Saturday, June 13, 2015

Salsa Cycles Cutthroat: A Curious Vehicle For Adventuring

The Cutthroat (Cropped image from Facebook, original courtesy of The Radavist)
It's NOT A Carbon Fargo!

Salsa Cycles has been pretty adamant in that assertion. However; one cannot deny the lines cut by this bike are very similar to those cut by the Fargo. Drop bars, room for up to 2.4" tires, Anything Cage mounting points, and a 100mm suspension corrected fork. All that is missing are the Alternator drop outs. Then it hit me. Salsa has done something like this before! 

The Mukluks were Salsa Cycles only fat bike at first.   The line up had aluminum models and a titanium model. Everyone was thinking that a carbon Mukluk was a given, since many other fat bike companies were doing a carbon model. However; as we all know now, Salsa did not produce a Carbon Mukluk. They did do a carbon fat bike, but it was a stripped down, all out performance machine they dubbed the Beargrease. I see what they have done with this Cutthroat Carbon drop bar mountain bike in much the same light as the Beargrease vs Mukluk models.

While the Fargo-Cutthroat comparison is obvious, what might get lost in the hoopla is that this bike actually has a close relationship to the just released Warbird line up. The Cutthroat features what Salsa Cycles has dubbed as the "VRS" rear triangle. (Vibration Reduction System) The stays are thinned out in the vertical plane and the chainstays are flattened horizontally which makes for stiffer chain stays in the lateral plane and flexier seat stays in that same lateral plane. That may not make much sense when you think about how many companies have tried to flatten out or thin out seat stays to get them to flex in the vertical plane. 

Note how the seat stays bow outward. (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)
 It was noted by Salsa engineers how while testing frames in frame jigs for strength, that the seat stays would bow outward as pressure was applied backward against the seat tube while the axle was fixed in the testing jig. It occurred to Salsa at that point that rider weight and trail/road inputs acted in much the same manner as the testing procedure. What if the rear triangle could be optimized to enhance that flex? This is what led to the VRS idea and why it works like it does. The VRS rear triangle allows the seat stays to bow outward as the rider's weight gets planted down and back into the saddle when a trail input is engaged by the rear wheel, for instance. Much like how a flexible titanium seat post takes the edge off, the VRS system takes the bite out of the trail and lends a more comfortable ride quality. To my way of thinking, this sharing of the VRS system from the Warbird to a "mtb-able" version in the Cutthroat is the biggest story with this new bike. When you consider how those seat stays and chain stays work, it maybe makes sense why this bike cannot really work with Alternator drop outs. More of a "heavy duty Warbird", less of a Fargo here, I think.

The next thing that is maybe getting lost here is how Salsa Cycles has fine tuned the bikepacking aspect of this bike here. Dedicated to frame bag type loads, the front triangle is shaped in such a way to accept a massive, wide frame bag, which will be custom made for this bike and available through Salsa Cycles. It will hard mount to the braze ons, which you can see some of in the lower image, and eschew straps, lending a cleaner look, and I suspect will be less apt to cause abrasion damage, which could be an issue with carbon fiber down the road. At any rate, it would seem this is the way bikepacking bags are turning in terms of design and mounting type.

My take on this rig is that it is a curious type of bicycle for anyone, let alone Salsa Cycles, to produce. It would seem that, on the surface of it anyway, that there just are not a whole lot of folks willing to bicycle in the manner to which this bicycle is intended to be used, and maybe even less that would want this type of bike made out of carbon fiber. Yes- the overall weight is tantalizing, (21-23lbs, depending on model spec), but carbon fiber is a pretty expensive material and maybe doesn't imbue a sense of impervious, robustness that a metallic frame maybe does for some riders. On one hand, this rig, even loaded like my Fat Fargo was for the DK200, would weigh in a good 5-7lbs less than that bike. That's very, very tempting, but again, the cost of entry is quite a bit higher as well.

I like that it can handle the bigger, wider tires, and one could use a suspension device, I would assume, which also broadens its appeal here. That said, time will tell how it is accepted. It definitely is an interesting rig, and I will be looking forward to checking one out at some point. Whether or not it may become a replacement for one of my Fargos. that is yet to be seen.

7 comments:

Tyler Loewens said...

This is the type of gravel bike I have been dreaming about, and wondering how to get built without going to a custom frame builder. Being a bigger guy, a larger volume (but not fat) tired gravel bike that will not cut into deeper gravel is ideal. Plus there are no silly FD bottom pull pulleys on the seat tube (hello Moots Route 45). Plus it has many bottle cage mounts. Plus it has a lightweight frame.

The problem for me is to now figure out if a new MTB is needed more then a new gravel bike. Yikes!

Tim Gale said...

Just a note on price. The Cutthroat frame is $600 cheaper than the Fargo Ti frame... As well, I would have to agree with Tyler that the Cutthroat would make a very good cross-functional bike for gravel rides and races like the DK200.

teamdarb said...

You think you have it rough? Us smaller guys 5'4 and below are still waiting for the song to play.

Dave Schlabowske said...

I love the idea behind the Cutthroat, and I admit to being tempted, but if you are not a hardcore racer, you could get a full custom steel Gunnar Rock Tour 29er for about the same price and I bet it would only weigh a pound or two more. Then if you are shorter @teamdarb, you could have Waterford build it around a 27.5 or even 26" wheelset. I have a 20+ year old Reynolds 853 custom Waterford built to replace my Bridegestone X0-1 with roadieish geo, but room for 26inch tires and it is my favorite bike.

Kudos to the Salsa guys for designing a very well thought out, sexy off-road race bike, and although I was tempted when I first saw it, my brain keeps going back to "but it isn't steel..."

Ron Reed said...

The top tube length on the Cutthroat seems ridiculously long to me.

Guitar Ted said...

@Ron Reed: Okay, but compared to what? I have researched Salsa's 2016 drop bar model line up, and here is what I found for a size Large Cutthroat, Size Large Fargo, Size Large Deadwood, and a 58cm Warbird- (All about what a 6'1" person would ride, which is what I am size-wise)

Fargo, Cutthroat, Deadwood- Effective Top Tube Length, all 22.83"
Warbird, Size 58cm, Effective Top Tube Length = 22.8"

Interestingly, the Vaya, which does not come in a 58cm, but a 57cm and a 59cm, splits the difference either side of 22.8".

Maybe compared to other brands, these top tube lengths might be said to be "long", but I think you have to agree that at least Salsa's published numbers are rather consistent across their drop bar models.

Fit is fickle when one talks of production bicycles. It is always "not right", but hopefully "in the ball park". If not, there are other brands with different ideas, and of course, custom made frames for those with specific desires/needs.

Ron Reed said...

Fair enough. I suppose you can put a shorter stem on it if it's too stretched out. I wonder about descending offroad on a drop bar bike with a longer top tube... hate going over the bars! So, have you ridden both a carbon Warbird and a Cutthroat? If so, any thoughts on the difference?