By Luke Friend published
There are few bike brands as synonymous with the gravel and bikepacking scene than Salsa Cycles.
Beginning life in 1982, it is the brainchild of Ross Shafer, a custom frame builder with a love for mountain biking and a penchant for innovation. Its initial offerings were three production mountain bike stems, before releasing its first production MTB frame, the Ala Carte.
From his little shop in Petaluma in California, Shafer invented a number of products, including the roller cable guide and some of the earliest butted cro-moly handlebars. Salsa even supplied custom stems to the US Olympic time trial squad.
Shafer eventually sold Salsa Cycles to Quality Bicycle Products in 1997. From here, QBP continued with Salsa’s adventurous nature, eventually using the tagline ‘Adventure By Bike’ to promote the brand.
Under the QBP umbrella, Salsa has been deeplyinvolved in early gravel races and off-road endurance events. Salsa launched production gravel race machines and drop-bar mountain bikes that were an evolution of the progressive thinking that Shafer used to create the brand in the beginning.
Now Salsa Cycles offer an extensive stable of adventure bikes alongside a range of complementary components and accessories.
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Salsa’s all-road models
While Salsa Cycles produces both a range of mountain bikes and fat bikes, it’s the all-road offerings that we’re going to be taking a look at in this guide.
Drop bar bikes today have few limitations and Salsa's extensive range of models mirrors this diversity. From bikepacking to endurance, road riding to gravel racing, it's designing bikes fit for a whole range of purposes.
Adding further depth to its all-road range, each model comes in a variety of builds, tailored to suit varying budgets and component preferences. Here’s the all-road bikes in more detail.
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The Warbird has become a mainstay of the gravel market in the United States, helped in no small part by its credentials as one of gravel racing's first production bikes,. Today, it's seen as the blueprint for all-road and gravel bikes.
The high-modulus carbon frame features Salsa’s Class 5 Vibration Reduction System, which blends compliance with stiffness, through its innovative seat and chainstay design. Elsewhere, the geometry has continued to evolve: Salsa has lengthened the Warbird’s top tube to aid stability during rough descents. Though designed around a racier 700x42mm tyre size, it will fit up to a 700x 45mm or 650b x 2.0.
Other notable updates include its full-carbon utility ‘Waxwing’ fork that features a range of mounts as well as internal routing options for a dynamo hub. The Three-Stay fork mounts house the brand's Anything cages, allowing you to carry not only larger water bottles but also lightweight kit.
There are currently six complete bike options available including both 1x and 2x offerings and a Di2 build. The Warbird is also available as a frameset only. Prices for complete builds start at $2599 for the Sram Apex 1 equipped model.
The Vaya was first introduced in 2009 and has continued to develop as the brand’s steel framed do-it-all drop bar bike. Popular with tourers and commuters as well as 'any-road' disciples, Salsa’s adventure credentials are clearly evident in this bike. Think plenty of mounts for mudguards, racks and cages and clearance for up to 700 x 50mm tires.
The frame geometry points to its ability to handle both loads and rough terrain thanks to a low bottom bracket, while its generous stack height is a nod to comfort.
In addition, current models feature a carbon ‘Waxwing’ fork, increasing comfort while reducing the bike’s overall weight.It’s currently available in two complete build options as well as a frameset only.
The Marrakesh is bike for day in, day out comfort, ideal for those embarking on long touring and bikepacking trips.
Featuring a triple-butted steel frame with stability-enhancing geometry, there's also Salsa’s famously versatile Alternator dropouts, so you can run it both as a single speed or geared, with QR or thru-axles, while also accommodating a Rohloff hub should you so wish. This also means an adjustable wheelbase, so you can dial in to suit your needs. There’s no oversight here either, the frameset offers cable routing for all these solutions.
Elsewhere there are front and rear racks included as well as an array of frame and fork mounts and the option to fit downtube shifters. The Marrakesh is also available as a frameset only.
As bikepacking began to take hold, Salsa recognised a gap in the market for a production machine that was part drop-bar mountain bike and part off-road tourer. Enter the Fargo.
Since its birth in 2009, the Fargo has undergone plenty of transformations but the DNA of the original bike remains. It can carry loads deep into the wilderness, handling a variety of surfaces. But unloaded it can shred technical singletrack with ease.
The Fargo builds around its dependable steel frame. It features the aforementioned Alternator dropout, giving the bike added versatility. There'a also the carbon ‘Firestarter 110 Deluxe’ fork. It's home to two sets of Salsa’s Three-pack mounts on each fork leg, making carrying additional water and kit a breeze.
The bikes come specced with 29 x 2.2” tires but you can also fit 27.5 x 3” tires. The Fargo can be purchased as frameset only in both steel and titanium.
In many ways the Cutthroat is the Fargo’s fancier sibling. It’s made to handle the same varied terrain and pull double-duty as both a bikepacking workhorse and a capable single and double-track machine. But its lighter carbon frameset makes it desirable for those competing in ultra-endurance races around the globe.
This high-modulus frameset features the same Vibration Reduction System as the Warbird. The fork is an upgrade, providing 32% more compliance than the previous version. There are now abrasion-resistant plates protecting high-wear areas, too.
Aiding the Cutthroat's Tour Divide credentials further, it features numerous bag and bottle mounts. It also utilises a ‘road boost’ drivechain. This combines a mountain bike chainset with a road derailleur and cassette to allow for greater tire clearance and a super-wide gearing range.
The ‘all-road’ category demands versatility. To help the Journeyman deliver this, Salsa has taken geometry cues from both the Vaya and the Warbird. The result is a bike that promotes confidence through a stable ride.
It blends an aluminium frame with a carbon fork for comfort and forgiveness. It comes equipped with an array of mounts and eyelights, so you can fit it with mudguards, front and rear racks and of course Salsa’s Anything cages. Salsa lists its uses as all-road, gravel and light touring. You can add commuting to this trifecta.
The Journeyman comes in a number of complete builds offering both 1x and 2x drive chain, 700c and 650b wheelset and a flat bar options.
Salsa claim that the Warroad's motto is ‘80% road, 20% whatever’. We can see why.
Its carbon frameset uses the brand’s Class 5 VRS that promotes vertical compliance and lateral stiffness. Geometry-wise it points to a bike ready for long days in the saddle over a variety of surfaces. But it looks to achieve this without sacrificing its handling when it’s time to perform.
To find this balance the Warroad combines high trail with shorter chainstays - 415 mm compared to the Warbird’s 430mm. It's stable and nimble.You can run it with guards and a rack, making it a viable option if you need a bike for winter riding and a spot of commuting too.
An expansive range of complete builds helps increase the Warroad’s versatility further still. There’s a Sram Force AXS equipped model that retails at $5899 as well as more budget friendly builds like the Sram Apex 1 bike. The Warroad is also available in both 700c and 650b builds.
The Stormchaser is further evidence of Salsa's desire to produce bikes that meet specific demands. In this case, an aluminium single-speed gravel bike that's at home when the going gets tough. Or wet. Or muddy.
The Stormchaser borrows much of its geometry from the Warbird. In essence, its design promotes a comfortable riding position no matter the terrain. It gets its wet-weather credentials via increased clearance that’s 40% greater than the Warbird. The result is a maximum tyre size of 700 x 50mm or 650b x 50mm.
Elsewhere, there are mudguard mounts and internal cable routing. Extra wide Cowchipper bars add further stability and improve handling in poor conditions.Other notable details include the Alternator dropouts which make for easy gearing adjustments - the Stormchaser comes installed with a 17t and 18t cog.
Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for the past twenty years. Working across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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