Monday, February 19, 2018

News From Frostbike 2018

Salsa adds carbon versions of the Woodchipper, Cowchipper, and Cowbell bars for 2018
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Carbon Bars: 

Salsa Cycles could probably lay claim to the three most popular off road/gravel/back road bars in existence now with their line up of the Woodchipper, Cowbell, and Cowchipper bars. These bars have been around for a while in two versions, a 6061 T-6 aluminum version and a 7000 series aluminum version, but curiously there were no carbon drop bars.

That's all been changed now with Frostbike's announcement that a carbon version of all three bars would now be available. All carbon models are at the same price of $215.00 each. The aluminum bar model in each version in 7050 T-6 aluminum is $75.00. So why spend $140.00 more for carbon. Well, it would save you 75 grams, so says Salsa.

They also propose that the carbon bar, while being stiffer, actually absorbs more vibrations. Hmm......I've heard that story before with carbon forks. Not buying that one. The theory of carbon absorbing "higher frequency vibrations" is just that, a theory, and in reality, carbon just passes different vibrations than steel does. It isn't a "buzz" that we are trying to damp here. Anyway, yeah....... Not buying into that theory. The bar needs to move to mitigate the constant input from gravel and a stiffer bar will move less.

Then the bar has a wider 31.8mm section for better mounting of gizmos and aero bars, or whatnot. Okay, yeah, good deal there, but for $140.00 extra bucks? Look, they will sell every one of these they can make because, carbon. But I have a hard time with saving 75 grams for a $1.86 per gram. Especially for a stiffer bar. If the bar was demonstrably more comfortable? Okay, I might bite on that.

Surly Midnight Special- image courtesy of Surly Bikes
Surly Midnight Special:

I posted about all this stuff today on Riding Gravel here, so I'll spare the deets. Let's get to the meat of my opinion here then.

This is the furthest thing from a gravel bike geometry, short of being a rando bike, I can think of . High bottom bracket and a steep head angle make the Midnight Special a non-starter for me. But hey! Don't let what I think works best keep you away. 

That said, if you read the Surly blog post on this bike carefully it is right there in front of your eyes to see that this bike is an outgrowth of the Pacer, Surly's full on roadie sled. This just takes bigger tires is all, oh......and flat mount disc brakes. 

It is notable that there are roadie things going on here like down tube shifter bosses, a lack of all those wild fork braze ons, and short-ish chain stays which point to more of a road bike usage than it does an adventure/gravel bike use. Through axle front and rear and the aforementioned flat mount disc brakes are really making this a sibling to the Pacer with modern touches. If it couldn't take great big rubber, that would be easier to see here, I think.

No single speed option makes it an odd bike for Surly, or is it really a moving on? I'm noticing more and more that the "old Surly" is fading away, and the "single speed for everything" philosophy seems to be going to the wayside. Maybe I have that wrong.........

The "Gorilla Monsoon"..........Really? -Image courtesy of All City
Oh! That Name Though!

It is kind of a tradition at Quality Bicycle Products for any bicycle they make to have a weird name. That all started with the '02 announcement of the Surly Karate Monkey. That will be a model name no company at QBP will ever live up to, in my opinion, but bless those folks- they keep trying! 

All City is no stranger to bizarrely named bicycles. The Spacehorse, Mr. Pink, The Electric Queen, and now.........drum roll, please........The Gorilla Monsoon.

Please make it stop! 

All right, besides the weirdo name, this bike is really a pretty dang cool rig. That bi-plane fork crown! Steel fork! Fade paint job in Orange? Yes!  Okay, that had my attention, but the geometry is probably as jacked as the Surly, right?


This bike tics most of the boxes. They made the chain stays really wide here to accept these big, mountain bike WTB tires, so the chain ring clearances suffer a bit, but otherwise, this bike is the best thing I've seen out of QBP for gravel riding since the intro of the Warbird.

And did I mention that Orange fade paint job and bi-plane fork crown? Oh......I did? Uhh.......okay. Moving on now!

I could live with this bike. It's pretty nice on paper and the images are looking great here. I'm not sure about 1X for gravel. I'd have to see about that. The crank chain ring options seem a bit limiting, and yes......I like front changers. But that said, a 1X probably is in my future because, fashion. Gotta at least try it. Whether it is this bike or something like it, I will give it a try.

