Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Curious Case Of The Vaya

The Vaya Ti: Almost....
The Salsa Cycles Vaya has been a long running choice for cyclists in Salsa's line up having debuted in 2010. However; it is one of the more curious models in their line up. It was kind of pitted as the foil to the hugely successful Fargo which preceded the Vaya in the line by a year. Here's what I wrote about the Vaya here on this blog in 2010:

"The Vaya will definitely speak to those who have found traditional geometry in touring bikes lacking for comfort. A tall head tube with the sloping top tube is going to automatically turn off a lot of road going touring aficionados. Too bad. The Vaya will offer riders a far more comfortable rider positioning in terms of multi-hour rides than any traditional touring rig. I am sure that Vaya also has other cool features, (disc brakes for one), but to my eyes, the Vaya nails the nice upright, relaxed rider position perfectly and will really be valuable on rougher roads and gravel. In fact, I would agree with what Dirty Kanza promoter, Jim Cummings has written when he opined that it was the best gravel road rig he's laid eyes on. Yeah, at least from a production bike standpoint, I think that is correct. "

 What is interesting to note is what I wrote there is pretty much what happened to the model. It was immediately embraced by the gravel road riding enthusiasts. It was the "anti-cyclo cross" choice and for good reason. The Vaya handles gravel road riding really well. It can take a pretty beefy tire, and with that and the lowered bottom bracket and slightly slacker angles, well, it was a bike that slotted right into many riders needs for a gravel going sled. My good friend, MG, had a Vaya and wrote a review of it for the old "Gravel Grinder News" site, and it became one of the most popular posts on that site. Obviously, the gravel cyclist "got it" when it came to the Vaya.

MG's 2010 Vaya. The review of this bike was one of GGN's most read posts.
Touring cyclists did turn up their nose at this bike, and casual road cyclists, (at least in our area), didn't know what to make of this bike. Many thought it was odd, just a heavy road bike, or whatever. It just never caught on, despite it being probably one of the most versatile "all-road" type bikes available. Perhaps it was ahead of its time.

Then Salsa Cycles sort of forgot about the Vaya. When it debuted in '10, it came out with the standard 1 1/8th straight steer tube, but road cycling and mountain bikes were quickly adopting the tapered steer tube by this time, yet Salsa did not update the Vaya until now. 2016 Vayas will finally get head tubes capable of accepting a tapered steer tube fork. This is puzzling, since a Vaya owner would become locked into the heavy Vaya steel fork, and would not be able to lighten up the bike with a carbon fork, which may have helped when it came to folks wanting a light touring rig that didn't weigh a lot. It certainly would have made sense for gravel road riding. Interestingly, Salsa did modify all the other steel bikes in the line up, along with the aluminum and carbon offerings to reflect modern day headset standards. It seems odd then to leave the Vaya behind, as it were.

Then there is the curious case of the Ti Vaya and the Vaya Travel. The Ti Vaya, which was a hard to get bike to begin with, was a coveted gravel racing frame set. Salsa did not carry over the frame after 2013, yet they did continue the titanium models up through the 2015 model year in other models. The Vaya instead went to a coupled, stainless steel framed bike. It was a curious choice, since stainless steel frames are super expensive but not as marketable as titanium was/is. The only really cool thing about that frame was the addition of the Alternator drop out, which was a great way to add internal hub gear drive trains, single speed a Vaya, or to use as a way to bail yourself out in case of derailleur failure.

The Vaya Travel was the only Vaya ever equipped with Alternators
Salsa then had a surprise intro of a new Vaya Ti recently, which included a head tube capable of accepting a tapered steer tube, but did not have the Alternator drop outs. Oh so close, but again......not quite there. At $2500.00 for the frame alone, it seems to me that this kind of misses the mark as well. That's custom titanium frame price territory. Hmm......

As stated, the 2016 Vaya will have the bigger head tubes, and the Titanium bike gets the carbon tapered steer tube fork, (finally!), but it may be too late now. Salsa has some stiff competition in the gravel ranks, and they themselves have introduced a full-on touring bike called Marrakesh. So.....just how does the Vaya for 2016 fit in? 

Salsa dubs the bike as thus: "The Vaya is our road adventure and light-touring bike, designed to handle any road surface, from pavement to gravel to dirt."

So it is still a sort of mish-mash bike with no central focus. it the Swiss Army Knife bike everyone that owns one says that it is? Their own description reads like every other company's gravel bike marketing spew. So, why not make this the gravel bike it was always accepted as and that Salsa doesn't have, (but it does, it just doesn't market it as such.) Take out the "light touring" aspect, and amp up the marketing side to reflect what the Vaya is good at. 

However it goes, the Vaya seems to be a very curious case in Salsa's bike line up. It is a bike that is passionately loved by its owners, but has no featured place in the Salsa story like the Fargo, El Mariachi, Mukluk, and Beargrease. Even newer models like the Cutthroat and Marrakesh have already been celebrated in their marketing as adventure bikes worthy of consideration. It makes the Vaya hard to figure out for many consumers and I know from experience it is even a hard bike to get across to some of  my fellow bike nerds.


