Tuesday, July 21, 2015

News Season: Salsa Cycles 2016 Highlights

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler GX-1. Moar B+!
The Saddledrive dealer only event is happening right now in Utah and Salsa Cycles preempted all us blogging fools out here by spilling the beans simultaneously on their website. So, if you'd rather look for yourself, go to the 2016 Preview here.

If you are in for a dose of my unfiltered opinions, read on.

Okay, a disclaimer- I have had about two weeks to ruminate on this news, since it was shared with me early on the promise I would keep my trap shut. Well, now I don't have to do that anymore, but I put that out there to let you know that I've considered these opinions a bit over the past two weeks.

Plus Bikes: I figured Salsa would respond to the B+ thing, and the "Pony Rustler", (more on that bike and its name in a bit), fit that bill. No big surprise to me there. However; it was slightly surprising to me to see a "Fargo" in 29+, only it isn't a Fargo, it is a Deadwood.

The Deadwood 29+ drop bar bike
29+ is cool and all, but as I have written here, you are limiting the sizing that works well to bigger folk. Yes.......there is a small size for the Deadwood. But look closely and you can easily compare a Small Fargo and see where Salsa's engineers had to design around those huge wheels. Oh.....and there is an XS Fargo, but not in a Deadwood. So there is a perfect example of how 29+ isn't really good for folks sized under a typical Medium 29"er, unless the geometry compromises don't bother you.

B+/27.5+ makes more sense here in terms of the Deadwood, and I am a bit surprised to see Salsa go with 29+, although as a marketing/sales product, I bet they sell every one they make. The buzz is huge around this bike. Speaking of "how many they will make", I got the feeling there won't be a lot of these made. I wasn't told outright that this would be the case, but I wasn't dissuaded in thinking so either. Take that for what it is worth.

Now, back to the Pony Rustler and B+ wheels. See, this is the way I figured the Fargo/Deadwood thing would work. The Pony Rustler is nearly analogous to the Horsethief. Check out Salsa's description on both bikes and you will see references to both bikes being able to accept 29"er with up to 2.4" tires or B+ wheel sets with up to 3" wide rubber. You see- a Deadwood could have been the B+ analog to the Fargo, but it isn't and there ya go. To my mind, that would have allowed an XS size with limited geometry gymnastics, not to mention a good size Small with no geo craziness.

Horsethief XO-1 Carbon
Now as for that name- "Pony Rustler". Most unfortunate. I was a bit shocked when I heard it, to be honest, but as with the Horsethief, I am sure it will become "just another model name" in the future. But really........Pony Rustler? It sounds kinda illicit and dirty. But yeah.....I like the B+ suspension bike idea, and putting everything on Boost axle width standards makes sense going forward. Sure.....it will be painful at first, but we'll all get along and have stiffer wheels in the future. It's a good thing, in my opinion.

What will be interesting going forward is to see how many Horsethief bikes versus Pony Rustler bikes get sold. I'm betting the B+ wheels will end up taking over this category of bicycles once folks get on board with the fun-factor they provide. They just have tons of grip, comfort, and they will expand the possibilities for those going way off the beaten path on these full suspension rigs. It just makes a ton of sense.

So, that's Salsa's push into "plus bike" territory. One thing makes a ton of sense and the other is going to be one of those bikes that I think will be a flash in the pan. Maybe that Deadwood will end up on B+ wheels in the future. I think that makes far more sense than what they have put out there now, but that's just me maybe.......

The new Marrakesh touring bike
Touring With The Marrakesh:

It's no secret that across the aisle at Surly Bikes one of their most successful models has been the Long Haul Trucker, and its disc brake equipped sibling, the Disc Trucker. Salsa had the Vaya, but to my mind, the Vaya has been a weird bike from the get-go, and still is. It doesn't really do any one thing really well, and to my way of thinking, that is its downfall. It isn't a full-on, unashamed touring tool, and it isn't the steel framed gravel slayer it could be either, although it will do both of those tasks reasonably well.

Enter the Marrakesh, a steel framed, down and dirty touring rig with a lot of cool features. I'm an old, over-the-road touring fan and I keep an eye out for good touring rigs at reasonable prices. I've seen a lot of great touring bikes with super-spendy price tags, I've seen some cheaper models that just weren't right in one way or another. The Long Haul Trucker and Disc Truckers are cool, but- and this may be just me- I don't want a Surly logo on my touring bike. It just doesn't sit well with me, for whatever reasons. In my opinion, a touring bike should be very understated, but classy, and of course, most importantly- functional. All within a reasonable budget. This Marrakesh looks like it should fit the bill.

I'm oddly excited about this bike. I am not at Saddledrive, obviously, and I haven't laid hands on this bike, but if Salsa gets this right in terms of function, handling, and if it isn't the weight of a tank, (like Raleigh's Sojourn touring bikes), then I would be very tempted to dust off the ol' panniers and go find some where to tour to. Oh yeah......did I mention that Salsa claims you can put up to 2.0 29"er tires on this bike? Did I mention the Alternator drop outs? Oh, and if drop bars aren't your thing, they have a dedicated geometry for flat bars too. All at $1599.00. Crazy. Hopefully, they did get this right! 

