Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Fargo Gen I: Seven Years On

Most recent image of my Gen I Fargo
I was working on my Gen I Fargo yesterday and I posted an image of it on Facebook, (and elsewhere, if you haunt other social media), and I figured that it would be pretty much ignored. I mean, it is an old bike by bike nerd standards, and let's face it- anyone paying attention to me is pretty much a bike nerd. So, I figured I wouldn't get much, if any, reaction.

Well, I was wrong.

It seems that this bike, and in particular this model, is still an interesting bicycle for many, although it hasn't been available for almost six years now. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is that the original Fargo is a very unique generation of this bike and there hasn't ever been anything quite like it on the market since. So, in case you were curious, here are the differences that make this version of the Fargo stand out for me.
  • Non-suspension corrected: First off- ever since about 1995, almost every mountain bike made has geometry adjusted for a suspension fork. Imagine having the wheel move up and down in the way it would with a shock absorber. That "travel" has to be accounted for by a bicycle designer, and whether or not the bike gets a suspension fork, that factors in to how long the fork is and affects head tube lengths, handle bar height, and a few other things. If a bike doesn't have a suspension fork, but was designed around one, it is said to have "suspension corrected geometry". That means you could swap in a specified suspension device with a specified amount of travel and the geometry would be the same/similar as it was with the rigid fork. The first generation of the Fargo was not designed around a suspension fork, so that makes this generation of the Fargo very unique, not only in terms of the Fargo generations that followed, but in terms of mountain bikes overall. 
  • Geometry for Drop Bars: The Fargo has been a drop bar specific design since the get-go. This means a slightly different top tube length and front center dimension to accommodate the use of a drop bar. There are reasons I like drop bars off road, and the Fargo was the first 29"er to become available in significant numbers that was designed for that. 
  • Steel Frame/Fork:  The Gen I Fargo rides pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Steel is why. Don't even come around here with your Trek 920 beer can frame comments!
  • Braze ons: Like most Fargos, the Gen I version has a ton of versatile braze ons. (The attachment points for things like water bottle cages, racks, fenders, etc.) I was most smitten with the water bottle capacity of this Fargo- Six water bottle cages can be mounted on a Size Large!
  • Graphics: While the "Fun Guy Green" wasn't an instant like for me, it has grown on me since the day I got the bike. However; I did like the graphics straight away and in my opinion, these panels are the best graphics on any "modern" Salsa model with the possible exception of the Big Mama's.
There were things I didn't care for. Some still bother me a bit, but some do not:
  • Front End Geometry: Fargo Gen I's have a steeper head angle with a ton of offset in the fork. I suppose this was in case the bike was carrying a front load, such as panniers. I would prefer a slacker head tube, but I've learned to steer this bike, and it isn't that big of a deal anymore. Unfortunately though, the geometry can cause a front end shimmy on Gen I's and I've experienced this a time or two. It is quite frightening when it happens at speed on a fast gravel downhill! 
  • Original Crankset: The original XT crank had an extra big outer ring, which I could never find a replacement for, and for whatever reason, that crank chain sucked like crazy. Obviously, that is a non-issue with my bike now! 
  • Tire clearance:  Tire clearances on the Gen I's are not generous. Okay for gravel going, but bigger 2.4's don't leave a lot of room for mud. Wider rims and bigger tires? Not a good match for this one. Of course, there is the Deadwood now......
So, there are a few things I like and disliked. The bottom line is that the Gen I in size Large, which this is, fits me to a "T" and rides very nicely. The fit is just so good for me, I cannot see ever letting this bike go. That's why I was surprised at the reaction I got to my posted image. I thought it was just me, but obviously, seven years down the line, a lot of folks still think pretty highly of this bike. What could be better than the Gen I Fargo?

Maybe a titanium version with a bit slacker head angle and Alternator Drop Outs? Maybe. But for now, this bike is pretty spot on for my intended uses.


Brandon said...

I feel the same way about my Gen 1 Fargo. I won't move on from it for the reasons you mentioned and the fact that I have a XXL. Salsa dropped that size and now the new frames are just too small! Why can't they show the love for the big fellas!

MG said...

The Gen 1 Fargo is a peach. You'll have to pry my wife's out of her cold, dead hands, because it's her favorite bike yet.

Jay Swan said...

I still have mine, and ride it a lot. Currently I have it set up with a Carnegie carbon bar, Crests and 40mm tires, weighing in at 24 pounds even. I had some trouble getting it to fit early on, but now it's perfect. I've been thinking about getting a Warbird carbon instead, but I'm worried the geometry will be too racy for me.

Brian P said...

what the heck is the HTA for the Gen 1? I have one and I can't find what it is anywhere? Is is 69 degrees?

Guitar Ted said...

@Brian P- I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking it wasn't under 70°. 69° would have been considered "waaay slack" on a 29'er in '08-'09. The Fisher G2 bikes were in that neighborhood and that was freaking people out back then.

I've got an angle finder but with its margin for error I cannot conclusively say the head angle is slacker than 70°.