Project ‘Go-‘Fish': Racing and Bikepacking Salsa’s Spearfish- by Grannygear
The long term test Salsa Spearfish has been a very versatile bike, hanging with ‘da boyz on local XC loops and doing 100 miles across the Utah desert. But there is more to do on two wheels than that and we have expanded the comfort circle of the bike just a bit. How did it do? Read on.
You may recall an article we did a while back on Dean and his custom Form Prevail Ti 29er. Dean was signed up to race the classic endurance race, the Road Apple Rally, held in Farmington, New Mexico. The evening before he was to leave, he discovered an issue with his Lefty fork that put the bike on the sidelines. What was he to do? Well, Dean is pretty close to my size so I let him ride the Spearfish around the local trailhead parking lot. He got along well with the Grip Shift and the general feel of the bike and I offered to let him race the 35 mile course on the Go-‘Fish. DEAL!
The end result was a third place finish in his age group and a good time in the saddle. The course is pretty fast and rolling with few long climbs, but he was able to stay in the saddle and pedal the XX gearing very fast over the sandy, swoopy trails. Compared to his typical Ti hard tail, which is a couple of pounds lighter, he felt that the Spearfish allowed him to stay on the power longer without lifting off the gas due to bumps or trail chatter. He also fell in love with the 2×10 XX gearing and the 10spd Grip Shift. Handling on the Spearfish is certainly a bit slower than his Prevail Ti, but he felt that the more planted nature was a boon in the fast, sandy sweepers and longer nature of the course.
He also stopped off in Sedona, Arizona, on the way back and rode with some buds. He really appreciated the rear suspension and the ability to remain seated up ledges, etc. He also was very impressed by the Manitou fork, something we agree with as well.
He was so pleased with the performance of the Spearfish that he came back and ordered a Spearfish 3, which is in the process of being upgraded with nicer parts (it was all he could find in his size in stock locally) and he is enjoying the Spearfish, not as a complete replacement for his race hard tail, but as a trail bike/maybe race bike for longer fun rides and more difficult endurance races.
Bikepacking, Go-‘Fish style:
The next thing on the docket was a full on bikepacking trip aboard the Go-‘Fish. I was scheduled to ride a 375 mile loop through the So Cal mountains and deserts with a group of like minded folks. We only made 111 miles before we pulled the plug for various reasons, but I had many hours in the saddle on the loaded to 45lbs Spearfish and found that it held up very, very well. I used a combo of CDW custom bags and a Salsa/Revelate frame bag on the bike. I supplemented that with a Deuter Trans Alpine 30 pack and headed out across a combo of fire road, pavement, desert canyon and wash riding that would have pointed out any glaring issues with the Spearfish as a bikepacking scoot. The 80mm of travel was a godsend in the slow and rocky washes and the very techy jeep trails. I added quite a bit of air pressure in both the Manitou Pro fork and the Fox rear shock to make up for the extra bike and rider weight, but it never wallowed or wiggled around, even when playing semi-hard on the downhills.
The Carbon Roval wheels shrugged off the abuse as well even though they were approaching the 240lb weight limit. No issues there, even with rocks pinging off the spokes. The drivetrain was totally solid, but I might have missed the deeper gearing of a different crankset if we had gotten to the major climbing sections before we aborted (full write-ups on my blog beginning here and continuing). The Continental X King front and Race King rear in the new tubeless ready/Protection sidewalls shrugged off all comers and never even dropped a bit of air. They were not ideal for all the sand, but nothing really would have been short of a 3.8″ fat bike tire, but gave great performance all around and were fast on the pavement.
A few other things that made that trip roll well for the duration: I want to point out the line of frame bags that Salsa offers for their bikes, at least most of them that apply to bikepacking. A joint venture of sorts with Revelate designs, it shows the high level of commitment and interest in adventure based cycling at Salsa Cycles. It is real with those guys. As well, I used a combo of Fluid Performance drink mix in the new Citrus flavor, Clif Shot electrolyte drink mix and the Panforte Clif bar (yummy breakfast with hot tea), and Elete Tablytes to keep going with out any big loss of energy or cramping issues.
Bikepacking is a hoot and the Spearfish is a very viable vehicle for that type of adventure. Yes, you give up a bit of potential storage in that the frame bag has to be sized around the rear shock and it helped that I ride an XL, etc. Still, some rides are worth the tradeoff in cargo capacity vs. the bennies of a rear shock and the 80mms of travel were very adequate for this type of use. But more to the point, if you already have a Spearfish or are considering one, know that it would be fine for this type of adventure.
What is next for the Spearfish Project? Who knows. Stay tuned.
NOTE: Salsa Cycles sent the Spearfish to Twenty Nine Inches for test/review at no charge. As well, many of the products mentioned in this article were provided at no charge as well. We are not being bribed, nor paid for these posts, and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.