I know a lot of dropouts
Yesterday we were in a meeting. We have a lot of meetings around here. While we were in this meeting we started talking about design philosophy and all of the stuff that guides what we do here. A big part of that discussion for us is always about our dropouts. Dropouts are one thing on a bike that are very small but can have a great effect on what the bike can do and how you’re gonna end up riding it. For instance, if we were to put our direct mount Shimano MDS chip on a touring bike we’d have a bunch of touring frames with MDS chips sitting unsold in our warehouse because the MDS chips don’t have much in the way of touring amenities. If you have a bike like the Instigator and you’re running a Shimano direct-mount derailleur, the Shimano Direct Mount MDS chip makes a ton of sense. It’s super stiff and is probably the best way I’ve seen to make something that already shifts well, shift even better. It’s just not built for a touring bike. That’s why we have touring dropouts. They’re the best way to make racks, fenders and disc brakes all work on a bike that a person could then use to tour through any type of terrain, from pavement all the way to places nary trod upon by human feet, let alone human powered vehicles.
So this discussion got me thinking about our dropouts. What they are, what they’re for and which ones I like the most. Let’s have a look, shall we?
No better place to start than the beginning. Our first dropouts were from a company called Sub.11. They were horizontal, rear exiting dropouts and they were pretty cool. They’re made from cast steel and were all about simplicity. If you have an old 1x1 you can tell whether or not its just old, or really old, if the dropouts say Sub.11 instead of Surly. We still use these puppies on the 1x1 and the Steamroller so they’ve stood the test of time better than the single-speed craze that brought about their genesis.
We have always made bikes that were generally underserved in the market so we started making a cyclocross bike called the Cross Check. At the time there weren’t a lot of cross bikes to be had and that was a shame because cross bikes are pretty versatile while still being a bit sporty. If you ever went to cross races in the early part of this century, you saw a lot of people on Cross Checks. I remember seeing a lot of them at my local cross series. This bike wasn’t single speed specific so it had forward facing semi-horizontal dropouts and since we liked the versatility of the cross platform, we put rack and fender mounts on the Cross Check dropout.
In our meeting this week it became painfully obvious that, despite our differing opinions about bikes, we’re all pretty huge bike nerds and any bike nerd can appreciate a sweet steel road bike. Our version of “The Classic Steel Road Bike” is the Pacer and it has ‘Breezer’ dropouts. Breezer dropouts were the hot shit back in the day because instead of brazing a flat piece of steel into a slot cut in your stays, Breezer dropouts had a hooded design that was welded to your stays thus creating a larger joint. I’m not an engineer so please don’t bust my chops, but it has always been my understanding that larger joints are better in every circumstance, but I’ll leave that one to the scientists.
After that came the Karate Monkey, one of the OG 29er frames. For this frame we went with a cast design similar to the 1x1 dropouts but gave it the added versatility of a derailleur hanger and fender mounts. We've updated the Karate Monkey to the Modular Dropout System because we think that makes more sense for that bike, but you’ll also find these on Pugsley and Moonlander frames, they're simple and they get the job done all the while giving you some drivetrain options.
We make a lot of bikes that are capable of touring. These bikes have special dropouts that allow the use of disc brakes, racks and fenders all at the same time. This is something that more touring cyclists find particularly useful because when you’re on the open road, or trail, you’ll need all the versatility you can take with you because weird shit happens when you least expect it. You can run single speed drivetrains with this dropout if things go real bad and you just need to keep moving forward, you can bolt trailers to this dropout, you can do pretty much all things with this dropout. That’s the whole point. We put them on the bikes you’d expect; the ECR, Troll, Ogre, Disc Trucker, and a simplified version on the LHT.
Then came our Modular Dropout System. This is the system that allows you to choose what sort of rear end you want on your bike. If you’re running a thru-axle rear wheel with Shimano direct-mount derailleurs, you’re covered. If you’re running a standard mount derailleur with a 135mm QR, that’s covered. Want to act all tough and run a 135mm single speed rig? That’s cool. We’ve also got a universal slotted chip that will let you do gears or single speed, no derailleur commitment, and is thru-axle compatible. You could honestly write a book about how badass the Modular Dropout System is but a photo says a thousand words and I got other shit to do.
The 135mm Single Speed chip
The 135mm QR chip with fender mounts
The Shimano direct-mount chip
The do-all 12x142 slotted thru-axle chip
When it comes to unassuming dropouts that do very many things all at once, our new Wednesday dropouts take the trophy. I’m not even going to try to explain these things because the guy that designed them just wrote a very good blog about them so here’s the link to that. The nuances of the Wednesday dropout are so understated that showing you anything other than a computer modeled photo is basically useless. The idea with this dropout is that it has all the simplicity of a rear-facing track end, but can work with either a regular 135mm QR hub or a 12x142 thru-axle. It's basically magic, but here's the photos.
Now that you have that glimpse into the mob mentality of this group, pick your favorite and go ride your bike.