Cutthroat X-9: Possibly the ultimate do-it-all gravel bike?
 Honorable Mentions And Miscellaneous Comments: 

The Cutthroat, introduced earlier, has to be one of the big highlights of Salsa's line up for 2016. Despite its carbon fiber frame and fork, I feel this could be the ultimate gravel rig for "go-fast" folks that Salsa has yet produced. Big tires? Go with the stock set up. Skinnier tires or lighter wheels and skinnier tire? Yep! With loads of mud clearance too. The Class 5 VRS system should also be stellar on rougher roads. I feel like the Cutthroat could be the single bike solution for many gravel racer enthusiasts.

Now of course, there is the Warbird, and that bike does a road drive train and likely could be the lightest bike for gravel road riding. If bigger tires aren't on the radar, (bigger than 42's), then this bike might work well, although I feel Salsa should add some bottle bosses to the fork here to aid in making the Warbird that DK200-ish length bike choice.

Then there is the rest of the line up, which isn't too surprising. Paint and suspension forks are the only big deal on the fat bike side. Fargos remain basically unchanged with paint a spec updates. So too with Vayas, El Mariachis, and Spearfish.

What may be a shock to some is the dropping of the titanium line with the exception of the Ti Vaya. I am not sure what is happening there, but I will only speculate that instead of sticking limited resources over steel, titanium, carbon, and aluminum bikes, Salsa is focusing on new wheel platforms, carbon fiber, the VRS technology, and expanding into the touring bike thing. I know some things about Salsa Cycles and one of those things is that they cannot "do it all". They aren't a big company with unlimited resources. Another thing to consider is how well the titanium bikes are selling. I don't know myself, but if they are not moving well, and carbon fiber is, then, ya know, what would you put your money in to as a company? Customers vote with their dollars and if the votes are saying titanium is not marketable, then it isn't. But again- that's purely speculation on my part there.


bostonbybike said...

My main problem with Cutthroat is that is doesn't have any attachment points for rear rack and fenders. Nil. Zero. So it's hard to call it a universal gravel bike. It's simply a racing machine.

But the new Pony Rustler looks great! Especially in that fake camo painting.

In other news - I noticed that Beargreases and Mukluks got some ugly paint colors. Rainbow or LSD colors is not what I would want on my bike.

Guitar Ted said...

@bostonbtbike: Let's take a look at my quote again.....

"...I feel this could be the ultimate gravel rig for "go-fast" folks..."

So, yes, it is a "racing machine", and if you take my quote in context, I never said it was a "universal gravel bike". I did say this...

" I feel like the Cutthroat could be the single bike solution for many gravel racer enthusiasts."


Just wanted to clear that up.

Steve Fuller said...

The Cutthroat is really designed around frame bags, down to the point that they have bosses on the top tube for an in development top tube bag. If you want to run a rack and/or fenders, then the Fargo / Deadwood are your choices (as long as you stick with the steel fork on the Fargo).

Other thoughts -

A) One thing I noted yesterday - the geometry of the Mukluk was changed to match that of the Blackborrow.
B) Pony Rustler => slightly smaller tires than the horsethief = slightly smaller words in the name. Horse - Pony. Thief - Rustler. (It does still sound weird tho)
C) Interesting that they designed a purpose built B+ bike, and then tout that the Horsethief can also run the same size wheels. (I know the rear axle spacing is different, but...)

bostonbybike said...

@Guitar Ted: Point taken. "Ultimate" - yes, "do-it-all" - no.

White Mike said...

Mukluk definitely got some changes.


Kurt Fossen said...

Pony Rustler. Great name IMHO.

Is it wrong that I wish they'd bring back the Dos Niner? Never ride one, but always wanted one.

Guitar Ted said...

@Whit Mike: Yes, the Mukluk got the Beargrease geo. Okay, that will really show on the dealer floor well. (<===sarcasm) So, essentially not a big deal in terms of what people will see for '16. And as far as 29+ goes- I happen to like it. Reality is that it makes for a limited use platform for the majority of the cycling public. Dollars rule, and sales measure that metric, and in the future, I don't see how 29+ is going to be a better choice for manufacturers than B+. I'm open to have you change my mind on that though. ;>)

@Steve Fuller: I believe the Horsey and Pony are actually the same frames, just different wheel spec. I see Dirt Rag reporting just that.

Exhausted_Auk said...

Agree with @bostonbybike about the Mukluk paint colors. When I saw them my heart sank. I was looking for one for my wife, and I can't honestly see her liking either of the new choices. Pleased to read about the geo (and other design) changes to the Mukluk frame, but why did they not switch the rear to thru axle along with the front? All it would have taken is the appropriate alternator dropouts and a "converted" version of the Conversion hub.

Bruce Brown said...