BluesDawg said...

A timely post as I sit here weighing the options for my next gravel bike with the Vaya Ti and the Cutthroat sitting at the top of the list. The price difference is making it hard to choose the Vaya.

eBikeADV said...

I do love my Vaya. But yes, every time I've had long stretches of super rough dirt or nice, smooth pavement, I've noticed myself wishing it was designed more in those directions. Still, if you're not in a hurry, it doesn't really matter!

Doug M. said...

Perhaps take a note from Big S and differentiate the Warbird as 'gravel racing' and the Vaya as 'gravel endurance'? Tempted to say 'ignore the marketing', but in a line with so much overlap (all of them are really cool too!), these statements of intent do help.

I think the best example of a Vaya in use is the Path Less Pedaled Instagram account. Always see those folks riding their Vayas in cool places and having a good time doing it :-)

Keith said...

I love my Vaya though mine is sporting a rather unconventional setup with 27.5 x 2.1 inch Thunder Burts, 105 5800 and hydro brakes. I do not consider it slow in the slightest unless you compare it to a carbon wonder bike going up a mountain.

I do find myself hankering for a B+ Fargo now though for the rides with more rough sections as the Vaya is no replacement for a mountain bike but it is just so darn comfortable I want to ride it everywhere.

Keith said...

I love my Vaya though mine is sporting a rather unconventional setup with 27.5 x 2.1 inch Thunder Burts, 105 5800 and hydro brakes. I do not consider it slow in the slightest unless you compare it to a carbon wonder bike going up a mountain.

I do find myself hankering for a B+ Fargo now though for the rides with more rough sections as the Vaya is no replacement for a mountain bike but it is just so darn comfortable I want to ride it everywhere.

Steve Fuller said...

This is starting to look like another transition year in Salsa's product lineup. I give the Vaya one more year in Salsa's lineup, especially if the sales of the Marrakesh take off. The Fargo can do everything the Vaya does, plus it can take larger tires. The Marrakesh is easier to market as a touring rig and it too can take larger tires.

Guitar Ted said...

@Steve Fuller: I get that feeling as well. I look for some changes in the line for 2017 that may include the dropping of the Vaya and definitely the Colossal. Although, we do okay with Vayas at Europa. It just is a tough bike to get people to understand.

MG said...

It's a sad passing, but the Vaya never got the attention it needed to truly make it everything it could be. The original was a bit overbuilt, and as a result felt kind of dead when ridden back to back with a livelier bike like an '08 Salsa LaCruz, or even the more off-road oriented Singular Gryphon. That said, it was a fun, versatile, durable bike that I enjoyed a lot of miles on!

Unknown said...

This may be a late comment, but I agree it's days are numbered, and for good reasons. It was simply out-evolved by other product lines, other ideas of what a drop-bar all terrain bike can be.

That said, I think I picked up the best incarnation of the bike - the Vaya Travel. The stainless steel, alternators, and couplers make it a uniquely versatile beast. Being able to pack it into a case has saved my butt on a few trips. Knowing I can quite easily make it a single speed if things get really hairy has made me pretty brave.

Bikes with through axles are tempting, but I'm probably just gonna ride my Vaya Travel for the rest of my cycling life.

Unknown said...

What would you all say to the Vaua Ti as a commuter bike? I currently bike commute on a Fuji cyclocross, about 5 miles and 400 ft elevation change. I'm moving to New Mexico and anticipating an 8 mile ride with 600 feet elevation change, mostly pavement, some gravel on the ride. I'd appreciate any thoughts.


Guitar Ted said...

@Nate Ivanick: I would suggest that a Ti Vaya would be an awesome commuting bike. Perhaps even a bit more than what you need for commuting, but it would do the job very well.

Unknown said...

gpshead said...

Not dead yet! (now to figure out if anyone around here has 2017 Vayas available for a test ride...)

Gina said...

I have the stainless steel Vaya Travel, and absolutely love it. I wanted a go-anywhere bike, but since we also bike tour its baggage-carrying ability and travel potential was what put it over the edge for me. Any frame that can't rust or get scratched is a winner, especially when you're packing it into a suitcase.

In addition to some amazing trips I've ridden on this bike, it's also my daily commuter, rigged up with racks and fenders. It's as capable navigating DC city streets as backcountry gravel roads.

Then in 2016 when I participated in the NYC-DC Climate Ride, I briefly considered taking my road bike, but wound up choosing Vaya. I reduced the weight by stripping off the accessories and mounting skinnier tires, and happily rode 300+ miles on the most comfortable and versatile bike I've ever owned.

Whenever I ultimately wear out the Ultegra triple drive train, I may consider a 1x11 setup for its next reincarnation.