Wednesday, March 27, 2019

All The Wars!

Warroad Tiagra
An Opinion On The Salsa Cycles Warroad:

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

By now you've seen the news about the new Warroad by Salsa Cycles. It has raised a lot of questions, comments, and eyebrows. Just what is going on here? Well, you could just read the Culture Blog on Salsa's site, which, honestly, tells you everything you might want to know here. I really do not have anything to add to it. Other than the miscaptioned image of the 700c bike, which is Force 1, not Ultegra. (Note- Salsa sells only the Ultegra model with 700c wheels out of the box)

So, all you are going to get from me here about these bikes is my reactions. 

First, with only one 700c bike in the range, it is clear that Salsa has bought into the Road Plus idea first put forth by WTB, whose tires are featured on the bike. In my opinion, this is brilliant. For the intended purposes of the bike, poofy, 650B tires are just perfect for the job. Long, fun, interesting road-ish rides headed down questionably paved roads. Maybe you run out on some gravel? No problem, ride forward, get yourself righted and back on the tarmac. Note......there is nothing here for the go-fast, racer types. This isn't "that bike", so any criticisms of the design that reflect upon what a "road bike" should be like that are rooted in basic race bike design are misplaced here. This is something different altogether. An exploration rig. More pavement than not. The Byway tire choice really reflects this. 

You can put 700c wheels and tires on the Warroad, but you are limited to 35mm.
 That said, this isn't a randonnuer bike either. The front end geometry isn't the classic "low trail" type that many rando riders prefer. While Salsa did provide mounts for front Anything Cages or their low rider rack, I would tend to think any sort of weight on the front end would make the handling a bit "floppy", especially low speed handling. (Note- traditional "rando" geometry is 73° head angle with around 60mm offset) The 71° head angle is slack by gravel bike standards, and paired with the 51mm offset, it won't be bad unladen, but with two Anything Cages full of gear, or especially with low rider mounted panniers, I think it won't be ideal. But this isn't a "touring bike", per se', although the feature set tends to make it seem as though it could be. 

So, just what is it, and why not just get a Warbird? Well, click that link above. They tell you all the major differences. I get it, but I think of it this way- Back when Salsa came up with the Colossal, they told much the same "genesis" story as they have with Warroad. I remember liking the idea of the Colossal a lot, but the bike was seriously over-priced in relation to value present in the spec, and the tire clearances were too far on the slim side. Salsa fixed the tire clearance issues, made the bike in carbon, and put on their excellent Class V VRS stays and now call it "Warroad". I know Marketing will bristle at the comparison, but hey- that's what I am seeing here. It's a "better Colossal". 

So, why did they put stealth dropper post routing in this bike? That seems a bit........odd. Whatever. I do know dropping your post while coasting down a long, drawn out downhill is a hoot. But the bother and extra complexity of a dropper post on this bike seems out of place, but if you disagree, there is routing for it. Get after it!  

Also- Vaya. Umm.......doesn't that bike already do most of this Warroad stuff? Or is this a "Carbon Journeyman"? Geometry tweaks aside, (which really only matter to bike nerds, not the general populace), these are the valid questions an average shopper will have when looking at Salsa bikes. The major confusion will be with the Warbird though, and ultimately, Salsa must know this, because they spend a lot of time dissecting the differences between the Warbird and the Warroad. That Salsa chose a name which so closely mimics the predecessor's name doesn't help with this confusion either. Which one is which? That's a serious marketing issue there. 

Warroad Force 1- I really like the paint scheme on this one.
 Ultimately, I really like a lot of things about the Warroad. The top of the range has a cool "throwback paint scheme" which hearkens back to the original Mamasita 29"er. The geometry is (mostly) pretty good. I like the 650B choice to be featured in this range for the intended purposes of this design. I think it is a perfect, high end choice for RAGBRAI-type riders. 

I also think that you are going to see this model raced a lot at gravel events. It features short chain stays, a stiffer bottom bracket, and this results in the "squirt" feel that roadie-type gravel racers like to feel when they stomp on the pedals. It will be a handful in loose, rough conditions, but throw a dropper post in there and I bet a lot of top racers will be happy to throw a leg over this one. 

There is a lot to like here, but similar to the conundrum that was the Colossal, and similar to the Warbird, the asking price seems a bit whack. Warroad is going to find a lot of stiff competition in the gravel bike category. I know......It isn't a "gravel bike", but it also isn't a "road bike" in the traditional sense and with so many categories of bikes out there, and with such a strong semblance to the Warbird- both in profile and in name- there is going to be a hard road ahead for Salsa to keep this model separated from being lumped in with "gravel bikes". 

Maybe they should have done something a little more different. Like putting an electric assist motor in it. (HA!) 


KC said...

35mm tire clearance, aggressive-ish geometry... did salsa just sneaksn cyclocross bike back in to their lineup?

teamdarb said...

That chainstay length seems butt numbing. That may be the reason for the dropper. It would allow the rider to stay "in the saddle" versus affecting change on the center of gravity by standing. When I saw the measurement and dropper, I smacked my head thinking all they needed was longer chainstays. I have been wanting to replace my aged 1987 Trek with a modern bike for years. The warburd has been at the top of that list. The price has not.

