Saturday, February 01, 2020

Salsa Cycles Introduces The Rangefinder

Rangefinder SX Eagle 29
There is a new hard tail in Salsa's line up now, which you probably heard all about yesterday. I am writing this post up ahead of the actual release, so I have no idea how this will be received by the marketplace, but I have my opinions, so.......

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

Okay, this seems like a weird bike to add to the line up. It almost strikes me as the Mukluk/Beargrease thing does. One has Alternators and the other doesn't. One has a certain geometry and the other seems like a mild tweak to its counterpart. Both use similar frame materials. Yeah.... It's hard to make distinctions with the Rangefinder and the Timberjack, except when you look at the pricing and some finer details. But on the surface of things, it looks as though the new Timberjacks are up-spec and more expensive and the Rangefinders are priced where the Timberjack used to be.

The Rangefinder comes in two spec levels and in two wheel sizes for each spec level- 27.5+ and 29"er. There are two color choices in each spec level. Four bikes total in the range. One is Eagle SX, two colors, one has 29"ers, the other 27.5"ers. Same for the Deore spec. All four bikes use similar wheels, and the rear wheel is 141mmQR standard. Fronts are 100 X 15mm through axle.

Rangefinder Deore 29
This is a very competitive price point, so you are going to find a LOT of hard tails with similar specs. It's just the way of the world when you are talking entry level mountain bikes, and that's what these are- Entry level. Anything less expensive is making far too many compromises to be considered a "real mountain bike" in terms of expectations off road. In fact, there are some spec choices on these rigs which are.......meh.... Not so awesome, shall we say?

All bikes in this range are fitted with SR Suntour forks. I've been in the bicycle business a long time, and SR Suntour has a checkered history in forks and they are not what I consider a good choice if one is really going to be pushing this sort of bike off-road. I've just seen too many disappointed people with SR Suntour spec'ed bikes. And this isn't a bash on Salsa. It's just the nature of this price point. I mean, take the dropper post- a TransX branded one. Yeah..... You just are barely getting by on this price for a mountain bike. Maybe it'll work for you, but don't be surprised when it doesn't. That's my take on this price point. For any brand's bikes at this price point. It is what it is.

That's why people need to be conscious of spec and what their expectations are. Going mountain biking and you don't want issues? Then the Rangefinder may not be for you, that's my opinion. At that point, a Timberjack is where I'd point you in Salsa's line up. The spec is solid where it matters: Rock Shox forks, rear through axle hubs, better drive train spec, and good wheels.

Timberjack SLX 29
And even then you are only getting a Rock Shox Sektor fork, SLX drive train, and the same dropper post. Look.....real mountain bikes are expensive. They always have been. I recall back in the mid-90's it was that way, and it has remained so ever since. I mean, decent, reliable front forks retail at upwards of a half a grand to a grand anymore, and top of the line forks are more than that.

That's just the fork, add in some good hubs, decent hoops, and a set of tires, and you've already spent more than an entire Rangefinder. I know.....I get it, completes are always a better deal than spec'ing piece by piece. But to illustrate a point, I think it helps to understand that the Rangefinder is not a mid-range spec bike, and a Timberjack is maybe barely that. In the mountain biking world, if you want "no worries" and top performing bikes, you'd better warm up that credit card. It's gonna get used up.

This might be a reason why gravel riding has taken off. You can get a decent rig that will work just fine at Rangefinder pricing. Not "just barely getting by" either, but a really decent bike. Mountain biking is equipment intensive, as they like to say, and the correct tools for the job are going to be expensive.

Then again- ya gotta wonder, do we really need a slacked out, long/low 130mm travel mountain bike in the Mid-West? Just think how much better a fully rigid, slightly steeper MTB could be spec'ed. Maybe an aluminum frame, steel fork, decent components, cost maybe a grand? It'd be all the mountain bike most folks would ever need. I bought a rigid MTB in 1989 for about $400.00. It was serviceable. Today that same money would translate into about an $830.00 bike. (According to Google) So, yeah.... I figure about a thousand bucks is basement price for a fully rigid bike with decent parts. Better wheels, better drive train, and less issues than a compromise that has a suspension fork and dropper post from any brand.

But what do I know.....

Note: Images and some information provided by Salsa Cycles.


DT said...

When I first saw this, my first thought was "OK, this is the mtb version of the Journeyman".... complete entry level priced bike meant to bring people in, potential customers who would hopefully(?) upgrade in the future?

Guitar Ted said...

@DT - I think my fully rigid bike idea would be better though. No upgrades needed. They could call it the "Everyman". ;)

Skidmark said...

I thought Firestarter rigid fork, and I’d ride that.

Tman said...

Its been well over 20 years since we could stock and sell a fully rigid hardtail. Many folks would benefit from the added spec. But, when front suspension became a "must have" everyone bought half the bike they needed with a barely functioning fork. Then, when they saved up their pennies, like we did in 1990 and buy a good quality fork. I think I paid 380? for my RS1. That would equate to a nice Fox or DVO fork these days. I laugh while reading the vintage groups on FB where folks want to rebuild Quadras, Indys or Judy Cs. Forks none of us would even run on a bike then nor now. Spec a light carbon fork on a 1200 buck hardtail with GX NX level components and you have a fun playbike that is suited to many parts of the country.