So, of all the Frostbike news, which also included a slimmed down Full Suspension line up from Salsa, the (gulp) Gorilla Monsoon is the best thing I've seen here. Although I despise that name. 



Unknown said...

While sometimes the draw has been weight savings, for me the biggest selling point for carbon bars has been for cold weather riding. Even with pogies, they don't suck the heat out of your hands like alloy bars sometimes do. Though I think it is hard to justify on a bike that isn't a primary winter or year round rig.

Guitar Ted said...

@Unknown- Yes, I agree with that.

Ari said...

200 bucks for carbon bars? That’s almost half the cost of a Surly frameset? Is that just marketing hype? I don’t think it takes as much effort and time to make 2 handlebars as it does to weld and paint a frameset.

Michael said...

I really like where the bike industry is heading with fat tire road bikes. My current fav being the Masi (I've owned a few Masi's over the years, but I don't own one of these) Speciale Randonneur 650B.

Jim Mearkle said...

At the risk of getting off topic, how does a rando bike differ from your preferred gravel geometry? Other than the front bag/fork trail thing, anyway. Wouldn't they want similar traits, like predictable handling and wider than average tires? At the very least, I'd think they'd have more in common with each other than a dedicated road race bike.

Rainier Wolfcastle said...

Karate Monkey, Pugsley, Moonlander, Krampus, Big Dummy. Remember when Surly innovated instead of reacted? Now they just copy boutique brands and add stupid condescending noisy marketing.

Michael said...


To me there's very little difference between a light touring bike, a rando bike, and a gravel bike. Gravel bikes might go for less carrying capacity than a light touring bike, a little wider tire and lower gearing than a rando bike. A light touring bike like a Salsa Vaya would make a great gravel bike.

Guitar Ted said...

@Jim Mearkle- You pretty much understand it, judging from your answer. The thing is, a rando front geo is meant to be stable when carrying a load. Not when it is unloaded. This is locking you into always carrying a load up front if you desire stability and calmness out of your front end on a gravel bike. Which, in my opinion, makes a rando bike not very practical.

I've ridden bikes with low trail on gravel and they are a handful. I would rather not have to ride herd on my front end, trying to constantly make corrections for a bike with a nervous handling front end geo. It sucks energy and makes you slower.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael- In my opinion, there are undesirable things I don't need in a rando or touring bike be it "light" or "heavy" touring.

Rando bikes have completely wrong front geometry, any touring bike designed to carry a load will have been overbuilt for gravel, and may have excessively long chain stays, (most probably). I've had a Vaya, and while it was serviceable, it wasn't my jam.

To my way of thinking, ALL bikes vary very little in terms of degrees and millimeters when you get down to nuts and bolts of design, but those are the millimeters and degrees that separate one bike's handling and ride characteristics from another. What you deem as "no big deal" may mean the world to someone else and vice-versa.

So, ride what works for you, (as I said in the post, don't let what I say push you away from that), but I do feel strongly that little differences add up to completely different bikes for me, and as I have heard from others, it is also true for them.

Michael said...


I sometime forget that I'm really a "just throw a leg over it and ride it" kid of guy.

grannygear said...

"...but those are the millimeters and degrees that separate one bike's handling and ride characteristics from another. What you deem as "no big deal" may mean the world to someone else and vice-versa. "

Amen, brother.


DT said...

Come on, guys, the Gorilla Monsoon name is just another WWF tribute, like the Nature Boy and Macho Man. Wooooooooo!

Skidmark said...

After watching Gorilla Monsoon vs Andre the Giant I think they should have named it Dusty Roads.

Robert Ellis said...

That is a very cool looking bike!!!

jairp said...


I enjoy reading your comments about geometry of bike. In the comment above, you mentioned not liking longish chain stays (typically found in a touring bikes) Provided everything else stays the same in terms of gemoetry of your favorite gravel bike, wouldn't you want longish chain stays? It makes the bike stabler and comfier by the virtue of having longer wheelbase.

Guitar Ted said...

@jairp- That is true, longer chain stays do induce stability- to a point. After that all you are doing is adding weight and flex to a frame. Touring stays are long to allow pannier clearance when you pedal, not really having much to do with stability, in that case.

Jason said...

The Gorilla Monsoon looks intriguing. Any plans for a test review?

Guitar Ted said...

@Jason- I would love to, but that isn't up to me, necessarily. There is a lot to this that I don't have the space here to discuss, but just to say that, yes- I'd like to check that bike out for a review.