Guitar Ted said...

@teamdarb- The roughest ride on the school bus was sitting in the seat right above the rear wheels. Something we learned in elementary school......

But I have come to realize that for many people, it isn't the actual speed, nor the benefits of vibration dissipation for the rider, but the "sensation" that one is going fast. "If you can't feel it, it isn't there". This is also why a lot of riders still insist on using high air pressures despite the fact that science says it isn't faster.

The Warroad will appeal to those who have said gravel bikes feel sluggish, slow, and lack that "snap" they feel in their uber-stiff road rocket machines.

Guitar Ted said...

@KC- Well, except that the bottom bracket drop isn't 65mm-70mm.

S.Fuller said...

As an interested, semi-educated, non-industry-type observer, I've considered the current Warbird to really be a "carbon Journeyman" for most intents and purposes. The addition of the "all the mounting points" and the longer stays really strayed away from what the original Warbird was. THIS bike seems to have taken up the mantle of the original Warbird, being designed around quicker handling. The 35mm 700c tires are a nice sweet spot for a road rig. If my Ti Colossal could clear that tire it would be perfect (for me).

Your comments about the 650b tires being perfect for the job vs 700c are interesting to read based on you commenting (I believer) that you were going to stick with 700c for your gravel rigs. Do you feel the quicker spin up and wider tire are a better fit in a mixed surface situation?

As far as the name, yes it's weird and confusing from a marketing standpoint. Someone correctly pointed out that there is a Warroad, MN. It happens to be clear up north where there's a mix of pavement and gravel to be explored, plus Canada. :) Knowing those guys, that almost certainly had something to do with the naming.

Ari said...

3.5k for a carbon bike with 105? Really? Good luck.

Guitar Ted said...

@S.Fuller- Hmm, I cannot say that I would agree that this Warroad is going to feel appreciably "quicker handling" than a Warbird does just due to geometry. Maybe splitting hairs-wise, then maybe yes. But the geometry differences are not dramatic enough in the head angle/offset to really perk up the handling over a 650B Warbird's, in my opinion. After a ride or two, if the wheel sizes were the same, you'd likely not notice anything, they are that close in geometry, front end-wise. As I say, as far as tires/wheels, you'd have to stick 650B's on the Warbird for a fair comparison. In my opinion, that the Warbird typically has 700c wheels is what is going to make a difference between a Warbird and a Warroad. If the 'Bird has 700c wheels, it will feel sluggish in comparison, especially if the wheels have 45's on them. 650B, in my opinion, changes a 700c bike to one that feels twitchier, and trail figures would bear that out.

I feel that, and my friend Grannygear agrees, that 650B Horizons and maybe Byways have that "magic carpet ride" which, in my opinion, is perfect for casual exploration rides, or long, self-supported pavement rides. The kind of thing a Warroad seems designed to do. I always said after riding the Horizons that I would seriously consider self-supported road touring with a wheel set like that. It's the ride feel on hard surfaces I am attracted to there. Plus, for loaded touring this wheel size seems a better idea. Paired with taller gearing than I'd consider for gravel, I think it would be a bike I could ride for 80-100 mile days, day after day. Or it would make a lot of sense for the rides Salsa is talking about- The ones that might end up on 20 miles of gravel, really bad pavement, and allow you to have control and comfort afforded by the bigger volume 650B tires.

That's not to say that a 700c poofy tire option wouldn't be grand, but name me any 47mm-50mm tires like a Horizon in 700c. ;>) There aren't many- maybe the Honali from Terrene fits, or the newly announced Gravel Kings in 50mm size, but there isn't anything like a Horizon or Byway in 700c. Not to my knowledge, and there are even less drop bar bikes that would handle them. (First Gen Fargo, but nothing new, or in carbon)Then again- a 650B wheel/tire option for loaded, self-supported touring seems like a stronger wheel option than anything 700c would.

So, until something like that happens for 700c, I'd be perfectly happy to run 650B's like the Horizon on a Warroad for a week of touring self-supported, or to do a GTDRI-like deal on pavement.

Scott said...

Wow! So Salsa is now producing six bikes that will be common to see at "gravel" events: Warbird/Journeyman/Warroad/Vaya/Cutthroat/Fargo. I agree that there are some marketing challenges here. Is it possible to oversaturate your own niche?

S.Fuller said...


Although you see all of those at gravel events, not all of them are being marketed as "gravel" bikes. I will say I'm somewhat surprised that the Vaya is still in the lineup. The Journeyman covers quite a bit of its feature set now.

Owen said...

Sounds like they're plying catch up to the Black Mountain Cycle's 650b All Road, albeit in carbon. Definitely think they're over saturating their niche, what's your take?

NWOshooter said...

I've been a Salsa fan for years (La Raza, Caballero, El Santo, El Mariachi) and I wanted to really like this bike but I'm kind of confused by it.

I was hoping for something similar to a Fairlight Strael 2.0 but with room for 35 mm tires. The geometry is really close to a Domane and pricing wise the Warroad just doesn't hold up. Maybe a back-to-back test would prove me wrong?

