Sea Otter sees lots of new introductions and this year is no exception. Our on the spot reporter, Grannygear, will have a lot of work cut out for him, no doubt. I was fortunate enough to take a bit of the burden off his shoulders when an opportunity came up last week to meet up with Salsa Cycle’s Jason Boucher and take a look at the third generation steel El Mariachi.

Guitar Ted with the new version of the steel El Mariachi in St. Paul, Minnesota last week.

The new El Mariachi still does what the old versions did. Steel, geared, or single speed. However; one big change was made that is readily apparent. The move from an eccentric bottom bracket to a “swinging drop out”. This gets away from the opposition some folks have to eccentric bottom brackets and moves to a simple, unique tensioning system that has passed Salsa’s scrutiny with flying colors so far.

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Simple but effective: The new swinging drop out on the El Mariachi 29″er.

Notice that the “Alternator” swinging drop out design Salsa is employing is quite simple. One “pivot” bolt, one adjusting nut, and one large fixing bolt are all the hardware that Salsa is using to secure and adjust the large aluminum plate drop out with. The “strut” across the seat stay and chain stay is a nicely forged bit with cut outs, the slots for adjusting the drop out, and features a stamped “pepper world” logo. The drop out has 17mm of adjustment to accommodate single speed use. You can also use this to lengthen or shorten your wheelbase in geared set ups. The prototype El Mariachi I rode was set up as a 1 X 9and the drop out was as far forward as you could make it for the shortest possible chain stay length. Adjustments to the drop out are accomplished by simply loosening the main fixing bolt and adjusting the drop out using the rearward facing adjuster bolt on each drop out. Then tighten the fixing bolt and you are off. Here are the bullet points on the Alternator Drop Out:

– Geared or singlespeed
– Quick and easy chain tension adjustments
– 17mm adjustment range
– Adjustable dropout serves as a replaceable derailleur hanger
– All threads are in the adjustable and replaceable dropout so if you strip something out no harm is done to the expensive part of your frame

Of course, there is more going on here than just the swinging drop out. Salsa Cycles is now designing their own steel tubing and having it made to their specifications. Called “Kung Fu Tubing”, the new tubing features multiple butting profiles. I found that the ride was very similar to the El Mariachis of old. Springy to a degree, but with a definite bent to the stiffer side than some other steel tube sets used on 29’ers. That’s a good thing for handling, as I did not detect any untoward wobbles or twists in the front triangle. Another thing that benefits from this stiffness is out of the saddle climbing, where yanking on the handle bars does not result in much, if any, twist in the front end. This should be a great single speed rig! Here are the salient features of the “Kung Fu Tubing”:

Kung Fu Tubing Designed in house by kung fu master Peter Koski

– New proprietary triple-butted Japanese Sanko seamless steel tubing
– Design based on Salsa’s 20+ year experience with working with steel tubing
– Custom butting profiles put material where it should be resulting in a doubling of fatigue life compared to a standard butted tube

The overall handling of the bike was neutral to slightly slack feeling. This prototype was set up with a Rock Shox Reba. Climbing real steep stuff brought out the slightest wandering in the front end, but otherwise it was a calm climber. Fast turns were a hoot, and tighter stuff was fine, albeit not into the “quick” handling arena. With the shortest chain stay setting, I was able to loft up the front end at will and get aired out, which is definitely not my forte’. So those who like a playful bike should really enjoy the new El Mariachi. The trails where I rode this bike were made up of single track with dirt, sandy dirt, gravel here and there, with many long-ish climbs and fast, technical descents. The new El Mariachi just disappeared underneath me, which is to say that I became accustomed to it right out of the gate and felt confident in its handling.

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The New El Mariachi Brothers: Titanium on the left, steel on the right.

As far as the look of the frame, the arrangement at the drop out catches your eye immediately. The blue color is pleasing, (in my opinion) and the “woodcut” graphics by Andy Wood, (panels on the down tube and seat tube), are subtle enough to not be overbearing, yet they do a good job of alluding to Salsa’s new “Adventure By Bike” marketing campaign. Otherwise it has a workman-like look to it and should appeal to those tired of the “billboard” graphics on some other 29″ers out there. Cable routing for the geared set up is on the underside of the down tube. Rear brake routing is underneath the top tube to the left side/ 7 o’clock position and down the left seat stay.

Salsa Cycles will be selling the El Mariachi steel rig as a frame only for MSRP $599.00 USD, and a painted to match Salsa CroMoto fork will set you back an additional $110.00 USD. Salsa Cycles is reporting that the availability of this new generation El Mariachi will be in late June. Salsa Cycles:

Thanks to Jason Boucher of Salsa Cycles for the image at the top of this post and for offering the ride last week.