle only adds to the comfort of the bike, and something like wheel flop isn’t much of an issue. When the fork is compressing in either the mid or open setting, the sag introduced is likely compensating for handling deficiencies brought on by using a taller fork than the bike was designed for.
The next important consideration was axle offset. As previously mentioned, Zach designed this bike around the idea of adjusting the wheelbase using both the rocker dropouts and Adventure Fork flip chip offset positions of 47mm or 52mm. While the 60mm travel fork doesn’t stretch out to 52mm, the furthest setting of 48.4mm is solid middle ground and should still play nicely with Zach’s original design intent. The fork ships in the longest offset, and I haven’t moved it, but it will be fun to experiment with the shorter settings on different types of terrain, loaded/unloaded, etc. As is, I’m enjoying the way it rides.
And, last but not least, the brake mount. MRP uses a modular brake mount to accommodate 160 or 180mm rotors. This is a proprietary design, and standard caliper spacers, like the spacers you’d normally get to accompany your Paul Klampers, won’t work. Furthermore, until recently, the MRP adapters were only designed for flat-mount brakes. So, here I am with these gorgeous limited-run pewter post-mount Klampers and no way to attach them! Thankfully, MRP sent me one of the first production post-mount adapters so I could get this rig rolling. And, like their flat-mount counterparts, post-mount adapters work with all offsets; you just need to add the included spacers to bring the caliper backward for two shorter axle positions. Post-mount adapters are now available to purchase for, or with, a Baxter, which is a big deal, IMO. If they aren’t on MRP’s website yet, they will be soon.
Full Italian with Ingrid Components Drivetrain and Campagnolo Levers
Parts were scarce in the supply chain dark days of early 2022 when I was trying to pull together a build kit for the Bug Out. This was particularly the case for drivetrain components. Knowing how I’d be riding the bike – as hybrid gravel/mtb – I wanted gearing options that worked well across a variety of scenarios with enough low end for steep punchy climbs, but that didn’t sacrifice the high end for fast pedaling on flat roads. A mullet mountain bike setup seemed to make the most sense, but options were (and are) limited for pairing drop bar shifters with wide-range mountain cassettes. Even if I could have sourced AXS parts, I didn’t want electronic shifting on this bike. As soon as I started speccing a Sram Rival + GX Eagle + Ratio kit, my attention shifted to the relatively new drivetrain system from the Italian manufacturer Ingrid Components.
The Ingrid derailleur is compatible with just about every mechanical shifter type available. With the selection of specific cable fins, the one derailleur model can match up with Sram, Shimano, or Campagnolo shifters for both flat and drop bars. Plus, it’s a 1×12 system. Bingo! I had found the mechanical system I was looking for – with Campy Chorus 2×12 road; I could have the 1×12 drop bar-compatible system of my dreams! And, if I ever want to change things up with a flat handlebar and MTB shifter, I’ll still be able to use this same derailleur.
The derailleur is also incredibly lightweight. It mixes beautifully-machined and 3D-printed parts, weighing a whopping 270g. The dual carbon disc integrated clutch can’t be independently locked, but it’s completely sealed and can be opened for servicing. Every aspect of it, including nuts and bolts, is replaceable and available from Ingrid. One derailleur to rule them all? Perhaps that’s what Ingrid is going for.
As you can see in my build pictured here, I also opted for the Ingrid CRS-POP crank and the two-piece 10-48 cassette to compliment the derailleur. While there was some sticker shock involved in the purchase, it’s not much different than some of the electronic systems out there, and it was the exact solution I was looking for.
Right now, the largest cassette Ingrid makes is a 10-48 and while the derailleur is also compatible with SRAM cassettes, I figured that pairing the 10-48 with a 34t chainring would provide an optimal range for my riding style. On super steep climbs, like going up Mt Lukens during the LA Invitational, I have found the range to be the slightest bit limiting, but that’s not my normal terrain, and in such a scenario, I either need to pedal harder or eventually swap the cassette for a 10-52…
Having the Campy Chorus levers is great, and they pair with the Ingrid derailleur well – shifting is just as crisp after six+ months of use as it was when I first set them up. Additionally, because the left lever was built for a 2x system, Zach and I hacked it to actuate the OneUp dropper post. By removing the thumb shifter and its internal ratchet components, we could link the paddle shifter to the dropper using a standard shift cable with a knarp/cable clamp on the opposite end that slots into the dropper’s actuator.
I do need to continually remind myself that these are road levers, though. I’ve laid them down a few times in moderate crashes, and they scratch easily. I’m a little worried about them eventually snapping off in a bigger crash, as they don’t seem engineered for that kind of abuse. Still, it’s a reasonable tradeoff to have their added functionality.
It’s been a great experience collaborating with Zach on this Bug Out build, as I’ve ridden and iterated (and ridden and iterated some more) for the better part of this year. As I mentioned in my shop visit with Zach, we became fast friends because of this bike and, now that it’s pretty much “done,” I hope we continue to find ways to stay in touch.
If you like what you see here and want to chat with Zach about a Bug Out of your own, slither on over to Amigo Frameworks and drop him a line.
Frame: Amigo Frameworks Bug Out
Fork: MRP Baxter
Stem: Paul Component Boxcar 50mm
Handlebar: SimWorks Smogcutter
Seatpost: OneUp 180mm
Saddle: Brooks C17 Arizona Edition
Bar Tape: Camp & Go Slow
Bar Ends: SimWorks
Headset: Chris King
Bottom Bracket: Chris King
Levers: Campagnolo Chorus 2×12 Road
Brakes: Paul Component Klamper Post-Mount
Crankset: Ingrid POP 175mm
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Hubs: Industry Nine 1/1
Rims: Industry Nine UL250
Tires: Teravail Rutland 29 X 2.2
Cassette: Ingrid 10-48
Bottle Cages: Wolf Tooth Morse Ti
Bags: Outer Shell Handlebar, Swift Ind Moxie, Wolf Tooth Roll-top
Reflector: Southern Wonders