I recall an old TV commercial. Does anyone still watch TV? The commercial displayed a shiny new overly priced SUV with a handsome guy and an even more attractive younger woman blasting down a mountain road. Mud splashed, music played while the couple grinned in comfort. After an invisible voice rattled off insignificant specs, he said: “Not That You Would but You Could!”.
He was half right and half wrong. He was right that I would never take a shiny chrome and leather clad brand new SUV blasting down a muddy dirt road full of potholes and stumps. He was wrong that I could take that attractive younger woman with me because my even more attractive wife would have me shot.
What is so great about another steel frame bike and a couple of 29er wheels at each end?
Remember when you were a kid and you just got on the bike and went for a ride? You rode everywhere and over everything you could find. No weight penalties. No worrying about ultralight wheels that bend. Nothing to prove. Just ride for the love of pedaling. Here is a unique list of items that make this bike special:
Steel Frames Equal Durability and Comfort
Relaxed Geometry Further Supports Comfort
The Ability to Run Many Different Tire/Wheel Combos
The Most Bottle Cage/Accessory Mounts I Have Ever Seen
Those Cool Salsa Woodchipper Handlebars
Weight weenies and hammer heads beware! My 20″ steel frame loaded with good quality parts weighs in at 32 pounds.
The steel frame and relaxed geometry will not reward overly aggressive input like carbon race machines. The bike in the photos is not a factory spec bike. This was a budget build where I specifically selected each part from the finest pile of junk in my garage. Here is a summary of the build:
Rear Der.: XT 9 Speed
Front Der: XT
Rear Cassette: 12/34 SRAM
Shifters: Shimano 9 Speed Bar End
Brakes: Avid BB7 Mechanical
Crankset: FSA Alpha Drive 22/32/44 ( I still think I need a lower gear.)
Seatpost: Cane Creek Thudbuster
Seat: Selle Italia Max Flite Gel Flow (I will review this saddle in a future post.)
Thanks to the disc brakes and some smart design, you can run lots of types of wheel/tire combos. Install skinny road tires for commuting. Slap on mountain bike rims and 2.2 knobbys for the mud with plenty of clearance. You can even install a set of 650c’s if you just want to be weird.
Threaded and smartly placed bosses for racks, bottle cages and accessories are everywhere. Use a couple of Salsa Anything Cages to carry Nalgene bottles or smaller stuffsacks. Mount some extra water bottles for riding through the reservation. Install racks easily for loaded touring and grocery getting.
Finally, the most endearing design on this bike has nothing to do with the frame. It is all about those Woodchipper 2 handlebars. Those strange looking bars with flared out drops are the most comfortable thing since gel padded shorts. The flare allows for wide stance, low center of gravity maneuvers or high speed runs in a tucked position. The extra width gives me a place to grab and balance when I go down trails usually reserved for full suspension rigs.
This is not the bike to win triathlons. This is not the bike to take five foot drops at 30mph. It is not the bike for you if you are the guy who insists on a pre-ride poop just to save weight.
If you dream about pedaling across the USA with nothing but a tent, some gear and a bike. If you wish for the day that you could hike the Appalachain Trail with a loaded backpack. If you spend your free time watching shows about survival in Alaska and could not give a damn about Fantasy Football then this is definitely a bike for you.
I can and I will! The Salsa Fargo is a bike that allows a rider to do almost whatever he wants. I can load this thing with panniers filled with groceries and cruise home without breaking the eggs.
A morning ride in the high desert dirt trails through pine forest fire roads then down single track trails is perfectly plausible. Reload with narrow and smoother tread tires and you have yourself a randonneuring masterpiece. This is also the pack mule of choice for many cross country self supported cycle tourists. Finally, for the few intrepid souls that tackle the Great Divide Bicycle Route, the Salsa Fargo is at top of their list. If my memory is correct, the Ti version/rider of this bike even holds a speed record or two on the fastest time from Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM. Not that I could but I might!