It has been too long since I have posted about the Salsa Cycles Big Mama, but now that I have gotten in some more time with it I can now post this “Mid Term” report. My “First Impressions” of the Big Mama set up as a more aggressive trail rig are here.
I have been tweaking out the set up on the Big Mama over the last few months and here are some of the changes I have implemented: Swapped out to a Salsa Shaft seat post, swapped out the grips to the new Ergon GA-1 grips in white, swapped out to Quad Dime XC brakes in white with new Quad rotors coming soon, and finally, I have been running Specialized’s The Captain 2.2 inch tires on the Gordo rims.
The trails have been sloppy and wet for the most part over the duration of the test period. (As evidenced by the mud on the tires and the rest of the bike here.) This made for some sketchy moments in certain areas, but I was feeling secure on the sure footed suspension the Big Mama and the Rock Shox Reba Team have going on. The Fox damper and the Reba get along quite well on the Big Mama and I was happy to find that getting a balanced feel was easy front to rear. I was also pleased to find that I could dial in a very plush, almost disconnected to the trail feel to a more tactile feel with very smooth suspension action without a mushy sensation, or wallowing through the travel at all. In fact, I have been dialing in a bit more firmness into the rear suspension of late, which is a personal preference of mine. All in all a good, tunable platform that should provide most trail riders with something they will find comfortable using. As for the ProPedal switch, I never use it and leave it on the open setting all the time.
The Big Mama impresses me most by its lateral rigidity and solid feel. I have not had the pleasure of riding every full suspension bike out there, but I can say I’ve ridden some good ones. The Lenz Lunchbox, the Niner R.I.P. 9, and a short stint on a Pivot 429 come to mind. The Salsa Cycles Big Mama rides in the same league as these fine rigs in my opinion. Certainly it is very different than those bikes, but it has that level of refinement and high performance that those frames also exhibit. The seven forged frame parts and the overall design certainly add up to a solid performing rig no matter what you want to compare this bike to.
I thought it might be fun to revisit a quote from my first report on the Big Mama just over a year ago:
I have ridden a lot of full suspension bikes and the first thing one should determine is “what type” of full suspension are we talking about. Salsa head honch, Jason Boucher, says this is first and foremost an “all day trail bike”. Taking that into consideration as I rode it, I could then discern if it fit into my expectations for such a bike. I would say that such a bike should be maneuverable, respond to pedaling input in a positive way, (read “like a hard tail”), be stiff laterally, and have overall handling that is easy to navigate when the rider is tired. It should also do what the best trail bike full suspension should do, that is, keep the rider fresh and keep the wheels in contact with the ground. Finally, it should be fun and look cool.
Okay! That was a lot of expectations loaded on to this bike right out of the gate. While I still am on my way to finalizing this review, here is what I have to say so far concerning the above. Is the Big Mama an “all day trail bike”? I will not hold back and wait till the end for this and say “Yes“. You could find a suspension setting that would work for almost any trail setting that isn’t full of big drops, huge stunts, or death defying down hills. The Big Mama is going to be great at doing some “all mountain” stuff, but it will be a better rig for all day “trail” rides that require the rider be fresh at the end of the day as possible. I guess everybody has their “definitions”, but here’s the bottom line: I’d take this into the back country any day and ride all day as long as the trails are not going to require me to dress like a hockey player. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just use that to illustrate a point.)
I will also state for the record that the Big Mama looks good……to my eyes. I like the swoopy lines and the details that make this bike easy on the eye. I have seen a few peoples Big Mama set ups and I can honestly say I think they all look really cool. Sure, it doesn’t matter when you are in the middle of nowhere riding the Big Mama, but it doesn’t hurt either!
As for the other early expectations, I will hold off judgment for the time being. Stay tuned as I wrap up the testing on The Big Mama in a month or so.