Tumbleweeds and Tradition: SimWorks Introduces the Doppo High Plains Drifter

SimWorks is pleased to present our latest offering in the Doppo lineup of framesets: The High Plains Drifter. These framesets are handcrafted in small batches by our friends, and adept framebuilding cohorts, at Simple Bicycle Co. here in Portland, OR. It’s a modern twist on a time-honored favorite, sure to bring back more than a few pleasant reminders of some of our earliest memories on a bike, while opening up a world of possibility for future off-road explorations.

Origin Story

The initial concept for the High Plains Drifter frameset was rooted in a return to certain cycling foundations that had always rung true for SimWorks. Modern mountain bikes had evolved to a point where they became so technologically advanced and optimized for mach speed trail-shredding that it was beginning to feel, or perhaps had felt for a while, like something had been lost. With the progression towards slacker head tube angles, longer suspension travel, more powerful brakes, and 12-speed electronic drivetrains the modern mountain bikes of today feel as though they owe more to motorcycles than they do to their antecedents as human-powered exploratory machines and outlets for introspection at a measured pace.

SimWorks as a business, and as a brand, aims to appeal to a customer and a rider that appreciates an origin story; someone who embraces the foundational elements of riding and isn’t necessarily looking to evolve (at least with the intent of allowing us to neglect our attention to our lived experiences). We’ve spent a good deal of time on the modern mountain bikes of today and in a wide range of environments. They beg to be pushed to their limit and, to that point, as a rider where you’re an errant decision away from having things go drastically wrong, drastically fast. Riding these modern bikes is a ton of fun, but they can cause riders to occasionally become lazy about line selection and to approach terrain like it’s an obstacle course to be conquered instead of parsed, navigated, appreciated, and left in good order for the next rider.

Our aim with the High Plains Drifter is to appeal to a rider that fondly remembers learning to ride an off-road bike that wasn’t so technically advanced, and the pride and joy that dovetailed with the purity of that machine. For many of us, those first mountain bikes were fully-rigid chromoly bikes that were relatively easy to maintain, efficient, durable and beautiful in their own right. They embodied a certain pragmatism and versatility that seems to have evaporated in a modern bike market that just continues to become ever-more segmented. They were the only bikes we needed or could see ourselves riding. You could pedal through a nearly forgotten overgrown shortcut to a friend’s house across town, skid your way through a bustling alleyway, parallel the county decommissioned rail line or session the community pump track. You’d then mosey off to the corner store, before ditching it in the lawn for the night to collect dew until the next morning.

The High Plains Drifter was built to tap into that kid in all of us, and to ask us to return to our roots. Riding this bike feels a lot like being on that early chromoly mountain bike of our youth, with a splash of modern refinement in just the right spots. It’s lines and profile are an homage to some of the first mountain bikes, back when a few restless but courageous youngsters stripped their beach cruisers of their fenders and chain guards, and mounted knobbier tires so they could bomb down the mountainsides that had domintated the horizon views of their minds eye. Hell-bent on racing each other to see who could make it to the bottom the fastest before burning out their coaster hubs, they’d later be crowned with little more than valley bragging rights.

This bike does not skimp on trail manners, nor leave you feeling as though you’re piloting a relic. It’s not a beach cruiser dressed in trail rubber, or a bike begging to have a suspension fork added to its front end. Rather, its soul lives in the wide-open spaces and far-flung singletrack ribbons of your imagination. If you push it, it will take you to those distant lands and deliver you home again; but it asks for your attention, and that you pick your line with confidence.

A Simple Partnership

SimWorks’ Doppo lineup centers around exploration. Both the exploration of ourselves that manifests while pedaling a well-built bicycle, and our exploration of the natural world. Our decision to commission Simple Bicycle Co. to craft this batch of High Plains Drifter frames was rooted in a respect for craft and experience, but equally in a history and desire to write another chapter together. As an added bonus, sheer proximity provided an ideal arrangement for us to have real-time conversations regarding design decisions, handle raw materials, mock-up aesthetic considerations, and watch the bike in our head literally come to life just a few hundred feet away under the same roof where we operate SimWorks USA.