I'm riding an aluminum Checkpoint right now with 38 mm GravelKing slicks and it's great. It jumps when I stomp on the pedals and the tires handle rough pavement like a dream. I was thinking I might switch to the Warroad -- I miss riding a Salsa -- but really can't justify it.

Slim said...

“..Name me a 700c tire...”
The Rene Herse (formerly Compass) tires:
55mm, 44 and 38 mm file tread options.

And Schwalbe G One speed:
In 40, 50 and even 60mm!

Slim said...

Blogger Scott said: “ Wow! So Salsa is now producing six bikes that will be common to see at "gravel" events: Warbird/Journeyman/Warroad/Vaya/Cutthroat/Fargo. I agree that there are some marketing challenges here. Is it possible to oversaturate your own niche?“

Cutthroat is much more Mtb oriented, I can’t see anyone on the fence between a Warroad and Cutthroat. Journeyman is a price point bike(no carbon), Warbird/road are carbon only. Vaya is steel and quite different geometry than the ‘Birds.
It might make it tough for marketing and store sales people, but for an educated consumer I would say none of these bikes have that much overlap, except for the two ‘Birds.

In my mind, the two ‘Birds aren’t so much for different types of riding(as Salsa seems to think), but for riders with different preferences in geometry.
As any gravel ride/race has proven, any Geometry can be ridden and raced on gravel(or pavement for that matter), as long as the tires are halfway suitable. After that, it comes down to preference.

Slim said...

I just looked at the geometry, and the strange thing is, the ONLY difference is the chainstay length! It seems strange to make an entire new carbon bike, in 7 sizes, and all that changes is the chainstay.

It would have made more sense to me, to then make the smaller sizes with the short chainstay, and the larger with a longer one(and perhaps adding rd chainstay size in the middle)

Guitar Ted said...

@Slim- I said there weren't many tires that size. Some- yes. Compass/Rene Hearse tires have their fans. I'm not one after reading and hearing the issues many have with them. For touring, any amount of negative experiences can and should be avoided, so that brand is a no-go for me. the Schwalbe brand does often do tires in this size. That's one I'd consioder.

Scott said...

@Slim. I sort of come at this from the perspective of owning a CX bike that I used for road rides, gravel, commuting, and occasional trail rides. The common thread of each of those 6 Salsa bikes is that they are drop bar bikes designed to fit large tires and perform on multiple surfaces. They each have some unique tweaks that improve upon the riding experience I used to have on my CX bike. One is a little more fun on a paved road (Warroad). One is for "racing" and is little better on sketchy gravel (Warbird). One is steel and little better suited for touring or commuting (Vaya). One is a better suited for bike packing (Fargo). One is a little better for bike packing fast (Cutthroat). I've owned or test ridden all of them except the Warroad and while you could say there are two extremes on the spectrum covered by these 6 bikes, I personally think there is ton of overlap between all of these bikes. My point was that, as you said, with the right tires they can all get the job done as a "gravel bike". As a consumer I like all the options, I just hope that salsa hasn't spread themselves too thin because it seems like these 6 different gravel bike lines would end up cannibalizing each other.

Josh Spice said...

@Guitar Ted, responding to the tire talk with @S.Fuller, the Soma Cazadero and Donnelly Xplor also both come in 700x50 and you can put those on a Cutthroat, Sutra LTD, and I'm pretty sure many other similar bikes. There are some somewhat similar 700/29 x 50/1.9-2.1 tires to the WTB Horizon including the Maxxis Torch. I did see another recently while tire hunting.

FWIW, every time I've run anything bigger than 700x40c on various drop bar bikes (excluding Fargo steel and Ti), they sure have felt really tall and a lot of dead weight to spin up. Personally, in a whole dollop of opinion, I think you need a different geometry in a drop bar bike to efficiently keep a tire bigger than 700x40c spinning the same as you would a 38c, for example. To me, obvious things set aside, running Thunderburts on my Cutthroat feels similar to running 40c on my Vaya, EFFORT-wise, as in how much I have to continually put into the pedals to retain speed. Bigger or even tread-ier rubber, imo, needs more upright, slacker geo. I'd love to hear what y'all think of this.


Guitar Ted said...

@Josh Spice. The Donnelly and Soma are tires I have, actually. The Soma Caz in a 50 is pretty fragile. Rides great, but those sidewalls are pretty slim, as far as material there. The Donnelly is actually a decent tire. I like it. Again- Some tires that size exist, but not many. There are probably over a hundred different 700 X 40-43mm tires in comparison.

The point on geometry is a good one. I think if you remember what Raleigh did a couple of years ago with their 50mm tire drop bar bike. I forget the name of it, but it was only out two years. Anyway, it was a Tamland tweaked for the big tires. It had an 80mm bottom bracket drop, slightly longer chain stays to fit the big meats, and a 1X specific drive train to allow for clearances at the bottom bracket. So, a very different set up.

But I think in many ways the OG Fargo really was the (nearly) perfect execution of this idea.