Turn On, Tune In, Dropout: Project Rockhopper Commuter

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

Timothy Leary popularised the famous counterculture-era phrase at the Human Be-In gathering in 1967. It looks like London’s Jake Weir has been ‘thinking for himself and questioning authority’ — another Leary maxim, by hacking a steel Rockhopper and heavily modifying the dropouts.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

One of the most consistently clicked-on bikes in the Cycle EXIF archives is Alex Fry’s F. Moser Motard, and it subsequently provided inspiration for Jake’s own project: the Rockhopper Commuter.

The Moser’s stable geometry of the horizontal top tube and long wheelbase really appealed to Jake’s sensibilities, so he built up an early 90s Stumpjumper in a similar fashion as the ideal bike for traversing London’s potholed streets.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

Jake works as a product designer and is thus concerned with distilling the function and form of the object — and there was something irksome about the Stumpjumper. Too many gears. Too many cables. Too much clutter. Back to the drawing board.

A belt-driven transmission would be an improvement too. The Stumpy was replaced by an earlier—era Rockhopper, stripped and prepped in readiness for surgery. Jake trawled many websites and bike shops as research into belt-drive-specific sliding dropout design.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

The dropouts on Nicolai’s Argon provided a fitting base for development, so Jake proceeded to build an accurate model of his bike in Solidworks. Quite a few months were spent refining the CAD, and the dropout design.

Then Jake and a few mates came up with the concept of a Pyrenean tour, which would make for a perfect shakedown for the Rockhopper project. The route was long and tall: traversing the mountain range on a journey all the way from Barcelona to Toulouse.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

Jake sent the CAD to HLH Prototypes in China to get the steel parts of the dropout CNC’d out, while sourcing the rest of the parts for the build, such as the 3-speed, coaster brake Sturmey-Archer hub, Mavic rims and Schwalbe Kojak tyres for the wheelset.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

During his college years, Jake had learnt how to braze, and enjoyed the opportunity of putting his skills to good use. A crude jig was constructed, into which the Rockhopper was inserted, the original dropouts were removed and replaced with Jake’s prototypes.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter

As it turns out, three gears are enough for a trip up and down the Pyrenees. Jake recently sent in a photo of Project Rockhopper with a rear rack atop the Col de Puymorens — altitude 1915m.

Goes to show what can be achieved with a little imagination and a large amount of inventiveness.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Project Rockhopper Commuter