Ride Impression: Salsa Bucksaw- by Grannygear
“Holy mother of roaring death!“.
This thought crossed my mind as I dropped down a section of rutted single track at the Sea Otter Classic. I was astride the newly unwrapped Salsa Bucksaw 2, in this case the personal steed of Tim Krueger, a Salsa ‘person of interest‘ who had his hands elbow deep in the development of this beast. The tires were roaring like an F250 with Super Swampers, the suspension was keeping things buttoned down, the scenery was getting kinda’ blurry and I hoped the SRAM Guide brakes were well engineered cuz’ I was going to need them soon.
Now I do not have a lot of saddle time on Fat Bikes. No snow where I live unless I was to seek it out, so it is not a necessity. We do have plenty of desert though, sandy washes, etc, so the potential is there for a high flotation bike. I did get a couple of ski lift runs and some plonking around on the Specialized fatty and it was a whole lot of fun and you could go pretty fast on trail, up to a point. Then the undamped springs that 4.7″ tires are with 6psi in them, bolted to a rigid frame/fork, would begin to do the moon rover bounce and it got a bit dicey. This not only limits speed, but also slower riding in ledgy, really techy sections too. A fat tire at low PSI is not a substitute for real suspension.
On the Salsa Bucksaw, not only do we get the Rock Shox Bluto fork, mounted on the bike I was riding, we also get a finely tuned 100mm of rear suspension to go along with it. Mike Riemer, marketing wizard for Salsa Cycles, told me that the Rock Shox rear shock, along with the DW Split Pivot suspension, was designed to work in conjunction with the dynamic of that fat rear tire. As well, air pressures are run a bit higher on the Salsa Bucksaw. Where 5 or 6 psi might be the norm on a typical fatty tire, this bike was more like twice that. Makes sense when you think about it.
For more info on the details of the Salsa Bucksaw, including how it came about, clicky on the linky below the image.
6066-T6 Aluminum Front Triangle & Chainstays
Top-shelf, double and triple-butted, heat-treated 6066 Aluminum tubing; Formed and shaped for optimized and appropriate stiffness, strength, and weight
Increased stiffness and lighter frame weight than aluminum
Split Pivot™ Rear Suspension
Ground-up application of the Split Pivot suspension design to solve fatbike design challenges/opportunities
The concentric rear axle pivot in conjunction with precise wheel link, brake link, and control link placement, results in several performance gains:
• Exceptional bump compliance
• Maximum traction
• Incredible pedaling efficiency
• Predictable braking
• Elimination of unwanted suspension movement during acceleration and braking
100mm of Front Travel
Designed around the RockShox® Bluto™ fork at 100mm of travel
100mm of Rear Wheel Travel
100mm of rear wheel travel, combined with 3.8” fatbike tires, makes the Bucksaw capable of taking on incredibly diverse and challenging terrain
RockShox Monarch™ RT3 Rear Shock
Custom-tuned for Bucksaw
Maximum Rear Tire Clearance
Designed for use with 3.8” tires on 82mm, or narrower, rims
Combining the tapered head tube with the large down tube greatly increases the front-end stiffness and strength of the frame without adding significant weight
PressFit 41 (121mm width – same as used on Salsa Beargrease fatbike)
177mm Rear Spacing
Equivalent to 170mm rear spacing, but thru-axle design adds convenient hub catches that make wheel removal/installation easier; results in a properly aligned drive train for optimal shifting performance
High direct mount, 2x, top-pull only
31.6mm Seatpost/35.0mm Seat Tube
Dropper-friendly diameter with stealth routing. Get loose!
Allows mounting of 1x and 2x chain guides for added chain security when the going gets fast and rough
Water Bottle Friendly Layout
Front triangle design provides space for full-size water bottle
Full-length housing; 1x, 2x, moto/regular, and dropper/stealth dropper routing compatible
Small through X-Large sizes; exceptional stand over clearance
But you want to know what it was like to ride, if only for a brief time, don’t you? Of course you do. Here goes. I rode the Salsa Bucksaw 2 with some ‘non-stock’ wheels and tires. In this case, carbon rims and tires run tubeless, the rims being a Whiskey brand (another QBP branch) prototype. Heading out of the Sea Otter paddock, I needed to climb a 1/2 mile section of pretty steep pavement to get to dirt. I left the rear shock fully open to see what the Spilt Pivot would do and for the most part, I was standing as I pedaled. The Spit Pivot seemed to be dead neutral and was not reacting to pedaling inputs or even much at all to rise and fall. Nice.
It is kind of weird to look down at the wide Bluto fork and big tires. I was on flats and hiking shoes, so at first I was hitting my heels on the rear section, but looking back as I pedaled, I don’t think that would have been happening with clip-ins and bike shoes. I adjusted and up I went. It takes some effort with those tires. A sprint would be difficult at best. Lots of tire going on here and the overall bike weight was noticeable. No surprise. But once I got in the dirt, sat down, shifted the 1×11 up into low gears and just pedaled, it came together.