This strong relationship and proximity to Simple mirrors the relationship and emphasis on domestic manufacturing that is a core principle for SimWorks business in Japan as well. The ability to communicate in person, to quickly see samples, and make necessary changes on the fly are all benefits of small batch domestic manufacturing and in the case of our relationship with Simple we’re tapping into our shared ethos on manufacturing standards as well as familiarity with the modern marketplace.

Ultimately, we create the bikes that we want to ride, and those bikes more often than not are ridden close to our homes. We have to weigh these preferences and considerations alongside what we believe will resonate with our customers and cast a wide enough net that we can appeal to riders that identify with our products and our brand, who may not live in a similar environment. There-in lies the inherent benefit of creating a bike that isn’t laser focused at a particular discipline of riding, but rather a mindset, a pace and an aesthetic that can be appreciated anywhere. The High Plains Drifter at its core is a mountain bike for the growing segment of the restless and nostalgic masses, anxiously searching for a dose of tech detox.

Geometry & Parts Spec

Our intentions with the bike’s geometry were to return to numbers that were more common before mountain bikes began suspension correcting their front ends. Head tube angles across the sizes range between 69 and 70 degrees, and axle to crown on the included unicrown fork is set at 420mm. This is ample fork clearance for running a 29” x 2.3” or 27.5” x 2.6” tire comfortably. Fork offset is set at 55mm providing neutral and intuitive front end handling; a contrast to the super slack front ends of today’s mountain bikes with front wheels that tend to want to wander and flop at slow speeds while climbing. Bottom bracket drop was set at 55mm for sufficient pedal clearance through rough terrain while offering a super stable pedaling platform that keeps the rider’s center of mass lower and the bike planted while cornering.

Chainstays were stretched to 440mm- a little longer than you’ll find on most hardtail bikes of today to improve rear end compliance and buff out some trail chatter. Effective top tube lengths for the size range run on the longer side as well, stretching the wheelbase for stability, while taking into consideration that many riders will elect to run shorter stems. Stack height is generous for the High Plains Drifter as well. This isn’t a cross country race machine. We’re proponents of a comfortable ride, and making it easier for riders to get their hands up to near or above saddle level is paramount in this pursuit.

SimWorks opted to maintain standard axle spacing for the High Plains Drifter instead of pushing it to “boost.” Intentions here were to draw on the standoff of the bikes of yesterday while embracing thru-axles that are included as standard equipment for both front and rear wheels. There’s still a broad offering of 100mm front and 135/142mm rear hubs available from some of the industry’s most time-tested manufacturers that still embrace this standard, as well as a generations worth of these wheel sets kicking around that can be revived and bolted to this frameset. The Paragon Machine Works ‘Rocker’ dropouts offer chain length adjustment so the bike can be set up single-speed if so desired. Additionally, the range of available rocker inserts from Paragon offer compatibility with both 135mm and 142mm spaced rear wheels. Double eyelets at the dropouts offer a bolt-in point for both a rear rack as well as fenders, when mated with eyelets at the bridges and “hourglass” braze-ons on the seat stays below the seat cluster. The same fender and rack capabilities are true for the fork- also built in-house by Simple and featuring a tapered steerer to mate to the frame’s tapered head tube- further adding to the bike’s confidence inspiring handling in more challenging terrain.

The dropper seat post has been one of the more significant and progressive developments in the world of off-road cycling in the last 15 years. When it came time to draft the bullet points for specifications for the High Plains Drifter- it felt like a required spec- even for a bike that otherwise has its soul firmly planted in its past. Dropper posts have significantly improved riders’ capacities for tailoring their body positioning for the terrain they are riding, allowing us to lower our centers of gravity to tackle steeper descents and carry our mass through corners with greater ease and mitigate our tendency to high-side ourselves at speed. Additionally, they let us make minor adjustments to saddle height on-the-fly so we can give weary muscle groups a break and make mounting and dismounting our bikes a little easier.

