On Home Ground With Project Go-‘Fish- by Grannygear

In the last episode of the Salsa Spearfish 1 frame built into an endurance rig, remember we took it at face value and put Salsa’s claim to the test.  They suggest this bike as an all day single track ride, a 100 miler bike, 24 hour racer, etc.  So we went to the deserts of Utah and rode a classic, self-supported 103 mile loop on the Project Go-‘Fish with great success and you can read about that here.

But there was precious little single track on that ride…well, none actually…so back home I was curious to get the Spearfish onto the familiar rocky, hard packed and curvy trails of home; the loose, rutted double tracks, and the bouldery dry wash sections that make up my back yard.  And now, after a fair bit of time back home doing just that, I have some well rounded impressions of the Spearfish, what it continues to do very well and what it does a bit less well.  But before we get there (or you can read ahead) let’s take a look at how the build is holding up.

  • The Tower Pro 100mm Tapered/Hex Lock QR15 fork is dialed now and with the swap away from the MILO remote lockout (I moved it to the 80mm Tower Pro on the single speed Blackbuck) to a manual knob with the full range of *clicks*,  the fork is all I have come to like about the MARS equipped Manitou forks…smooth, supple, and nicely adjustable, even to the extremes of all the tuning options for internals (see our recent Manitou articles here and here).  The 1.5″ tapered steerer and the solid axle set up only makes it better and better (but slightly heavier).  It is a great match to the back end of the Spearfish as far as feeling balanced front to rear.  Balance is key to my mind.
  • The XX group continues to impress me and has since I first rode it.  It is crazy expensive and lacks a really low gear in the 26/36 combo, but aside from that, it is the best performing shifting system I have ridden on an MTB (although I have yet to get on an XTR Shimano set-up).  It is less than shiny now, as it should be.  One thing to note…I run the narrow Q version of the XX crank and my heels barely clear the shaped seat stays.  If I had known, I would have run the wider version crank.
  • The wheels are so much a factor in making this build a hoot to ride that I cannot separate the bike from them, if you know what I mean.  The carbon rimmed Rovals are solid so far (and this is the second bike they have been on), converted to 142×12 and 15QR by hand, no tools required…likewise for the simple free hub servicing…and they have been steady tubeless as well.  I did have the blue sealing tape on the rear rim pull off the rim well and leak.  I am not sure what happened there.  It looked like the adhesive was affected by the sealant.  Odd.  I just re-taped them and added some home brew sealant this time, so we shall see.  I also need to check the front wheel and see if it is doing the same thing.
  • The Conti Protection version X King tires were very good for the Moab trip and the only thing I have changed was to swap to a Race King rear Protection tire.  I like the Race King even better than an X King for a rear tire…fast, smooth, plump, and long lasting plus you get much more traction than you would expect to get from such a low profile knob design.  Killer tire.  The X King is not my fav tire for when we are in dry and loose/rubbly conditions.  Not bad, just not outstanding.
  • The rest is just doing what it should do.  The carbon Niner bar is just the right sweep and width, the WTB saddle is what all Pure Vs are…practically perfect in every way.  Brakes are braking with no noise or nonsense…Avid World Cup 180mm F/ 160mm R.  I still need to re-hose them but I have been lazy about that.
  • Oh yeah…Grip Shift.  I almost forgot.  We are riding two sets of XO level Grip Shift 10 speed SRAM shifters and one set is now on the Project Go-‘Fish.  It dropped some weight (not much, but some) and looks sleek on there.  I like it.   More on that in time.

So…how is it as a regular old XC type trail bike?  Well, actually really good as long as your expectations are not too broad.  Handling wise, it is hardly lightning quick turning going on here.  Both the Tall Boy and the JET 9 I rode would turn under this bike, but it is hardly sluggish either.  It is steady, predictable and just about perfect for where I live.   It feels a bit long sometimes and that works against me the faster I try and ride on tight trails.  But for the most part, it is a nice compromise in steering response and overall comportment.

The rear suspension is not the deepest feeling thing out there, being only 80mm in travel.  Both the JET 9 (also 80mm…older version) and the 90mm Epic feel like there is more going on back there travel wise, but what you get is well controlled and not too firm.  It feels smoother than the Epic with the Brain, for instance, at least on small bumps.  Honestly, there has not been one instance at home where I have noticed I did not have enough travel.  At Moab I did, but not here.  But if you live where a lot of roots, ledges, drops, etc are the norm, you might not be happy with what you get.  It certainly is a huge upgrade in comfort compared to a hard tail and any soft tail I have been on and really saves the body over long hours of riding.

The 18″ chain stays continue to be a non-issue although how much they are contributing to the ‘long’ feeling in tight trails is hard to say.  I can wheelie it with ease, loft the front end decently well, etc, and it climbs very well on super steep in the saddle stuff.  If I could I would like to try a 17.75″ chain stay Spearfish.  Just curious, but the 18″ version is not a buzz kill at all.  Goes to show you how you need to take the entire package as a whole when looking at performance and not just one number of the equation.

With the light wheels and the hydroformed frame, it pedals really well.  In duels with ‘da boyz‘ during after work group rides, the Spearfish as I built it is a pretty competitive package. However, it is not at the level of some of the more robust carbon frames as far as pedal response.  Really jump out of the saddle and sprint hard and it is very willing but not inspiring.  You do get something for that extra jump to carbon besides the lighter wallet.  But the chassis is quite resolute and pedaling hard in or out of the saddle with my slightly plumped 183lb post vacation body, I can see no evidence of sway or wiggle.  I really like the 142×12 rear axle…easy to deal with when working on the bike and solid feeling on the trail.

So what do I have here?  Well, maybe not the one bike answer to all your trail riding needs, depending on what your trails are like…not enough travel in a world with plenty of 100mm bikes that are just as light and pedal just as well.  Not a hardcore XC race bike for that 90 minute sprint around that local ski resort course.  Save that for a carbon Epic or Superfly 100.

Soooo then????

It had been about a month since I last rode the Go-‘Fish.  I had other ‘fish’ to fry and the rear wheel would not hold air.  So I finally got the wheel repaired and went for a ride last night.  I was struck by how well the Spearfish rolled out and how fun it was to climb with, to ride single track on, and just ride period.  I had no agenda of blistering speed although I was moving along at a good clip.  As I was riding I was inspired to keep going.  I found myself thinking of planning a long pedal on the Go-‘Fish.  Something that took all day and crossed the local countryside and then some.  A long climb….long hours…long miles.  It occurred to me that this is what the Spearfish is really good for.  Rides that take you toward the horizon and back again.  Project Go-‘Fish inspires that kind of adventure and would allow me to carry it off with steady progress and sure footed speed and comfort.  And, I guess that, in the end, all I really had to do to find out what the Spearfish was good for was to read the Salsa ad.

“Spearfish is our ultra-endurance racing and riding machine, perfect for 100-milers, 24-hour races, and all-day singletrack sessions.”

Huh!  Go Figure!

Note: Salsa Cycles sent the Spearfish 1 frame for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.