Man, talk about climbing and braking traction! Steering is almost like a normal full suspension 29″er, but that big tire does need some extra man-handing to get it to turn. It is not so much about ‘flicking’ as it is ‘encouraging’ but with the suspension on there, I never even came close to max warp speed and ruts and sand, roots, etc were just non-issues. The front end seemed to be quite slack too, or at least that was my impression. I have not read the specs. This is all new territory here, so I was going on raw first impressions. But after a while, I was blipping the rear end around and just beginning to ride it like a normal bike. And I was grinning a lot. I would have to get one at home and go desert riding to get this bike into a place where it deserves to be enjoyed, but I was seeing the potential already.
So what is the bike about? Well obviously fatty tires are amazing in loose soils, mud, snow, etc where flotation is key. But they offer amazing grip in roots, slime, bigger rocks , etc. Need a trail bike that gives you unexpected grace in bad conditions, when you don’t need to be winning an Enduro, but just exploring back country trails? Bucksaw. Seriously game changing bike. Is it for everyone? No. Is it for me? Maybe as a quiver bike. Our trails are too smooth and there are too many long climbs to make it a main bike deal. I think as a Moab bike, it would be crazy fun.
Thoughts from JeffJ:
I haven’t paid much mind to the emerging segment known as ‘fat bikes’, mostly because they are not particularly popular in my neck of the weeds. Not because I lack curiosity about the breed. They are interesting to me because I see them as the type of bike that can open up new riding opportunities that were previously untapped, as well as giving new perspective to what is familiar territory.
When offered to chance to sample a ride on the latest offering from Salsa, I was happy to give it a go. I would have loved to ride a simple rigid fat bike, but my first fat bike ride (other than tooling around a parking lot) was to be aboard a full suspension fat bike. . . . At Sea Otter, no less.
I say that because I knew I could find some of the terrain I was most curious riding this type of bike on. I wanted to know how this type of bike climbed hills, descended any/all types of trail, and I obviously wanted to find some loose dirt or sand to plow through to see if the hype held water.
The first order of business was to climb up out of the Sea Otter infield in search of dirt and sand. The prototype Bucksaw was actually very close in weight to my own Stumpjumper FSR 29er (right around the 31lb. mark give or take), maybe even a touch lighter than the Stumpy. Looks can be deceiving, and I’m sure the carbon rims help to keep the heft manageable. The Bucksaw exhibited very little suspension movement when pedaling at a normal cadence and climbed up out of the main venue area easier than I expected.
I found an opening that put me onto the Sea Otter XC course, and proceeded to find a little bit of everything (except any sort of serious chunk) to let the Bucksaw do whatever it was going to do. I kept expecting that ponderous front wheel to do something unexpected, something ugly even. But it didn’t. Of course, it is different and you have to pay attention a little more to steering around corners. Maybe even be a little more proactive setting up for corners.
After a short time I got a feel for the bike and opened it up a bit and even found a small hump to see if the big wheels like to leave the earth as much as they like to plow through it. This is where I found the most difference between the Bucksaw and the Stumpjumper
Tim did take the time to properly set the sag on the fork and shock before I set out, but I found the rebound settings off a bit from what I am used to for getting air under my wheels, but I’m sure a few twists of the rebound knob on the Rock Shox Bluto (to speed it up a tad) would get me and the Bucksaw right in synch for more shenanigans. I would have loved to keep on descending, but wanted to get back so others could get a turn, so I turned around and went about climbing back up from where I had come.
I had no doubt that climbing on normal hardpack would only need my input to propel me, so I purposely tried to find the loosest, ugliest part of the trail to see if I could break the massive tire loose. I found one section I was pretty sure that even if I could muscle up the hill, the back tire was sure to slip on the loose dirt and gravel, especially in some small ruts that were also present. Instead, all I could hear was that fat mushy rear tire clawing away at Mother Earth as I ascended back up into the Sea Otter campground. I can only imagine that this could be the sound that inspired the ‘Bucksaw’ moniker.
As I rode back down into the venue, I couldn’t help but wonder about all the places this beast could roam, both familiar and previously unexplored in this manner. I don’t see this as an ‘only bike’ for me where I live and ride, but I could see a bike like this in a quiver. If I lived in an area where snow and/or sand were more the normal conditions, it might be ‘the bike’. But an area like that might not be somewhere that mountain bikes are already popular.
I have a feeling bikes like this will expand the footprint of mountain biking as well as give a different experience on trails we already enjoy. It should go without saying that it’s never going to be an XC rocket ship or downhill weapon as its neither fish nor fowl. But it does climb and descend better than I expected it to, and it could be the two-wheeled weapon of choice in certain conditions that would have been previously described as ‘extreme’ for more traditional mountain bikes.
It is not often that something redefines how and what we ride.
The Salsa Bucksaw is that bike.
Kudos to Salsa for having the vision to make this thing a reality. I predict it will not be the last of its kind.
Note: Salsa Cycles provided the Bucksaw sample at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.