That Deadwood looks sweet - as does the ECR from Surly. I may have to take a test ride on the Deadwood just to see what it feels like (if I can find one this Fall when it comes out). After pedaling around in the woods and mountains for the better part of 4 months in Germany, I think I understand the origins of why that design came to fruition. It would be a fun Big Mickelson Trail bike from Deadwood to Edgemont and back hauling gear that would also allow some side tracks on some fun rough side trips in the Black Hills. Ditto for tackling the Centennial Trail in the Hills. Not sure what I'd do with it here in Iowa outside of some just pure fun local gravel, pavement, singletrack combination rides while hauling a picnic along, or bike packing to Ahquabi, but don't let me wife know I'm peeking at it...

Sometimes, toys can just be fun.

Michael Lemberger said...

I guess I don't see what's preventing Salsa from doing with the Deadwood what Surly did with the Long Haul Trucker and just make the larger sizes 29+ and the smaller sizes B+. Maybe they don't feel like they want to be seen as copying Surly? Maybe they're just being Salsa? I don't know. I'll tell you one thing though, I hope 29+ sticks around for us taller guys. The one I'm riding slays those ATV trails up in northern Wisco. Better than a full-on fat bike, really.

Also, I understand your disclaimer about this all being your opinion, but I don't understand the dig on having a Surly logo on your touring bike. As you yourself point out, they're cool, capable bikes. I really liked my LHT, and if I were to find myself with money and the opportunity to tour again, I'd buy another (in the right size this time) in a heartbeat. Besides, Surly doesn't clear coat over their decals, so you're never more than 30 minutes with a heat gun away from not having their graphics on there. ;-)

youcancallmeAl said...

you wouldnt want a bike purely because you dont like the logo??? my god!

Boudin said...

The red to black and the purple to blue fades on the Beargrease are killer.

Zach Bonzer said...

FYI the Mukluks got the Black Barrow geometry not the Beargrease geo.

I've been hearing of some complaints of cost of the Deadwood. $1,100 for a steel frame? I understand the fork is carbon but still...I got super lucky and was able to find a brand new 2012 Fargo 3 for $990 a year and a half ago. However, I've been riding my Krampus on gravel as the mtb trails have been too wet (the Fargo is in daily commuter mode) and the 29+ setup is super cushy for gravel riding. So I imagine the Deadwood will have no problems selling.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael Lemberger, @youcancallmeAl: I have a reason based upon experience that I don't/wouldn't want a Surly branded touring bike. As I said, it's just me, and I wouldn't expect you two, or anyone else to understand it. Maybe a blog post someday around the subject would clear the air.

Then again, maybe it wouldn't.

I'll just leave it at that.

Guitar Ted said...

@Zach Bonzer: Actually, the Blackborow got its geo from the Beargrease as well. Head tube angle is about the only thing that varies a bit. (up to a degree) Otherwise it's all the same across the chart.

Michael said...

I'm just barely over 5' 7" with average proportions, a medium Krampus fits just fine. Comments from industry folks on sizing particularly as it relates to wheel size are frankly just misleading. To those who come across these types of posts here's the thing. You can ride whatever damn wheel size you want look first at the pros and cons of the platform and decide for yourself based on that and on the geo of the bike.

Expand you're mind to consider things like shorter stems or different bars or seat posts... The benefits of 29+ for a bike like the Deadwood are real and practically applicable particularly for a bike designed to traverse long distances and variable terrain. I have a B+ full suspension too it ain't even close to the same capability of the 29+ beast.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael: I would say you are on the lower end of the scale, in terms of size, that geometry issues won't affect the sizing of a 29+. I'm sure that you would agree that someone at 5'2" is going to have to deal with compromised geometry to make big wheels like 29+ work. So, as with most styles and types of bikes, you have to decide on whether or not you want to accept the compromises made to either fit yourself to the bike, ride certain types of wheels, or even suspension or not.

Plus sized wheels have certain benefits, but they also have disadvantages when compared to other bikes. Physics can not be denied, for one thing, and the overall diameter and weight of 29+ wheels will have negative traits for more riders than B+ wheels will, despite the roll-over advantage 29+ has.

The industry seems to be betting on B+- that's not my opinion, but an observance. Consumers will vote with their wallets, and in the end, we will see which plus sized wheel format carries the day. Or not.

In the end, I don't think anyone has to worry about which sizes will be around for the short term. In the long run, if I had to bet, I would say 29+ will not be around.

Michael said...

@Guitar Ted, absolutely right its the generalizations I can't stand, they steer shorter folks from even considering a larger wheel size which is just plain wrong. Of course there are compromises, which is what I said in my original post its just that let folks consider all the options and decide based on those compromises... Market forces unfortunately are not always the best at picking the right products. Just because something sells well doesn't make it better than another types of product. There are countless examples of this in all industries. The reality is people don't know what they don't know. For me personally I formed all sorts of "opinion" on the 29+ platform, actually riding one was an eye opener. So as I often say to clients in my day job, lets go in this "eyes wide open".