Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Hands On With Salsa Cycles Journeyman

A Journeyman 700c Sora build from the shop where I work
Recently Salsa Cycles introduced the newest model to their lineup, the gravel/back roads/all-road Journeyman. It comes in flat bar and drop bar versions with 650B or 700c wheels and either Claris 8 speed or Sora 9 speed drivetrain set ups. You can see the specs on the particular model I am showing here by clicking this link.

The lowdown on all the variations of the Journeyman can be found here. I won't get into all the details in this post, but I wanted to give my take on the bike after having built up one and handling another brought in by a sales rep.

First of all, I hear a common complaint about this new model that goes something like the following: "Well, it seems like a crappy spec for a gravel bike." To this I always say, "This bike isn't being sold to you." The "problem" is understandable from the aspect that almost everyone I know is a "bike nerd" and already has a few, if not more than a few, really awesome bikes that probably tip the scales above a grand or two for price point, brand new. Of course these folks are going to say the Journeyman's spec sucks, and that it is (like this is some kind of pariah), an "aloominum frame" and that because of that it sucks. Well, again- this bike isn't being marketed to you. 

It is a bike that is actually really awesome for getting into gravel riding. That's what it is about, so looking at the Journeyman from that perspective, is it going to work as a bike to get new folks on gravel? That's the big question here, and if the Journeyman cannot do that, it will be a bust. I'm thinking it just might actually pull this off though.

The bike has great geometry, first off. Almost to a "T" what I would ask for to provide a reasonably good handling experience on gravel. That's a big plus in this bike's favor. Then you have all the versatility incorporated into this design. Two wheel sizes, humongous clearances for up to 45mm 700c tires, (Salsa actually claims 700c X 50mm will fit), and rack, fender, and Triple Boss mounts for all sorts of attachment fun. This bike could be a touring bike, a commuter, a RAGBRAI bagger bike OR a RAGBRAI fast machine with carrying capacity, or a darn fine gravel travel bike. In fact, it can be all of those things. That's a lot of bang for the buck right there.

Journeyman 650B Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Salsa also gave the design a tall head tube and a stack-o-spacers with which almost anyone can get a set up to work with. The stock components for the cockpit are tried and true Salsa designs, and the drive trains, while not being the latest 11 speed stuff, actually work well and should outlast any 11 speed system due to having more material to wear away than their thinner cogged counterparts do.

If I had one ding on these bikes it would be in the wheel department. These bikes have cheesy hubs and spokes that are, well......beyond their gauge, we don't know what they are. At least the rims are WTB's TCS style for tubeless compatibility. To my way of thinking nothing else puts a new or casual cyclist off than bad wheel spec, when it eventually goes bad. It's not a matter of if, but when. Replacing wheels is a shockingly expensive ritual to the casual cyclist, and since this bike is kind of aimed at getting some of these folks onboard with "adventure by bike", the wheels should not ever be a concern. Maybe they won't be........

And then there are those that are hot to upgrade the Journeyman. It certainly is a worthy platform for that. It has all the gee-gaws, as previously mentioned, and looks great. Salsa did a bang on job with the graphics and paint here. One could make quite a fetching, high end spec steed out of a stock Journeyman with the right parts swaps. The weight stock is in the mid-twenties, so getting down around 20 pounds isn't unreasonable. Ditch the heavy, tubed wheels and wire bead tires. That would be the biggest place to save weight here.

Anyway, it will be fun to see what happens with the Journeyman. I think Salsa hit the nail on the head here, and did it with a great looking bike that has great geometry.


youcancallmeAl said...

It looks like a perfect all around bike for the huge numbers of folks that just want an efficient bike to ride in all conditions and for all occasions at a great price! I would buy this in a heartbeat!

Okie Outdoorsman said...

What "youcancallmeAl" said is exactly what I thought. I bought mine, the 700c Sora configuration, two weeks ago. Saw them at LandRun 100, and ordered one the following week from my local bike shop. Have managed two decent length rides. One at 36 and the other at 52 miles. I really like mine, so far. Only changed saddles, so far. For the money invested, I am very, very pleased! It didn't break the bank, and can go all different ways with it, if I choose. It is very comfortable, compared to my TCX cross bike. It has got a lot going for it in my opinion. Looking forward to putting a lot more miles on mine. I don't have to worry about the gritty mud building-up and damaging the carbon chain stays on this bike. Main reaso I got it. The geometry is spot on, as well. Much more upright position, low bottom bracket has it very stable in the shoddy stuff. Posted a picture and initial thoughts in the bike section on the forum of ridinggravel.com.

Txroadie said...

Have you done a review of the Breezer RADAR? I went into a local bikeshop to buy one of the Salsa Journeyman bikes, and walked out with the Breezer. It's 700C instead of 650B, but came with 700x50c Clement MSO tires. I preferred the ride of an all steel bike, and the spec was better for the pricepoint I was looking at. The Journeyman was a really pretty bike, and I did like it, just not as much as the Radar.

Guitar Ted said...

@Txroadie- No, but I have seen the rig on-line. It looks pretty interesting to me. Congrats on the purchase and I hope that you enjoy it!

Steve Fuller said...

This bike is perfectly spec'd and priced for the intended market. I pulled one down at my LBS and gave it a once over. It's not unreasonably heavy, and could be someone's main bike for quite a while. Super versatile w plenty of mounts to play with. The Claris 8 speed was a bit of a shock (vs 9 speed across the board), but again, value at a price point. Build brand loyalty and then people might upgrade to something else your lineup after a while.

ccreed50 said...

"Ditch the heavy, tubed wheels and wire bead tires."
What would be a suitable setup?
I happen to be setting up some new 26" wheels.

Guitar Ted said...

@ccreed50- That's entirely up to you to decide.

Michael Fargher said...

Now Salsa please make a titanium version called the foreman. Boom.

Unknown said...

The Journeyman is an extremely capable bike. I am one of the many folks who bought the Sora model, and completley rebuilt it. The only thing left from the stock build are the Frame, Fork and Bars. It is now a just over 19 pounds without bags/bottles. It is a rocket ship, and even though I have owned 2 Fargo's and an El Mariachi, I actually think the Journeyman is my absolute favorite. My build is respectable: Mix of Sram Apex and Rival drive train(2x), Thomson Elite post and Stem, Brooks B17 Saddle, 650B Wheel Set built by Sugar Wheel Works (Hope Pro 4 Hubs, Sapim CX ray Spokes, Race Face Arc 25 rims. Cane Creek 110 Headset. Salsa QR's. Some might scoff, but I am currently running Continental Cross King 2.2 tires for trail/bike packing applications and they work great. I have a few other tire sets for different applications. One of the things about this bike is the fact that its and aluminum frame but it does not feel like one. The tuning of that aspect is really excellent. I also feel like the bike climbs better than a lot I have ridden over the years. I am curios to see where this model goes, I kind of wish Salsa would offer it in a Frame/Fork combo.