Well, the booths have been broken down and the trucks are packed and rolling out of Vegas, but we still have a lot of news to down load to you all out there. Here we will continue with ride reports of several of the bikes we had a chance to throw a leg over at the Outdoor Demo.

First up is the “Best Of Show” Salsa Cycles Spearfish.

Salsa Cycles Spearfish Ride Report: by Grannygear and Guitar Ted

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Salsa Cycles developed the Spearfish as a full suspension 29″er aimed at racing and riding long events and long trail rides with a bent towards light weight, efficiency, and stability. We were excited to check this new model out at the Outdoor Demo. The first ride was by Grannygear. Here is his take on the experience:

Grannygear:I looked at the Spearfish, with its ‘mini mama-ish’ 80mm of travel and the overall stance of the bike and thought, “Huh, the Titus Racer X according to Salsa.” Now Salsa may not take that as a compliment, but it is a compliment, as in my opinion, the Racer X 29er was an excellent bike for its day, (and even now, really), and had a lot of appeal for riders looking for a stiff, low travel, ‘firm-ish’ endurance platform or light weight trail bike.interbike2010 019

With a frame weight less than the Racer X ever was and better tire clearance to boot, the Spearfish looks well poised to step into the light/middleweight division of FS 29ers.

Off to the trails of Bootleg, I was pedaling up the pavement to the trail head with no Propedal…cuz there is none on the shock…and I did not even care. There was very little shock actuation from pedaling. Taking some hard pedal strokes and watching the bottom end of the bike, I could see the rear tire jump off to the left chain stay a disconcerting amount. Uh oh, is the lightweight Spearfish too light for its own good? It turned out to be a very low tensioned rear wheel that was a real joy killer for feeling a tight pedaling bike under you, but be that as it may, the Spearfish pedaled very well, was firm, but not harsh at all, and actually felt a lot like a lesser travel Big Mama, for those that may have ridden one. The slacker head tube angle (71*), lower bottom bracket, and longish chain stays were all good for keeping the bike feeling stable and smooth on the loose trails in the desert. The way it turned reminded me more of the Specialized Epic Marathon 29er I am used to rather than a typical Salsa ‘feel’. I like that very much, but do not expect this to feel like a Mamasita with a rear shock, for instance, or even a longer travel Dos Niner.interbike2010 015

There was only one negative vibe I got and that was when out of the saddle and pedaling hard, it felt, not flexy or bouncy, but just lazy, for a lack of a better word. I was not sure what to make of that as I was moving along fine, it just did not inspire. Was it the rear wheel build again? Very possibly, as I sure did not see any frame noodliness or shock monkey motion going on.

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The next day, after discussing this with Guitar Ted, he went over and had the Salsa tech guys re-tension the woefully inadequate wheel. Both GT and I re-rode the same XL Spearfish and the transformation was dramatic. No more wheel deflection and the bike moved out smartly when prodded out of the saddle. 29er wheels…can they be too stiff? Not soon enough in my opinion. I also had the shock re-set more to the firm side for my weight and now I could feel small trail chatter in the saddle, which, I think, fits the intent of the bike better but that is up to the rider, etc.

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The bike I rode, an XL with a tool bag, WB cage, and heavy-ish WTB Wolverine tires, and not a particularly inspiring build parts wise, was 30.1 lbs. With a frame weight of under 6 lbs for an XL, it should be no problem to build this bike into the 25 lb range. I might suggest that if one lives in tighter terrain, one might consider going down one size in frames and running a longer stem. The XL, something I typically go towards, felt quite long between the wheels. I think I might even ride this as a LG frame, and I am 6’2″.

I also think it will be hard to find a Spearfish this next year as this will be a popular bike.

Guitar Ted: I watched Grannygear as he stomped the pedal down on the Spearfish, looking for any oddities in the suspension, and I did also observe the wheel flexing over towards the chain stay. We actually stopped at that point and fiddled with the wheel and frame to isolate the flex. After I grabbed a couple spokes on the rear wheel and squeezed them, it was apparent to me that the spokes were not up to proper tension, and this was affecting the ride Grannygear was feeling. However; to be precise, I visited Salsa’s tent promptly at the onset of Day Two at the demo and requested that we take a closer look at the XL sized Spearfish we had ridden the day before.

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Salsa Cycles Tim Krueger went over the ride with a fine toothed comb, bringing the rear wheel back up to tension, and also by putting a fresh tune up and shock set up on it for me. With all of this done to the bike, it was time to go out and see if things would be different. Within a few hard pedal strokes, it was apparent that the wheel was the culprit the previous day. I could only manage a tiny bit of deflection now, which could easily be attributed to the tire casing at the pressure I was running them at. So, off I went with no further concerns about that issue.

interbike2010 013 I ended up with a very positive experience, much like Grannygear’s, on the Spearfish. I would liken the ride feel to a Superfly 100 in that the shock/suspension action was on the firm side with small trail chatter getting through to me at times. (To be fair, the shock setting the day before was quite different, and the bike felt plusher, so it could be tuned to preference, but my understanding is that this is a high performance/race oriented platform) I feel that for its intended purposes, this sort of feel is spot on. It feels fast, efficient, and the Spearfish climbed quite nicely.

A word on fit: I typically do not fit an XL very well, but it was an easy thing to set me up on the XL Spearfish. At 6’1″ this surprised me, but Salsa Cycles Jason Boucher advised me that it was due to the slightly shorter front end created by the slightly slacker head tube angle. He also pointed out the test bike had a non-set back seat post. If I had tried a size large with a set back post, I would probably would had fit it just fine, and generally I choose size large in a Salsa. By the way, there is loads of stand over clearance on a Spearfish, so that was never a concern on the larger frame for me.

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I think it is important to note that Salsa used a different geometry on the Spearfish to further tune the performance to match the designs intents. The head tube angle is 71 degrees and the bottom bracket is “slightly lowered” from Salsa’s normal mountain bike geometry. These two things seem to yield stability in turning which I was able to feel as I rode it at Bootleg Canyon. I would liken it to a Specialized type feel, if you have experiences with their 29″ers. I did clip the pedal on a rock once, but to be fair, the incident happened on some off camber portion of a turn and I was pedaling at the time. It may be a slight trade off for that nice cornering feel, but I would take that if I were endurance racing this rig.

The suspension did a fair job of gobbling up successive ripples, g-outs, and bigger hits were no problem as well. Again, it has a “trail feedback” that some riders may like to have, while some that like a total isolation from trail inputs may well dislike the Spearfish. For hard cornering and racing, I would take the Spearfish over a “plush” feeling rig any day. That’s not to say that the Spearfish is not a trail bike, because it easily could be set up to be a bit more compliant, but I suspect at the compromise of a more sluggish climbing feel, such as what Grannygear mentioned.

Our Take: The Spearfish appears to be a great platform for endurance racing, long XC rides, or for trails that are not overtly technical, featuring a lot of drops or “air time”. This bike seems to be telling us it is about going “fast and far”, not going “big and long”. (That will be the new version of the Big Mama’s territory when Salsa Cycles gets done tweaking that out) A longer test ride may bear out some other things, but for now we feel the Spearfish is efficient, climbs well, and both Grannygear and I gravitated towards the geometry which felt really great to the both of us.

Here’s Grannygear’s video presentation featuring a short interview with Salsa Cycles Product Manager, Tim Krueger