Along with a dropper seatpost, disc brakes are essential equipment when assembling a capable off-road machine. The included post mount rocker inserts are intended for use with a 160mm rear rotor while the IS tabs on the fork will allow for mounting up to a 200mm rotor with an appropriate IS adapter. Cable routing runs along the underside of the DT, and will accommodate hydraulic or full length cable actuated brake housing, as well as full length housing for control of the rear derailleur if specified, and internally routed dropper line that ports out on the rear of the seat tube.

Perhaps the most aesthetically defining characteristic of the High Plains Drifter frameset is the included truss assembly- a bolt-on addition to the front end that will help in stabilizing the fork during rides through rougher terrain. While the unicrown fork will provide plenty of strength and stability, our preferences in this case are aesthetic as well. As an homage to the ‘Klunker’ style bikes of yesterday, and in harmony with the twin top-tube of the main triangle, the truss was included to provide the High Plains Drifter with a dash of panache- an element of structure and style that pays its respects to the past but keeps it’s sights set on what lies ahead. It looks outstanding and plays well with the frame and fork. Its inclusion in the frameset serves as an added measure of intention of tying the frame and fork together and creating a memorable artifact of art in motion.

Additional visually defining characteristics of the High Plains Drifter include the kinked top tube and added cross bar bisecting the main triangle- a classic spec for a ‘Klunker’ style bike. This twin top tube design also opened up the possibility for having a small batch of custom bags created to occupy this space, so riders can bring some essentials with them on their journey.

The bags are size specific for their respective frames and were made by our good friend and gifted bag maker, Cody Forsythe of ‘Jack Supply’ here in Portland. They’re constructed of Cordura Nylon, lined for weather resistance and offer a main drive side compartment that’s large enough for a layer, some tools, trail snacks and EDC items, as well as a slimmer non-drive side pocket for storing more compact items like paper maps, your phone or an energy bar. The daisy chain webbing sewn to the perimeter of the bag offers the ability to tailor velcro strap placement to your liking. YKK zippers with pulls round out the bag spec. Bags will be available for an upcharge with frameset purchase, and are solely offered in ‘Coyote Brown’.

Playing further on this ‘Klunker’ aesthetic we are offering a custom-built twin-bar chromoly handlebar made by our friend Keaton Haire of DOOM Bars, out of Albuquerque, NM. Keaton has tapped into a segment of the market that appreciates a handsomely crafted, tailored and durable handlebar, and his shapes and overall aesthetic were a perfect match for pulling together a unique bar offering that would pair well with this frameset.

It was really rewarding to get another maker involved in this project that’s created a focused brand in the last handful of years. We’ve known Keaton for a while now – from his time in Fort Collins through his experience working here in Portland at Chris King – so it’s cool to come full circle and get to work on a project together and to be able to support a friend and talented maker.

At SimWorks, our mission, and the products that we bring to market, all begin with a desire for a connection. That connection starts with a relationship with our suppliers and the growing roster of makers and individuals that actually create our products, and it ends with the connection we hope to form with the end users of our products. The goal from the beginning of this Doppo project was to get a collective of people together to share a vision and have that vision result in an offering that felt true to each of us, and ultimately would feel special and unique to the customers that identify with our brand. It’s a true culmination of a collaborative effort. So, we extend a great deal of appreciation to the whole SimWorks family, the Simple crew, as well as Cody and Keaton, and anyone else who played a secondary but integral role in getting this bike off the ground. We hope that those of you who have expressed an initial interest in this offering, find in it what you’ve been looking for.

Frame, fork, and truss assembly – $2500
Jack Supply Co custom frame bag – $110
Doom Handlebar – $200 (with frame purchase)

Presale for framesets, bags, and bars opens today (May 10, 2022) at 9:00am PST over at the SimWorks Webstore with expected delivery of early July.

Now get to Driftin’…